Here are the out of the gate first steps.

  1. You must protect yourself immediately by gathering your financial records. You’ll find a check list of financial documents at the beginning of chapter seven: Legal. You can be assured your spouse has been advised to do the same thing.

  2. If you have them, make your kids your first priority.

  3. Get a copy of your credit report, you need to know where the family money is, what charges are being made on family credit cards. Also, who is making payments for monthly bills, mortgages, others. If you aren’t making the payments, you’ll need to monitor them. Check to be sure your spouse isn’t trying to get credit using your name.

  4. Although you may not be ready to hire one, talk to an attorney who is an expert in divorce in your state and can give you pertinent information about your legal rights, especially on living arrangements and custody.

  5. Apply for a credit card in your own name. This will allow you to establish credit in your name. Close joint accounts, so your spouse cannot get vengeful and run up a big bill. If you can’t close the account without your spouse’s permission, contact credit card companies to flag the account if your spouse starts making huge purchases.

  6. Get a post office box and have your mailing address changed to that. You will hold the only key. That’s where you will receive legal, bank, credit card, investment correspondence.

  7. Put financial documents in a friend’s home, or in a safe-deposit box. Organize joint tax returns, proof of your income, your spouse’s income, lease or purchase information of your car, and other documents. Again, there is a check list at the beginning of chapter seven.

  8. Change your will. If your spouse is the executor of your estate and may be the sole beneficiary, remove her from that position and change your living will and any power of attorney as well.

  9. Since your spouse is probably the beneficiary of your insurance and investments, change those too. You’ll want good advice to be sure your kids are taken care of.

  10. If you are leaving your spouse for any reason beyond that you’re unable to get along, you will need supporting evidence to defend your decision in court. Evidence of infidelity, abandonment, alcoholism, drug abuse, irresponsibility with money, arrest records, correspondences, bank statements, photos, records of gambling debts, etc