5 red flags for your divorce finance negotiations


date published

18th April 2024

written by

Emma Heptonstall

Emmaheptonstall.com Image

date published

18th April 2024

Last time on the blog I shared the 7 startling things I wish every woman knew about their divorce finances. #1 on the list was that around 90% of my clients experience financial abuse. And, often, they don’t realise it, because the patterns in their marriage or separation don’t look that dangerous or problematic – until they become dangerous and problematic. So here are 5 red flags for your divorce negotiations. 

1. We’ll sort it out ourselves

I’m all for amicable divorce. If you can get through the process without lawyers, and without litigation, that’s great. It can save you a lot of money. However, If your soon-to-be-ex is adamant that you don’t need any professional help, either from a mediator or legal professional, take a moment to think why they are saying that. 

Is it because they genuinely want to act in your best interests as well as their own? Or is it because they don’t want any scrutiny? They don’t want anyone whose job it is to follow due process and ask potentially awkward questions? If your soon-to-be ex’s intentions are pure, they will have no problem with you working with a professional as a sounding board, or to take an expert view. 

2. There’s no money

Lots of my clients haven’t been the ‘money manager’ in their marriages. Their spouse has earned the lion’s share of the money and paid the bills. So when it comes to negotiating a divorce settlement, they have no clue what their financial state of affairs is. 

If your spouse is telling you there’s no money, ask yourself how true that’s likely to be. One of my recent clients, let’s call her Linda, was married to a man who worked in finance. They had a generous lifestyle – plenty of holidays, money wasn’t an issue at all. Yet, a couple of months into separation, he was telling her there was no money. Sounds fishy? Yes, it was. Linda was confused. Her husband wasn’t budging. And she worked with me to create both a short term plan to get through the immediate cash crisis, and a divorce plan to get to the bottom of the money situation. Sometimes it’s worth investing in forensic accountants and asset tracers. 

3. You wouldn’t understand, let me take care of it

This one is a close relative of red flag number 1 – again, it’s keeping you isolated from the full financial picture. And this can be presented as a very caring offer: divorce is stressful, who doesn’t want something complicated and unpleasant taken off their to do list? But divorce finance is NOT something to entrust to the person you are divorcing.

Any hint that you’re not capable of understanding the finances is belittling and disrespectful. When it comes to your future you’re not only entitled to full information, you need it. 

And, of course, if you feel like you don’t have the knowledge or skills right now to understand your finances, there’s no shame in that. Knowledge and skills comes from experience, and if you’ve not had the experience, of course you’re a beginner. That’s okay. But now’s the time to start – with help if needed. And this is exactly the sort of thing I can help with, in a way that’s empowering and takes the fear factor away.  

4. I’m too busy and important to deal with this right now

Quite often my clients face resistance from their soon-to-be-exes. It’s over a power play – your ex doesn’t want to see you living independently and taking the reins. 

Yes, we all need to be flexible when it comes to timings – no-one wants to be dictated to by another. But if your ex-spouse is consistently failing to disclose and also using the ‘I’m too busy’ argument, that’s a clear sign they’re not giving you the respect you deserve. 

5. Take them to the cleaners

This last one’s a little different, as it’s not from your soon-to-be-ex, it’s from your lawyer. Now, I want to be clear. This isn’t Hollywood! Most financial and legal professionals aren’t seeking drama for the sake of it. However, some firms are more litigious than others. And there’s a vast difference between capitulating, letting your soon-to-be-ex walk away with everything, and fighting for every last bean if you don’t need to. The only people that ‘win’ in that scenario are the lawyers! 

I’d hope that no-one outside of a film set has said ‘take them to the cleaners’, at least not in this century. But this is a reminder to select your divorce team carefully. You need people who know what they are doing, who also are willing to understand YOU, your desires and needs, and who will work to a resolution that you’re happy with, rather than get stuck into a financial battle when there’s no need. Resolution is a good place to start to find a lawyer who will work towards (you’ve guessed it) resolution, rather than conflict for its own sake.

If you’ve read this and recognise some of these behaviours from your marriage or separation, take this as your sign. Be aware that your soon-to-be-ex is not working in your best interests, simply their own.

It’s time to stand up for yourself. That doesn’t necessarily mean a fight. But it does mean having a strategy and the confidence to hold firm. And that’s where I come in. Book your free consultation now


About Emma

Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is the author of the Amazon best-selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready, the online self-study programmes, and the newly released ‘Should I be a Lady Who Leaves?’. For More Information on Should I be a Lady Who Leaves? click here.

Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. Emma is also the host of  The Six Minute Divorce Podcast. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com


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