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How should you handle finances during a separation?

Everything about ending a relationship is difficult, but separation periods before a divorce can be especially challenging. This is because you often feel like you are divorced but in reality, the marriage is still legally intact. You may be operating in a completely different place than your spouse and only see him or her during custody exchanges, but any decisions you make during this time can have a serious impact on your finances now and your divorce later on.

One of the first things you need to do is talk with your spouse. While this may seem counterintuitive when you are separated, you'll need to establish who is going to pay for what. This is especially important if you will be increasing your expenses by maintaining two households. If you can, come up with a budget that includes everything for both households and make an agreement to stick to it.

It's also important not to make any major financial charges or large purchases during this time. It's normal to feel like you need a fresh start, but now is not the time to buy a new car or finally get that dream lake house. However, any purchases made during the separation are usually still considered marital property, and your spouse will be entitled to half if you go through with the divorce.

In general, the best approach to your finances during a separation is to follow a common sense approach and make decisions the way you'd hope your spouse is as well. If you have specific questions about what you can or should do during this time, talking with your attorney can help.

Source: US News & World Report, "Managing Your Finances When You're Separated," Geoff Williams, accessed June 30, 2016

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