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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 verbosej@hotmail.com 

Notes

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.

Divorce Financial Settlement

What is a Divorce Financial Settlement?

A divorce financial settlement is the agreement or order directing how assets and debts are to be divided between the parties in a divorce. As such, it is part of the larger divorce settlement agreement. Most divorce financial settlements will involve dividing the entire estate equally 50/50; however, there are certain times when it is more equitable to have one spouse receive more assets or less debt depending on childcare, current salaries, and other factors. Generally, being informed and having open communication with your soon to be Ex will lessen the tension and hopefully lead to an amicable settlement across the board.

However, reaching an agreement can be complicated, with hundreds of questions about attorneys, consultation, and the tornado of paperwork that separating brings. How do you ensure that your financial settlement benefits you? How do you know that your lawyer is really working in your best interests? With all of these concerns, it’s no wonder why Psychology Today links divorce stress to physical health problems.

As a woman, your primary focus should be ensuring that you achieve the best business transaction for you–that you and your children are set up for healthy living after the split. To that end, here are some answers and general advice about how best to go about a divorce financial settlement.

Should You Settle Before or After the Parenting Agreement?

Ideally, it is best to figure out your budget first, parenting time second, and then settle the financial agreement third. To do this, sit down with a financial advisor and outline your monthly budget to determine what you need to make sure you can live as comfortably as possible. Understand that you will have to compromise. Most likely, you will not have the same standard of living you experienced while married. At the very least, you’ll need to make sure you have enough to cover your bills and essentials.

From there, calculate how much it would cost to clothe, feed, and house each of your children. You will need to factor in how much you will be receiving or paying in child support.

When determining your budget, remember to factor in hidden costs. Ask your financial advisor about inflation and taxes to make sure every expense is accounted for.

Answering these questions first will make it much easier when discussing the parenting agreement or the financial agreement. By having all your answers ready ahead of time, you will be prepared for every question thrown at you. It will also ensure you are not agreeing to things that may cost you more down the road.

How to Make Sure Your Divorce Financial Settlement is in Your Interest

It can be hard to divide finances evenly when there is an obvious bias between you and your Ex. Maybe you’re a Stay-at-Home-Mom or the primary breadwinner in your marriage. Hiring an attorney to negotiate helps ensure you get what is rightfully owed to you, or that you are not overpaying.

You need to be honest about everything financial. Armed with the budget you outlined before, be prepared to express your needs and be open about what you can compromise on. Sharing this with your lawyer will help you and your lawyer to come to the table with all the facts laid out; this is the best way to ensure you have financial security after the separation.

If you are concerned your partner is not telling the truth about their finances (he* wouldn’t be the first!) then a divorce lawyer can help. Leave the investigating to them. You need to focus on yourself and your needs right now.

When offered a document, it’s important to remember this rule of thumb as your creed: you will have to compromise. If it sounds like you are not compromising, then it is too good to be true.

Whom to Consult Before Submitting A Settlement to the Other Side

After consulting with the financial advisor to determine your budget, you need to sit down with a divorce lawyer to figure out your best course of action. Make sure to bring your budget calculations, tax returns, pay stubs, any prenuptial or separation agreements.

If you have any other legal documentation involving your children or Ex, such as a court case, bring that paperwork too. Your lawyer needs all the information they can get.

Once you bring everything to your lawyer, you need to see what exactly your lawyer can do for you. Their job is not to punish your Ex or go for revenge: they are advocating for you. You want a lawyer who is competent and experienced at their job, and you can ensure this by how they answer the following questions:

  • How many divorce cases have you handled?
  • How did you handle those divorce cases?
  • What is your fee structure?
  • What is the best method of communicating in the future?

If your lawyer stumbles, stutters, or does not have an answer to these questions, you may want to consult other legal counsel. (For more savvy questions to ask a divorce attorney, visit here.)

Divorce Financial Settlement Must-Knows

Just like how you have questions you need to ask your lawyer, you also have questions you need to ask yourself.

  • What do you own? See if you are listed as the owner of your car, home, and other assets. Noting what you brought into the marriage could keep your Ex from claiming it.
  • What do they own? If your spouse is eligible for social security benefits, insurance payouts, or a pension plan, you may have a claim to them.
  • What do you both own? You need to factor any jointly owned assets into the final agreement. Dividing 50/50 does not always mean fair.
  • What about taxes? If you have to choose one government agency not to mess with, choose the IRS. Consulting a tax accountant will save you lots of money.

Above all, try to be as objective as possible. This is an emotional time, but money does not cry. Finding a safe space for your emotional outlet (a therapist, a coach) will honor your heart and feelings while your brain must focus on the best business transaction for you. Encouraging your brain to stick to the facts will ensure that you come out the other side prepared for the single life.

Notes

Jeanette Soltys is a Partner and Divorce Attorney at Atlanta Divorce Law Group in Alpharetta, Georgia. A passion for wanting to help children and families seeking their happily ever after led her to pursue her Juris Doctorate from Wake Forest University School of Law. Visit Jeanette Soltys’ website to learn more about her, her law firm, and the services her team offers to families.

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 aftermath. 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.

*At SAS, we support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity, however, we may refer to your spouse as “he” or “husband.”