Before you begin, it is important to try to separate your emotions from your legal and financial decisions. You are not a “gold digger” because you want to ensure financial stability for yourself and your children. Though you and your husband may have been financial partners for many years, you are no longer playing for the same team. Both of you must now look out for your individual financial interests. If you don’t – and he does – you and your children may pay the price for years to come.
Here are six steps to help women begin moving toward financial independence following divorce:
1. Take stock of your financial situation
This includes making a list of all of your current assets and liabilities, including bank account information, mortgage statements, credit card bills, wills and trusts. Make copies of all applicable documents and put them in a secure place, such as a safe deposit box.
2. Create a financial plan based on your future goals
This plan should answer such questions as:
• Who will have primary custody of the children?
• Do either of you wish to remain in the present house?
• If a house is sold, how will the proceeds be divided?
• Who will pay for the educational expenses of you or your children?
• What are the tax consequences of different divorce settlement scenarios?
3. Divide up joint finances
This means withdrawing half of the funds from any joint bank accounts and placing them into a new account – in a different bank – under your own name. You also need to similarly divide stocks, mutual funds and other financial instruments that are in both your names. A financial advisor can help in this regard.
Perhaps the most difficult part of step three is cancelling joint credit card accounts and getting new credit cards in your own name. Unfortunately, new federal regulations make it harder for women with little or no income – and/or little credit history – to establish their own line of credit. If you fall into this category, proceed anyway. Establishing your own credit rating is a critical part of obtaining independent financial security.
4.Get a post office box
You don’t want your spouse to stumble upon information from your financial planner or divorce attorney that you intended to keep confidential. Obtaining a post office box is an inexpensive and easy way to ensure that confidential information stays confidential.
5. Untangle legal entanglements
These include wills, medical directives and power of attorneys. This step includes such items as changing beneficiaries on life insurance policies, and preventing your husband from making medical decisions on your behalf. (Keep in mind, you likely will no longer be the beneficiary of your husband’s life insurance policies either.)
6. Assess your husband’s income
This entails more than just his salary, but also average yearly bonuses, income from part-time work, stock dividends and the like. Many men try to hide their sources of income in order to cheat their ex-wives out of alimony and child support.
Once these steps are done, you will be well on your way toward financial independence following divorce. If these steps feel overwhelming to you, you may want to enlist the advice of a financial planner. Just as most financial experts do not have expertise in legal affairs, most lawyers are not financial experts. Having both on your team can help ensure a solid financial future for you and your family.
If you are ready to talk to a divorce lawyer, the experienced divorce lawyers of Edmunds Law Firm will be able to give you the advice you need so you’ll know what actions to take to protect yourself. Contact us today!