How To Financially Prepare For Divorce
Few people get married with the idea that divorce will be the eventual outcome. However, if you do find yourself contemplating dissolving your marriage, there are some important steps you can take to protect yourself and your assets to prepare for when the divorce action is actually filed.
Prepare ahead of time if you believe divorce is likely or if you already have strategies to leave. Make sure your income, the car you purchased in your name, and your pension belong entirely to you or are half-owned by your partner.
In some cases, you do not have the ability to close joint accounts until reaching a divorce settlement. However, you can get in touch with the institutions where you have joint accounts and notify them of the circumstance.
Below we highlight steps you can take to financially prepare for divorce:
10 Steps To Financially Prepare For Divorce
Begin Saving Money — It is essential to prepare for a potential divorce by saving at every opportunity. You may want to think about adding cash to your purchases at grocery stores and slip small amounts into an account in your name. Do not leave the statements where they can be found by your spouse, but know that the accounts will have to be disclosed to your spouse as part of the dissolution action. The point is to have some back up funds for those unexpected financial needs.
Make Copies of Financial Paperwork — Gather and copy all the financial paperwork in your household, and KEEP THEM SOMEWHERE ELSE. Copy statements from all checking, savings, investment, 401(k) and pension accounts, as well as employee stock purchase plans, stock options, stock awards, real property purchases and sales, tax returns and pay stubs, and print out your computer records such as from Quickbooks. Review and print out pertinent emails. Copy your wills and community property agreements. Copy all business records if your spouse is self-employed. The more you do now, the more you save in the long run. Most importantly, you and your attorney will be informed as to the real status of your financial situation.
Make a Budget — Look at all of your expenses over the past two years and prepare a budget of your needs. You should find out the balances on your debts and what the monthly payments will be. Take some time to understand and familiarize yourself with the details. Make a list of each financial institution, its address, account number, etc. Know how much you spend for your children's expenses, including clothing, sports, lessons, schooling and other extracurricular costs.
The more you understand your finances, the more you will save in future effort and fees. Make a plan. It may take several months, so be patient. Most importantly, you will be prepared with the answers the court will need if and when the court is involved in your situation.
Discuss with a CPA — It is advisable to discuss your financial situation with a certified public accountant (CPA), but not the same one who prepared your joint tax returns with your spouse! Also, discuss your financial situation with a certified financial planner. Consult with one of our experienced family law attorneys so you are informed as to the particular law in your area. Confide in a few close, trusted friends or family members. It is a good idea to ask for their emotional support because this can be an extremely stressful time.
Apply for Credit Cards — If you do not have several credit cards in your own name, get them now. Obtain a copy of your credit report and examine it carefully. Make sure it is up-to-date and correct. If you can do so, talk to your spouse about checking his or her credit report and giving you a copy.
Pay Off Your Taxes — Do not fall behind in your payment of taxes, both state and federal. Make sure that all tax returns have been filed. Decrease your liabilities. However, do not make the mistake of selling off all your assets in order to pay off your debts.
Understand What Your Are Entitled To — Many people misunderstand the difference between equitable and equal. In Washington state, the law requires that a settlement be fair and equitable but that does not mean equal. Every asset does not have to be divided equally. Taxes, capital gains, inflation, work history, your needs and various other issues must be considered in order to arrive at a fair settlement.
Consider Furthering Your Education — If you are the financially disadvantaged spouse, research and consider your options regarding going back to school to further your education. You may want to talk to a vocational expert and explore your options. Consider also the future educational needs of your children. Saving for a child's college education is even more difficult after a divorce. If possible, start contributing now toward a 529 educational or other similar plan that shelters the funds from taxes.
Remain Confidential When Discussing Sensitive Matters — If you are going to do any research, contact an attorney, certified financial planner or certified public accountant, or discuss the situation with friends and family by email, then create a new email account to use and take all necessary steps to make sure that your spouse does not know about the account. If you contact an expert by phone, use a phone that your spouse does not have access to. Keep in mind that you are preparing for a divorce. You are not doing anything unethical; you are protecting yourself and your situation.
Seek an Attorney for Guidance — When you feel ready with your decision to divorce, talk to your attorney FIRST. Then follow his or her recommendations on how best to proceed given your individual circumstances. Do not involve your children. Plan ahead by gathering information to assist you if you feel that parenting of the children will be disputed.
Keep in mind the bottom line: You want to be financially and emotionally stable when all is said and done. The best way to ensure a good outcome is to plan and find a family law attorney and other experts whom you can trust.
We invite you to call our firm at 425-276-7677 regarding your specific situation. Or, if you prefer, complete our online form.
At O'Brian & Associates, we are here to help people when life changes and financial planning and divorce become a reality that needs to be faced. We believe in being proactive in helping clients, and we are diligent when it comes to protecting our clients' interests.
For more information about how we can help you if you believe divorce is on the horizon, please give us a call today at 425-276-7677 to schedule an appointment with a lawyer. Based in Redmond, we serve clients on the Eastside and throughout the Seattle area.
Additional Resources on Divorce
- Learning to Leave - a Women's Guide by Lynette Triere. Available through www.amazon.com.
- Fair Share Divorce for Women by Kathleen Miller www.fairsharedivorce.com.
- Crazy Time: Surviving Divorce and Building a New Life by Abigail Trafford. Available through www.amazon.com.
- Does Wednesday Mean Mom's House or Dad's? By Marc J. Ackerman, Ph.D. Available on www.amazon.com.
- Surviving the Breakup by Joan B. Kelly and Judith Wallerstein. Available on www.amazon.com.
- What About the Kids? Raising Your Children Before, During, and After Divorce by Sandra Blakeslee. Available through www.amazon.com.
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