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Understanding finances is critical in property division

A Missouri resident who is contemplating divorce, or who has been served with divorce papers, needs to take some steps to prepare for the property division process. One of the first and most important steps is getting a handle on one's own financial situation. A spouse facing divorce will have to figure out what they own, what it is worth and whether it will be categorized as marital or non-marital property.

The sources for a lot of this information will be account statements for bank accounts, investment accounts and retirement plans. Missouri residents should also identify and review any life insurance policies and note the benefit amount and the identity of the beneficiary.

It is important to remember that debts are divided along with assets, so divorcing spouses should review credit card statements, as well as documents regarding bank loans and the home mortgage. It's also a good idea to get a copy of a credit report, in part to find out if the other spouse has incurred any joint debts you don't know about.

It's also important to put emotions aside to the greatest extent possible and view the property division process as a business transaction. A spouse should focus on the financially important assets and debts and avoid spending time and legal fees fighting over items that have little financial value.

Seeking knowledgeable advice can make a big difference. An experienced attorney can help a spouse understand the property division process, focus on what is important and negotiate a fair settlement. If the parties are unable to agree, the attorney can argue the client's position to the judge.

Source: Kiplinger.com, "What to Do If You're Divorcing Your Valentine," Barbara Shapiro, Feb. 10, 2017

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