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Protecting Your Finances in Separation or Divorce - Virginia Law Specific

Proactive Steps to Take in Contemplation of Separation or Divorce

I. Financial Record-keeping

Begin to assemble and make copies of the following:

  • Tax Returns from last 5 years
  • List of personal property over $350 and any appraisals
  • Pay Stubs
  • Bank Accounts
  • Credit Card Statements
  • Resumes
  • Wills
  • Real Estate info, including deeds
  • Stocks, IRAs, Pension Accounts, 401(k) accounts, etc.

II. Take an Inventory of Household Items

  • Electronic Equipment
  • Collectibles
  • Keepsakes

Make a list of the valuable things in your home, and note which ones you will want at separation

III. Your Credit

Obtain a credit report before you separate. Try to clear up any deficiencies or problems that may have been caused by you. This is also a good idea in case the other spouse starts to rack up debt after separation. It is a good idea to open up credit in your name only, if you haven't already done so. You must protect against the idea that your spouse is going to go on a shopping spree while you are still married.

IV. Budget

Make a detailed listing of everything you spend or make in 30 days. You will need this for any income and expense reports.

V. Start Separating Your Finances

Open a checking account in your name only. Start separating your finances. Begin closing joint banking accounts. Most joint checking accounts can be closed by just one spouse (unless it is a joint tenancy with right of survivorship, contact your bank for more information). If closing the joint accounts will not work, withdraw a fair amount (half) and place it in your own account.

VI. Confidential Communications

If you are opening a checking account or have hired a lawyer, you may wish to rent a PO Box so as not to tip off your spouse. Also, you may wish to obtain another e-mail address used only for the purpose of communicating confidentially with your attorney. Keep this account password protected at all times.


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The Virginia court gives primary consideration to the best interests of the child in determining custody. The court assures minor children of frequent and continuing contact with both parents, when appropriate, and encourages parents to share in the responsibilities of rearing their children. In determining the best interests of a child, the court considers a variety of factors including the age, physical and mental condition of the child as well as each parent, the needs of the child, the role of each parent and the rapport of each parent, and the "willingness and demonstrated ability of each parent to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child, and the ability of each parent to cooperate in and resolve disputes regarding matters affecting the child," family abuse, and "other factors as the court deems necessary and proper to the determination."
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