Women Helping Women -
What to do When Going Your Separate Ways Part 1
By Karen A. Miller, CFP®, CPFA
Disentangling finances is often more complicated than it was to combine them in the first place. But it’s an important step toward asserting your financial independence. And, while it can be a long, overwhelming process, it doesn’t have to be—especially if you take it one step at a time.
In this first part of our series “What to do when going your separate ways,” we’re talking about the things that you can—and should—do right away.
- Change the name(s) on your utilities—this may not sound like a big deal, but often if you are not named on the utilities, the company will not let you make changes to the account. And when things are not amicable, it could be hard to get your ex to call the utility company to make the changes you desire.
- Re-establish your individual bank and credit card accounts—if you have joint accounts, you should likely close them and open your own. And if your ex has a credit card under your name, you’ll want to close those out as well. Far too often, one partner raids the bank account or drives up your debt simply out of spite.
- Redirect paychecks and other direct deposit items (like tax refunds) to ensure they do not accidentally end up in your old joint account—again, this may seem simple, but it’s easy to forget that your paycheck gets deposited to your joint account (if that’s the case). Make sure your payroll office has the new information for your new direct deposit.
- Check your credit rating to ensure it remains separate and is not negatively impacted by your ex—there are a number of free services like creditkarma.com, nerdwallet.com, freecreditreport.com and others that enable you to get your credit score without impacting your credit rating.
- Have all your home, auto and life insurance policies brought up to date—if you can (life insurance and other policies are sometimes dependent upon your divorce agreement), bring your policies up to date to ensure they include the appropriate parties, properties and beneficiaries (if appropriate).
Get a head start
Now is also a good time to at least begin gathering the information you need to gain a comprehensive picture of your true combined worth. In addition to the most recent banking, investment and retirement account statements for both of you, it may make sense to get up to date appraisals on homes, art and jewelry. It’s worth noting that an estimated 1 in 5 Americans (that’s about 29 million) have a bank account or credit card hidden from their partner.1
A divorce attorney can provide more comprehensive legal information, a forensic accountant may be able to help you find assets you were unaware of, and Gasber Financial can help you aggregate the financial information you need to move forward.
In our next installment, we’ll discuss some of the longer-term changes you should make and things you should consider as you continue to assert your independence.