In his book, “Divorce: Think Financially, Not Emotionally,” Jeffrey Landers teaches women to prepare for– and endure– a divorce with the hopes of coming out on the other side financially stable, not just for the time being, but for life. It’s important to remember that the consequences of making mistakes in divorce settlements, when spouses are often at their emotional wit’s end, can last a lifetime.
The best way to take emotion out of the question is to establish a clear set of achievable goals. Women need to ask themselves: What do I hope to get out of this divorce? What does “financial stability” look like for me, and how do I plan to attain it given my circumstances? Landers, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, writes that it is vital for women to have a relatively clear answer to these questions before entering any discussion of dividing assets with their husbands or in a courtroom.
After goals have been set, it’s time to prepare. Landers advises women to create the following checklist:
- Collect and safely store any relevant financial documents
- Keep an eye on your credit report for unusual activity
- Thoroughly research divorce professionals, as these will be the people tasked with dealing with very intimate parts of your life
- Open new bank accounts and new credit cards under your name and your name alone to begin to establish credit
- Ensure privacy in your communications (change email and mobile passwords) so that your husband cannot monitor your correspondences
- Don’t let your guard down, as your husband may attempt to hide assets
Landers cautions women against seeking out or accepting the advice of friends or family on matters relating to your financial well-being during a divorce. On the same token, be discreet with whom you discuss the divorce other than your attorney, as incriminating emails, text messages, Tweets, Facebook posts or photos “can and will be used against you” by your divorcing spouse, he writes.
In order to accurately portray your financial situation to the court, Landers stresses the need for clients to create what is called a Lifestyle Analysis–an in-depth look at your standard of living throughout the past several years. This will demonstrate your income and expenses, giving the court an idea of “how much you and your husband spent on an average basis month-to-month and year-to-year,” he writes, “and you can use these calculations as a guide to help you develop a budget for yourself as a single woman/mother.”
Landers says Lifestyle Analyses, which are best prepared by Certified Divorce Financial Analysts, are great at uncovering assets your husband may be trying to hide. In reviewing his clients’ financial activities, he says, “it’s not unusual . . . to discover a husband has been pursuing some kind of nefarious activity, such as selling marital assets, concealing income, collecting art, or even supporting an extramarital relationship completely unbeknownst to his wife.”
Diligence is the key to ascertaining your financial future, Landers writes. Get a copy of your credit report, monitor and catalog all spending and ensure that you have secured funds for attorney and analyst fees. When in doubt, seek professional help.