7 things to do when money gets in the way of your divorce

Money and divorce

One of the biggest worries around getting divorced is money. Money and divorce is so emotive isn’t it? Even when divorce becomes a necessity, there can be that voice in your head saying, “I can’t afford it.” 

And sometimes, the money just isn’t there. You can’t afford to rack up solicitor’s costs, and you can’t afford to get specialist help navigating the divorce process. There isn’t a buffer, there isn’t a fairy godmother and it leaves you feeling trapped and stuck. So what to do?

Here are seven things to do when you’re stuck financially – they are either free or very low cost:

Use government and other free agencies

If your financial circumstances are a worry, it makes sense to research what provision is there to support you. The current fee for divorce is £550. You may be entitled to a fee exemption if you’re not working.

Check your entitlement to benefits to see if there’s any money you could be claiming. Explore whether you qualify for legal aid, and whether you can use this to fund family mediation. The Citizens Advice Bureau is a good place to go for help navigating what services and funds you can access.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse (in any form – it doesn’t have to be physical), you may be able to access legal aid to divorce. Make sure you access specialist support to help you – Womens’ Aid is a good place to start.

For more on how to access free support, check out the resource list on my website.

Use my blog

It’s free! And you’re reading this on it, of course, so you’re in the right place. I have over 50 posts covering a range of topics from understanding whether you’re ready to divorce, to finances, to family mediation and when to seek a solicitor. It’s a great place to get more informed. Visit www.emmaheptonstall.com

Join Ladies Who Leave

Ladies Who Leave is my free Facebook community with 900 members. It’s a place for women who are at any stage in their divorce journey – from considering it to making practical decisions about the future. There’s lots of legal information from me in there, all archived as video or written posts so you can find the information you need, including the topic of money and divorce. It’s also a great place to connect with other women who are in similar situations, compare notes and realise you’re not alone. Join us here

Use Google

It’s never been easier to access information – Google can help answer all sorts of questions. The key here is ask the right questions and to be cautious about trusting the information – anyone can be an expert online! I find it helpful to use this PROMPT acronym from The Open University when looking at information sources:

Provenance – Who is providing the information? Is it clear who the authors are and where the facts/research have come from?

Relevance – How relevant is the information to your particular need? For example, information on the legal jurisdiction in Australia is not going to be helpful to you if you want to get divorced in England and Wales.

Objectivity – Does the author have an agenda? Is there position or interest made clear? For example, it may be that information from divorcees may be flavoured by their own personal experiences and emotions.

Method – OK, this is less likely to be relevant to your divorce research, but it’s part of the acronym so I’m including it! And it’s always worth considering how research was conducted. For example, if you read somewhere that 100% of women were happier after divorce, you might want to know how many women were involved in the study, what their circumstances were, who funded the research etc. It’s a good idea to ask questions and not take research at face value.

Presentation – is the information clear? Sometimes you may need advice interpreting what you’ve read, especially when it comes to legal terms.

Timeliness – How up to date is the research? While the law doesn’t change very frequently, you want to make sure you’re not looking at outdated information.

Search YouTube

Like Google, YouTube can provide a wealth of information, easily searchable. It’s a great resource, espccially if you prefer to get your information verbally and visually rather than through documents or government websites. The same caution applies though – use the PROMPT acronym to sense-check the validity of the information you’re getting, rather than taking everything at face value.

Read How To Be A Lady Who Leaves

If you’re using the PROMPT checklist I mentioned earlier, then you’ll probably be thinking, “Of course she’ll recommend her own book, she wrote it, she’s hardly objective!” And you’re right of course. But I didn’t write that book simply to get my name in print. I wrote it because I know that getting divorced is a journey, and the book is there to help you every step of the way.

It combines the knowledge and understanding from my career in legal practice, my mediation training and my coaching expertise to help you work through the issues in the right order, ask the right questions and cut through the noise, at your own pace. It’s full of relevant, up-to-date legal information. So if you’re looking for a one-stop guide to navigating your divorce, including the issue of money and divorce, this easy read volume will help! You can buy a print or kindle copy from Amazon

Join Club D36

Club D36 is my private community where I offer close, regular support to women ready to get serious about divorce. Again, you might ask why you should trust me to recommend my own services (this smaller membership club comes with a small fee of just £36 per month)! Well – it’s because I know that this sort of timely support can really make the difference and save women hundreds or thousands in solicitors’ fees.

I set it up to help women who are ready to get proactive. Whereas the Ladies Who Leave Group is great for exploring, Club D36 is all about taking action. You get access to resources, weekly Q&As and a community of women who are ready to take control. If you’d like to join us, I’d love to see you in there.

Sometimes, though, money’s not the real block. Money is a resource, just like our time and energy. We give our time, money and energy to the things we prioritise. Now I would never encourage anyone to skimp on food or max out their credit card to invest in support. But sometimes we know we could pay for a service that will make all the difference and we use money as the reason not to. It’s not just about getting support with your divorce – it could be with anything.

Why is that? In my experience, it comes down to fear. Usually the fear sits in two camps:

The ‘what am I going to unleash’ fear

This fear tells us “Don’t open the box, it’s too scary!”

This fear tells us that the questions we need to ask of ourselves are too scary, the journey too difficult. Perhaps it’s getting honest about our money situation we’re scared of, perhaps it’s about taking on what seems like the marathon process of getting divorced. Perhaps it’s the emotional turmoil of coming face to face with difficult feelings of shame or guilt for your situation (which, by the way, are perfectly normal, despite the fact getting divorced is nothing to feel ashamed about).

This fear is trying to keep us safe. But it ends up keeping us stuck.

The ‘what if it doesn’t work’ fear

This fear tells us “Don’t spend money when there are no guarantees!” And it’s got a point. Simply spending money on something doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the outcome you want. Buying a car, then not driving it doesn’t give you the freedom to hit the road. Joining the gym, then not going doesn’t help you get any fitter.

But when you do the work – when you follow the guidelines, put the effort in, you do get results.

So you need to flip this fear on its head – rather than ‘What if it doesn’t work?” ask yourself, “Why wouldn’t I do the work?” And sometimes, it’s because you’re not in the right place, you’re not divorce ready. And that’s ok. Check my blog on this topic to see whether it resonates with you.

But if you are ready, check back with yourself on the money question. There is so much support available to you. What action can you take today – using your time and energy, if not your money – towards the life you really want to be living?

Join Get Divorce Ready – The Back to School Challenge

To help you get over your fears (whether money is really an issue or not), I’m running Get Divorce Ready – The Back to School Challenge from 10th – 14th September. Throughout the challenge, you’ll receive daily emails containing hints, tips and action steps that you can take to get yourself ready for divorce. here’s the thing, there’s no financial commitment to joining, it’s free. The commitment I ask you to make is to yourself. To open the emails and do the work. Doing the work, works!

Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is 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 practising family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com