How Much Do I Need to Save for a Divorce?
Updated: Jul 1
For many women, the realization that a marriage is failing is a long, agonizing road. Oftentimes, a woman will know the truth in her heart for months before she builds up the courage to have that difficult conversation with her husband. If you are nearing that point, it is time to start planning for the next phase in your life. We know that your emotions are probably on overdrive just thinking about divorce, but you’ve got to make a plan for yourself as early as possible so that you won’t have to make difficult life decisions on the fly when events begin moving quickly around you – especially in the emotional chaos that a divorce will create with your spouse and your children.
One of the questions we hear most from women is: “How much money do I need to have saved before I can get divorced?”
This is a smart question. Divorces are expensive, and they tend to financially wound women more than men. The answer, however, is complicated, because a lot of it depends on you, your current financial situation, and how your husband reacts to the divorce.
The Cost of Divorce
When calculating how much to save for a divorce, the first thing to consider is the cost of the divorce itself! You’ll probably end up paying more if your estate is complicated, but the number one factor affecting cost is whether you and your spouse are willing to work together to negotiate a settlement (such as through mediation), or if you will end up in court. The more time you spend in court, the more attorneys’ fees you’ll rack up, and the more expensive your divorce will be. If you have a vindictive husband or already have a feeling you won’t be able to agree on touchy issues, like child custody, you may need to stash away more money.
A few years ago, the website NOLO performed a survey of its customers and found that the average cost of their divorces was $15,500. Note: this was only an average. Some respondents with simple estates were able to negotiate everything with their spouse and spent less than $1,000 on the divorce. Others who had to go to court shelled out $20,000 and even $100,000 or more.
Your Cost of Living
The next thing to consider is what your financial life will look like after your divorce. Are you fully employed with a good salary and plenty of savings? Then separating from your spouse might not make a very big dent in your financial life. Most women, however, rely on their husbands at least partially for financial stability. Even in this day and age, the majority of men are the breadwinners in their households. You may also have decided to stay home to raise your children or never needed to work, because your husband supported you.
In these situations, you’ll need to save up enough money so that you can transition successfully to your new, single life. You want to be able to cover your living expenses, including housing costs, while the divorce is occurring and give yourself a cushion if you will need to re-enter the workforce or go back to school. When the divorce is finalized, you will be entitled to a number of assets and a portion of your home’s equity if you owned one. You may also receive spousal support and/or child support.
According to NOLO, the average length of a divorce among its survey respondents was just under 11 months. That’s almost a year that your assets could be in limbo! Again, the survey found that respondents that went to court took far longer to settle their divorce than couples that chose mediation or negotiated together. In a best-case scenario, a divorce may take as little as four months. In a worst-case, it could take up to two years or longer!
There is no perfect number when it comes to saving up for a divorce. If you can, put money aside to cover the cost of your divorce and to keep yourself on your feet during the divorce and after. However, don’t wait too long, especially if you are in an emotionally or abusive situation. Sometimes, the right option is to save enough to just get out.
Your best option is to speak with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. This specialist can help you come up with a financial plan based on your specific situation. Want to hear from a divorce financial specialist? Sign up for the next Second Saturday Divorce Workshop. This is a great way to plan for all the twists and turns of your upcoming divorce.