How to manage your finances during a divorce

Stay focused despite the emotional turmoil from a divorce

No-one gets married to get a divorce – that is never the plan. But, the reality today is that divorce can hit you smack bang in your face – quicker and harder than what you might think.

We live in a world with the harsh reality of a divorce rate on the increase. The Justice Department’s 2012-13 annual report indicated that divorce figures shot up by 28% to 50 517 cases from 39 573.

When faced with a divorce, the world you knew, the world you are used to will change dramatically in every way. Focusing on staying financially sound despite the emotional turmoil is imperative. Ensuring that your stay in control of your financial situation is important for your wellbeing going forward. Losing financial control will help you nothing in the long run.

When hit by the initial divorce shock wave, keep the following immediate steps in mind:

  1. Take time out so you can take control of your initial emotional shock. It is impossible to think straight and make sound decisions if you are overly emotional. Inform your boss of your situation (if you are employed) and take time out to spend with close family or a trusted friend where you are in a safe, loving environment.
  2. After you’ve gained a bit more control over your emotional state, be in contact with your employer to discuss your situation and agree on how to best keep doing a good job while you are faced with a divorce. It is important that you focus on keeping your job and doing your possible best, despite your emotional state. Keeping your income secure should be a priority, as your income ensures your survival and future financial wellbeing. Do everything you can to keep your job secured.
  3. Next you need to carefully think things through and make an immediate list of what you and your spouse need to consider, discuss and agree in the interim. Your will need to address the following:
    1. Legal representation: Are we going to use one attorney, which lowers unnecessary legal costs (in cases where parties are able to peacefully come to a settlement agreement), or would we each need to use our own legal representation (in cases where parties cannot see eye-to-eye and the level of complication of the situation requires separate legal representation)? Getting the right legal representation is imperative to a successful settlement. Being referred to a good, credible divorce lawyer by someone who has dealt with one previously could avoid unnecessary set-backs and incurred legal costs.
    2. Temporary living arrangements for the next period while the divorce process is commenced: Who is moving out and who is staying on in the house for now? This will be impacted by your current situation, determined by factors such as your ability to discuss the next steps with each other, willingness of both parties to work together and if any safety issues exist. If it is not possible to discuss the next steps with your spouse in a fairly peaceful manner, a third party, e.g. a lawyer, parents or grandparents, will then need to step in to facilitate.
    3. Interim arrangements with regards to children: With whom will the children stay for the interim period to ensure they are safe and cared for in a loving manner, without the least possible disruptions? This will also be impacted by the current situation between the parents and if safety is an issue. It cannot be stressed enough that the children’s wellbeing and safety should be the top priority at all times, despite the emotional turmoil. The best interests of the children will be protected by the law and future custody arrangements will be finalised via the legal process.
  4. Trying to stay strong and fighting the divorce battle all by yourself is not the best approach to successfully go through the process to get back on your feet again. Going through a divorce is a deep traumatic life event. It is possible to get to the other side stronger and healthy again with the necessary love and support. Many support options are available. Find a professional person or support group to help and guide you and your children through the process back to emotional health. Controlling your emotions when necessary and aiming to settle the divorce as peaceful as possible will help make the process less traumatic and financially draining.
  5. Don’t add to your stresses by missing monthly debt payments and responsibilities. Stay financially responsible as far as possible. Going through a divorce can be a big financial set-back. Reducing your living costs at first, where possible, until your financial situation becomes more stable can help you avoid unwanted debt. Avoid unnecessary and emotional-driven shopping sprees, which could indebt you unnecessary. Your settlement agreement will impact your financial situation going forward. Trying to avoid unnecessary debt is imperative and ensuring to pay off debt incurred should be a key priority.
  6. Remember, you need to be OK – for yourself and your children. Take care of your health. Be kind to yourself. Spend enough quality time with your children, family and close friends. Take enough time for yourself to work through your emotions. Get the necessary help and support from a professional. Stay away from negative people and feed yourself with positive input. Take time to heal. Go through the process, there is unfortunately no way around it, and afterwards you will look back and discover that there is a new life after divorce!

Good reading when faced with a divorce:

www.westerncape.gov.za

www.famsawc.org.za

www.fairdivorce.co.za

www.divorceandchildren.com

www.news24.com

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