When a divorce or separation is finalized, financial planning must begin to maintain stability and create a foundation for the future. Financial planning requires both parties to consider not only the immediate needs but long-term goals as well.
This guide provides information on managing finances during and after a divorce or separation. Divorce and separation can be emotional, so it is important to ensure that you are informed of your rights, obligations, and options.
We will discuss separating finances, budgeting tips, and key steps in establishing financial goals. In addition, this guide will offer advice on obtaining legal help if needed, as well as information on important topics such as:
- Taxation considerations
- Court orders relating to maintenance payments
- Settling debts upon finalization of a divorce or separation.
Assessing Your Financial Situation
If you’re considering divorce or separation, thoroughly assessing your current financial situation is essential. It will help you plan better for the future and ensure you are prepared for any economic impacts during your divorce or separation.
This section of the guide will focus on helping you understand your financial situation and how to make the most of it.
Gather All Financial Documents
Gathering all financial documents is vital in reviewing and assessing your financial situation. In addition, when going through divorce or separation, you must be prepared to provide your partner or lawyer with accurate, up-to-date information about your assets, debts, and income sources.
The following financial documents are necessary for analyzing the current state of your finances:
- Copies of the past three years of personal tax returns
- Current paycheck stubs
- Bank accounts statements for all savings or checking accounts for the past three months.
- Monthly credit card statements for the past three months
- Information on outstanding debts (e.g., mortgage, student loans, car payments)
- Retirement account statements
- Any investment statements, including stocks, mutual funds, and bonds
- Proof of health insurance coverage (if any)
By gathering your financial documents and reviewing them thoroughly, you can better understand where you are financially and identify areas where additional changes may need to occur during the separation process. It is also essential to keep copies of all these documents in a safe place, such as a fireproof safe or secured online storage, to be accessed quickly.
Calculate Your Net Worth
Calculating your net worth is an important step in assessing your financial health. Net worth is the sum of all your assets minus any debt or liabilities you may have. To determine your current net worth, you must list everything you own, such as real estate and personal property, investments, and cash. Then subtract any outstanding debts such as mortgages, loans, or credit card balances. The result is your net worth.
If your assets exceed your debts, you have a positive net worth and can move forward in taking control of and planning for your financial future. Conversely, suppose you owe more than you own. In that case, it will be beneficial to focus on reducing debt as quickly as possible while also increasing savings so that, over time, you can improve that negative balance into a positive one.
Budget analysis indicates how much goes toward living expenses versus discretionary spending and savings. It helps determine how much can be put toward reducing debt or increasing savings each month to contribute positively to improving net worth over the long term.
Analyze Your Income and Expenses
Once you separate from your partner, it’s vital that you completely understand your new financial situation. It includes everything from analyzing your income and expenses to making a budget and compiling a list of assets and liabilities.
First, review your current income and expenses to get an accurate picture of what is coming in and going out each month. Make sure to consider all sources of income like salaries, wages, benefits, commissions, alimony or child support payments, dividends, distributions, or winnings that you may be receiving or entitled to. Next, review all the expenses you are responsible for paying, such as housing costs (rent or mortgage), taxes on any rental property or business owned by either party, utilities (gas and electric), transportation costs (car payments, etc.), credit card payments and other necessities as well as any extraordinary expenses related to an ill family member’s care or leisure activities like golf memberships. Finally, create a spreadsheet listing all the above receipts so you can quickly analyze how much money is spent on various items.
When looking at your budget items separately, it can be easy to miss something – such as vacations or holiday gifts for family members – but understanding how much is coming in versus going out each month at this stage can help ensure your financial plan is sound going forward. Compile a comprehensive list of assets and liabilities so that nothing slips through the cracks when creating future budgets.
Setting Financial Goals
Financial planning is critical for anyone going through a divorce or separation. Establishing financial goals can help you stay on track and navigate your new financial reality. In addition, setting clear, achievable financial goals can give you the confidence to make decisions involving your finances that will serve you in the short and long term.
Let’s take a look at some of the considerations you should keep in mind when setting financial goals:
Determine Short and Long-term Goals
It is crucial to start by defining and writing down your financial goals. Doing so can help you determine what you need to do to reach them and provide focus when times are hard. Then, set a budget, save for retirement, consolidate debt, and more.
As part of the goal-setting process, it’s helpful to distinguish between short-term and long-term financial goals. For example, short-term financial goals will be achieved within one year, whereas long-term goals may take two or more years.
Short-term Financial Goals:
- Set a realistic budget and track spending.
- Reduce existing debt by paying off high-interest loans or credit cards.
- Make an emergency fund of three-six months of living expenses.
- Maximize your deferred compensation plan (if available), so you can save money on taxes now while still investing for the future.
- Take advantage of tax credits or deductions available during filing each year.
Long-term Financial Goals:
- Developing a retirement plan that includes regular monthly contributions through the years leading up to retirement.
- Investing in tangible investments (real estate, stocks & bonds) To grow your wealth over time.
- Set up an educational fund for children/dependents if necessary.
- Save up for large purchases such as a vehicle or home.
- Start planning financially for a significant life event/change (marriage, divorce, college tuition, etc.)
Create a Budget
Creating a budget is essential to the financial planning process for divorce and separation. This step helps to ensure that both parties are making decisions based on their true financial means, and it also gives individuals a better sense of control over their finances. Creating a budget can be done in many different ways. Still, one of the most popular formats is to calculate fixed expenses (also known as recurring expenses) and variable expenses (expenses that fluctuate).
Fixed expenses occur regularly and predictably, such as mortgage payments, car payments, utility bills, insurance premiums, etc. Therefore, it is important to be mindful of these expenses when creating your budget. Be sure to include any expected changes or fluctuations in these costs by quarter or year. For example, if you are divorced, and one spouse moves out of the family home before rent/mortgage payments stop, you’ll need to factor any remaining mortgage payment into your budget until the property is sold or transferred to just one owner.
Variable expenses usually refer to items such as groceries/food costs, entertainment/leisure activities, clothing purchases, and other expected “out-of-pocket” expenses that vary from month-to-month or season to season. These can add up quickly if not tracked closely. Again, it’s essential to factor in any changes that may occur due to the divorce proceedings (such as childcare costs associated with custody arrangements) when budgeting for this category.
An accurate budget will help individuals identify areas where they may need assistance during this emotionally turbulent period. Hence, all financial facts must be considered when creating a budget. With an accurate picture of spending habits in mind, individuals can begin working towards achieving their short-term and long-term financial goals more effectively by setting realistic goals with achievable timelines around their current reality while also keeping an eye on potential obstacles or opportunities.
Consider Setting up an Emergency Fund
Having an emergency fund is a smart financial decision for anyone, but it’s significant for those going through a divorce or separation. An emergency fund will cover unexpected expenses, such as medical bills and other costs that may arise while separating your finances.
Aim to gradually save three to six months of your living expenses in a separate account so you can access it when needed. This way, if a cost arises out of nowhere, you won’t have to dip into other money dedicated to savings or bills. An emergency fund could be just the cushion you need to avoid taking on unnecessary debt during this difficult time.
Planning for Your Future
When facing a divorce or separation, looking to the future cannot be easy. But it is important to plan and ensure that your financial situation is handled.
This guide will provide the necessary steps to plan for your future. It will also help you to understand the options available to you and how to make sound financial decisions:
- Understand your financial situation.
- Create a budget.
- Research your options.
- Take advantage of available resources.
- Make good financial decisions.
Review Insurance Policies
Insurance policies such as life insurance, health insurance, renters or homeowners insurance, and car insurance should be closely examined. You will want to ensure that the coverage you need is in place for both parties, especially if the former spouse was financially responsible for the premiums and policy details. You should also contact your employer’s benefits office to check what coverage is available for former spouses and their children.
It is important to remember that divorces are rarely cut and dried regarding the split’s financial aspects. Both parties in a divorce must understand their rights and obligations under the state and federal laws about alimony, child support, retirement benefits, taxes, and property division. Therefore, it’s best to review your situation as soon as possible with an experienced divorce attorney who can help you plan a course of action to avoid feeling drastically overburdened or taken advantage of financially after divorce or separation.
Consider Investing in Retirement Accounts
Saving for retirement is an important goal in any financial plan. Even if you are not currently employed, it is a good idea to explore ways to contribute to such accounts as 401(k)s, Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), 403(b)s, and other retirement-planning options that may be available. A divorce financial advisor can help you select the type of retirement account most suitable for your needs and goals.
With some types of plans, you may need to start by contributing non-tax-deductible dollars. It would allow you to save money on taxes now while helping you prepare financially for the future. Expect growth of the contributions over time (taxed when withdrawn) within the retirement accounts. Since divorce often has overwhelming financial implications, exploring options for reducing tax burdens with retirement account contributions should be a priority in any financial plan.
In addition to making regular annual contributions allowed by corporations and other employers or allowed in specific individual plans, it also can be beneficial to consider making special catch-up or “catch-up” contributions if eligible. These contributions can provide additional motivation for saving money each year and are generally considered helpful from a long-term tax perspective. In many cases, however, a prior agreement with one’s spouse must exist before making such catch-up contributions from separate funds into a qualified retirement plan of account belonging exclusively to one spouse or another; otherwise, they are considered joint monies subject to division under equitable distribution laws where applicable such as in community property states like California or Texas. The rules and complexities differ depending on your situation, so seeking proper legal advice is recommended if you consider adding more funds into an existing qualified plan you own separately or setting up new ones outside of marriage agreements with your soon-to-be former spouse.
Investigate Tax Implications
When planning for your financial future, it’s important to understand how taxes will factor into the process. Alimony payments, for instance, are taxable income to the recipient (which means you must report this income on your tax returns) and generally tax-deductible to the payer. Not all alimony payments are taxable and deductible. However, there is an IRS test that determines when such treatment applies.
Other key items to consider when exploring taxes include:
- Child support payments.
- Accounts have been moved between you and your spouse (such as retirement savings).
- Any other assets are divided as part of the divorce or separation agreement.
It’s a good idea to seek guidance from an accountant or financial planner with experience in dealing with taxation issues related to divorce or separation. They can help you evaluate what kinds of income will be taxed at each level (state or federal), as well as help advise on any strategies for managing future earnings post-divorce or separation. It’s also important to be aware of any new deductions available due to changes in marital status so you can maximize your taxation benefits if possible.
Ultimately, understanding the tax implications stemming from significant decisions about property division and smaller daily choices will ensure a successful post-divorce financial path for both parties involved.
Dealing With Debt
Going through a divorce or separation can be an emotionally draining experience, but it is also important to plan for the financial implications. Dealing with debt should be top of mind during a divorce or separation, as it can create a heavy burden and be challenging to tackle.
In this guide, we will discuss debt management when it comes to divorce and separation:
Evaluate Your Debt-to-income Ratio
When handling your finances after separating or divorcing, it is crucial to focus on two key financial ratios: your debt-to-income ratio and your savings-to-expenses ratio. Evaluating your debt-to-income ratio will give you insight into how much of a burden that debt is compared to the money you are earning. Having too much debt relative to how much you earn can create an unsustainable situation that needs to be addressed.
To calculate your debt-to-income ratio, start by adding up all your monthly expenses, including payments for auto and student loans, credit cards, and housing costs such as mortgage/rent, insurance, taxes, and utilities. Next, divide this total by the amount of money (pre-tax) you bring home each month from all sources (including child support received). The resulting percentage estimates what portion of monthly income goes toward debt repayment – higher percentages can indicate financial hardship or overextended borrowing capacity. Values over 10 percent may mean it’s time to start considering ways to reduce indebtedness, such as refinancing debts at lower interest rates, consolidating debts into a single loan, or making more focused efforts toward paying off high-interest rate loans first before addressing lower-priority debts.
Making your payments on time and in full will be the most important thing you can do to manage your debt during a divorce or separation. However, given the circumstances, this may not always be a realistic expectation.
If you have limited funds and multiple payments, prioritize each payment according to its importance in maintaining your credit score. For example, payments essential for keeping your home, such as mortgage or rent, should precede other debt payments. Student loan repayment should also be a priority in most cases since it will help protect your credit score.
Credit cards are often last on the list since creditors have arranged with customers to keep those accounts open during difficult times. You should strive to make the minimum payment on any credit card account and then use what’s left over towards more important debts before they become delinquent. It should help keep some of these accounts open and give you more room to maneuver if things become unmanageable later on down the line.
Ensure that any agreements regarding debt payment between yourself and an ex-partner are documented so there are no misunderstandings if either party fails to meet their obligations. In addition, it can help both parties avoid legal action that could strain already strained finances.
Consider Debt Consolidation or Refinancing
For many couples, debt is part of marital property and is typically divided during divorce. As a result, it can lead to complex financial decisions about managing the resulting debt. If each spouse has difficulty controlling his or her debts, considering debt consolidation or refinancing may help make it easier.
Debt consolidation involves rolling existing debts into one loan with new terms and possibly a better interest rate. Then you — or your soon-to-be ex — can make payments on the new loan to pay down the consolidated debts. Another option is refinancing your existing mortgage or taking out a home equity loan for some of your obligations like credit card bills and car loans. Remember that it’s important to look at all the costs associated with refinancing or taking out additional loans, including mortgage underwriting fees and other closing costs, before signing any document or agreement.
In some cases, bankruptcy may be an option when dealing with debt associated with divorce and separation; however, it’s important to weigh this decision carefully as there can be lasting impacts on credit scores and future financial options or opportunities in life after divorce. Getting professional advice, such as talking with an attorney or consulting a financial advisor, could help you evaluate your unique situation to make informed decisions as you manage your newly single finances.
It can be hard to navigate your financial situation through the end of a marriage or partnership. But by taking the time to go through these steps and explore the options available, you’ll be in a much better position to ensure that your financial objectives are met during this challenging transitional period.
Divorce and separation are big life changes and could have lasting impacts on your financial situation, so it is important not to rush any decisions as they could have long-term consequences. Instead, reaching out for professional help may be beneficial as you go through this process. Many qualified professionals with expertise in family law can provide advice and guidance throughout divorce or separation proceedings.
It’s also important not to forget the emotional side of divorce and separation, particularly for couples with children. Remember that although divorce or separation may bring changes to finances and day-to-day life, it is essential to prioritize keeping communication open between parents or guardians so that decisions made concerning children’s lives have their interests at heart.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is financial planning for divorce or separation?
Financial planning for divorce or separation involves making informed decisions about dividing assets, liabilities, and income when ending a marriage or long-term relationship. It includes creating a budget, determining spousal and child support payments, and planning for future financial goals.
2. Why do I need a financial plan for divorce or separation?
A financial plan can help you avoid costly mistakes during a divorce or separation and ensure you have the necessary resources to start your new life. Without a plan, you may end up with an unfair settlement, struggle to meet your financial obligations or miss out on opportunities for growth and security.
3. How do I create a financial plan for divorce or separation?
Consulting with a financial planner who specializes in divorce or separation is a great place to start. They can help you assess your financial situation, understand your options, and create a plan that meets your unique needs and goals. You can also gather information independently, such as reviewing financial statements, assets, and debts and considering the long-term costs of living expenses, child care, and education.
4. What should I consider when creating a financial plan for divorce or separation?
When creating a financial plan, it’s important to consider factors such as the value of shared assets, such as a house, investments, or pensions; the cost of maintaining separate households; the possibility of changing employment status or taking time off work to care for children; the need for ongoing support, such as alimony or child support payments; and long term financial goals, such as retirement savings.
5. Can I make changes to my financial plan after the divorce is finalized?
Yes, you can revise your financial plan at any time to reflect changes in your financial situation or goals. It includes updating your budget, adjusting savings and investment strategies, and revisiting support arrangements, such as alimony or child support.
6. Should I involve my ex-partner in financial planning for divorce or separation?
No, maintaining open communication and transparency during the process is often recommended. Working together can lead to a more equitable and efficient resolution. Still, suppose the relationship is hostile or has a financial abuse or dishonesty history. In that case, it may be best to work with a mediator or financial advisor to create a plan that prioritizes your interests and protects your financial well-being.