You can’t take it any more, and have decided to end your marriage. Or maybe your spouse has asked for a divorce. Either way, this is a painful, and uncertain time—especially if you have never managed your own finances, but have let your spouse take care of you.
You are not alone. Even in today’s world, many women rely on “Prince Charming” to provide for their needs. As many as one-quarter of American women do not even work, and may have little knowledge of their and their spouse’s bank and investment accounts, cash flow, debts, and financial holdings.
If you followed my advice in the previous article in this series, you’ve already educated yourself by gathering information and documents detailing these accounts. If you haven’t performed this step, now is the time, before you seek legal help. Doing so will not only help you make wise decisions for yourself and your future, it will save you attorney’s fees.
Now that you know where your and your spouse’s money and property are and what you owe, you need to take measures to protect yourself. Divorce often brings out the worst in people, and your spouse is no exception. Many people have found their bank accounts drained or their credit cards charged to the max by a resentful soon-to-be-ex.
Determine your destiny
Don’t let this be you. Take your destiny into your own hands and consider taking these actions:
- Close or freeze jointly held accounts and credit cards.
- Open savings and checking accounts in your name only. Get a credit card in your name only. Make sure that you, and only you, can access these.
- Get a credit report and consider enrolling in a credit monitoring service so you can get alerts on credit or debt issues that are tied to you.
- Change the user names and passwords on all your financial and social media accounts.
- Change your social media settings to restrict access to your personal information so that only your closest friends can see it.
- Establish an alternative mailing address such as a Post Office box, or perhaps a work or friend’s address during your transition period. Make sure your ex-spouse cannot access this address.
- Look at insurance alternatives—medical, automobile, and any other insurance you will need—for yourself only.
- Get a handle on your cash flow. Make a list of what you absolutely must have, such as food, insurance, mortgage, and utilities, and tally up the costs. Make another list of discretionary expenses, the “wanna-haves” such as gym membership, haircuts, and children’s activities, and their costs. These lists are essential for drawing up a monthly budget—the first step toward financial security.
- Establish your team of advisors. Ask friends for referrals to a good divorce attorney—one who is a problem solver, not a “stir the pot” billing machine. Find a financial advisor, too, someone you can pay by the hour and call as needed to explain financial accounts and situations as you uncover them.
- Seek counseling. A good therapist will be an invaluable ally during this trying time, not only helping you process your emotions but also providing feedback as you explore options for work and perhaps even a career. You may need vocational counseling, as well, to help you determine the best employment match for your skills.
The time is now
During your marriage, Cinderella, you let someone else make the decisions for you. As you divorce, and for the rest of your life, taking care of you is your job, starting with getting informed, making wise choices, and actively protecting yourself and your assets.
We are here to help. We help people just like you who are juggling so much during these difficult times. The decisions you make now will have an impact for the rest of your life, getting advice from professionals is a good way to make the right decisions for your future.
The good news is that it’s never too late to being shaping your destiny—nor, when it comes to divorce, is it ever too early to start.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Fulcrum Financial Group and LPL Financial do not provide legal advice or services.