How to put your financial house in order in the event of a separation

By Jennifer Thompson


July 8, 2020

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Sally called her financial advisor. Sobbing, she said, “my entire world has just crashed. David told me this morning he is leaving me. He has fallen for a woman he met eight days ago. Yes, you heard that right; he met her eight days ago.”

Sally and David, in their late forties, had a tumultuous marriage for years. Aside from the challenges of building a new business in a new country, they had three teens, one with severe mental illness. The business thrived, but their marriage did not.


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There is enormous emotional upheaval when there is a breakup in a family. And then there is the financial fallout that results from a divorce. With almost half of marriages ending in divorce, couples need to know what to do to survive separation and possibly a divorce.


The children


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Who will take care of them?


If there are children involved, you will need to decide where the children will reside. Depending on the jurisdiction, there may be a difference between “shared custody” versus “joint custody.”


How much will be paid in terms of child support and alimony?


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This will depend on more than just the incomes of the spouses. As far as the courts are concerned, the quality of the children’s lives should not be diminished as a result of the separation, although we know that it is not the case in most divorces.

Most jurisdictions have prescribed support payments that are determined by income, but a myriad of things will be considered beyond the specified amounts. There is more than a monthly child support payment involved. It also includes extracurricular activities the children may be involved in, such as swimming lessons.




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The matrimonial home?

Many couples prefer the children to remain in the same home to allow for minimal disruption in an otherwise tumultuous time. Is the spouse who may have stayed home for years to raise the children able to afford to buy out the other spouse’s share of the home? Or will the matrimonial home be sold?

Take stock of your finances:

  • Make a list of property you own jointly or separately. Same with debts and expenses. How will you divide any property – the matrimonial home, the rental, the cottage?
  • List your financial institutions and account numbers for your bank accounts, credit cards, loans, and investments.
  • Know your rights and responsibilities related to joint accounts and loans.


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  • Make sure you have copies of financial information: statements for outstanding loans, recent pay stubs, and your tax returns for the past three years.
  • When you consign for a loan, credit card, or line of credit, each of the joint borrowers can receive the same information from the lender about the loan. For example, if you cosigned for a credit card with your former partner, the lender must give each of you copies of the credit agreement and the monthly statements, unless you consented either verbally or in writing to waive this right.


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  • If you have already waived your right to separate disclosure, you can change your consent if you decide you would like to receive information about the joint account or loan.
  • You should decide what to do with the joint assets or debts you share with your partner. Get advice from your lawyer on the best way to handle these.


Contact your financial institution.

  • For advice on protecting your interests in your joint accounts, such as preventing further borrowing from a line of credit or withdrawals from a joint bank account.
  • While you are working out your separation or divorce, keep bills and receipts for your family’s expenses. This will be helpful later when you are working out how to divide your property.
  • If you don’t close your joint accounts and loans, both of you may continue to be legally entitled to the funds in any joint accounts and responsible for repaying any debts, even if your separation agreement states that only one person is responsible.



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  • If one borrower doesn’t pay the debt, the lender can demand that any borrower listed in the loan or credit agreement pay the entire amount or continue making regular payments.
  • With most credit card companies, the joint or “secondary cardholders” is also held responsible for any outstanding balances.
  •  To find out whether you are responsible, read your credit agreement or ask your lender.
  • Once you have closed joint accounts or paid off joint loans, check your credit report to update your financial information.



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Decide how you will split your pensions. And what about extended health care benefits? This is of more significant concern if one partner makes a substantially lesser income or may have taken time off work to raise the children. Health care benefits are not equal from one company to the next. This is of more significant concern if only one partner worked, and the other took time off work to raise their children.

While the courts will look at some degree of equalization for the partner that stayed home, it is unlikely.


Financially Re-establish Yourself


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  • Establish individual accounts if you have not already done so.
  • Update your direct deposit information for paychecks, government checks, and any other regular deposits you receive to ensure they deposited into your account.
  • If your credit facilities were all in joint names, now is the time to establish credit in just your name.
  • This could be an issue if most of a couple’s accounts and bills were registered and paid under one spouse’s name. As a result, the other spouse may have a low credit score.
  • Update your Will. It is very likely the Will you made while you were married had your ex-spouse as the beneficiary of your assets. That may not be your wish after the separation.


Give yourself time before starting a new relationship!

divorce is a traumatic event. If you do have children, both you and they will need time to heal, recover, and get used to a new normal. It may take a while before introducing them to the idea of you having a new partner. You will also need time to establish yourself financially before deciding to enter another commitment.

Get Expert Advice


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If you and your former partner need assistance in reaching an agreement on these issues, you can consult several resources:

  • lawyers and notaries – who specialize in family law.
  • mediators
  • arbitrators
  • financial advisors
  • Credit Counselors.


Do not condemn your ex to your children 

Divorces are rarely amicable. Emotions are running high. Refrain from tearing down your ex in front of the children. Remember that when you speak ill about your ex, you are talking ill about a parent of theirs. This will affect their emotional well-being. Remember, they are a part of him and will always be a part of him or her. 

Get emotional support from a family counselor or a minister at your church.

Your identity changes after a separation. You are no longer part of a couple. As you get used to a new life, you will need emotional support from family, friends, and maybe even a divorce support group. Get support from people who can help you navigate this tumultuous time.

Practice self-care

While taking care of business and tending to your children’s needs, do not forget your needs as well. A divorce is a traumatic event. You cannot help your children if you are not healthy – physically and emotionally. 


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Anyone thinking of separating should seek legal advice as soon as they can.

The laws that apply to financial matters such as property division and spousal support depending on where you live. They also depend on your partnership’s status – whether you were married or in a common-law relationship. And if you were married, whether you are separating or getting a divorce.

Divorce is both financially and emotionally, a very stressful event in a family’s life. Many single mothers live in poverty as a result. Women who take control of their finances early in life have a better chance, financially, to weather these storms.


This post contains affiliate links. More information on this is attached here.

Other Resources



Money and Marriage 

Money and Remarriage

Alimony Calculator | MaritalLaws (USA)
Child Support Calculator – Canada

Jennifer Thompson was a financial advisor for over twenty years. Now, as a life coach, author, and international speaker, she teaches women the techniques to develop a consciousness for abundance for a more compelling life

She can be reached at


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