In years past, the roles of men and women in society and in a marriage were much more traditional and defined. In many marriages, men earned the money and handled the finances while women tended to children and the home. While women likely made home-related purchases, men by-and-large held the bulk of financial knowledge and power. Today, thankfully, things are much more equal.

A large percentage of married women work outside the home and many earn incomes equal to or in excess of a spouse. However, in many cases roles related to finances haven’t changed. While women who are earning their own money likely enjoy more financial independence, many still opt to handle matters related to the home and children rather than take on responsibilities like paying bills, investing money and managing and tracking retirement assets. As a result, many women remain the dark about total assets, debts and investments.

In cases where a financially in-the-dark spouse is destined for divorce, it’s important to take steps to gain a comprehensive picture of both shared and individual assets, debts and investments. It’s also important to take steps to gain financial independence from a spouse. Closing joint accounts, opening individual accounts and taking steps to pay down or pay off debt are all important when facing divorce.

While entrenched in the actual divorce process, even the most amicable of divorces can grow contentious. This is often especially true when it comes to matters related to the division of property and assets. For example, a soon-to-be ex-spouse likely won’t be thrilled by the prospect of being ordered to share individual retirement or investment assets. In fact some husbands and wives even take steps to hide assets to avoid for an equitable distribution.

There’s a saying that knowledge is power. This phrase certainly rings true when it comes to divorce and finances. Women and men who are planning to divorce would be wise to consult with an attorney who can provide advice on how to best position oneself for the divorce process.

Source: Forbes, “Perspective And Preparedness For Divorcing Women,” Jeff Landers, July 23, 2014