11 Dec Dividing Property in Divorce

ID-10071842Deciding how to split assets is more than just dividing the values on paper.  People often make the mistake of believing that dividing everything in half is the simplest and fairest way of handling things.  This is not necessarily true.  People need to pay attention to the decisions they make about dividing property and consider the long term consequences.

Assets differ in a number of ways.  Some are liquid like cash.  Some assets like RRSP accounts are tax deferred.  Some assets need to be valued in a specific manner according to family law rules and regulations.  Investments may have a different value after taking into account possible capital gains taxes.

Sometimes assets have an emotional connection that may have more worth than the actual dollar value such as a house, business, or family heirloom.

Assets may have costs to consider.  A couple may have a $400,000 investment  account and a house worth $400,000 (mortgage free).  The assumption is that if one spouse takes the house and the other takes the cash, this results in an equal division.  Keeping the house has costs such as property taxes and upkeep and maintenance. The investment account will be growing over time earning interest. It may not seem quite the equal split over a period of time.

Debts are also part of the division of marital property.  Allocating debts in divorce may mean paying them off, refinancing, or applying for new debt.  Different types of debt carry different fees, charge, penalties and terms.   Just because you have $10,000 left on your car loan and $10,000 credit card debt doesn’t mean that the car loan should go to one spouse while the credit card debt goes to the other.

Divorce settlements are often agreed upon with limited insight into the long-term consequences.  As a result, settlements that seem to be fair and workable initially do not necessarily stand the test of time.  Therefore, it is highly recommended that a divorce financial planner be brought into the process so that you can see how decisions you make today will affect the rest of your life.

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

01 Jun Financial Homework in Grey Divorce

When you’re considering divorce in your 50’s,    a big concern is the financial impact for you and your spouse at this stage of your lives.  If you delayed having children, they may be young and child support payments may derail retirement plans/savings. You may still be faced with funding post secondary education. You may be supporting aging parents. One spouse may already be retired.

Part of divorce is dissolving your family’s joint financial relationship. This can’t be done unless you know the total financial picture. All the facts need to be on the table so you can determine how best to separate your finances allowing both of you to make the best choices of how you will move forward on your own.

This means doing some homework in advance.  As a start, you need to find and prepare the following documents:

  • Tax returns from most recent tax years
  • Recent paystubs that show payroll deductions
  • List of personal property  such as cars, boats, valuable art, jewellery, antiques
  • Recent statement from Assets:
    • Bank accounts
    • Investment accounts including open, RRSP, RRIF accounts
    • Education savings Accounts
    • Other assets such as Stock options, other Company awards
    • Company Pension
  • Recent statements of Debts: Mortgage, Line of Credit both personal and joint, Car loans
  • Miscellaneous Info: Life insurance, Medical benefit plans
  • Business Ownership details

Doing your homework takes time.  Documents may be hard to locate. You may have to request copies from the bank or your employer. You may not have looked at some of these documents for a very long time.

You can hire a divorce financial professional to “tutor” you with your homework. They can help explain and organize it all so everyone is ready to start.

26 Jan Are you Financially Prepared for Divorce?

“Why didn’t I pay more attention to our family finances?”

I frequently hear this from women who find themselves facing divorce.  This is the time for women to start to make constructive and knowledgeable decisions about their money and their future. It’s never too late to get started.

Here are some steps you can take to get financial prepared for your divorce. (Frankly it’s good advice even if you aren’t facing divorce)

Pay Attention to the Household Finances
You should attend meetings with insurance agents, accountants, financial planners and lawyers. You should also look over monthly bank statements and credit-card bills. Ask about your husband’s company benefits including bonuses, other “perks”,  company pensions, and other savings  plans, etc. Keep a list of all bank and brokerage accounts and insurance policies.

Don’t lose your Financial Identity
You always want to maintain your own credit identity. Check if your credit cards are in your own name or if you are simply an authorized user as a lack of credit history can work against you.  You should have three bank accounts (his, hers and ours) and maintain separate credit cards.

Keep Your Skills Fresh
While you might welcome the chance to stay home with your kids, the longer you’re out of the work force, the harder it can be to jump back in. Women often face lowball wages or lower job titles when they try to return to work after a long hiatus.

Save for Retirement
Many married women don’t make retirement-saving a priority. If the husband is the primary wage earner, the wife often trusts her spouse to save enough for their collective golden years. A woman spending her retirement savings, (sometime all on legal fees),   is particularly distressing considering that women, on average, live six years longer than men.

Get Financial Guidance
When women are going through a divorce, they need to determine which assets will help them pay their bills and reach their long-term goals. Too many women fight for the home to avoid uprooting their children, only to find that they don’t have the cash flow to pay for it.

Divorce is not only the end of a marriage but it is the breakup of an economic unit. Financial awareness will go a long way to help you feel more in control and better equipped to make reasoned decisions.

31 Aug Divorce and Borrowing

Here’s a recent item from the Globe and Mail that caught my attention:

Canadian borrowers are fast approaching a day of reckoning. Lured by cheap money, families have pushed credit levels to a record high. Now, mortgage rates are beginning to creep up and the Bank of Canada is poised to retreat from the record-low interest rates it adopted to fight the recession and spur recovery. The end of the free-money era has left consumers more vulnerable than ever, and those who threw caution to the wind could soon face costs they can’t handle.

Household debt has surged three times faster than income in recent years and now stands at a record high of more than $1-trillion. Put another way, Canadians owe about $1.47 for every dollar of disposable income.

Now, throw separation and divorce into the mix making debts issues even more challenging. How do you reduce your debts when you’re faced with paying for 2 households, child support, spousal support and attempting to maintain a similar standard of living after divorce? Something has to give!