Finances can be a sensitive, if not volatile issue for many married couples. Some spouses have a good arrangement where they are both frugal and consult each other before they make any major purchases.
Other spouses seem to argue over money constantly, especially when one spouse has a habit of overspending, or hiding purchases from the other spouse, or when underemployment is an issue.
Then, you have couples where only one spouse handles all the money, and the other spouse is completely "in the dark" about the couple's finances; this spouse is often referred to as the "out spouse."
Regardless of your unique situation, if you are divorcing, there are specific steps that you should take to ensure that: 1) your credit isn't ruined by the divorce, 2) you have a cost-effective divorce, 3) you aren't broke after the divorce, 4) you don't make financial mistakes that you later regret, and 5) you set yourself up for financial success after the divorce is final.
If you follow these basic financial tips, you can avoid the common pitfalls that lead to negative consequences in a divorce:
1. Close all joint accounts. If you have joint accounts with your spouse, either pay them off and close them or transfer them into one spouse's name alone. If these remain joint after the divorce, you can't stop your ex from charging up credit accounts and you're liable for these accounts regardless of what the divorce decree says.
2. Decide what to do with the house. Usually, the best solution is to sell the marital home and split the proceeds. If you want to keep the house, make sure it has equity, make sure you can qualify for a mortgage in your name alone, and make sure you can afford the maintenance and upkeep.
3. Pay off marital debt if possible. If possible, pay off all marital debt before the divorce is final. This way, you can make a clean break.
4. Create a post-divorce budget. Sit down and figure out your post-divorce budget. It's important that you know how much money you'll need to support your single self, and possibly your children.
5. Don't rely on spousal support. Spousal support is not automatic, nor is it guaranteed in all divorces. If you're capable of working don't rely too heavily on the promise of spousal support. Instead, start thinking of how you're going to become financially independent. Even if spousal support is awarded, it may be for short period of time.
6. Cut down on expenses. It costs more to support two households than one. If you're separating from your spouse, you may need to start finding ways to save money, such as cutting cable, moving into a condominium or an apartment, or downsizing to a less expensive vehicle.
7. Think about the future of your career. If you've been out of the workforce for a while, it's time to start thinking about your career. You may want to go back to college or attend a trade school. If you're employed, you may want to start thinking about that promotion or switching to a more fulfilling career.
8. Remember, you're responsible for marital debt. There's a lot of confusion around marital debt. Often, people mistakenly believe that if their spouse is ordered to pay a debt, they aren't liable. That is not 100% true.
If you have a marital debt and your spouse is late on a payment or if they decide not to pay it, the creditor will go after you, regardless of what the divorce decree says. So, you have to stay on top of marital debts, even after the divorce is final.
9. Hurting your spouse hurts you too. If you try to hurt your spouse by charging up the credit cards, not only will that affect their credit score, it will hurt yours too. Refrain from "getting even" by charging up debt, or stopping payments on debt altogether. Nobody wins and it can damage your credit for years to come.