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5 ways to protect yourself before a divorce

Divorces can be life-altering for everyone involved. Whether you've been married for five years or 50, the negative effects can be the same. As you work on finding your new normal, it's important that you take care of yourself, even if the emotional damage seems too much to handle at the time. If you were expecting the divorce or are the spouse who wanted it, you have time to prepare. If you were blindsided, you'll want to take steps to protect your future and best interests quickly.

1. Obtain a credit report

Even though you loved each other once and you think he or she would never hurt you, you may be surprised what happens when it comes time to end the marriage. Your spouse may have messed up his or her own credit so bad that it reflects poorly on yours, and you want to be aware of any additional battles you need to fight. Get a copy of your own credit report to deal with any mistakes or problems that may impact your financial future.

2. Protect your online information

Before the divorce is final and the papers are signed, you'll want copies of all your financial data, particularly your tax returns. Once you have those, you'll want to change all your passwords to your social media, email and bank accounts to ensure that you have complete privacy and control over who accesses your financial and personal information.

3. Maintain privacy through your mail

It's time to start thinking about your own future and building a new life for yourself. If you are moving, you'll want to get a separate post office box or address to send all your personal information. If your mail is delivered to your old house or apartment, your ex-spouse may have more information about you than you want his or her to have. Maintain your privacy and simplify things by setting up a PO box as soon as possible.

4. Close credit card accounts

If you've been married for a while, you likely have joint credit card accounts with a balance on them. If your spouse chooses to go on a spending spree during the divorce and you haven't closed th e cards, you may be responsible for paying down the debt in order to protect your credit. Call your credit card companies to stop any future purchases, although they won't completely close your account until the balance is paid in full.

5. Speak to a professional

Divorce can be messy in every way, but you can simplify it and have someone in your corner if you speak to an attorney before making any big decisions. Protect your best interests with an advocate who will fight for what you deserve.

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