Financial Tips For Women Getting Divorced

by: Russ Thornton

No one gets married with the intention of getting divorced, but the unfortunate reality is that divorce happens, and it happens often. As a woman, it’s not enough to be emotionally prepared for a divorce, you need to be financially prepared as well. Whether you’re the family’s breadwinner or a stay-at-home mom, your responsibilities are going to be numerous as you embark on the journey to ending your marriage.

In order to ensure you navigate that road smoothly and safely, I want to share these "Financial Tips for Women Getting Divorced."

Don’t Go For EVERYTHING

Rare is the divorce that isn’t embroiled with visceral emotion.

Anger, bitterness, resentment…these are all feelings you will not only experience, but experience intensely.

That is why it’s so important to get these feelings under control before they can control you.

When anger or bitterness take over they can drive you to go for EVERYTHING in your divorce settlement.

Here’s the problem…going for “everything” will typically cost you more than it’s worth.

Divorce is all about negotiation.

Negotiation requires tact and compromise. You must quickly accept the reality you will NOT get everything you want in a divorce—but neither will your soon-to-be ex.

Identify the “wins” that are most important to you and focus on securing those. Let the extras fall by the wayside.

Don’t waste time (and money) fighting for things you don’t actually want.

Yes, it may sting to see your spouse walk away with “X” or “Y”, but that sting will be FAR less painful than a long, drawn-out (expensive!) divorce.

Don’t Be Penny-Wise and Pound-Foolish

Yes, lawyer fees are inconvenient.

Yes, lawyer fees are costly.

But one of the biggest mistakes you can make in any divorce is getting cheap with your lawyer.

Here’s the stark reality:

All lawyers—like all accountants, bankers, doctors, journalists, etc.—are not the same. Some are flat-out better than others.

Divorce is not the time to look for a discount professional.

If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur. – Red Adair

Too often women going through a divorce focus on the short-term cost of hiring an attorney—you need to think big picture and long-term. What are a few hundred dollars today in exchange for getting what you really want in the settlement?

Now, this isn’t to say that an expensive attorney will automatically be a great hire.

You’ll need to shop around, read reviews, and—where possible—get references from previous clients. Schedule introductory meetings with attorneys you’re interested in hiring and feel them out. It might seem excessive but remember you’ll be giving this person thousands of your hard-earned dollars and they’ll be representing you in a courtroom.

You MUST Budget

Divorce—especially if there are minor children in the marriage—can take time.

A lot of time.

Anything that involves time and the courts, also involves money.

Many divorcees mistakenly believe splitting up will only take a couple of months, and that there’s no need to plan for long-term legal expenses or other associated costs.

But divorce can take more than months, it can take years.

The longer the divorce, the more financial planning (and budgeting) you’ll require; a financial organizer can really help you with this.

When you and your spouse make the decision to end the marriage—even if you make that decision amicably—always anticipate a contentious and costly divorce.

Start saving for legal expenses and anticipate otherwise unexpected financial burdens.

Identify your current living costs and use those costs to predict your living expenses for the future. Not only will this improve your ability to budget in the short-term, it will also leave you with a clearer picture of what you’ll need in terms of alimony.

Consider Alternatives To Litigation

Getting divorced doesn’t necessarily mean a trip to divorce court is required.

One of the biggest financial mistakes you (and your spouse) can make is overlooking the alternatives to litigation.

Considering how costly a litigated divorce can be, why not think about something like mediation?

Mediation is more of a cooperative effort between you and your spouse, and less of a combative one.

More importantly, it can save serious time, money, heartache, and headache.

The mediator will account for all negotiable assets before creating a smooth, seamless, and fair settlement.

No, you might not walk away from mediation with “as much” as you would have received from traditional litigation, but mediation ensures you won’t walk away feeling “screwed” either.

Get Your Financial Ducks In A Row

This may be the biggest financial no-no divorcees are guilty of on a regular basis.

Getting your financial ducks in a row isn’t about budgeting for your upcoming divorce, it’s about getting all of your financial documents collected, sorted, cataloged, and inventoried.

Mortgage statements, credit card bills, auto loans, joint bank accounts, retirement accounts…you need to secure and make copies of all your financial documents.

Keep copies of these financial documents in a secure (private) location.

These documents will become very important the further you progress into your divorce.

Once you’ve accounted for your various shared-financial accounts, start opening replacement accounts in your own name.

At the most basic level, you’ll need your own checking and savings account…You’ll probably want your own credit card as well.

To ensure there’s zero-risk of an accidental joint account being created, work with brand-new banks—banks neither you nor your spouse currently do business with.

As you open your new accounts, check in on your credit score and ensure its accuracy. As a soon-to-be single woman, you’ll need a good credit score to do basic things like refinance the mortgage, rent an apartment or borrow for a new car.

Saving For Retirement

Divorcing your spouse can substantially impact your retirement planning. First of all, if you have a shared 401(k), that may have been liquidated in the divorce; you’ll have to reinvest it. Secondly, you’ll have to figure out retirement from your new financial perspective. You have less money coming in, and different opportunities to invest for retirement, such as your own company’s 401(k) or even your own investment planning. Once you’re clear of the divorce, start looking into retirement; otherwise, your divorce may have longer-term consequences than you think.

You’re Still On The Hook For Joint Debt

Unfortunately, a divorce decree isn’t something credit card companies care about. Your spouse could have been ordered by the court to pay off a joint credit card, or have gotten the house in the settlement, but if they don’t pay the bills, your name is still on it. So it’s your door they’re going to be knocking on, and it’s your credit that can suffer as a result.

The good news about all of this is that you can anticipate and plan for it. With a good financial planner at your side, you’ll be able to roll with the fiscal punches that come with divorce, and come out a better, financially healthier, person.

Bonus Tip – Keep Your Eyes OPEN

It should come as no surprise that spouses can be dishonest, and that dishonesty goes beyond infidelity.

As you wade deeper and deeper into the muddy pool of divorce, your spouse may try to hide financial assets they don’t want to share. And there’s NO shortage of ways to go about hiding assets either—stashing cash, lying on tax returns, transferring property titles, etc.

As someone going through a divorce, one of the BIGGEST mistakes you can make is to stop paying attention to your shared financials. Until the paperwork is FINAL and the divorce COMPLETE in the eyes of the court, there’s a lot at risk monetarily speaking. So keep your eyes open and watch out for anything that looks unusual.