Article written by Jackie Porter
When facing a divorce, there is a lot going through your brain all at once. From juggling your emotions, urgent emails requesting documents, and poring over financial statements; separation can quickly become overwhelming. But while we would never call divorce easy, that isn't to say there aren't ways you can simplify the process. Check out these 5 tips to get organized and prepare your financial documents for divorce.
1. Set Up a New E-Mail Address for your Divorce:
The separation process comes with a lot of supporting documents. You should expect to keep track of a large volume of financial statements. A good strategy to stay organized is to set up an email address specifically to deal with divorce matters. This ensures important information required for your divorce does not get missed. Requests for documents can often be urgent and will be used to determine what you are entitled to in terms of your settlement. You don't want these requests getting lost in a sea of e-receipts and store discount offers.
2. Establish a Solid Filing System:
It is one thing to have all your documents, it is another to have them organized. As you prepare for your divorce, set up a solid filing system that includes paper and electronic documents that you will need to have handy. The following categories should be included:
- 3 Years of Tax Returns
- Assets and Liabilities
- Bank Statements
- RRSP Statements
- Credit Card Statements
- Retirement Accounts
- Pension Statements
- Other Debt Statements
- Membership Perks
- Points on Credit Cards
Often overlooked categories include membership perks and points on credit cards. Be ready to get the family's points and member perks organized through your divorce process. If the task of organizing your financial documents leads you to break out into a cold sweat, there are other options. Consider hiring a financial organizer to get you on track.
3. Create a Budget for Family Spending:
Ask yourself, have you ever written down what it costs your family to live each month? This number represents your lifestyle costs and will be very important in helping your lawyer to negotiate child and spousal support if applicable. This is a good time to think through the income sources you and your spouse receive each month. Income sources may include, employment or self employment income, bonuses, investment income, pension, or retirement savings accounts.
To figure out your monthly expenses, consider the following financial management tools: Mint, Wally, YNAB and Pocketsmith which will compile a budget summary of the bills, Interest, and Loan payments you and your spouse pay and investments you and your spouse contribute to from bank, and investment statements. This of course assumes you have access to all the accounts. You may need to do a bit of digging if that is not the case. Consult with your lawyer, accountant and a financial professional to help you to take a deeper dive in your family’s cashflow if you’re not sure where all of the family’s finances are located.
4. Build a new Financial Identity and Check Your Credit:
As you prepare for the new road ahead, it is time to establish a new financial identity. To mark your financial independence, start by setting up a new credit card and bank account. (Note: create a credit report category in the earlier mentioned filing system where you can file your current credit score). Start building a credit score as a single person so when the time comes, you can execute on essential financial transactions. For example, getting a new mortgage or rental contract.
Additionally, be sure to check your credit regularly as you establish a credit score on your own. Before you can start this process, you will need to know where you stand when it comes to your credit. Do you have a credit score that will allow you to borrow at reasonable rates? Is your score too low to qualify for any credit? Knowing your credit score now is a must. You can obtain a free credit score from https://borrowell.com/ or https://www.transunion.com/.
5. Forecast your Future Expenses:
Recognizing that this step can be difficult does not make it is any less crucial. Before the divorce is finalized you will need to think about where you will live, how much it will cost and if the amount you receive from your settlement will be enough for you to live on your own down the road. As you begin to imagine what life will be like post-divorce, create a new budget with the budget software you used to get ready for the divorce. Establish a new file using your filing system entitled new budget. This new budget will consider renting or getting a new mortgage for your new home, utility costs, expenses for food, gas, childcare costs, along with other miscellaneous costs such as personal care, and entertainment to name a few.
As you build your budget ask yourself, what costs will be lower now that I am living alone? What costs may go up? Once you set up a future expenses category in your filing system, you can update this information as your financial circumstances become clearer. Estimate expenses as best you can to secure your financial future.