The Post-Divorce Financial Follow-Through

checklistIf you are finally wrapping up your divorce, you probably feel financially and emotionally exhausted, even if the process wasn’t acrimonious. It takes a lot of work to untangle your assets (and your heart) from another, especially if you were married for a long time. Now, you are facing a life that might look very different than what you imagined as well as a new financial landscape. Even though you probably want to wish all divorce-related thoughts and requirements away, you aren’t done yet! As a newly single woman, you need to get a clear view of your current finances and make sure your estate plan, your insurance policies, etc… are all up to date. Here is a short list of the financial areas you need to review and update once your divorce is complete.

Your Monthly Budget 

Your financial state may be very different now, especially if your husband or partner was the primary breadwinner. Even if you both earned paychecks, it will still be difficult to transition from two salaries into one.

Now is the time to calculate your primary monthly expenses and see how they compare with your income. You may be unpleasantly surprised at how hard it is to pay a mortgage on your own or how much groceries and gas you still need to buy even as a single. (Wondering if you should keep your home after divorce?) Don’t turn away from this information. You have to embrace your new reality and create a budget that you can make work. Many women get themselves into trouble after their divorce, because they continue living up to the standards they got used to when they were married. Not every woman can afford to do this. Budget smart, and don’t spend more than you earn. If you need help learning how to be a savvy shopper, check out our savings and investing section.

Your Retirement Plan

First, your vision for your retirement will look different now that you are a single. Start re-imagining your retirement and figure out what you really want to do and how you want to live during your retirement years. Now, look at your retirement fund. Are you on track to meet your goals? How are your assets allocated? Sometimes, one spouse focuses on riskier assets while the other invests in safer assets to balance their shared funds. Now that you are on your own, it might be time to reallocate. You’ll also want to learn about what you can expect from Social Security after divorce.

Divorces are expensive, and you may be tempted to dip into your retirement fund to help cover some of the costs. Resist! That money is for your future. If you can, let it grow and find another way to cover your costs.

Update Your Estate Plan

Sit down with an estate planning attorney and start updating these documents. After a divorce, your estate will look very different. Also, you may need to update your beneficiaries, the executor of your will, and the guardian you have in place for your children. It is likely that you’ll also want to update your trust, living will, powers of attorney, and your health care proxy if that person was your ex-spouse.

Update Your Insurance Policies

Review your current insurance policies. You may need to cancel policies for your vehicle, home, and other assets if you no longer own them. You also want to make sure you aren’t paying premiums for health, life, or disability insurance policies that cover your ex-spouse. Additionally, you will likely want to change your beneficiary on any policies if the beneficiary was your ex-spouse. This might be a good time to call up your insurance broker and check see if you can get better deals on your insurance or to see if now is a good time to consider additional insurance products. (Learn more about maintaining your health insurance after divorce.)

Reviewing your financial situation after a divorce might be hard (or depressing), but it’s a first step toward rebuilding a strong and financially stable life for yourself. Be smart and confident as you embrace your new life! Learn even more about protecting your finances during divorce by reading our divorce article archive just for women.


Nadia Shokohi MD, PhD. CDFA is a former physician who made an unconventional career change to the financial services industry more than 10 years ago after her own divorce. With her own personal experiences and special expertise Nadia’s mission is to provide women with the knowledge and tools they need to face the financial issues that come with big life transitions such as divorce, widowhood, and retirement. She also brings invaluable skills to provide doctors with the best advice and service available because she understands the unique challenges that only physicians face. 

5 thoughts on “The Post-Divorce Financial Follow-Through”

  1. Pingback: 10 Crucial Things to Consider Before Filing for Divorce - Start Up Catch Up

  2. Hello,

    My husband and I will be starting divorce proceedings in August, after 28 years of marriage. After the birth of my firstborn, it was decided that I would stay home and my husband would be the breadwinner. We had one more son who is now in college and in charge of paying for his studies and the oldest is starting his MBA and living on his own. My youngest is under psychiatric care for impulse control issues but is currently stable. I have also been under treatment for a number of years due to chronic depression and anxiety. My husband pastors has pastored a church for 12 years but decided some years back that he wanted and needed a change. Thinking it would facilitate his transition out of the church and that it would help the church as well, he began working at a new job and reduced his hours somewhat at church. The new job’s insurance does not cover spouses but that has not been a problem because he has a very good benefit package at church. Of course, once he resigns in August I will lose insurance, phone privileges, E-pass, etc. In the past I have asked my husband repeatedly to sit with me and go over our finances with me. He has opened savings, IRA’s, etc. to which I have no access because he has not provided passwords and such. At first he wanted me to read a number of books so that I would “understand” the financial picture, these days he says he’s working two jobs and does not have the time.
    I am very concerned at my lack of knowledge and feel unable to plan for my financial future lacking so
    much information. My mother has offered lodging to myself and my son until I can get back on my feet; however, I know she is used to living alone so I do not want to overstay my welcome. I have been looking for a job but it has been difficult because I have no recent work experience, my skills are obsolete and I must get a job that offers insurance; I cannot interrupt my medical treatment and stop my medications for obvious reasons. I know that I need to take some classes to improve my future earnings, I am approaching 50 and have little Social Security points. How can I prepare for my life post-divorce budget wise, etc.? Do you know of any health plans that are subsidized? I am very stressed out and it is affecting my health. Thanks.

    1. The Obama-Care ACA health plans are subsidized at certain income levels. You will certainly benefit by taking classes to improve your financial knowledge in budgeting and other critical financial areas.

  3. I’m emotionally bankrupt, isolated and struggle now with cognitive disabilities…. Violent marriage I fled and I had no attorney. 1. How can I get a certified judgement of divorce free? 2. Judgement said a QUADRO would be put in place. Fidelity told me my ex’s attorney would have to “initiate” his clients assets into mine. I contacted his attorney who denied this. Divorce was final 8 months ago…what do I do? 3. I am totally disabled and 56 yrs old. Ex is 60 yrs old. My first husband is 58 and wealthy. How do I know whose record do I apply for and how soon can I do this? The area I moved to has no program to get a caseworker to help me comprehend. I have no family or friends to help me because my abuser isolated me. I’m in Michigan as are my ex’s. I am working hard to start a new life. My ex has a tax refund he wants me to sign. If I do sign, and he keeps my half, what can I do? 4. Our house sold. I recvd a call from the title company to come to his office to pickup my checks that have my portion. I do not know if these figures are correct…there is no itemization. I need someone to act as a helper/caseworker…or an organization to help me. I lived in the battered Womens shelter for a month. Where do I turn? Please print this in your forum so I may see your suggestions. .I do not use email …it gets hacked (see above). Thank you for your time. Many thanks.

    1. When both you and your ex-spouse(s) are of retirement age (at least 62) you can apply for social security retirement benefits, if they exceed the social security disability benefits you are receiving. Social Security can make the determination of what benefit will help you the most, and will pay you the highest amount you are entitled to. As for the funds from the sale of the house, ask the title company for an itemization showing the details of the sale transaction and how they computed the amount that is due you. Contact the battered Womens shelter to find out where you can turn at this point to get additional help navigating the social systems in your area. To get a certified copy of your divorce judgment, contact the county clerk and see if they have reduced fees for those of modest financial means such as yourself. As for the Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) to divide the plan, if you are no longer represented by an attorney you can contact your former spouse’s attorney to get that underway. If you do have an attorney of record, your attorney will need to contact his attorney.

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