Important Financial Legalities to Know About During a Separation
Separation and divorce can be filled with complications. For a parent, separation and divorce can be even more complex. Many decisions must be made during a divorce, and they start with the separation. Coming to agreements during the separation process, like which parent will take physical custody of the children and which parent will be responsible for child support, can affect how the divorce plays out. There are financial legalities you need to know about that affect not only the divorce but the separation agreement.
The Bills Don’t End
Most married couples share debts. The debt that you assume together during your marriage does not go away when you separate. You are both still equally responsible for any debt incurred during the marriage. While divorce is common, since about 32,985 couples divorced in Pennsylvania alone in 2019, according to the Council on Family, debt collectors don’t consider divorce a reason for you not to pay off your debt.
You should have a formal separation agreement that lists who will pay what. Separating and skipping the step of a formal agreement can be detrimental to your finances and your credit.
If you are a parent and are not going to be the custodial parent (the parent the children live with) you are responsible for 50% of their financial support. Legally, you will be required to make child support payments regularly. If you make considerably more than your spouse, or if your spouse stayed home with the children while you worked, you will be responsible for spousal support as well.
Support payments are made throughout the separation period. Divorces can take a while to be finalized. For example, according to Washington Circuit Courts, there is a waiting period of 91 days before the court finalizes a divorce. That is not 91 days from the time you separate. That is 91 days from the time you file your divorce case.
Joint Bank Accounts
In many cases, joint bank accounts are halted until the court hears the divorce case. However, this freeze can be stopped if you have a written separation agreement that you and your spouse have signed that addresses how the funds in the account are to be split. Of course, joint accounts must be closed and the funds divided. This is another reason a written separation agreement is essential to the process.
Sometimes, divorcing couples will use money as a weapon, which is strongly discouraged. For example, don’t go and clear the accounts out. While legally, you have a right to the money, the court may find that you have to pay half of it back during the divorce proceedings.
Mortgages and Household Bills
Your house mortgage falls under the debt category. You are responsible for at least half the mortgage every month. If you are the parent leaving the family home, you may still be legally responsible for at least half of the household bills.
The best way to determine what your legal and financial responsibilities are is to speak with a lawyer. Every state has slightly different laws when it comes to separation and divorce.
Separation and divorce can be messy. You must keep good records of everything you pay during the separation. Don’t use cash; make any payments with a traceable currency like checks or electronic debit payments. According to Nolo, setting up a trust as a parent for your children may be a good way to track finances. A trust is a relationship between two parties for the benefit of a third party. With a trust, you can assign a fiduciary to oversee payments to your children and cut your spouse out of the picture.
Don’t go into your separation blindly. Connect with a lawyer to help you better understand your financial responsibilities and responsibilities as a parent during a separation.