First Aid: Part 4 (4min)
Is the wounding of the breakup making your divorce turn nasty?
You don’t need to have a broken family: Have an extended family instead.
Stemming the flow of money – the most straightforward way (better than a plaster) is to avoid a nasty court battle. Hidden costs of divorce and family breakup are related to having two homes instead of one, drop in income due to additional childcare costs etc – it’s not just about the lawyers’ fees.
Does divorce mediation really mean smaller maintenance payments? The true facts? No! US studies show that mediated settlements are usually better for the mother than settlements through court battles.
- Stemming the flow of money
- Hidden costs of divorce and family breakup – it’s not just lawyers fees
- Does divorce mediation really mean smaller maintenance payments? The true facts
As Zsa Zsa Gabor so famously said: “ I am a marvellous housekeeper. Every time I leave a man I keep his house.”
Sticking plasters will not heal a wound, but they are very useful as an immediate way to provide protection. Coping is what most people do in the early stages of divorce – and you will feel inclined to help them – but you will not have a plaster big enough to stem the flow of money leaving their bank account as the reality of the financial costs of divorce begin to hit home.
Telling them ‘everything is going to be OK’ when they are faced with what they perceive as financial ruin, is not going to be much help. Money is a big issue in divorce – because it can also be what lies behind the divorce in the first place.
If you argue with your spouse about finances once a week, your marriage is 30 percent more likely to end in divorce than if you argue with your spouse about finances less frequently. The same study also found that couples with no assets at the beginning of a three-year period are 70 percent more likely to divorce by the end of that period than couples with $10,000 in assets. (iv)
If you have twins or triplets, your marriage is 17 percent more likely to end in divorce than if your children are not multiple births – because multiple births put a strain on the finances. (v)
If money can be a factor in causing divorce – then it’s not surprising that money becomes such a huge issue during a divorce. And there are so many extra costs that people don’t think about.
For a US couple with an average income of $60,000 a year, at least one child and a home worth $185,000, the average cost of a divorce using U.S. Census statistics would be about $53,000. The price tag would include short-term marriage therapy for themselves and about 20 weeks of therapy for their child. It would also include the cost to hire an attorney, sell their marital home, purchase another at a lower value for one spouse and rent an apartment in the same area for the other. (vi)
Oh, but UK divorces are surely much less complex and therefore cheaper – aren’t they? Wrong! Especially if that divorce becomes adversarial.
Novitas launched a fund in 2012 in the UK to help cover the rising cost of divorces and provide an annual return of 8 percent for investors. Novitas calculated that the average cost in London just to pay the solicitors is £40,000 for each set of solicitors fees – so that’s £80,000 for the couple in legal fees alone. (xx)
The true cost of rushing into an adversarial divorce is still one of the best-kept secrets in town. The financial cost of divorce is like measuring a ball of string that never stops unravelling. Apart from the initial costs of separate homes, cars, holidays, you also have the post-divorce costs of going back to court to argue over the variance of maintenance, child access disputes, arrears/refusal to pay maintenance or child support. Add into that the emotional costs – which affect your work-life – the process can impact on your income, especially if depression kicks in. You may even end up paying for private detectives, barristers and DNA tests to prove paternity, if things get really nasty.
Planning for the future is rarely what we do in practice: Nancy Michaels was 40, a mother of three and a successful businesswoman when her husband of 16 years told her he wanted a divorce. Beyond the emotional cost that followed his announcement, Nancy eventually found herself shocked by the price tag as well – more than $100,000 in legal, medical and moving costs. “I hadn’t planned for his departure,” she said. “I wish I had…Having a safety net or money set aside is smart to do…” (vii)
So the next time a friend or colleague talks about a prenup prior to marriage – just remember that sitting down and making provisions for all that the future may hold is a smart thing to do. Please don’t tell them it’s ‘unromantic’ – what’s romantic about having to stay in the same home as your Ex because you can’t afford to move out?
The reality of today’s economy is simple: Many spouses to be divorced stay in the same home, occupying different floors, or rooms, until they can afford to make the financial investment in divorce. It can work ok or be a stress nightmare for all, but it’s the only way to work it out financially until both spouses are up and running.” (viii)
So how can you help someone who is faced with the financial reality that divorce makes people poorer, not richer?
The best way to do that is to discourage them from throwing money away on an adversarial divorce, which is only going to make their situation worse. And have they thought about the fact that getting a bigger house for them and the kids than they really need, leaving dad with a one-bed flat, means he has no-where to have the kids overnight. So you end up not only disadvantaging your kids when it comes to spending time with dad – but also no nights off without having to pay for a babysitter!
It’s funny how people run to talk to a lawyer when divorce is in the air – yet many lawyers are not trained in dealing with complex finances. If you own properties or have a pension that needs splitting, the person to talk to is a financial planner. Ideally, a financial planner who is experienced in dealing with divorce scenarios.
This is where being able to sit in the same room as your Ex and talk about finances in a constructive way becomes a real bonus – nothing is to be gained by arguing as this only slows down the process, makes creating a viable financial plan for both your futures more difficult, and leads to further costs. A financial planner usually charges far less per hour than a lawyer does.
Bitter and long divorces only make the law firms richer, and the emotional costs and collateral damage to the kids are horrendous. What starts out as a genuine concern for managing finances for the future of a new extended family, can easily become fuel for a bitter and protracted battle that is more about inflicting harm on the other person than in creating a stable financial future for the kids.
So steer towards mediation and collaborative law.
But surely mediation and collaborative law mean less maintenance or alimony?
This is a myth.
US studies have shown that women using mediation end up with higher maintenance payments over a long period of time, than women who go through the courts. (xxxv) And that’s not taking into account the additional costs of court hearings and legal fees in an adversarial divorce which can fritter away money better targeted on university fees or investing it in starting a new business.
Robin Williams once described adversarial divorce eloquently when he said: “Ah, yes, divorce… from the Latin word meaning to rip out a man’s genitals through his wallet.”
Actor Richard Wagner believed that: “Divorce is one of the most financially traumatic things you can go through. Money spent on getting mad or getting even is money wasted.”
(iv) Jeffrey Dew, “Bank on It: Thrifty Couples Are the Happiest,” University of Virginia/National Marriage Project/The State of Our Unions, 2009
(v) Stephen McKay, “The Effects of Twins and Multiple Births on Families and Their Living Standards,” Twins and Multiple Births Association, 2010
(vi) House Price Shocks and Individual Divorce Risk in the United States: Jennifer Milosch University of California, Santa Barbara Preliminary August 14, 2013
(xxxv) The Study of Divorce Outcomes by Mary G. Marcus, Ph.D. and Walter Marcus
SuzyMillerCreator of Best Way To Divorce. International Divorce Divorce Strategist and TEDx Speaker.
6th March 2022
4th June 2023