If your friend has been struggling with a decision to start a divorce, a large concern can be what do to about the debt from the marriage and the other spouse accumulating debt during these last months before filing. Your friend can be concerned that the spouse may be spending more than usual because they know that a divorce is inevitable.
Regardless of what debts your friend may be facing, help them try to get organized and gather information about their current financial situation. The biggest advice is not to panic. Many people think their spouse may be hoarding or taking money, when that is typically far from the case. Remind them to get the facts first before jumping to conclusions.
- Do start collecting financial documents. Since most people have online banking and pay most of their bills this way, remind your friend to make sure he or she has access to that account. Sometimes one spouse does most of the banking and the other spouse doesn’t even know how to access the online back accounts. Also if your friend’s name is on that joint checking, he or she can walk into any bank and get copies of the statements.
Your friend can also watch the mail for year-end statements from banks, credit card companies and the like. He or she also should have a copy of past tax returns.
- Do check credit reports. While gathering financial records, remind your friend to keep a careful watch on credit card statements and request a copy of his or her credit report. Review credit report scores carefully for any unusual activity.
- Do encourage an updated budget. Remind your friend that he or she needs to look to the future and what finances they will need. Help him or her create a new financial budget and find affordable housing. Review the immediate financial needs. The soon-to-be-former spouse may be refusing to help with day-to-day things such as attorney fees, utilities, childcare, counseling, car maintenance, groceries and daily household expenses. If your friend was a stay-at-home parent, you can help them find a job. It can be terrifying to re-enter the work force and know where to begin.
- Do Not: Lend money unless you are comfortable with never getting it back. Otherwise, it will strain the relationship.
When a divorce is on the horizon, debt and finances can cause a great deal of stress on your friend. Encourage your friend to gather financial information first and deal with facts, not fears of what “may” happen. If there is a concern, your friend needs to see an attorney right away. Even if you don’t feel qualified to offer advice, simply being there to listen can be a great comfort when dealing with financial woes.