If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of a separation or divorce, you will begin the difficult process of separating your lives. Because of tense emotions, it’s often difficult to figure out where to begin. We will go over the steps you need to take to fully and smartly separate from your spouse. We’ve put together the definitive divorce and separation checklist to help you start navigating your options.
Your primary objective is to separate your money from your former spouse’s.
- Open a separate bank account.
- Consider closing joint bank accounts or designate these accounts for specific expenses only.
- Think about cancelling joint credit cards.
- Change your PIN and passwords for online banking accounts.
[Related: Marital Separation: The Dos and Don’ts]
- Let your lender know you’re separating.
- If you’re maintaining residence in the home, have all the utilities in your name. When you leave the home, take your name off of all the utility bills.
- Create a plan for whom will be responsible for the mortgage payment while your estate is being settled.
- Consider asking the bank to require both your signatures for any Home Equity Line of Credit loans.
- If you elect to keep the home independent of your ex-spouse, you may need to refinance the mortgage, pay your spouse his or her share, and get the former spouse to relinquish rights to the house with a quitclaim deed.
- In the case that you’re behind on payments, contact your lender as soon as possible. They may have options for you.
If You’re Renting
- First, contact your landlord and have them change the lease to just your name if you’re staying.
- Then, transfer all the utilities to your name.
- Conversely, if you decide to leave the house, have your name taken off the lease and utilities.
- First and foremost, you should have your own legal counsel even if you and your spouse are separating amicably. Oftentimes, amicable decisions made during separation proceedings end up having unforeseen financial consequences.
- Find a firm that specializes in family and divorce law
- There is some free legal aid in Virginia, if you need it.
- Find financial counseling if you need it.
- In some cases, you can initiate divorce papers online.
- Bring your definitive divorce and separation checklist plus any questions to this meeting.
Important Documents and Information to Gather
- Record your separation date.
- Important documents: birth certificates, marriage certificate, bank statements, passports, insurance policies, tax returns, car registration papers, and business papers.
- When your divorce is final, make sure to retain a certified copy of your divorce decree.
- Make a list of assets and debts for a proper accounting of the property settlement.
- Create notes for your lawyer that detail your family profile: names, contact details, employer and salaries for you and your ex.
- Set up a P.O. Box to receive your mail, and remember to change your password to your e-mail if you haven’t already or consider getting an entirely new email address.
- Besides the definitive divorce and separation checklist, you should also have a list of important documents.
Income and Expenses
- Detail your income and expenses in a budget.
- Child support payments -determine whether you or your former spouse will pay this.
- Alimony—determine if you are entitled to or must pay spousal support.
Care for Children
- Inform the school of your separation and update contact details.
- Determine the care schedule with your ex-spouse.
- Figure out who will pay child support and how much.
- Detail the regular expenditures for your children.
Division of Assets
- Create a list of all your assets including property, investments, retirement plans, personal property, etc.
- Decide who will maintain residency and ownership of any property owned. Use legal counsel during this process.
Debts and Car Loans
- Inform lenders that you have separated.
- Have your lawyer help you determine how joint loans and agreements should be paid.
Wills, Insurance, and Retirement Plans
- Update the beneficiaries on your retirement plans, insurance plans, and other investments.
- Change your will to reflect your separation.
- If you have powers of attorney, update those as well.
[Related: Separation and Divorce Financial Planning]
Spousal Financial Abuse and Domestic Violence
- For assistance with domestic violence in Virginia, call 1-800-838-8238.
- Financial abuse often occurs within divorces where one spouse earns dramatically more income than the other. The higher-earning spouse can remove funds and heavily restrict the other spouse in an effort to exert control. Learn more here.
More Information Beyond the Definitive Divorce and Separation Checklist
Divorce is painful and difficult, no matter how amicable the people involved. We hope this divorce/separation checklist proves helpful during the process. If you need more detailed advice on separating marital assets and steering your new financial future, contact the experienced team at Blisk Financial Group.