No matter how much you might hope otherwise, divorce is sometimes inevitable. The longer you’ve been married, however, the harder it can be to suddenly find yourself responsible for your own finances.
While every situation is different, these are some of the basic things you need to keep in mind when you’re preparing financially for a divorce:
1. Your situation is unique
Don’t take advice from anyone except your divorce attorney, because nobody else knows your exact situation — and the laws that currently apply.
2. This doesn’t have to be adversarial
Getting a divorce doesn’t have to be a contentious process. Regardless of the issues between you and your spouse, you now have a common goal: to get through your divorce with a minimum amount of trauma and expense. The more you work together, the easier that will be.
3. You need to know everything about your finances
If you don’t handle the family finances, it’s time to dive in and start taking stock. You can determine a fair share of the assets or address issues like child support and spousal support until you take stock of all the household’s assets and expenses.
4. You need a budget
You and your spouse both need to try to agree to a budget while the divorce is pending. That’s the easiest way to avoid both episodes of “retail therapy” and ugly conflicts over expenditures in court. Set a budget for the present. While you’re at it, however, start taking stock of what you need for the future, including moving expenses, utility costs, the price of replacement furniture and anything else that’s likely to be an expense immediately after the divorce.
5. Make a list of tasks to attend to once the divorce is final
You’ll need to change things like your beneficiary designation on your accounts and retirement plan — but you don’t want to take those steps until the court gives you permission. Just the same, make a list now so you don’t forget after the divorce is official.
Most of all, keep in mind that this is a process — no matter how difficult this all seems right now, it does get easier as you gain experience.