Change is never easy. Transitioning from a married, nuclear family to separate households is a complicated and difficult process, even when all parties are on good terms. It can be an emotional rollercoaster, especially if you have children. Dealing with the stress of making major decisions such as where you’ll live, custody arrangements, changing schools, and splitting assets becomes overwhelming very quickly. It’s important to take steps to prepare yourself mentally, emotionally, and financially for your divorce in order to protect yourself and reduce the stress as much as possible.
Knowing where you stand financially before your divorce
Before you know where you are going, you need to know where you are now. The best thing you can do to protect your financial future is to learn all you can about your household’s finances. You’ll need to make sure your finances are organized and that you are able to easily access all the documentation you’ll need to share with your financial advisor and attorney.
If you’ve been the one handling this for your family, you’re already on the right path. However, if your spouse has been the one handling the finances, you’ll need to begin collecting all the information you can immediately.
What types of financial records will you need to provide to your divorce attorney and financial advisor? They’ll look at your unique circumstances and be able to provide you with a list of documents that you’ll need, often including account statements, credit card statements, retirement accounts, tax returns, life insurance policies, estate documents, property records, credit reports, and more. At this time, it’s a good idea to also check your beneficiary designations on all your policies and accounts and make changes if needed.
Evaluating your assets
It’s impossible to fairly divide your assets without understanding their true value, which depends upon factors like inflation, taxes, and the long-term appreciation or depreciation of property. While no one can tell you what the future may hold or what the markets will do, it’s important to get a fair estimation from an outside expert of the value of all your assets before dividing them.
Working with a divorce attorney and financial advisor
During your divorce, it may be difficult to set aside your emotions when making decisions. It’s important to work with objective, professional advisors who can see the whole picture and advise you with both short- and long-term financial ramifications in mind.
You should consult with an experienced divorce attorney in your area as soon as possible as well as a financial advisor. If you don’t already have a trusted financial advisor, consider using a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst®. A CDFA® professional will be able to help advise you on financial issues that will impact your divorce and guide you when making decisions regarding your non-liquid assets that carry significant tax and penalty consequences. These may include:
- Personal vs. marital property
- Valuing and dividing property
- Retirement Savings Accounts (401(k)s, IRAs, & Pensions)
- Investment Accounts
- Stock Options
- Family Business
- Investment Real Estate
- Life Insurance
- Spousal and child support
- Splitting the house
- Tax law and financial issues affecting divorce
- Expert witness testimony
Establishing a short-term budget for after your divorce
It may be difficult at first to know what to expect for your monthly expenses post-divorce, especially during the first six months. You may be moving, setting up new utility accounts, paying or receiving child support or alimony, and will have to determine what your new set of monthly living expenses will be. It’s essential to sit down and look at your monthly expenditures and determine what ongoing costs you may expect to incur for housing, auto, gas, utilities, food, clothing, health, childcare, entertainment and more. Don’t forget to include expenses that only come every six months or annually, like insurance and property taxes.
Try to limit your discretionary spending during this transition. You may also want to look into paying down any debt that is in your name so you can apply for additional lines of credit should you need it as your situation continues to evolve.
Evaluating your income
If you are not currently employed, you may need to find a job to support yourself after your divorce. If you already have a job, you may need to determine if it will be enough to support you when transitioning to a single-income household if your spouse previously contributed to the household income. You’ll need to consider any changes in transportation costs, childcare costs and overall quality of life. An experienced divorce attorney will help guide you and offer advice on how your employment will impact any applicable child support and/or alimony arrangements.
Helping you prepare for your divorce
At California Wealth Transitions, our advisors are dedicated to helping women make their own financial needs a priority. We want to help you maintain control of your future and design a plan together to help you feel confident and empowered. We’ll help you assess all the possibilities, keeping your best interests for the future in mind. We’ll consider all the different ways your assets could be divided, the impact of any tax or legal ramifications, and will work directly with you and your lawyer, presenting our recommendations for your finances.
If you are ready to move forward with your life during or after a divorce, we’d love to help you. Reach out today to schedule a consultation with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst®.
The information provided in this article is general and not specific to any divorce case. Divorce and family law is fact-intensive, and the smallest fact can change your case and how the law is applied to it. You should consult with an experienced divorce attorney about your specific case.