Whether the decision is mutual or one-sided, going through a divorce is a sticky situation for all involved. Aside from the excruciating emotional aspect of the process, it’s also a time where your financial future can be put into serious jeopardy if you don’t take the proper steps to protect yourself. Don’t let yourself become the party less served, or end up with much less than you are entitled to. Keep an eye out for these five ways women often sabotage themselves during a divorce, plus learn how you should handle the situation instead.
1. Insisting on keeping the family home.
More often than not, Mom gets primary custody of the children and hangs on tooth and nail to keep the family home.
The desire to stay in a place that’s familiar is understandable—but are you sure you can afford the payments or the property taxes?
One thing too many women don’t come to grips with is that you can’t live off the equity in your home. So if the marital assets are worth $500,000, and you take your half of that in the form of $250,000 of equity in the home, you had better have enough income to cover all the expenses.
2. Not working with the right team of professionals.
Your soon-to-be ex might be pressuring you to just work it out at the kitchen table, but he also might be trying to get you to settle for less than the law says you should get. Make no mistake: You need a good lawyer. And then you can just say, “Hey, talk to my lawyer about that.”
And while lawyers are experts about divorce law, they may be not experts in financial matters. You also need a financial expert on your team to help both you and your attorney understand your complete marital financial landscape. Putting a financial value on things like business interests, expected future payments, income-producing real estate, stock options, and other things that are difficult to appraise is critical to a settlement that is fair to both parties.
3. Indulging yourself so much that you don’t deal with your new reality.
Get a massage or two. Have lots of ice cream. Drink too much and complain bitterly about him with your girlfriends. But don’t catch Ostrich Syndrome, where you stick your head in the sand and refuse to deal with what is going on around you. In order to move forward successfully, treat this like any other detailed project that needs to get completed.
It’s critically important to know exactly where you stand on the following areas of your life:
- How much cash do you have now?
- How much cash can you get? You will need spending money, so ask your attorney about requesting “temporary maintenance” to cover living expenses before the more formal court order.
- What is your income from all sources?
- What is the total amount of bills you are now responsible for?
- How and when does the attorney expect to get paid?
- Are there other expenses that will change because of the split? Consider items like increased daycare expenses and increased gas costs.
Once you’ve mapped those financial issues out, take a look at the steps you can take to help improve your situation – even if they are temporary. Some ideas include:
- Rent out a room in your house or apartment.
- Move to a smaller place.
- Ask for a raise.
- If you own a business, lower costs and take a temporarily higher salary.
- Find a part-time job.
- Create income online, such as selling items on eBay or Etsy.
Finally, if your husband was handling the financial plans and investments, you need to align yourself with a good financial advisor. This should be someone you trust and who will be your advocate. I recommend you work with a fee-only advisor so that there are no conflicts of interest.
4. Letting emotions rule the day.
Hey, I’ve been known to be a bit hotheaded when drama runs high. Believe me, I get it. When emotions are on your windshield, they can turn into the filter through which you see everything. But each decision you make before you get a settlement has the potential to impact the rest of your life.
Men often see divorce negotiations as business dealings—much to their wives’ chagrin. (In reality, women would be better served to do the same.)
While anger, sadness, and vindictiveness can feel comforting or easy in the moment, allowing those emotions to run the show is not likely to lead you to a peaceful and equitable outcome.
5. Playing the victim.
You have a story that he ruined your life, and one way to validate that story is to sabotage yourself financially so you can continue to complain about how he ruined your life. But this is one tactic I’m sure you’ll ultimately regret.
At the end of the day, a really compelling story doesn’t pay the bills. If you’re struggling to move forward, put plans in place, and think about the future.
If now is the time for you to start moving forward and planning for your new life, have a free gift for you today that I know you’ll find instrumental in your future plans. It’s a free audio training I created called, How to Release Financial Baggage. You can get it right now, by clicking on this link and entering your name and email address.
I wish you the best during this difficult time, and know that I have tremendous compassion for your situation, as I watched my own parents go through three painful divorces (all from different people) before my 17th birthday.
Hilary Hendershott is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.