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Assessing Your Financial Picture After Divorce

The pressing decision you face regarding your house during a divorce also presents a unique opportunity to assess your entire financial picture.
(1 min 51 sec read)

Laurel Starks
Laurel Starks is a divorce real estate specialist. Trained in both mediation and collaborative divorce methods, she speaks frequently on real estate and divorce issues to legal and alternative disputes resolution groups.

The pressing decision you face regarding your house also presents a unique opportunity to assess your entire financial picture.

If you haven’t yet done so, this would be a good time to consult a financial planner. If you must handle the task yourself, at least seize the moment to take a broad inventory of your situation. Amid the emotional disruption, you’ll benet by doing something completely counterintuitive: consider your marital community as a business.

This will be easy for those who are analytical and business-minded by nature—and feel completely odd to those who aren’t. But approaching things this way will help you make informed, wise decisions, preparing you for the future as you rebuild your life on your own.

Start with what businesspeople would recognize as a balance sheet: a two-column list with your assets on one side, your liabilities on the other. For example, your house would qualify as an asset, the mortgage as a liability. Include anything with real market value on the asset side, and every obligation or debt on the liability side. The difference between the two sums is your net worth.

Then, compile a list of your monthly income and expenses. Include everything: house payments, utilities, food, car payments, gasoline, entertainment, and an extra amount for the unanticipated costs that seem to crop up every month. If you own a business, produce a realistic figure for what the business brings in every month, after expenses, income taxes, and self-employment taxes.

This will form the basis of your household budget—an essential part of navigating the divorce process. You now have an idea of your current financial state and can begin planning for your future. You may, like many people at this point, conclude that you need more income. Where will that money come from? And how does the house fit into that picture?

Whatever path you ultimately choose, it’s wise to go in with as much information as possible. Get lots of advice. Then weigh it against what you really want. Look hard at the numbers, and don’t be afraid of what you see there.

You’re at the beginning of a journey. Don’t rush it.

Excerpt from The House Matters in Divorce by Laurel Starks, Unhooked Books.