If you've just been through a divorce, take heart that the worst is over.
A divorce can be an incredibly stressful, painful emotional rollercoaster — but once you come out on the other side, it's time to make some necessary changes to your finances. How can you protect yourself financially in a divorce, though, when you have so many things to worry about? The good news is, it doesn't take any specialized knowledge to learn how to recover financially from a divorce. You just need to know the right steps.
Are you just divorced? Here's how to secure your finances and where to start:
Restructure Your Accounts
From bank accounts to credit cards, insurance coverage and loan payments, you need to determine which, if any, of your accounts still have your ex-spouse associated with them.
You seriously do not want to be still attached to your former spouse financially at this point, because any wrongdoing or simple mistakes on their part could reflect poorly on you. It's time to reestablish your financial independence and the first step is to change any accounts you have over to your name alone.
If you can't simply change accounts, open up any necessary new ones in your own name, and move on from there as best as possible.
Check Your Savings and Emergency Funds
After a divorce is finalized, any number of changes can occur in one's personal finances. You can rarely plan for the exact outcome of a divorce and its impact on your bank account, savings, and more, so once all is said and done, you must determine what you have left.
With this knowledge in hand, it's time to start rebuilding. If your savings account took a hit after paying legal fees or splitting it with your ex-spouse, figure out how much you can start allocating to it each month. This means restructuring your budget from the ground up to reflect your new monthly income total.
We recommend establishing a budget no matter who you are. But especially when you come off a divorce, you need to rethink everything you spend money on. You may have different priorities than your former spouse. For example, you may decide to cancel your streaming subscriptions and instead use that money to increase your monthly retirement plan investment. For anyone struggling financially after divorce, reworking your budget can inspire confidence and give you the push you need to move forward.
If you have more money now that you aren't spending it on your former spouse, great! You can rebuild your savings fast and create a solid emergency fund to get you through anything life could throw your way.
Make a Plan to Get Out of Debt
Divorce and finances can be complicated. If you and your former spouse had a lot of debt, you can use this opportunity to reduce the amount you owe and get on better financial footing. But you may also find you have new debts from your divorce, stemming from legal filings or legal advice. Many people put these payments on their credit cards, and the debt may accrue interest if you don't pay it down quickly.
If you want to know how to survive a divorce financially, it will take some sacrifice and discipline. Look at your budget and see where you can adjust your finances after divorce. If you pay a lot for childcare, you might be able to get your ex to pay for some of that or find a lower-priced daycare. Eat meals at home instead of eating out. Look for ways to save on groceries, too.
Adjust Your Tax Withholding
One thing you might overlook when you are thinking about how to prepare financially for divorce is that your status may change on your taxes. For example, you may be able to file as head of the household. However, you also will need to determine if you can still claim your children as dependents.
Speak to someone in your human resources department at work to determine how you should change your tax withholding to reflect your new single status. Make sure you don't have too little taken out of your paycheck. If you do, you will get a bigger-than-expected tax bill come April.
Change Your Health Insurance
When you think of divorce finances, health insurance may not jump to mind. But many people spend a lot on their health insurance, and it may change when you separate. If your ex carried you on their insurance plan, you will need to find a plan of your own. Check at work to see what is offered.
Or, if your spouse used your health insurance plan, you usually will need to remove them as soon as you can. In some cases, your divorce agreement may require you to continue to provide coverage for your former spouse, so check with your lawyer before you do anything.
Carefully Monitor Your Credit Score
After a divorce, it's critical that you monitor your credit score from all three bureaus. You want to be 100 percent certain that no sudden changes occur, and that any accounts that are unpaid or other issues that occur are dealt with as soon as possible.
If you are lax about checking your credit score after a divorce, you never know what could happen. You might wake up one day a few months later and discover that your credit has fallen by a huge number without your knowledge and suffer the consequences financially. In other words, stay vigilant.
Create a New Plan for the Future
Now that you are newly single again, it's time to think hard about your future — and not just financially. Divorcees have a lot on their plate, but as time goes on, you'll be able to think more clearly about your future and determine the direction you want to take your life.
It is possible to come out of a divorce better off than you were before. Now that you are the one in control of your life, plan carefully and always make the right moves to ensure your finances are healthier than ever.
For more important financial advice, read the Atlas Credit Blog every week!