Divorce may be the end of the marriage, but the settlement and division of property you and your soon to be ex agree upon will last a lifetime. Disputes are common when it comes to real estate, businesses, investments and child support. However, finances are complex and often change with time.
It's key to address "what if" scenarios to make sure the agreement stands even when circumstances change. Financial protections need to be included in case of emergency or major life changes to guarantee fair division of property.
Protecting your agreement
The retirement account is one of the hardest to divide. There are often strict penalties and taxes for early withdrawal. You may qualify for a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), which is a court order that defines distribution to more than one party at the appropriate time. They are detailed and thorough, so nobody should draft a QDRO without an expert's help.
Life insurance on your ex-spouse
Your settlement will leave certain payments or distributions in the hands of your ex-spouse. Should something happen and your ex passes away, this puts your agreement at risk. For example, if a QDRO is not yet complete, payment would go to the default beneficiary instead. This is also a concern if you rely on child support payments or spousal support.
Your own life insurance policy
Similarly, if something happens to you, you need to protect those you love. Creating trusts or owning life insurance can shield funds intended for your child from your ex-spouse, who may become custodian in such a situation. If you do not trust your ex-partner -- and many do not after a divorce -- then it is wise to create a sound financial plan that explores alternative ways to provide for children.
The future is unpredictable
Divorce presents a fresh start but never a complete break. The divorce settlement will provide a game plan for your new life, but it's still important to seek protection of your resources just in case.
Life is full of surprises, which is why even the most clearly written settlement can be challenged by a sudden change of circumstances. Insurance and court orders will help maintain control over property that rightfully belongs to you but is tied up in legal limbo.