Going through a divorce can be a messy process financially. The parties are forced to navigate through the state law labyrinth, choosing beneficiaries and divvying up their assets; it can be complicated and expensive to untangle the couple's finances. The average cost of a divorce in California is the highest in the country, according to a study conducted by Nolo Research, but there are some things a person can do to keep the costs down.
Handling the bank accounts should be among the top priorities. The majority of couples have one or more jointly held bank accounts. The parties should begin by listed out every account they're tied to, without regard for how it is held. Once the list is complete, joint accounts should be noted. Couples who are on good terms can close the joint accounts with a quick trip to the bank. Couples who are not on good terms will likely have to wait for the divorce settlement to be finalized.
It's also a good idea to obtain copies of credit reports to ensure all credit cards and loans are addressed. The couple can agree to pay off debts now or later, or they can take no action and let the decisions come during the divorce process. It is most efficient to pay off the debts right away but that's not always an option.
Ownership of the family home should also be addressed, as the mortgage may have to be refinanced. A California divorce lawyer might be able to help people navigate the process by identifying and categorizing the couple's assets or by negotiating the terms of property division with the other spouse. A lawyer might help the parties divide funds held in a retirement plan by drafting or securing a qualified domestic relations order to be approved by the court.