7 Startling Things I Wish All Women Knew About Their Divorce Finances


date published

4th April 2024

written by

Emma Heptonstall

Emmaheptonstall.com Image

date published

4th April 2024

In over a decade of supporting women through divorce, I’ve seen it all. You can be sure, whatever secrets or shame you might feel about your marriage, or your relationship with money, you won’t be alone. And, of course, I treat everything my clients share in strictest confidence. But over the years, I have seen some issues crop up time and time again. Which is why on this blog I’m sharing the 7 startling things I wish all women knew about their divorce finances. 

1. You may be experiencing financial abuse

I’m not exaggerating when I say that around 90% of my clients are in financially abusive situations, many without realising it at first. Surprised? Financial abuse might not be what you imagine. It’s not just about your spouse cutting you off from your money or dictating what to buy.

Financial abuse can also look like being ‘taken care of’. Being told not to worry about the money, or being discouraged from earning your own money to keep you financially dependent within the marriage. It can look like your spouse saying all the right things, but being evasive when it comes to giving you any actual details about your marital finances. These are all situations my clients find themselves in: whether they are in a complex, high net worth marriage, or something less financially complicated. 

Whatever your situation, if you have a whispering feeling that what you’re being told doesn’t match up to reality, or doesn’t feel right in your gut – you’re probably right. 

2. You can get a handle on your finances

Many of my clients have a deep rooted fear when it comes to their finances. Sorting out the assets and liabilities feels like an overwhelming task, let alone starting negotiations on a settlement. I would say a huge proportion of my work is helping women understand that they have the skills they need to navigate this essential part of the divorce process. 

The complexity of the task, and how you approach it, depends on so many factors, such as the value and range of assets in your marriage, your own comfort levels when it comes to talking about finance, and the level of trust you have in your soon-to-be-ex. In any case, I promise, you do have what it takes. One of my recent clients, Maria (not her real name) was a litigant-in-person at her FDR hearing after working with me, and was commended by the judge for her diligence, aptitude and professionalism. Little did that judge know that Maria had considered herself to be completely financially ignorant just three months earlier!

3. You actually need to get a handle on your finances! 

Not only can you get a handle on your finances, you must. If you’ve followed me for more than a week or two, you’ll probably have read or heard me say the immortal line ‘no negotiations without knowing your numbers!’ What that means is you need to enter into financial negotiations from an informed position. 

You need to look at bank statements, get your assets valued, understand what savings and investments are in place. You need to know what debts your marriage has: what loans or mortgages have been taken out? Are there credit card bills? Whether or not you accrued these, if you are named on the account you will still be held liable. 

The higher the level of wealth in your divorce, the more complicated this can be. In complex cases, don’t attempt to do this on your own. Get professional advice – but remember, it is only advice. Ultimately, it’s up to you to get as informed as possible, and make the decisions. Your future self is depending on you to give this the attention it deserves. 

4. Don’t give away pensions for the house!

This one’s more specific, and it may not apply to everyone. However, I’m including it here because it’s a pattern I see so often. In many marriages, particularly heterosexual ones, the husband has forged the career and the wife has raised the children and stayed at home. This means the husband has had a working life of paying into a pension, and the wife has not. 

It can be tempting to go for the quick win, and negotiate away your right to the pension pot in exchange for the house right now. Especially if you still have children at home and you want to ensure continuity for them. But, please do the sums or seek financial advice before making that decision. You do not want to throw away financial security in your later years that far out-value the house you’re in now. 

5. You don’t need to pay lawyers for everything

If you have limited funds, you can be strategic about the legal support you invest in during the divorce process.

For some women (like Maria, who I mentioned earlier), you might not need a lawyer at all. This is particularly the case if there are few assets in the marriage, no children, relations with your ex-spouse are civilised and the settlement is straightforward. Even if you do find yourself needing to take the financial remedy through the courts, you can represent yourself.  

For others, lawyers are a necessity, as the division of assets is more complicated. If this is the case, and you are concerned about spending thousands on legal support, be tactical about when and how you engage a legal professional. 

You don’t need to instruct a lawyer to get the ball rolling, or submit the application. You will waste money if you engage a lawyer before you’ve done your own thinking on what you want and need from your post-divorce life. Save the professional support for when it comes to preparing for and attending hearings. 

6. You can work with me tactically too

Just as you might not work with a solicitor all the way through your divorce planning, you can enlist my support tactically too. If you want me there every step of the way, we can do that. Or if you just need me every now and then, that’s fine too. 

I want to be as accessible as possible, which is why I invest so much in providing free content on the blog and via the podcast. And I also offer a range of services to meet you where you are:

  • If you’re in a high net worth marriage and need highly personalised, open-ended, responsive coaching and support, you can access my Divorce Concierge Service 
  • If you’d like my expertise in a targeted way, to troubleshoot a particular aspect of your divorce, that’s what Ask The Alchemist is all about – a focussed session to help you overcome any divorce hurdles
  • If you want me on your team as you navigate your divorce journey, with regular check ins, guidance and support, Clarity Over Coffee is for you
  • If you need a plan you can have complete confidence in, so you have a vision for your divorce and post-divorce life, and can consider all the steps needed to get there, book a Clarity Day
  • And if you want to be part of a private community of women who want to gain control of their divorce and feel better while they do it, with me on hand each and every week, The Absolute Academy is open to new members. 

7. Your relationship with money is linked with your relationship with yourself 

I want to finish with this one because it is so important. I meet many women who are so desperate for their divorce to be settled that they say things like, 

‘I’m not bothered about the money, I just want this over’ or

‘Let them have it, I don’t want to fight anymore’ or

‘I’ll manage, we can get by.’

For many women, their primary concern is to close this particular chapter. But I want you to know, if you end up with a grossly unfair settlement because you didn’t stand up for what you need, you won’t get that closure. The legacy of your divorce will simply be a more difficult life, scraping by when you didn’t need to. Which brings with it resentment. 

Having the confidence to look your financial situation in the eye, and not be cowed by your ex-spouse when it comes to financial negotiations is about your sense of self worth. And, without wanting to sound like a beauty advert, of course you are worth a fair share of the marital assets. 

This is where working with a coach can be so helpful. I am not a ‘yes’ person – I am on your side, but sometimes that does mean giving you a loving challenge. And that challenge can be around your mindset and beliefs when it comes to your self worth. A lawyer can present you with facts and legal advice. But if you don’t tackle the mindset issues that stop you believing you are worthy and capable of more, you’ll never get the settlement you deserve.

I’m not going to pretend that divorce is an exciting personal development opportunity. It is tough, confusing, and exhausting. However, it is an opportunity to re-examine what’s important and what you’re capable of. And, I promise you, when it comes to your divorce finances, you are worth taking seriously. 

Want help making friends with your divorce finances? Book your free chat here. 


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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