Updated: Oct 13
Divorce is an emotionally tumultuous event. Your marriage may end, but it does not mean you need to derail your journey towards financial freedom. How you deal with your finances will have far-reaching consequences. Here are seven considerations when getting a divorce.
“My entire world has just crashed before me; David told me this morning that he is leaving us. He has fallen head over heels for a woman he met eight days ago. You heard that right; he met her eight days ago.”
Susan and David, in their 50s, had a tumultuous marriage that lasted for over twenty-five years. Together they faced more than their share of challenges while building a new business when they arrived in the US as newlyweds.
While the business thrived, their marriage did not.
With almost half of marriages ending in divorce, here is a list of what you need to do should you decide to separate.
1. Take Stock of Your Finances
The number one mistake women make when getting a divorce is that they fail to get financially prepared for a potential tsunami that a divorce can cause.
What Do You Own?
First, make a list of properties you own jointly or separately.
Same with debts and expenses.
Then consider how you divide any property — the marital home, the rental, the cottage. List your financial institutions and account numbers for your bank accounts, credit cards, loans, and investments.
Make sure you have copies of financial information: statements for outstanding loans, recent pay stubs, and your tax returns for the past three years.
Waiving Joint Account Statements
When you co-sign for a loan, credit card, or line of credit, each joint borrower has the right to receive the same information from the lender about the loan. For example, if you co-signed for a credit card with your former partner, the lender must give you copies of the credit agreement and the monthly statements unless you consented either verbally or in writing to waive this right.
If you have already waived your right to separate disclosure, you can change your consent if you decide you would like to receive information about the joint account or loan.
2. Make Informed Decisions
Know your rights and responsibilities related to joint accounts and loans so you can decide what to do with the joint assets or debts you share with your partner. Get advice from your lawyer on the best way to handle these.
Contact your financial institution for advice on protecting your interests in your joint accounts, such as preventing further borrowing from a line of credit or withdrawals from a joint bank account.
3. Keep Relevant Documents and Get Acquainted with Specifics
While you are working out your separation or divorce, keep bills and receipts for expenses related to your family. This will be helpful later when you are working out how to divide your property.
Suppose you don’t close your joint accounts and loans. In that case, both of you may continue to be legally entitled to the funds in any joint accounts and responsible for repaying any debts, even if your separation agreement states that only one person is responsible.
If one borrower doesn’t pay the debt, the lender can demand that any borrower listed in the loan or credit agreement pay the entire amount or continue making regular payments.
For certain credit cards, authorized users (also called “secondary cardholders”) can be held responsible for any outstanding balances, even if they did not sign the credit card application. To determine whether you are responsible, read your credit agreement or ask your lender.
Once you have closed joint accounts or paid off joint loans, check your credit report to ensure your financial information has been updated.
4. Establish Your Accounts and Deal with Joint Accounts
Make Your Accounts Your Own Open your checking and savings accounts and establish your credit if you haven’t done so. Then, update your direct deposit information for paychecks, government checks, and any other regular payments you receive to ensure they are deposited to your own account.
Credit History Make sure you have a credit history or start one. It’s essential to have a credit history if you want to apply for credit or loans, such as credit cards or a mortgage. In addition, some landlords and employers will check your credit history before considering you for an apartment or a job.
This could be an issue if most or all of a couple’s accounts and bills are registered and paid under one spouse’s name. As a result, the other spouse may have a low credit score. Take steps to build your credit history to have more financial options.
5. How Will You Split Your Pensions? And What About Extended Health Care Benefits?
Pensions and health care benefits are more of an issue if one partner makes a substantially lesser income or may have taken time off work to raise the children. Health care benefits are not equal from one company to the next. This would be of more significant concern if only one partner worked.
6. What Else to Consider
Get emotional support from a family counselor or a minister at your church.
Do not pit your children against your spouse. They will always be a part of them. No matter how old your adult children are, they will experience a sense of loss if your marriage ends. However, they do not need to face an additional loss of a relationship with a parent due to the separation.
You will need to update your will. The event of the divorce revokes clauses in your existing will naming your ex as a beneficiary or executor etc. You must consider naming an alternative family member in a new will.
Where to Get Legal Help
Divorce is both financially and emotionally stressful. Anyone thinking of separating should seek legal advice as soon as they can. The laws apply to financial matters such as property division and spousal support, depending on where you live.
If you and your former partner need assistance in reaching an agreement on these issues, you can consult several resources:
lawyers and notaries — who specialize in family law
7. Give yourself time before jumping into a new relationship
Divorce is a highly emotional event. You will be dealing with a wide range of emotions, and if you have younger kids, you will need to help them navigate this difficult time. Give yourself sufficient time to heal before entering a new relationship. For example, if you and your ex were not great at managing your finances together, you may be more prepared the next time you enter a relationship.
Bringing It All Together
Divorce is hard on all parties concerned. Many women end up in poverty soon after a divorce. If conflicts over money were one of the issues that caused the divorce, then commit to getting right with your finances.
Have you been considering a divorce? Do you think you will experience difficulties splitting joint property, accounts, etc.?
How can you help yourself in the financial department before deciding to divorce? Do you have any specific questions about divorce financial planning? Please share them in the comments below.