Family Budgeting During Divorce

By Lori Caldwell-Carr, Attorney on July 11th, 2019

Bag of money sliced into budget sections
Bag of money sliced into budget sections

Divorce can be difficult even in the best of circumstances. One of the common challenges I see clients face is dealing with the household budget during divorce. In my experience, people who proactively budget during a divorce can help create a better outcome for themselves. These outcomes are a result of planning, spending intentionally and preserving important lifestyle choices and assets.

Here are some personal financial considerations that I have found useful for people going through divorce, especially if you have a tight financial budget.

Be Practical and Realistic

It’s hard to be practical at an emotional time, but it’s important to recognize your financial situation. I’ve seen people make short-term decisions that cause them long term hardship.

Man cutting wrong sided of branch of tree which they are sitting on.

One of the first things people learn in divorce is that separating means you are likely going to have to support two households on the same income you had before. Divorce may also create lifestyle changes needed to support the children, a new career, education or downsizing life to fit your future budget. You’ll also have to find money to pay legal fees and/or make the time to properly represent yourself in your legal case.

Wouldn’t you rather plan and control for change than accept the consequences later?

Identify Changes That Need To Be Made Soon

Think about what immediate changes that might need to be made. Two things to keep in mind:

Here are a few common considerations to help get you thinking:

Emoticon thinking

If you have children:

Understand Your Current Finances

Get an understanding of your current household finances. Without it, it will be difficult to evaluate if anything needs to change, or if so, what changes or how much is needed.

In Florida, you’ll have to complete a financial affidavit when getting divorced. If you have already done one, then you already have most of what you need! If you haven’t, then put together a list of the following:

Folder with calculator and budget

Subtract your expenses from your income. This will show what income you have left over after paying your expenses.

If it’s negative, then you are spending more than you make. If you continue this pattern, it will increase your debt and/or reduce your assets.

If it’s positive, congratulations! But keep reading!

Consider Your Spouse’s Finances

Do you have any understanding of your spouse’s income and expenses? Will their actions be impacting you? Would they make big financial decisions without discussing them with you first (ie, selling a retirement account, quitting a job, buying a new car, making big purchases)?

Prioritize what matters most

clipboard with checklist

Think about what aspects in your life matter most. Here we are not talking about finances. Examples of priorities might be keeping a home, getting children into a certain school, a desired time-sharing schedule with the kids or moving to a new city. If you haven’t done so already, consider setting goals for your divorce case!

Knowing your priorities will help you decide how to adjust your budget. You might want to review some of our goal setting information here on our website as well!

Adjust Your Budget

Now that you know where you are financially, what your priorities are and what your short-term finances are like, it’s time to adjust your budget. Make changes to try to keep expenses within your available income and avoid depleting your hard-earned assets or adding new debt.

You should also re-work your budget as the divorce case progresses. Ideally you should leave the divorce process with a budget in place for the future!

Conclusion

I have seen too many people damage themselves financially in a few short months by making too many unplanned, emotional and impulsive decisions.

This is a great time to seek advice from a financial planner; especially one who is experienced working with couples going through a divorce. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from an experienced attorney or financial expert!