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How to Manage Money When You’re Separated from Your Spouse


No matter how long you’ve been married, it’s always difficult on everyone involved when a legal separation or divorce is in the works. There’s much to consider and when emotions are especially raw, it may not be easy making good financial decisions in the heat of the moment. If you are in the midst of a separation, here is some advice on how to manage money during this time of upheaval.

Nothing Is ‘Mine’ Yet

The very first mistake that many married couples make when separating is to assume that what’s mine is mine and the rest belongs to my spouse. In most states, and unless there has been a very specific prenuptial contract, everything is still jointly yours. This is an important consideration, especially if there are children involved. Until the final dissolution of the marriage, you need to continue looking at any money as jointly owned.

Closing Joint Bank Accounts

Here is another potentially ‘sticky’ subject. While most banks will let anyone listed on the account to close it in person, the account must be at a zero balance to do so. This means one of two things. In the first instance, you can learn how to close a joint bank account with a positive balance, but what kind of legal ramifications will that offer if the money isn’t then jointly shared out? On the other hand, what if there is a negative balance? Perhaps one or more checks were paid leaving you in the red. This money will be seen as jointly owed by the couple just as any positive balances will be viewed in court as jointly owned.

Dependents Should Always Come First

If there are dependent children in the home, they should always come first when managing your finances. Just like when you were still together, the children’s needs take priority. Don’t start bickering over who gets what until the kids are seen to. This not only includes any real property but also bank accounts, trust funds and so forth. You have a legal responsibility to provide for your children, so get past the bickering to make sure the kids have what they need. After that, it’s for the courts to decide who gets what and when.

When One Spouse Has Been Providing All or Most of the Income

Here is another issue that often arises during a separation. It isn’t uncommon to see the partner who provided most of the financial support to start thinking of any income as theirs. Again, until the divorce decree is finalised, it is still considered joint income based on implied contractual agreements. For example, the husband has been a stay at home dad while mom was the bread winner. This doesn’t automatically entitle mom to keep all future pay checks because she was the sole provider. Here again, if kids are involved, their needs take priority, so get over the ‘mine’ and ‘yours’ mindset. From closing a joint checking account to managing ongoing bills, everything is still jointly owed and owned until such time as a judge makes a final decree. Keep your facts straight or it could cost you in the end.

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