how Much does a divorce cost in New York City by Reynaldo #brigworkz Brigantty for

How Much Does a Divorce Cost in New York City?

Preparing for the total financial cost is one of the most critical and daunting factors in planning for a divorce. While the average price for a lawyer-led divorce in the United States is approximately $7,000 – $11,0001 (and usually stems from a more heavily contested case), the national average cost of an uncontested, Do It Yourself (DIY) divorce is $2002. That’s a big span.  But where does New York City stand in particular with divorce costs?

How Much Does a Divorce Cost in New York City?

New York City is known for its high energy, high spirit, and high cost of living. This holds true for the high price of a divorce in the city, too. Check out “The Reality of Divorce in New York City” to understand more, but if we compare it to the rest of the state, the Big Apple boasts some of the most expensive legal professionals in the country. New York price averages reflect the large (and expensive) lawyers in metropolitan New York City, therefore a divorce in a different part of the state will likely be lower than the given averages3.

New York City-based lawyers are among the highest-paid in the country. The rough estimate for a lawyer-led divorce in New York City ranges from $13,000 to $25,000 (per person)4 at the base level. For an uncontested DIY divorce, the New York divorce filing fees alone cost $335.5 That’s another big spread in costs.

This article will explore your choices for divorce in New York City and unpack how much it may cost you.

Different Types of Divorce

Different types of divorce will cost different amounts. Henceforth, their complexity and the time needed to devote to the case. An uncontested divorce will always cost less than a contested divorce because both parties agree (ultimately) on all aspects in an uncontested divorce. The price of a contested divorce will range based on complexity. Read this article to make sure you appreciate the difference between a Contested and Uncontested Divorce.

As for “how” you will divorce, or which model of divorce to use, there are four main types of divorces:

  1. The Traditional, lawyer-led model (for Uncontested or Contested divorces)
  2. Mediation (for Uncontested Divorces)
  3. The Collaborative Model (for Uncontested Divorces)
  4. DIY (or Do-It-Yourself, for Uncontested Divorces). To learn more about the 4 different types of divorce, check out this article that explains the specific models.

How Much Does a Divorce Cost in New York City for Traditional Divorces?

When you think of divorce, you often think of the traditional model, where a lawyer prepares your case. Most of your expenses in a traditional divorce will come from a lawyer’s retainer and trial preparation (if you go to court). In New York State, the average hourly cost of a divorce lawyer is $175-325 per hour.6 However, New York City lawyers tend to be more expensive, averaging $340 per hour,7 but can cost you upwards of $800 or more per hour. This hourly fee is on top of the court filing fee of $335 and the in-court fee for litigated divorces, which is $120 per day in New York State.

Even when lawyers are involved, most divorces are uncontested, which means you and your spouse negotiate through your lawyers and eventually agree on most issues.

An uncontested divorce in New York City will run you roughly $5,500 per person8. This accounts for filing fees, lawyer consultations, and settlement agreements.

If your divorce is contested, meaning you and your spouse cannot agree on the issues and must go to trial, your cost will increase considerably. This is because preparing for court is costly. For a trial based on one issue, expect the price to increase by $16,000-$20,000, and for a trial based on two or more points, $22,000-$27,000. The total cost of your litigated divorce will depend on the complexity of your issues. This includes issues like property division, child custody, child support, and spousal maintenance. 

The average price of full litigation for a divorce in New York City is $50,000 — or $25,000 per person.

Finally, New York is one of the few states that still allows for a fault-based divorce. A fault-based divorce is far more expensive than a no-fault divorce. You can choose whether you want to file a no-fault, which means that your marriage is “irretrievably broken,” or a fault divorce, which charges the offending spouse with physical or mental abuse, adultery, abandonment, or imprisonment. Fault-based divorces are far more expensive because they will almost certainly go to trial, and your lawyer must work to discover and prove evidence that proves fault.

Learn about Fault vs. No fault divorce in this SAS piece.

Wonder what “Irreconcilable Differences” are when it comes to divorce? Check out this piece “What are Irreconcilable Differences and Do They Apply to You?”

How Much Does a Divorce Cost in New York City for DIY Divorces?

For a completely uncontested divorce, you might consider a DIY divorce. This is possible only if you and your spouse agree on all aspects of the divorce. and you are willing and able to invest a lot of time and energy into your case. This is because you will be responsible for it all on your own. If this is the case, your main cost will be the New York Court’s filing fee. Every state has a filing fee for filing your divorce with the court. This is the bare minimum, mandatory cost of a divorce. The New York City divorce filing fee is $335. This filing fee is added to the county’s index number cost. The index number is the number for your case that you put on all the papers before you file (it’s like a case identification number). The general index cost in New York is $210.

The absolute lowest cost for a DIY divorce in New York City is about $545 and accounts only for the filing fee and the index fee.

However, because the courts know how difficult it is to perfect the court process entirely on your own, New York offers an online divorce platform to assist you in your DIY divorce. This online system costs about $130. There any many reasons why a couple might invest in a New York Divorce Online service. A service would allow you to fill out the forms wherever and whenever you want, to take your time and be thoughtful with your information, to easily correct any mistakes you might make on the forms, and to have complete control over the process. A DIY divorce is the cheapest and the most personally labor-intensive type of divorce in New York City. Read “How Does an Online Divorce Work?”

SAS Tip: If you have the ability to dedicate time and energy and have an uncomplicated situation, then a DIY divorce is the least expensive option – but we only recommend it if you have little or no assets or debt and there are no children involved.

How Much Does a Divorce Cost in New York City for Uncontested Divorces? (Mediation)

Mediation, rather than litigation, is another option for an uncontested divorce. You might consider meditation if you and your spouse agree on all important aspects of your divorce (think property, child custody and support, and spousal maintenance). Mediation aims to save money by agreeing without having to enter the courtroom or go to trial. In most cases, this option will be far less expensive than a traditional divorce.

The average cost of private mediation in the state of New York ranges from $4,000 – $8,000,9 with New York City being on the higher end of the range.

Typically, mediation costs correlate to how complicated the divorce is (like with traditional lawyer costs) and the number of mediation sessions needed. Mediation fees typically include one to four sessions with a mediator, the preparation of the settlement agreement, and the cost of preparing and filing the divorce papers with the court.

Just like in traditional divorces, the more complex the case is, the more it will cost. The main cost factors in mediation are the number of issues in the case, the complexity of the problems, the cooperation of both parties, and the need for outside experts or specialists. If you use outside support, which is often a good thing, you will want to read this article on how “Hiring a Mediation Attorney in a Divorce Could Save You Money.”

Collaborative Divorce

In New York City, collaborative divorces are still relatively new.

  1. Divorce attorneys assist couples in resolving the contentious issues of divorce in a problem-solving manner.
  2. Lawyers negotiate on behalf of their clients and do not prepare for trial, putting them somewhere between mediation and full litigation.
  3. Divorces are typically less expensive than litigation and court battles, but they can occasionally cost even more. The cost of a collaborative divorce is determined by the complexity of the case.

In some cases, you might need to bring in a team of experts, like therapists, financial experts, or child psychologists, to reach a mutual agreement. Adding experts to a case will significantly increase the overall cost. If no additional experts are needed, then you are paying for the ease and peaceful problem-solving nature that accompanies a collaborative divorce.

Tip: If you have children and do not want to subject them to the litigious court process, you might consider mediation or budgeting for a higher-cost collaborative divorce – to keep the peace for the sake of your children.


Divorces are expensive. They take extensive planning and budgeting to ensure you can afford the type of divorce you want for the results you desire. Prior research and understanding of your options will ensure that there are no financial surprises or unneeded lessons learned the hard way. Make sure you advocate for yourself and ask questions before committing to any divorce model or legal process.


Elizabeth Newland is a third-year law student in Chicago who is committed to children and family rights. She aims to work in a family-related non-profit firm after graduation. 

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected


*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”


  1. How Much Divorce Lawyers Charge,
  2. How Much Does a Divorce Cost in 2022?, Forbes
  3. New York Divorce: How Much Does it Cost? How Long Does it Take? “New York’s statewide averages are likely a reflection of the large number of attorneys in our study from the greater New York City metropolitan area, where hourly rates were among the highest in the nation.”
  4. How Much Divorce Lawyers Charge,
  5. Filing for an Uncontested Divorce,
  6. How Much Does a Divorce Lawyer Cost in New York?,
  7. How Much Does a Divorce Lawyer Cost in New York?,
  8. How Much Divorce Lawyers Charge,
  9. How Much Does Divorce Mediation Cost in New York, Snap Divorce
Frequently Asked Questions about Divorce

The Top 5 Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce

One of the most daunting parts of a divorce is not knowing – not knowing the answers to questions, not knowing the steps to take, not knowing what to do first, and surely, not knowing the big and small outcomes of your every move. This article will review five common or frequently asked questions about divorce. And in response to those questions, we’ll give you a quick answer that helps manage your expectations and also, lets you hit the ground running. 

1. How long will it take for me to get a divorce? 

Frequently asked questions about timelines are often at the forefront for those eager to get out of their marriage. From a legal perspective – and from a bird’s eye view – the divorce process goes like this: 

  • Filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage 
  • Financial disclosure and discovery 
  • Dispute any issues you and your Soon-to-Be-Ex may have 
  • Drafting Divorce Agreement Papers 
  • Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage gets granted 

Those are the primary steps in any divorce case. If you and your spouse* are in agreement with everything (splitting up marital assets, debt, custody, maintenance, etc.), you can pretty much skip steps 2 and 3 and go straight to drafting the divorce agreement with your lawyer. 

SAS Tip: Even if you think you and your spouse are in agreement with the splitting of assets and debt, and how the children will be cared for, it is ALWAYS a good idea to get a private legal consultation to hear what your rights are and what you are entitled to before you commit. Another level of due diligence is to meet with a certified divorce financial analyst for a financial consultation to divorce and to drill down on what would be the best way for you to split things. Economically, it is harder for women after divorce.

What affects the duration of the divorce process?

Because frequently asked questions about the divorce process duration have so many different answers, here’s a run-down. If you and your spouse do not agree on everything, your attorneys will attempt to negotiate a deal and ask you for some financial documents so that they can figure out what is an equitable distribution or resolution. After this, documents signed by both parties will be presented to the judge. The judge will then enter a divorce judgment that states you and your Ex are divorced. 

You will always have the option to get a judge involved if you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement about a part of your divorce agreement. This could be a trial but more likely, you will have a hearing, which is much shorter and only focused on a specific issue. Involving a judge is a longer and more expensive process, but also know that less than 10 percent of divorce cases in the United States go to a full-blown trial. A trial is useful if the settlement proposal you receive is not something you would agree with. 

So overall, how long your divorce takes really is dependent on the situation. You may be in total agreement with your spouse and can get in and out of the process in a month. Sometimes, however, with more complicated situations, the process can be lengthier. Your attorney can probably give you an estimate.

If you are actually asking, how long does it take to get over a divorce? Ah, that is a different question entirely.

2. How will our property be divided?

Most states equitably divide the marital assets you and your spouse acquired during your marriage. (To know for sure about your state, check out “Divorce Property Division: Community Property States vs. Equitable Distribution States.

The first step in dividing property is figuring out what you have, and the value of everything. Then, your attorney figures out what you and your spouse jointly own. Anything jointly owned goes into the “marital estate” and everything in that marital estate is divided equitably. Of course, you can make agreements with your Ex about how you want to divide your assets, and the court will usually honor such settlement agreements. A common example of this is if you and your spouse own a house, and one of you wants to buy out the other. You and your attorney will put language in your divorce agreement about that, and the judge will most likely find this to be a sufficient agreement. 

Keep in mind that debt acts the same way as assets – and is dependent on whether you live in an equitable distribution state or a community property state.  For example, if you live in an equitable distribution state, and you have a student loan or debt on a credit card that is in your name, then that debt is considered personal property and is not divided between you and your spouse. If you live in a community property state, the debt is considered marital debt.  So where you live matters.

3. Will I receive child support and/or spousal support? 

Again, it depends! First and foremost, child support and maintenance are two separate areas of financial support and are determined separately. Spousal support or maintenance, previously known as alimony, is support so that you and your Soon-to-Be-Spouse can maintain the standard of living you had during the marriage. Child support covers the everyday costs of children.

You can receive maintenance, child support, or both depending on the circumstances. If you are the custodial parent (your children reside primarily with you), you will most likely receive monthly child support. Child support is supposed to cover the basic necessities of the children – like food, clothing, and shelter. You can modify child support at any time after your divorce is finalized too. 

SAS Tip: Try to forecast what you will need in the future for yourself and your children so you negotiate for it in the divorce document rather than later. It costs money in legal fees and time to go back and revisit a divorce document!

Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce and Maintenance

If you make less money than your Ex, you will most likely receive maintenance. Keep in mind, however, that maintenance is a factor test, and not every divorce warrants maintenance. Maintenance can also be modified after your divorce proceeding. You can also waive maintenance, meaning that you do not even want to ask your Ex for spousal support at any time now or in the future – but you may ask for something else as part of your divorce negotiation.

SAS TIP: Be prepared. If you are a Stay-At-Home-Mom, discover more must-knows by reading “How to Prepare for Divorce if You are a Stay-At-Home-Mom.” If you make more money than your spouse, check out “Breadwinning Women Face an Uphill Battle When Marrying and Divorcing.”

4. What about our kids?   

Depending on the state you live in, child support and college tuition can be ordered until a child reaches the age of 21. With issues concerning custody and visitation, however, the young person is considered an adult when they turn 18. 

So, when it comes to custody or visitation, courts only deal with minor children (children who are not emancipated and/or under 18) during a divorce. If you and the father of your children cannot agree on a fair custody or visitation schedule, the Courts will determine the time each parent spends with the child, and who gets to make decisions on the child’s behalf. 

Custody Considerations

For custody, the first issue, you and your spouse will come up with a parenting schedule. This can be a complete 50/50 split of parenting time, or you can have most of the parenting time with your Ex having strict visitation limits. If you and your spouse can negotiate this directly or with the help of your lawyers, all the better. Left to the Courts, the Courts will determine the custody schedule based on the best interest of the child. It’s important to know that in most states, the Courts will lean on you and your spouse having equal time/custody of your children, so 50/50.

The decision-making portion goes primarily the same way. You and your spouse can have joint decision-making, meaning that you two have to agree on big decisions in the child’s life, or you can have sole-decision making. The courts again focus on what is in the best interest of the child.

If you wonder how the children will survive the divorce, please read this piece to help guide your behavior and promote your best decisions.  “Will the Kids Be All Right? Long Term Effects of Divorce on Children.”

5. What does a judge consider during my divorce? 

These are frequently asked questions for a reason: the answers really matter. Your judge affects the outcome of your divorce! Most states have a “no-fault” divorce rule. This means the judge or the state does not care whose fault it was that the divorce is happening. Make sure you understand the difference between No-Fault and Fault Divorce.

If you go to court, a judge will look at the facts of your case, and try to make sure that there is a fair division of property (per your state’s divorce laws) and that the children’s best interests are followed. 

Your judge will take all of the facts presented into account, and figure out, based on your specific situation, what is a fair divorce agreement to come to. Make sure that if you are going to trial, or have to argue any part of your divorce in front of a judge, that your attorney knows exactly what you want and what you would and would not agree to. Transparency is the best tactic with your lawyer so that they can properly advocate for your wants and needs in front of the judge. 


Be kind to yourself. It’s natural that you may have some of these frequently asked questions when it comes to the topic of divorce. In fact, even as your progress through the divorce process, the questions never stop coming. 

If you are like a lot of people, chances are you just want to “get it done,” but we urge you: please be mindful of your future and the future of your children. Do not simply get things done, rush, or push through without doing due diligence in finding out what would be the best step for you personally, legally, and financially as a woman.  Read our “55 Must-Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist,” so you take control, smartly and healthily. Remember: even if we answered your frequently asked questions, you’ll still want expert advice customized to your situation.

We wish you good luck and are always here for you.

About the Author

Alexa Valenzisi is a rising 3L student in Chicago who is committed to child law and education law. She aims to work in education law or family law after graduation. 


Whether you are thinking about divorce, looking for answers to your frequently asked questions, or recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oftentimes complicated experience of breaking up and reinventing. 

To all women, SAS offers six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you—and your precious future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

* At SAS, we support same-sex marriages. For the sake of ease, we may refer to your spouse or Ex as “he/him” but we understand that exes come with many gender identities. 

Child Support and Divorce

Child Support: 5 Things Mothers Must Know

Divorce involves a lot of financial questions – will I get maintenance? How will we split up our assets? What about my children’s expenses? Child support answers that final question.

Child support is the financial aspect of divorce that focuses on which spouse will pay a monthly amount to the other spouse to help raise the children. This form of financial support is typically awarded to the custodial parent. The custodial parent is the parent who the child lives with most of the time. The non-custodial parent usually owes the custodial parent financial support. This support varies from state to state, but there are still certain facts about child support that run true no matter what state your divorce proceedings are in.

As a mother, here are the top 5 things you need to know about child support. 

  1. Steps to Receive Child Support 

First things first, anything regarding children in a prenup, including child support, is not enforceable. So, if your Ex tells you that something in your prenup stops you from receiving any financial support for children, ignore them! You are entitled to financial support for the sake of your children, regardless of any prenuptial agreements you made with your Ex.

It may sound obvious, but to qualify for child support, you need to have a child with your Ex. That does not, however, mean you need to be married to receive child support; you just need proof of who the biological parents are. There is an assumption that the married couple are the biological parents, and a simple signature on a birth certificate can usually alleviate any issues that may come up with this. Either biological parent can be on the hook for child support. After determining the biological parents (aka who can legally pay child support), there are a couple of different ways to go about determining the specific amount your Ex would have to pay you in financial support.

SAS TIP: When interviewing divorce lawyers as a means to getting educated on what your rights are as an individual woman, wife, and mother, consult this article for the best questions to ask a divorce lawyer and how to prepare for that meeting.  You’ll want to ask the lawyer to give you a best-case and worst-case scenario for your claim to child support, or what you might be on the hook for paying to your spouse. This will help prepare you for what must be negotiated with your spouse.

Negotiation and Mediation

If you and your Ex are involved in any mediation, negotiation, or settlement proceedings, you can negotiate and figure out child support between the two of you. The benefit to this method is that negotiating or mediating this issue costs less than litigation (or going to court), and that the two of you can figure something out between each other without getting a judge involved. Negotiating or mediating this allows the parties to have a little more wiggle room when it comes to financial support determinations. If your divorce is amicable, this is a great option for you and your Ex. That being said, the court is very predictable in awarding child support, which makes it another tool you can use during your divorce if there is no settlement agreement between you and your Ex.

If a couple wants to take up the issue of child support with the court, any financial information and parenting schedule is crucial information that your attorney will ask for. After the court receives that information, the judge will plug your information into a formula and figure out the monthly support amount.

In Illinois, for example, the judge will sign a Uniform Support Order. This order states how much, and how long someone needs to pay support. The Uniform Support Order is sent to the obligor’s (this is just a fancy way of saying the person who needs to pay) place of work, and the child support payments can be taken out of their paycheck automatically. The Uniform Support order will be included in your final divorce judgment from the court stating that you are in fact divorced.

  1. What Child Support Covers

Child support is interpreted pretty broadly. Essentially, it is designed to take care of a child’s everyday necessities. This includes shelter, food, clothes, etc. There are some things, however, that it does not cover.

For example, in Illinois, there is a completely separate provision in divorce law that talks about paying for college. Child support does not cover higher education costs. Families have to either negotiate this financial aspect, or are ordered by the court to pay these fees separately from any financial support obligations entered.

SAS TIP: It is important to ask your attorney what is and is not covered under child support so there are no future financial arguments over the children’s future expenses. This may have you choosing or trying to negotiate things elsewhere in the legal document as a way of bridging any gaps.

  1. How Child Support is Calculated 

As divorce laws vary from state to state, different states have different methods for determining financial support for the child. There are three main ways states will determine child support: the income sharing formula; percentage of obligor approach; and the Melson formula.

  • The majority of states follow the income sharing formula approach. The great news about this is it’s a formula, so the outcome for what your child support amount will be is a pretty predictable aspect of your divorce. The income sharing formula is pretty simple. First, the court must figure out you and your Ex’s combined income: (gross monthly income of parent 1) + (gross monthly income of parent 2) = the parents’ combined income.

What is an Obligor?

Courts take this combined income and multiply it by a child support percentage, which is the percentage of income spent on the kids. Then, the court will look at the relative income of the parents and figure out who has to pay what. This is just one reason why your financial affidavit and other financial documents that your attorney asks for are important during your divorce proceedings.

  • The obligor income approach is also straightforward.  Obligor is just a fancy way of saying the parent who owes the other parent money. The oblige is the parent who will receive the child support payment. The court first decides who has to pay financial support for children. From there, the court determines the percentage that parent spends on the children pre-divorce, and then orders the non-custodial parent to pay that.
  • The final approach, the Melson approach, is specifically designed for parents with low income. This approach allocates a small portion of income to the parent for their own basic needs. Once that basic needs number is met, the next chunk of change goes to the children. Once discharged, the formula approach applies to the money left over.

What else do you need to know about or start checking off regarding your divorce? 

Read our “55 Must-Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist” to make sure you are not neglecting yourself or your future.

  1. How to Change Child Support Obligations 

Child support, as the name entails, ends when the youngest child turns 18, as they are no longer children in the eyes of the law. That being said, child support can change throughout its lifetime.

The magic word to change child support before a child turns 18 is a substantial change in circumstances. If something substantial happens – for example, one parent loses their source of income – a parent can go to the court and ask the judge to modify the child support order. The most common example of this is the parent paying support loses their job. This parent would go to the court, prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstance, and the judge will decide from there if, and how, financial support should be modified.

It’s not just about the laws in a divorce, it’s also about what will make the most sense for you financially.  Check out this important piece, “Smart Moves for Women: A Financial Consultation for a Divorce.”

  1. National Child Support Facts  

Child support should be nothing you should be ashamed of. Most women who go through divorce receive some sort of support from their Ex, and child support is no exception. In fact, in the year 2015, the aggregate amount for child support for the United States was around 33.7 billion dollars. It is something that you are entitled to, and it is something that helps you be the absolute best parent you can be. Child support is designed to allow children to maintain their lifestyle as it was before the divorce.


Overall, child support is something that a lot of divorced couples need to maneuver through. Courts are very reliable and predictable in awarding child support. The judicial system is there to make sure that if you have the majority of parenting time with the children, your spouse is entitled to partake in financial obligations as they relate to your children.


Alexa Valenzisi is a rising 3L student in Chicago who is committed to child law and education law. She aims to work in education law or family law after graduation. 

Whether you are thinking about divorce, dealing with it, or recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oftentimes complicated experience of breaking up and reinventing. 

SAS offers all women six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you — and your precious future.

 Join our tribe and stay connected.

Will my spouse get my IRA in a divorce?

Will My Spouse Get My IRA in a Divorce?

Divorce can have a serious impact on your life and in particular your retirement plan. More often than not, when you go through a divorce, a large percentage of your shared assets include your retirement accounts. This often leads to the question, “Will my spouse get my IRA in a divorce?”

In this article, I will discuss what it looks like to divide IRAs in divorce, and whether you should use your IRA to pay for your divorce. I’ll also discuss smart retirement strategies for women, and importantly, what you should do with your IRA post-divorce.

How Does Divorce Law Divide IRAs?

Unlike 401ks or other qualified plans, IRA accounts are divided under what is called a transfer incident to divorce when a divorce is completed. 

Any financial firm that handles your IRA may do things a little differently, but what’s important is that they will not require a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO).

With your IRA, your divorce will need to be finalized and a divorce decree will be necessary.  The good news is that this is not a taxable transfer because it is part of a divorce settlement.  However, if the receiving spouse decides to withdraw money from the account, this will incur taxes and may incur early withdrawal penalties.        

How much will each spouse receive? It is important to learn whether you live in an “equitable distribution” or “community property” state and what that means for dividing up your retirement accounts. Other factors may come into play such as contributions made to the account during the marriage. If your spouse is willing, you may be able to offer cash or securities in non-retirement accounts instead of giving up a larger part of your IRA. It is important to consult and ask this of your attorney as well as a financial advisor who specializes in divorce, like a certified divorce financial analyst or certified divorce financial planner.

Learn more about divorce property division and equitable distribution or community property laws here.

Should I Use My IRA to Pay for My Divorce?

Paying for a divorce can be incredibly costly and since retirement may seem to be a long time away, it is tempting to withdraw money for legal and other expenses of a divorce. However, you must know, withdrawals from an IRA before the age of 59 ½ may result in a penalty if you don’t qualify for an exception.  

In addition, draining your retirement account could also jeopardize your financial future.  

Make sure you have considered all other avenues before using your IRA for legal fees. IRAs are tax-advantaged accounts that can help your savings grow and your investments can compound over time. Depleting these types of accounts too early can have a huge impact on what you are able to accumulate over the long term.  

If you are dealing with divorce you’ll want to know how to structure and sequence the many To-Do’s facing you. Check out “The 55 Must Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist.

Retirement Saving Strategies for Women

Women face various and unique challenges that can seriously affect their ability to save and invest along the way. First, women on average remain the primary caregivers for children or aging family members and therefore move in and out of these roles throughout their lifetimes.

Second, women tend to lean toward a more conservative approach to investing which can limit the growth of their wealth over time. Because of the gender pay gap, women are not able to contribute as much on average to their retirement accounts which results in lower wealth over time. Finally, women’s lifespans are increasing along with the costs of healthcare which means their dollars need to stretch longer than they have in the past.  

Here are a few strategies that women can use to combat some of these issues:

  • Contribute as much as possible to employer-sponsored retirement plans while working.
  • If you do not have a retirement plan through work but have earned income consider opening an IRA and maximizing contributions.
  • If self-employed, even part-time, consider a SEP IRA
  • Participate in a Spousal IRA (if eligible)
  • Create a budget and make sure you are staying on track.
  • Work with a financial advisor to help you find the appropriate mix of investments to help you achieve your long-term goals.
  • Consider rolling over any 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement plans from previous employers into an IRA for more investment choices and streamlined account management.  

To understand more about what women face when dealing with divorce, consider reading “What Divorce Does to a Woman.”

Your IRA Post Divorce

After the accounts are divided and your divorce is complete, the first thing you should do is review your beneficiary designation. It is all too common for an Ex to be left as a beneficiary on an account long after a divorce has been finalized. While your assets outside of your retirement accounts will pass to your beneficiaries based on what you specify in your will, a retirement account will pass to the designated beneficiary on file at the brokerage firm that holds your IRA.  

Seek Advice from a Financial Professional

Before and during your divorce it is smart to consult with a financial advisor to make sure you optimize your best financial situation for the splitting of assets. And certainly, after you finalize your divorce, it is important to seek the advice of a financial professional who can help you understand your new priorities and work with you to achieve your desired retirement lifestyle. 

Everyone faces similar challenges when creating a long-term retirement plan, however as mentioned earlier, women often juggle multiple roles both at home and at work, they tend to lean toward a more conservative investment approach and on average have a longer life span than men. All of these factors make planning for your retirement more important and more complicated than ever.    


Christine Healy is a Senior Financial Advisor and Resident Director with Merrill Lynch.  Licensed in all states, she holds the Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® Designation and dedicates a portion of her practice to guiding individuals through the financial implication of divorce. Licensed in all states, you can contact Christine here to support your needs and goals as a woman dedicated to rebuilding your best life after divorce.

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

*To learn what a divorce decree is, read here.

Selling the house during divorce

5 Must Do’s for Selling the House During a Divorce

When going through divorce, one of many steps to contend with is dividing the marital assets. Oftentimes, the biggest of those marital assets is your house. However, your home is not the same as a bank account or a retirement account for many reasons, the most important being that there is an emotional connection to the marital home. Rarely do you hear of stories where people become emotional about moving their checking account from Citibank to Chase. In contrast, selling the house during divorce can be a complex process.

However, the marital home elicits a reaction that no other asset can. This holds true for your everyday person and celebrities as well. For example, Kim Kardashian West, paid a whopping $23 million to Kanye West in order to buy him out of their California property, so their children could remain in their home. You may have raised your children and made family memories there. You likely poured time, money, and love into the home to make it just that: a home. When making the decision to sell the marital home, it’s important to consider many different factors.

Here are five must-do’s when selling the house during divorce:

1.) Acknowledge your Emotions and Remain Rational

The first step in selling the house during divorce is to acknowledge that you will most likely have an emotional reaction. Because of this, it is completely normal to feel emotional about moving on.

Once you have allowed yourself to feel these strong emotions, it is important to recognize the impact they may have on your decision making. If your emotions control your decision making, you may not be putting yourself in the best position to succeed in the future. Emotions can play a role in your decision-making process, as long as you balance them with rational and reasoned analysis.

For example, take the couple that rents an apartment in downtown Manhattan. Most likely, they are paying a significant amount of money in rent every month and not building any equity in the housing accommodation. Objectively, this is not the best “business decision.” However, there are significant emotional reasons for living in Manhattan, such as the nightlife, restaurants, and the buzz that comes along with living in New York City.

If this couple has considered the financial and emotional reasons for deciding to rent in downtown Manhattan and chose to do it anyways, that decision is at least coming from a place of understanding and rationality. Taking out the emotion while going through the divorce process is easier said than done, but poor decisions are often made when emotion wins out over reason. 

2.) Make Sure Selling the Home During Divorce is the Best Financial Decision

While it may initially seem like a no-brainer to keep the home in the divorce, doing so may not always be the most financially sound decision. In the first instance, you have to determine what other assets you may be giving up if you are deciding to keep the home. Since the home may be your biggest asset, there is going to have to be a significant “give” in order to balance out the marital assets and divide them equitably or equally (depending on the state).

By way of example, if there is $300,000 in equity in the home and the marital bank accounts total the same amount, you would have to give the entirety of the bank accounts to your spouse if you were keeping the home. Understanding what you will be giving up may change your decision as to whether or not to keep the home.

If you are wondering about the house and what you should do, read more “Should You Keep the House During Divorce”.

Another important consideration is whether or not you can afford the carrying costs related to the home going forward. A home is different from most other assets in that it carries monthly cost associated with it. There are the known costs, such as the mortgage, taxes and insurance, and then there are the unknown costs like a pipe bursting or a boiler breaking down. It is advisable to work with a professional, such as a financial advisor (check out, “Smart Moves for a Woman: A Financial Consult for a Divorce”) in order to understand your ability to afford both the known and unknown costs. Doing so will allow you to make the decision to keep the home from a grounded, rational place that takes into account the future.

3.) Determine the Practicality of a New Home

If you make the decision to sell the home, whether to your spouse or to a third party, you will need a new place to live. Taking into consideration what that will look like is an important part of the equation. You should ask yourself (and your financial advisor) whether or not you can afford a down payment on a new home. If so, will you be able to qualify for a mortgage and if you can, will the monthly payment be affordable or cost-prohibitive? If not, will you rent a new place? Having this type of information in your back pocket allows you to make a more informed decision as to whether selling the home during divorce makes the most sense for you.

For a step by step approach to getting divorced, consider our popular 55 Must-Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist.”

If there are children involved, there are even more important factors to consider when determining the practicality of a new home. Are you able to purchase or rent a home big enough to fit your children? Will bedrooms have to be shared? Will moving change the school district that the children are attending? Often when children are younger, the fact that they will have to change schools is less important.

However, it is important to look long-term at what their living needs may be in the future. If the children are older, you may not need a larger home because they are going away to college soon.

Matching your financial capabilities with the real (and desirable) needs of the children is not always an easy task, but if you can successfully do so you will most likely be in a better position to thrive after the divorce.

4.) Work with Trusted Professionals when Selling the House During Divorce

Determining whether or not to keep the home after divorce is not an easy process. That is why it is even more important to work with trusted professionals who can help assist you with the different aspects of the process. As discussed, it is incredibly valuable to work with a financial advisor who can help you determine if you can afford to keep the home or buy a new one.

Financial Advisor

A financial advisor can also help you crunch the numbers and  project out whether you will be able to pay for your home-related expenses, and how that might impact other aspects of your financial plan such as paying other expenses or saving for retirement.

Divorce Attorney

In addition to working with a financial advisor, it is also beneficial to work with a divorce attorney who is a creative thinker with helping you strategize how to get the best outcome regarding your house.  And elsewhere, more real estate specific professionals. For example, working with an appraiser who can give you an accurate valuation of your home is immensely important as that value will be used in your determination of whether or not to keep the home, and what other assets you might have to forego.

Real Estate Broker

If you do decide on selling the house during divorce, working with a strong real estate broker who can help to maximize the home’s value is a must. By deciding on the proper listing price, staging the home, and looking at comparable homes, a good real estate broker can help you get you a great price for your home. Additionally, that same broker can work to find you a deal on your new home.

Divorce Coach

A well-connected divorce coach can support you with helping you get organized and with learning how to evaluate your home, as well as putting you in touch with many of the right, specific experts who can weigh in with their particular knowledge. Leaning on the advice of trusted professionals is a key to making a smart and reasoned decision as to what to do with the marital home and other issues you may be contending with in the divorce.

5.) Collaboration is Key

While it may be easy to see your spouse as your adversary in the divorce process, better decisions surrounding the marital residence are made when you are able to work together. If you and your spouse decide to sell the home to a third party, your ultimate goal is to maximize its value so you each can benefit from the sale price. Additionally, if one spouse begins “playing games” and not allowing the property to be shown or disagrees with the choice of broker just for the sake of disagreeing, it ultimately will cost both spouses financially.

If you are in that place of actively moving out of the family home or you are interested in accelerating your spouse’s departure, you may want to check out “21 Steps to Moving Out of the House After Divorce.”

On the other side, if you and your spouse are on the same page, you both will benefit. Additionally, you can both overcome hurdles through collaboration.

For example, if you decide on selling the house during divorce and you cannot qualify for a mortgage on your own, the divorce agreement can include a clause in which your spouse can help you qualify by co-signing the mortgage.

Consider the example of the “delayed sale.” If you and your spouse have children who are close to college age, perhaps you can agree that one of you will live in the home until the children graduate high school, at which point you will sell the home (or one spouse will buy the other out at that time). This requires collaboration but can be extremely beneficial for both spouses.

Final Thoughts…

Deciding what to do with the marital home after a divorce is not an easy decision. By following these suggestions and consulting with pro’s who are looking at your specific story and needs, you will be in a position to make rational and reasoned decisions that allow space for your feelings. Just don’t make the decision from a strictly “feeling” place.


Ian Steinberg is a Matrimonial Attorney at Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein, LLP, where he focuses on the litigation, mediation, negotiation, and settlement of matrimonial and family law cases. He also specializes in the drafting of prenuptial and postnuptial agreements. Prior to his current role, he practiced real estate law representing property owners in courts throughout New York City. Ian’s real estate background gives him important insights into the division of the marital home when couples are separating. You can reach out to Ian by email at, via his LinkedIn, or on his firm’s website.

Since 2012, SAS for Women has been entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusion afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

6 Ways to Be Debt Free After Divorce

6 Ways to Be Debt-Free After Divorce

Going through a divorce can feel incredibly draining: emotionally, psychologically, and—of course—financially. While emotional healing can be a long, winding road, one objective way to start fresh is to work towards eliminating your financial debts as soon as possible. Clearing your debts can serve as a powerful method of beginning a new chapter of your life, signaling to your subconscious and the world that you are capable of making positive, impactful changes in your own life. In order to tackle your debt, you must have a proper plan and thorough knowledge about the best ways to get rid of your divorce debt. To help, we are sharing the top 6 ways to be debt-free after divorce.

Reducing Your Debt

As per the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC), the divorce rate is around 2.7 per 1,000 people in 45 reporting states, including the DC. The majority of the couples going through a divorce can find it challenging to deal with the debt situation. Nevertheless, you can use these methods to reduce your debt and soon eliminate it.

1. Consolidate your Debt 

The first thing you need to do is consolidate your debt to bring down your interest payments. For example, women often put the fees involving their divorce process on their credit cards because they don’t have direct access to funds. As a result, they end up paying high interest on those cards. Therefore, the first thing that you need to do is clear all those high-interest loans.

Read more about smart hacks for debt consolidation,

2. Negotiate with Creditors 

The next thing you need to do is negotiate to bring down your debt or interest rate. If you have a good payment history and a good reputation among the creditors, they will be more than willing to facilitate you in your hard times.

You can always negotiate with your lenders to bring down the interest rates if you have a good credit score and history. As a result, you can save the money you pay in interest and bring down your debt.

Let’s say you owe back tax taxes to the IRS. Contact the IRS and ask to be put on a payment plan which will reduce the interest you would normally pay had you not asked to be put on a payment plan.

3. Divide your Loan

Once you end your marriage, (even before it’s officially recognized by the divorce document) it is imperative to take responsibility for the monies or loans you are liable for.

If your spouse or Soon-to-be-Ex spouse does not make the payments on time, you will be held responsible. You will share the blame for it even if you share no responsibility in your divorce contract. This can significantly impact your credit score and history.

As an independent woman, you need to develop your credit history for the future. Therefore, if you have any joint loans with your Ex, you should refinance them. This alone is a good reason to consult with a financial person once you know you will divorce.

Paying Off Your Debt

Now that you are able to bring down your debt, it is time to pay it off. To avoid hassles, the right strategy is vital. If you throw all your savings into clearing out the loans, it could result in other financial problems. So instead, here are a few ways you can plan to fully eliminate your loans.

4. Increase your Sources of Income 

When it comes to debt elimination, increasing your income is imperative. You can use the extra money in hand to chip away at your debt and get rid of the financial burden. Although it won’t be easy, it is best to eliminate your debt.

You can look for part-time opportunities that you can take up after your job. These part-time opportunities are often called side-hustles. Maybe you have a particular talent or passion that could complement your full-time job—like tutoring others in a foreign language, or designing flower arrangements for parties, or creating website designs? You could also ask your current employer to increase your salary or look for a job with a higher salary.

In a nutshell, your strategy needs to be about increasing your income. And the good news is that divorce is often a catalyst for getting creative and practical with your life. It can inspire your ambition to find more challenging things to do and to be compensated for it.

Related: Divorce Recovery: 10 Things to Do If You are Suddenly in Charge of Your Finances

5. Look for Ways to Get More Cash 

Apart from getting another job, you can also look for ways to increase the cash in hand. For instance, you can always throw a garage sale and sell items that you do not need. What about your luxury items that may be sitting on your shelf… or parked in that same garage? Anything from watches and jewelry (wedding rings?) to handbags or vehicles. There’s often a market for your unused items and a consignment or specialty platform like eBay or Poshmark that specializes in selling these things. Investigate your options and purge your possessions wherever possible.

6. Cash in your Life Insurance 

Another way to pay off your debt is by cashing your life insurance. It can help you get the number of funds you need to clear off your debt. The best part is, even if you have beneficiaries, you can take a small amount out of the policy and leave the rest of the proceeds for the people you care about.

Before you cash out your life insurance policy, however, make sure you investigate the fees you may pay for doing so. There will be charges.

The Most Important Takeaway…

Going through a divorce and dealing with your debt situation can be difficult, and even terrifying. The massive transition from your old life to your new one will likely take some time to get used to. But the goal of getting rid of all your debt needs to be on the top of your list.

Freeing yourself from debt means no longer having to pay a huge interest fee each month. With that monkey off your back, you will feel not only financially relieved but emotionally liberated.

To summarize, remember: you should plan to consolidate your debt to get a lower interest rate and then increase your income to pay off the debt quickly.


To learn how your debt might be consolidated and what steps you can take to move forward feeling more financially free, you are invited to schedule a free consultation with Lyle Solomon, the author of this article and a principal attorney for the Oak View Law Group in California. Lyle graduated from the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento and is a specialist helping people rid themselves of debt.

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

Cheap Divorce Lawyers

Why You Don’t Want to Search for Cheap Divorce Lawyers

Cheap can be costly. And, when it comes to divorce, cheap divorce lawyers can ultimately drain your accounts—financially and emotionally. The temptation to team up with touted cost-cutters is understandable. But learn the risks and costs before throwing your trust (and future) into the bargain basket.

Even in the most amicable situations, the divorce process can make you feel as if you’re hanging onto a cliff’s edge by your fingernails. There are so many details to consider, with so many time-sensitive must-do’s. And, there are so many things with future relevance for parting spouses and their children.

When you start adding it all up, it’s inevitable that you’ll ask: How much will my divorce cost me, financially and emotionally? 

So why wouldn’t you strive to save wherever and whenever you can? After all, if you don’t send a lawyer’s kids to college, you might be able to send your own kids to college.

Enter that internet know-it-all, Google. A quick search for “cheap divorce lawyers” ought to get this show on the road and save you bundles, right?

(You might even be lucky enough to know someone whose next-door neighbor has a friend whose cousin is a lawyer… kind of.)

Don’t get us wrong. Frugality has its place, especially when employed with conscientious research and self-discipline.It goes “deeper than cheaper” and assumes an underlying prudence in decision-making.

Cheap, however, carries an implied reference not only to price, but to quality.

And cheap divorce lawyers are no exception.

Let’s consider some of the most important qualities of a good lawyer… and how they differ from the cheap ones.


  • Good lawyers are respected within their profession, even by competitors.

They are respected for their knowledge and skill… and especially for their integrity. They would never disrespect the law, let alone encourage you to lie or withhold required information.

  • Good lawyers are transparent with their clients.

They don’t bury costs, fees, and terms beneath undisclosed jargon and code. Because they act with integrity, they want their clients to know “what and why” when it comes to actions taken and the costs associated.

  • Good lawyers advocate for you.

They give you the assurance, by their actions, that you are in good hands. They will go to bat for you and not cut corners when your future is at stake. Most importantly, they will also listen to you.

  • Good lawyers care about you and the outcome of your case.

They are vested in your case. They want you to succeed, not just as a source of their paycheck, but for your future well-being.

  • Good lawyers know how to handle complicated cases. 

They have a thorough understanding of the law and years of experience applying it. They know how to resource information that can resolve even the most intricate matters. In other words, they know how to get things done.

Cheap divorce lawyers, on the other hand, are cheap in part because they can handle only simple cases.

  • Good lawyers are accessible.

They respond to your phone calls and outreach in a clear and timely way. They also keep you abreast of any updates in your case.

Cheap lawyers take on a lot of clients to make as much money as possible. This means they don’t return your calls, they don’t remember your story when you are talking with them, and they’re not prepared when they speak with you… or the judge. And before getting to court, they often don’t educate you on what your choices really are, because they want to be finished with you as soon as possible. Next!

  • Good lawyers keep you on track and on time.

Divorce, in a very pragmatic sense, is a process of checking off a long list of requirements.

It’s also a process of meeting deadlines and staying on time.

A good lawyer will keep your case on time and you informed of all that is required of you.

Cheap divorce lawyers, on the other hand, aren’t always motivated to look after your timeline.

And what does that mean for you? You guessed it. Fees, penalties, and more money out of your pocket.

It also won’t make you fare well in the eyes of the court if you aren’t organized and punctual.

So where does this leave you when money is an issue, but quality is critical?

You actually have a number of options, most of which will depend on the ability of you and your soon-to-be-Ex to cooperate.

We always encourage our readers and clients to handle as much of their divorce as possible without litigation.

This means understanding, first and foremost, the difference between an uncontested and contested divorce. Every bit of contention in your divorce will come with a price tag and a protracted timeline.

If you and your soon-to-be-Ex are agreeable and amicable in your communication, you may be good candidates for mediation. But before choosing mediation or which method you’ll use to divorce, we strongly urge you to have a private, educational consultation with a reputable divorce attorney. We want you educated on what your rights are and what you are entitled to as a woman BEFORE you go to the mediation table and start making decisions dividing things up.

For this initial consult, here are the best questions to ask a divorce attorney to get you started.

After that meeting you can think about your husband’s personality and what model of divorce might be right for both of you (DIY, mediation, collaborative divorce, traditional approach, or litigation.)

Or get fully educated first.

Consider joining us for Annie’s Group, where it’s safe to learn what is possible for your life, legally, emotionally, financially, and practically, before you jump or make any big decisions.


Why is mediation often a good model after you’ve been educated privately as a woman?

Because it’s an “interest-based” approach to divorce as opposed to a retribution-based approach.

You are both coming to the table with your current and future needs and interests. And, if you have children, you are looking out for their well-being, both now and in the future.

Mediation is a favorable way to keep your divorce out of the courts. And the best part is that, instead of a judge deciding your settlement, you (and your STB ex) do.

But what if we agree on some things but not others? You may wonder. Believe it or not, you can actually use mediation for parts of your divorce and legal representation for the rest.

Even if you choose to use mediation for the entire process, you can still retain legal counsel for guidance before and review during. (And here is another distinction between good and cheap divorce lawyers: An attorney worth your consideration will not be threatened by your choice to use or incorporate mediation.)

Here is an essential guide for preparing for divorce mediation.

Another non-litigated approach is a collaborative divorce. Both mediation and collaboration have their pros and cons especially as relates to women advocating for themselves. So do your research and be honest about what is likely to be most workable for both of you and your circumstances.

You also have the choice to do a DIY divorce, utilizing resources online. If you choose to consider that approach, know that DIY is really best for short-term marriages, or marriages where there are not any children, little or no debt, and few if any assets.

What’s the big message here?

Your divorce, as awkward as this sounds, is an investment in your future. It’s also an investment in your children’s futures.

What you choose, how you choose, and why you choose what you do carries a lot of weight.

As difficult as it may be to lead with a business mind and not emotions, doing so is critical to your success.

Divorce cuts deeply into your life, emotions, and self-esteem, even when it’s not an “ugly divorce.” It unearths inevitable questions, doubts, regrets, and fears.

The way in which you navigate your divorce will be a statement of value that you make about yourself and your life. It will also forge a lasting memory and influence for your kids.

And no value statement is louder or clearer than the people you draw into your circle.

Money-conscious? Smart woman.

Cheap? Never.


SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to rebuilding their lives on their own, healthiest terms. If you are recreating after divorce or separation, you are invited to experience SAS for Women firsthand. Schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation. Whether or not you work further with us, we’ll help you understand your next, black-and-white steps for walking into your brave unknown — with compassion, integrity, and excitement.


breadwinning women and divorce

Breadwinning Women Face an Uphill Battle When Married and When Divorcing

A recent University of Chicago study* found that marriages with breadwinning women are 50% more likely to end in divorce. Surprised? Women who earn more than their husbands are not! Let me tell you why.

Breadwinning Moms Do Not Get Equality at Home

There is still widespread practice of women taking on more of the family caretaking and household chores. This custom has not gone away even with the advancements women have made toward gender equality in other areas of our life, such as career and education.

According to The Atlantic, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that “married American mothers spend almost twice as much time on housework and childcare than do married fathers.” Moms spend even more hours each day on childcare today than did mothers in the 1960s. Now consider that women are also much more likely to be working than in past decades. Has marriage equality actually back-pedaled over the last 60 years?

Even more shocking, a recent study by the Journal of Family Issues found a traceable connection between income and hours spent doing housework. The more a wife out-earns her husband, the less he does at home.

The European Social Survey found that the men who do the very least to support their family in and outside the house are unemployed husbands.

You cannot make this stuff up! No one would believe it—except breadwinning women and the researchers who studied this issue. In other words, women’s career and financial success are penalized at home.

The More She Makes, the More Likely He is to Cheat 

There is another important issue for women who support their family financially—their husbands are much more likely to cheat. Funny enough, this proclivity for cheating is not seen in breadwinning women. Maybe our commitment to our spouse is enhanced by our lack of energy after working 12-hour days at the office and taking care of the kids. Perhaps few can muster the energy to have an affair. Some women have shared with me in confidence that while they are not happy in their marriage, they also do not feel they have enough time to get divorced!

Many high-earning women do not feel supported, which can lead to tension, fighting, and ultimately, divorce. According to the Huffington Post, “one study by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that marriages with breadwinning wives are often ‘less satisfying’ and more likely to end in divorce.”

More and More Women Are Making the Money

This situation does not only affect women. We are seeing more and more women balancing supporting their families, financially, while managing childcare, dinner prep, doctor’s appointments, and more.

About 29 percent (nearly one in three) of married women in the United States make more than their husbands, and it’s a group that is steadily growing.

In addition, women continue to surpass the number of men in obtaining college degrees. As a result, many of us are flocking toward typically male-dominated fields such as medicine, technology, and finance.

Financial Consideration for Women Who Make More

There are several unique economic issues that the female primary breadwinner should bear in mind when considering a legal separation or divorce. Laws are in place to protect the lesser-earning spouse during a divorce so that they are provided for, financially, once the marriage is over. These laws pertain to both sexes. However, paying child support or alimony is a tough pill to swallow for women who bore most of the responsibility of raising their children, managing the house, and toiling in a demanding career – a very different situation from that of most divorcing men in a bread-earning role. It is understandable why many women resent paying alimony when their spouse has not done equal time in the house with domestic chores.

Splitting Assets Is Not Straightforward

Equitable distribution, which is the dividing up of marital assets, has implications for breadwinning women, as well. Money earned during the marriage by either spouse is subject to division regardless of who earned it. However, the law presumes that each person made equal sacrifices and played a vital role in the marriage and, as a result, deserves to partake in the earnings and assets accumulated during the marriage.

This is another area fraught with controversy. Some matrimonial lawyers argue that the asset split awarded to their husbands should be less than 50/ 50. They point to their more significant role in the marriage’s success at home and in the workforce. Unfortunately, these situations are ripe for litigation in a “he said, she said” battle for who held the lion’s share of responsibilities at home and at work. Legal bills may accumulate at astonishing rates as arguments escalate. She can also find herself picking up the tab for her husband’s lawyer’s hourly charges, which is like pouring salt on an open wound.

Don’t Give It All Away

Against our advice, some women are willing to give a larger asset split to their husbands to make them go away, stem the cost of the divorce, and move on. One of our clients admitted, “I don’t have time to deal with him. I work a million hours as a marketing executive at a technology company, and I also have custody of the kids. Really, I would rather just give him what he wants and move on with my life. I just put myself forward for a promotion to take on a bigger role at work because I need to make up for everything that I have lost from my retirement. I also have 8 more years of spousal support payments in front of me.”

Learn more about getting healthily and smartly educated about divorce or separation if you are a woman…

Know What You’re Worth

Just because she makes more does not necessarily mean that the wife controls the finances. Some women are so busy making money that all the bill paying, investing, and financial decision making is left to her husband. This situation can put her behind the eight ball when it comes to a divorce. Not knowing the complete picture of the family’s financial situation can make her even more vulnerable during negotiations about how money should be divvied up post-divorce. Understanding the growth potential and tax impact of each asset is key, as well as the family’s lifestyle costs.

Parting Words…

There is little that is straightforward in a divorce when a woman makes more. While there is some case law that pertains to female breadwinning divorces, this is a relatively recent societal shift. While divorce is not easy for anyone, women who earn more need to plan their divorce thoughtfully and hire a team that works frequently with women in this situation. Breadwinning women have unique financial issues, and the financial stakes are high.



Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA®, CES™ is the President and CEO of Francis Financial, a fee-only boutique wealth management, financial planning, and divorce financial planning firm dedicated to providing ongoing comprehensive advice for women in transition such as divorce or widowhood. She is a Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®), Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®), and Certified Estate and Trust Specialist (CES™) with over 20 years of experience in the financial industry. Stacy is also the founder of the non-profit, Savvy Ladies™. 

If you need financial planning and wealth management guidance, feel free to reach out to us to schedule your complimentary consultation. You can view our website at


Since 2012, SAS for Women has helped women face the unexpected challenges that arise while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.


* Read the University of Chicago Study here.

Living on less after divorce

Living On Less After Divorce

The statistics about a woman’s financial well-being after a divorce are notoriously grim. There is no question that divorce often leaves women with a sharply reduced income. And if they have primary custody of their children, which is sometimes the case, they are more hamstrung in their ability to earn than they would be with no responsibilities other than themselves. Living on less after divorce becomes a matter of survival.

Grim, yes. Equally encouraging, though, is the fact that even though divorce means they are living on less, their actual lives are happier anyway. 

When contemplating divorce, many women ask: can I maintain my lifestyle and that of my children by staying in the marriage, or do I pursue my own happiness and model fulfillment for my children by pursuing divorce? Do I deny myself and my children the opportunities and security that money can buy? And, less noble but often just as compelling, do I abjure the status, comfort, and privilege that also come with that purchasing power? Or do I risk all that for the sake of joy and a life on my own terms?

It’s not an easy choice, even if it is a question of lifestyle and status vs. actual survival. And if it is about survival, the choice is much harder.

The Financial Impact of Divorce

Let’s consider the numbers. The net worth of each person in a marriage increases approximately 77 percent over their years together, yet divorcees experience an average wealth decline that is just as steep: 77 percent.

While men tend to see their incomes rise more than 30 percent after divorce, divorced women typically see a 20 percent decline in income. Poverty rates for separated women are about 27 percent, which is almost three times higher than divorced men. 

An estimated one in five women becomes impoverished as a result of divorce. This stems in part from the fact that while they’re still married, women are more likely than men to leave paying jobs outside the home to care for the couple’s children. Sixty-one percent of women say that raising children or caring for other family members kept them from taking paying jobs, as well. Only 37 percent of men claimed the same story.

A woman often puts in round-the-clock shifts as a mother. She may receive financial support from her husband. But should she and her husband divorce, she may see that financial backing all but disappear. Additionally, her work within the home not only generated no income for her but also earned her no work history and nothing to put on a resume.

Reframing Our Attachments to Status

Staying married for money isn’t always just a matter of survival, though. Whether they have children or not, some women become attached to the status that wealth confers, especially here in a capitalist country that idolizes the rich and famous. Often, the dopamine rush that purchasing power confers becomes a substitute for love and an emotional connection that isn’t there. That’s a powerful draw, and also makes for a powerful manipulation tool for the marriage partner who holds most or all of the financial cards. 

If you are struggling, worried and frightened, you are not alone. Seek solace and read our Facing the Fear of Divorce.

By the same token, having wealth and status can easily become a person’s identity, and what should remain a net worth becomes the measurement for self-worth. This seduction is difficult to spot, difficult to leave, and reduces a person’s value from who they are to the things they have.

But living on less after divorce often leads to the intriguing paradox of living better simply because the life itself is made of self-actualized freedom rather than the trappings of a lifestyle bought with the help of a husband’s money and a bartered self. 

Getting Help From the Professionals

A more meaningful life, one that isn’t cluttered with material possessions, is a worthy goal. Bone-deep happiness that isn’t dependent on an outside source is always a worthwhile pursuit. Living with less after a divorce can work beautifully, but that isn’t to say you should just toss it all to the wind without considering what your future will require of you. A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst is a key player to have on your side. When it comes to divorce, maintaining status isn’t the only issue. You are untangling the assets you share with your soon-to-be Ex, and that requires an inside view on all the numerous and complicated ways that money is used in building a marriage

There is a multitude of subtle financial details that can make or break a women’s future after a divorce. Most people, no matter how intelligent, aren’t aware of many of these key financial details. Far beyond a list of expenses, important details and loopholes include retirement benefits, assets, property, labor on behalf of the household, expenditures, and much more.

A CDFA may even have an insider’s understanding, not just of wealth division and how to do it fairly, but also of why a woman would choose to trade financial security for happiness. 

Even living with less after divorce and the second-guessing that can come with that choice, fewer women than men regret it.  Seventy three percent of women report having no regret over being divorced, while 61% of men say the same.  Further, 75% of women say they’d rather be alone and happy than stay in an unhappy marriage, while only 58% of men hold that same view.


Gains in Happiness

In another sampling of more than 1,000 divorced individuals, 53 percent of women said they actually are “much happier” after divorce, while only 32 percent of the men interviewed made the same claim. A similar canvassing of women in the United Kingdom found that 35 percent of them said that they felt “less stressed” after their marriages ended. While only 15 percent of men felt higher self-esteem after divorce, 30 percent of women felt they had grown in that regard.

Simply put, in living with less, women often find that they are more.

Halloween is right around the corner, so (just for fun) let’s look at living on less after divorce this way: forsaking the status and wealth that comes with marriage is a bit like making a Jack o’ Lantern. The original purpose of a Jack o’ Lantern was to frighten, but here is its paradox: carving one out, much like a new way of being, you cut away the things you don’t really need. Scooping up the insides, you find something nourishing in what you used to throw out with the trash. Instead, you use it to make dessert. Lighting the candle in its belly, you burn away your belief in an illusion of happiness that hinges on a zipcode or a platinum card.

And instead of sending you away, the grin that comes from turning fear on its head becomes a beacon that leads you home, to yourself.


Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer, former print journalist, and feature writer living on the West Coast. Connect with Jennifer at 


SAS helps women rebuild their lives after divorce—on their own terms. If you are a discerning, newly divorced and independent woman, you are invited to consider Paloma’s Group, our powerful virtual group coaching class for women consciously rebuilding their lives. Visit here to schedule your quick chat to learn if Paloma is right for you.