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Before divorce, think about property division

Once in a great while, the Hamilton Journal-News will have on its pages an article about someone who gets hit as they try to drive across railroad tracks. People might wonder what the person was thinking. Why did they try to cross with a train so near? Well, it seems likely that in many cases, they never heard or saw the train coming.

A divorce can be like that: unseen and unheard until it crashes into your life. Unfortunately, many people can feel the crash and then find out that they were unprepared for divorce. Because they never saw it coming, they had never prepared themselves financially for the possibility of divorce.

A financial planner and divorce financial analyst recently wrote that all adults -- including those in happy marriages -- should have at their disposal information that can help them be prepared in the event divorce comes their way. She writes that spouses should be open with each other about finances and should come to an agreement on a budget.

That means both partners should understand their household incomes, assets and debts, as well as their taxes, investments and retirement accounts. Understand that the debt you and your spouse incur during your marriage are often considered marital debt in divorce, meaning you can be held responsible for those debt whether you rang them up personally or not.

The financial planner also urges you to understand the documents you sign, whether they are for a mortgage, loan, estate plan, asset transfer or anything else. If you don't understand the document, talk to an expert and have that person explain the document until you do understand it.

She also strongly urges anyone entering a marriage with substantial assets, such as a business or home, to discuss their finances with a family law attorney before taking your vows. Such a discussion can help you avoid disputes over property division should you decide one day to leave the marriage.

Most important, it is good to know that it is never too late to begin the process of protecting yourself. If divorce is in your future, you can discuss your options and rights with an experienced Butler County attorney who has helped clients achieve favorable outcomes in their divorces.

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