Finances During a Divorce: What You Need to Know

Going through a divorce can not only wreak havoc on your emotions, but it can have a severe impact on your wallet as well. Dealing with money matters can be challenging when you and your spouse aren’t getting along. Your emotions during this time can lead to some costly mistakes in the future. There are things you need to know to protect yourself as you start a new chapter in your life. Here’s what you need to know about finances during a divorce.

Mediation and Legal Representation

Trying to untangle joint mortgages, financial accounts, and shared debts during a divorce can feel like an impossible challenge. The first thing you may want to consider to protect finances during a divorce is to consult an attorney. A divorce lawyer can help you with mediation services and legal representation in court. They can help you gather the documentation you need and help you file the right paperwork with the courts. The lawyer can sit down with you and your spouse and help you reach agreements on how to divide your assets in a safe and secure neutral space.

Make a list of all your financial assets and debts that you and your spouse share together. Also, create a list of any personal items that you want to keep and prioritize items based on how willing you are to be flexible and compromise during negotiations. The lawyer will need this information to help you negotiate your finances during a divorce. If you have children, a child custody attorney can help you and your spouse negotiate parenting schedules and costs related to their care. Update your will and insurance beneficiaries with the help of your attorney as well.

Splitting Child Costs

When negotiating finances during a divorce, you’ll need to figure out how to split child costs with your ex-spouse. These expenses can vary from medical expenses to minor details like who’s going to buy birthday t-shirts for the next birthday party. Many parents choose to split basic living costs when parenting time is shared equally. If one parent only sees the children on the weekends or sparingly, you may wish to seek a child support order from the courts. The child support amount is based on a percentage of the individual’s income each month.

Think about future costs, such as who will pay for college, as you’re negotiating your child custody and support agreements. It’s also important to consider how medical insurance will work in the custody agreement. If both parents have insurance, the child may not be able to be a beneficiary on both plans. If there are out-of-pocket expenses for prescriptions and co-pays, you’ll need to figure out how these costs will be split. Make sure that everything is detailed in writing before signing a child custody agreement.

Deciding What Will Happen to Your House

Another aspect you will need to consider with finances during a divorce is deciding what will happen with the family home. Many couples often choose to sell the home and split the profit evenly. If you have a home mortgage loan, you may need to refinance it in either your or your spouse’s name if one of you will keep the house. Make sure you or your spouse’s name is removed from the title as well if you choose to do this. It can affect your credit if your spouse defaults on the property and your name is still attached to the title and loan.

When you sell your home, both you and your spouse can exclude up to $500,000 in capital gains from taxable income. These exclusions are usually applied when one or both spouses remain in the home for at least two of the last five years prior to selling the home. However, each person can exclude $250,000 if only one person meets the residency requirement and the house is in both parties’ names. When selling your home, you’ll also have to figure who gets what with everything inside it. Make an inventory list of all items and take pictures so you’ll know what you need to discuss during divorce negotiations.

Fixing Up the House if You Decide to Sell

If you and your spouse need to sell your home in order to divide up assets fairly, you’ll need to negotiate the costs of repairs. Before the home is sold, it will need to be inspected for any repairs that may need to be made. Who is going to handle the roof repair if the inspector finds damaged shingles or leaks? Who is going to take care of the garage door that struggles to open every now and then? Will you make the repairs yourself or hire a professional?

One easy way that many couples negotiate repairs is by splitting the total cost from the profits after the sale. The remaining amount is then split equally between both individuals. Make sure to keep track of all documents and receipts when making repairs on the home. Give copies to your lawyer so that they can submit them to the court if necessary. You may wish to speak with a financial advisor about alternative options for paying for home repairs to protect your finances during a divorce.

Finding a New Place to Live

If you and your spouse are selling your home, you may need to find a new place to live. Consider what you can afford to pay each month for rent or a mortgage along with the divorce expenses you’re accruing. If you have children, you may be required to stay in the same state if you have joint custody. You may also need to stay in the same area because of your work situation. You can save money with your finances during a divorce by looking for apartments for rent.

Make a budget of all your expenses to determine what you can realistically afford. Ask family and friends for recommendations on affordable places to live. Getting an apartment may be a better option than buying a new house for many reasons. Your spouse could claim the house as an asset if the divorce isn’t finalized yet. Moving into an apartment means you won’t have to worry about home repair and maintenance costs.

Joining the Workforce

If you’ve been a stay-at-home parent for most of the relationship, you may need to look for a job now that you’re getting divorced. One place you can get a job if you don’t have much work experience is through an employment agency. These places typically have many temporary entry-level jobs that you can start almost immediately. You may want to start a business working from home. Depending on your state, you may be able to seek spousal support to help pay your bills if you were unemployed during the marriage.

If you’re just returning to the workforce, you may want to update your resume and brush up on your job interviewing skills. You may want to consider taking some community education classes or enroll in college to update your skills. There are many places that you can volunteer for that may help get your foot in the door with a job opportunity. Consult with a career counselor to explore your options. Network with local organizations and social media groups to find employment opportunities.

If You Own a Business Together

If you and your spouse owned a business prior to the divorce, you’ll need to figure out what happens next. If you own a popular winery or cafe, you may not be willing to sell in order to split the value of the asset fairly. One spouse may be able to be bought out of the business or you can choose to remain co-owners. You may want to speak with a business attorney to explore your options and get legal advice. Make sure to provide the attorney with all documents related to your business.

You may wish to hire a business consulting service for advice as well on what to do with your business finances during a divorce. Any other partners will need to be considered when negotiating what to do with the business. Get a valuation on the business and make sure operations run smoothly during the divorce proceedings. Don’t make any changes to the business without first consulting your attorney. If you notice suspicious or sabotaging activity from your spouse, make sure to let your attorney know what’s going on right away.

Dealing With Credit Card Debt

The average household has at least $10,700 in credit card debt. During a divorce, any credit card debt accrued during the marriage is typically divided up evenly with both parties. To protect your finances during a divorce, work with your spouse to close any joint accounts. If you and your spouse can’t work together, call the credit card companies to have your name removed from the accounts. Let them know you’ll no longer be responsible for any future charges that may be made.

Make sure to get all agreements done over the phone in writing. Get copies of your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus so you can keep track of accounts affecting your credit score. Refrain from opening any new credit card accounts until after your divorce is finalized. Monitor your credit reports every few months to keep track of any changes or additional charges. Make sure to make any payments you owe on your credit card on time each month.

Think About Tax Issues

Tax issues can often be overlooked when protecting your finances during a divorce. Your mind may be overwhelmed with dealing with property division, child custody, and settling financial accounts. However, your divorce can create costly tax implications that you need to strongly consider and keep in mind. You may want to consult with a certified public accountant when working through the divorce process. Tax laws vary from state to state, and it can be helpful to have someone on your team who has expert knowledge and can protect your finances moving forward.

Tax issues that you may want to consider include determining who will claim the dependents and Head of Household on the tax returns. You may want to know if your attorney fees are tax-deductible. How will you navigate property taxes and household expenses on your tax returns? Do you need to still file jointly or is it best to file separately? The accountant can help you explore your specific situation and recommend the best options for tackling your tax situation.

Be Aware of Retirement Plan Issues

It’s important to have a long-term strategy when protecting your finances during a divorce. If you or your spouse has retirement savings, the other person may be entitled to half. Make sure to follow IRS regulations to avoid having to pay a 10% penalty for early withdrawal. Your spouse may try to get their employer to pay the benefits directly to them, which could leave you with nothing. You can protect yourself from this by having your attorney file a Qualified Domestic Relations Order.

If you had funds in a retirement account prior to the marriage, they can be treated as separate property depending on your state. Retirement plans can vary widely regarding how and when payments are issued. You may also need to consider what may happen with Social Security benefits if you’re close to retirement. Trying to navigate these issues can get incredibly complicated. Consult with an attorney to get the best legal advice for your situation.

When dealing with your finances during a divorce, make sure you cover all of your bases. Since divorce laws vary from state to state, it’s important to seek the best legal advice possible to protect yourself. Once your divorce decree is finalized, it can be incredibly expensive to try to go back to court and make any modifications. Use these tips to help protect yourself financially during this time. You’ll be able to have greater peace of mind as you begin the next chapter of your life.

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