With so many emotions involved in the dissolution of a marriage, you will probably want to make the financial aspects of your divorce proceed as smoothly as possible. Here are five tips to consider as you start the divorce process.

Keep in mind that each divorce is unique, specific advice can only come from experts familiar with your case.

1) Track expenses — and anticipate future ones

It’s always a good idea to track your expenses especially if you know divorce is inevitable. This will not only help build a budget post-divorce, but it is also crucial for your attorney and later the judge in deciding how to split assets and debts, and whether to award spousal or child support.

You want to track household bills, food, clothing, entertainment, home maintenance, transportation, child care and anything else that you spend money on. Make sure you go through your credit card bills and bank statements each month so you don’t miss any annual expenses. When you find some, divide them by twelve and add it to your monthly expenses.

Make sure you are looking ahead to include expenses that you don’t have now, but will incur after your divorce. Like after school care for example.

2. Gather documentation

Hopefully you already have a pretty good handle on your assets and liabilities but if not, start gathering and documenting all financial records including insurance.

If you and your spouse share any accounts, your financial institutions or advisors have no obligation to keep your requests confidential. Nor do they have any obligation to disclose information regarding individual accounts like IRA’s

Start with:

  • Checking and savings account statements (past years)
  • Retirement account statements (current, if contributions haven’t changed)
  • Investment account statements (past year)
  • Ledgers for any loans, including your mortgage and auto loans and personal loans (past year)
  • Credit card statements (past year)
  • Recent pay stubs
  • Lists of assets and debts brought into the marriage and those accumulated since marriage
  • Income tax returns (past three years)

3) Refrain from big financial decisions

It is important to not make any important financial decision for at least six months. Getting divorced can be just as dramatic as losing a loved one. So it’s very important not to make any important financial decisions for at least six months when you have time to heal.

I’ve seen many times where a person fights to hang on to the house only to find they have no money to maintain it.

Refrain from trying to get a jump on tasks like changing your beneficiaries until your divorce is final. Making such changes without the blessing of the court could be grounds for criminal contempt charges. Ask your attorney if you’re unsure about a particular move.

4)  Be conservative when spending and saving

During the divorce it might be tempting to be “the first to the bank” but don’t do it! Check state laws because they each treat income and assets differently. You can continue to use your accounts — individual or joint — as usual. If you don’t have money set aside for hiring a divorce attorney and other related expenses, try to agree with your spouse about each spending a conservative and comparable amount.  If your relationship isn’t amicable, ask your attorney about a legal separation, which would dictate how you both use money until the divorce is final.

We know this is a hard time and are here for you to help with the logistic and financial decisions around it.

We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified legal advisor.