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Are you in the dark about marital assets?

Whether we're talking about cooking, cleaning, carrying the kids to soccer practice or planning investments, every married couple has their own way of dividing up duties. But when one spouse does all of the financial planning while the other pretty much stays in the dark about money matters, there is the risk of the uninformed spouse losing out in the event of divorce.

One problem that occasionally arises is that a divorcing spouse chooses to hide assets from the divorce settlement. Keep in mind that concealing assets in a divorce is illegal in Georgia, but that doesn't stop some dishonest individuals from trying it. In any case, don't believe your soon-to-be ex if he or she tells you that a retirement account or stock options can't be divided in a divorce.

When the marital split is not so contentious, then a mediator can help the divorcing spouses reach the terms of their separate financial futures, but each person needs to be aware of what is at stake. A secure financial situation for both parties is an especially important topic in mediation if the parties have a child together.

A recent article in Forbes points to three suggestions from Fidelity Investments regarding how couples, divorcing or not, can manage their marital property:

  • Have time set aside to clearly communicate about your financial future.
  • Be ready to work together, perhaps with the help of a mediator.
  • And keep control of your financial plan by occasionally reviewing it.

It's also important for both spouses to know exactly what kinds of property can be divided in a divorce. You may want to keep or sell the home, or you may want to negotiate for part of your spouse's retirement plan, or you might want to negotiate for part of an asset such as intellectual property or an art collection that may appreciate in value over time.

We're talking about marital property -- property that was acquired during the course of a marriage -- so it is important to remember that both parties may have a right to that property when planning their financial future.

Source: Forbes, "Women: Be Equal Partners In Marital Finances," Jeff Landers, Nov. 6, 2013

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