She Makes Money Moves is a new podcast from Glamour and iHeartRadio. Hosted by Glamour editor in chief Samantha Barry, the podcast shares intimate, unscripted stories from women across the country along with advice from financial experts to help guide those women—and women everywhere—forward. Download a new episode every Tuesday, then visit glamour.com/money for an article like this, with more insights from that week’s expert.
Divorce is on the decline. After peaking in the 1970s and ’80s, the U.S. divorce rate has continued to dip. From 2008 to 2016 alone, it decreased 18%. But when a marriage does break up, more often than not, it was a woman’s decision. According to the American Sociological Association, women initiate nearly 70% of all divorces.
On this week’s episode of She Makes Money Moves, Barry speaks with a woman who separated from her husband in 2014. While it’s been years since the two split, they’re still legally married and thus financially bounded. To help her guest start the next chapter of her life, Barry welcomed Fidelity Life Events Experience Lead Meredith Stoddard onto the podcast. Here, Stoddard breaks down what you need to know to prepare for the divorce process.
First and foremost, protect yourself
Make sure you have access to cash and credit in your own name. You should also change your PINs and passwords immediately if there’s any chance your soon-to-be ex has access to them. Check your credit reports for unusual activity and consider having your mail sent to a P.O. box. (Of course, if your physical safety is at risk, that’s your first and only priority. Contact a local domestic violence shelter for help.)
If something seems off, financially or otherwise, trust your instincts: Document interactions in a detailed log, screenshot texts, and keep emails—both online and printouts—in a safe space. (You can also store documents in Fidelity’s secure, free storage system, FidSafe.)
Try (when possible) to take emotions out of it
To the degree that you’re able, take the emotion out of your financial conversations with your soon-to-be ex. Have a great friend you can vent to, see a therapist, or visit a support group. The average person thinks about getting divorced for two years before initiating it. With that lead time, think through how you’d like to handle financial issues, and treat them like a transaction. The more logistical the conversation can be, the better.
It’s easier to have sane conversations about finances when you’re on the same page and speaking to facts instead of feelings, so make a list to take inventory of your assets and finances. Then, think carefully about what you’ll say. It’s more constructive to use phrases like, “my wish for you is” or, “my wish is” than just to insist “the house is mine,” or, “I want the car.” Avoid “win-lose” language and be honest about what hopes and concerns you have about your financial future.
Be smart about what you go after
Don’t pay $10,000 to win a car that’s worth $5,000. Take a step back and make sure you’re not spending thousands of dollars in legal fees fighting over something that’s not even worth that much. You can’t go after assets just to get back at your ex—pursue things that are smart and strategic for you.