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Protecting Your Finances While Dealing With Your Divorce
Navigating the emotional and financial minefield of divorce is one of the toughest things you’ll ever do.
Here’s a somewhat disheartening and sobering fact: the divorce rate in Canada has doubled from that of the early 70s. While the legalities of getting a divorce may have become somewhat easier in the past 30 years, the financial ramifications remain the most intimidating and potentially devastating aspect of ending a significant life partnership.
But with proper planning and expert help from professionals specializing in financially equitable divorce settlements, you can increase your chances of arriving at a settlement that fully addresses your long-term financial needs.
Developing comprehensive insight of the short-and long-term financial effects of divorce can save valuable time, money and distress, especially if the process is conducted early in the legal proceedings. Many separating couples seek individual legal assistance before assessing their financial situation. While lawyers serve a crucial role as individual legal advocates, they are not necessarily there to explain financial consequences in detail.
Misinformation and misconceptions about the divorce process can be detrimental. Many have false expectations that they will be able to secure a divorce settlement allowing them to continue with their accustomed style of living. Financial divorce analysis helps to ensure a good, stable economic future and prevent long-term regret with financial decisions made during the divorce process.
It’s important to realize that divorce is the breakup of an economic unit, as well as a family unit. The process should be approached as a dissolution of a financial partnership, with each party attempting to remove the emotions from the process in order to develop a workable plan. There are three common emotions that are prevalent in the beginning stages of a divorce: fear, anger and guilt. It can be a role of the CDFA™ to recognize these emotions, determine where they are coming from, and help defuse them.
Here are a few key financial elements to be aware of when going through a divorce:
Gather all financial and property records. Obtain records of all bank, and brokerage accounts, insurance policies, retirement plans, tax returns, and other financial data. Develop a comprehensive list of all your property and assets, including furnishings, art objects, jewelry, and investments. Compiling these records is a good first step in any agreement regarding division of assets.
Think through what the divorce will really cost you in the long run and develop a realistic monthly budget during the financial analysis process. Expenses such as life insurance, health insurance and cost of living increases must be taken into consideration when agreeing on a final financial settlement.
No matter how cash-poor you are you must begin savings. If you don’t start, you’ll never regain your financial footing. Prepare a budget or cash flow analysis even if you’ve never done one before. Your new financial circumstances should be analyzed. Prepare or at least review your budget with a financial planner may be a better approach. Independent review is vital to avoid “fooling yourself” with overly optimistic assumptions.
Be aware of all tax liabilities and benefits. The monthly distribution of the financial settlement will change individual tax burdens based on the amount of Spousal Support (taxable income to the recipient and tax deductible to the payor) vs. child support (tax neutral for both payor and recipient).
Act quickly to protect your assets. Alert your, bank, brokerage firm, or mutual fund broker of the situation. They may agree not to make transactions on joint accounts without your approval. Immediately establish credit in your own name if you don’t already have it. Revise your estate plan, power of attorney, and beneficiary designations.
Keep the lid on legal fees. Don’t use your lawyer to get back at your ex. A divorce these days is really an economic issue. Most people cannot afford to pay for vengeance. Understand that the meter is running every time you call your Lawyer. Don’t waste your time venting emotional issues or sharing the latest outrage.
Set a realistic housing budget. Don’t let emotion cloud your judgment about keeping the family home. Set a realistic budget that takes into account your mortgage, property taxes, and maintenance. Divorcing women often pass up their ex’s pension in favor of the house—even though the pension may be worth far more in the future.