How to Separate Well
For most couples, the decision to divorce doesn’t just happen overnight. There’s usually a period of time during which the couple makes every effort to repair what is broken in the relationship. Physically separating during this time can have many positives such as space to think, but it can also bring financial and social challenges that need to be considered. Below, CDFA Jeff Landers breaks down some do’s and dont’s for separation.
I applaud all those who try to repair their marriages. Getting divorced is a tremendous amount to handle legally, financially, socially, and emotionally, and it isn’t something to take on unless you’re absolutely sure there are no other viable options. But while you’re working on your marriage, should you physically separate?
Physically separating can certainly give each spouse time and space to decide whether the marriage can or should be saved.
Whatever the reasons for your time apart, my concern as a divorce financial advisor is that any separation for more than a few months can put you in a very vulnerable situation financially. To protect yourself, I urge you to follow these “dos and don’ts.”
If you are considering a separation for more than a few months, you need to:
- Get up to speed on marital finances. If your husband has handled the finances in your marriage, you can find yourself totally out of the loop if you separate. You won’t know what he’s earning, spending, investing, buying, or selling. Avoid that dangerous situation!
- Obtain credit cards in your own name. Good credit is the foundation of your financial well-being as a single woman. If you don’t have credit in your name alone, get it done as soon as possible.
- Close all joint credit card accounts. During separation, you can still be held responsible for debts your husband incurs, particularly if you don’t have a legal agreement that specifies otherwise. If he racks up debt on a card you hold jointly, he could be putting you in a potentially devastating situation.
- Consult a divorce attorney and draw up a legally binding separation agreement. If there is room for only one thing on your to-do-list, this should be it! A separation agreement spells out the terms under which you will live apart while still legally married. It is absolutely critical for protecting yourself financially during a separation of any considerable length.