Leaving an unhappy marriage is never easy, but it can be especially daunting when you’re financially dependent on your spouse. Millions of women get divorced, and many of them have the same concerns you do.
You might think, ‘I don’t love my husband but I can’t leave because I have no money’ or you’re scared to divorce with no money. This can happen when you don’t have any money of your own or a plan for building financial independence. It can be a big challenge if you have been married for a long time.
For other women saying “I want a divorce but have no money,” the issue is they just don’t have much money as a couple. If both struggle to save money, spend money, or deal with debt (even if they struggle in different ways), even the costs of processing the divorce papers are daunting. Nonetheless, marriages end.
- A divorce lawyer can help protect you financially, and there are lots of ways to find free legal support
- How to start over after divorce with no money comes down to planning – we have tips!
- Where to go if you want to leave your husband but have nowhere to go – there are options!
- Where you start isn’t where you will finish – assemble support and plan for an abundant, independent life
How to leave a marriage with no money
If you’re considering leaving your spouse, it’s essential to know that you may have a hard time with financial challenges. Good news, tho: this guide will help you build your exit strategy from a bad marriage and start a new life with as little drama as possible in the long term. Follow these tips, and you’ll be on your way to a fresh start!
Signs it’s time to end your marriage
Even the best marriages go through rough patches and everyone wants it to last a lifetime. But sometimes, despite our best efforts, things don’t work out. If you’re struggling in your marriage, it may be a good time to consider ending it.
But how do you know for sure?
Everyone has their own idea about what makes a good relationship in the long run. For example, some people believe that physical intimacy is necessary for a healthy relationship; others believe it isn’t at all.
Signs it may be time to end your marriage:
- You’re no longer happy and your efforts to improve things are going nowhere
- Your spouse is not interested in making your marriage better.
- You have had an affair and want to stay in the relationship. Or your “good man” has.
- You do not feel safe in your marriage. This could be because of domestic violence, verbal or emotional abuse, or feeling like you are always walking on eggshells around your husband.
- Some of your friends and family members have noticed that you have been acting differently lately. They are worried that you may be unhappy in your marriage.
- Your couples therapist or family therapist has told you it’s time to go
Talk with women who were in similar situations about how they knew they were ready for divorce.
Never depend on a man for money
There is a lot to be said for division of labor in a marriage – it’s not efficient for everyone to share every task. But you have to keep a hand in. Feeling trapped ends with clarity into financial issues.
For some women, this means keeping a separate bank account. For others, it means they save money in their own bank account and set goals that way. And for others (including in our house, where roles are reversed), it means we spend time talking about our finances so everyone has a clear understanding. But that still means, for us, almost everything is in a joint account. For others, a separate account is more important.
If you’re considering how to leave your husband, the best way is to learn how to manage your finances and make sure you have enough money. This is critically important if you are in an abusive relationship, don’t have family members to rely on, don’t have much in your savings account, or are dealing with mental health challenges or physical abuse in your marriage.
This post will help you build financial support and security, so you can leave your husband if you need or want to.
How to get a divorce with no money? Start with a financial plan
After you’ve decided to leave your marriage, it’s time to review our divorce financial checklist and make a plan.
Meet with a divorce attorney
Women with no money are the most in need of legal advice. You are otherwise outgunned – only a lawyer can truly outline your legal rights (not your spouse, or his lawyer).
Speak with a family lawyer to go over your position and what you can expect during the divorce process. Walking into that meeting with a high-level financial snapshot will make it cheaper and easier.
- Gather relevant financial documents, including tax returns, bank statements, pay stubs, and insurance policies.
- Make a list of all shared assets and debts, including real estate or vehicles.
- Income and debts, who holds the health insurance
- A budget for your life after divorce
Develop a post-divorce budget
Because you may receive child or spousal support, spend time developing your budget. Factor in expenses like housing, food, clothing, child care, transportation, taxes and insurance. You’ll need to consider your current income, debts, and expenses and all the potential changes in your income or living situation.
If you’re not sure where to start, budgeting apps like YNAB help lots of women. Once you have developed a budget, you can start to plan how to survive financially.
You might want to consider
- New ways of making money
- What expenses might change
- Assets or possessions you might sell
- Government assistance or social services you could be entitled to
For instance, in some states, single parents have an easier time qualifying for state medical insurance.
These steps will help set you up to advocate for yourself in major financial decisions such as how to divide retirement accounts and how to handle debt.
Prepare for legal costs
When a couple gets divorced, there are often legal costs associated with the process. They can vary widely depending on the complexity of the divorce and whether you use an attorney or not.
I need a divorce lawyer and have no money – The Do It Yourself Divorce
Many women choose to represent themselves in divorce proceedings because they can’t afford an attorney. This makes sense where you have an uncontested divorce, with no children, and can agree on how to divide what you have.
If you take this route, you will still be on the hook for several hundred dollars in court fees and a lot of administrative legwork. Start with this article from Nolo on DIY divorce.
If you decide to go this route, there are a few things you can do to prepare:
Research your state’s divorce laws
This will help you understand what to expect as you go through the divorce process, including the financial realities. Search “DIY divorce california” but for your state.
Go to the county courthouse
Talk to someone about the process. This can help you understand the paperwork involved and what to expect in court. They may also have helpful handouts and guides. Check the county website as well.
Find free, pro-bono lawyers or low-cost legal assistance
This will come from a family law clinic or legal aid society in your area. I strongly recommend you connect with legal aid if you are on low or no income. They can help connect you with social services in your area as well.
A divorce process is expensive, so it is essential to understand your financial rights and obligations before making any decisions.
Need a lawyer for divorce?
According to Nolo, the average lawyer fees in divorce are $11,300. The cost varies greatly depending on whether or not you have children, what state you’re in, and whether or not the divorce is contested.
However, having an expert on your side is a good idea if:
- Your spouse is also hiring an attorney, you may level the playing field by doing the same
- You have a complex financial situation or complex financial assets, like a family business
- Your spouse is abusive or has threatened you
- You anticipate your toxic relationship will blossom into a major fight over child custody or support or spousal support
- You have a restraining order against your spouse or other legal protection from domestic abuse
- You’re in a financially abusive relationship
- You are an immigrant and your spouse is a citizen
- You are leaving a second marriage or blended family
Consider using a mediator to help you and your spouse come to an agreement on the terms of your divorce. A mediator is a neutral third party who can help you and your spouse negotiate the terms of your divorce. They tend to be less expensive and charge by the hour, which may be able to help you reach an agreement more quickly and cheaply than attorneys.
How to keep divorce costs down
If you do decide to hire a lawyer, here are tips for keeping your divorce costs down:
- Communicate with your spouse. If you can agree to the terms of the divorce, it will be much cheaper than going to court. Working out major issues like property division and child custody will save you money on lawyers’ fees.
- Don’t engage in mud-slinging. If you can keep the divorce civil, you’ll save on lawyer’s fees and court costs and make the process less stressful.
- Get prepared to compromise. If you’re willing to negotiate on some issues, you’ll be more likely to reach an agreement without spending much on legal fees.
- Get Legal help on a limited scope basis. You can hire a lawyer for a limited amount of time to help you with specific tasks like navigating the court filings or preparing for mediation or negotiation. This can be a cheaper option but you will do most of the legwork yourself.
Following these tips, you can decrease divorce costs and make the process less stressful for everyone involved.
What is a woman entitled to in divorce?
A woman may be entitled to several things in a divorce, including alimony/spousal support, child support, partial custody and always a fair property division.
A fair division of property is one in which the assets and debts of the marriage get divided relatively between the two spouses. It gets done through negotiation or mediation, but sometimes, it may require a court order (the court deciding if you can’t).
Spousal support gets paid from one spouse to the other after a divorce. It may be paid monthly or as an upfront lump sum. It’s intended to help the receiving spouse maintain their standard of living. Important note: women can and do pay spousal support.
Child support is paid by one parent, usually the one with less custody. It is typically paid monthly or directly to a service provider (like a school) and helps cover the costs of raising a child, such as food, clothing, and shelter. Most women receive child support awards, but the majority of them also don’t see all the money.
To actually get these things, you may have to enforce your rights in court. If your spouse doesn’t want to give you what you’re entitled to, or if they try to hide assets, you may need to go to court to get a judge’s order.
Enforcing your rights in divorce can be difficult and expensive. If you have any questions about what you’re entitled to, or if you need help enforcing your rights, you should speak to an attorney.
What happens to your finances when a marriage ends?
Clear eyes about life after divorce are very important, but also challenging when you are going through it. Personal finance for women is typically worse after divorce than during marriage, but you can protect yourself. Many women start in horrible situations and learn how to find the courage to leave a marriage and build thriving lives.
- You will need to be established with separate checking and savings accounts, credit cards and insurance. All joint savings accounts and any credit cards you hold jointly will close. And once you are officially divorced, you can no longer be on the same insurance.
- If you own a home, you’ll need to decide what to do with it. You can keep the house and try to refinance the mortgage in your name only, or your ex could do the same, or you can sell the house and split the proceeds. This is usually one of the biggest financial decisions in divorce, and the most emotional.
- If you rent, you may be able to keep your lease, but you may also need to renegotiate depending on local rental laws.
- You’ll need to start budgeting for yourself on a single income, which may be difficult if you’re used to living on a joint income.
- You may be raising children alone, and with very little help. Most divorced women with children are single moms who independently support their kids, because the dad stops paying and it can be expensive and hard to get him to pay.
- You may need to rebuild your credit score, your retirement savings, your emergency savings, do taxes for the first time, and overcome other financial hurdles.
Not only are all these things possible, but they may also lead to greatness. How do you know divorce is the right choice? It’s a decision only you can make. But you can make it.
How to financially prepare to leave your husband
We actually have a dedicated blogpost on financially preparing for divorce, but here’s a quick rundown.
- Build a cash emergency fund aka a “go bag”
- Freeze your credit, pull your credit report and monitor your accounts
- Clean up your credit report
- Hold off on financial decisions and moves
- Gather all your financial records
- Track and document expenses
- Build a post-divorce budget
- Determine your priorities for your divorce
- Open a P.O. Box
- Bulk up your Venmo or Paypal account
- Establish your own credit card and checking accounts
- Spend carefully
- Don’t make any changes to accounts, policies or beneficiaries
- Make a plan for debt held by both you and your spouse
A couple more to add if you really have no money:
Public benefit programs
Look into public benefits programs that can help with living expenses like food or housing. These programs can act as a great support system and give you financial security to go through this huge life change smoothly.
These are administered at the state level, county and local levels. I would start with your local legal aid office. They can often direct you.
Support Groups and Helpful Organizations
That said, there are a lot of organizations that offer financial resources and support for women going through divorce. These can help with things like legal fees, housing, or even just emotional support.
Some places to look for financial resources are:
- Your local FB moms groups. Not even kidding. There is so much knowledge in these groups.
- Divorce groups like /r/Divorce/ on Reddit
- Your local community center
- Your state’s bar association (lawyers)
- Your state or county department of social services
- Your state’s cooperative extension service, if you’re in a local area.
There are many organizations and programs that can offer financial assistance during and after divorce. Look for resources. Help will rarely just leap in front of your car.
Friends and Family
I know this is a tough one, but sometimes trusted friends or a family member can be just the right thing during divorce. If you have people in your life who are financially stable and want to help, they may be able to provide some support. Even if they can’t help financially, they can help in other ways:
- Cooking meals
- Letting you stay with them for a bit
- Helping you move
- Watching your kids so you can work or take care of things
- Listening to you talk about your divorce
- Acknowledging the drastic change ahead of you
- Just being there for you emotionally (best friends are great for this!)
- Margaritas and other critical expertise
Think about who in your life might be able to help and how they can help. You may be surprised at the support you receive.
Where to go when you have nowhere to go
There are lots of options for women who have nowhere to go during their divorce. If you need a place to stay, many shelters and organizations can help.
Here are some places to start your search:
- A shelter – start your search on Find a Shelter
- Faith-based organizations (search within your county)
- Youth services organizations (search within your county)
- Elderly assistance organizations
- Your employer. This is extremely awkward, but your employer has a vested interest in keeping your life stable. Asking for help if you feel safe doing so might give some people who are literally on your team the best way to help.
Finally, consider low-cost therapy
If you are struggling to cope with the emotional fallout of your divorce, you may want to consider therapy. And maybe that means couples therapy, but my focus is on you. It can be helpful to talk solo with a family therapist, who helps you work through your feelings and start to move on. A family therapist can also work with your children.
However, therapy can be expensive.
Some low-cost options are available if you can’t afford traditional therapy. Community mental health centers or county services may offer sliding scale fees based on your income. It means you’ll only pay what you can afford. Online therapy options are also available that can be more affordable than in-person therapy. You may also have access to a family therapist through your health insurance or employer benefits.
How to leave your husband?
It’s just a matter of planning your own finances and working up the courage to leave a marriage, which is not a small feat.
Leaving a marriage can be difficult, but it’s important to do what’s best for you and your family. If you’re struggling financially, there are steps you can take to prepare yourself for divorce and ensure that you have the resources you need. We’ve outlined some key steps in this blog post, as well as helpful organizations and support groups.