This article was republished by Investopedia here.
Whether you believe your divorce will be relatively amicable or long and painful, one of the most important things you and your spouse can do is separate your finances during the process.
By taking care of the financial aspect of your failing marriage, you will give yourselves the freedom and flexibility to begin moving on with your lives. Fiscal responsibility is important, and you will want to ensure that your name is only attached to the debt and accounts that you are personally responsible for.
Here are the first three essential steps you should take to begin separating your finances during your divorce:
You should begin by separating your accumulated debt. Perhaps your divorce decree is final, or you have already been able to amicably divide your debt. If so, you need to find out the necessary next steps for removing your spouse from the loans. In some cases, it may mean refinancing items or taking out an entirely new loan.
Without removing your spouse’s name from outstanding loans, you will not be able to remove your spouse from your credit report. Having your spouse’s name on your credit report does not necessarily affect your credit. However, the waters can be muddied if your spouse does not follow through on making payments. In these instances, your credit can plummet rather quickly.
If you know that you are assuming responsibility for a certain amount of credit card debt, you have a couple of options: pay it off or transfer the balance to a new card. If paying off your accumulated debt is not a possibility, you can open up a new card in your own name. By transferring the balance from your joint account into a new individual account, you can cancel joint credit cards.
To avoid having your soon-to-be ex rack up additional debt on credit cards they still have access to, you will want to take care it quickly. Also, then you will not be left in limbo about who is responsible for paying the bill each month.
Removing your name or your spouse’s name from joint bank accounts can be tricky if your spouse will not agree to have their name removed. Perhaps they refuse to give consent to drop their name from the account, or to split your singular account into two separate ones. If so, you can find a workaround. You may want to open an individual account and transfer the money into your own name.
Remember that even if you claim that money as your own, your spouse may still have rights to it.
Separating your finances during your divorce is necessary for keeping your credit and other aspects of your financial health from plummeting. Fortunately, doing so does not have to be time consuming or cumbersome. You can create individual accounts and remove your spouse from joint accounts with relative ease. Then you can begin to move on with your life.
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Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is author of Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide and host of the Divorce and Your Money Show on iTunes. Learn more at www.divorceandyourmoney.com.