Divorce has likely gained you independence, you may have also gained something else – a higher risk of poverty.
New research shows that divorce can have devastating financial consequences that often last for years.
According to studies, the standard of living for women can drop as much as 45 percent after divorce. For men, it can drop 21 percent. And for households with children, the impact is even greater. How did this happen?
Legal fees, splitting assets, setting up separate households – it all adds up quickly. And if you’re the lower-income spouse, you may end up with a far smaller share of resources. The financial stress can be enormous.
While divorce may have been the right choice for you emotionally, it pays to go in with your eyes open to the potential economic hardship to come. The good news is there are steps you can take to safeguard your financial security.
The question is, will you take action now to avoid poverty later? Your financial future is at stake.
The Financial Impacts of Divorce
Divorce often comes with financial troubles. Studies show that women experience a 27% drop in their standard of living after divorcing, while men face a 10% increase.##
There are a few reasons why divorce frequently leads to economic hardship:
Division of assets
Division of assets. Couples have to split their shared assets like the house, vehicles, investments, and bank accounts. This can leave both parties with fewer resources than before.
Reduction in household income. Previously, two incomes supported one household. Now, each person has to support themselves separately on typically lower individual incomes.
Each person now has to pay for housing, utilities, transportation, and other costs on their own. There are essentially two of everything required now.
Unpaid costs. During marriage, one spouse may have supported the other through education or job training. But after divorce, the supporting spouse doesn’t benefit from that investment.
The divorce process itself can cost between $15,000 to $30,000 per person or more. These fees have to be paid upfront, further depleting savings and income.
While not everyone suffers financially after divorce, many do experience hardship.
The key is making well-informed decisions before and during the divorce process to safeguard your economic well-being as much as possible. Focusing on compromise, minimizing legal disputes, and separating assets fairly can help reduce costs and set both parties up for financial stability post-divorce.
How Divorce Can Lead to Poverty
Divorce can be financially devastating. Studies show that women’s household incomes drop significantly after a divorce, while men’s incomes rise. For many, the legal and living expenses involved with ending a marriage lead to a plunge into poverty.
Housing and Living Expenses
After a divorce, the cost of housing and living essentially doubles. Where spouses once shared expenses, they now must pay for two separate households. This often means downsizing or relocating to more affordable housing. For some, it could mean not being able to afford housing at all.
The legal process of divorce itself can be extremely expensive. Attorney and court fees, especially if the divorce is contested, can cost tens of thousands of dollars. These fees must often be paid upfront, before the division of assets. For lower-income families, the legal costs of divorce alone can drive them into poverty.
Child Support and Alimony
Following a divorce, the primary caregiver is typically awarded custody of any children. The other spouse is then obligated to pay child support. However, a lack of compliance with child support orders is common, leaving many single parents struggling financially. Alimony, or spousal support, is also not guaranteed. When awarded, it often does not provide enough income to prevent poverty.
Job Loss and Career Interruptions
In some cases, a spouse may have to quit their job or experience a career interruption due to childcare issues or relocation after a divorce. This can significantly impact their income and financial stability long-term
For women especially, this often leads to poverty that can persist for many years.
Divorce is difficult enough without the added hardship of financial devastation. However, with proper planning and support, people can move on from divorce without ending up in poverty. But for many, it remains an unwanted reality.
Statistics on Poverty After Divorce
According to recent studies, divorce can lead to poverty for many individuals. Statistics show:
Nearly 30% of divorced women fall into poverty.
Compared to married women, divorced women are much more likely to experience financial hardship. Losing the income of their spouse and the increased costs of running a separate household often lead to economic troubles.
Divorced people over 65 have a higher poverty rate.
For older adults, the financial strain of divorce is even more severe. Limited work opportunities and fixed incomes mean less ability to recover financially after a split. Around 20% of divorced individuals over 65 live in poverty compared to 5% of married seniors.
Women experience a larger drop in income after divorce.
While both partners typically see their incomes decrease following a divorce, studies show women often face a bigger financial blow. On average, women experience a 45% drop in their standard of living after a divorce. For men, the decrease is around 30%.
The reasons for this disparity stem from unequal divisions of assets, women receiving custody of children more often, and the gender pay gap.
Women: 45% drop in their standards
Men: 30% drop in their standards
Poverty rates are higher for custodial parents.
The parent who maintains primary custody of children after divorce frequently struggles financially. The costs of raising kids and often losing the other parent’s income lead around 25-30% of custodial parents to live below the poverty line.
Non-custodial parents, on the other hand, have a lower poverty rate of 15-20%.
In summary, while not all divorced individuals end up in poverty, the statistics show a clear connection between loss of income after a split and increased financial hardship, especially for certain groups like women, seniors, and custodial parents. By being aware of these risks, people can take steps to achieve a fair and equitable divorce settlement and safeguard their financial well-being.
Tips for Avoiding Poverty Due to Divorce
A divorce can be financially devastating. Studies show that women’s standards of living can drop by as much as 27% in the first year after a divorce, while men’s tends to increase by 10%. However, there are several steps you can take to avoid poverty due to divorce.
Make a Budget
The first thing you should do is create a realistic budget based on your new income and expenses. Track your spending for a few months to see where you can cut costs. Look for ways to earn additional income if needed, such as taking a part-time job or developing a side business.
Having a solid understanding of your financial situation will help ensure you don’t end up in poverty.
Split Assets Fairly
Work with your ex to divide assets, property, savings and debts fairly. Get professional help from a mediator or financial advisor if needed. The more assets you’re able to retain, the less likely you are to end up in poverty.
Make sure any division of assets considers your future financial needs and earning ability.
Ask for Spousal Support
If there is a significant income disparity between you and your ex, you may be entitled to spousal support or alimony. Spousal support can help prevent a drop in standard of living after divorce and reduce the chance of poverty.
The amount and duration of spousal support depends on factors like length of marriage, income levels, earning potential and division of assets.
Take Advantage of Benefits
Look into any benefits programs you may be eligible for, such as food assistance, healthcare subsidies or job training programs. These programs are designed to help individuals and families in need make ends meet and improve their financial situations. Don’t hesitate to use them if you qualify.
With proper planning and by taking advantage of resources available, people going through divorce can avoid poverty and stay financially stable. While divorce brings many challenges, your financial well-being doesn’t have to be one of them.
With hard work and smart strategies, you can move on to the next chapter of your life with confidence in your financial security.
Resources for Managing Finances After Divorce
Going through a divorce often means facing financial difficulties. Many people find their income drops substantially, while expenses remain the same or even increase. However, there are resources available to help you manage your finances during and after a divorce.
Make a budget
The first step is to review your income and expenses to create a realistic budget. Look for expenses you can reduce or eliminate. See if you can cut back on things like eating out, entertainment, and hobbies.
Look for ways to earn additional income on the side to supplement your budget. Creating a comprehensive budget will help ensure your basic needs are met.
Apply for assistance
Don’t hesitate to apply for government assistance programs if you qualify. Programs like food stamps (SNAP), Medicaid, and subsidized housing can help meet essential needs. You may also be eligible for child support, alimony, or spousal support to provide additional income.
Reassess your insurance
Review your insurance plans including health, life, home, and auto. See if you can reduce coverage or switch to lower-cost plans to lower premiums. In some cases, you may qualify for subsidies or low-income programs to help pay for insurance.
Make paying off debt a priority. Focus on high-interest debts like credit cards first. Call creditors to request lower interest rates or set up payment plans. Non-profit credit counseling agencies can also help you create a tailored debt payoff plan.
Consult a financial advisor
If you feel overwhelmed, consider consulting a financial advisor. A financial advisor can help you create a comprehensive financial plan, suggest ways to cut costs and find additional income. They can also help you determine if bankruptcy may be an option to eliminate certain debts so you can work towards rebuilding your financial stability.
Going through a divorce is difficult enough without having to worry about money issues. Following these steps to create a realistic budget, reduce expenses, pay off debt, and find additional income and assistance can help establish financial security after divorce. With time and perseverance, you can get back on track financially.
The statistics are sobering but the truth is unavoidable—divorce can often lead to poverty. Whether it’s the legal fees, dividing assets and debts, establishing separate households, or the loss of dual-income stability, the financial impact of divorce is significant.
For many, the road to recover financially can be long. But while divorce may be difficult, for some it is the only path to safety, security or happiness. Though the data shows the financial risks are real, don’t lose hope.
With time and determination, you can rebuild your life and find financial footing again. The future is unwritten. While this may be an end, it is also a beginning. Stay focused on the light ahead, learn from your mistakes, and keep moving forward.
The odds may be against you but you have the power to beat them. Divorce led to poverty, now lead yourself out. Your story isn’t over, this is just the start of a new chapter.