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What is the first thing to do when separating?

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What is the first thing to do when separating?

Separating from a spouse can be an emotional and difficult time. There are many things that need to be addressed and decisions that need to be made. While seeking counsel from a divorce attorney is important, one of the first things you need to do is take control of your finances.

Get your ducks in a row

When separating, it’s crucial that you get a clear picture of your current financial situation. Take stock of all assets, debts, savings, investments and monthly expenses. Review bank and credit card statements from the past 6 months to get a full overview. Make a list of everything – from mortgage/rent payments to utility bills, groceries, and more.

This process will give you a baseline of where your money is going each month. It’s the foundation you need to start mapping out your new financial life on your own. Don’t rely on estimates – dig deep and get precise numbers. Otherwise, you risk being caught off guard by unexpected expenses down the road.

Open new bank accounts

One of the first tactical steps is opening new individual bank accounts that are separate from any joint accounts. This is critical for establishing independence and control over your finances moving forward. Make sure any direct deposits for income like paychecks get redirected to the new accounts.

Close any credit cards that are under a shared account as well. Apply for new individual credit cards to start building your own credit history separately. The goal here is untangling your financial lives as much as possible from the beginning.

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Cancel joint recurring payments

Take the time to log into all accounts and services you share, like streaming subscriptions, utilities, cell phone plans, and more. Cancel any automatic payments or recurring withdrawals from the joint accounts. Then research if you need to set up new individual plans or have the responsibility transferred to the other person.

Canceling shared spending is another important step toward autonomy over your money when separating. Make sure you’ve covered all your bases so you don’t run into issues later on with intermingled accounts and plans.

Refinance loans and mortgages if possible

Major debts like mortgages, vehicle loans, and student loans may need to be refinanced into just one person’s name if they were previously joint. Check the terms of your existing loans to see if this is an option. Refinancing can help untangle responsibilities and simplify the division of assets later on.

It may take some time and impact your credit initially, but could save hassle in the long run. Consult your lender or financial advisor to determine the best path. Getting loans out of both names early on provides more accountability and control too.

Revisit insurance and beneficiaries

Insurance policies for health, life, auto, home and more may need updates once you separate. Review who is covered on each plan and consider removing the other person if they will now be independent. Also double check the named beneficiaries on any retirement accounts, investment holdings or life insurance policies.

These important documents and accounts could be at the center of disputes later if not changed properly when separating. Take the time to ensure they correctly reflect your new situation and wishes. Consult professionals for guidance modifying complex policies too.

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Adjust your budget for single living

With your new financial independence comes responsible budgeting as a single person. Use the breakdown of expenses from when jointly married to realistically estimate costs of independent living. Account for things like separate housing, utilities, groceries, transportation, insurance, etc.

Trim excess spending where possible, build emergency funds, and pay down high interest debt. Consider downsizing your lifestyle as needed while transitioning. Track expenses closely at first to balance single costs with new income. Adjust accordingly over time for stability.

Protect assets in a legal separation

If filing for legal separation or divorce, it’s important to take precautions securing assets you wish to retain separately. Change passwords and potentially move funds to new accounts the other person can’t access. Consider freezing credit reports as well to prevent new loans or credit cards from being opened in both names.

Document valuable possessions you keep with photos or videos too in case of disputes. Consult an attorney for specific guidance regarding protecting individual assets for your location and situation. Don’t wait until problems arise to take these prudent protective steps.

Consider consulting a financial advisor

The emotional and financial changes of separating can feel overwhelming doing alone. Consider booking an initial consultation with a fee-only financial advisor to review your full financial picture and goals. They can provide expertise navigating things like dividing investments, retirement planning as a single person, tax implications, budgeting strategies and more.

An objective professional advisor may spot things you missed too. Their guidance coaching you on next steps can bring confidence handling separation logistics. Look for credentials like CFP to ensure they act solely in your best financial interest.

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Wrapping Up

Gaining control, independence and clarity over personal finances should be a main priority in the initial weeks and months of separation. While the process takes work, staying organized with paperwork, planning responsibly and consulting experts ensures stability moving forward as your situation changes.

Taking the time upfront saves dealing with headaches later as you adjust to single living. Stay positive – this initial period sets you up well to build the future you want on your own terms. Handle finances carefully and strategically, then focus energy where it matters most – your well-being and new chapter ahead.

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