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Worried about your personal finances as a result of your divorce? Read this blog post

There is little more important in our daily lives than the state of our personal finances. I think it’s fair to say that we all wish we had a little more money to our names and fewer places that were trying to get a hold of that money. Most of us are fortunate enough to go out and earn a living for ourselves and our families. Ask anyone who is looking for work and can’t find any just what a privilege that is. As much as we may complain and roll our eyes at the prospect of an honest day’s work it truly is important.

A divorce case can unsettle your finances very quickly. There is no beating around the bush about that. All of a sudden you are going to be facing concerns and circumstances that you maybe never in your life anticipated you would be dealing with. On top of that, you have friends and family who may be trying to tell you just how you should live your life and go about your business from a financial perspective. “Don’t hire a lawyer! Do it yourself!”, some will tell you. “You've got to hire my cousin! He’s the best lawyer in town!”, others will say. Where can you turn for honest and informed perspectives on the subject of divorce in Texas?

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan prides itself on being a resource of information and advocacy for our clients. While this blog post alone does not establish any sort of attorney-client relationship between you the reader and our office, we would like to promote ourselves and our services through the providing of some advice on the subject of personal finances and divorce. In a world where we are all trying to stretch a dollar as much as possible, we hope that the information contained in this blog post will be helpful to you.

Behavior, not head knowledge, is the most crucial element to maintaining a strong degree of personal financial responsibility during a divorce

We all wish that a book, a blog or a friend could tell us everything we need to do to keep our financial heads above water during a divorce. If we could only listen to that advice it would make a world of difference for us. That’s the thought that we optimistically have when it comes to this or any other subject. Unfortunately, it does not really work like that for most people. Allow me to explain using a comparison to another unpopular subject- dieting.

Just like we all want more money in our pockets, we all would like to be trim, fit and in shape. Dieting is a means by which most of us have tried to achieve these goals. Go to the local bookstore and see how many items they sell that purport to contain the secrets that you need to stay slim and feel great. Recipes, exercise regimens and everything in between will be found in that book. You purchase that book- the cover page exclaims- and you will be a skinnier and happier person.

The thing is that every diet book, more or less, promises the same things to you. They may employ different methods to get you there and may utilize the English language differently to communicate that message but in essence, the food you eat (or don't eat) and the exercise you get is the crucial part of losing weight and keeping it off. Why, then, is it so difficult for us to lose weight and stay in shape? After all- we all know the secret to weight loss. The secret is: there is no secret at all? So why all the difficulty??

The problem is that when it comes to personal finances or weight loss, our behavior is what truly holds us back and not our lack of head knowledge. There isn't much to know beyond what I just told you about losing weight- diet, and exercise, rinse and repeat. If all it took was the knowledge of that to be slim we would all be at the beach a lot more showing off our physiques to the world.

No, it is our inability to control our behaviors that in actuality holds us back from being well off financially as well as able to fit into our bathing suits comfortably. If you can look in the mirror and control the behavior of the person whose face is staring back at you then you will have solved 90 percent of your problems. Yes, head knowledge is important, but it pales in comparison to behavior. Control your behavior and you can control the problem.

With that said, let’s go over some tips to controlling your behaviors associated with personal finance and divorce in Texas.

Live on a budget

There is nothing exciting about preparing a monthly budget for yourself and your family. If you have children it becomes harder to control costs since accidents, dental care, school costs, extracurricular activities, and similar unforeseen costs tend to spring up more often than we would like. If you do not have any children then you only need to concern yourself with your own daily behaviors.

Regardless, you need to get a firm idea of what it takes to run your household on a monthly basis. What is your monthly take home pay? What bills do you have? What are you spending at the grocery store? What are your debt payments and how much are you paying on a monthly basis to service that debt? These are the sort of mundane, basic questions that you need to ask yourself. You cannot get a hold of personal finances without having this discussion first.

Turn off the television, put away your phone and get out a legal pad and pen. For those of you who prefer it, you can get out your laptop and open up a spreadsheet and do your budget that way. Either way, focus on these boring subjects and make a decision to budget your monthly costs. That budget doesn’t constrain your behavior. Quite the opposite, it will give you permission to spend money on the things that you need to. The fairest thing I could say about a monthly budget is that it will modify your behavior concerning money- in a positive way.

Credit cards aren’t your friends during a divorce

I realize that most of us have a credit card or two that we use for various purposes. Some of us use them for the “points” that we can accumulate. If you spend enough money you can earn airline miles and other benefits. Others of us use credit cards for fraud protection purposes. Whatever your reasons, I would advise you to shy away from using credit cards during your divorce. Here is why.

Research shows that when you or I use a credit card to pay for items that the fact we are spending money does not really register with our brains. On the other hand, if you are told by the cashier that your groceries cost $60 and you then hand over three $20 bills to the cashier it is far more likely that you will experience a sense of loss that your money just went away in exchange for some bread, milk, and eggs.

Another way to put it is this- how quickly do you slap down your credit card into the little black book the waiter presents your bill to you in at a restaurant? Sometimes I don’t even look at the bill before I do it. If you had to pay cash, you would reach into your wallet, take out the bills and put them into the black book. The act of doing so would probably impact you much more than using the credit card.

For some of you, it is not realistic to stop using your credit card altogether. Many of you will be using a credit card to pay your attorney's fees. That's a fair thing to do, especially when money is tight. My point is that if you can avoid using a credit card that you should do so. If you can at least restrict your use of your credit card that would be good too. The last thing you want is to complete your divorce only to find a stack of credit card bills staring at you in the face.

Determine where you can make cutbacks as far as your spending is concerned

Most of us spend money on things that we don't need. Think of all the areas where you spread your paychecks toward on a monthly basis and I think you will agree with me. Thousands of people had automatic payments going to America Online (AOL) years after they stopped using their internet services. The reason those payments were made was that the payer of that money simply didn't keep track of their finances. Once that automatic draft was set up from your checking account you may have never thought twice about it.

This may be an extreme example, but I would recommend that you go through your credit card statement or checking account and see where you spend your money each month. Once you make a monthly budget you can then switch gears and begin to discover where (if anywhere) you can cut back on your monthly expenses. Gym memberships, magazine subscriptions, private lessons for your child’s violin instruction, and other non-essential items may need to be cut during the course of your divorce in order to help keep your finances in check.

Having a firm idea of your monthly expenses will assist you in preparing for your divorce, as well. At the outset of your case, your attorney will likely hand you piece of paper that asks you to map out your monthly expenses and monthly income. Many of us would not know where to begin if we had that as a homework assignment. Learn where your finances are, put them in writing and then figure out where you can improve prior to the start of your divorce and you will be light years ahead of most people who go through a divorce.

Inventory and Appraisement

Along those same lines, you will be asked to fill out paperwork that details what items belong to your community estate (jointly owned property with your spouse) as well as items that are owned by you separately. You will also be asked to fill out paperwork showing that property you own separately from your spouse. The final step of this process is that you will be asked to insert values for the property that you are specifying belongs to either you separately or you and your spouse jointly.

The more work you can do to collect this information before your case begins the better off you will be. You will not have to rely upon your attorney's help as much to collect the information and complete the paperwork. This will save you both time and money during the case. Anyone that has ever had to complete worksheets at the last minute can tell you that the quality of the work performed will be nowhere near as good if you had been able to take your time and do a more thorough job. If your case makes it all the way to temporary orders hearing or trial the judge will be relying on these financial disclosures to make a decision in your case. Provide the judge with as much information as you can, as accurately as you can and you will be in a strong position.

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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our divorce lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.

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