Divorce and Money: How Much Would You Lose?

Sad couple

Couple fighting | Source: iStock

If you’re considering divorce, you may be wondering what the impact will be on your finances. The Cheat Sheet spoke with a few divorce experts to get their opinion. Here’s how your money could be affected if you decide to split from your spouse.

The breadwinner may be the loser

If you make significantly more money than your spouse, you generally stand to lose more in a divorce, said Christian Denmon, founding partner of Denmon & Denmon. “As a technical matter, if you are the breadwinner spouse, you are in position to ‘lose’ the most money. That’s because the spouse that makes the money will also be responsible for a bigger portion of fees and costs associated with the divorce. As a practical matter, the spouse who is ill-prepared and negotiates without analyzing the case fully and truly understanding the facts is the one who loses,” said Denmon.

Who’s the boss?

In addition, if you owned a business when you entered the marriage, you may also lose some money. Megan Green, a certified family law specialist and partner at Feinberg Mindel Brandt & Klein, told The Cheat Sheet business owners should be mindful of this when thinking about divorce.

Another scenario in which a spouse could feel as if he or she lost the most money in a divorce may be when a spouse entered a marriage with a business and worked at the business for a number of years. There could also be a situation where he or she started the business during the marriage, then upon divorce, that spouse was required to pay the “out spouse” for one-half the value of the business. One example of this may be a spouse who develops a pilot (a script) for a successful television show and the show is sold to a major network for millions of dollars. The rights to that show would most likely be divided since the writer/spouse did that work during the term of the marriage, and if there were no prenuptial clause, or no prenuptial agreement at all, half of the worth of that script sale would likely go to the other spouse. Perhaps the losing spouse may have been better off never marrying, because ultimately they were forced to share the fruits of their brainchild with a spouse who never participated in the creation of that creative piece of work.

Figuring out spousal and child support payments

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Money in wallet | Source: iStock

Sheri Atwood, founder and CEO of SupportPay, said when it comes to child support, monthly payments are generally based on the parents’ income and how much time the children spend with each parent. “Base payments are meant to cover basic household living expenses. In addition, parents typically share the costs of additional items such as child care, medical expenses, education and extracurricular activities,” Atwood told The Cheat Sheet.

When it comes to spousal support, payments also depend on several factors. Anne P. Mitchell, family law attorney and author of They’re Your Kids Too: The Single Father’s Guide to Defending Your Fatherhood in a Broken Family Law System, said the duration of the marriage and income levels are among the major areas that will be analyzed.

Nearly all states, if not all, now have specific formulas in place for how to calculate spousal support (alimony) and also child support. For spousal support, the rule of thumb is that if you have a ‘short-term’ marriage (under 5 years), spousal support will last for half the duration of the marriage (so if you were married for two years, spousal support would be paid for one year). If you have a ‘long-term’ marriage (over 10 years), spousal support (also called ‘maintenance’ in some states) can last indefinitely. The grey area of a marriage that lasted between five and 10 years is anybody’s guess, and what will happen will depend on a number of factors, including if the supported spouse (usually, but not always, the woman, for a variety of reasons), is currently employed, was employed before the marriage, what the education level is, etcetera. In nearly all states now the stated goal of spousal support is to help the supported spouse become financially self-sufficient. Unlike child support, a spouse can waive spousal support even if they would otherwise be entitled to it … It is almost always true that if the parties can come to an agreement, rather than fighting, they will both make out better financially. Otherwise, the only financial winners are the lawyers.

Get everything in writing

Monica Mizzi, legal expert and editor of LegalTemplates.net said soon-to-be exes should create a clear record of all agreements. “A divorce agreement is a useful, yet underutilized resource which adds clarity to the process of divorce. A divorce agreement is a legal document created between divorcing or separating spouses which memorializes any agreements reached regarding alimony, division of property, accounts, debts, and child support or custody. It allows divorcing couples to discuss and come to mutual conclusions about how these facets will be handled or divided,” said Mizzi.

Helpful resources

There are plenty of tools available to help you navigate your divorce. Here are two to consider.


General legal advice is just a click away. Josh King, chief general counsel for online legal marketplace Avvo, said consumers have several options when it comes to simplifying the legal process. “… Today, there are several new, on-demand technologies to help consumers assess their assets and streamline legal proceedings in preparation for a divorce. On Avvo’s site, for example, consumers can research questions about their divorce for free on our Q&A forum, talk to an attorney on-demand for a 15-minute legal advice session for just $39, or purchase an uncontested divorce for just $995,” said King.


LegalTemplates.net offers a collection of common forms and resources such as divorce settlement agreements and prenuptial agreements.

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