Five dos and don'ts of divorce

Read our article: Soften the financial blow of divorce

It's a sad fact but January is the most popular month for couples to divorce. After the formalities of Christmas are over and the need to present a "united front" is done with many couples admit their relationships have broken down and file for divorce.

Of course the added stress of financial uncertainty that the current economic climate provides does not help matters.

If you are in a marriage that has come to an end there are certain dos and don'ts you should adhere to.


Sign a prenuptial agreement if you can

Prenups are not just for the rich and famous. Signing a prenup is the best way to ensure you keep what's rightfully yours. "A prenup is a good way to exclude assets such as pre-marital assets, inherited assets or parental gifts, from a settlement," says Marilyn Stowe, founder and senior partner at Stowe Family Law. "Otherwise these assets could be taken into account on divorce."

Consider keeping separate bank accounts

It's important that you remain in control of your own expenditure so you come out of the divorce financially independent. Stowe says during a divorce some spouses react emotionally and spend in revenge.

"You are personally liable for your own debts only, unless you have signed a guarantee for your spouse's bank account," she says. "However, on divorce, the court will take into account the debts of both parties and decide whether they are to be paid out of the joint pot or should be paid by the debtor spouse out of his or her share of the assets."


Hand over any cash to the household without some sort of proof

In the final analysis, all cash will count as belonging to you both unless you can prove otherwise. If you contribute to the household for something without help from your partner then keep documented proof of this.

Leave all financial considerations to your other half

If you've buried your head in the sand and allowed your other half to deal with the household finances you leave yourself at a disadvantage once the divorce goes to court.

"Marriage is a legal partnership and I believe couples should be truthful with each other, so they both know the full extent of each other's financial position," says Stowe.

"Huge debts can easily be run up on credit cards of which the other spouse is completely unaware. These debts can plunge the family finances into jeopardy. Similarly a business could be in trouble and the wife may be blissfully unaware. The husband shouldn't have to shoulder that burden alone."

Move out: abandoning the household

This is particularly important if children are involved as it means you'll lose many of your rights. Stowe says the question to ask yourself before moving out is, "Will the house be sold or does one of us wish to stay in it?"

"If you wish to stay and are advised that it is a realistic prospect, not wishful thinking, then it is a big mistake to move out," she says. "If you intend the house to be sold and your spouse objects, moving out could again be a big mistake." 

By staying in the property you ensure you still have control over its sale. "If you move out, your spouse could easily put off prospective purchasers, knowing the detrimental points about the property," adds Stowe.

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After the divorce is complete make sure that your will is updated.
This is one time that you must use a solicitor to write a cast iron will so that any money left to your children can't be purloined by a grasping ex spouse.