Many stories circulate of someone losing all of their money in a divorce, or having to sell their house to cover legal expenses. While we offer free legal for criminal defense in the U.S., we do not do the same for family law. And in an acrimonious divorce, a person’s divorce outcome is often related to how much he or she can afford to pay their attorney. The party who makes less often waits, gathering funds, while the other party is slowly moving assets around and finding ways to “hide” using legal loopholes. Unfortunately, it happens all too frequently. However, there are steps you can take to protect your assets from being seized in a divorce, starting long before the marriage takes a downward turn.

Hope for the best, plan for the worst.

It’s a simple proverb, but it contains much wisdom. Start out by making sure that any money you earn is split into two accounts. Since in many jurisdictions, one spouse’s income is treated as community property, split your earning in half, putting one part in a joint account and the other part in an account  you’ve had since before the marriage. Next, make sure all of the negotiation is done before the divorce is finalized. There is an appeal period after the case is closed, but relying on that to rectify any imbalances is as good as throwing your assets away.

Finally, make sure as soon as the topic of divorce is brought up that you speak to a lawyer. Tell them what assets you’d like to retain control of, and work with your  attorney to ensure you can provide clear evidence that the assets are in fact your’s, not your spouse’s. Oftentimes, the burden of proof during a divorce case is higher that that in a civil case, and any item or asset you claim must without a shadow of a doubt have belonged to you, been given to you as an inheritance or a gift, or have otherwise been designated specifically for you to be the recipient of, as in the case of certain personal injury settlements.