Divorce impacts us in so many ways. Our emotions are in upheaval. Our plans get turned upside down and reorganized. Oftentimes, we change the place we call home, move our children to different schools, and spend months assembling the pieces of our new life.
One area where divorce has a much greater effect is in our finances. It’s definitely hard for divorcing spouses with a high level of conflict and disagreement to make sense of their assets. But even for couples who remain on good terms during the divorce process, those that don’t contest marital property, and respectfully establish separate property, like individual assets and debts, bank accounts, credit cards, real estate, personal property and more, must still work to protect what they have and what they are working toward.
Protecting yourself financially not only keeps your dreams alive, but creates a better life for your children. Let’s look closer at the importance of protecting your finances during divorce and discuss several steps you can take to ensure this happens.
Why it Matters
Divorce is often a lengthy and expensive process. Family law attorney’s fees for divorce proceedings, as you seek a divorce settlement, custody of children, your legal rights, and ultimately, a favorable divorce judgment, can add up quickly, often costing tens of thousands of dollars. Still, their help is invaluable and can save you time, hassle, and further financial losses, along with protecting your rights as a parent. .
You want the best for your kids and for yourself. But without a smart financial plan and the right protections, you could end up watching your financial well-being take a nose dive. During divorce, individuals can get not only combative, but nasty, doing everything they can to undermine their ex.
Arguments over joint accounts, joint credit cards, community property, separate property, retirement accounts, health insurance and medical expenses, child care and child support obligations, and other financial assets can make finding a reasonable agreement a difficult endeavor.
When we’re married, so much of our lives get entwined. So, walking through the process of separating marital assets, the marital estate, and seeking a fair outcome can be a complex affair. But you owe it to yourself and your kids to stay focused. You’re not alone. You can rely on a great attorney, qualified financial planners, and diligent personal research to make sure you put yourself in the best financial position possible.
This will allow you space to breathe, to rebuild, to establish a new life and pursue your goals and ensure the safety and care of your children. No matter your filing status, or the current status of your joint bank accounts, various credit card accounts, tax returns, social security, or community debt, doing everything in your power to build a strong financial base will pay you back several fold over time. Let’s look at 7 things to do to protect yourself financially during divorce.
These steps will help you protect what you have and what you want to build.
Monitor Your Credit Report Closely
Whether you combined everything or kept most of it separate, obtaining a copy of your credit report and keeping an eye on activity and your credit score is an absolute must. Certain actions by your spouse may have affected your credit rating without your knowledge, while new purchases, unpaid debts, and new loans can cause severe damage.
You can get a free credit report from sources like www.annualcreditreport.com. You can also sign up for great credit monitoring and personal finance apps like Credit Karma, NerdWallet and others. These programs keep track of your credit history, new credit spending, your scores, and can even help you save money and organize your finances better.
Get a Clear Picture of Your Financial Position
It is common for men and women to be unsure about how much money they really have. You may not really know the full range of assets you control, especially when many of them are mixed between the two of you. It is easy to either underestimate or overestimate these figures. If you’re going to protect something, you need to be aware of its existence in the first place..
Conduct a thorough survey of all assets, including bank balances, 401k accounts, savings accounts, credit cards, 529 accounts, loans, business credit, property and any other assets. Once you have a clear picture of your financial position, you can begin to make a plan for the future.
Don’t Forfeit Control of Assets and Investments
It’s better to hold on to something than have to fight to get it back. It’s a good thing to work with mediators and attorneys to separate accounts. However, you’ll want to avoid relinquishing control of investments and real estate. Don’t put your financial standing and future at risk by giving up important investments and accounts.
Keep a hold on what you have until you reach a fair and beneficial agreement with the help of your attorney.
Separate Your Debt
Debt is one of those things that will follow you around for years. Any debts incurred on joint accounts or under both names will be your responsibility as well. This means that your credit rating can take a hit because of your ex’s decisions, while his or her report can be damaged by your choices.
If you both can manage it, pay off all jointly held debt from any credit card company and other sources before divorcing. This is the best way to go about it. If you can’t make this happen, work together to separate debts fairly, or divide them right down the middle, transfer the debt to individual accounts and then close the joint accounts.
Don’t rely on promises of payment. Create separate accounts and move forward. That way, each of you will be responsible for your own portion and not hurt the other person’s credit.
Don’t Hide Money and Other Assets
Individuals walking through divorce often feel the need to hide money or the existence of certain assets. They believe it will help them protect these things. This is the worst thing you can do. Assets are almost always eventually discovered (there is a trail for everything these days), and you only increase animosity between you and your ex.
You also lose the trust of your judge and increase both the judge’s and opposing attorney’s suspicions. This will inspire them to investigate even more and it will hurt your chances of a fair settlement.
Create an Emergency Fund
This is a good idea for everyone, regardless of marital status. Every individual should have a backup account that they pour into each month, an account they don’t touch until an emergency demands it..
If you already have a separate emergency fund, continue to put money away. There are always unforeseen expenses related to divorce and your need for more money to cover expenses as you rebuild your life will grow for a season.
If you don’t have an account, start one now. Prepare yourself for divorce by saving aggressively today.
Hire a Forensic Accountant
These skilled professionals are adept at combing through the minutiae of your and your ex’s holdings. Sometimes, certain assets may be offshore or in trusts, even when they are deemed marital property. Certain stipulations may make it difficult for you to get a clear picture or to gain access.
A forensic accountant can find every asset source and work with your attorney to gain the information and legal access needed.
There are several more steps you can take to protect yourself financially. But we wanted to give you a few top choices to help you establish the right foundation for a healthy financial future following divorce. A few other tips include: making sure all paperwork is filled out correctly, knowing your insurance coverages, conducting a cash flow analysis, keeping your accountant close and ensuring you hire a great attorney.
It’s common to feel overwhelmed by divorce and confused by your financial position. Lean on your lawyer, your accountant and your financial planner to help you gain the information you need, and assemble the strategy you want to protect and provide for yourself and your family in the years to come.
Torrone Law helps individuals and families find resolution and peace of mind during divorce. Protect your family and your future. Connect with us today to learn more.
To learn more about financial security during divorce, check out our frequently asked questions and answers below.
Why is financial security during divorce so important?
Protecting your finances is a decision that will affect the rest of your life. You and your children need a solid foundation to begin this new season. If you don’t get the professional help necessary and don’t pay close attention to your assets, you could lose a lot and put your family at risk for great hardship.
You’ve worked hard and invested well to get where you are. Don’t let it slip away because of lack of research or help.
Where can I find help when trying to protect myself financially during divorce?
You’ll want to partner with an experienced divorce lawyer, a great accountant, a financial planner, even a forensic accountant. These individuals have years of experience and can give you the best chance at a fair settlement.
You can also purchase or check out well-rated books on the topic, read financial and family/relationship blogs and discuss your options with individuals who have already walked through these challenges.
Is it okay to handle all these things without a lawyer?
It is not recommended. They are your best line of defense when it comes to your finances, your custody and parental rights, and all other matters.
If the divorce is friendly and entirely uncontested, you should still work with an accountant and mediator to help you sort things out clearly and equitably. .