There is a bitter irony in divorce that just as life seems the most out of control, you need to be on top of every detail. The financial side of divorce is in many ways a business transaction and if you don’t have documents to back up your side of the deal, it is probable that you will not fare so well. So here are three suggestions of how to take control:
1. Know what you need: Create a budget.
A budget serves two purposes. First, it gives you a realistic assessment of how much money you need to survive on a day-to-day basis. It is important to be as detailed as possible. Here is the place to include the cost of food, gasoline for your car, and after-school activities for the kids. If you leave out items, they most likely won’t be factored into your divorce you may find that you have a shortfall. Furthermore, a budget is a powerful tool to give to your lawyer if you are in the middle of divorce and you need a spousal support order. Finally, projected budgets can help you look ahead to the next stage of your life. In this sense they are empowering.
2. Know what you have part of, which involves the division of marital assets
The list of what you own usually extends way beyond your car, house, and furniture. It would also include the family business, retirement plans, and certain employer benefits, not to mention bank accounts for both yourself and your spouse. If you don’t know what these are, make it a personal project to find out. If your situation is complicated, consider hiring a professional to help you, like a divorce financial planner and/or a forensic accountant, if appropriate. Remember, if you’re unable to document what you and your spouse own, the courts probably won’t be made aware of it. 3. Know and protect your credit rating.
Time and again, people’s credit ratings are destroyed during divorce. This is why it is so important to take ownership of your credit score early on. Remember, if you and your soon-to-be ex have joint debt like credit card bills or a mortgage, your credit ratings are inextricably linked. So it’s essential to identify all joint debt, either close the accounts or freeze them, and keep payments current to the best of your ability. If your credit score slips, your borrowing costs will go up and this will be money out of your pocket for years to come. Any opinions are those of Elizabeth Cox and not necessarily those of RJFS. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse, authorize or sponsor this Web site any of the other listed Web sites, or their respective sponsors. Elizabeth Cox is a Certified Financial Planner™ and an independent financial advisor with Raymond James financial services, a member of FINRA/SIPC. She provides clients with a broad range of financial services including financial planning, pre- and post-divorce financial analysis, investment management, and retirement analysis. Elizabeth Cox can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through her Web site, www.divorcefinancialservices.com.