When you get married, the dream is to live happily ever after. But, unfortunately, that’s not always the case. For some people, there’s no avoiding a divorce.
It’s a hard process to go through both emotionally and financially.
When you marry, everything about your lives gets tangled up. And when you divorce, untangling the web can be a messy, long-winded, complicated process.
Before your divorce proceedings even start, you need to prepare yourself and your finances for the road ahead of you.
No blog post can give you specific advice on how to prepare for a divorce. Because each divorce is as unique as each marriage, specific advice needs to come from an expert who is familiar with your case. But the following advice should be enough to get you started.
1. Be Aware
Divorce laws vary state by state. Advice that seems like a one-size-fits-all solution is impractical and can lead you down the wrong avenue.
It doesn’t matter where you heard the specific advice, whether it’s on the internet or from a friend, it’s always a good idea to be aware of what laws and guidelines are in place in your state.
If you’re ever unsure of what sort of financial moves you should make after filing for divorce, talk to a licensed attorney in your state.
2. Track and Anticipate Expenses
As soon as you start to consider a divorce, track your household income and expenses. This is a wise thing to do anyway, tracking your finances is a great way to know how much money you have and where it’s going, but it’s especially important during a divorce.
This will not only help you to build a budget after your divorce, but it will show your attorney and the judge involved in your case the things they need to consider before they split up your assets and debts.
Financial tracking is also used in the determination of child support.
If you already do track your finances, you’re in a good spot. Having a record of the months and years previous is a huge benefit. If you don’t start now.
Include your household bills, how much you pay for clothes, food, entertainment, how much your house costs to maintain, transportation, child care, and literally anything else you spend money on. Use your bank and credit card statement to help you to estimate how your money was spent in the past.
Now, project your future expenses. Don’t just consider your month to month expenses. Consider all of your yearly expenses, like costly repairs to your house, your vacations, or appliance replacement. Use your previous years to guide you, but keep your changing circumstances in mind.
If you have children that you have in daycare now, they’ll eventually need after-school activities, car insurance, and college tuition.
3. Gather Your Documents
Your financial documents tell the story of your financial health. Gathering these up can be tedious work, but the sooner you start the better.
Here’s what you should start with:
- Checking and savings account statements from the past year
- Retirement account statements
- Investment account statements from the past year
- Mortgage, auto, and personal loan ledgers from the last year
- Credit card statements from the past year
- Recent pay stubs
- Lists of assets and debts, both from pre-marriage and those that were accumulated since
- Income tax returns from the last three years
These are just the beginning of the financial documents you might need to acquire. When in doubt, add it to your pile, you never know what can come in handy.
4. Prepare Yourself
When a divorce is friendly, information is exchanged freely. However, even if the relationship between yourself and your spouse seems friendly enough, anticipate some rough patches.
In adversarial situations, one person might not release documents unless they are being legally forced. If one spouse controlled the finance, this becomes much more likely.
You could try to avoid confrontation by gathering the financial information you need before you file for divorce.
If your spouse fights you every step of the way, there are court-ordered options that are more time consuming but effective.
5. No Big Financial Decisions
Your divorce proceedings will decide your major financial changes. It’s better to wait on doing big tasks like adjusting your life insurance beneficiaries.
Making changes before the divorce could prompt the judge to award your spouse. Making changes without the court’s blessing could be the reason for criminal contempt charges. If you’re not sure of whether or not something is safe to change, ask your attorney. Always lean on the safe side.
6. Be Conservative
When you try to separate the web of joint financing, some treat all of the income, assets, and debts like they’re a part of one big pot. If you try to empty it before your divorce, it will be detrimental to you.
Continue to use your assets as usual. If you don’t have money set aside for a lawyer or other divorce expenses, try to come to an agreement with your spouse about each of you spending a conservative, comparable amount of money.
If you’re not on good terms, ask your attorney about a legal separation. A legal separation will dictate how you both use the money until after your divorce is finalized.
7. Get Help
No matter what kind of divorce you are facing, an amicable or adversarial one, a lawyer can help. Sorting out your lives and finances are not going to be easy tasks.
Hiring a lawyer is not an act of aggression. Divorce is a serious matter, a legal one, that should be discussed in a legal setting.
How to Prepare for a Divorce
Figuring out how to prepare for a divorce is hard. Separating finances is a tricky, emotional, and weighty subject. It can be scary to feel like you’re going it alone.
But there’s no reason for you to be afraid. There is someone here to help you during this difficult time in your life.
If you’re considering divorce, contact us for help. We’re here to make sure you are treated fairly.