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Financial Obligations to Prepare for When Getting Divorced


Whether you see the divorce coming because you initiated it or you were blindsided by the request when your partner said it was time, going through a divorce is tough. Even when you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse are amicable and work together to keep the situation as stress free as possible, there are still many financial obligations to consider and prepare for.

Child Support

Unless you and your spouse can come to an agreement without court intervention, the court will use a formula based on the amount of income you earn and the amount of time the children are in your custody to calculate the amount of child support you owe. This payment will be due every month, and will have to go through the courts to be modified in the event that circumstances change. Each state has their own rules and formulas for how the child support amount is calculated.

Alimony/Spousal Support

In many states, it’s still possible to request alimony or spousal support. This is especially the case for parents who have opted to stay at home with the kids rather than work. If you’re the spouse that’s responsible for the payments, you’ll need to plan accordingly. If you’re the spouse receiving the payments, you’ll still need to prepare for how you’ll earn income outside of that because in most cases, it’s not enough to live on. Each state also has its own rules about how to request spousal support and how it’s calculated.

Division of Assets

Who’s keeping what? If one spouse stays in the marital home, there’s the issue of getting the other spouse off the mortgage, which requires refinancing. If your credit or income isn’t good enough to stand on its own, you may have trouble. Who’s responsible for the mortgage while you wait for the home to sell, if both of you plan on living elsewhere? What about the cars and the loans on them? What about the joint checking account? Savings accounts? 401ks? Credit card debt?

While the courts will generally advocate a 50/50 split of all property – physical and otherwise, if the two of you cannot agree, this too, will go to court dragging out the process. If you don’t have a lawyer, this can easily get too complicated to handle on your own, which brings us to the next point.

Legal Fees

While it’s possible to get a divorce in your state without hiring a lawyer, you will likely have to pay a fee to the court for bringing up the case. Some states allow you to file indigent, which waives the court costs associated with the case.

In a high-conflict divorce where the two of you cannot decide on how to handle custody and child support or the division of assets, you will have no choice but to hire a lawyer to assist you. No matter how you cut it, lawyers aren’t exactly affordable. Your area may offer legal assistance for your divorce case if you have a low income, but you may still be responsible for a portion of the bill, depending on the types of programs available.

Savings for Unexpected Expenses

Unexpected expenses are going to occur whether you’re married or not, but they can hit a bit harder when you’re working with less because you no longer have access to the income you once did. Though in the perfect world you’d always be able to count on child support and alimony payments coming in on time, that may not always be the case. Divorce can, but does not have to, spell financial ruin for you and your spouse. Preparing as much as you can in advance helps ease the burden for both parties.