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The Real Cost of Life After Divorce

Expected: Legal fees and support payments.
Not expected: Duplicate items for kids in two homes (computers, clothing, etc. Loss of discounts for shared expenses such as car insurance, cell phones, etc. Two household insurance policies, two cable, electrical and gas bills, etc. There may also be reduced income tax deductions for the children and the lower earning spouse. When couples separate their expenses increase between $15,000 – $25,000 per year. Are you prepared? 

When do people think about these added expenses? During separation, people are typically filled with rage and anger, fear and sadness, and some may even be unfocused, but relieved. Only after their marital breakdown, with legal advice and working through financial budgets, do they face their financial realities. Figuring out how they will pay their bills is often late in the separation process. 

There are many articles on separation, divorce and personal finances on the Internet. Considerable research is available regarding the costs of going through a divorce. However, it’s the cost of life after divorce and the impact on your new lifestyle that parents should consider more closely before deciding to separate. Our frustrations impulsively push us to make life-altering choices. Many marital problems have no solutions. Trying to constructively work through your issues, with a trained Separation Therapist, is a wise choice. Separation is a decision that will impact each family member for many years. 

Family Mediators have seen a growing number of people who made the decision to separate but are still wrestling with their unexpected financial reality.  They have job instability, rising costs of living and the requirement for greater child supervision. 

Part of a mediator’s role in the separation process is to help people become aware of what life looks like after divorce. Financial awareness of your new ex-family lifestyle, but now supporting two homes instead of one, needs to be budgeted for. 

Most couples fantasize they’ll be better off without their partner who makes them unhappy. They may want the same house, same car, and same lifestyle — just without the partner they no longer want to live with. This isn’t realistic. 

Divorce can be a long process of ongoing litigation and associated costs, not to mention the emotional wear and tear on every member of the family. The cost of life after divorce is really based on the costs associated with parenting and the increasing children’s expenses. 

If parents equally share the responsibility for their children, they can often find ways to share tax deductions. If kids live with one parent most of the time, the financially supporting co-parent doesn’t get the tax deduction like in previous years. 

It’s the children who frequently suffer from separation. The money spent on them is reduced to make separation work. The costs once shared for the kids’ activities go to cover the cost of two different residences. 

Where children live affects the amount of money people have left to look after themselves: 

  1. If children are residing primarily with one parent, the other parent pays child support. That means by the time they’ve paid their taxes and support payments, there isn’t a lot of money left over for typical day-to-day expenses. 
  2. The parent who looks after the child(ren) as the primary caregiver frequently can’t work full-time due to the responsibilities, they now have such as pickups, drop offs and managing the household from groceries to doctor’s appointments. If living arrangements are shared, both parents may be impacted equally regarding work and parenting responsibilities. 
  3. Couples considering separation should create very detailed weekly, monthly and yearly financial budgets to understand their current and future expenses, including where they can cut back their spending: 
    • What current expenses are possible if the expenses are shared? 
    • Is the chosen lifestyle driven by the income of only one partner? 
    • Does either parent have an inconsistent work history or a career that makes expense planning impossible? 

If a couple looks at their budget and realizes that separating is in fact a financial impossibility, they have a few choices: 

  • Find ways to cut expenses. 
  • Go for counseling and learn how to create a positive way to work together. 
  • Co-exist amicably under one roof as a separated couple. Re-visit having separate homes when the kids are older or there’s more money. 

Having the same income to support two homes, instead of one, is one of the most common themes of divorce. Remember, budget for added costs for the divorce process itself. 

A healthy divorce is one where both parties move forward in a mature way without hurting each other. They let go of the marriage and the emotions connected to the separation. The better they are emotionally, the more effective they can make financial plans. 

When there’s financial struggle, a happy, healthy post-divorce life is drastically reduced and may result in trading one state of unhappiness for another. Starting to examine financial budgets early in the separation process will help determine an easier path and a realistic financial future. 

When Parents Do Well, Children Do Well