Seven Steps to Divorce Your Finances from Your Ex

Don't forget to tie up financial matters after you divorce. Our checklist will help.
Don't forget to tie up financial matters after you divorce. Our checklist will help.

Don’t forget to tie up financial matters after you divorce. Our checklist will help.

by Ginita Wall, Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA), Certified Financial Planner (CFP®)

Even in the best of circumstances, a divorce is a long, arduous, and emotional task. As soon as you finalize the divorce, you might just want to curl up in bed for a few weeks and watch every single thing on Netflix. Not so fast! Now that you and your ex have uncoupled your married lives, it’s time to uncouple your financial ones at well. As you begin to walk your own path, you must ensure that you are now solely in control of your finances, including your bills, insurance policies, and estate planning documents. Pause that Netflix show, you have some financial divorcing to do!

Ginita Wall Divorce Financial advice San Diego 858-472-4022

Ginita Wall

  1. Separate Your Bank Accounts and Open Your Own

If you and your spouse held joint bank accounts, it is time to close those suckers out and open your own accounts. This will allow you to control your own money and will help you both avoid inequities in spending within the shared account.

  1. Re-Route Direct Deposits and Direct Bill Pay

Now that you have your very own checking and/or savings accounts (I recommend both), you need to make sure that your automated deposits and bill pay go to the right place. You are going to be mighty unhappy if your next paycheck tries to go into the joint account you just closed, and your electric company won’t appreciate trying to pull your monthly payment from a non-existent account. Make a list of all the automatic payments that go into and out of your joint accounts and then make sure to re-route the ones you are responsible for.

  1. Deactivate Joint Credit Cards

It might be tempting to put some last-minute charges on a shared credit card, but it is best to resist. Instead, open new credit cards in your own name first and then work with your spouse to close down all your shared cards. You two will need to work together if your shared cards have a balance. Most credit card companies allow you to transfer part or all of a card’s balance to a new account, and many actually offer special promotions with low or zero introductory interest rates on transferred balances. As with your online accounts, make sure you re-route any automatic payments from your old credit cards to your new ones.

  1. Remove Your Ex from Your Insurance Policies

Unless your divorce agreement provides otherwise, it’s time to boot your ex off of your health insurance policy, car insurance policy, and renter’s insurance. Make sure to let him or her know what you are doing so he isn’t surprised to learn he doesn’t have insurance after a car accident. If you are on your ex-spouse’s insurance policies, don’t bet on him paying your premiums unless that was part of your settlement. Time to start shopping for your own insurance policies. (Learn about how to Maintain Your Health Insurance After Divorce).

  1. Make Sure Your Ex Isn’t Your Beneficiary

During the good days of your marriage, you probably made your ex-spouse the beneficiary of your life insurance policy, your retirement accounts, the trust that holds your inheritance, and perhaps your entire personal estate. Unless you two somehow managed to stay best friends, chances are you don’t want him to benefit financially from your demise. Schedule some time in the near future to remove him as your beneficiary from these documents. (Learn more about Estate Planning for Women).

  1. Remove Your Ex From the Title of Your Assets

Is your spouse listed on your car title or the deed to your house or other property? If you received these items as part of the divorce settlement, you’ll want to make sure that yours is the only name on those important documents. Transfer your vehicle title to your name and record an Interspousal Transfer Deed to remove your spouse from the house deed once all other ownership arrangements have been made (for example, you’ve paid him to buy him out his share of the home).

  1. Create a New Will

One of the most important things you need to do now is make sure that your financial legacy goes to the right people in your life. If your ex-spouse is the prime beneficiary of your will or is listed as your agent in your durable power of attorney, you’ll likely want to update both of these documents. This might mean giving your estate planning attorney a call or filling out new online templates.

Yes, tying up all of these loose ends is a lot of work, but it is also worth the hassle. Financially divorcing your spouse after your official divorce will put you on more solid financial ground and give you a clear path ahead as you begin to rebuild.

Top Four Reasons Why You Should Hire a Divorce Financial Specialist

by Shawn Weber, CLS-F
Attorney, Weber Dispute Resolution

There are so many financial implications to divorce, it is best to work with a financial professional on your side.

There are so many financial implications to divorce, it is best to work with a financial professional on your side.

In my years as a Collaborative Divorce practitioner, folks have asked me why they should spend the money to hire a Financial Specialist as part of their divorce team. A financial specialist is an excellent resource, who can bring a neutral financial perspective to a legal process. Here are my top four reasons why it makes TONS of sense to hire a financial specialist as part of your divorce team:

  1. It’s Usually Not a Good Idea to Ask a Lawyer for Financial Advice. Most went to law school instead of getting an MBA for a very good reason. I, for one, went to law school so I could avoid math. (Ironically, I do math all the time anyway). I know there are exceptions, but we attorneys are generally not trained to be financial advisors. Yet many of our clients ask us to play that role.
  2. You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know. There are so many financial implications to the decisions you are about to make regarding your property, cash flow and debt. Why not get with a professional who knows the questions you may not know to ask. As an attorney, I am grateful when a financial specialist points out a tax pitfall that I may not have known about.
  3. Your Spouse May Trust the Neutral Financial Specialist More Than You. Let’s face it. You’re getting a divorce and often trust can be an issue when a divorce is happening. Don’t worry! You don’t need to have trust. Let the Financial Specialist digest all of the financial data into a digestible format. This gives your spouse less reason to be distrustful because a neutral third party helped assemble the information. Increasing the trust factor saves money by preventing the need for costly forensics.
  4. You Have to Do a Financial Disclosure Anyway. Why Not Let the Financial Neutral Do This? In every California divorce, a full and complete financial disclosure is required. You can pay your attorney at his exorbitant rate to put the disclosures together, or you can have a financial professional take care of this part. You’ll spend less money and get better work.

The temptation is to assume that hiring more professionals costs more. But, often the opposite is true. Just like any mechanic will tell you, use the correct tool for the correct job. The Financial Specialist is the best tool to use when considering the financial aspects of your divorce.

ESPN Radio 1700 AM Features “Divorce Options” Discussion

Real Estate Radio on ESPN AM 1700 San Diego

Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego member Shawn Weber, Certified Family Real Estate Radio on ESPN AM 1700 San DiegoLaw Specialist attorney with Brave Weber Mack, recently appeared as a guest on “The Real Estate Radio Hour” on ESPN Radio 1700 AM to talk about the new “Divorce Options” program. Weber reviewed the different choices facing families when considering divorce, and explained how the new workshop program helps individuals understand the options and the differences among them.

Hear the entire interview with Shawn at this link.

What You Can Do to Reduce Attorney Fees and Costs and Finish Your Divorce Sooner

by Susan Rapp, CLS-F, Family Law Attorney

There are a number of ways to resolve parenting, property, debt, and support issues in a divorce.  These methods include Collaborative Divorce, hiring an attorney and attempting to settle issues outside of court, going to court and litigating unresolved issues, and working with an impartial mediator, with or without attorney involvement.

I have been a family law attorney for over 25 years.   No matter which approach you take,  there are several thingSusan Rapp, CLS-F, Family Law Attorneys you can do to reduce attorney fees and costs, minimize feelings of a loss of control over your life and the divorce process, and reduce the amount of time it takes to complete the divorce.

Here are some of the things I have found will help you achieve these goals:

(1) Determine at the beginning of your case, what income, asset, and debt documentation will be needed. If you are working with an attorney or mediator, ask for a list. Whenever possible, pull together and organize the documents yourself.  Otherwise, you are going to pay your attorney’s office to do it. You will likely be asked for documentation of earned and unearned income for you and your spouse, your last two years of income tax returns, and documentation of assets owned and debts owed by you and/or your spouse, as of the date you separated.  Nearly all banks, financial institutions, and credit card companies make several months or years of statements available on line. When real property is involved, locate and copy your most recent deed, as well as a recent mortgage statement. If you or your spouse have retirement interests or investment accounts, obtain recent account statements.  Organize your information and documentation chronologically, and by account or debt.  Keep an identical copy of whatever you give your attorney, spouse, or mediator so you can readily access the information if there are follow-up questions.

(2) E-mail communications to your attorney and her or his staff are usually more cost efficient than phone calls.  Some divorces take several months or longer to complete.  Keep your e-mails to and from your attorney.  If you aren’t sure that you already asked a particular question or got an answer, review your e-mails before contacting your attorney’s office. You might find the answer in an earlier communication you’ve forgotten due to the passage of time.

(3) Unless you believe the matter is truly time-sensitive or an emergency, review, finalize, and transmit written communications to your attorney a day or more after you draft the communication.  In the interim one or more issues may resolve without attorney involvement, or you may find the answer to questions some other way. If you end up not contacting your attorney, you don’t get billed. When you review your drafts a day or so later, you may find a better or clearer way to communicate the information or ask the question. (This is also a good suggestion for attorneys).

(4) Have a written list of everything you want to ask or go over when you speak to your attorney or staff. Prepare a follow-up e-mail, or a memo to yourself confirming the important points of what you discussed.

(5) Buy and learn how to use an all-in-one printer, scanner, and fax machine. Scanned documents that are either e-mailed or “burned” onto a CD disk and sent or delivered to the attorney’s office are generally preferred. Preparing and transmitting documents this way will save you time and money.

(6) Request a periodic update from your attorney.  Determine what still needs to be done, and approximately how long will it take. Ask what you can do to keep things moving.

(7) Be open to settlement. Arrange a phone or office conference with your attorney a week or more before any settlement conference with your spouse and his or her attorney.  Verbalize your settlement preferences, and ask your attorney to identify the pros and cons of various settlement options.  Meeting with your attorney a week or so in advance of the settlement conference will give you time to think about settlement options and clarify your position on disputed issues.

(8) Last but not least, have a good outside support system.  If that’s friends or family, be sure they are objective.  Go to a therapist, even if you don’t think you need to go.  If there’s ever a time a therapist is needed, it’s when you’re getting divorced.

If you follow these suggestions, I predict you will achieve the goals identified.