Before sending him packing, make sure you know these five important things to insure your financial stability and independence. To begin, if you are ending your marriage due to physical abuse (actual or threatened), then go to a friend, go to your pastor / rabbi, go to a women's shelter or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) estimates that more than 10% of the US population experiences some form of domestic violence. This type of activity in a marriage should never be tolerated.
However, if you are thinking of ending your marriage for any other reason, no matter if this will be an amicable or not so nice separation, there are many things you must consider before taking action. Not the least of which is your financial situation.
Not to be sexist, but many marriage models still retain the traditional stereotypes when it comes to finances. The husband will usually handle paying the bills, doing the taxes and providing the health insurance. Even though in today's economic climate, it is more and more likely both partners work, it is typically the male who brings in more pay. Thus the onus of doing that "money" thing falls to him.
If you feel divorce is in your future, there are certain steps to take in order to protect yourself financially. Unless your ex-to-be is a sap and willing to fund you until you get on your feet, enough cannot be stressed on being financially independent BEFORE you "throw the bum out."
First, you should open a separate bank account in your name only. Then you need to insure you have at least three months in the bank, coming in (salary) or a combination of both that will cover all your needs (although it is preferable that you have the money already in the bank, this may not be possible, depending on your situation). This will allow you to have breathing space in case your former partner doesn't come up with the support / alimony money right away.
Then you need to have an idea of what you want as far as alimony, child support, division of property and other monetary assets (401k, vacation property, investments, etc), and write it all down. In order to get all the wording down, you might want to consult a lawyer or check your state's laws concerning divorce and divorce agreements. For instance, in some states, if you have been married for ten or more years, you are entitled to half of the 401k. But in order to access this money, a legal document known as a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QRDO, pronounced quadro) needs to be filed, which could tie up all the money for months.
Here are five financially related items you need to consider before changing the locks while your spouse is at work. You need to look at them as if you were the sole person responsible for making the payments. Do not include what you think you might get in support / alimony, because this could be argued and changed or not even materialize at all.
Rent / Mortgage
Figuring in what money you have saved up and what your salary is (if any), you should consider if you will be able to maintain your current residence. You may need to downsize, refinance or look for less costly accommodations. Or you may be fine where you are. If you own, you also need to look at the property taxes and any other incidental cost comes with home ownership. If renting, don't forget to have the lease changed into your name only.
Food and other Bills
Take a hard look at what you spend on things like cable, dining out, food shopping and other incidentals (like movies). You may need to cut out some of the more luxury type items for the foreseeable future.
Consider generics when shopping at the grocery store, or clip coupons from the Sunday papers. Get a recipe box and file the coupons by expiration date. Then make sure you take them with you when you go shopping.
Do you really need that high speed internet connection, or all those premium movies channels? How about that HD service you're paying for? (Especially if he ends up with the new HD television.)
Think about areas where you can cut expenses but also keep in mind not to pare it down to the bare bones. You still need to do things or have things around to help relieve stress (which there will be more of if your ex does not go quietly into that good night).
Car / Car Insurance
Whose car is it and who is paying the car insurance? Is it a steady reliable vehicle or is it a very expensive lease gas guzzler? You need to look at the car you are driving (or if he gets the car, find an inexpensive one for yourself) and the insurance you are paying.
If you have had the latter for several years and your spouse is on it, you need to do two things. First you need to get them off the insurance quickly (this will cut the charges right away). And second, you need to shop around to see if you're "paying to much for your car insurance" as the ad says. You can also check with your current insurer to see if they can cut your rate (as long as your accident record is pretty clear). But it is my experience that they usually won't, so shopping around is the best bet. It may turn out you have the best policy anyway, but better informed is, well, better.
If you own the car you have and the maintenance on it is fine, then you are set. But if you are leasing or making payments, you may need to do something to lower those payments. You can trade it in or refinance through a credit union (because the rates are usually better). If you don't get the car in the settlement, or if it is his car, you need to shop around for a good used car (or pre-owned as the spin now goes) with the lowest rate you can get. Don't let the sales people or the finance manager talk you into warranty contracts you don't need. Know before you go, is always a good motto when shopping for a car.
Are you on his insurance plan or is he on yours? If the latter, you need to get him off as soon as possible. This will require him to sign a waiver. If this is during the year and not during open enrollment, don't worry. Divorce falls under the change of life clause in your policy. You should be able to make the change easily. It will help reduce you monthly expenses.
If, however, you are on his policy, you need to either sign up for insurance at your work or find insurance outside of work (which can be pretty expensive as there is no one to pay part of the costs). He will have to get you to sign a waiver before he can take you off of his policy, so you will be safe for a while. And it may sound opportunistic, but if he doesn't bring it up, you should stay mum. If the divorce is amicable, he may even keep you on his and you can give him money or reduce his alimony / support payment by that amount.
If there are children involved, do not let their insurance lapse. Make it part of the support agreement or suck it up and put them on yours. But they should never be placed in any kind of jeopardy from loss of health insurance.
Consult your tax preparer or the IRS website to determine if filing jointly the first year of your divorce is more advantageous than filing separately. But after that, you need to file separately. Don't let him talk you into continuing to file jointly for two reasons. First, an audit could come back to bite you in the behind if it is found you did so in violation of IRS tax laws. And second, but more importantly, you need to make a complete break in a divorce. To read up on all the concerns for taxes in the case of divorce, check out Publication 504 on the IRS website. It includes information on divorce, separation, alimony, child support and custodial parent information.
If your spouse handled all the taxes, it is a good idea to sit down with your tax preparer and go over how best to handle your taxes each year. This will include what you need to claim (alimony must be claimed on your annual taxes but child support is not), what deductions you can make (for charity, work expenses, etc) and anything else you need to know about filing each year.
I would recommend a certified tax preparer (such as a CPA) over a cookie cutter operation such as H & R Block. They cost about the same but the tax preparer will do a better job.
Divorce can be a very emotionally charged time. But in order to make sure you come out the other side on a fiscally secure footing, you need to think things through and leave emotion out of it. Throw the bum out if you must, if no other course of action can be reached (counseling or forgiveness, et al), but don't do it in the heat of the moment. Think things through and prepare yourself ahead of time. To some this may seem cold and calculated, but you have to think of your financial security, your financial independence.
Domestic Violence - Wikipedia