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Pattie Lovett-Reid

Chief Financial Commentator, CTV


No one enters into a marriage anticipating that it will end in a breakup – but sadly, they happen.

Four in 10 marriages end in divorce, according to Statistics Canada –  and one of the busiest days for divorce lawyers, first dubbed "divorce day" in the U.K., usually falls on the first Monday of the new year. 

The number of those wanting to get through the holiday intact – or, on the other hand, those not wanting to start a new year in a troubled relationship — resulted in a spike of about 30 per cent.

The emotional turmoil is fierce, and the financial consequences can be devastating as well. Darren Farwell, a divorce financial analyst, suggests those with investable assets of $1 million or more would benefit from having team of experts to support them through the transition – a lawyer, a divorce financial analyst and a confidant to share your emotions with.

Here are five tips that may help you get through a difficult situation just a little easier – or as Farwell calls it “forward HOPE”:

1. Financial awareness: Overall wellness includes financial awareness. Make this part of everyday life, it will require even more focus if you have to work through a divorce. Financial awareness includes an understanding of;

  • Your assets – all the things you own, what they are and what those things realistically are currently worth.
  • Your liabilities – what do you owe, to whom and how much
  • Your income – what are all your sources of regular income, when do you receive this income and how much is it
  • Your expenses – how much do you spend monthly, each year

Some of these details may be more difficult to get after the process of divorce has started, so make this awareness a regular routine. Keep a copy of the last three years of tax returns for you and your spouse. Keep these tax returns and your other records in a place that you can access them. Make as budget and write out your priorities. What are the goals that matter most to you and what money will be required to achieve those goals?

2. How not why – Asking a question such as “why did you suggest that?” can elicit a defensive response which distracts from the subject. If instead you ask “how did you come to that conclusion?” the discussion becomes more about the process and therefore may allow for more constructive discussion.

3. Settle out of court – The cost of going to court is very high and it’s risky for both sides. The money you were arguing over will simply get spent on the invariably high cost of the legal process.

4. Pensions are worth more than houses – The family home is a marital asset charged full of emotion. Those emotions are real, legitimate and okau. However, emotions should not make decisions. Financially you may very well be better off longer term by selling the home or exchanging the family home for other assets, such as pensions that end up putting more money in your pocket to enjoy your life and do those things that bring you happiness.

5. Emotions – Don’t let emotions rule your divorce. Yes, this is easier said than done. An important step is to be aware.

  • Don’t let guilt rule you
  • Don’t make nice financially in the hope of getting back together
  • Leave revenge at the door – legally, the whys and wherefores don’t matter. These feelings are better addressed with someone trained to listen and give constructive feedback.
  • Don’t succumb to threats or be threatening
  • Focus on problem solving – whatever you don’t agree on will get spent on the legal process of getting someone else to sort it out for you.