Managing your finances during divorce
Divorce is one of the most emotionally taxing experiences possible. It can radically alter your financial situation and affect the rest of your life. Below are financial issues to consider during the process so that, when the divorce is finalized, you begin the next stage of your life in the best possible financial shape.
Remember to treat the divorce as a business transaction
One of the first steps to take in a divorce is to divide your household and determine what each partner will take with them as they leave the marriage. This will undoubtedly be emotional but prepare yourself to remember to treat it calmly and cooly, just as you would treat any other financial transaction. If you can keep relationship drama out of the interaction as much as possible it should proceed more easily and result in a fairer outcome for both parties. Take particular care to keep this in mind towards the end of the process. At that point, it is possible you’ll be tired and want to do anything to put the process behind you. Resist the temptation to do anything that won’t make financial sense for your future.
Consider the financial implications of how you divorce
While some divorces have been advertised to cost as low as $150, others can reach $20,000 or more. That’s a big difference. How expensive your divorce is can be determined by a lot of the decisions you make along the way. For example, mediation can be more peaceful, faster, less stressful, and less expensive, than a legal option. If you expect your divorce may be simple and relatively amicable, this may be a way to proceed.
In many cases, the assets or debt is too complicated to divide or the couple can’t work things out reasonably. In these situations, you may have to take a legal route and you should be aware that some lawyers are more expensive than others. Try to pay for counsel that is within your budget, however, you may choose to pay more. This could be the case if you believe a certain lawyer will get you a fairer share of your household assets in the end. There’s no right answer to how you proceed, but be aware of how it will affect your financial picture once the divorce is final.
Take time to fully understand your assets
Assets in a divorce can be complicated and it is a good idea for each partner to list out what the couple has together. Assets may include everything from shared real estate holdings to shared bank accounts, retirement accounts, jointly held valuable items in or outside of the home, stock, and other investments. As you consider assets, also list the salary and benefits connected to each partner in the divorce, the value of a shared business if you have one, and the assets that are in that business. Lastly, in listing these assets take time to note any account numbers that are associated with them. You’ll need that later on.
Write down any debt and joint future expenses
Each member of the couple should also start a list of all jointly held debt and the interest rates and account numbers associated with it. Include both personal and business debt as part of this list. It may be helpful to have a credit report run on each person so that you are both confident that you know your situations and there won’t be any surprises as you get further along in the process. Following this, if you have children you should also list ongoing expenses you’ll have to jointly cover after divorce. These can include tuition, school fees, health insurance, extracurricular activities, and more.
Ensure you’re not responsible for bills you shouldn’t be paying
There are some times in divorce proceedings that one member of a couple may inadvertently take on financial burdens they shouldn’t be paying. For example, the person who leaves the shared home may continue to have their name placed on utility notices or other financial bills connected to the house. Spouses may also be continuing to have payroll deductions made for health insurance or other benefits for their separated partner. While there’s no firm timetable for when one member of a couple should stop paying a particular charge, both members should be aware of what’s happening and should take care to end inappropriate financial responsibilities when the time is right.
Separate your bank accounts early
It is a good idea for each person to open separate banking accounts as soon as possible after a separation, and to stay on top of any financial activity in accounts you both share. As time goes on, the monies placed in these joint accounts should be lessened. As each person begins to take independent financial responsibility for their lives, the joint account should be used less and less, and the money in it diminish accordingly.
A final tip: Be aware that poor communication may cost you
One final financial tip in a divorce proceeding isn’t directly about money, it is about communication. The better your communication style is throughout the process, the better your financial outcome is likely to be. Sure, keeping civil is hard, in fact, sometimes it may not be possible, but if you can practice good communication things will be easier and your bottom line will benefit. Guard your words carefully and remember, once something has been said it is impossible to take it back. If you’ve made the wrong word at an inopportune time, it may cost you.