Divorce is one of those life events which most people don’t plan in advance. But when it comes, adapting quickly to the new and changing life situation is critical to coming through it with your future secure and sanity intact. Making a plan quickly and executing it well can save you some heartache and turmoil. But the real struggle is in first making that plan during some tough times.
For a woman facing divorce, there’s no time like the present to get started on your plan to deal with your new situation will be difficult. Waiting for tomorrow won’t solve anything.
This process will take time. You should have a financial plan for this process to last twice as long as your expectations. This may seem to contradict the advice to begin immediately, but the two actually go hand-in-hand. Obstacles and detours will come up during the divorce proceedings, many of them unforeseen in the beginning. By starting immediately and building in a buffer, you ensure that the entire timeline up to settlement is covered.
In the near term, there are three things to take care of in your financial situation: Expenses, Income, and Available Cash.
The first concern must be your expenses; you must address the money you need to live. The expenses for two people living separately can greatly outweigh those of a couple who cohabitates. Therefore, if your living arrangement must change, it is important to understand exactly how much money you’ll need for food, transportation and housing.
Your legal counsel can also cost a significant sum of money. Be aware and expect to see sizable bills from an attorney. Be sure to include your attorney fees on your expenses worksheet.
Setting up a new budget that accounts for your solo expenses is strongly advised.
If you’re working, you should have a handle on how much you’ll be bringing in from your employment. If your primary work is taking care of your home and family, your source of income becomes a little less secure. This particular situation is best addressed by your legal professional to ensure that you are continuously able to maintain the household and cover expenses.
Take into account joint sources of income, such as dividends, rental properties, annuities, and any others that are not specific to a mode of employment. Bring them to the attention of your attorney so you are afforded the income which you are due. Too many spouses merely assume that, if they do not handle these household income sources, they are not entitled to them. Most often, this assumption is untrue and can set a dangerous precedent.
Be sure to amend your income sheet if you think of any other income sources.
It’s also important to understand just how much money is currently on hand. It is, perhaps, more important to understand how much of it you have access to.
If you have immediate needs, this consideration is of the utmost importance. If you need to remove yourself from the relationship immediately, having some cash on hand is helpful.
With this, you should also open accounts to which only you have access. You’ll be better able to account for your available cash and income. You’ll need to have your own accounts at some point, so opening them now is a good idea.
WHEN IT’S FINAL
Once proceedings have ended and judgments are made, a new set of emotions may present themselves. Be prepared to experience relief, sadness, hope, joy or a combination thereof. Whatever you are feeling at the end of the process, there will be more situations to consider, both in expenses and income.
Your new journey is your own, and building the financial future you want to live in within your control.
Much like you did during the initial phase of divorce proceedings, you must assess your expenses as a single person. You will have a new set of monthly bills to address, as well as irregular expenses, such as car repairs or doctor’s visits. Setting aside money for these, and other more serious emergencies, is critical to ensuring your new independence is stable and secure.
You must now also consider your financial future. Your retirement plan with your former spouse may very well no longer exist. Speak with an investment professional to begin planning for your eventual retirement as soon as the discussion becomes feasible.
If you’re required to pay alimony or maintenance, you should establish a budget that ensures you’re meeting your legal obligation while maintaining your own affairs.
Finally, you must consider saving for things like home repairs, car replacement, health and dental coverage, and long-term care. These may not be immediate concerns, but are easily addressed. Getting ahead of them can lessen the burden when they become necessary.
Now that you’ll be making financial choices without a partner, there are several new factors to consider. There are three main forms of income that should be accounted for in your plan: after-tax earnings, alimony, and investments.
Having a grasp on the amounts of money that come from each of these sources is important to forming a new budget.
Practically everything has changed in your personal and financial life at the end of a divorce.
You’ve spent plenty of time up to this point figuring out where you are and what you need to do to get through these challenges. Now, a forecast is in order to guide you as you move past this trying time.
Look out five, ten, and twenty years to see where your new journey is leading you for the long term. It may be helpful to enlist the services of a financial professional to assist you in creating these forecasts. Make sure that you’re on track to achieve your goals and make adjustments as necessary.
Divorce can be a test of will, patience, resolve, and character. It has also tested the financial stability of even the most secure people. With the proper plan, it doesn’t have to.
In our next chapter, we’ll cover what to do if you’re in the unfortunate and incredibly sad position of losing a beloved spouse.