When one is first contemplating leaving a marriage or when one is first told their marriage is ending, panic can set in. Oh my gosh, will I be able to stay in my home? Where will I go? What kind of place can I afford? Will I have to get a roommate? All of these thoughts can come flooding through our consciousness.
Don't panic. It really does not matter if you are the one who has handled the finances or the one who knows very little to nothing about your family's finances. Begin to gather invoices to help you understand how much you spend on a monthly basis. You will want to locate the invoices for expenses such as utilities, cell phone, mortgage or rent (which may be in a different home), groceries, gasoline, parking, day care, dues, clothes, pets, prescriptions, health insurance, credit card bills, auto and student loans, haircuts, and any other kind of expense that you pay each month. This would include contributions to a retirement account. You may not have all the invoices or receipts. In that case begin to keep track of all the expenses you incur on a daily basis for a couple of months to see what you are spending and in what category.
Then think about other bills that come in once, twice, or maybe three times per year such as property taxes, property insurance, umbrella insurance, auto insurance, vet bills, auto repairs, house maintenance, and tuition. Figure out what an average monthly amount would be and add this to your known monthly amounts for regular monthly bills. This should give you a reasonable idea of your total average monthly expenses before income taxes are considered. This exercise is very grounding.
Income taxes are likely be different in the year you are divorced. If you have questions about what taxes may be or if you want further guidance in this process, seek the advice of a divorce financial professional.
This exercise of gaining a complete understanding of your family's spending patterns will help you feel in control of your life and help you be confident about your decisions when it is time to make financial agreements with your spouse.
Judith F. Sterling is a CPA, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, and Collaborative Financial Specialist practicing in Sonoma and Marin Counties.
photo credit: Ann Buscho, Ph.D.