Divorce and separation is already hard. One moment, you’re living together. The next, you’re splitting bank accounts and budgets. Add money and children to the mix, the challenge increases.
You may start to wonder – Is it even possible to transition from being a married couple with shared everything, to divorced parents who can navigate split expenses with ease?
The answer is yes, with a dash of elbow grease.
Let’s chat about what happens with your money after divorce, how money is split after divorce, what’s included in child support, and finally – 3 things to do post-divorce, so you can learn how to master your new finances with more ease, and less stress.
Pro Tip: If you’re (re)learning how to manage your finances, sign up for Penny. We can help you start a new budget, stay on track with your goals, and fill in the gaps on your money knowledge. Empowered ease, meet financial freedom. More info here.
👀 5min read
After a divorce, the law expects couples to divide their money equally.
This applies to both the positives and negatives, such as cash in a joint checking account or amount owed in a shared credit card.
In practice, the 50/50 split will vary based on several factors, including income and child support.
Let’s take a look at child support first, and income second.
Most divorce arrangements for couples with children naturally include child support. It may take a while to understand what should be covered, since laws vary per state. But there are general guidelines for what is (and isn’t) included in child support after divorce.
Child support generally includes…
That being said, family courts tend to rely heavily on what the child needs, so they’re more open to adjust rules and regulations based on the parent’s dynamic or financial situation. For example, if a child has special needs or proven academic gifts – things like tutoring might be included as a necessary requirement.
Once a number is set, it’s rare for courts to assign a third-party to monitor your living expenses. So if you are co-parenting, you might find you’ll have much more flexibility in managing your child’s finances than expected.
Pro Tip: When outlining a budget for your child’s costs, add a “buffer” for unexpected expenses. Life happens, y’know?
Not sure how to “budget” or “buffer”? Sign up for Penny. We’ll show you how to manage your numbers, the easy way.
Not really. Legally, the conversation may start at an equal 50/50 division, but it will change.
What happens with money after divorce depends on a number of factors, including:
So, when you get divorced, it might be more helpful to think of what’s “fair” based on income and interests – instead of a specific number.
For those with joint expenses, you may each decide to cover a percentage of expenses that’s proportional to your income.
Or you might split expenses based on activities of equal or similar value. If you are co-parenting after divorce, perhaps one parent covers their soccer club fees and equipment, while the other pays for music lessons.
However you choose to split your funds, it’s crucial for co-parents to continue to openly communicate their needs and priorities – beyond signatures & papers – so you can safely plan for your child’s future as they grow and evolve.
Pro Tip: Open individual bank accounts BEFORE you start sharing expenses – and then track them on apps like OnwardThe paper trail will make it much, much easier to determine who paid for what. Less math, more wins.
The transition from “shared” to “individual” finances is one of the hardest parts of your post-divorce money journey. Here are 3 steps to help soften your journey.
#1 - set up at least one bank account for yourself, only. The first step to becoming a financially independent woman is to open your own checking account. If you used to rely on your partner for most banking, this might feel daunting. But it’s a necessary first step. You’ll feel so empowered for doing it, and it will make things SO much easier for you in the long run.
And hey, once you've got that checking account sorted, why not set up a savings account too? Check out the high-yield savings options at your local bank or credit union, and make your money work for you.
#2 - keep tabs on your cash flow and spending habits. Good money management starts with knowing where you stand. Once you set up your checking account, gather information. Check your credit score. Learn what the numbers mean. If you have debt, create a plan to clear it. Notice how much you’re spending. Are you staying within the estimated budget, or does it need changing?
Pick a day of the week or month, and check in on your money. At Penny, we call them “money dates” – pour a glass of wine, play music in the background, and give yourself and your wallet a regular dose of self-care.
#3 – start an emergency fund. And keep that money in a high-interest savings account. Even if you don’t have much to set aside, every little bit adds up. Set up an automatic e-transfer for $20, $100, or an amount that feels manageable.
The next time something unexpected comes up, you’ll be prepared to face it. And if you never need to dip into it for an emergency? Great! It could become the start of a long-term nest egg for yourself or your kids.
Divorce isn’t easy, and the process of learning how to manage your own finances can feel daunting. The same is true for shared finances as a co-parent after divorce. But it is possible. And with the right tools, we daresay the financial shift might even feel like smooth sailing.
At Penny Finance, our goal is to provide easy and digestible financial education for women – so you can increase cash flow today, and retire with wealth tomorrow. Click here to learn more.
This blog was written in partnership with Onward, a co-parenting app for tracking, managing and splitting expenses.
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