At age 17, I graduated high school and married my high school sweetheart. At the time, I never imagined my 29-year-old self as a divorced mother of two boys, partner in multiple businesses with my former husband and in need of a job outside of the businesses I owned. It was a very hard season of life.
I was fortunate that as the person who handled our finances, I knew what we had, where it was and how to access it. Many women don’t.
Unfortunately, divorce is on the rise among all age categories. If you find yourself in a situation where divorce looks inevitable, or you already are in the process of divorce, here are a few financial tips you should keep in mind.
WHAT IS YOUR FINANCIAL CONDITION?
Knowing your financial condition means you not only know how much money you have in the bank, but you know about and can access things like bank accounts, mortgage, investments, financial statements and credit card accounts. I recommend that you also have general knowledge about your taxes and know your certified public accountant. I keep an Excel spreadsheet containing all this information.
HOW WILL ASSETS BE DIVIDED?
Make a list of all assets with their current value and any debt associated with them. Assets include anything from your home, bank, retirement and investment accounts to things like cash value inside life insurance policies, vehicles, jewelry, recreational vehicles and household furnishings. I recommend you note any heirlooms and where they came from. What items do you want? Why? Discuss the distribution of assets with your attorney and CPA. Find out what you are legally entitled to. If you are entitled to a portion of your spouse’s retirement account, certain regulations must be followed to avoid paying taxes and penalties on the distribution.
HOW WILL DEBTS BE DIVIDED?
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for one spouse to learn the other has taken out loans or credit cards without his or her knowledge or consent. If you have debts in your name, only those debts could fall completely to you. What about your home, vehicles, boats or other items? Whose name is the title in, and whose name is the debt in?
WHO PAYS FOR WHAT?
If you have minor or disabled children, what is your parenting plan? Who has the final say, and how are decisions made regarding things like school, extracurricular activities and medical care (including professional counseling should it be necessary)? Who is responsible for paying for those items; will all expenses be shared equally? Who pays for their health insurance and daycare? What about vehicles and insurance once they start driving?
If you plan to stay in your home until it is sold, who pays the mortgage and home maintenance expenses, and how will the equity be distributed when it is sold? Who gets which vehicle, and who pays the automobile insurance? At what point does each spouse need to purchase his or her own insurance?
WHAT ABOUT YOUR INCOME?
Are you a stay-at-home mom? Do you homeschool? If so, how will you pay your bills? Will you need to get a paying job? What education and job skills do you have, and what kind of work would you like to do? If you work outside your home, will your income be sufficient to meet your projected expenses? What about child support and alimony?
I could point out many more financial considerations; I haven’t even talked about the financial aspects of a business you may own with your spouse. The list of things we could talk about is extensive.
I needed help walking through the divorce process. I needed to believe I would survive and come out stronger, that I had a support system that would go through the process with me. Don’t make life-changing financial decisions based on what your friends and family think. Set aside your pain, pride or anger and seek professional advice; allow your CPA, financial professional, divorce attorney, counselor or pastor to assist you. You will be glad you did.
Kathy Rogers is the vice president of Marston Rogers Group, a life planner and financial consultant. Reach her at (228) 206-5902 or Kathy@mrg.life.