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Financial Considerations When Getting a Divorce

What should you ask for in a divorce settlement? What is a typical divorce settlement? Here are some things you might consider when getting a divorce.

By
Cheryl Butler,
April 2, 2017
Episode #422

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In a recent episode, I shared that I would be doing a 4-part series on divorce.  I’ve been divorced for 5 years now and wanted to share what has worked for me, my ex-husband, and our 8 kids during this time. While divorce is not easy, time does help heal, and when your focus is putting your kids first, it is absolutely possible to maintain a healthy, happy family relationship.

My first episode in this series was 5 Expert-Approved Ways to Talk to Your Kids About Divorce.  My second episode in this series was 5 Ways to Co-Parent with Your Ex-Spouse

There really isn’t anything easy about divorce. Thankfully, as I discussed in the first two episodes, there are strategies and thoughtful ways to navigate through some of divorces issues, especially if the two parents are willing to put their personal differences aside and focus on their kids. In addition to the emotional turmoil that encompasses divorce, there is also another difficult component that couples must deal with and that is the financial aspect. 

After 25 years of marriage and 8 kids, Mighty Mommy had to get her financial house in order and make some significant adjustments going from a two-income household to a single income.

Here are four financial considerations, as backed by the experts, to keep in mind if you are thinking of or getting a divorce.

1. Get Your Financial Documents in Order

The entire divorce process is completely overwhelming, and when you begin to delve into the financial ramifications, the stress is taken to a whole new level. Once we began having our small tribe of kids, we decided I would leave my career to be home with our family. During the last 10 years of our marriage I went back to work part-time as a freelance writer but by no means was I contributing significantly to our income. My ex-husband managed the majority of our financial affairs so when the reality of our divorce settled in, I knew the first thing I had to do was get a handle on every aspect of our financial status. I honestly wasn’t sure where to begin, but my divorce attorney recommended I start by gathering all my financial documents.

Maryalene LaPonsie, contributor to USNews.com writes in 7 Financial Steps to Take When Getting a Divorce that “as soon as you know you’re getting a divorce, collect all the financial documents you can.” She continues, by stating that these include:

  • “Bank statements”
  • “Credit card statements”
  • “Tax returns”
  • “Retirement account balances”
  • “Appraisals for valuable items, if available”

In addition, other documents to consider are:

  • Mortgage Statement, including any Home Equity Loans and purchase information
  • Checkbook Registry for the last year
  • Any other long-term debt account statements you may have, including car loans

2. Know Your Income and Expenses

When we began our divorce proceedings, I admit I was far more focused on my emotional state than my finances. 

When we began our divorce proceedings, I admit I was far more focused on my emotional state than my finances.  Because my ex was the one who paid all the bills and the sole provider for most of our marriage, I never worried much about the details of our 401(K) plan, life insurance policies or what our overall assets and debt totaled.

One piece of advice I received many times over was that I needed to know what our budget was so I could begin to realistically know what my living expenses would be. 

Jason Silverberg, CFP at Financial Advantage Associates, Inc. and author of The Financial Planning Puzzle, told me via email: “If there was one singular, most important piece of financial advice that I could offer someone going through a divorce, that would be to understand where everything is and what everything’s worth. Without knowledge of what you own and who you owe money to, you really are going to have a hard time moving forward. You’ll also want to understand all of your sources for income and all of your monthly expenses as well. This will help you have a good handle on your budget to provide you critical understanding, so you can make smart financial decisions.”

He went on to say, “This exercise should be done both prior to as well as after the divorce. This way you can get a sense for how your household budget will operate on one income.” To help divorcing couples realize these figures, Silverberg has created the Personal Financial Inventory (1 page worksheet) inside the Picking up the Pieces eBook.

This exercise was extremely enlightening as I realized exactly where every penny (and then some) was going on a monthly basis. I was also able to gauge how much income I would need to start making in order to support these bills in addition to the child support and alimony payments I was receiving. One important factor to consider with child support is that it will decrease as your children get older, so I had to continually modify my budget based on this decrease. At first, it was overwhelming to see how much money I would need to keep our household running, but when you are armed with the figures and you pay attention to your monthly cash flow, it becomes easier to make adjustments. The fact of the matter is that some of the extra splurges such as frequent trips to the hair salon or buying my kids their usual top-of-the line items like sneakers or sports equipment had to be adjusted to what I could now afford. My kids have had some disappointments in this department, but they appreciated how we were trying to work together as a family-unit so that their lifestyle wasn't affected as drastically as it could've been which balanced everything out.

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