Maintaining your financial security is one of your most important considerations when faced with divorce. Your main concern should be negotiating the best possible settlement agreement — one you know you can live with after the ink dries on your divorce decree.
There are many steps you can take to ensure you will come through the process financially secure. Below is a list of some commonly made mistakes when negotiating a divorce settlement — make sure you don't fall victim to them!
1. Never agree to a termination date for spousal support or alimony if the law does not require it. Make sure the wording in your divorce decree states that this issue has to be revisited in court before payments can stop. You may continue to need financial assistance from your ex-spouse past a date in your decree. You want to have the option of arguing against modification of support in court.
2. Never use the same attorney that your husband is using. So many women fall prey to this and end up regretting it later. Your husband's attorney is being paid to protect your husband's interests. You need an attorney who will protect your interests. Using one attorney will save money in the short-term but you will likely pay for it in the long-term.
3. If your husband assumes any debt that is jointly held, make sure your name is removed from the accounts. Do this before your divorce is final. If he refuses to pay after the divorce, you don't want your credit score negatively affected by his defiance.
4. Don't fight for assets you can't afford to maintain. Houses, boats, vacation homes, and automobiles all come with their own expenses. If your post-divorce budget is not going to allow you to keep up with those expenses then let those assets go. So many women fight to keep the family home — they feel it is important for their children to remain in the home they grew up in. In the end, these women suffer financially and live daily with the stress of having a home they can't afford.
5. If you have children who will one day go to college, make sure those expenses are negotiated now. Most states do not require a non-custodial parent to help with college expenses. Addressing this issue at the time of divorce will hopefully keep you from having to pay for college alone.
6. Finally, NEVER sign your final divorce decree without fully reading and comprehending every word. If you have doubts about what you read, don't allow anyone to make you feel guilty about not wanting to sign it. Don't sign your name to it until you are 100% satisfied with your settlement and the wording in the decree.
Cathy Meyer is the head of About.com's Divorce Support channel.
10 Tips for Managing Your Settlement, by Kate Vunic
How to Renegotiate a Divorce Settlement, with Laurie Puhn (video)
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