The day you make that final decision about your marriage. The day you approach your husband and tell him, “It’s over. I want a divorce.”
After all the time you spent wrestling with the idea of ending your marriage, and all those sleepless nights you suffered, you have finally made up your mind. Yet those thoughts you battled were only yours. Today, when you finally let them out, you transform those thoughts into reality. So how can you ensure that the decision you have made is not just emotional, but grounded in an accurate assessment of reality? One place to start is by taking into account both the emotional and economic prospects of your future as a divorced woman.
It’s been said many times that marriage is about love, and divorce is all about finances.”However, nobody told you that, it is possible your decision to divorce is based on an impulse born out of your being simply fed up. “I don’t want anything,” you say out of pride. “50/50 is good enough. I just don’t want to deal with this mess!”
Set your emotions aside for a moment and think of yourself (and your children, if you have them). Yes, we are talking to YOU, the dedicated wife who sacrificed her career to let her husband’s soar. You, who decided to put everything on hold to move from city to city for your husband’s career advancement.
As fed up as you might be with sacrificing your needs for a marriage that simply is not working anymore, it is important that you think deeply before making any decisions.
First, take an honest inventory of your life as it is now, and prepare yourself for the many changes you will face throughout the divorce process and beyond. This will not be easy, but it will help prepare you to traverse the bumpy road ahead. Some women find it helpful to keep a daily journal of their thoughts, making note of their worries, their progress, their fears, and their hopes for the future. When safety is a concern, the journaling process—that may involve keeping records of your conversations, your actions, and the actions of your spouse—is even more important.
Divorce is not easy, so it is natural to turn to friends and trusted family members for support and guidance. However, it is important to remember that divorces, like marriages, are unique and dynamic; no two are alike. People in your life who have gone through divorce will likely offer you well-intentioned advice, based on their personal experiences, but that advice may not align with what is best for you. Keep an open mind and reach out for support when you need it, but always remember that divorce is a personal journey. The best way to empower yourself through divorce is by learning everything you can about the process, taking stock of your household assets, and prioritizing your physical, mental, and emotional health. It may seem like a tall order, but it is possible. Women just like you do it successfully all the time.
When it comes to the financial side of divorce, there are many important concerns to keep in mind. For starters—and this one is important—do not keep your house just because it is filled with family memories. As comforting as those memories may be, they will not help you pay for a roof that needs repair or an air conditioning unit that no longer works. While it is natural for you to place sentimental value on your house, it is essential for you to consider the economic implications of staying put or selling.
Selling the house while still married will help you avoid paying additional capital gains. Remember, the exemption for married people is $500,000. Therefore, for example, if your house is worth $600,000, you only have to pay taxes on $100,000 if you sell while you are still married. However if you wait until divorce, the exception will be assessed for you only, as a single individual ($250,000), so you’ll be left paying capital gains on $350,000 instead. Costly mistake.
For some women, selling the house before the divorce is final and then downsizing is the key for funding retirement or paying for their children’s college tuitions.
In the emotionally exhausting process of divorce, many women fail to consider the many financial consequences of dissolving their marriage.
Things like health insurance and life insurance become important, often stress-inducing issues. For example, if your husband has a life insurance policy, chances are you probably will not be the beneficiary for much longer. If you are in your 40s and have been out of the job arena for decades, this could have very significant implications for your financial well being in the future.
Transitioning into your new life as a single person will likely be challenging, especially if you were never involved in your household finances. Surround yourself with a team of competent professionals—including a Family Law Attorney, a mental health professional, and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst—from the beginning. They can walk you through the process, offer you much-needed support, and help you avoid financial pitfalls. Once the divorce is final, it will be time to reorganize your new life, being careful of all your expenses and debt. The more financial assurance you can have post-divorce, the more comfortably you can relax into your new life. By taking the time to thoughtfully consider the practical aspects of your divorce, you are increasing the likelihood that the post-divorce future you have been fantasizing about will be as bright as you envision it.
Last, but certainly not least, make sure to save for rainy days, your children’s college tuitions, and your own retirement. After all, you have only one life to live.