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End-of-year planning can help your divorce go smoothly in 2013

January is often associated with new years and fresh starts so it is no surprise that it sees more divorce filings than any other month. Couples may be loathe to start the divorce process during the holiday season, especially those with children. But that doesn't mean it's smart to put the matter out of your head until the new year.

Taking a little bit of time to get organized before the clock strikes midnight on January 1 can save you time and money in your 2013 divorce. Consider a few important steps to work toward a fresh start in the coming months.

First, start collecting financial documents now. If you assemble a file of bank statements, brokerage account statements, credit card account information and mortgage documents. Make copies and ask a trusted friend or relative to hold on to them. If you can't tell anyone about your intentions, get a safety deposit box in your name to protect your privacy.

While you're at it, obtain a copy of your credit report and keep a close eye on any joint credit accounts. It is wise to watch out for unusual credit activity as divorce can take a toll on your credit score if you aren't careful.

Next, start building a team of experts who can help you through a divorce. It is wise to consult a family law attorney, a financial advisor and a therapist or counselor who will be on your side through the entire ordeal. Schedule meetings with prospects for January so you can start benefiting from their experience early in the year.

Finally, open fresh bank and credit accounts at a new bank in your name if you currently share those assets with your spouse. Saving some money for when the marriage ends is always wise.

If you are considering a divorce, it is wise to speak with an experienced family law attorney sooner rather than later. They can help you get organized so you can work together for the best possible outcome for you and your family.

Source: Forbes, "End-of-the-Year Checklist for Divorcing Women," Jeff Landers, Dec. 6, 2012

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