Financial questions are usually some of the biggest unknowns in divorce. For many Virginia women, wondering just what is going to happen after divorce is the thing that makes the entire process especially scary. To me, it seems like a big part of preparing for divorce mentally is beginning to understand what your standard of living after divorce will likely look like.
It’s a hard question to answer without more details, but by consulting with an attorney, you can begin to flesh out the more important details and come to understand how things work in Virginia in general, and how they’ll work in your unique case in particular. There are a number of factors involved in figuring out what your standard of living after divorce will be, and you’re going to want to start asking these questions early on so that you can begin to prepare—whatever the case may be.
Generally, it’s pretty safe to say that your standard of living after divorce will decrease.
It’s a simple matter of mathematics. You have the money that you had prior to divorce, only now you’ll divide it between the two of you, each of whom now lives in a completely separate physical space. The same money will not cover two rent or mortgage payments, two electricity bills, two internet bills, and so on. It’ll also buy two separate sets of groceries, and, if you have children, maintain two separate living spaces suitable for the kids. It’s pretty impossible to accomplish all those things and still maintain the exact same standard of living. The reality is that most people feel a pinch; it’s just that some people feel the pinch worse than others (and, of course, some handle it better, too).
It’s all a matter of perspective, though. After all, divorce is a choice. You may not think of it that way, depending on how bad your current situation is. Still, it’s a choice—and you’re free to choose whether to stay or to go. If you feel like your standard of living after divorce would fall too low, you can choose to stay. After all, plenty of people do.
I know that’s probably not something that you expected to hear from a divorce attorney, but it’s true. You don’t HAVE to get divorced (or take the resulting decrease in your standard of living); no one will force you. It’s totally a choice, and it’s up to you to make that decision. I’m just here to give you as much information as possible, so that you can make the best decisions for you and your family moving forward.
The rest of this article will assume you’ve made the choice to move forward with a divorce. What types of information would we need to see to fully advise you on your entitlements in the divorce process, and give you information on what your standard of living after divorce would look like?
1. Tax returns
Obviously, your income (and your husband’s income) has a lot to do with what your standard of living after divorce will look like.
Income affects everything, including child and spousal support, and we’d need to know (or at least have an approximate idea of) your income in order to calculate these things for you.
Spousal support in Virginia is pretty loosey goosey; it’s not always ordered. In fact, whether or not spousal support is ordered is based on a complicated weighing of a number of factors. For more information about how spousal support works and whether you might be entitled to receive it, click here.
Keep in mind, too, that spousal support is designed to be gender neutral. Just like you might be entitled to receive it, you might also be required to pay it, if you earn more than your husband.
2. Mortgage interest statements
We’ll also need to know about any real property you own. Do you want to keep the house? Can you afford it? What will you get if you sell it? Where else might you go? Obviously, where you live post divorce is going to be pretty critical to the whole standard of living after divorce thing, especially if you have children.
We’ll need to look in a little bit of detail at the house(s) you own—see how much is owed, what they’re worth, and start to figure out what we plan to do with them. Own land, a vacation house, rental properties or some other type of real property? That all factors in here.
3. Investment Portfolios.
Chances are, over the years, you’ve invested in some kind of retirement plan. Whether you’ve got a pension through the military or Virginia Retirement System or somewhere else, a 401(k), IRA, 403(b), stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or other investments, we’re going to want to know what you’ve really got.
We need to know what’s marital – what was earned or contributed during the marriage – and what’s separate – earned prior to marriage, or inherited or gifted before or during the marriage. We’ll need to figure out what’s there to divide, and what won’t be divided at all. What will go to you, and what will go to him, to give you a full and complete picture of what your post divorce retirement savings will look like.
You may choose to take a withdrawal on your retirement account, but be aware that certain (potentially pretty severe) penalties may apply. Ask your retirement account executive or company for details.
4. Your credit report.
Obviously, to do some things, you’ll need to be able to qualify for financing. If you’re refinancing your home, moving into a new apartment or house, or buying a new home, you’ll need solid credit. As a general rule, it’s also probably just a good idea to have an idea of what your credit score is—and, if there are any errors, to get advice from your attorney about how to correct those.
You’ll need, at some point, to open your own bank accounts, obtain your own credit cards (if you don’t have any already), and you may need to get financing to buy a new car or new furniture for your new place. You don’t want to find out that your credit score will disallow you from doing the things you need to do. We’ll definitely want to know what your credit report says, because that will go a long way towards improving your standard of living after divorce.
You’re right to be wondering about your standard of living after divorce, and we’re here to help you figure out what you might reasonably expect to receive in your divorce. By bringing these four documents with you to your initial appointment with our office, we can do a pretty solid job of advising you what your future might look like. Of course, ultimately the choices are yours—whether to stay or go, and then, if you decide to go, what you’ll do with your portion of the marital assets.
There are a lot of decisions to make in the beginning of the divorce process, but with the help of a licensed and experienced Virginia divorce and custody attorney, you can be sure that the decisions you’re making are the best ones for you in your particular circumstances. Don’t just wonder what your standard of living after divorce might look like—figure it out. Avoid sleepless nights and additional anxiety; get your answers now, and make informed decisions later. For more information or to schedule a consultation with our office, give us a call at (757) 425-5200.