As the saying goes, the best way to prevent a problem is to be prepared for it in the first place. Fortunately, no matter what issue you’re facing, someone has been there before, and has documented the pitfalls and secrets so that you don’t have to learn by experience.
This post today will be talking about an area that often is neglected until it is too late: Planning for post-divorce finances while still being married.
That might sound pessimistic, selfish, and even fatalistic, but the truth is that while married, any reasonable effort you expend on your own personal finances will benefit the marriage as well, so it’s a win-win.
One of the most important things to remember for any sort of future planning is the 4% rule. Known by financial experts the world over, the 4% rule states that for a retirement account to maintain itself for its desired length, withdrawals should be no more than 4% per year. As the market fluctuates, and people’s desired retirement age changes, that amount could fluctuate, but it’s a good rule of thumb to apply to any retirement situation.
Naturally, that requires quite a bit of advanced planning. If you plan to retire on $30,000 a year, that means that you should plan to have $750,000 saved up in retirement accounts. If that amount sounds shocking, it’s for a good reason: Retirement is expensive, and you do not want to turn 83 and find out that you are completely broke. There is no age where it’s too young to start saving for retirement, and it is a solid fact that the sooner you start saving, the better. It is always possible to be employed part-time while you are in your retirement years, but employment gets increasingly harder to find the older you get, and you will be simply unable to perform certain demanding tasks any more.
It might seem strange to talk about retirement planning and divorce together, but the reality is that middle-aged and elderly couples are getting divorced at increasing rates, and the absolute last thing you want is to walk out of family court single and virtually penniless in your 50s or 60s. You do not have to be actually facing divorce to plan for a single future.
Divorce is a hugely significant moment in a person’s life. It quite literally sets the stage for the entire second part of an individual’s life. Families split or form lines, property is divided, houses are moved out of, and finances are cut in half.
That is the theme of the post today: Finances. While anyone who has ever heard of divorce has also heard of alimony and child support, what a lot of people don’t realize is that the financial changes due to a divorce are much more drastic and much more life-altering than that.
That being said, here are some tips on how to deal now with your future post-divorce finances.
Don’t be afraid to pay alimony, and don’t be afraid to ask for alimony!
- It might seem odd that these two are together, and while it’s true that you cannot both pay and receive alimony (why would you want to?), they are both sides of the same coin. The point is that alimony serves a valid purpose; it is to help the dependent spouse transition into a self-sustaining life of their own. The first day after the judge’s gavel falls is the first day of the rest of your life, so don’t start it penniless and destitute, and don’t force the spouse you once devoted your life to to suffer the same.
Create a budget!
- This cannot be overstated. Not only is a budget always a good thing to have, but for many couples, the drop in income once the marriage is dissolved can be shocking. You need to plan out every cent that will be coming and going after you are divorced. Housing expenses won’t suddenly cut in half, and neither will utilities, insurance bills, or (most likely) food and cell phone bills. You will likely find that your monthly expenses will take up a larger chunk of your single income than they did your previous joint income. Be prepared for that, or it will quickly get on top of you.
Watch your impulse spending
- Keeping in line with the previous tip, you will probably find that your expendable income is stretched somewhat thinner once you are divorced, and as such, an impulse buy can turn from a hassle to a serious, can’t-pay-my-bills-this-month affair. The last people you want to deal with are bill collectors, so plan everything out carefully, and then be even more
Keep things as “normal” as possible for a while
- Divorce is often equated to death, and there is some wisdom there. It is as massively emotional event, even permanently scarring. It is the dissolution of something that was once a central part of your life, and it will continue to play a minor hand in events for a large part of the rest of your life. That is why you need to take a period of 6 months to a year in order to let yourself adjust. Don’t move to a new state, or switch up careers, or anything like that. Allow the emotional buildup to leave your system over time, re-acclimate to what your life will be from here on out, and try to find some peace in how things turned out.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to how you live your life after a divorce, but hopefully these tips have either given you some insight, or at least given you a little push towards finding your own answers.
If you ever have any specific questions, or just need a little advice, you can always talk to a family law attorney. They are immersed in the industry, and will know the ins and outs of not only preparing for the divorce and going through it, but also how to set yourself up for the best possible post-divorce success story.
If you are facing a divorce, or helping someone else make their way through one, there are undoubtedly a thousand little questions floating around up in the air. We will try to answer some of the more common ones here.
Q: My wife and I went through mediation, and we collaborated and signed an agreement that is beneficial to both of us in every way. Do I still need to be at the final hearing?
A: Yes. Florida law states that a petitioner is always required to be present for their final hearing.
Q: My wife and I have been separated for over 3 years. Am I still required to get a Marital Settlement Agreement, and if so, what should I do if she refuses to sign it?
A: A signed Marital Settlement Agreement is required for a simple dissolution of marriage (no children/pregnancies, both parties agree on property division) or any sort of uncontested divorce. If you do not (or are not able to) obtain a signed form, you will have to proceed with a contested divorce.
Q: I really want to file an uncontested divorce, but I am unable to track down my spouse. Do I have any options?
A: Unfortunately, if you are unable to track down your spouse, you will be unable to file an uncontested divorce (as both parties’ cooperation is required). You will still be able to file for a divorce, but you will have to put in a good-faith search for your spouse first. That usually requires you to put out a notice in a local newspaper, contact all friends and family members who might have any information as to their whereabouts, and make sure you document everything. You will need to prove to the court who you contacted, when you contacted them, how long you were in contact, and what was discussed.
Q: When will my divorce be final?
A: Once the judge signs the Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.
Sometimes bad things happen to good people. It’s quite possible for 2 individuals, who their respective friends and family would call “the nicest, most honorable person in the whole world,” to get locked together in a bitter divorce proceeding.
You could even be one of those individuals, and you could have every facet of the moral high ground supporting you. You could have everyone you know, including your spouse’s friends/family, backing you up with emotional support.
However, the judge does not know that, and given your limited interactions with the judge, they will likely never know that. All the judge knows is what is in the filing, and unless it is specifically spelled-out for a valid reason, an individual’s character is relatively unimportant.
That is why it is critical to put everything down on paper. Ask as many questions as you possibly can (especially when signing documents), fact-check every single thing you are told (especially when coming from your spouse), and do not expect anyone to see things from your perspective.
This often seems to be particularly tricky when you are trying for a cooperative divorce, but it’s really not. It is one thing to treat your spouse with civility, and quite another to blindly accept every word they say. You can still work together while you keep a cool, wary distance. The alternative is to get embroiled in a nasty, heated battle which will benefit no one. Just remember, divorce is a very serious event, with life-altering consequences, so take nothing on blind faith, and double (maybe even triple) check everything you can.
The court will not see things from your perspective, but if you and your attorney work together, you should be able to spell the situation out in language that any judge could understand.
If you are considering filing for divorce, you likely have a whole slew of questions and concerns. You are not alone. Thousands of questions are asked every day by thousands of individuals just like yourself.
One of the more common concerns people have in the process of gearing up for a divorce filing is whether or not fault is required. The simple answer is no. In the state of Florida, fault is not required in order to file for divorce. It can certainly factor into discussions of child custody or alimony, but for the initial filing, one spouse citing that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” is enough.
Another common question is about spouses that have disappeared. While some states might make it impossible to get a divorce without both parties’ consent, Florida is not one of those states. You must simply demonstrate a diligent good faith search to be eligible for divorce, which means talking to family and friends (both yours and theirs), contacting the department of motor vehicles, publishing a notice in a relevant newspaper for a period of time, and various other lightweight searches. You don’t need to hire a private investigator, or threaten your spouse’s friends if they don’t give you any information, but do what you can to demonstrate that you tried to find them.
Make sure you really do perform these searches yourself, though. As with all legal matters, no matter whether you are talking to your attorney or to a judge, dishonesty is at best frowned upon, and at worst illegal. Even something small like a simple white lie can cause a judge to view your claims with skepticism and doubt, and the risk is just not worth it.
Make sure that if you ever have any questions about divorce, or are ready to start taking steps, you get in touch with a skilled Florida divorce attorney today.
Everybody knows what a do-it-yourself kit is. Commonly called DIY, the concept means that people are sold unassembled or incomplete products, and by assembling it themselves, they are able to save a bit of money.
For things like furniture, a DIY kit makes perfect sense. Transporting a box full of pieces as opposed to a completed piece is not only easier, but also cheaper. For things like model cars, part of the appeal of the end product is in the work and the assembly itself.
However, for things like divorces, DIY kits can and often do end in trouble. For many, it is a tempting notion to shoulder some of the work themselves and save some money, but there are few things in life more potentially devastating than an ill-prepared divorce filing.
The harsh lesson of DIY kits is that often you don’t realize what is important until the time for it has already passed. For something like a divorce, that can be a catastrophic mistake.
If you have young children, or share a business together, or any other of a number of complications, a do-it-yourself kit will not be able to help you. In addition, much like do-it-yourself tax kits/programs, they will often let you file with whatever information you enter, even if it’s a lie. While a trained divorce attorney would be able to look you in the eyes and let you know that something isn’t going to fly, a DIY kit will often take whatever garbage you put into it. The “guarantees” they offer are often a lie as well, since they’re only as valid as the information you entered.
There is a good reason that divorce attorneys are such an integral part of our society. The areas of family law relating to divorce are intensely complex, and navigating them yourself can often lead to disaster. Make sure you do not take any unnecessary risks when it comes to your future, and the future of your loved ones.
Divorce, more than likely, was not the plan when you and your spouse tied the knot. But now that you’ve come to a point where that is the next step, it’s best to have some things planned ahead of time. That may sound heartless and cruel, but early planning can save a lot of stress in the end. Divorce is stressful enough on all parties involved. Planning will make it easier on yourself and others by get some key things done beforehand.
It is absolutely imperative that you know all the details about your finances. Be sure to have a copy of all documents. It helps to have the documents in electronic format, kept on a CD or external hard drive storage so that you can take it with you easily. It’s critical to do this ahead of time because often is the case that these documents disappear once the actual divorce proceedings begin. Oftentimes these records aren’t the easiest found under the best of circumstances, so it’s a good idea to know ahead of time where everything is so that you have copies of your own. Be sure to have tax returns, bonus calculations, and W-9’s. Having these ready will help you know how to plan for division of assets.
Once those things are all in order, you’ll need to begin aligning your priorities. Know what’s most important to least important for you as to the outcome of all things. These things are similar to the financial planning step, except that they’ll also include division of time with the children and what the living needs are for them. What will you need to keep them as comfortable as possible during this difficult time? Do they need to stay in the same home? If not, what do you need in the way of furniture for them. Do you have a pension plan? Do you plan to hold on to it? Make sure you know the cost of such things as they will figure into the planning process as well.
There’s much to think about and be ready for ahead of time. The more prepared you are, the more smoothly things will run. This will be a high anxiety time anyway. Planning ahead can help alleviate a lot of that tension.