Even though love is blind, it's important to understand a few things about it, fiscally. Once your union is legally bound... so are your assets (unless some legal document has been signed between the two parties stating otherwise). With that said, I would encourage couples to have a combination of joint and separate accounts as this provides a level of personal freedom, while securing the monetary responsibility each person has to the prosperity of the household. I also believe that if couples go into a marriage and agree to joint accounts, possibly consider a % of personal income going into the joint account rather than a dollar amount. Ultimately with all things marital, transparency and communication are tantamount to the survival of the agreement.
- Two months rent. You should have two and a half months rent saved up before you go at it solo. You never know what could happen. Make sure that you have the deposit and the first and second month's rent.
- Do you have enough to re-furnish your new home? The essentials are Furniture and Food. Nothing fancy because you want to be certain to have a rainy day fund even after the split occurs.
- Budget. Life is going to be really different on your own. You don't have the extra income to fall back on. Your spending habits and your debt should all be considered based on your one salary. Even if your spouse says that they will give you support or money for the kids, you should be absolutely able to survive on your own means. Be honest. Consider all of your individual payments. The first couple of months are testers. Look at your spending. Categorize it and then make adjustments where you can. The less you spend the more you have for later.
- Downsize. Maybe you need to downsize to a smaller dwelling space. Sell some stuff or give things away. It may be hard but it will be uplifting. Less is more, especially if it was once tied to memories of you and a person that aren't working out.
- Childcare. Who is watching the kids? Who is paying for the kids? Is it 50-50 or is the non custodial parent taking the majority of the financial responsibility. As the custodial parent are you being fair? Your children are not piggy banks and it is important to assess their needs based on the realistic parameters of their previous life when their parents were together.
- Debt and Spending. Eliminate as much debt as you can before leaving. If you are in a critical situation see if you can consolidate your debt. Don't buy things to ease the pain. Stay away from the mall and your other favorite shopping places. Spending soothes the soul only for a short time and you end up wasting money that could be used for groceries or gasoline later.
- Savings. You should save. If you get a return come tax time and you don't need it... stash it away for later. SAVE. SAVE. SAVE. SAVE. Money later is good money.
- Ask for help. Don't be afraid to seek financial help or advice. Be careful that the person is reputable and someone that you can trust. It sad, but some companies prey on individuals in mediocre to bad financial situations. Do your research and seek good counsel.
- This is probably most important: If you can't work things out together... GET A FINANCIAL PLANNER OR MEDIATOR TO ASSIST IN THE PROCESS. We are all human so honestly people hold grudges. If you can't agree amicably, get a third party in on the action to help out. Their objective perspective will help both individuals come to terms with the needs and desires of the other.
Ultimately, putting your children's needs first are most important. As stated before, both parties benefit from continued conversation and transparency. I urge couples to lean on each other emotionally, but have financial independence while married. Being financially secure will eliminate some of the fear and insecurity of attempting to separate or divorce. Attacking your partner financially, using the kids to absorb assets or attempting to unnecessarily vindicate oneself by taking the other to the cleaners is emotionally harmful to all parties. Unfortunately for many, greed and fear cloud the possibility of experiencing a secure and fair separation or divorce. Try to treat each other with respect, if you have kids, you must to put their best interests first. Good luck!