The 5 money pitfalls of divorce - and what to do about them

The 5 money pitfalls of divorce - and what to do about them
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Lawyers have dubbed today (January 8) ‘Divorce Day’ because of the spike in couples considering ending their marriage after the festive period.  

Worryingly, adults who are divorced or separated are twice as likely to have no savings or investments compared with those who are married. The divorce process can be incredibly challenging, and the financial focus is understandably on splitting immediate assets. However, it’s also important that the long term is also part of the planning.

Here are the key things to consider for those going through, or about to go through a divorce:

1. Protect your credit score

You’ll be surprised at how many financial products and agreements you share with your ex-partner, from mortgage and credit card payments right down to utility bills. The longer you have been together, the more tightly wound up even your basic finances will be. Your credit report will list the details of every financial agreement you have, and this will help to protect your credit score from unexpected payments on the part of your former spouse. You need to build up your own, independent score and improve your rating if needed to ensure you don’t get turned down for any future loans. Read how to boost your credit rating.

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2. Close joint accounts and open new ones in your name

Likewise, it’s important to make sure that all joint credit cards and accounts are closed, paid off in full or, at the very least, changed to either your name or that of your former partner’s. Not doing so could complicate matters, or could even lead to them using your accounts, running up debt or using your savings. This could have a negative impact on your future financial profile.

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 A pension can be the biggest asset at stake after property

A pension can be the biggest asset at stake after property

3. Think about your pension

If you have just been through, or are currently going through, a divorce then a pension is probably going to be the last thing on your mind. However, after the family home, a pension can actually be the biggest asset at stake, so protecting this in the first instance is crucial. This is particularly the case for women who may depend on their husband’s provisions. For example, there is a gap between the amount men and women receive in employer pension contributions, which could reach a shortfall of £47,000 by the end of a woman’s working life – in the main, due to the existing pay gap and the fact that women are still more likely to take career breaks.

Consider how else you can build up sufficient retirement savings – such as investing in a stocks and shares ISA over the long-term – and speak to an adviser about how to protect the assets you do have.

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4.   Don't forget about your protection needs

If you already have life cover in place in the form of a joint policy, make sure you check the policy terms. Some include a 'Joint Life Separation Option', which means that the contract can be amended to cover both parties individually. Many policies also contain options which allow you to increase the amount of cover you have following life events, including divorce or separation, without needing further underwriting. You may want to consider increasing your cover if you have had to take on a new or larger mortgage or other debts. 

Divorce and separation advice

5. Update your will

Now that you are divorced or separated, your existing will is unlikely to be appropriate to your new circumstances. Make sure you update this as soon as possible to ensure that your wishes are followed. The first step in this process is to consider what assets are yours to pass down, and then to decide how you want these to be distributed – for example, you may have a new partner you want to include. Yours partners, Key Retirement, offers a will-writing service you can find more about here.

Thanks to Peter Hamilton at Zurich