Most people hope that when they tie the knot, that’ll be the first and last time they say “I do.” But sadly, almost 50% of all marriages nationwide end in divorce or separation. And while not getting the fairytale ending you hoped for can be devastating enough, many divorced couples realize too late that their financial decisions might have made things even more difficult in the aftermath.
It’s unlikely that you’d begin your marriage planning for a divorce. But if you feel your partnership might be in trouble or you want to help a friend who’s going through a separation, it’s important to have a handle on your finances. Here are just five money mistakes to avoid when filing for a divorce.
Mistake: Thinking You’re Off the Hook For Shared Debts
Although 19.2% of couples say they divorce due to incompatibility and 10.6% say that addiction issues play a role in the dissolution of their marriage, financial problems are also a commonly cited reason for separation. If your ex had an issue with overspending that resulted in credit card debt, you might think that your divorce means you’re off the hook for their mistakes. Unfortunately, unsecured debt (like credit card debt) is typically considered to be a shared liability — even if you never used the credit card. And even if your divorce settlement says that your former spouse is responsible for the majority of those debts, the credit card company could still come after you for payments. Don’t simply assume that you can’t be held responsible for your former spouse’s spending. Usually, you’ll want to make sure all of those debts are paid off before your divorce is finalized. Otherwise, your ex might try to pin it all on you and make your life a nightmare in the process.
Mistake: Underestimating Your Expenditures
Generally speaking, underestimating how much you spend can spell disaster. But during a divorce, you need to have a crystal clear idea of how much money you’re making and how much you’re spending. Right down all of your expenditures and account for things like inflation, taxes, and costs you may now have to incur on your own. If you underestimate how much you’re spending or how much you really need to get by, you may find out the hard way that you’re living beyond your means.
Mistake: Assuming a 50/50 Split is Best
Even if you’re one of the 43% of Tennesseans going through a difficult divorce, you probably want to settle this matter as fairly as possible. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should split your assets evenly. The actual value of the assets you share might not actually be reflected in their current market value. The value of a piece of property won’t be the same as a retirement account, even if the investments were exactly the same at the start. As you work to divide up your shared property, you’ll need to look beyond the current value of your assets and figure out what would truly be an equal division for both you and your ex.
Mistake: Fighting For a Home You Can’t Afford
It’s understandable that you might want to stay in your family home, particularly if you share children and it’s likely that you’ll reach some kind of amenable custody arrangement. But the reality is that you may not have the financial means to remain in that home on your own. Staying up-to-date with mortgage payments, home insurance fees, property taxes, and property maintenance costs can be daunting and even impossible for many people who are faced with living on a single income. While it can be tough to let go of all the memories you shared in your house, you need to prioritize your ability to live within your means. That may involve moving to a new house or apartment for now. Remember, home is wherever you and your loved ones are.
Mistake: Ignoring Your Long-Term Needs
When you’re going through a divorce, it makes sense that you’d need to take things one day at a time. But you need to look beyond your immediate needs in order to safeguard your financial future. While dividing assets and determining child support payments are essential, you also need to consider the long-term consequences of your divorce settlement agreement to make sure you won’t have to struggle into what should be your retirement years. It’s recommended that you work with a financial planner and have them look at your settlement agreement to ensure the outcome is as favorable as possible and that you won’t be doing your future self a disservice.
The emotional pain of divorce is bad enough. But if you fail to prioritize the financial aspects of separation, you may be in a world of hurt later on. With these tips, you can get a head start on preparing for the worst-case scenario and protect your finances in the process.