If you have separated from your spouse and are considering a divorce, you are more than likely in the middle of an emotional storm. You may be unsure whether or not you really want a divorce. During a time like this, it is important that you take the necessary steps in order to protect yourself financially just in case your separation continues longer than expected or ends in a divorce.

In many marriages across the country, spouses have joint bank accounts. When separated, the first step you could take to ensure financial security is to open up an account that only you have access to. This will prevent your spouse from blindsiding you by removing the money from your joint account and cancelling credit cards that you were counting on being able to use to support yourself during the separation. It’s a good idea to take initiative and open up a new account, transfer money into it, and apply for credit cards well before you think it is necessary. This is important because if a time comes when you need backup funds, you’ll be prepared.

Unfortunately, many people are caught off guard financially when they discover that their spouse has liquidated, moved or cancelled their access to money or credit without prior notice. By planning ahead, you will have the financial means to pay for legal advice, and to support yourself while you wait on the terms of your separation to be sorted out. Whether your separation ends in reconciliation or divorce, you will be financially secure while you wait for things to get figured out.

Another step to take in the direction of financial responsibility is to make copies of all financial related paperwork, including several years of tax returns. You should also include paycheck stubs, bank and credit card statements, investment and retirement records, all loans and titles for cars and homes, and any records related to debts. You should keep the copies of these important financial documents in a secure place away from the home you share with your spouse so that he or she does not have access to them. It may also be beneficial to get a copy of your credit report to make sure there are no surprise debts. It’s wise to have a detailed list of personal property along with estimated values and photos or videos of these items.

Consulting with a divorce attorney is another step that should be taken in an attempt to prepare for all possible outcomes. It is important to remember that consulting with a divorce attorney does not mean you have to file for divorce, and it is common to put off going to see a divorce attorney when you’re still not sure you want a divorce. However, it’s a smart move to meet with one before you find yourself in need of hiring one. By meeting with a divorce attorney ahead of time, you’ll have a clearer understanding of the next step to take if you do ultimately decide to get a divorce. By doing this, you are not conceding that your separation will eventually result in a divorce; you are simply preparing for all possible outcomes.