With the holidays so close at hand, you may be like many couples who are waiting for the New Year before filing for divorce. You may not want to dampen the festive spirits of your children and other family members, so you are holding off with a view to starting 2018 with a life-changing resolution and a fresh start. You may be satisfied with your decision to postpone the divorce process for another couple of months so you can focus on holiday decorating, baking, shopping and entertaining.
However, there are some things you can be doing to prepare for the inevitable tussle over marital assets, particularly if those assets are substantial or complex. With a little foresight, you can improve your chances of making a clean financial break and building financial security post-divorce.
Gathering your resources and making a plan
Following a divorce, it is not uncommon for people to struggle financially. After all, your family’s income has been split and the living expenses doubled. It is important to do some careful planning to make sure property division is fair and equitable. You can begin by assembling your financial records from at least the past year, including:
- Statements from your savings and checking accounts
- Statements from retirement and investment accounts
- Proof of income and income tax returns for the past three years
- Information about debts, including balances for your mortgage, car payments, credit cards and other loans
- A detailed list of the assets and debts that you consider individually and jointly owned
- Any other documents your attorney recommends
Over the next couple of months, if you begin keeping track of the expenses you have now and the ones you anticipate in the future, you and your attorney will have a better idea of how to approach the division of assets and the topic of alimony.
Think about your household bills, whether you are planning to stay in the house or move to an apartment. Calculate everything you can think of, including entertainment, groceries, transportation, child care and even vacations. You may be able to go back through bank statements and credit card bills to help you tally this. Advisors recommend you think ahead as well. For example, if you know you will need to replace your dishwasher or water heater soon, include that on your list.
Approach with caution
Financial advisors also suggest that there are things you should avoid doing during this time, for example:
- Filing for divorce before you have gathered information your spouse may otherwise resist sharing
- Changing your insurance, estate plan or retirement account beneficiaries without seeking legal advice
- Emptying joint accounts
- Making large purchases
- Following the advice of well-meaning friends or divorce websites
Since divorce laws vary from state to state, you will want to make sure the advice you receive comes from someone who has a thorough understanding of the laws in Georgia and who has the experience to guide you in ways that will most benefit you in the future.