Financial Tips for Men Getting a Divorce

Source: The Week

In TV shows and movies, the typical divorce narrative is to portray
women as celebrated victims. Meanwhile, men are depicted as silent
sufferers who feel resentment, anger, depression and fear over lingering
financial issues, relationship turmoil and worries over breaking up
their families.

Off camera, the truth is that men don’t always have the tools — or the support — to deal with these very real concerns.

“Divorce is difficult for everyone involved, but it can be especially
challenging for men who don’t typically express their feelings,” says
David Blaylock, of LearnVest Planning Services a certified financial planner™. “They want to keep their divorces private — and that’s not a good policy. You want a support system in place,
just like any other major life change.”

Sure, the old adage is true: Time heals all wounds. But good advice
helps too. The more men know about what to expect when they’re
dissolving their marriages, the easier the process can be. So we
consulted Bari Zell Weinberger, a matrimonial attorney at
Weinberger Law Group, as well as Blaylock, for the key dos and don’ts of what men need to know about the financial side of divorce.

1. Do know the numbers

For an average divorce, Weinberger says you should expect to pay
about no less than $20,000, which includes lawyers and experts, real
estate costs to divvy up shared marital property, finding a second place
for you to live, as well as financial advice and therapy for you or
your children.

That said, the cost of a divorce can still vary — and widely.

For instance, says Weinberger, the price can increase exponentially
if your divorce requires niche experts, like a forensic accountant or a
co-parenting counselor. Other pricey scenarios: You need to get your
business evaluated (your ex is entitled to equitable distribution if you
launched the business during the marriage, and even if you started your
business before you were married, a spouse may be entitled to part of
the increase in the business’s value), you have high net worth and need a
best-interest evaluation or you’re facing a hotly contested custody
battle with your soon-to-be ex. All of these situations could bump the
price of your divorce up to the $50,000 to $100,000 range, and in some
cases much more, Weinberger estimates.

However, adds Weinberger, if a man comes to her office with a
straightforward divorce — where all the terms have already been decided,
and communication is open between the partners — then the cost could be
as low as $3,500. In fact, if you have a particularly simple situation,
with no minor children or unusual financial circumstances, a divorce
can run less than $500, with filing fees, Blaylock adds.

According to Weinberger, one other crucial element that men — and
women — who are parents should think about if they’re embroiled in
extreme litigation: The more money you spend on your divorce, the less
money you have to give your kids. “You’re taking your children’s
[college] education savings,” she says, “and you’re kissing one semester
goodbye.”

2. Don’t be too proud to pay alimony…

Alimony offers monetary help to the spouse who was supported
financially during the marriage — especially if one parent left the
workforce to focus on the family for a long period of time. Spouses
usually provide alimony in one of three different ways, depending on
state laws: As a lump sum, in regular payments, or in another
predetermined arrangement — say, if you cut a check to a third party to
pay an ex’s mortgage. (It’s also important to note that alimony is
separate from child support.)

But the impact of alimony isn’t just financial — there’s also a
psychological component. Men may feel that a former spouse doesn’t
deserve to receive “free” income based on their hard work. Weinberger
notes that many of her clients are resistant to paying because no one —
man or woman — wants to have to write out a check to an ex.

Weinberger’s advice? “While no one wants to pay alimony, if we’re
working out a global package, then it could make sense from a tax
perspective,” she explains, adding that alimony is tax-deductible. (Just
be sure to file a separate tax return using a 1040 form.)

3. …And don’t be too proud to collect alimony

If a woman is making more than her spouse or if the father is a
stay-at-home parent while the mother works, then the ex-husband could be
entitled to receive alimony. According to the American Academy of
Matrimonial Lawyers, 56 percent of divorce lawyers have seen an increase
in mothers paying child support, and 47 percent have seen more women
paying alimony, as well.

But being an alimony recipient can sometimes bring about feelings of
insecurity, notes Weinberger. “I have men who say, ‘How is the community
going to look at me?'” she says. “I tell them that they’re entitled. If
they’re a stay-at-home dad or there is a large discrepancy in income,
they should receive it.”

4. Do create a post-divorce life budget

When a man going through a divorce comes to David for financial
planning advice, he sits him down to talk logistics. “We try to make a
budget for his new life,” Blaylock says. According to Blaylock, men
typically think about the money that they’ll have to pay upfront for
divorce-related expenses — the actual divorce, child support, alimony —
but forget that everyday expenses are going to change once they’re newly
single.

For example, if you have joint custody, you’ll need things like
clothes and toys so your kids can live comfortably in your house. Some
co-parenting experts say that many kids who split the week between moms
and dads actually prefer to have all of the items they need at each
house, so they don’t lose anything in the transfer.

5. Do divide things equally

A half-half split is easier said than done — just because you’re
getting divorced doesn’t mean that you won’t still feel tremendous
attachment to your ex. Because of this, says Blaylock, many men (and
women) cave to lopsided agreements — and this is often the case with men
who are used to taking care of a spouse financially.

“A lot of men want to continue that role, even though they no longer
have that obligation,” says Blaylock. “I just had a best friend go
through this issue. He gave her everything, much to his financial
detriment.” Dividing your property — furniture, artwork, camping gear,
music equipment — should be done in a way so that you don’t end up with
resentments or regrets. It’s O.K.
not to let your ex have it all.

6. Do look into alternative child support solutions

Typically, child support covers basic necessities — food, clothing,
shelter. Depending on how you arrange your settlement, it may also
include uninsured medical expenses, educational fees, child care,
transportation, travel, entertainment, college and extracurricular
activities. Many arguments can erupt between ex-spouses over managing
these costs.

“Children are expensive,” says Weinberger. And, unfortunately, all of
those expenses may be tough, if not impossible, to itemize. “It’s never
going to work out that Dad is going to feel secure that the child
support is going to be applied directly to the child,” she explains. “I
have so many dads who want everything identified with invoices, slips
and statements. And they’re not going to get them.”

That’s why Weinberger advises her clients to come up with what she
calls “hybrid” solutions. For instance, if you can pay a service
provider directly, like a child-care provider, then you can avoid
fighting over the money. One father I know, Weinberg recalls, even
prepaid medical providers, as well as contributed to the mother’s share
of their 529 plan.

7. Do set up a cellular plan

For children who are old enough, buy them a cell phone that’s
designated for the sole purpose of contacting you. Call it the “Dad
Phone,” and ask your ex to leave it in a spot where your child can
always find it. Adding an additional line to your plan should be
relatively inexpensive, though the cost will vary depending on your
provider and whether or not you opt for a pricier smart phone.

8. Don’t make impulsive financial decisions

“Divorce is more like death than you can ever imagine,” says
Blaylock. “It’s O.K. to be emotional. It’s O.K. to be hurt. It’s O.K. to
grieve.” This is precisely why Blaylock urges men to treat their
divorces with a sense of gravity — and not make any major financial
decisions for six to 12 months. Don’t switch jobs. Don’t move to a new
city. “Hold status quo in your life,” he says, “as you deal with this
adjustment.”