How to get ready to negotiate money in divorce


date published

27th February 2023

written by

Emma Heptonstall Image

date published

27th February 2023

Money’s just money right? It doesn’t buy you happiness. It doesn’t really indicate your value. It’s good not to want or need it. Well, all of these things are true, to a point. But the fact is, having enough money makes your life a whole lot easier. And many women find themselves getting a rough financial deal in divorce. But you don’t have to. In this blog we’ll explore how to get ready to negotiate money in divorce.

What’s your money story?

None of us have a neutral attitude to money. We all attribute a sense of right and wrong to money. And we often do this without realising, because of subconscious messaging we took on board while growing up.

So your money story is made up of all the beliefs you have about money and your relationship with it. They can be anything, for example:

    • People like me don’t have much money
    • I can’t hold onto money
    • I’m good with money because I don’t spend it until absolutely necessary
    • I’m great at making money
    • It’s wrong to have money
    • Money helps me live a good life

To understand your own money story it’s useful to think back to your childhood, and the messages you received, implicitly or explicitly, from your parents about money. Take a moment and write them down.

Now, listen to what your body is telling you about money. How do you feel when you hear the word, or think about negotiating the divorce settlement? Remember, all responses are valid, and nothing to be ashamed of. And, all responses can be changed.

Because the truth is, your money story has a huge impact on how you lead your life.

What was the power dynamic in your relationship?

As well as your money story, another factor in your relationship with money is how you and your soon-to-be-ex interacted over finances. It is particularly hard to have a healthy sense of self worth around money if your ex-spouse was the main breadwinner. It’s even harder if they were emotionally manipulative or belittling.

Many of my clients don’t recognise the power imbalance in their marriage until it’s over. And that’s because we learn to live with what we’ve got. Maybe your ex-spouse was nice. Maybe they were a good parent to your children. Perhaps they weren’t exploitative of you. You can still have received unhealthy messages about money. For example, are any of these true for you?

    • Your spouse handled most of the bills and big items of expenditure
    • You didn’t pay much attention to what’s in the bank account
    • Making a significant purchases without permission felt wrong to you
    • You and your spouse rarely had open conversations about money

All these things point to a power imbalance when it comes to money. It doesn’t necessarily mean your soon-to-be-ex was abusive, or deliberately undermining. But it does mean you have some work to do now to redress the balance.

The good news is, your separation draws a line under your relationship dynamic. Things are different: you’re no longer together (even if you’re still living together, you’re no longer planning for the future as a unit). If your soon-to-be-ex was dominant when it comes to money, they are going to continue to dominate when it comes to the divorce settlement, unless you do something to change that. But this is a perfect time to ring the changes. And that’s what we’ll look at next.

A healthy approach to money

Before you embark on changing how you and your ex-spouse communicate about money, you need to work on your communication with yourself. You need to rewrite your money story. And, most of the time, this involves working on your sense of self worth. Believing that you are worthy of having, managing and spending money.

This is something you need to do for yourself, no-one can do it for you. The first step lies in being aware of what your stories are: because then you realise they aren’t objective realities, they are just stories. And you can write new ones. Ones that feel good to you.

I do want to tell you this: it is not wrong to want to have enough money to live a healthy and happy life. This is also reflected in the legal jurisdiction: if the court was to make a decision on your case the judge would consider the standard of living you had during marriage. There is no expectation your standard of living should fall, if there’s enough money to go around. Even if your soon-to-be-ex was the main breadwinner.

Equally, this isn’t about ‘taking them to the cleaners’ or ‘winning’. If you’re focussed on them rather than you, then your mindset needs more work. It’s your future and your needs that are your focus now. Don’t play games – that means they’ve still got a hold over you. Just coolly and calmly be an advocate for your future.

Set new boundaries around money

Once you have reflected on your own relationship with money, it’s time to set new boundaries with your ex-spouse. You don’t need to declare these boundaries with a loudspeaker! You don’t need to say ‘Emma’s told me to be more assertive around money!’. This is very much a case of showing them you mean business. Yes, be clear on what you’re comfortable with, but more importantly, follow through with action.

What that looks like will depend on your circumstances, but it might include:

    • Seeking a second opinion on the financial settlement they propose
    • Insisting you close the joint bank account
    • Buying yourself quality items, not the cheapest
    • Taking control of your household budget and monitoring your spending
    • Getting informed about savings and investments
    • Insisting on a share of their pension, even though they insist it’s ‘theirs’ (you have a right to financial security in the future just as much as they do!)

Rewiring your attitude towards money is hard work. But, believe me, it’s worth it. You are worth it. It’s something that’s worth investing in: your time, your energy, and yes, your money! I can help you develop a healthier mindset when it comes to money, so you can decide what’s reasonable for you, without any blindspots. This could be all the difference between a future that leaves you resentful of your settlement, and one you’re at peace with. And what could be worth more than that?

Just book in your free chat today.


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 and group programmes. 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


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