Protecting Your Money During Marriage and Divorce
It’s estimated that financial problems contribute to 20-40% of all divorces. Talking about money as a couple can be awkward whether you’re dating, engaged, or married. However, talking about money as a couple is crucial for the financial success of your partnership. Trouble handling money can cause stress in a relationship and even lead to divorce. When money problems get out of control, so can the relationship. Before problems arise, breach the money topic with your partner.
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How to talk about money with your partner
One of the biggest steps a couple can take is to make the discussion about money a routine conversation, removing the awkwardness out of it. Have regular money check-ins with each other, whether that’s weekly or at least monthly. If you’re having those regular conversations about money, it won’t be such a big scary thing. If you never talk about money, and once every three months someone brings up the topic, it becomes a big deal. Having regular money check-ins as a couple will make talking about money together less of a big deal and will make it easier for you both to get on the same page about finances.
This structure relieves pressure on both parties and helps you feel heard even if you’re ashamed, angry, or just confused about your finances. Put a ‘money date’ on the calendar each week and stick to it. Make sure this time is only dedicated to discussing finances together. Building a strong financial future as a couple requires teamwork and open dialog about your mutual financial goals. Discuss all aspects of your finances including your credit scores, debts, and future expectations like saving for retirement and spending habits.
Read More: Couples Combining Finances
Protecting your finances
Even if you and your partner have regular money dates, it’s still important to keep your own finances protected once you’re married. Before you’re married, it can be a good idea to have a prenuptial agreement in place. A prenuptial agreement, or pre-nup for short, is a legal document drawn up by lawyers on behalf of two people who plan to get married. Couples typically sign the contract before their wedding, and it generally goes into effect on the day of the marriage. Pre-nups are known to have a bad reputation, however they should not. Pre-nups get a bad rap because some people think it means you’re planning for divorce. Having a pre-nup doesn’t mean you’re planning for divorce; however, it will be the roadmap to untangling your finances if your marriage does lead to a divorce. It’s a chance for you and your future spouse to divide things more easily if you do split.
The pre-nup doesn’t only protect the person who has more money, it protects both of you. Even if you don’t think you have a lot of assets or money at the time, a pre-nup is still important. Think about where you might be financially 10 years from now if you find yourself headed toward a divorce.
Furthermore, a pre-nup is not a permanent document. If you get married and a few years down the road you and your spouse decide you want to do things a little differently, then you can create a postnuptial agreement. This is the same kind of agreement as a pre-nup, just done after you’re married. The post-nup can override your pre-nup and be a brand-new agreement about how things would go if you ever got divorced. You can create a post-nup regardless of if you already have a pre-nup in place or not. Both a pre-nup and a post-nup will protect your finances in case you find yourself headed for a divorce.
How to prepare financially for a divorce
If all else fails and you and your partner intend to divorce, there are financial steps each partner should take individually. Protect yourself as you’re approaching or beginning the divorce process. Establish your own bank and credit card account in your name only. If possible, agree with your partner to take part of the marital funds and put it in that bank account in your own name to protect that money. Many times, there’s a joint bank account that has all of the family’s money in it and it’s used to pay the bills. Then divorce starts and one partner completely drains that account, and the other partner is left with nothing. So having an account in your name only and taking some of the martial funds can help provide some financial stability. Be sure to disclose this bank account and amount of money moved in your divorce documents.
You not only need to protect yourself financially during a divorce, but you also need to protect yourself mentally and emotionally. Assemble a divorce-support team to help you get through the process. Having that team in place at the very beginning of a divorce can save you a lot of money and stress. Have a divorce attorney who will be able to advise you on the law in your state. Even if you and your spouse are very amicable and don’t intend to fight it out in court, having an attorney on your side giving you advice that has your best interest at heart is important.
A divorce coach is well versed with the divorce process. They can help you navigate all aspects of divorce. Having someone that can help walk you through it all is helpful. You’ll also want to consider having a therapist on your divorce-support team because divorce is an emotional time.
Getting back on your feet
Often, the standard of living of both spouses drops in the first few years after divorce. This is because the same cumulative income and pool of assets now must support two households instead of one. Rework your budget to adjust to your new financial situation. Figure out how much income you’ll have coming in post-divorce and allocate that cash to essential expenses. After you’ve established your new budget, work on building credit in your own name if you don’t have it already. Your credit will rebuild over time by using the accounts in your name responsibly. If you’re struggling to maintain your credit after a divorce, reach out to a non-profit credit counseling company, such as Navicore Solutions, for help. You can get started with Navicore here.
If you’re dealing with a downsized budget or trying to pay the debt associated with divorce, increasing your income can be extremely helpful. Look for ways to earn more by learning new skills or picking up a side gig. This extra money will help you become financially stable and overcome any money struggles the divorce is causing you. You can learn more about side hustles here.
Now that you’re on your own, it’s up to you to set financial goals and make plans to achieve them. The future will look different than you had planned now that you’re divorced. Think about things like saving for retirement and creating an emergency fund, since you no longer have a spouse’s income to fall back on if something goes wrong. Make your new financial goals SMART goals to ensure you achieve them. A SMART goal is a specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely goal. You can learn more about SMART goals here.
Whether you’re just starting out in a new relationship, married for a while, or going through a divorce, it’s always important to protect your finances. Discussing your finances with your partner regularly can help you have a successful financial life together. However, if you find yourself headed for divorce, you’ll need to protect yourself financially. Assemble a divorce-support team to help you get through it. Once divorced, you’ll want to start your own retirement fund, create an emergency fund, re-configure your budget, and create new SMART goals. Divorce can be tough, but with the right plan and people around you, you can make it to the other side successfully.
Katherine Fatta is the Social Media and Content Specialist at Navicore Solutions. She creates fun and informative social media posts that engage the public. She’s also the host of Navicore’s podcast, ‘Millennial Debt Domination.’ You can listen to our podcast here.