Laury Adams, mediator and independent financial resource consultant, explains how to use video conferencing to manage your divorce during the pandemic.
“Sheltering in Place” that forces families together can also tear families apart. COVID-19 has drastically affected both stable and unstable relationships. People confronting divorce already feel a torrent of emotion, so when an unexpected crisis hits, that flood turns into a tsunami. It is difficult not to feel overwhelmed. Extreme emotions can result in either inappropriate, impulsive behaviors or paralyzed inaction. When it seems impossible to create positive outcomes, it is important not to worsen negative situations.
Prepare for an affordable ZOOM divorce:
- Think of how you can deal with conflict without “throwing gas on the fire.” Marriage partners are business partners. You will each need something from the other person. Communication is essential. If plans cannot be worked out together, seek the assistance of an appropriate professional. This is the time for online video conferencing.
- While you are in a marital relationship, remember that the assets and debts accrued by either party are characterized as “community,” (joint) unless gifts or inheritance. During divorce, it is necessary to make full disclosure and verify values prior to negotiating a property division. Whether living together or apart, either partner’s financial transactions have legal and tax consequences for the other. For example, if one partner withdraws money from a retirement plan, there will be tax consequences. If either person increases debts on credit cards, it is a community debt while still married.
- If you thought financial plans were unnecessary in the past, this is a time to change. Begin by creating a“financial photo,” an inventory to fully disclose everything you own and owe. Your assets are resources to mutually agree on how they will be managed and used. Your debts are obligations you must pay. Who is contractually liable for mortgages, car loans, credit cards and other debts?
- Next create a“financial video,” a moving picture of what is coming in and going out. A budget is a must even for those who have never used one. If employment has been terminated, this drastically affects income. What money can you count on in the next 12 months? Financial resources may be limited, so be realistic about your income.
- Expenses:This is the time to create two budgets. It is easiest to determine your current expenses. How have you been spending money during the last months? Now, it may be necessary to create a temporary minimal budget. Start with the essential committed expenses like home mortgage, utilities, auto payment, insurances, gas, food and prescriptions. How can expenses be reduced – entertainment, clothing, eating out, etc.? Look at the needs of all family members and prioritize the absolute necessities. “Wants” can be put on a “later” list. Although debts must be paid, make sure your family is assured of food and shelter before making payments to creditors. Call lenders and try to reduce terms for paying your balances.
- Tasks: How will your budget be implemented and monitored? Decide on how family members will be responsible and accountable.
- If you have dependents in the household, have honest talks about your situation. Form a Financial Committee to use teamwork for temporarily altering the way you live.
- Arrange occasional rewards – a popcorn party while renting a current movie, a fast-steppin’ line dance lesson with lively music, or a time playing games with friends via ZOOM.
- Arrange a “Parent Care & Share Schedule” so both parents will not be on duty 24/7. Use a color-coded calendar so children know what parent is in charge during the waking hours.
There is no doubt COVID-19 is an external crisis that increases burdens for those already in distress. By using your computer for video conferencing, assistance is just a click away.
Prepare for working with you mediator or attorney by using Divorce Savvy Saves Money, unique software to make divorce understandable and affordable! For detailed instructions on handling the financial aspects of divorce, watch the seven-minute video on the website, www.DivorceSavvy.com No fee or registration is required. The program gives step-by-step instructions for creating an Inventory of Assets and Liabilities. Embedded formulas quickly calculate options for a property settlement. Worksheets are included for creating budgets and parenting. Your information will be ready for ZOOM screen sharing to save time and money!
When divorce is inevitable, using this program with a divorce professional makes it possible to leave your marriage with your dignity intact and money in your pocket.
Laury Adams, Houston, Texas
originally published: May 17, 2020