Two pools of power exist in divorce–children and money. When fear grips one or both spouses, they try to take power. Grabbing for the children or the purse strings. The result? More turmoil. More hurt. More fiscal ruin. There’s a better way.
If you are afraid of the financial decisions in divorce, chances are that fear comes from a lack of knowledge or feeling unprotected. The best cure for fear is information.
Often, neither person in the divorce truly knows every aspect of the family financial picture.
One may understand the investments and debts. The other may have a better handle on weekly expenditures and upcoming commitments. Worst case–neither understands any of it. Which breeds fear. Each person grabs for the biggest piece of the financial pie to feel secure.
Instead. . . .
Create a vision
Create a vision for the life you want post-divorce:
- Where do you want to live?
- Do you want to go back to school?
- Will you start your own business?
- Move to Australia?
Create a vision for the life you want the children to have:
- Do they stay in the same school?
- Which activities will be important?
- What lifestyle have they had and will they have?
Ground these visions in reality.
- Separately, will either of you be able to afford the current mortgage?
- Will children feel secure when one parent lives well while the other barely scrapes by?
This vision provides a road map for discussing financial choices. Though you likely won’t get everything, setting the priorities helps you know what is most important and where compromises can be made.
Create a budget
As you develop a concrete vision for the future, get hard numbers. What is the tuition for going back to school? What are the housing options?
Something about putting numbers on a page brings clarity. Impossibilities become apparent. Though disappointing, reality helps you come to terms with the hopes that must be delayed or dropped. At the same time, viable options often open. When couples work together to use the resources you have accumulated to accomplish your vision, the numbers become a resource for creativity.
Create a plan
With numbers in hand couples craft a step-by-step strategy for moving forward. The plan moves couples from a quagmire of guessing to executing mutual decisions. This empowers each person as fear is replaced with a solid process.
Finances don’t have to be a power play. Instead, financial discussions in divorce can be the concrete arena where couples work together to achieve the best independent future for each. Finances move from being a weapon to gain the upper hand to a way to honor the past marriage even as you construct a new future.