Managing money with your estranged spouse

Divorce always has a financial impact on both spouses, in part because it's simply less expensive to maintain one home than two. Generally, however, couples begin living separately before the divorce is complete, or even before they make the decision to divorce.

Divorce experts recommend that couples who are no longer living together start planning for their separate financial futures as soon as possible. This can make the adjustment easier when the divorce is final. It can also help you make decisions regarding property and asset division and spousal and child support needs.

This is not the time to be making large purchases or taking on new debt. Focus on paying normal expenses. It's essential to remember that even though you may feel like you're no longer married, until you legally aren't, your finances are still intertwined.

Of course, it's best if the two of you can sit down and work out who will be paying for what in an amicable manner. This can make things go more smoothly and also put you ahead of the game when the two of you and your attorneys work out the divorce settlement.

It benefits both of you if joint financial responsibilities are taken care of, such as the mortgage, property taxes or car payments. This isn't the time to try to get back at the other person by refusing to pay bills. As one divorce financial consultant says, the goal is "to preserve responsibility. Your emotions can inform or derail that goal."

Of course, that's even more crucial if you have children. If you're the one who's moved out of the house, canceling the pool cleaning service or cable service might be tempting, but remember that you aren't just hurting your spouse. Besides, added conflict is just going to draw out the divorce process, costing you more money.

If your estranged spouse is refusing to live up to his or her responsibilities and creating financial issues, talk with your family law attorney. If necessary, there are legal actions that can be taken to enforce payment for things like living expenses and child care costs until the final divorce agreement is reached.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, "Managing Your Finances When You're Separated," Geoff Williams, May 27, 2016

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