Getting divorced or going through a separation is hard, it can disrupt your life and your finances. It can be overwhelming to keep your finances in order when you’re dealing with a lot of change in your personal situation; however, you could risk making things harder for yourself in the future if you don’t pay attention.
Here’s what you should consider to help keep your finances stable at this critical time:
1. If you can afford to, hire a lawyer whose only job is to safeguard your best interests.
Retaining an impartial mediator or arbitrator, without first checking in with your own counsel may be a less-combative route to an equitable settlement, but depending upon your unique circumstances, it may not be in your best interest financially. A mediator’s primary goal is to have the parties reach a settlement—not to negotiate for what you need or are entitled to. A lawyer that you hire will keep your best interests in focus.
2. The most expensive advice is not necessarily the best for your situation.
Take the time you need to find a qualified lawyer that's the right fit for you and your budget. Ask friends for a referral; knowing something about the lawyer first can help your relationship.
3. Separate your finances right away if possible and feasible.
You don't want any negative emotions surrounding a separation or divorce to influence how you or your ex-spouse may use your joint accounts or credit cards. Keep things simple and reduce the potential for further conflict by separating your banking and getting your own credit cards – if you don’t already have separate ones.
4. Consider whether you should keep the family home or move.
Keeping up a home on a single-income could set you up for financial hardship even if you feel there are short-term benefits such as maintaining stability for kids or yourself. You may want to downsize now in order to be able to save more for any unanticipated expenses that could come up because of the separation or divorce and being a single income household.
5. Prioritize what really matters to you then spend less and try to save more.
It may be harder to live the lifestyle you and your family were used to if you’re now a single income household. Take stock of your critical needs and look for ways to streamline your discretionary spending so you can continue to save for your future.
6. Have a detailed separation agreement.
Include as much information as you can about future considerations and situations that may come up in your separation agreement. Have a plan for each item to avoid having to go back to court or spending money on more legal fees.
7. Consider changing your will and insurance policies if possible and feasible.
If your spouse is a beneficiary in your insurance policy or heir in your will you may want to immediately change them so that your money goes where you want it to if something happens to you. Update your will as soon as possible; if you don’t have a will yet, this would be a good time to set one up. Also, be sure to check any policies to update your beneficiaries. However, all of this should be done only after the advice of counsel , as these kinds of assets sometimes figure into marital settlements.