Your divorce agreement will lay out financial responsibilities such as child care and spousal support to be paid after you are divorced. However, in the meantime, household bills still need to be paid. You and your soon-to-be-ex will have to come to an agreement about who will pay what, and then we can type up the agreement and make sure it is processed through the court. If you cannot agree, we can get involved to negotiate with your spouse through his/her attorney in order to make sure you don't tank your credit score or go into debt during the divorce process.
Dealing with joint accounts
The first thing you'll have to do is go through all your financial assets and expenses and classify them as “yours, mine, or ours.” While there may be some dispute, usually the items that belong to one spouse or the other are fairly clear. It's the joint accounts that cause the most problems.
If your divorce is amicable and you have joint financial accounts, you should each create separate accounts and either decide to split the joint money in a fair manner (your lawyer should help you with this) or make an agreement regarding what the joint money can be spent on – for instance, only on household and child-related expenses, not on personal or luxury items.
If an agreement cannot be reached, have your lawyer file a temporary order to prevent your spouse from emptying your accounts or spending the money on frivolous things. If that does happen, the court will likely require that your spouse refund the money, but in the meantime, you will be without that money to pay bills.
Cancel joint credit cards and open separate accounts under your name. If you are carrying a balance, you will need to decide how to divide it and how much each will pay monthly.
Change your passwords, including for all electronic devices and joint online accounts, and inform all critical parties (banks, creditors, and other institutions) that you are divorcing. However, understand that the electric company and other creditors will not care about your personal problems. They want to be paid, and the person whose name is on the bill will be responsible. If both your names are on a bill and your spouse doesn't pay it, you are solely responsible if you want to keep the lights on and protect your credit score. So it's essential that you make an agreement early on about who will pay what bills.
Care for the children
The financial responsibilities of raising children need to be addressed during your divorce as well as after. Issues to consider with children may include:
- Food, clothing
- Medical and dental insurance
- Extracurricular activities
- School tuition, supplies, class trips
- College tuition
- Housing and transportation
There may be many other expenses to consider, depending on your children and your situation. You'll need to contact your health insurance company to determine what effect divorce may have on your coverage and what changes you'll need to make to the policy.
Draw up an agreement
If you've been able to come to an agreement about expenses on your own, it's now time to meet with your divorce attorney to write up an official agreement and have it notarized. It is critical to make your agreement official, because while things may be cordial right now, a number of factors may cause one spouse or the other to be unable or unwilling to uphold the financial arrangements: lost job, new significant other, or health problems, to name a few. Don't take that risk.
Of course, if your divorce is not amicable, you need an experienced attorney by your side through this entire process to make sure your assets are protected, the bills are being paid, and your children's needs are covered. At the Law Offices of Blitshtein and Weiss, P.C., we are experts in all aspects of Pennsylvania Family Law. While we offer compassionate support during a difficult time, we work aggressively to make sure you receive a settlement that protects you and your children and helps you start your new life. Contact us today at (215) 364-4900 in our Southampton, Montgomery County office for a free consultation.