One of the most unsettling aspects of divorce is around money. Money represents our emotional security in large part. That little piece of paper often dictates how well we sleep at night, if we believe all of our needs will be taken care, how safe we feel in the world, how relaxed we are able to be, and more.
The anxiety around money increases when going through divorce because there are so many unknowns. This frustration can skyrocket if you’re not earning your own income, and you’ve been dependent upon our spouse.
Angie’s Money Story
I’ve always had a huge safety need, for things to look a certain way so I would feel safe and be able to relax. That’s why I was attracted to the study of money because it felt black and white, logical, which was comforting when I often felt surrounded by chaos.
I got an accounting degree and studied hard for the CPA exam right out of college, earning the certification on my first attempt (insert proud emoji!). Then I went into public accounting for several years.
When I got divorced. I felt out of control around money. I gave up custody of my daughter, not having the self-worth or courage to fight for her. I was laden with guilt for wanting to leave the marriage. Now I needed to pay child support on top of managing my own bills.
I had been living in a house but moved into a small, one bedroom apartment when I divorced. I saved for three years I before I was able to afford to buy another house. The good news is that I was able to rebuild my financial and emotional security. And so can you.
You may be thinking, “That’s easy for you to say, Angie. You have a financial background and a degree.” And while this is true, I still had many fears around running out of money and feeling inadequate. I believe the key to making money is to feel creative and resilient, and the key to keeping it is to be loyal to yourself (and money will be loyal to you).
Getting a degree doesn’t guarantee you’ll have a healthy relationship with money…at all. And even if you haven’t been working consistently up until now, this is in no way predicts your future success. Your heart, mind and spirit, freed up of the burden of fear, have the capacity and freedom to create wealth and happiness. Trust that.
Going through divorce, though it was painful, was my first real act of financial risk-taking, because I leapt into the uncontrollable terrain of paying child support and splitting assets. This was training ground for giving me the courage to leave corporate America 13 years later and become self-employed full time in 2011.
Even though I couldn’t see it at the time, getting a divorce guided me to having more faith in the process of life and trusting my own inner resources. It was a terribly frightening time, and there was a silver lining.
KEY #1: What is your money story during this divorce?
How confident do you feel about your financial future and why?
Who’s been the main breadwinner (have you been out of the workforce)?
How can you begin to think to reclaim your power around money?
What’s your desired vision for your life? Perhaps draw a picture. The subconscious speaks to us through imagery and visualization. Art may give you insights into what you really want more so than writing or talking about it.
Set aside a good hour, when you won’t be disturbed, to delve into the heart of your money story. Journal it out.
KEY #2: Know the Legal Terms Around Money and Divorce
Maintenance: When divorcing, maintenance is an amount of money paid by one spouse to the other for regular living expenses. This applies when there is a disparity of income between the two spouses, meaning one makes significantly more than the other.
Division of Assets: When divorcing, division of property, assets and debt is necessary. Community property states (AZ, CA, ID, LA, NV, NM, TX, WA, WI) split property 50/50.
Equitable property states divide property in an “equitable” manner based on the judge’s discretion. Property that is labeled as marital is usually spilit 50/50. If property was owned prior to the marriage, acquired as an inheritance or gift, it may not be considered marital property. This can have big consequences when dividing marital assets.
KEY #3: Avoid Contested Divorce—It May Cost You Big time
We have lots of emotion wrapped up around money. Don’t waste time fighting over assets or trying to get revenge over items that don’t mean much at the end of the day. Remember that the more your attorneys get tied up in arguments over who gets what, the more you’ll pay in fees, and the less you’ll have for you and your kids.
Do your best to work things out with your spouse and avoid a contested divorce which becomes a crap shoot. How you come out largely will depend on the judge (are they fair, equitable, and not biased against your sex).
Though we want to believe ALL judges are there to uphold the law, this would not be true. They are human, like you and me. They have biases. For example, perhaps a judge grew up with a domineering, abusive mother.
If they’ve not done their inner work and aren’t aware of their bias against women, they may have the unconscious belief that all strong, assertive women are bad. Or you may look like their mother, and so they rule against you. Yes, it’s totally unfair, and this type of thing happens.
KEY #4: Choose Being Happy Over Being Right
Remember this one sentence when it comes to settling, “Would you rather be right or happy?” Let’s say your spouse owned a 3 acre lot worth $75,000 prior to your marriage, and they’re adamant you’ll not get one cent of it.
You live in an equitable property state which means your assets will be equitably divided. But who defines what “equitable” is? You believe you should get 1/3 of it.
If the two of you can’t come to terms, and you go to a contested divorce in court, the biased judge decides, hence you’re rolling the dice. You may spend an extra $30,000 or more for depositions, attorney fees, etc. So now that property is worth $45,000 after those fees. Who wins? The lawyers.
A great lawyer would tell you to put your own kids, not the lawyer’s kids, through college, by making smart financial decisions, staying out of that need to be right, avoiding taking action on the desire for revenge.
KEY #5: Avoid the Easy Route of the EGO’s Needs
Our EGO mind has 4 basic needs, to feel safe, to feel the rush of drama and adrenaline, to feel important, and to feel connected. We will violate our deeper, more mature values, like loving others and keeping the peace because we’re thinking about the kids and their relationship with our ex, to get our EGO needs met. When caught up in an excessive drive to protect the EGO self, we make poor decisions.
The EGO needs aren’t bad, and we do need to get them met in a healthy way, coming from a place of love and respect for the self. However, when they are over the top, as in the case of needing to be right, we need to rein them in.
The EGO often wants a quick fix and will take the easy route to its destination. The easy route is often the path to devastation and suffering, and this energy invites lack and money troubles. On the other hand, if you follow your heart and your values, it will lead to healthy, long-term outcomes.
When I got divorced, I definitely took the easy route when I surrendered custody of Maddie. And right after signing those papers, my inner voice whispered, “You’re going to regret this one day.”
KEY #6: You Are NOT Alone
Lastly, remember that you’re not alone. Even though you may not see it, there is a force (call it God, Life, Universe, Source, Higher Power or whatever you prefer) that you can tap into when you’re feeling despair. You are always being supported despite appearances. I will get on my knees as an act of humility and surrender.
Surrender is not weak; it’s an act of courage, believing you will stay strong, amidst self-doubt, knowing that all is well. What would it feel like to turn over your money troubles, and even your life, to a Higher Power?
I might say, “Please help me to surrender my self-will. Increase my faith and trust in the process of Life. Give me the willingness and ability to relax, trust, breathe and receive my well-being. I commit to gratitude and love even though logically it doesn’t make sense for me to. Thank you.”
Say whatever is on your heart. You can’t get this wrong.
To summarize how you can free your mind financially around divorce:
1) What is your money story? Set aside a good hour, when you won’t be disturbed, to delve into the heart of your money story. Journal it out to give you clarity.
2) Understand the legal terms around money and divorce. This will increase your confidence when talking with an attorney or your soon-to-be-ex.
3) Avoid Contested Divorce. Do all you can to work it out with your spouse through mediation or collaborative divorce (see this blog for more details), rather than having a contested divorce which goes in front of a judge. This puts your life in the hands of a potentially biased judge.
4) Go for happy over the need to be right, which lines the pockets of your attorneys, rather than you and your spouse.
5) Avoid taking the easy route and the quick fix to get your EGO needs met in an unhealthy way, which often leads to pain, suffering and regret, an energy which repels money.
6) Remember you are not alone. Attempt to surrender your money situation and your life to a Higher Power, which is an act of bravery.
I’m here to support you. I’m teaching a free zoom class 5/10/22, “3 Secrets to Survive the Stress of Divorce: Helping Women Reclaim Their Whole Selves”. Please register and become willing to receive support.
Money is just one aspect of divorce, the emotional security side. You are a whole person. You deserve to be FULLY enveloped and held during this time and always.