In divorce law in the United States, grounds for asset division on the termination of a marriage can rest upon one of two legal bases, depending on the state: community property or equitable distribution. Community property are all assets obtained by either spouse after marriage and they belong equally to both, while equitable distribution takes into account the financial opportunities and hardships of each spouse when dividing property.
Since divorce laws vary widely from state to state (and also the judge’s discretion), only possessions that legally qualify as separate property according to each state’s definition are absolutely safe from divorce settlements.
You should also consult a lawyer (not necessarily a divorce attorney) about the laws of property division in your state (as they can differ from state to state). The lawyer should give you a specific advice on how to handle and behave in your particular situation.
You will have to gather all the information you can about your assets and move the assets you feel are in danger. Get all the records on bank accounts, pensions, investments, expensive items, and the value of your home and vehicles and any other large important things you own. This will be proof for the court of what the marital assets are. Also, another proof of the market value of the items which is a fair estimation is the valuations performed on expensive items such as houses, antiques and jewelry.
It might be a good idea to secure items such as deeds, vehicle titles, jewelry and expensive collections in a safe deposit box.
In case your spouse has taken things/assets, make a list of what is missing if you can recall.
Don’t forget to remove any powers of attorney you have given your spouse to assets that are in your name alone. Physically destroy any general powers of attorney you may have signed, giving your spouse the right to act on your behalf in legal and financial matters.
In case you have any joint credit cards, make sure you cancel them as you are liable to the company for any amounts charged on the card whether or not you made the purchase.
When it comes to bank issues, it might be a good solution to close all joint bank accounts and investments. Make sure you check with your attorney about the state laws. If you believe your spouse may take those assets and spend or hide them, then you are probably safe in removing them with intent to preserve them.
If you have a strong suspicion that your spouse will take or spend marital assets, you should obtain a restraining order to prevent this from occurring.
Remember that any income that one of the spouses gains from pain and suffering awards from a court proceeding are legally the sole property of the recipient of the money and cannot be divided or taken by a divorce settlement.
At the end, don’t forget that your children and your emotional health should come first, so try not to get obsessed with getting every penny you can in a divorce.