Step 4: Count on a pension
Divorcing women often choose the house or up-front cash over their soon-to-be ex's pension. That can be a big mistake. Over time, that pension can balloon tax-deferred to $1 million or more, depending on your ex-husband's salary.
In order to get your share of a pension, 401K or an individual retirement account (IRA), you'll need your lawyer to petition a state court for a qualified domestic-relations order (QDRO) for a judge to approve. You might get a onetime payout, monthly payments at retirement or a lump sum transferred into your own IRA.
Step 5: Deal with all joint accounts
Once you have your own credit in place, inform any joint-credit-card companies in writing that you are separated and will not be responsible for any new charges. The balance, however, must be paid off before creditors will close the account.
Next, tackle your joint bank accounts. In some cases you may need to keep a joint account open to pay for household expenses until the divorce is final. Talk with your spouse and lawyer about asking the bank to freeze the account. That way both you and your spouse must sign before any transaction can be made.
Joint brokerage accounts fall into the same category. Write at once and notify the broker that you are separated, and ask that the broker not make any transactions without both spouses' approval.
Step 6: Keep it in low gear
Sure you feel lousy and want to do something to make yourself feel better. But don't do anything rash like spring for a new set of wheels or make wild forays into the stock market. There are plenty of people out there anxious to get ahold of your money for their gain, not yours. It's best to let your head clear for a few months before you plunge into any big-ticket money moves.