Money and financial stability are extremely important no matter where you are in life, and when you are going through divorce, it becomes even more imperative to take the right steps toward protecting your financial security. However, the atmosphere that exists during a divorce often makes determining the “right” steps you should be taking more difficult than you might think — changing expenses, charged emotions, and an uncertain future all combine to make it difficult to thoroughly plan ahead. Fortunately, you can avoid many financial headaches by steering clear of the seven common financial mistakes that guys make during divorce with a little foresight and planning. Here are seven common financial mistakes guys make during divorce that you should avoid:
1. Giving up on everything
During a long and drawn out divorce, a lot of guys reach a breaking point in which they are so physically and emotionally drained with the process that they just want to give in on everything to get the divorce over with.
This can be a huge mistake for a number of reasons:
1) Property division is generally final, meaning you cannot go back and try to fight for assets later if you realize you gave up on something valuable or sentimental.
2) It is very easy to underestimate the value of possessions in your home. Refurnishing a whole new house without your fair share of the assets can be extremely difficult.
3) Modifying orders for alimony, child support, visitation, etc., typically requires showing that there has been a significant change in circumstances. You may not have grounds to attempt a modification later if you situation is similar to when the divorce occurred.
2. Not understanding separate and marital property
Determining what is included in the marital pot that is up for division can be a murky area that is frequently contentious during the divorce process. Laws will vary by state, though most will define marital property as anything acquired by you or your spouse during the course of the marriage. This includes money, property, retirement benefits, investment accounts, etc. Separate property typically includes anything owned prior to marriage, and then specific awards received during the marriage, such as gifts and inheritances. While this may seem straightforward, it can get murky when separate property is commingled with marital funds or used to pay for marital assets.
3. Assuming you will keep your own debts and she will keep hers
Just like all wealth and property acquired during marriage is considered marital property and subject to division, so are any debts that are racked up. Just because your wife had bad shopping habits and accumulated thousands in credit card debt while you were responsible with your spending does not mean she will be taking all of that with her in a divorce. Order credit reports for you and your spouse to get an accurate picture of marital debt and brush up on your state’s property division laws.
4. Attempting to hide assets
As long as divorce has existed, people have thought about — or attempted — to keep certain assets out of the marital estate by “hiding” them from the courts. Though it may sound tempting to try to be sneaky and get away with more than your share, it is never a good idea to hide assets in divorce. Technology has made the chances of getting caught very high, and the potential risk of damaging your case is serious. Not only will it paint your side as the “bad guy,” but you also risk financial penalties, a lesser portion of the marital assets and damage to your credibility that is difficult to overcome for the remainder of your case.
5. Not refinancing mortgages
Generally speaking, the marital home is the largest asset and/or debt a married couple acquires during the course of their marriage. Because of this, it becomes one of the most complex to divide after a divorce. If one spouse is awarded the home, you need to make sure to include provisions in the decree regarding refinancing the mortgage; otherwise, both parties will continue to be held responsible for the loan. Clearly, this can cause problems down the line if the spouse awarded the home is unable to afford the mortgage payments.
6. Vague language in your decree
Specific details are extremely important to include in the wording of your decree to ensure there is less room for argument regarding agreements made during the divorce further down the road. Be sure to include the “what, where, when, who and how” whenever possible. This can include provisions for your parenting plan, such as how everyday pick-ups and drop-offs should work or required notice for moves out of you current area, or the reasons alimony can be modified or terminated. Essentially, the more specific you are in your decree, the less room there is to deviate from the agreement without the risk of being held in contempt.
7. Improper drafting of a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)
Even after a decree is entered and your divorce appears to be over, completing a Qualified Domestic Relations Order often remains. This document, many times referred to a Separation Agreement, provides instruction to the plan administrator on how to divide retirement accounts and all other assets, debts, liabilities, 401Ks, IRAs, etc. which helps avoid additional fees and tax obligations. If done improperly or too late, it can mean significant fiscal consequences to one or both parties.
These are just some of the more common financial mistakes guys make during the course of a divorce that can be costly and disasterous. It is advisable to take immediate steps to safeguard your financial security during divorce — get a highly skilled divorce attorney to look out for your best interests, and be proactive when it comes to protecting your financial future.
Mat Camp is the editor for Mensdivorce.com, a website dedicated to providing useful information and resources to men before, during and after divorce.
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