Getting a divorce is a marathon—not a sprint and if you know you're going down the divorce road, prepping your finances is a smart way to handle what's about to come your way. Finances can be the hardest obstacle of them all in divorce. It's one thing to go through the various emotions of divorce—grief, anger, happiness, relief and sadness, but quite another to be potentially facing a perilous financial situation.
Here are some tips to help you financially prep for divorce:
1- Assess your accounts and debts—joint and sole:
Here's one piece of scary news—you better hope your spouse doesn't have debt secretly wracked up because as the spouse, you can be held responsible. This is something out of your control, but what you can do is assess all the joint and sole accounts and debts. Get a handle on what the two of you stand to have to pay off—and what the two of you will potentially be fighting for, or splitting.
And if you don't have your own account…
2- Open your own account:
Women are more apt to be in "this boat" than men are. If you are one of these women, open an account and you may also want to open a credit card if you do not have one.
3- Speak to a financial advisor and lawyer:
Speak to an advisor and a lawyer about what steps you can take to both protect the assets you have if possible, as well as how you can or should invest and handle your money during this time. Even if you are working with a mediator, which is great, you should see a lawyer to go over a potential divorce settlement made with the mediator and your soon-to-be former spouse, as well as the financial outcome for you if the two of you decided to go to court.
4- Discover hidden assets:
If you think your spouse is not so honest about his or her income, you may want to hire an investigator to dig up hidden assets. The court system can also do a discovery, to assess finances as well. If you feel this spouse of yours is at all untrustworthy or happens to have a cash business, you're going to want to hire an investigator. An investigator won't be cheap but it's worth the money if you feel this person is hiding a considerable amount from you in the first place.
5- Do a credit check:
How is your credit? Knowing how your credit stand is important as divorce can impact your score if you happen to own a home with your spouse and plan on foreclosing or have other debts. It's not unusual for a divorce to financially unnerve people, and cause folks to pay debts late or have to skip for a few months.
If your credit score is low, talk to a financial advisor about how you can rebuild your score. It may mean simply paying more than the minimum payment for a while, or transferring balances, or simply buckling down and not incurring any other debts—if possible.
6- Assess your chance at services:
If divorce will potentially kill your income or lifestyle, you may qualify for food stamps or other services. It's worth getting to know what you might qualify for based on state requirements.
Another solid tip is if your income will be small—or even moderate, check out affordable housing listings and get on lists today! It can take many months or years to be up for an affordable house listing so even if you're not 100% sure of your income potential, get on a list now.
7- Avoid court fees if you can:
If you and your ex can be reasonable together, mediate, mediate and mediate! Lawyers are not cheap. Getting involved in court can cost you tens of thousands of dollars, and no, I'm not joking!
8- Devise a new budget:
Based on your "expected income" and potential alimony or child support—if receiving any, devise a new budget. There are apps like Mint and other budget apps, but even using an old school Excel sheet to create a new "livable" budget is mandatory.
It's the one thing that gave me the reality check I needed when I decided to divorce as a mom who was mostly reliant on her partner for financial support.
Laura Lifshitz is a pint-sized, battery-operated, writer, comedienne, and single mother. Laura will work for chocolate. The former MTV personality and Columbia University graduate is currently writing about divorce, sex, women's issues, fitness, parenting, marriage and more for the New York Times, DivorceForce, Women's Health, Redbook, Working Mother, Pop Sugar, Your Tango and numerous other sites. Her own website is frommtvtomommy.com .