Divorce in Virginia can take many months, or even more than a year. First comes separation, which itself must be six months (no kids) or a year (with kids), and then the divorce itself. During that time, are you supposed to essentially freeze all your activities? Stop shopping, pay cash for everything, live with an old clunker — what are the guiding rules for opening and closing accounts while enmeshed in a divorce?
Who’s Responsible for What? Separation Starts the Clock
With an uncontested divorce, separation starts the big countdown, so you both need to acknowledge the official day one of you moves out (or stops treating the other as a spouse, if circumstances require you to cohabitate). While Hallmark [probably] does not [yet] have a card for this moment, it is worth memorializing, because under Virginia Code § 20-91, six months later you two can be divorced in a matter of weeks, if everything falls into place. During those six months, you have to keep a sharp eye on your finances.
During the separation waiting period, you are both considered responsible for your own, separate finances. If you need to replace your 1989 Ford Ranger XLT RWD Super Cab Pickup with its 207,123 miles with a gleaming shiny stunning adequate 1994 Ford Ranger XLT RWD Super Cab Pickup at only 104,183 miles, you will bear sole financial responsibility. Your credit alone will qualify you for the loan for that very special primo ride.
Similarly, once you two separate on your way to an uncontested divorce, any bills your wife incurs are hers alone, so if she has her eye on the Polaris RZR XP 900 H.O. Jagged X Edition (MSRP on this fine, practical, completely useful and in no way self-indulgent ATV: $21,999), she alone will have to pay for it. You are not financially responsible for any debts she incurs after you two separate.
Marital Property: Separate, Marital, Hybrid
In Virginia, marital property falls into three classes:
- Separate property — You came to the marriage with that humdinger of a mighty fine pickup, so it is yours
- Marital property — You both bought the 2016 Polaris Sportsman 90, so it is property of the marriage, and subject to being divided during property settlement
- Hybrid property — Something one of you owned before the marriage has provided income or benefit to you both, like intellectual property, royalties for that poem you wrote for Highlights for Children, your wife’s inherited vacation home you rent out for a little play money, or what-have-you
Similarly to things that bring cool cash into your lives, your debts — cool cash exiting your lives — fall into classes, too:
- Separate debt — If you had student loans, for example, before you married, you still own them. Alone. By yourself. Like a yoke around your neck until you pay them off.
- Marital debt — You two opened a Cabela’s CLUB Visa account to buy a half-dozen Daiwa Steez® AGS® Bass Casting Rods (MSRP $579.99 — wot a bargin! — so you, she, and little Bobby, Becky, Binky and Biff could go bass fishing; congratulations, you both owe your share of $3,479.94 plus interest
The Best Money Moves During Divorce
Be practical. If you have even an inkling that you and your wife are headed for a divorce, get your finances in order even before you two separate. It may sound soulless, but you cannot afford to go more deeply into debt during the long Virginia divorce process. Consider these moves:
- Begin closing joint credit card accounts as rapidly as possible
- Wait until you two separate to open your own credit accounts
- Print paper copies of every financial statement you have in the months before separation, during separation, and before the divorce; at least a year’s worth is good, but the more years, the better
- Be candid and honest with your wife about the finances, and discourage her from ruining both your credit worthiness with vengeful spending
Financial gurus at Nerdwallet recommend some money-wise steps to mentally prepare you, too:
- Resist unqualified advice — Ask your lawyer!
- Track every penny — Keep scrupulous records, preferably stored away from your spouse (this is not intended to be an accusation; you could make a copy of everything for her, too)
- Anticipate future spending — Divorce is pricey, no matter what; plan on costs for a security deposit on an apartment, legal fees, court filing fees, and more
- Postpone any financial decisions — Do not sell the house midway through the divorce; do not buy anything you do not absolutely need
Call the Only Family Law Firm in Virginia Protecting Men Exclusively
Your qualified Virginia lawyer will tell you to stop with the fishing rods, ATVs and pick-em-up trucks until you are financially free and clear of the divorce. Your lawyer will also advise you to avoid incurring debt, clean up old debt, and live frugally.
Call The Firm For Men at 757-383-9184 and speak with an experienced attorney defending Virginia’s men and preserving men’s rights during family law proceedings. Divorce, child custody, child support, property settlement agreements — we can help protect your finances through them all. Contact us today to schedule a consultation in our Virginia Beach or Newport News office.