Divorce, Debt, and Finances

Tips, Struggles and Successes navigating Divorce, Debt and Finances

Staying Together for your Finances

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Desperate times call for desperate measures--like living with your ex because you can't afford not to. Today's economy has taken its toll on the best of us, leaving some couples unable to physically separate for financial reasons. So how do you make it work?

If you and your ex were not in a position to separate could you live under the same roof? Take a vacation with them? Share the burden of debt? It is easier said then done but many couples are being forced to stay together, at least through the divorce process in order survive, financially speaking. How does this affect your kids, your sanity, and your ability to keep the peace?

Focusing on where you both stand, and putting the kid's needs first are huge wins for couples faced with this difficult decision. If you can keep the peace and set ground rules, you may want to try staying together until both of you can get back on your feet.

I questioned some divorce experts to get their thoughts. Here's what they had to say!Staying Together for your Finances

Good idea in theory... but what is the reality? 

"It's the rare couple that can successfully navigate peacefully living in the same house once they've decided to divorce. As the relationship grows apart and the divorce discussions get underway, tension increases and tempers flare. Too often the cost savings is a very high price to pay for the permanent damage living together does to the relationship. In my 22 years of experience, it's not unusual for this situation to end with a call to the police; in fact, it just happened last week to a couple in our mediation practice who were convinced they'd do just fine." 

Diane Mercer Making Divorce Work 

How do the kids feel about their parents dating and still living together through a divorce? 

"Yes - I am hearing about more and more people staying together because of finances.  My son has a good friend whose parents have not gotten divorced for financial reasons.  They have two teenage kids - one in college the other a junior in HS.  They live in a $700,000 home.  He works and has a great job.  She lost her job and has not been able to find another one.   

He has lived in the basement apartment for almost 3 years and she has the master bedroom & tv room. They share the kitchen but do not share meals, etc.  She has had a boyfriend for almost 2 years and from what I understand, he dates but is gun-shy.  They allow each other to bring their dates over to the house, but not to spend-the-night.  (I am horrified by the thought of how their kids are handling the thought of their parents dating while still married, but they seem to communicate with the kids very clearly.)   

They actually still care about each other as friends but simply can not afford to get divorced right now.  She has health issues and needs to stay on his insurance and with the market being as bad as it is, they will never be able to sell their home and get what they need for it.  Neither of them could stay in the house alone and be responsible for payments/utilities/insurance, etc.  I understand the staying together due to financial reasons, but the dating part still freaks me out.   

I have another acquaintance that remained married so that she would be entitled to her inheritance.  Her grandfather said he would cut her out of his will should she get divorced before he died.  I am totally disgusted by this situation too.  To me, this was just greed. 

In this economy though, I realize that there are situations that people are dealing with that are new and unusual.  I guess in the end, the most important part is to figure out what works best for each situation and take into consideration how it could affect the kids too."

 Dana McIntyre Partner Diary 

Who wins you or the attorney's?

"Certainly, in the current economy, there are valid reasons to "stay together", i.e. finances, credit ratings, housing, etc. We have found that the divorce rate in the U.S. is actually declining due to the exact circumstances you mention. In fact, we have also seen divorces become LESS contentious in order to "get through the system" quicker and less expensive.... then the couples make arrangements to stay together!

I have had divorce attorneys tell me that the stated goal of the court system is to get as much money as they can from the divorcing couple, play on their emotions, and, in the end, "make sure BOTH parties walk
away unhappy"! To that end...it works!

Having said that, however, there are so very many reasons for divorce...abuse, (ironically) finances, cheating spouses, and on and on. The role of the divorcing parents in the children's lives becomes, in my
mind, the overriding issue. "The well-being of the children" is always quoted by the courts, and virtually always neglected by those same courts!

Friends, family, business associates are so often made to take sides, and often choose to drop BOTH parties that they often also choose to stay together and make private arrangements."

Michael Welsh, Founder and President of DivorceNetwork  

Living together may not be the answer but consider sharing the burden. 

"We have certainly made adjustments but didn't stay together for the finances.  We considered moving back into together when my ex lost his job two years ago, but we didn't.  Instead we rethought the way that he is paying me child support.  For example, he has been taking the trash to the dump and shoveling our snow so that I no longer have to pay someone to do that.  This is the benefit of an amicable divorce." 

Molly Monet Postcards from a Peaceful Divorce 

Maybe money issues brought you to divorce-do you really want those same issues keeping you together? 

"It's a reality that many couples stay together because it's easier or smarter from a financial perspective, but at BounceBack we believe that this should be done only as a last resort and alternative options should be evaluated before deciding to stay together for the wrong reasons. If you know you should sever ties, then you should. Your happiness, your spouse's happiness, and your children's happiness are ultimately more important in the long run. It may be difficult in the short term, but there is nothing that should take priority over allowing yourself to find happiness, whether alone or in a new relationship.  

Many marriages and relationships end over troubles involving managing finances, fighting over money issues, or simply struggling over having enough money, so it makes sense that many couples will stay together, even unhappily so, if it means the financial situation is easier. Really, if you are not happy, nothing else matters and that unhappiness will eventually spread into all aspects of your life, including the finances. Many people make the decision to stay together assuming that their financial issues can't be fixed. Why not at least meet with a financial counselor, discuss your situation, and understand what options are out there before deciding to stay together. There are options and alternatives, and until you look into every option, you should not assume you have to stay in an unhappy marriage or relationship for financial reasons.  

Our BounceBack relationship experts and therapists stand behind the theory that couples shouldn't BEGIN a relationship or marriage because of finances (i.e. marrying someone for money), and we also believe the inverse of that - couples shouldn't continue something for financial reasons if the foundation of the relationship is gone. And especially with children - we also say that in many cases, parents who stay together "for the kids' sake" aren't always making the best decision. It may, in fact, create an awkward, unloving environment which may be less healthy for the children than two happily remarried parents who can coexist and continue to provide them with loving, albeit separate, environments." 

Courtney Stovall BounceBack.com  

For me "staying together" was not an option in my last marriage and I took a huge financial hit; but I am safe and happy two things money can't buy.  How do you feel about staying together? Please share in the comments we would love to hear it!

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Suzanne Cramer

Suzanne is a certified credit counselor working in our Ask the Expert forums as a coach and a Social Media Specialist for CareOne. Suzanne writes for our Divorce, Debt and Finances and A Straight Talk on Debt blogs.  Follow Suzanne on Twitter where she shares the latest debt industry news and tips to keep your finances in check with her ADivorcedMom and AskCareOne accounts.

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  • You could not have convinced me to stay with my ex-husband in a million years.  Sacrifices were made so I could get out ASAP.  I think people are still living on the 'have my cake and eat it too' line of thinking.  Fortunately, my ex and I lived well below our means, so leaving wasn't an issue for me financially.  In my opinion, you are emotionally abusing yourself if you keep yourself in that toxic environment.

  • @jami1kenob  I completely agree with you; my situation definately left me and my child in a toxic environment and we left ASAP. I did however try to get my ducks in a row so to speak before I actually made the move. It sounds like you did the right thing; best of luck to you!

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