Divorce makes it easy to overlook things. It's a complicated process. You own more assets than you ever realized. Things slip through the cracks.
If you have kids, things get that much more complex. Your focus is going to be on your children, which is great. However, some parents think so hard about what's best for the kids that they miss key financial points or make mistakes that haunt them for years to come.
Plus, that's not even taking into account the emotional side of the divorce. Your spouse asked for it out of the blue. You found out he or she was already seeing someone on the side. Your 15 years of marriage are falling apart.
With that type of chaotic, all-consuming situation on your mind, it's easy to let things slide. However, it can also grow costly. Below are four things it's important not to overlook.
1. Sentimental assets.
With all of your time spent listing monetary assets and their values, don't forget things with purely sentimental value. Ten years from now, they could matter more to you than anything. Examples include pictures and video of your kids, items that your grandparents passed down to you, and things of this nature. In today's world, many of these are digital, so don't forget to check the computer.
2. Retirement assets.
You and your spouse saved for retirement together. Your spouse doesn't get to keep all of that money after the divorce. Even assets that are only in one person's name -- like a pension plan -- may be divisible. Many spouses count on pensions and other retirement plans for later in life and a late divorce may not provide enough time to make up for the loss. For this reason, they get divided.
3. Taxes on your assets.
Don't assume that the strict monetary value of an asset at the time is the real value of that asset. To stick with the above example, look at your retirement accounts. Were they created with post-tax dollars or pre-tax dollars? If the money has not gotten taxed yet and will need to upon withdrawal, that means the account is worth less than it appears. Make sure assets are divided properly.
4. Joint accounts and liabilities.
Not everything you own together is an asset. What debt do you have? Maybe you bought that new BMW on credit and you still have three years of payments left. Maybe you won't have paid off the house for 15 years and you must refinance the mortgage. Maybe you have old college debt you're still working on.
These are just four examples, but you can see how there are many different things you need to consider during a divorce. Take your time and make sure you understand your legal position, your rights and your obligations.