Dealing with Finances During Divorce
Nothing can take the wind out of your financial sails faster than a relationship breakdown. If you find yourself trying to navigate through these waters, here are a few things to remember:
1) People Want to Help.
You may feel you are alone in your grief, but please reach out. There are some times in life when we need support. It is a healing process to share the cares of life with a friend, family member, coworker, counsellor or spiritual leader.
2) Protect Your Children (if you have any).
As you grieve, your children grieve with even less understanding of the situation than you have. Try not to use your children (young or adult) as a sounding board or as leverage against your ex-partner.
3) Education is Important.
There are some amazing books written by those who have gone through divorce that can give great direction regarding legal advice, emotional support and ways to move forward in a healthy manner. Libraries and bookstores are full of amazing resources. Make sure you are aware of the child support guidelines in your area. The Department of Justice Canada has a lot of information regarding this issue. Maintenance Enforcement is set up to help ensure individuals meet their obligations to pay spousal and child support under the terms of their court orders and certain agreements.
4) Protect Your Own Financial Situation.
Keep a record of where everything is financially at the time of the separation. Take stock of your bank account, investment, credit card and loan balances. Try to get an assessment of the value of your assets such as your home, vehicles and recreational vehicles. If you are dealing with a lot of joint debt, close any joint cards from further purchases and if necessary, apply for your own card. Notify your creditors if you are unable to make your payments and explain why. Most creditors are willing to work out a repayment plan with you if they are aware of the situation from the beginning. If the debt is overwhelming, consider meeting with a credit counsellor to discuss your options regarding getting the debt paid off.
5) Protect Your Credit Report.
Get a current copy of your credit report to be aware of what is showing. There are two credit-reporting agencies in Canada: Equifax and TransUnion. We recommend getting your report from both companies. It is important to notify them of the date of your separation so that they will split your credit files from each other. Make sure you are both clear on who is taking care of which bills until the separation is complete. Nothing can damage your credit rating faster than late or missing payments due to miscommunication. If you feel you may be more responsible to deal with paying the bills, take care of it yourself and if possible, have your ex-partner contribute.
6) Meet With a Counsellor.
A Money Mentors coaching session will help you determine how to proceed.
Our sessions focus on:
• Determining your financial situation
• Setting short and long-term financial goals
• Developing a workable spending plan
• Developing personal saving strategies
• Using credit wisely
• Learning the importance of retirement planning
• Dealing with transition periods ie. job change or loss, divorce, disability, etc.
• Creating a Money Action Plan (MAP)
7) Protect Yourself Legally.
Divorce can be a very expensive process, but the investment in a good lawyer can save you money in the end. You will need to work through a Separation Agreement to deal with the division of your assets, custody of your children and support amounts. Legal representation ensures that this situation does not come back to you later. This is also a good time to look at your will and insurance coverage. Evaluate beneficiary information and guardianship if necessary.
8) Start Fresh.
At some point, you will see the sun come out again … spring always comes after the winter. Feel encouraged. Take caution in trying to fill this new void in your life with a new relationship too soon. Give yourself time to grieve, to heal and to grow. Find yourself again. Should you decide to give relationships another go, consider keeping your finances separate for a time to truly test the waters before taking the plunge.
We wish you the best!