Understand the Power of Written Notices

The good news is that you can send written notices to protect many of your rights. Do not delay! Without involving your spouse or the court, you can often secure property in which you have an ownership interest or an equitable right for the duration of your divorce proceeding. Your attorney must prepare these to ensure maximum protection for you.

For example, send a notice to each insurance company that has issued a policy of health, life or disability insurance on your spouse. Inform the company that the divorce action has been filed. Direct the carrier to maintain this insurance and to send you advance notice of lapse or other discontinuation. Demand also that no change be made in the policy values or limits, or beneficiary, without written releases from both you and your spouse, or court order. Finally, for life insurance policies, request the identifying information, cash surrender value, loan history and name of the beneficiary.

Retirement plans are a major asset for many families. Protect yourself by sending the administrator of each pension or retirement plan in which your spouse has an account a specific written notice. Identify your spouse completely, advise the plan that a divorce proceeding has been filed between the two of you and that you claim an interest in the plan. This notice will preserve your interest in the plan until a court order dividing the plan is issued.

If you’re worried about certain accounts, call and then send written instructions. It’s not likely that your bank would release funds if you instructed them not to unless both signatures were obtained. However, it may be just as easy to transfer the funds out of the account into a new one that you set up in a way that requires both signatures to withdraw.

Advise merchants and credit card companies that from this time on you will not be liable for charges by your spouse. It’s often necessary to close the account; if not, let your spouse have the old account without your name on it. Also do this for lines of credit, including the automatic credit line on your checking account.