How to Keep Your Finances in Check During and After Divorce
Going through a divorce is not only painful, but it can also be financially devastating. Like most married couples, you and your ex may have saved and combined your incomes with plans to be together forever. Now, you may have to face the reality of living on half of what you had before the divorce. While it won't be easy, there are ways to safeguard your financial health during this difficult time. Here is how to keep your finances in check during and after divorce:
Your Finances During Divorce
- In a divorce, even when both parties agree on several issues, it's usually to their benefit to have a family law attorney. Wisconsin family law attorneys know this area of the law. They can provide invaluable advice and guidance throughout your case. You and your ex cannot have the same attorney, and if your ex has an attorney, it’s generally (but not always) helpful for you to have one to protect your interests as well. Although it may seem counterintuitive—spending money on attorney's fees when you need to save as much as possible—by having counsel, you are making a crucial long-term investment in your future. Your attorney can help protect your interests during the divorce so that you can achieve a fair result in your case.
- Interactions with your attorney and their office can add up. To that end, it's important to remember to prepare before each meeting with your attorney. That way, you can make efficient use of your appointment and avoid incurring charges by having to contact them later.
- Having an attorney can be comforting, but it's crucial to remember their role is to provide you with legal advice and advocacy and not act as your therapist. Calls to your lawyer cost money. Make sure you make them judiciously and for legal advice purposes rather than to get emotional support. And while it can seem harsh and sometimes even offensive to have an attorney who is direct and sometimes blunt about your behavior and how it affects your case, it can save you money in the long run to be told in a straightforward way what your true reasonable outcome range will be.
In a divorce, the more you fight, the more you pay. Some battles may be unavoidable, but many are not. When emotions are running high, it's easy to get caught up in the moment trying to "win" against your ex. You may win the battle but ultimately lose the war in terms of the emotional and fiscal damage. After it's over, the attorneys will move on to other cases, but you will be left with the financial consequences. Before you decide to have a hearing or fight over an issue, consider if it's worth the money you will have to pay in legal fees. Then ask yourself if you will still want to pay that bill in a year or five years. The answer will probably be no.
During a divorce, even good parents can sometimes get caught up fighting with one another and lose sight of what matters. When both parents are relatively safe and appropriate, fighting your ex for legal custody or physical placement can be a financial black hole. The ones who will suffer the most from any unnecessary legal drama about their well-being are your children. If joint legal custody is viable and shared physical placement can work, it's in everyone's best interest financially and emotionally to reach an agreement.
Fortunately, there are options for entering into an agreement to settle your divorce that can save you time and money. For instance, Divorce Mediation is an excellent way to reach a resolution without going to court. You can also negotiate through your attorney.
After your divorce, there will be an adjustment period where you will be learning to live according to your new circumstances. Depending on your divorce terms, you may be living in your marital home or a new place. You may be receiving or paying spousal maintenance or child support. However, in many cases, life after divorce means learning to live with less.
Before you divorced, you may have spent some time estimating your post-divorce expenses. Now is probably a good time to revisit and make any necessary updates to your budget. Once you know how you should be spending, examine your habits, and evaluate if anything needs to be adjusted.
After you go through a divorce, it may be tempting to spend money to make yourself feel better. Maybe you want a new look to show your ex you have moved on or so you can feel more confident dating. You may also want to do something nice for yourself after going through a rough experience. It's essential not to go too far with this kind of spending or confuse it with self-care. There are ways to process how you feel about the divorce that won't break your budget. It will take time to heal, and buying new clothes or things won't change that. Be sure to stick to your budget and avoid impulse purchases for the time being.
Take Time to Heal
Recovering after divorce involves taking one step at a time. Learning to live within your means is part of your journey. It's also important to devote your energy to taking care of your mind, body, and health. Be mindful of your wellness practices and do what you can to get enough rest. Be patient with yourself as you adjust to your new financial reality. The more you do to take care of yourself, the lower your stress levels will be. Keeping yourself well can make it easier to manage the challenges of living with a new income. As you regain your emotional equilibrium, you may find that maintaining a well-balanced budget fits your new life.
Attorney and mediator Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law has extensive experience assisting clients during and after divorce and can help you determine your next steps.