The practical guide

Divorce & Money

How to Make the Best Financial Decisions During Divorce

All the information you need to split assets, easily and fairly

Make savvy, informed financial decisions during divorce. Learn about dividing debts, setting alimony, negotiating a fair settlement and more. With Divorce & Money, you'll find out how to:

  • organize and understand your finances
  • handle alimony and child support, and
  • reduce risks to your investments.

See below for a full product description.

Available as part of Nolo's Divorce Bundle

  • Product Details
  • Major financial decisions are often overwhelming, but they can feel downright impossible when you’re in the midst of a divorce. Turn to Divorce & Money, the acclaimed guide that translates complex financial concepts into plain language to help you:

    • create a cash flow statement using your income and expenses
    • uncover your spouse’s financial information
    • determine the value of real estate, retirement accounts, and other assets
    • understand how child support and alimony are calculated
    • divide your property and debts fairly
    • negotiate a comprehensive settlement
    • achieve financial stability after divorce, and
    • learn when and how to talk to a professional (attorney, tax adviser, or appraiser).

    “Precisely the right book to read to keep your property, your rights, plus your sanity.”—Steve Crowley, host of “American Scene” and author of Money for Life

    “An essential purchase for anyone contemplating a split…”—Los Angeles Times


    Number of Pages
    Included Forms

    Financial Fact-Finding
    Financial Facts Checklist

    What Must I Plan For?
    Worksheet: Where You Do/Don’t Want to Be in the Future
    Worksheet: What’s Happening in Your Life

    Property and Expenses
    Net Worth Statement: Assets and Liabilities Worksheet
    Net Worth: Balance Sheet Summary
    Cash Flow: Income and Expenses

    What Will Happen to the House?
    Monthly Housing Costs Chart
    Net Monthly Housing Costs Chart
    Find the Equity Value of Your House

    Dividing Retirement Benefits
    Calculating the Financial Value of Plans
    Sample Letter to Spouse’s Employer

    Dividing Financial Investments
    Investment Chart
    Real Estate Values
    Value of Insurance Policy

    Dividing Debts
    Spousal Debt Chart

    Child Support and Alimony
    What Does It Cost to Raise Your Children?
    Checklist of Issues to Consider When Negotiating Child Support
    How Much Do You Need to Live On?
    How Much Alimony Do You Need—Or Can You Afford To Pay?

    Negotiating and Finalizing the Best Possible Settlement
    Marital Balance Sheet

    After the Divorce
    Finishing the Business of Divorce
    Worksheet: How Can I Move Beyond the Divorce?
    Goal Setting Worksheet

  • About the Author
    • Lina Guillen, Attorney · UC Law San Francisco

      Lina Guillen was a Legal Editor at Nolo and is an author and trial attorney with over 20 years of experience in a wide range of legal matters. She is an active member of the California State Bar and received her J.D. from UC Law San Francisco.

      Lina has been quoted in several national newspapers, online publications, and print magazines, including The New York Times, CNBC, U.S. News, Kiplinger, HowStuffWorks, and Real Simple Magazine, and interviewed by reporter Vivien Lee for Spectrum News in New York.

      Legal experience. Lina served as an extern for the Honorable Judge Susan Illston of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. After graduating, Lina practiced at several Bay Area firms, gaining experience in probate litigation, general commercial disputes, real property disputes, white collar crime, public agency, civil rights, employment law, and family law matters. She handled investigations, prepared motions, completed discovery, took and defended depositions, argued hearings, and conducted court trials.

      Volunteer work. As a practicing attorney, Lina noted the disparity in outcomes between those who could afford lawyers and those who couldn’t. This inspired her to volunteer at various organizations, including Project Homeless Connect, the Justice & Diversity Center, and Legal Aid of Marin, where she provided free legal assistance to individuals with no access to attorneys.

      Writing experience. In addition to law, Lina has always had a passion for writing. She was an editorial assistant for The Press Democrat newspaper, researching and editing major stories and writing smaller pieces for the paper. At Hastings, Lina served as the submissions editor for the Hastings Women's Law Journal.  She also took writing classes at the Writing Salon in San Francisco and studied Writing, Editing, and Technical Communication through the U.C. Berkeley Extension Program.

      Working at Nolo. Lina’s legal experience, volunteer work, and writing background drew her to Nolo in 2012, where she felt she could put her skills to good use by assisting in Nolo’s mission to provide reliable legal information to consumers. As a Legal Editor, Lina has edited and coauthored Nolo books, managed the development of legal content on several Nolo websites, and written numerous legal articles on family law issues, LGBTQ law, and more.

      She is the coauthor of Neighbor Law,  8th edition; Divorce & Money: How to Make the Best Financial Decisions During Divorce; Living Together: A Legal Guide for Unmarried Couples; and A Legal Guide for Lesbian and Gay Couples.

  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction: Your Financial Companion During Divorce

    • If You Are Feeling Overwhelmed…
    • Managing Your Divorce in Troubled Financial Times
    • How to Use This Book
    • A Note on Same-Sex Marriage and This Book

    1. Legal vs. Financial Realities of Divorce

    • Lessons in Legal Reality
    • Your Best Strategy: Think Financially—Act Legally
    • Legal vs. Financial Stages of Divorce

    2. Financial Realities No One Talks About

    • In Divorce, Everything Takes Longer and Costs More
    • You're at Risk When You’re Financially Connected to Another Person
    • The IRS Is Watching Your Divorce
    • Cash Is King
    • You’re Playing for Keeps

    3. Emotional Divorce: Managing the “Money Crazies”

    • Reduce Stress Whenever You Can
    • Safeguard Your Sanity
    • Watch Out for Sore Spots
    • Be Prepared for the Worst
    • Develop a Financially Focused Mental Attitude
    • Avoid the “All at Once” Syndrome
    • Manage the Ebb and Flow of Emotions
    • Don’t Let Financial Tasks Overwhelm You

    4. The Hardest Part: Is My Marriage Really Over?

    5. The Separation: What Happens When One Spouse Moves Out?

    • The Separation Date
    • Building Better Credit Reports and Credit Scores
    • Social Security Benefits After Divorce
    • Questions to Ask an Attorney

    6. Closing the Books: What Do We Do With Joint Property?

    • Joint Account Checklist
    • Questions to Ask an Attorney

    7. Getting Help: Whom Can I Turn To?

    • Questions to Consider When Seeking Outside Help
    • Selecting Professionals to Assist You

    8. Financial Fact-Finding: What Must I Know and When Must I Know It?

    • Advice to the Terminally Disorganized
    • If You Think Your Spouse May Be Hiding Assets
    • Don’t Forget the “Easy-to-Forget” Assets
    • The W-2 and the Tax Return
    • What About the Gifts You Gave Me?
    • Financial Facts Checklist
    • Questions to Ask an Attorney

    9. Facing the Future: What Must I Plan For?

    • Major Upcoming Life Events
    • Anticipated Financial Commitments
    • Major Goals That Will Cost Money
    • Where Does the Money Come From?

    10. Protecting Against Risks to Life, Health, and Property

    • Insurance
    • Property and Estate Protection
    • Questions to Ask an Attorney

    11. Taxes: How Do I File and Pay?

    • Get a Rough Estimate of Your Tax Bill
    • Which Status Is Better to Use When Filing Tax Returns?
    • When in Doubt, File Separately
    • What to Know If You File Jointly
    • Dividing the Joint Tax Liability—Or the Refund
    • Tax Issues Involving Temporary Alimony or Child Support
    • Get Your Tax Agreement in Writing
    • Questions to Ask a Tax Adviser

    12. Property and Expenses: Who Owns and Who Owes What?

    • Who Owns What—Marital Property and the Laws of Your State
    • Who Knows What—Using Legal Discovery
    • Net Worth—What Do You Own and What Do You Owe?
    • The Difference Between Assets and Income
    • Cash Flow—Where Does the Money Go?
    • Questions to Ask an Attorney

    13. What Will Happen to the House?

    • Financial Versus Legal Realities
    • The House—Keep It, Transfer It, or Sell It? Now or Later?
    • Steps Toward Settling the House
    • Questions to Ask an Attorney or Financial Adviser

    14. Retirement Benefits: Who Gets What?

    • Understanding Retirement Plans
    • Qualified Domestic Relations Orders
    • The Legal Value of Your Retirement Plans
    • The Financial Value of Your Retirement Plans
    • Calculating the Financial Value of Plans
    • Additional Financial Factors Affecting Retirement Plan Divisions
    • The Division Decision: Now or in the Future
    • Questions to Ask an Attorney

    15. Financial Investments: How Do We Divide the Portfolio Pie?

    • Concepts to Consider
    • Steps to a Settlement

    16. Evaluating Employee Benefits and Stock Options

    • Employee Benefits
    • Stock Options and Nonqualified Deferred Compensation Plans
    • Questions to Ask an Attorney or Tax Specialist

    17. How Will We Divide Debts?

    • General Rules on Who’s Responsible for Debt
    • If You Live in a Community Property State
    • Listing Your Debts
    • Marital Debts and Bankruptcy
    • Dividing Debts at Divorce
    • Dividing Debts When There’s Nothing to Fight Over
    • Questions to Ask a Divorce Attorney
    • Questions to Ask a Bankruptcy Attorney

    18. Child Support and Alimony: What Might I Pay or Receive?

    • Child Support—Legal, Financial, and Emotional Realities
    • Steps to a Settlement
    • Alimony—Legal, Financial, and Emotional Realities
    • Steps to a Settlement
    • Questions to Ask an Attorney

    19. Negotiating and Finalizing the Best Possible Settlement

    • Have You Done Your Financial Homework?
    • Tallying Your Marital Balance Sheet
    • How Are the Offers and Counteroffers Made?
    • How Do You Finalize the Settlement?
    • Divorce Ceremonies

    20. After the Divorce: How Do I Get From “We” to “Me”?

    • How Do I Finish the Business of Divorce?
    • Can I—Or My Ex-Spouse—Change the Settlement?
    • What Do I Want to Do With My Life?
    • If You Find a New Love, Protect Your Old Assets…and Your Alimony
    • How Can I Move Beyond the Divorce?


    • Law Libraries
    • Lawyers
    • Online Legal Resources
    • Additional Resources
    • Present Value Factors
    • Future Value Factors
    • List of Professional Advisers


  • Sample Chapter
  • Chapter 1
    Legal vs. Financial Realities of Divorce

    Sooner or later during your divorce, you will discover one insight that is central to this book and to the successful outcome of your settlement:

    Legal reality and financial reality are fundamentally different.

    Did you know that, if you have a legitimate home business, you might be able to deduct:

    A seemingly simple idea—but you’d be surprised how long it takes to sink in. To help you understand why this concept is so important, take a few moments to consider the following real-life divorce stories. In each, read the Legal Reality first. Then, see the true outcome on the Financial Reality side.

    Legal RealityFinancial Reality

    Jonathan and Penny were married for five years before they divorced. During that time, Penny frequently ran their credit cards to the limit buying clothing and had trouble balancing their checkbook.

    When they reached the final settlement hearing, Jonathan was greatly relieved when the court made Penny solely responsible for paying the $10,000 in credit card debts she had accumulated during their marriage. The settlement was included in the final divorce judgment, which made Jonathan feel safe.

    After the divorce, Penny didn’t pay off the credit cards, and creditors began hounding Jonathan for the money. Jonathan ended up footing the bills, because a divorce settlement assigning debts—even one included in a divorce judgment—can’t change a couple’s original joint obligation to their creditors.

    Had Jonathan raised the issue before their settlement was finalized, he could have demanded more property in exchange for paying Penny’s debts or insisted that they sell some jointly held property to pay off their creditors.

    Moral of the story:
    Getting something “in writing” from the court doesn’t always mean you’ll get it for real.

    Legal RealityFinancial Reality

    During their 15-year marriage, Sharon and Bill were committed to building up a good portfolio of stocks and mutual funds for their retirement.

    Because Sharon avidly followed the market, she wanted to keep a batch of stocks she had recently purchased and asked Bill to take stocks of equal value, which they had purchased early in their marriage. After negotiating over a few other assets, Bill and Sharon reached an agreement in which each of them would receive the exact same dollar amount in cash or assets at the end of the divorce. The court accepted the terms of their settlement, and the books on their marriage were quickly closed.

    Sharon paid attention to basic financial facts that Bill ignored: costs and taxes that decrease the value of an asset.

    Sharon wisely picked the stocks most recently purchased. Because these stocks had not increased substantially in value, the taxable capital gains were low. Bill, however, blithely accepted the older stocks, which had gone up a lot in value since the time of purchase. Even at a capital gains rate of 20%, he owed substantial taxes when he sold the stocks. Had he taken the time to calculate his potential tax burden before agreeing to the settlement, he could have suggested splitting the stocks so that each spouse took half of the older stocks and half of the newer stocks.

    Moral of the story:
    A 50-50 settlement isn’t always equal.

    Lessons in Legal Reality

    The legal and financial perspectives on divorce are two distinct views of the same event. Ending your marriage with no assets or huge debts is the hard way to learn about the difference between these two realities. But if you are proactive from the get-go, your lessons don’t have to be so costly.

    If you intended to master Chinese cooking, you wouldn’t begin by picking up Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, even though it covers the same general topic of cooking. Similarly, you must take the time to consider the crucial differences between the legal and financial perspectives on divorce.

    These four basic guidelines help define the legal perspective of divorce:

    • Most divorces are settled out of court.
    • Generally, divorce law is local.
    • Don’t expect the legal system (or a lawyer) to take care of you.
    • It’s easier to write laws than to enforce them.

    Most Divorces Are Settled Out of Court

    You might imagine that your divorce will be capped by a courtroom trial where you’ll explain to a wise, kindly judge exactly how your spouse wronged you or where your lawyer wins the day.

    Don’t count on it. Legal TV scripts don’t reflect reality.

    An estimated 90% of divorce cases are settled without a court trial, most of which is done through meetings between spouses or their lawyers, and often on the courthouse steps. As the trial date nears, you’ll quite likely be rushed into conferences in the courtroom hall or a coffee shop. In these frantic last-minute meetings, your spouse and/or the attorneys may confront you, demanding instant decisions on issues that will affect the rest of your life.

    Most divorce courts today are primarily concerned with money, not morals. The legal system’s main job is to resolve property disputes and to ensure the welfare of children. Spousal misconduct, of course, could affect custody, and economic mischief (such as hiding assets) can change the outcome of a final settlement. But judges don’t have time to let you (and every other wronged spouse) vent in open court about your mate, when numerous other cases, with more urgent problems, also need to be heard that day. Emotional pain is not part of the legal or financial reality of divorce.

    The impersonal atmosphere of court might baffle or intimidate you, but this reaction isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A divorce that ends up in court is a protracted, expensive affair that many couples are wise to avoid. Often, it is to your advantage to stay out of the courtroom.

    As long as you and your spouse work toward a settlement without involving the court, you can trade property, negotiate terms, and still maintain some measure of control over your destiny. If you can’t reach a settlement and must have a trial, however, you put your fate into the hands of a judge—a stranger who knows nothing about your children or property.

    Yet, you’ll have to live with whatever that judge decides.

    Even in cases that are resolved before trial, there are often numerous pretrial court hearings, such as those for temporary support, temporary custody, and attorneys’ fees, to name a few. These hearings alone can be incredibly expensive, yet many could be settled beforehand, with a little more effort at compromise.

    Divorce Law Is Local

    Not only do divorce laws differ from state to state, but interpretations of divorce law can vary from judge to judge. Whether you ultimately hire an attorney and whether or not you have a court trial, you should ask a local lawyer to assess the most likely outcome of a your divorce case. Find out how the local courts and individual judges view mediation. Also ask about judges’ attitudes and the prevailing mood regarding, for example, joint custody, moving away with the children, or alimony.

    Divorce courts are unlike other courts. They are called “courts of equity,” which means that the judges have wide discretion (leeway) in making decisions. While a lawyer can educate you on the law, a lawyer can’t ethically or realistically promise what the judge will do in your case.

    You might not like what you hear when you see a lawyer, who might tell you that the things you want in your divorce are impossible to get. Another attorney might promise you everything, but ultimately deliver nothing. Interviewing several attorneys for a cross section of opinions can give you a more accurate picture of your situation. (See Chapter 7 for information on hiring an attorney.)

    If you know how individual judges normally rule in your locale, your expectations will be more realistic. Even if you don’t have a trial (remember, 90% of cases settle), divorce lawyers tend to give advice that is consistent with local court rulings. Granted, it’s hard to ignore sensational newspaper stories about high-dollar-amount divorces in other parts of the country. But those cases are irrelevant. You must concentrate on what happens in your backyard, because that’s where your divorce and your financial future will be decided.

    Affording Attorneys

    This book tells you to “check with an attorney” on various questions. That’s because the individual circumstances of your divorce might require legal information beyond the scope of this book.

    But who’s going to pay for this costly legal advice?

    Attending a brief consultation with a lawyer shouldn’t bankrupt you. Organize your thoughts and questions before you seek legal advice so you can save time when the attorney’s meter is running. At an initial visit, spend an hour—not a day. Then go home and think about how much more you may have to spend on an attorney.

    In some cases, if your spouse makes substantially more income than you do, your spouse might be required to pay all or some of your attorneys’ fees. The lawyer should be able to advise you about this at the initial consultation.

    If you feel you truly need legal advice, but you have very little money and your spouse isn’t obligated to pay your attorneys’ fees, consider borrowing money or using a credit card to help pay for legal fees. Check with local law schools or bar associations, which may run divorce clinics where students assist low-income clients. Some law firms provide pro bono (free) legal services to clients who fall below certain income levels. Check with your local court, and visit its website, which may provide help in filling out paperwork. Many will also provide valuable explanations of different aspects of the divorce process.

    No matter what other decisions you make, here’s an important rule: Do not let your spouse’s attorney or anyone else chosen by your spouse represent you. If your spouse has an attorney, you should too. One attorney can’t represent both parties in a divorce action. For more information on finding—and working with—lawyers, see Chapter 7.

    Don’t Expect the Legal System to Take Care of You

    Always remember that the professionals you hire to represent you in a divorce are simply working for you: They are not living your life, and they expect you to be an active advocate for your own interests. Even if you have the money to hire expert negotiators, don’t fall into a passive attitude. You should be thinking like an entrepreneur during a divorce, not like a victim.

    If you were starting a business, you would first sit down with accountants and financial professionals to crunch the numbers and determine whether your new venture has a good chance of turning a profit. Only then, after the financial aspects have been examined, would you consult an attorney about potential legal problems. Likewise, when you know you’re heading toward divorce, you should determine (as best as you can) the value of all separate and joint assets and try to reconstruct a paper trail of financial information before you consult a divorce attorney.

    Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
    Don’t be intimidated or afraid to ask questions if something is unclear. One divorcing woman admitted that some of her troubles resulted from her own unwillingness to appear ignorant. In an interview with sociologist Terry Arendell in the book Mothers and Divorce, the woman recalled her divorce and commented, “Part of the problem was my own fault. I gave the appearance of being knowledgeable. I knew more about buying property and bank accounts than my lawyer did, but I didn’t understand all the tax things. And so I was reluctant to ask some of the things I should have asked.”

    However, becoming your own financial expert might be a very tall order—especially for spouses who aren’t accustomed to managing finances and are starting out from a position of no control. If your spouse has held the financial reins tightly, don’t despair. You can get up to speed with some expert assistance. If you’re a financial neophyte, you should immediately seek legal help to understand your rights and begin preparing for the negotiations to come.

    Definition: Settlement Agreement
    This book refers to “marital settlement agreements,” “property settlement agreements,” “settlement agreements,” or simply “agreements.” They all mean the same thing. A settlement agreement is a written contract between you and your spouse outlining how you will divide your property and debts, the amount of alimony and child support owed and who will pay it, who will have custody of or visitation with the children, and all other major issues. If you and your spouse are unable to reach an agreement on any of these issues (on your own or with the help of a mediator), you will have to go to court to have a judge resolve them. Once these issues are finalized— either through an agreement or by a judge—they are incorporated into the final divorce decree.

    Use the checklists and forms in this book to learn the basics of documenting your separate and joint assets. As you assemble documents, find a safe place (not in your home) to store them. Never underestimate the value of financial statements in a divorce.

    You must also realize that the legal system is not designed to help you with your finances once the divorce is granted. For example, you may legally and fairly split the benefits of a pension plan in a divorce settlement, but when the time comes to retire, you might have less income than you need to live on. The court can’t anticipate or resolve that problem for you.

    Further, the implications of future taxes on property are not taken into account in settlement agreements in most states. Generally, only existing—or impending—taxes can be factored into a division of assets. Anything beyond these taxes is considered speculation—and speculation isn’t normally welcome in the courtroom.

    For example, if, as part of the divorce settlement, you and your spouse will sell $40,000 of stock at a profit, you could agree that the taxes owed on the profit will be factored into the settlement and split between the two of you. But, if you decide instead to keep all of the stocks and your spouse gets another asset of the same value in exchange for your spouse’s portion of the stocks, the court will not (on its own) award you more at the time of trial to cover whatever amount of taxes you might owe in the future.

    You will need to call the shots today to keep a grip on your future. You can’t leave complex, speculative questions about your financial future to the one-dimensional perspective of divorce law.

    Don’t expect the legal system to make the best financial decisions for you. Only you can do this.

    Covenant Marriages

    Three states (Arizona, Arkansas, and Louisiana) provide marrying couples with the option of entering into “covenant” marriages. A covenant marriage makes it more difficult to get a divorce and is an alternative to a traditional marriage permitting divorce without restrictions. In addition to undergoing premarital counseling prior to their wedding, a couple wanting to end a covenant marriage must wait a full two years before proceeding, and may divorce only for reasons such as adultery or alcoholism. Parties in states offering covenant marriage are free to enter into a traditional marriage if they prefer. Opponents claim covenant marriages will force some women to stay in an abusive relationship.

    Most estimates indicate that only a very small number of couples— between 0.25% and 3%—have opted for covenant marriages in the states where they’re legal.

    It’s Easier to Write Laws Than to Enforce Them

    Laws concerning child support payments are among the most stringent on the books. Yet every year, countless parents fail to pay court-ordered child support. Nonenforcement of court orders is one aspect of legal reality for which you must prepare yourself. As you go through each step of your negotiations, ask, “How will I handle this if my ex refuses to abide by the agreement or the judge’s orders? What options do I have to enforce this agreement?” And most important, “How much will enforcement cost me?”

    When you recognize these risks ahead of time, you can take steps to minimize them.

    To enforce your divorce agreement, you will probably have to go to court. The process is expensive, time-consuming, and emotionally draining. If at all possible, keep animosity to a minimum after the divorce so that both parents’ custodial or visitation time with the children goes smoothly. In turn, that may make it more likely that your ex will make alimony and child support payments on time.

    Your Best Strategy: Think Financially—Act Legally

    Make your financial concerns the centerpiece of your divorce, and work within the framework of the law. That is the most powerful position you can take. If you think financially and act legally, you will be able to anticipate risks and assess your needs, before a financial disaster hits.

    No one wants to negotiate for an asset in a divorce and then be unable to sell it because they’d owe too much in taxes. Why should you go through the nightmare of settlement negotiations only to end up losing everything you fought for after the divorce is over?

    Remember: The legal process of divorce is something you will live through—but the financial reality is what you will have to live with for the rest of your life.

    In a divorce, it’s not what you get that counts—it’s what you keep.

    Legal vs. Financial Stages of Divorce

    Use the following table to help you understand the relationship between the legal and financial stages of divorce. These stages will be explored in more detail throughout the book. Keep in mind that few divorces will follow the steps in this exact order.

    Nolo’s websites, and, contain legal information and resources that will help you through your divorce.

    These sites include legal information on topics such as alimony, custody, child support, mediation, property and debt division, grandparent issues, and divorce in the military. They can also help you find local lawyers to assist you in your divorce. Divorce information online has exploded in recent years, and many other sites also specialize in divorce information, resources, and referrals to specialists, including therapists, mediators, and financial advisers.

    You will need to be discriminating when you search. Information available on the sites of private firms, for example, might be technically accurate, but this content is often more of a marketing tool than a reliable legal source.

    Government or nonprofit sites (which typically end in .gov or .org) such as those belonging to states, local courts, state bar associations, and law schools tend to be more reliable. These sites often offer online self-help centers, links to law libraries, clinics, and general information about the law in your county or district:

    •, and
    Legal StagesFinancial Stages
    Consult an attorney or do some research at a law library to learn about your legal rights and responsibilities. In particular, investigate how your state’s laws regarding separation affect custody, alimony, child support, debts incurred after separation, and changes in the value of marital assets after separation. Gather together your financial papers. Investigate the financial impact of separation and complete a cost— benefit analysis of your options. Make copies of all documents relating to assets, liabilities, income, and expenses whether or not you believe they’re important. Use the Financial Facts Checklist (Chapter 8) as a tool (but not a limitation) to what you copy. Close or freeze access to joint accounts. (See Chapter 6.) Open accounts in your own name before filing for divorce. Visit the Federal Trade Com- mission’s website to begin the process of obtaining free copies of your credit reports ( articles/free-credit-reports).
    Physically separate. For some couples, this means moving apart. For others, it’s living in different parts of the house and no longer sleeping together. Additionally, your state law may use its own criteria to define the date of marital separation. Consult with an attorney to determine the rules in your state. Keep track of debts incurred before and after separation, joint bills paid, and improvements made to property during separation. Keep receipts for moving and other expenses. Update insurance as necessary. Think about whether you will file taxes jointly or separately.
    One spouse files a complaint or petition requesting a divorce. This step begins the formal divorce proceedings. The other spouse must file an answer or response.  
    One spouse files a request for temporary orders regarding custody, visitation, alimony, or child support. The request may also ask that the other spouse pay both partners’ attorneys’ fees. Document all temporary alimony payments made, and write down your agreements about alimony.
    Conduct legal discovery (the procedures used to obtain information during a lawsuit) or win spouse’s cooperation to share documents. Determine the amount of alimony, child support, and attorneys’ fees you will pay or receive, if applicable. Conduct financial fact-finding. Complete the net worth and cash flow statements in Chapter 12. Hire a forensic accountant if necessary to search for hidden assets. Analyze your assets and debts—use appraisers, accountants, tax advisers, actuaries, and others to help you assess values, tax consequences, and other risks of keeping or giving up property.

    Begin settlement negotiations, using one of these possible scenarios:

    • Use mediation to negotiate the settlement.
    • Negotiate between yourselves.
    • Negotiate through your attorneys.
    • If you are unable to settle certain issues, bring those issues to a judge.
    Before settlement negotiations, make a list of all items you want the agreement to cover. Be sure to carefully analyze the tax ramifications and other financial pitfalls of each offer and counteroffer. Reduce attorneys’ fees by doing much of the legwork on your own, settling without an attorney, keeping anger out of your negotiations, and avoiding a trial. Remember that a trial can be very expensive. You’ll have to pay lawyers’ fees as well as the fees of the experts (accountants, actuaries, and the like) whom you bring in to testify.
    Draft your marital settlement agreement to incorporate terms of the settlement or the court order. The agreement is incorporated into the final judgment of divorce. If you settle by agreement, carefully check it against your wish list.

    We hope you enjoyed this sample chapter. The complete book is available for sale here at


3 Reviews
5 Star
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Great content

By Melissa C.

Great content, Great CE course refresher for CDFA professionals.

Posted on 10/10/2023

Worth it to read- you'll save money and time

By Kate M.

I've been involved with a divorce that has gone on for years and isn't even in the country! And this book still helped! It helped with the items that are still open and I know if I'd had it early on, I could have been more secure and maybe would have been able to help shorten this super painful life process. Even if you are angry and "it's all over"- or if you are trying to reconcile- this is a book for you!

Posted on 10/10/2023

Calm, objective, reliable, necessary information.

By Edward J.

A person who is getting divorced is at risk of serious financial losses -- whether caused by ignorance or deliberate cheating. This book protects against the risks. It covers issues that might otherwise be forgotten. It helps gather the information needed to get through this challenging process.

Posted on 10/10/2023

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