Money matters during separation

An added stress is where a spouse has to pay alimony or child support

13:14 August 12, 2017

Divorce is stressful, especially when money and children are involved. And while people handle money issues based on their location’s regulations, beliefs and norms, managing finances after divorce can be a new challenge, whether you’re a man and woman.

There is also no amount of preparation that can eliminate your stress and anxiety altogether, but some confidence regarding your financial knowledge and abilities may help you position yourself to move forward with building better strategies to manage your money and build your savings.

Challenges often stem from two major issues: First, after divorce, expenses of managing two households instead of one are higher. Each former spouse now has to pay for accommodation, transportation, utilities, etc. Second, in many families one spouse may delegate a lot of the financial planning to the other. And when time comes to manage own finances, the challenge of getting up to speed quickly becomes overwhelming.

An added stress is where a spouse has to pay alimony or child support. Although it is understandable that this money must be paid to maintain the other person’s lifestyle and children’s expenses, the set amount doesn’t allow for flexibility. So if a person has a rough month financially, this money must be paid still — unlike in families where some compromises could be made on the fly to accommodate everyone in the family.

So, yes, money is one of the ugly aspects of divorce. But obviously it is not something that would stop marriages from failing. So what could you do if you’re about to manage your household finances on your own after years of being married? Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Create a household expense sheet

You may lose a second income, but your household expenses may remain more or less the same, especially if you have children. If you’re a recipient of alimony or child support, add this to your income to know how much deficit, if any, you will have to cover every month.

Based on your calculations, make decisions regarding downgrading your accommodation, taking extra paid work, or trimming expenses to make ends meet. Remember, your actions must be sustainable in the long run, and must start immediately. If you’re in a lucky position of not having debts, make sure you adjust to your new normal before you begin to accumulate any debt.

Avoid impulsive spending

Divorce is stressful, and it can be tempting to go on a trip to cheer yourself up or buy something big to get some instant gratification. If you have to, keep it to the minimum — i.e. a new television rather than a new car. Having said that, it would be better not to indulge in shopping, dining out or travelling as therapy. The end result of impulsive spending is more stress, which defeats the whole purpose.

In addition, this is time when you’re trying to evaluate how you’re doing financially on your own, so try to stick with a normal, sustainable lifestyle. Once you realise the full picture of your financial situation, you will be able to plan trips, make major purchases or other splurges without risking falling in debt or stressing out about making ends meet.

Get help

If your divorce is financially messy or you’re not familiar with the many financial issues that need to be sorted out, get help. There are many specialised attorneys and financial advisers who can walk you through the best course for handling property, accounts, etc. They also can help you get started with a solid plan for your future planning.

Help also can come from friends and family. Although money is typically a sensitive topic, especially in the context of divorce, a friend or a family member who is money-savvy may be able to lend you a second pair of eyes in budgeting for the future. Without prejudices, this person may be able to spot areas that seem to consume much of your income and give you suggestions.

So get all support and help that you need to ensure that even if your income is being slashed, you still will be able to make it just fine.

The writer, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is a Seattle-based editor.

Managing money with divorce

Know your new income and obligations

Avoid extra spending until you stabilise

Get financial advice if you’re overwhelmed

Don’t use credit to cover expenses

— R.O.