Money in Divorce
Worrying about money is the worst. When you’re not quite sure how you’re going to pay your bills, keep a roof over your head, provide for your children, save for retirement, hire a divorce attorney, and put food in everyone’s bellies, it’s a concern. Not to mention all the little extras that come up, and how uncomfortable it is to have to say no to invitations and social stuff because you honestly don’t have the money to pay for it.
And, of course, this time of the year, we’re heading into the holiday season. I know it’s early, but, in my family at least, we’ve already started discussing our plans! The pressure of big meals at Thanksgiving and Christmas, not to mention the gifts, can be staggering.
Whenever you’re in a real pinch, it seems like other things come up, too. A kid breaking an arm, a dog eating half the carpet in the living room, your car failing a state inspection, needing new tires, a tree falling on your roof—whatever the case may be—can take a toll, too. Probably, at some time or another, all of us have been there. But that doesn’t really make it any easier (or feel any better) when it happens to us. Especially with a divorce looming on the horizon, there’s so much uncertainty that it’s enough to make even the calmest, most rational of us break out in a cold sweat.
I don’t know about you guys, but I’m a worrier. I constantly worry. I worry about everything, even if it’s totally out of my control. The other night, I was up for a couple hours worrying about whether the chicken I left in the fridge would be defrosted enough for dinner. Umm—hello—the microwave also has a defroster, if it doesn’t thaw out on its own! But, at 2am, there’s no talking sense into me. I worry with reckless abandon. Are you like that, too? Sometimes I think that my worry about stupid things really has more to do with bigger things that I’m stressing. Like, maybe, my subconscious is using the chicken as a smoke screen to cover what I’m really upset about, or that I’m just so worried that once I start I just can’t stop. It’s a slippery slope, it seems.
If you’re worried because of your upcoming divorce or custody case, though, you’re in the right place, and I am exactly the person to help. If you’re worried about whether your chicken will thaw in time for dinner, you might want to talk to someone else.
Wondering what you can do now to lessen the financial impact of your divorce? Read more to find out what you can do to protect yourself and begin to plan for divorce.
1. Figure out what you have to divide in your divorce.
If you don’t know anything about your assets and liabilities, now’s the time to figure it out. What’s your house worth? How much do you owe? Do you have a loan on your car? Do you have whole or term life insurance policies? What’s in your retirement accounts? Do you have 401(k)s or pension plans? Do you have stocks, bonds, or money market accounts? What are your day to day expenses? What’s currently in your checking and savings accounts? What is the balance on your credit cards?
You’ll need to start gathering this information, and the sooner the better. It won’t get easier once you separate for real, so the timing of this is pretty critical. Make sure you have copies of statements from your utility companies, your credit cards, your mortgage(s), lines of credit, retirement accounts, and so on. Whatever you have, you should start looking for documentation on. Can’t find it all? That’s okay. Take a deep breath. It’s not required, but it would certainly be helpful. Whatever you can’t find, we’ll figure out later. It’s just best to try to find whatever you can now, while it’s easiest.
2. Consider the choices you’ll have to make in your divorce.
How much might you reasonably expect to receive in the divorce? Is it the time to start thinking about possible downsizing? Whether we’re talking about the car or your house, it’s a good idea to get a firm grip on what everything costs, so that you’re prepared to make the decisions you have to make when the time comes.
Most people want to keep the house; that’s understandable, especially if you’re sentimentally attached to the place where you saw your children grow up. That being said, though, there’s no point in fighting to keep the house if you’re not going to be able to pay the costs of upkeep. It’s not just the mortgage payment; it also involves things like taxes, insurance, utilities, and upkeep. What about work? That’s a real consideration, too. If you’re staying at home or working part time, you might want to start thinking about whether you’ll go back full time. You may want to talk to an attorney about what you could expect to receive in terms of child and spousal support but, in my experience, most women ultimately choose to go back to work (or work a little more) sooner or later.
3. Let go of some things in your divorce.
You want to know the type of person who spends tens of thousands of dollars on legal fees? It’s the person who can’t let little things go; the one who wants to fight back because “it’s the principle” of the thing.Principles are expensive. And, really, at the end of the day, does it matter? Divorce isn’t so much a winning or losing proposition, anyway; really, most people feel like, at the end of the day, they won on some issues and lost on others. Stop thinking about this in terms of winning and losing. Don’t think about his behavior, and how he should be held accountable for it. Think about yourself, and how to get yourself the best possible result down the road. Spend as little as possible on attorney’s fees and leave as much as possible for yourself to start over later. After all, isn’t that what matters most, anyway?
Remember: a divorce case isn’t like a personal injury case. In a personal injury case, you’re suing an insurance company with deep pockets. In a divorce, there are only deep pockets if they existed prior to separation; you won’t walk away with more than you had coming in. In fact, in most cases, you’ll go away with less—because what you had during the marriage has to be divided between the two of you in divorce.Besides, if you keep your cool (and don’t go after the principle), chances are, he’ll calm down, too.
4. Research the tax and other financial consequences of your decisions.
Before you make any big decisions (like keeping the house or waiving your right to a portion of his retirement), talk to a financial advisor, a CPA, or a tax consultant. Ask about the consequences of any of your decisions BEFORE you make them, so that you can be sure you’re not setting yourself up for difficulty later on.I can give you advice based on what I know, but you’ll be better off if you talk to people on the financial side, too. Need a recommendation? We can send you in the right direction.
5. Talk to your attorney about your money worries.
We’re people, too, and, in a lot of ways, we can help. I can’t change the fact that a divorce costs money, but I can give you general advice about what you can do to make sure that you’re saving money throughout the process. I can also help structure your case so that, financially, its as feasible as possible.The more your attorney knows about your particular situation, the better they can address your concerns and make sure that your best interest is constantly being taken into account. Give your attorney some insight, and see how he or she can help. I’m not suggesting that we can work miracles, but I am telling you that it’s very difficult to solve a problem that you don’t know anything about. The more you communicate, the better. Talk to your attorney. We’re real people, too, and we can certainly understand your concerns. Better yet? In many cases, there are things we can do to help combat costs. As a law firm representing women only, we’re really careful with our client’s money. We understand how much divorce costs, and how difficult it can be to afford. We do everything in our power to spend our client’s money conservatively and respectfully. Making sure to keep these four things in mind will go a long way towards ensuring that you’re prepared to go through the best, most productive, and most financially responsible divorce possible. Even though it’s not all entirely within your control, it’s best to keep in mind the things that you CAN control. Free your mind up from general worry and instead focus on the things that you really can change and improve. For more information, or to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed and experienced Virginia divorce and custody attorneys, give our office a call at (757) 425-5200.