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Divorcing your husband? Put these items on your to-do list

It may come as no surprise that a lot of women wait until after the end-of-year holidays to file for divorce. It would seem much easier: You're pressed for time and money, you don't want to upset the kids, and you'd rather avoid all the probing questions relatives are bound to ask. That may be why more divorces are filed in January than any other month. It's the month of resolutions and fresh starts, after all. But some end-of-year planning now can make the transition smoother for women approaching divorce, according to one financial adviser.

Consider adding the following items to your December checklist:

1. Start gathering all your financial documents. This includes tax forms and year-end statements from banks and credit card companies. Once you have them, make copies and store them in a secure place your husband can't access.

2. Get a copy of your credit report. As you're getting all your documents in order, make your credit report one of those. You'll want to keep an eye on your credit score and watch for any unusual activity on your credit cards and other accounts. If your husband is using them against your wishes, you'll want to be the first to know.

3. Research your local divorce professionals. Finding an experienced family law attorney is a good first step. You may also want to locate a financial planner specializing in divorce and even a therapist or counselor. Finding these professionals can take time, so start now to ensure you're fully prepared when the new year comes and you want to put the wheels in motion.

4. Open new accounts in your own name. You'll want to make sure that you have your own bank account and credit cards not associated with your husband, whether you're reverting to your maiden name or not. Consider opening a savings and checking account at a different bank than you and your husband use. The sooner you start your own credit card account, the faster you can establish your own credit if you don't already have an account separate from your husband.

5. Keep an eye out. If you've made it known to your husband that you want a divorce, keep an eye on his own financial transactions, if you can. He may be doing his own homework to make sure he's protected when it comes to division of property and assets.

Taking care of such business during the holidays may seem difficult, but they can be a nice distraction from this necessary groundwork. And you can take comfort in the fact that when January rolls around, you'll be fully prepared.

Source: Forbes, "End-of-the-year Checklist for Divorcing Women," Jeff Landers, Dec. 6, 2011

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