When you are contemplating divorce, it can seem like there are scores of issues which require your attention—and it can feel overwhelming. Finances are probably at the top of your list of things to worry about, along with child custody, if you have children. Typically, married couples will have comingled their assets, including checking and savings accounts, credit cards, mortgages, car loans, stocks and bonds and tax returns. Therefore, once you have made the decision to separate, the next decision you may have to make will be how to split your financial lives and how you will get by financially after the divorce.
The attorneys from The Law Place will thoroughly analyze your situation, guiding you through an equitable settlement agreement and ensuring your rights are thoroughly protected. Our attorneys have a sterling reputation and broad experience in Florida family law. We believe the details of your divorce—including the financial details—are important and will approach them as such. It can be helpful for you to determine your goals, splitting them into the immediate goals, the goals for your divorce, and your long-term goals.
Immediate Financial Goals
Before you do anything else, take stock of your assets; determine what is owned by you alone and what are marital assets held jointly by you and your spouse. There are things you can do now that will protect you later on.
• If you have any extra money at all, pay off any bills you can, and set up a realistic payment plan for the remainder.
• If you do not already have your own checking and savings account, set those up immediately.
• Take your car in for any necessary repairs.
• Pull your credit report and take stock of what it is telling you. You may want to open a credit card in your own name before the divorce is in full swing.
• See if you can increase your hours at work in order to build up enough money to put down any necessary deposits should you have to move to a different home.
• Learn everything you can about your marital finances including bank accounts, investments, insurance, taxes and the value of your current home. Make copies of all documentation and give a set to your attorney.
• If you may lose your health insurance during the divorce, take care of any medical, dental or vision issues you may need to deal with.
• If you have any heirlooms, artwork, antiques or other collectibles, have them appraised to avoid having your spouse claim they are not worth as much.
• Make a list of the income and expenses you have now as well as the income and expenses you will have once divorced. Does it appear you will be able to support yourself and your family?
• Identify all your assets, and determine which ones you feel are worth fighting for during the divorce and which ones you are willing to let your spouse keep.
• Make sure you have a good handle on your own employee benefits as well as those of your spouse, including life insurance, health insurance and disability insurance through your respective employers.
Next, you will want to consider the financial issues associated with your actual divorce, such as:
• Ensure you address the issue of taxes during your divorce, including who will claim the children as deductions each year and which spouse will take any allowed deductions for the marital home, including property tax deductions. Remember that spousal support received is taxable income and spousal support paid is tax-deductible, however child support is neither taxable income for the receiving spouse nor tax deductible for the paying spouse.
• Make a new will and change the beneficiary on any other relevant documents, including a Living Will or any trust documents.
• Will you be asking for spousal support, or will you be the one to pay that support?
• Will you be receiving child support and will you be responsible for having the children live primarily with you?
• Will you retain the marital home, will it be sold and the money divided, or will you be staying in the home? If you stay, will you be able to afford the insurance, taxes, repairs and utilities?
• If you are working will you keep your current job, or will you have to seek employment after the divorce?
• Will you keep a vehicle or will you need to buy one?
• If you need additional training in order to secure better employment opportunities and you are considering returning to college or trade school, look into it now, including the possibility of school grants and loans.
Once you know exactly what you will receive from your divorce, it is time to sit down and create a realistic budget for your future. Try to look ahead and move past the emotional issues associated with your divorce. Re-imagine your life, and step out of your comfort zone when deciding how you want to live that life. While it can be very tempting to put your head in the sand and avoid dealing with finances, it can cost you more in the long run in both time and financial cost.
In fact, the principal blunder those going through a divorce can make is not understanding the marital finances, or being unaware of what the assets and income of the marriage consist of. Particularly if your spouse has primarily handled all the financial decisions in your marriage and you have little information regarding your marital income and assets, your spouse will have an unreasonable advantage over you when it’s time to divide assets. If you have reason to believe your spouse may be hiding assets, it could be worthwhile to hire a forensic accountant—or even a private investigator—to ensure you will receive an equitable portion of your marital assets.
If you have clear plans and goals for the immediate future, your divorce and your future after the divorce, you will end up in a much better position. Allow your divorce attorney from The Law Place to help you through this difficult time, particularly regarding financial issues. Our attorneys are passionate about helping people through their divorce, and will provide seasoned counsel and guidance throughout your divorce.