Divorcing couples need to do financial homework

The Boy Scouts' motto, 'be prepared," is a phrase that also could be applied to older Texas couples who are contemplating a divorce. The closer Baby Boomers get to retirement, the more likely many of them are to get divorced since the divorce rate for the over-50 crowd is on the increase.

By the time they reach their 50s, many people have substantial retirement accounts built up. However, these assets could dissipate during a divorce settlement. The financial damage could be mitigated if spouses did their homework prior to filing for divorce.

One of the first things a person can do is make an inventory of individual and joint assets. Inherited property is generally considered individual property, but if a spouse has comingled it in joint accounts, it might cause problems. It is important that a person discuss this issue with his or her attorney.

The past employment records of both spouses are necessary. A person may have forgotten about deferred compensation or a pension from an earlier employer. His or her spouse may be entitled to a portion of the amount, but if the person hasn't researched these records, he or she may miss out during the property division process. Spouses who receive alimony should ask how they will be protected if their ex-spouses lose a job or die.

The financial impact of a divorce can be significant, especially for older couples as they may not have enough time to build up their retirement accounts again. Divorcing couples may each want to consult lawyers who may be able to advise them on their options and how best to protect their assets. A divorce attorney also may be able to help negotiate a fair financial settlement for his or her clients.

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