5 Financial Tips for Spouses Getting Divorced

On television and in the movies, divorcing women are often portrayed as victims. Meanwhile, their husbands suffer in silence as they pack their bags, write out alimony checks and see their children one evening a week and every other weekend.

Off camera, men deal with as many emotions as their wives. They worry about breaking up their families, parental alienation, and lingering financial issues. Men are more inclined to keep quiet about their divorce because they’re less comfortable with being vulnerable and asking for support from friends, counselors, and financial professionals. They tend to keep their divorce private and that’s not always the best policy.

Divorce is difficult for all parties involved. Whether you’re the husband or wife, it’s important to surround yourself with a support team, just as you would during any major life transition. Consider the following situations; while these are not related to a divorce, they often involve establishing a support system, a network of people who help the individual accomplish their goal. Divorce is no different; it too requires a support system.

These situations involve support systems:

  • Planning a wedding
  • Planning a funeral
  • Estate planning
  • Starting a business
  • Going off to college
  • Moving into a nursing home
  • Probating a decedent’s estate
  • Raising children

While time heals the wounds of a failed marriage, good advice helps minimize the emotional scars of divorce, and that can be priceless. The more you understand the divorce process, and what it takes to dissolve your marriage, the easier this major transition will be. That said, here’s what you need to know about the financial aspect of divorce.

1. Get acquainted with the costs of divorce.
Every divorce is different; complex, high-net-worth divorces can be costly, while other divorces can be a lot less expensive. In other words, the costs of divorce vary widely. If you are wealthy and you don’t have a prenuptial agreement, the costs can rise significantly when your case requires the enlistment of divorce experts, such as a forensic accountant. Or, if you launched a business while you were married, your spouse may be entitled to half of what the business is worth under California’s community property laws.

If you don’t have minor children or significant assets, your divorce may be straightforward. However, if you are a parent who anticipates a child custody battle, remember that the more your divorce costs, the less money you have to give to your children. A protracted child custody battle could mean you’re spending some of your child’s college savings – that’s something to keep in mind.

2. Accept that you may have to pay spousal support.
Spousal support is money the wealthier spouse pays to the lower-earning spouse who was financially supported during the marriage. If you’re the breadwinner and your spouse was out of the workforce for a long time, you may be required to pay spousal support, but it’s not guaranteed. When spousal support is awarded in California, it’s typically awarded for one-half the length of the marriage unless it was a marriage of long duration, which is ten years. If the marriage lasted ten or more years, spousal support can be awarded without an end date.

In reality, much of the impact of spousal support is emotional rather than financial. Many men (and women) struggle with paying their former spouses support, especially when the receiving spouse was unfaithful during the marriage. Most divorced spouses do not want to write a check out to their ex husband or wife for support. It should be noted that since California is a no-fault divorce state, adultery does not preclude unfaithful spouses from receiving spousal support.

Historically, men were the ones to pay alimony to their wives, but since the gender gap has been closing in recent decades, women are paying spousal support too. If a woman was supporting her husband who was the stay-at-home parent, the husband can be entitled to spousal support. Some men say, “How am I going to look if I ask for support?” but many of them are entitled, especially when there was a large discrepancy in incomes.

3. Create a post-divorce budget.
Once you decide to get a divorce, it’s time to think about the logistics; it’s time to create a budget for your new life. Men tend to think about paying all of the divorce-related expenses, such as the attorney fees, child support and spousal support, but they forget to think about their personal expenses, such as housing, health insurance, their auto loan, food, gym fees, etc.

Women can get too comfortable by counting on spousal support, which may or may not be awarded. Instead of anticipating support, it’s best for women to start thinking of how they are going to financially support themselves as single individuals. In other words, if a woman (or man) has been out of the workforce to raise children and their children are now school-age, it’s wise to start looking for employment.

4. Be aware of the costs of joint custody.
These days, the courts encourage parents to enter into joint custody arrangements, especially when both parents are loving, stable individuals. If you will be seeking joint custody, be prepared: You will need to have furniture, clothes and toys at both houses. In many cases, children prefer to have duplicate items at each house, this way they don’t lose their belongings when going between houses.

5. Avoid making impulsive decisions.
Divorce is extremely stressful and because of that, it can affect people’s ability to rationalize. It’s OK to be emotional during and after your divorce, which is precisely why we urge you to treat your divorce with respect. Avoid making any impulsive financial decisions for 6 to 12 months following your divorce. Give yourself time to establish a new status quo. Don’t move halfway across the country. Don’t quit your job. Don’t make risky investments. Take some time to deal with the major transition.

Need a Los Angeles divorce attorney? Contact our office to schedule a confidential, free consultation with a compassionate member of our legal team.