This is the sixth in a series of tips I am publishing to help people who are considering separating from their spouse or divorce.  While I believe strongly in the collaborative divorce process, there are times where you must take steps to protect yourself.  This series is meant to help you protect your legal rights while you decide what course of action is best for your situation.

In today’s step, I recommend that you inventory and photograph your household furniture, art, jewelry and other items of value.  Inventory and photograph the contents of any safe deposit box or safe your family may own.  Also, photocopy any important documents in the safe or safe deposit box (if you did not already do so when collecting the financial records).

It is unfortunate, but often these documents and property will “disappear” once the divorce process starts – so get your proof in place now.  Additionally, you may want to consider safeguarding any items of particular value (either monetary or sentimental) which are small in size. I am referring primarily to things like the jewelry your mother passed down to you, your father’s fountain pen, your high school yearbook, your childhood photo albums, etc.  Your spouse may not share your desire to divorce with dignity or engage in the collaborative process.  Better to safeguard those items that are particularly difficult to replace.

I am NOT suggesting that you empty your house of all its contents.  That is a sure way to escalate the divorce and guarantee that you will not have a civilized divorce.  Things like dvd players, camcorders and laptops can be replaced.  Just document those on your inventory and photograph them for proof in the event it is ever needed.

A quick note about laptopsI recommend purchasing an external hard-drive and making a backup of your home computers.  If your spouse takes the computer, and all the information that is on it – it is easier to recover this information (financial, photo’s, music, etc.) through a backup than through litigation.

The information in this post was prepared in part with information originally posted on the Alabama Family Law Blog.