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How divorcing -- and cohabitating -- couples can manage debt

Once you learn from a friend or family member that they have initiated divorce proceedings, one of your first inquiries -- after offering the necessary condolences -- will more than likely be where they and their soon-to-be ex plan to live going forward.

While you might naturally assume that the divorcing couple will occupy separate residences almost immediately, this isn't always the case. Indeed, it's not entirely uncommon for divorcing couples to live under the same roof for the duration of the divorce.

Given the wide range of emotions that accompany most splits, the idea of such an arrangement -- with one spouse sleeping in the bedroom and the other on the couch -- may seem less than ideal.

Even though this is probably true, the fact remains that the couple's finances -- namely significant levels of debt -- may necessitate such an arrangement for several weeks, months or perhaps even longer.

The good news, however, is that experts indicate that there are three steps couples who find themselves in this unenviable position can take to effectively manage their debt and ultimately allow the divorce process to unfold.

  1. Create a budget outlining allowable expenses for the household and for each spouse, and stick to it.
  2. Outline all debts and establish who will pay off what obligation.
  3. Establish a firm timeline for having the debt paid off.

In addition to these steps, experts urge couples to avoid taking on more debt, or maintain clandestine bank accounts due to the looming divorce. Furthermore, they warn spouses to resist the sometimes all too real temptation to take on more debt purely out of spite as it will only create more problems.

Those with questions about the divorce process or divorce-related financial concerns should strongly consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who can provide answers and, if necessary, ensure the necessary actions are taken.

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