The Cost of Divorce
Does anyone believe divorce doesn’t come with a price?
I’m not just talking about the lawyer fees, court fees, mediation fees.
I’m not just referring to the cost of selling a house or moving to an apartment or the cost of not having your kids with you every day.
And I’m not just referring to the cost of a relationship you had thought would last a lifetime that suddenly no longer remains intact.
Plain and simple, divorce is an expensive business; and when faced with the expenses, we lose perspective, feel uneasy and cannot see that eventually, things will balance themselves out.
Recently, I worked with two different clients who both faced financial constraints as most clients do. One client, a man, left a marriage of nearly 25 years, which produced three children. My client was devastated when his wife decided to end the marriage.
While she didn’t work much during the marriage, she did manage the household, the children and the family’s finances. As part of being the financial manager, the wife kept some of her own assets separate from her husband’s and what the husband believed they were building together during their marriage.
When they divorced, by law, the wife was entitled to keep her separate property, and they split everything they had built and shared during the marriage.
So from the husband’s perspective now, his former wife is doing quite well and the ex-husband is feeling more significant financial constraints because in addition to the wife keeping her own assets, the husband has a pretty hefty bill of child support and spousal support.
There is this concept that money is energy, and it must flow in and flow out. When we are gripped by fear, though, we often don’t feel comfortable letting it go – for fear that it won’t come back.
The thing is, when we cling to our money too tightly, it stalls the energy flow and we create an even bigger problem.
It’s all about perspective. There’s a bit of truth in every perspective, but we all know the grass looks greener in someone else’s yard.
Now, post-divorce, the former wife keeps finding things to fight about (she just can’t let go, as happens with many clients, actually) and she keeps calling in her attorney.
To my client’s credit, he is trying to not involve me but to communicate with his ex-wife directly to work out issues because he knows that it is the better way, and he also wants to avoid having even higher legal bills.
Yes, he created the situation – he believed they’d be married forever, and he was devastated to see that dream crumble. I know my client is having a hard time financially – and there’s nothing I can do about it because it’s what he agreed to.
Still, it breaks my heart to see such imbalance.
Another client, a woman, was young when her marriage ended. She worked an occasional contract job to bring in extra cash during the marriage, but her primary role was to care for the children and manage the household. She’s now receiving spousal support and looking for permanent work. She’s having a hard time even still because at 40, it’s hard to begin a career.
And the worst part is that the ex-husband is now late in making his payments due to some variation in his income from a second job about which he is passionate and which largely subsidized their family income during the marriage. The ex-wife stayed in the marital home, and she probably can’t afford to keep it.
We hold onto things because we want to hold onto what was, or because we think it is best for the children – but probably, we need to break free and start over, in a more affordable, manageable way, creating a new life, a new definition of self.
Nevertheless, from this ex-wife’s perspective, her former husband is still controlling the money and purposefully causing her additional financial hardship. The husband is probably thinking his ex-wife can afford everything because of what he is (or is supposed) to be paying for spousal support.
Who really knows – all we know is that it’s a tough financial road for her at this point in time. And the perspectives can be drastically different.
As happens with every divorce, these families are facing very new situations, emotionally and financially. In my experience, I’ve come to see that everything does settle out over time. It just takes time and we’re often not all that patient.
In each of these cases, very different divorces, very different people, one receiving payments, one paying out –both individuals are struggling.
If for even a moment, you can recognize the other person’s perspective, you might feel better. It’s not the time to try to empathize with the person who left you, or whom you left.
But for your own sake, internally accepting that the other person may be struggling,too, may offer moments of peace amongst the chaos. And, over time, the finances, along with your emotions, will balance out. Try to be patient.