Going through a divorce in Illinois is hard enough, but picking up the pieces and getting on with your life afterward can be a major challenge as well. One thing that can't be ignored are your finances. This can be a big hurdle, because usually one or the other spouse was the "accountant" in the relationship. Still, even savvy domestic money manages can use some advice.
Working here in Bloomington as a family law and divorce attorney, I am frequently asked by clients what their strategy should be regarding the financial side of a divorce settlement. Knowing your money situation and other household finances is a big part of this. Also, understanding the tax implications of certain payments will make your life that much easier in the long run. Below are some typical mistakes that people going through divorce tend to make.
Number One: Hanging on to the house at all costs
This is not necessarily the best option. According to financial experts, more attention should be given to which person can afford to maintain the property -- including paying the mortgage and managing the taxes. However, don't think that getting spousal support to help with the mortgage payments will keep you on easy street. Large unexpected costs, such as a new furnace or other large-scale maintenance usually happen sometime or another, which can make home ownership more of a burden and less of a luxury.
Number Two: Failing to make a clean financial break with your ex-spouse
Cleanly separating each of your debts and assets, especially if you have been married for a long time, can be a difficult task, but a very necessary one. Most any financial counselor will tell you this is absolutely necessary, and the consequences of not doing so can be devastating. It may seem overwhelming, but the alternative is many times worse. You don't want to have your ex racking up debt and ruining your personal credit score.
Number Three: Counting on your ex to comply with his financial obligations
While both parties in a divorce are beholden to the court-ordered divorce agreement, creditors do not fall under that arrangement. If your ex is supposed to pay the mortgage but fails to do so, the lender is apt to sue you both. And any missed payments or a default on a mortgage will hurt you next time you apply for a loan.
Number Four: Not reviewing your estate plan following your divorce
Wills and trusts can both be seriously impacted by divorce proceedings. If a divorced spouse waits too long to change the beneficiary on a will or life insurance policy, the money could end up going to the wrong person, and your new spouse may get nothing. It seems incredible, but there have been instances where an ex-spouse inherits money from a former wife or husband.
Number Five: Not understanding the different tax treatments for alimony and child support
As a last note, you should always be aware of which amount of money in your divorce settlement goes for alimony, and which goes for child support. Whereas child support payments are exempt from tax by the recipient, alimony payments are usually taxable. Also, remember that there are limits to how long a person can receive these payments. For instance, child support payments typically end when the child is emancipated, and spousal support typically ceases once that person gets remarried.
Jon D. McLaughlin