Today’s topic is a heavy one. Sadly, many people find themselves victims of divorce, faced with the harsh realities of a broken marriage. Divorce is an unfortunate time for all those involved. The aftermath affects not only a person’s emotional well-being, but their pocketbook as well. For this reason, I’ve asked, Lauren McKinley of Her Soul Repair to shed some light on how to move forward financially after a divorce.
Surviving the Financial Blow of Divorce
If I could sum up divorce in one word, it would be loss. Small losses, big losses, material losses, relational losses. Emotionally, there’s a lot to grieve. And it’s a long process of itemizing and grieving each individual loss. Sifting through these losses can be a real big blow to one’s ego. Before I go any further, are you wondering why I am rambling about all these depressing feelings on a finance blog? Well, before you stop reading, I am here to tell you that the ego is not the only thing that takes a big hit in divorce. Once the emotional blows are under control (as much as they can be), the financial blow kicks in. So, here I am to share with you what helped me lessen this particular loss, the financial loss.
This is going to sound harsh and non-fluffy, but the moment you have an inkling that your marriage is headed toward divorce, you must create a financial plan B. I know, I know there are so many other insane feelings that will be happening during this time, but let’s try the best we can to keep the logical/practical part of your mind leading the way for now. Before I go on, I must be SUPER clear, I am not a lawyer, did not go to law school, and have little knowledge in this field other than my own financial choices made during my divorce. I am simply sharing my experience. What helped, what saved me money, what I didn’t know, but learned. Here goes!
Create a Solo Budget
Now, my advice comes from the perspective of a stay at home mom, turn divorced single mom. Even if this is not the role you play, you will still need to create a solo budget. You will have new adjustments in your budget. If you are the sole financial provider in your family, you will need to now take into account child support, alimony, and any other custodial expenses agreed upon in the fine print of the divorce. Okay, as I said before, new-found single mom. First things first, make a budget to see if you can live off only your income or potential income. If you are not working, and living off only your soon to be ex-spouse’s income, start sending out your resumes. Trying to find a new job can be a nice distraction and a first step in reinventing your life. Even if you go the route of collecting alimony, make sure you know the time frame of how long you will be receiving this payment. I believe, if you’ve been married for under ten years, you receive alimony for half the length of the marriage OR until you remarry. If the marriage was ten years or longer, you receive alimony until you remarry. If alimony isn’t your best bet, figure out the amount of money you will need to make in order to continue your life as seamlessly as possible. If at all possible, look for a job with benefits. That way, you and your children will be medically accounted for. Take a look at your expenses and eliminate anything that is an “extra.” No matter what your financial position, this will be an expensive time. Downsizing temporarily to stash away any extra money you can, is a smart move.
Go with Mediation
If you are on semi-cordial terms and can discuss divorce related items in a reasonable fashion, go with mediation. I know that this is not for all situations and sometimes this route is impossible. You must do what will end this marriage in the best possible way for everyone involved. For my situation, we could stand each other enough to handle going through mediators. On average, going through mediation is much less expensive. We worked with both a paralegal and a lawyer. The total cost of our divorce was $1,500, which people tell me is very low. Cost aside, there is a lot of dialogue that takes place in mediation, which can be both reassuring and frustrating. Take this time of dialogue to bring up every little tiny financial concern you have. This pertains mostly to if you have children. Who will pay for soccer uniforms, dance recitals, or private school? We decided on splitting ALL extra-curricular and schooling costs 50/50. What years will you claim your child(ren) for taxes? We decided on one parent claiming even years and the other claiming odd years. Rack your brain for anything financial you can include in the fine print.
Cancel Joint Everythings
This part is more annoying the longer you’ve been married. You must cancel and/or divvy up all joint properties, cars, insurance policies, loans, checking/savings accounts, credit cards … Anything that has both your names on it with some sort of positive or negative balance needs to be addressed. Life insurance and health benefits included. In my case, I had 90 days from the date of my divorce stamp to find a new health insurance plan, since I was covered under my ex’s policy. I already had a new job by then, so it wasn’t an area of stress, but you must be aware of whatever that window looks like. Side note: I was advised to not open any new solo accounts until the divorce was completely finalized. I didn’t take this advice and did so anyhow, mostly because I was sick of seeing my ex’s name on my checks. After all, my ex had already bought his girlfriend a new car in his name. I figured checks weren’t quite as bad. All jokes aside, seek your legal counsel on these particular decisions.
Weigh Your Options
Most divorced couples I know split everything 50/50. If one person gets the home, the other gets the 401K they’ve been acquiring for years. Two cars with roughly the same amount owed and similar interest rates, perfect, each take one. Take half of the credit card balance, the dollar amount in your savings account, the EVERYTHING. This may take time and you may need to get creative, but with everything you decide on financially, PUT. IT. IN. WRITING. Spell out as clear as can be where the money is going. If you’re all feeling flexible and nice, set-up time frames for pay-offs. For instance, one spouse wants their portion of the home. Decide on having that amount paid in full by six months from the finality of the divorce. Money tends to bring out the absolute worst in people, but my hope is that you’ll be able to make decisions peaceably.
Dave Ramsey, “America’s trusted voice on money,” says in every marriage there’s a saver and a spender. Maybe finances were always an area of contention with you and your ex-spouse. This is your time to start fresh! You can save and spend as you please. Now, now be careful with this new freedom. I found my former frugal self spending a tad too much with no accountability in the ol’ checking account. Be warned! Take this fresh start to save, spend wisely, provide for your family, and basque in your ability to support yourself.
My hope is that my advice helped you and your bank account in one way or another. I am on the other end of it now, and I will say it pays to be detailed and exact when splitting the finances of a marriage. It’s worth the uncomfortable conversations of voicing your concerns. Look at this hard time as an avenue to start over in the best possible way. Create your new life, one smart financial decision at a time. These wise choices will help rebuild a bright life full of less loss and more gain.
Lauren McKinley is the founder of Her Soul Repair, an online community of women who are healing from the brokenness in marriage. Her heart gushes for all things marriage and family. More specifically, she loves encouraging women who have every reason to call it quits in marriage. She is a Truth-seeker, mama to one, teacher by trade and writer by passion. Her first book, Stop Wrecking My Home, will be released in Fall 2016.
When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her daughter, sharing meals with dear friends, and adventuring to new places.
She is most passionate about sharing the peace God can bring to even the most heartbreaking situations.