Did Money Cause Us to Part: Divorce and Money

By Dr. Bernice Wilson, Resource Management Specialist


The healthiness of family relationships often depends upon how well families think through money management strategies in the home. By talking about money, family members should understand how financially stable the family really is. Attitudes about money have a value foundation base that helps to guide family thoughts and ideas about money. Too often money discussions relating to family financial stability seldom or never becomes an agenda item during family discussions. Spending and saving decisions affect the entire family, so talking about them would help each family member to better understand the family's money concerns. Moreover, many families do not hold family meetings, which could greatly impact marital relations.

Approximately 50 percent of marriages in the United States (US) end up in divorce. Statistics indicate that "Alabama has the sixth highest divorce rate in the United States," (Divorce in Alabama, p.1). Research also supports that "that second marriages are less idealized, more complex, and suffer more resistance to becoming 'we'," (Stanley and Kurdex, 2005, p.3.) Such factors increase support the well known fact that money is often the root of marital problems. "The divorce rate is an alarming 51%, meaning one out of every two marriages ends in divorce. Of those divorces, nearly 80% cited financial problems as the leading cause of the marital demise," (Carr, 2003, p.10).

Divorce is an emotional time during a marriage---a time when sound decisions must be made while under stress and disruptions. Too often divorces cause bankruptcies and bankruptcy filing has become more stringent than in the past. Nevertheless, a divorce alone is reason to seek financial help when a marriage ends. Here are some helpful hints for families facing a divorce:

  1. Know how much money comes into the household, and how much income is available to the family.
  2. Develop a spending plan that can help relieve stress and serve as flexible guideline. However, once the plan is in place stick to it.
  3. Families should practice the pay yourself first rule. Save some money for emergencies.

"The high degree of stress associated with being financially bound is the core reason why financial problems are the leading cause of divorces," (Carr, 2003, p.10). He recommends that families should develop a plan for financial stability.

The Financial Planning Association (2007) recommends the following to avoid money disasters during a divorce:

Establish a Budget
You want to start your new life out on the right foot. Seek the advice of a financial advisor if necessary.

Seek the advice of a seasoned divorce counselor
These professionals should be able to assist with qualified domestic relations orders to make sure that such financial assets as pensions are divided equally among spouses.

Make sure you place proper values on all assets
Consider home repairs and other investments, including whether your spouse owned and operated a business where you invested your time and talent.

Consider the rights of your children
Some states consider the rights of children in college in regard to money for college expenses. Be sure to research divorce laws as they apply to child support.

Be aware of how you file taxes
You may want to consult with a tax attorney when filing jointly or separately during a the final year prior to divorce.

Record child support payments
You may want to use the state's child support system to carefully document when and how you pay in child support.

Continue budgeting after divorce
Even after a divorce, creating or maintaining a budget is wise.

Even when spouses divorce, it's still wise to aware of your family spending habits to avoid potential disasters.


Carr, Damon. (November 24, 2003). Until "debt" do us part: Don't let money destroy your marriage. The Dollar Stretcher, Inc. Retrieved May 21, 2004.

Carr, Damon. (2007). Who am I and why should you listen to me. ACE Financial. Retrieved June 6, 2007.

Financial Planning Association. (Ed.). (2007, January). The biggest financial mistakes people make in divorce ­ and how to help your clients avoid them. AFCPE the Standard Financial Counseling Planning Education, 25 (1), 4-5.

Futris, T. G., Adler-Baeder, F., Dean, K., and McFadyen, J. M. (2005, May, Vol. 10, No. 1). Best practices for couples education: Summary of a dialogue between researchers and educators. The Forum for Family and Consumer Issues. Retrieved June 6, 2007.

Divorce Statistics Collection. New report divorce in Alabama. (June 1, 2006). Retrieved June 6, 2007.

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