Three Tips for Maintaining Your Lifestyle During a Divorce
The process of finalizing a divorce takes months, in the best-case scenario, and often drags on for a year or more. Both parties are now responsible for supporting two households on the same income that used to support one. If one spouse made less than 50% of the joint income, or now has more than 50% of the joint expenses (such as when they remain in the family home), he or she can be hard-pressed to make ends meet. If children are involved the problem is usually even more acute. What can you do to get through this period before the family's assets are divided and a permanent agreement is put into place?
Tip 1: Secure a separation agreement
Even if you hope that your divorce will be quick and without rancor, you should have a separation agreement. This agreement does not concern the permanent disposition of assets or debts, but governs the month-to-month bills. Who pays for food, clothing, utilities and transportation? If one of you is still living in the family home, who pays the rent or mortgage, taxes and other maintenance and upkeep? What about medical bills and the children's needs?
Tip 2: Account for temporary support
Permanent spousal support is not as common as it once was, and is usually reserved for cases where one spouse has a physical or mental disability or when the spouse is over age 60 or so. However, temporary spousal support is far more common and can last for several years, to allow the other person to get back on his or her feet and gain some earning potential. Temporary support is awarded on a formula that looks at each person's earnings and earning potential today, rather than looking at future earning capacity.
Sometimes when both spouses had similar incomes and there is no longer a joint home to maintain, they can take care of their own bills. But if one spouse stayed at home or worked part time, or even if both worked full time but one spouse's income was significantly larger than the other, the spouse with more assets will be responsible for supporting the other, in whole or in part.
Tip 3: Clarify your medical insurance
Medical insurance and bills can be a huge part of any family's budget. While you can still be covered on your spouse's medical insurance policy until the divorce is final, it is your responsibility to ensure that you are in fact still on the policy. Any medical bills that you receive will not be forgiven later because you thought that you had coverage.
Coinsurance and deductibles can also add up. Medical support, just like regular cash support, can be part of a temporary agreement. Such an agreement would require the spouse who has coverage to keep the other spouse on the policy, whether private or employer-sponsored, and can also include provisions for payment of any premiums due. If you have regular medical bills for doctor visits or prescription drugs, these costs can also be split based on your respective incomes.
Contacting a divorce lawyer at the early stages of any separate can make a real difference.