Anger, disappointment and hurt can cause good people to resort to using anything at hand to inflict damage on the spouse. Money is an inherently emotional subject, and over the years I have seen couples use it as a tool to measure their ability to “win in the divorce” or “take back what they deserve.” Most of them learn that using money as a weapon is not the best way to build the foundation of an independent life. Here are three reasons why.
#1: It puts raw emotions in the driver’s seat
Divorce is an emotional time under the best of circumstances. Counseling and leaning on your support network can alleviate some of the stress, but nothing will eliminate it completely. By all means, work with the emotions that you have – but remember that making irreversible financial decisions based on anger or fear is a recipe for disaster.
#2: It destroys any goodwill that may be left in the relationship
Using money as a weapon can demolish what little trust and cooperation there is between the spouses, which makes any subsequent interactions painful. This is a road to failure in a co-parenting situation. Remember that you will have to face your ex-spouse at children’s birthdays, graduations and holiday celebrations for years to come.
#3: It is not an effective solution for emotional hurt
Money can be a great tool for taking care of shelter and food needs. It is not that great at undoing the past or healing the hurt. The logic along the lines of “He cheated on me, so I am going to take his house and his BMW to make it all better” just does not work. Using money to soothe a sense of betrayal is as ineffective as using a BandAid for a migraine, and clients often find that they feel just as miserable after they get the money they had fought so hard for.
Tips for Making the Most of Dividing the Money
Finances are a part of any divorce, no matter where a family stands on the wealth scale. In our daily lives, money is often used as a proxy for other things: we use it to measure respect, social standing and success. Unfortunately, commingling dollar amounts with unmet emotional needs can cost couples time and money after they consider protracted negotiations, multiple hearings and professional fees.
To avoid this common divorce pitfall, ask yourself whether you fighting for the money because you feel it is owed to you (“I deserve it!”) or because you are genuinely concerned about making ends meet. Be clear on which of your needs can be met with money and which ones must to be addressed in other ways. And finally, work with a financial planner who can guide you through the financial decisions that have the potential to affect the rest of your life.