Going through a divorce can be emotionally and financially stressful. While it is important to mentally prepare for some of the raw emotions that will certainly come along with divorce, it is also important to prepare financially for divorce. Statistically, it is more likely for a woman to fall into poverty or a much lower income situation after a divorce. Here are some financial tips for women preparing for divorce to help make the transition easier and more financially stable.
1. Make a List of All Assets and Monthly Obligations
Your attorney is going to need a list of assets, so proper negotiations can happen when assets are split. Your attorney will also need to know your expected monthly bills so that alimony and child support can be awarded in an adequate amount. (For more, see: Get Through Divorce With Your Finances Intact.)
2. You Don't Have to Wait Until Divorce Is Final to Receive Alimony or Child Support
The process of finalizing a divorce can take several months and during that time, you may be put into a state of financial limbo until the final divorce decree comes down. If you are separated and the divorce has been filed, you can ask for temporary child support or temporary alimony with a request for an order or an order to show cause to help ease the financial strain during this time.
3. Separate Accounts As Soon As Possible
If you have credit cards that you are the primary account holder on, remove your soon-to-be ex as an authorized user of the account as soon as possible. Consider opening your own checking account, so he doesn't have direct access to the money that you are depositing in there. Unless assets have been frozen, both parties on the accounts still have access to them. You don't want your ex to take large sums of money that you are depositing, nor do you want to end up being held responsible for charges on a credit card that he may have used. For larger items, such as the mortgage, you may have to wait until the divorce is final to remove your ex if you are keeping the home.
4. Keep Payments Up to Date on All Accounts
Remember that for any joint accounts that you have, you are both responsible until everything has been worked out and you are removed from the accounts that your ex will keep and your ex is removed from the accounts that you will keep. Why is this important? Sometimes divorces are messy and bitter. For instance, if you are going to keep the house, but your ex-husband is responsible for making the mortgage payment until the divorce is finalized and he is removed from the deed and loan, it is still your responsibility to make sure those mortgage payments are made on time. (For more, see: How to Manage Your Finances Through a Divorce.)
If you need to go back to court because your ex isn't living up to the court order, do so but don't refuse to make the payment promptly because that will damage your credit. A court order is not going to undo a late payment history and the damage that it may have caused to your credit score.
5. Don't Assume You Will Receive Alimony or Get Sole Custody of Children
Even though this may have been typical of divorces in the past, many women are working outside of the home more now, and fathers play a more active role at home. Be prepared to be the one potentially paying the alimony if you are the primary wage earner. Likewise, be prepared that joint or shared custody is a possibility if this is something that the father wants.
6. Be Prepared to Split All Assets Obtained During Your Marriage
Of course this includes the obvious assets, such as a home, investment accounts and savings. But it also includes the increase in the value of assets during the marriage. For example, if your spouse had a business before you got married, if that business grew in value and income over the course of your marriage, you may now be entitled to a portion of that increase in value.
7. Update Beneficiaries
This will need to be updated for all accounts: savings, 401(k), IRAs and life insurance. If you have minor children there may be some accounts, such as life insurance, that you would still need to keep your ex-husband on as a beneficiary. However, if your children are older, you will want to make sure that your ex-spouse has been removed as the beneficiary on all of your accounts to ensure that those benefits go to the person(s) that you want them to.
Most importantly, don’t go it alone financially. A divorce attorney or mediator is not a financial planner. Their role is to assist you in settling all matters related to your divorce, but not in ensuring you have an actionable plan and strategy to get yourself back on your feet financially and on the path to a more confident financial future. Seek out the assistance of a qualified financial planner before, during or after a divorce to be sure you are getting the answers and guidance you need to make smarter financial and investment decisions. (For more, see: Divorcing? The Right Way to Split Retirement Plans.)
Securities and Investment Advisory Services are offered through Signator Investors, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Advisor. AspenCross Wealth Management is independent of Signator Investors, Inc. 1400 Computer Drive, Westborough, MA 01581