“I’ve been married for well over a decade. I went from my parents’ house to my husband’s house. I’ve never had to manage a budget or rent a home. I haven’t ever handled the finances. I hadn’t even needed to work for more than a few years. So when I realized we were going to get a divorce, the thought of handling all of those details was overwhelming. I didn’t even know where to start, and I was too embarrassed to ask anyone. These are things everyone is supposed to know how to do, and I had no idea.”
This scenario is more common than most of us realize. When we marry young and depend on our partner to handle the finances of our home, it can be overwhelming when faced with doing it alone. There are some basic things you can do to prepare yourself and your finances for a divorce.
Every divorce is different, and there are some situations that require you to get out fast. If you have the time to prepare yourself and your finances, however, there some basic things you can do to help you get your finances in order and ensure that you will be fiscally ready for what lies ahead.
Where do I begin?
Gathering Financial Documents
You have a right to have a copy of every pertinent financial document. Gathering all of this information will help you and your attorney determine what assets you and your spouse have and how it can be equitably divided. These will include the following:
- Bank Statements
- Insurance Documents
- Property Deeds
- Car Titles
- Student Loans
- Credit Cards
- Check Registers
- Tax Returns
Inventory Household Items
Another consideration is a detailed inventory of your household items. Any artwork, furnishings, appliances, collectibles should be carefully inventoried for consideration in the settlement. It’s also important to account for items in storage lockers, sheds, attics, basements, and other less visible areas. The fastest way to collect a record of your items is a video or photographic record.
Open Accounts in Your name
If you do not already have separate accounts, you will need to open a bank account in your name. You should also get a credit card in your own name. If you do this early on, the lender may look at your household income, rather than your personal income, which may help you get a better rate.
Check Your Credit
Request a report from a trusted credit reporting agency such as Equifax. If there are any questions or discrepancies, you will want to handle them as quickly as possible before you begin your new life. You will want to start on a strong financial footing.
Familiarize yourself with the divorce laws in your state. Know your rights. Learn your obligations. Explore your options for handling your divorce. There are four ways to go about getting a divorce:
- traditional/litigation – requires attorneys, can take longer, but ensures that every detail is carefully covered.
- collaborative – you and your spouse sit down with your attorneys and work together to come to an agreement and avoid litigation
- Mediation – working with a mediator, the couple will come to an arrangement and avoid attorneys and trial
- Pro Se – Handling a divorce pro se means you will represent yourself during the process
There are many pros and cons for each option. It is best to talk with a divorce lawyer to discuss how these options fit in with your finances and divorce.
Form a Support Team
You will need an attorney or mediator, financial advisor, and a psychologist. The psychologist is especially necessary if you have children because you will want to talk to someone who can advise you as to the best way to help your children through it. You will also need a strong support group of friends or family. These should be people who will not belittle you or your spouse for the situation you are in. Rather, they will offer help and encouragement when it’s needed.
Establish a New Mailing Address
If you are worried that your spouse may intercept mail from your attorney or other parties, but you are unable to move out, establish a post office box or use the address of a friend.
Make a plan
Don’t go blindly into the future. Sit down with your support team, especially your financial planner, and determine what your steps should be for your financial future.
Many people don’t realize that child support and alimony or spousal support will not last forever. Odds are unless your spouse is very well off, you won’t be able to live on what you will get in child support. Plan to find a job. If you have a degree, but haven’t worked in recent years, you may need to look into taking classes that will help you brush up on your education and make you more appealing to employers. You might consider starting your own business or working in sales. The bottom line is that you will need to be sure you have a plan for supporting yourself and your children.
If you have family or friends nearby who will let you move in temporarily, consider yourself fortunate. Most people faced with moving out have to manage finding a place to live in addition to all of the other things they are juggling. So what do you need to know to move out? Don’t get too picky. It’s one thing to be concerned about the neighborhood and the schools for your kids, but you can get too picky. Can you save money by living in a smaller home? Can your kids share a room instead of having separate rooms? If so, you can save a significant amount of money making those kinds of sacrifices.
You will need to set aside money for a deposit for your new home, connection fees for utilities such as power, water, cable, and internet. You may need to begin scouring garage sales for furniture to fill your new living space. None of these are difficult tasks, but they are all things we may fail to consider when faced with the need to move out on our own.
The most important thing to remember is this: You Can Do This. Nothing is impossible. You may have to pinch pennies and cut corners, but you can make it on your own after a divorce.
Martha Hall has been assisting clients in South Georgia with Family Law proceedings for over 14 years. Martha is passionate about helping families when they are faced with complex family law issues. She has helped many families work through complicated divorces in Statesboro, GA, Springfield, GA, Sylvania, GA and the surrounding areas.
Please consult an attorney for advice about your individual situation. This site and its information is not official legal advice, nor is it intended to be. Feel free to get in touch by e-mail, letters or phone calls. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Until an attorney-client relationship is established, please withhold from sending any confidential information to us.