Going through a divorce is one of the most difficult things a woman can experience in her life – especially if she has children.  Family law attorney, Henry Gornbein, author of Divorce Demystified, states, “Next to losing someone you love, divorce is one of the most traumatic of life’s experiences.  At the same time, it’s the path out of a bad marriage, and ideally for all parties, to a happier, more fulfilling life.”

It can be an emotional rollercoaster and dealing with financial issues can add even more stress.  As a Certified Financial Planner™ professional, I have been helping women take charge of their finances for over 35 years, and I’d like to share some financial tips that can help make the process of a divorce a little be easier. 

Step 1:  Get Organized and Find Your Stuff:

This is something every woman should be doing.  Begin by looking at your expenses – yes that terrible word – monthly budget.  Knowing how much you spend, where it is going and why will help you have a better understanding of what you will need when the divorce is over.  Don’t overlook this crucial step.    

Now gather all your financial documents, including bank statements, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, tax returns, property deeds, estate planning documents, insurance policies.  Organize them all. 

Step 2:  Assemble Your Team:

Find the best divorce attorney you can find, who knows their stuff and specializes in family law.  In addition, hire a financial advisor who can help you pull together all your finances so you can see your financial status on paper.  Numbers don’t lie and a good financial advisor will help you navigate the financial maze of divorce. 

Step 3:  Protect Your Credit:

If you have debt, pull out those statements and give them a hard look.  See how much you have, and why you have debt.  You are going to need to create a plan for reducing and eliminating it.

If you have shared credit, make sure you have credit in your own name.  If you don’t, open a card in your own name and use it wisely to develop your own credit.  This will prove invaluable when applying for loans, renting an apartment, or purchasing a new home in the future.

Check your credit score.  If you need help with credit or debt, get help now.  Your ability to manage your credit and your debt is vital in planning for financial independence.

Step 4:  Plan for Your Retirement:

Divorce can have a devastating effect on retirement planning.  Women often take time out of their careers to be caregivers, and this time off can severely impact your earnings, Social Security credits, pensions, and overall savings. 

Grab those retirement account statements and give them a good look.  It’s often difficult to understand what you own.  Take the time to understand how much you have, how it’s invested and how much you are saving, as well as how much you will need you’re you retire.  Then learn how dividing those accounts will impact your future.  Your financial advisor will help you rebuild your accounts after all the dust settles.

Step 5:  Update Your Estate Planning:

Once you are divorced, you will want to update or create new estate planning documents to identify who you want to receive assets if you were to die, who you want to make decisions for you if you were unable to do this for yourself, and how to plan for minor children. 

Don’t forget to update the ownership and beneficiary designations for your life insurance policies, retirement accounts, pension plans, businesses, real estate, and other investments.  I know a woman whose husband never changed the beneficiary to his life insurance policy when she married him.  A few years into the marriage she got pregnant with twins, and her husband unexpectedly died.  Guess who received his life insurance proceeds?  The ex-wife! My friend was so upset; she became a financial planner and wrote a financial book for women!

The key here is to work with your team, to get support, to get organized and to take control of your finances. You will learn from this experience and be so much smarter and confident when you are finished.  Take care of yourself and trust that you have the power to do whatever it takes to thrive in this next chapter of your life!


Katana Abbott, CFP®, is a Retirement Income Coach and Certified Social Security Claiming Specialist, founder of the Midlife Millionaire® Solution, and the host of Smart Women Talk. For over 35 years, Katana has helped baby boomers plan for retirement, including how to create lifetime income, how to optimize their Social Security benefits, launch an encore career and prepare for long-term care.  She has written several books, created a financial literacy course, and is a popular speaker. Katana has been honored by NAWBO as one of Detroit’s Top 10 Businesswomen, receiving the Breakthrough Award. To download her new retirement guide, Three Smart Strategies to Maximize Your Retirement Income, visit www.katanaabbott.com