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Quick Start Guide: Divorce Finances

Updated: Jan 10

It is no surprise that money is one of the biggest stressors during divorce. As a divorce coach, and having been through divorce myself, I know just how frightening and disorienting it is to suddenly be on your own in the world of personal finance. Many divorcing women are not the breadwinner, they aren't necessarily in the habit of managing their money, and some have been sitting on the sidelines while their partners make the plans and decisions about finances. When faced with a divorce, they find themselves asking: How am I going to do this alone? Where do I start? What if he takes all the money? What if people will try to take advantage of me because they know I’m vulnerable? What if I’m too old/young to figure all of this out? What if I have to rely on my family for financial support…what if they can’t help me?

In an effort to get everything right, it is easy to get bogged down in research, strategy and advice, but never actually DO anything to move forward. Inaction can have dire consequences. I have compiled this 10-Step plan as starting point. It is by no means a comprehensive financial plan and it is not going to fit in every divorce situation. It's an emergency plan for taking control of your money during a divorce. It is so important to resist becoming stuck in all the questions and the unknown...and just begin.

QUICK START GUIDE to Your Money During Divorce

1. Check your mindset – this costs nothing and it is truly the most important step. Don’t allow yourself to become paralyzed by fear. You can figure this out…even if he was in charge of all the money and all the decisions, even if he had the only income, no matter your age, no matter what he said about your money habits, no matter how much you know about money, no matter how much you have or how much you owe. Start at the beginning. Promise yourself that you will put your future first and do whatever it takes…starting now.

2. Know your credit score and have a credit card. Get your credit report ( and, if you don’t have your own credit card, get one ASAP. Credit actually affects your whole life. If you have “bad” credit you may not be able to: rent an apartment, buy a house or a car, get a job, get a credit card, start a business, etc.

3. Prioritize self-care. Managing your finances is a form of self-care, but at this stage in your divorce journey, it is probably not something that is going to create a sense of calm and ease for you. Brainstorm a list of self-care activities that are free…check out Pinterest for lots of ideas. Do one of the things now and plan to do at least one every day. Repeat positive affirmations like: I am intelligent and capable of making good decisions, I am abundant in all areas of my life, I have an endless amount of strength within me.

4. Slash your expenses…now! Do not spend one dime that you don’t need to. Pay your bills on-time to keep your credit score up. This is a temporary situation, but necessary until you have a clear picture or your financial path forward. It is better to be conservative and cautious now, and realize later that you didn’t need to be, than the opposite. Commit to frugality. If you have to ask yourself if you should buy something, don’t buy it…not right now.

5. Gather all your financial documents together. Your lawyer needs most of these anyway, and you need them to get a clear money picture. Be honest with yourself. You can’t make a plan if you don’t have all the information. The documents you need include: pay statements, mortgage/rent statements, car loans, medical bills, back taxes, bank statements, credit card statements, student loans. Make sure you check to see what bills and payments are automatically being withdrawn: cable and internet, memberships and subscriptions, phone, utilities, food, insurance, all other bills and payments, etc. Figure out the minimum amount of money that you can live on monthly.

6. Track your expenses/income . There are so many online tools and apps that make this much easier than it used to be. My favorite is…it’s a free website and app. Make your divorce budget visible. FOCUS. Look at it every single day. Ask yourself what you could do differently. Refrain from big financial decisions right now and observe your money habits.

7. Create your emergency fund. You need to stockpile cash to accomplish this. Figure out how much you can save each month and automatically deposit it into your emergency savings account (or put cash in a jar if that is what works for you). It is usually best not to go to the next step until you have at least $1000 in savings.

8. Make a plan to pay off your debt. This is imperative if you need to raise your credit score. Consider getting a credit counselor is you are overwhelmed by this task. Don’t ignore debt because it is easier than facing it. Try the National Federation for Credit Counseling or Financial Counseling Association of America for tips and for help finding a credit counselor.

9. Develop your own money philosophy. Read about finance. Take an inventory of your thoughts and limiting beliefs around money. Gather resources. Do research. Start to become an expert on your money. Subscribe to financial email lists. Read financial magazines. Get a feel for “experts” who align with your new money philosophy

10. Take a moment to be proud. You aren’t “there” yet. There is lots that needs to be done and so much more to learn…but you made a start. You put yourself first and prioritized your financial future.

Apply for a Before & After session with Rebecca Wolf using the button above. During this complimentary consult, you'll uncover your path to divorce recovery and discover the value of private coaching.

By Rebecca Wolf

Divorce Recovery Coach

Life Coach

Founder - Her Divorce Project

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