How to Separate Household Expenses When Separating for Divorce

By Rob Jennings J.D.

Woman writing a check

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The breakup of your marriage is more than just a personal separation, it's also an economic one. One of the hardest parts of divorce can be separating your finances. Your pre-separation lifestyle may have required two paychecks and now each of you may have to make it on one. Furthermore, handling the family finances may have fallen to only one of you during marriage. Now, both of you will be responsible for managing your expenses.

Review your monthly expenses and make copies of your recurring bills. This helps you create a budget and provides proof of your standard of living. Make sure you remember to include bills that only come periodically, such as car insurance that comes due every six months or property taxes that you only pay yearly. Don't forget to average these out and set something aside for them in your budget every month.

Create a budget based upon your expenses. If you left your financial life in your spouse's hands during marriage, you will need to learn what it costs for you to live. Come up with a figure that you require each month to keep your bills current through the divorce proceedings. This will help you live within your means. You may have to cut some expenses from your budget, since you and your ex will probably be maintaining two households.

Consider filing an action for spousal support to help you maintain the standard of living to which you became accustomed during your marriage. Although the law on spousal support varies from state to state, a dependent spouse can sometimes recover an award of support from the other spouse upon satisfying certain state-specific factors. Your petition may request both temporary spousal support -- sometimes called "post-separation support" or "alimony pendent lite" -- and permanent alimony.

Negotiate which party will pay each bill. Who pays what and how much depends on your personal situation, including your incomes, debts, prior support obligations and possession of the marital home. If one of you is moving out of the marital residence and the other is remaining, you will need to decide if the higher earning party will contribute to maintaining that home until the divorce is final. Typically, each party pays their own household and living expenses if income permits.

Create your own checking and savings accounts and close any joint accounts as soon as possible. You need to protect yourself and establish your own separate credit from your ex. This includes having money in your own separate account that is not available to your ex. Remember that your amicable separation may not always remain friendly.


Spousal support claims are frequently extinguished if not presented in a timely manner. Consult with a licensed attorney to learn your rights prior to making any lasting decisions.