After a divorce, recover your financial health

Divorce ranks as one of life’s most stressful changes. The emotional and financial trauma of a couple splitting up or a family breaking apart can take a long time to heal.

Taking control of your finances is essential to rebuilding your life, and limiting financial stress through careful and realistic planning can help reduce emotional turmoil.

The smart, goal-oriented management of your money can provide structure to your life during what can be a chaotic time.

Here are three steps to help yourself:

Become financially independent – again.

Create healthy financial boundaries.

Dream your new life.

Financial independence

Becoming financially independent can take some time. Be patient, and try not to allow frustration derail you from your goal.

First, assess your situation. Determine your income, including spousal and child support, if appropriate. (Make sure you are planning for their end, too, because you won’t be independent until you can live without them.)

Next, assess your spending. The best way to look at your spending is by creating a budget that reflects your basic needs, obligations, futures expenses and wants.

My advice is to do this when you are feeling happy. Sit down after exercising, for example, when the endorphins are flowing and negative thoughts aren’t dominating your mind.

Financial boundaries

Creating financial boundaries begins with complete financial separation. Yes, this means getting your ex-spouse off your credit cards or off the mortgage and ending any other shared financial obligations.

Creditors don’t care that you are divorced. They care about getting their money. If your ex-spouse promises to take care of a shared bill but doesn’t, creditors can come after you because your name is on the original contract.

Assess your income realistically before agreeing to the debts and obligations you are going to assume. You need to make sure you have enough money to live with.


As you start this new chapter in your life, take time to dream.

Do you have a dream powerful enough to pull you through the hard work of becoming financially independent with strong boundaries? If you don’t, a dream session can help you tap into a larger vision for your life.

Find a notebook or journal and a quiet place. Use a page for each of these categories: travel, financial, adventure, spiritual, creative, physical, material, character, relationship, intellectual and legacy.

Don’t worry about being “realistic” or about what others might think. Just write. Write down eight to 10 dreams for each category. In some categories, dreams will come easily; in others, they will require searching and imagination.

From the list, pick one or two dreams you can reach within two years. Use your dream for inspiration and guidance, and remember that if your choices are not leading you toward your dream, stop, change your behavior and get back on course. Durango resident and personal finance coach Matt Kelly owns Momentum: Personal Finance.