It seems that knowing your lifestyle and estimating future living expenses might be one of the easiest things to do during a divorce. Quite the opposite. It frequently turns out to be one of the most difficult.
Most people simply do not know where all their money goes. Or at least they cannot articulate it when asked. If prompted about what some of their needs and expenses might be, they say something like, "Oh, yeah, that's right."
What I usually see happen is that their attorney will ask them to prepare their "budget." (Now that's a word that induces negative feelings.) At that point you might make notes of the obvious items: mortgage/rent, utilities, food, car payment, car insurance, TV/internet/phone. You know there is something missing, but not sure what, so you don't submit it. Your attorney asks again, and again, then the paralegal asks four more times. Time is passing and the pressure is on. However, you still can't be any more specific.
The process is similar to some being barraged with the same question over and over again in a torture situation. It is a question you cannot answer well. But you finally give them something just so they don't ask again. Big mistake. What you give them will actually be used to determine some of the key financial issues of your divorce. As a divorce financial consultant, what I tell clients is: If you will potentially receive spousal support, and you don't know what you need, you won't know what to ask for, and you surely won't get it. If you will potentially pay spousal support and you don't know what you need for yourself, you won't be able to hang on to it, and it won't be there when you need it.
Working with a divorce financial professional can make this, and other aspects of your divorce easier, more thorough, and more financially sound. This is after all, the largest financial decision of your life. We work with an extensive list of possible expenses which might apply to you and/or help remind you of others that do. Many of us also understand the emotionalism of money, good, bad, and otherwise, and can help you work through this process.
A good statement of expenses, and understanding of how you will use your money, will be the basis of a financially sound future. This is the lynchpin between financial success and failure. The estimates of expenses is not something you do "for the divorce." This is the plan by which you need to live in order for the terms of the divorce to work well for you. If you have made your settlement decisions based on these expenses, your income, and the assets you agreed to in the division of property, and the future projections your divorce financial analyst showed you, then you must live by those conditions in order to get those results.
Ok, let's call this your "budget." This is no longer a negative word. Your budget is your key to financial success. Sticking to your budget will set you free to do other things. Having a budget means you are financially responsible and well on your way to financial independence.