Managing money during a divorce

Starting over can feel like an uphill climb. Get a foothold by sorting your finances first.

Whatever the cause, the breakdown of a marriage can have significant impacts on your personal life and your finances. As you regain your footing, it’s important to keep money matters front and center. Don’t put this off—it’s a big part of prioritizing yourself during this time of change. 

Begin restructuring your financial life with these ten steps. 

1. Get a copy of your credit report and update it

Check your credit score for free with CreditWise from Capital One, and get a full copy of your report from a credit bureau. Be sure to remove accounts that are in your former spouse’s name, so your score isn’t affected. 

2. Close all joint accounts

Send a certified letter with return receipt requested to the customer service department of the credit card issuer(s). Remember, you are still responsible for paying existing balances. Follow up by making sure these changes are reported correctly to credit bureaus. 

3. Update household utilities, subscriptions and policies

Depending on your new living situation, you’ll want to remove your former spouse from household accounts, or create your own. 

4. Begin establishing credit in your own name

If all your accounts were merged, now is the time to apply for a credit card and open a bank account in your name only. 

5. Adjust to life on a single income

Take a deep breath and tackle a new budget plan. And don’t put off saving for retirement, even if you need to cut back temporarily. 

6. If you and your former spouse can’t agree on how debts should be divided, a judge may have to intervene

Usually, each party is responsible for debt brought into the marriage, and debt incurred after separation, even before the divorce is finalized. 

7. Get prepared for your first solo tax season

Chances are you filed jointly as a couple while you were married. Transitioning to single filing status can be tricky, so consider using an accountant for at least the first year. You might have to adjust for child support. 

8. Sort out healthcare coverage

If you were covered under your former spouse’s health insurance plan, you may be eligible for COBRA coverage. If he or she was on your plan, update it to have them removed. Avoid fines from a lapse in coverage by handling this step ASAP. 

9. Change beneficiaries in your will, retirement plans and life insurance policies

Update assets where your former spouse was listed as a beneficiary. 

10. Update legal documents, including powers of attorney and emergency contact numbers

Tie up legal loose ends by removing your former spouse from any documents and records that have them as your primary point of contact. 

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