If your spouse has just told you they want a divorce, your mind is likely reeling. While it’s natural to be in a state of shock or at least not thinking clearly, you need to be able to make some practical decisions almost immediately to protect your finances and your rights.

Why hiring an attorney is a crucial first step

The best first step is to get a good family law attorney. You may need to talk to a few before you find one with whom you feel comfortable. Your friends, family and others you know can likely provide recommendations.

Don’t delay on this step. If your spouse has already spoken with an attorney (or several) about the divorce, even if they didn’t retain them, they’re “conflicted out” of representing you in the divorce.

Once you have an attorney, they can help you with the next crucial steps, like determining what documents and records of your joint and individual assets and debts you need to locate. Divorcing spouses are required to each present a full and accurate list of these. However, that doesn’t prevent some spouses from trying to hide or misrepresent their assets so they don’t have to share them.

Keep an eye on your money and your credit

If you don’t already have an account and credit card solely in your name, it’s best to get those. While most divorcing spouses don’t clean out the joint accounts and max out the credit cards, you can’t be too careful. It’s also a good idea to get a copy of your credit report and monitor this and your credit score throughout the divorce.

Don’t do anything rash like closing out all of the accounts and credit cards because you’re afraid of what your spouse will do. That could leave them with no resources – and get you in trouble with the court before your divorce has begun.

Talk to your attorney about the best way to protect your money. There are some options other than closing the accounts. For savings and investment accounts, you may want to stipulate that two signatures are required for withdrawals or transfers, for example.

These are just the first steps to take when divorce is on the horizon. Your attorney can help you understand Texas laws regarding divorce and your options as you look at child custody, property division and other decisions.