Sometimes, I wonder if people realize the economic cost of divorce. To say nothing of the emotional and mental costs…divorces hurt, and they hurt bad. It’s never a good thing when couples split up after being together for a long time. (It also hurts when they have been together for a short period of time, but that is not what this is about.) The pure cost of a divorce can be staggering, and it’s not just the lawyer fees and court costs–it’s life after a divorce that becomes expensive. If there are children in the mix, there’s child support along with everything else. Of course, if a couple has been married 10 years or more, the spouse not making as much money usually gets spousal support. Whether the other spouse wants to or not, this is what the law allows. Budgeting and planning during this time can really be a nightmare. Here’s how to keep your sanity, as well as some of your money.
Know Your Boundaries
There is a certain limit that all of us have when it comes to money and time. If you are not clear on these, there are ways to figure this out. First, you want to get very clear on what the plan is when you do split from your spouse. Are you going to live in an area that is relatively expensive, or will it cost less where you are moving to? If there are kids, are you going to share custody or will there be an unequal amount of custody? These issues will determine who gets what and how much. It will also determine how much you need to live on compared to your spouse. And if your spouse seems reluctant to share anything, it may be best to speak with a lawyer instead of your spouse. This will save time and your sanity. And if your income is low, you could seek out a volunteer or pro bono lawyer who could give you some guidance. You must be clear on what is happening before you move forward, or it could become a lot worse.
Set Clear Limits
This is not the time to stay silent on what you want. Make a list of everything you need, including some wants in there. Be clear in what you are expecting and what your limits are. This will keep you from being stretched too much financially. If you are the spouse that needs the child support and/or spousal support, get very clear on how much you will need to maintain a household and take care of everyone’s needs. Set limits on how low you can go, because the other person may want to give the least amount possible. Create a boundary that the other person cannot cross.
If you are the spouse giving the financial support, realize that you made a commitment many years prior to take care of this person for life. This does not end just because the marriage ends–you will end up financially supporting that person for life. This will cost you some money, but if you think of the time your spouse invested in you, it may seem only a pittance for that.
Resistance Does Not Work
Compromise may be difficult during this time, but it is not impossible. Tensions are running high anyway, but not giving in to even the smallest requests will turn the entire process very ugly. Determine what you need or can give, and then build on that. As a supporting spouse, you do not need to be so selfish that your soon-to-be ex and children are living in squalor while you’re living the high life. And as a supported spouse, you also do not need to be that greedy where you are demanding every single penny. There is a middle road where everyone can have their needs met and still maintain some semblance of order and normalcy in their lives.
Common Sense Tactics
During a divorce, probably the last thing you want to think about is money, but this is the cornerstone of life–at least until a better solution comes along. Money makes living life a lot easier, and it one of the things that, if each spouse has enough to meet their needs, can smooth over a lot of other issues. There will still be healing that needs to occur, but it’s one less thing to heal about. Be reasonable and use common sense in all your dealings, as this could mean the difference between constant frustration or finding some peace.