I just received some information about a recent study that our friends at Experian did with regards to money, finance and marriage. About 59% of people said finances played a role in their divorce. That’s way over half and many couples never talk about money and how finances will be handled before they get married. Sometimes love just isn’t enough to keep a happy home if the bottom keeps falling out.
Experian’s most recent study, “Survey Results: When Divorce does damage to your credit” – the reveal a lot of other serious statistics. In their online survey of about 500 adults that had been divorced in the last 5 years, approximately 44% said their former spouse ruined their credit (I fall into that camp) and 59% regret not being more financially independent.
Sometimes it is not so simple
Everyone’s situation is different and if I had done things differently in my own marriage on the financial front I am sure things would be different. While finances play a part there are also other things in a marriage that can add to the stress. For me personally I wish I had saved more for emergencies. When I got laid off from my job in 2006, being the primary bread winner it created an even bigger stress on our marriage. Not only did I have to deal with the financial picture of our marriage but the depression that somehow I wasn’t good enough in my career. I almost wish I had gone to therapy sooner than I did. The straw that broke the camel’s back with regard to dissolution of my marriage was not related to financial issues but when you stack up all the factors that led to my divorce the stress of not effectively managing finances didn’t help to glue the marriage together. It has taken close to ten years to even
The Freedom of Financial Independence
Another statistic that didn’t surprise me one bit is hearing that 59% of respondents regret not being more financially independent. I can completely understand why many aren’t more financially independent. Keeping track of finances can be very stressful and it’s not exactly fun. Some of it may be psychological. I know for me I get anxiety balancing my checkbook but once I got a better idea of where I was financially and used some baby steps it greatly reduced my anxiety. I found Emma Johnson at Wealthy Single Mommy has a great article with “11 Financial Steps to a rich life as a single mom.” Much of the tips on here work great even if you are still married. Nobody that gets married every plans on getting divorced and financial independence doesn’t mean that a couple can’t co-mingle or share in the joys in their individual abilities and responsibilities to manage money as a unit.
Who is on First?
The Experian study goes on to discuss how lack of or a misstep in communication can create financial havoc in a marriage or relationship.
“Forty-seven percent didn’t know their spouse’s credit scores until marriage, 38 percent were unaware of retirement savings prior to the wedding, and 37 percent discovered their partner’s long-term financial goals after exchanging vows.”
What’s equally disturbing in the study is the large number of individuals who had no idea how much was owed on student loan debts. A personal experience I have with “Ironman” – my boyfriend of two years is how much of an importance we place upon personal finances. We are still cleaning up our individual financial pictures from our divorces/breakups and experiencing much of the same feelings as many surveyed. In the study Experian also explored how much financial knowledge married couples have in comparison to divorced couples. The results are not at all that surprising.
For married couples over 25% knew about their partner’s annual income in comparison to divorced couples. It also staggering to know that married couples are significantly much more aware about their partner’s long term financial goals, bill payment habits and retirement savings. It should be emphasized that just talking about finances may not be enough but the quality of communication is important.
Communication Conundrums about Finances
The Christmas holidays have been tough on me and not having a tenant in the efficiency I rent out has also put some restrictions on my income. Add to that a delay in getting my bonus at work and managing my finances for the short term has been a little bit stressful. I was embarrassed to talk to Ironman about it. Psychologically I felt it would demonstrate weakness. On his part he felt bad that I didn’t “trust” him enough to tell him. We talked about it and worked it out. He is helping me with small renovations to the efficiency so that I can rent it out for a higher price then what I was getting for it. If you are in a relationship or about to get married these kinds of discussions are important especially if you are scared. Your partner can help understand and possibly offer suggestions for a plan that you both are comfortable with.
How important is financial compatibility?
I believe financial compatibility is very important. Ironman’s ex-wife was a spender and Ironman’s personality is that of an indulger. It’s not enough to just want to have a lot of money as a couple but it’s important to understand how each person tracks their money, how they use credit and how fiscally responsible they are. As Ironman recounted stories of working three jobs he finally found a breaking point and told her she needed to get a part time job because he was killing himself trying to feed the family. He recounted tails of spaghetti made with chopped up hot dogs because they couldn’t afford better food. He was sick and tired and tired of being sick and tired. Have you ever felt that way? In the end once they divorced he was left with judgments from unpaid car notes and bills. Slowly he has gotten back on his feet and paid off the bills but much of that can be avoided and more savings placed in retirement then paying off old bills from a divorce.
Impact to Millennials
As Millennials rack up large student loan debt and find ways to pay it off I can understand why a large majority of millennials aren’t get married. That’s good news that the divorce rate has dropped as individuals wait longer to get married. As they wait maybe they should consider checking their financial compatibility. There are many quizzes online about financial compatibility such as Experian’s own “How credit compatible are you and your partner?” or other types of financial compatibility quizzes. I learned a lot about the importance of financial compatibility when I got my marriage annulled in the Catholic Church and the church’s view of literally “joining everything” and that includes bank accounts and finances. Even if you disagree about how to spend money, joint accounts force you to work out an agreement. While the premise is their to be financially independent the onus is also on you to be able to negotiate and add substance to discussions on finances.
What can you do differently?
The survey states that if there was one thing divorcees could have done differently, about 49% would have saved more. I would also add to communicate more and earlier before major problems arise. If you have a difficult time like I did with regards to communicating about finances seek help from a relationship communications coach or a therapist. Don’t leave your partner in the dark about finances since it can create a bigger problem later on.
Some simple quick habits when communicating with your partner can help. Conduct a monthly audit of finances and spending habits. For the first time I was forced to really tighten my budget instead of just saving money and finding deals like a hobby. Be clear about your financial goals and what’s important to you.
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Get more resources on managing finances as a couple here:
Foreword: Before we delve into this wonderful list put together by Christine Leatherberry of Connatser Family Law I must admit that getting ready for back to school is a very chaotic time for divorced families. In the 6 years that I have had this blog, many single parents have complained about costs associated with school supplies or tuition, transitioning away from vacation schedules to school schedules, sharing duties associated with extracurricular activities and helping with homework. For some newly divorcing families this will be the first time you will experience this tremendous upheaval and it is important to remain calm and plan ahead. The next set of tips are a wonderful place to start and with each tip I offer up my own experiences and advice.
12 Back-to-School Tips for Newly Divorced Parents
By: Christine Powers Leatherberry, Connatser Family Law
When the wounds are fresh, it can be difficult to get along with an ex-spouse following divorce. But setting differences aside and putting children first are essential for the long-term health and happiness of your kids. With the new school year a few weeks in, we wanted to share tips to help newly divorced parents manage co-parenting and the school year on the right foot.
1) Commit to open communication and inclusion from day one.
Communication is the key to successful co-parenting (and is an underlying theme throughout this post). If you receive information regarding your child and their needs and activities, be sure to share it with your ex-spouse. Agree to keep each other in the loop.
Dallas Single Mom Response: Keep communication consistent. If you relationship is contentious, keep communication to the point.
2) Set up a shared family calendar and update it diligently.
This is the key to following through on tip No. 1. There are a number of shared family calendars available online and some families even use Google calendars to share information about activities.
Our firm typically recommends Our Family Wizard, because it offers a variety of helpful tools. Plus, many Texas Family Court judges require divorcing couples to communicate through Our Family Wizard and use the shared calendar.
Within your shared calendar, you can keep track of:
- Extracurricular practices and events.
- Doctor appointments.
- Homework and project deadlines.
- School photo days.
- Family vacations and more.
Dallas Single Mom Response: I have listed Our Family Wizard in my Co-parenting Tools Resource article. I personally have been able to use a shared Google Calendar that is specific to my daughter. It is helpful because it all combines into one calendar on my phone.
3) Have a conversation about back-to-school supplies.
In Texas, back-to-school supplies are supposed to be paid for with child support. However, the cost for supplies, school uniforms, sports gear, etc., can often exceed that amount. If you want to start out on the right foot with your ex-spouse, offer to help pay for certain items. This can help set the tone for a more amicable co-parenting relationship.
However, I do recommend paying for those designated items directly, such as taking your child school shopping at Target or paying the school directly for uniforms.
Dallas Single Mom Response: This is the #1 most argued about item from my readership when it comes down to Back to School. It’s not just supplies but also clothes and in some cases tuition. I venture to say plan ahead and budget. Stick to the budget. I spent $147 for two kids on back to school supplies alone. For supplies, buy early (sometimes cheaper), buy in bulk, recycle unused school supplies and then divide and conquer the list.
4) Drop off your children together on the first day of school.
Though this may be a difficult for the newly divorced, it’s just one day that will be tough for you, but an important day that will speak volumes to your child. This stand of unity shows the child that regardless of his or her parents’ differences, you’re all in it together.
Dallas Single Mom Response: I would say this is significant for your children in younger grades (3rd grade and below) that you are on a united front. If you can’t make it the first day, consider going for Meet the Teacher Nights or Orientation.
5) Get on the same page regarding homework, deadlines and obligations.
I recommend that parents agree at the outset to share homework duties as equally as possible. As a Dallas divorce attorney, I frequently run into scenarios where one parent takes on the bulk of the homework follow up while the other disregards it. This is especially problematic when large school projects are involved.
You don’t want to pick up your child on a Sunday night at 7 p.m. and find out they have a huge diorama or book report due in the morning. This is not a fair way to co-parent and it puts unnecessary pressure on the child. Agree to keep each other informed and share homework deadlines and progress reports regularly.
Dallas Single Mom Response: I would say keep track of child’s assignments with their teacher as well. Some teachers have the homework online so it is something you can follow up with your child about. Check in with your child on homework throughout the week even if you don’t have them on those days. It reminds you to keep the communication open.
6) Make sure the child’s backpack stays with the child.
Speaking of homework, to help your child stay on track and complete homework assignments on time, his or her assignment folder and necessary books and materials need to accompany him or her from home to home.
You can even use the backpack as a talking point. Take a few moments during the exchange to communicate how far along the child is with completing his or her assignments. For example, ‘He finished three chapters of To Kill a Mockingbird and needs to knock out another three by Monday.’
7) Attend parent-teacher conferences together if possible.
While some parents do request separate parent teacher conferences, Christine encourages parents to attend together when possible.
Attending together makes it easier on the teachers, and also shows the teacher everyone is on the same team when it comes to supporting your child. If you can’t be there for some reason – due to a business trip, late meeting or if you reside out of state – you can always arrange to call in.
8) Exchange pictures with the other parent.
Another positive way to show your commitment to co-parenting is to text or email photos to each other when one parent isn’t able to be present at important events and milestones.
Dallas Single Mom Response: I agree with this one 100%
9) Keep former in-laws and your ex’s family history in the mix.
Children often have school assignments that require family information and photos. For example, they may be asked to research their family tree or create a photo collage. If you omit or discount the other half of your child’s family, you’re also discounting half of your child. So do your best to represent both sides equally.”
Including your ex-spouse’s family members at birthday parties, baseball games, ballet recitals and other events is another great way to demonstrate a united front post-divorce.
10) Share “breaking” health information a.s.a.p.
If you hear pink eye is running rampant at your child’s school, inform the other parent immediately. While the school nurse may eventually notify parents of health concerns by email, it’s helpful for both parents to have that information right away, so they can be on the look out for symptoms.
Also, if your child wakes up with a fever and stays home for the day, that is another scenario where it’s important to alert the other parent as soon as possible. This is especially true if an exchange is planned for that evening.
11) Plan for inclement weather (ice days) and teacher in-service days.
While decrees and child custody orders typically spell out who is responsible for taking the children when bad weather arises and on teacher in-service days, the unpredictability of those scenarios can lead to confusion.
I encourage parents to agree to be flexible in these situations. It isn’t unusual for one parent to have a more flexible job than the other. So for those occasions when it’s difficult to follow the strict letter of the law in your custody order, planning how to deal with those days in advance is key.
12) Work with a parent facilitator to iron out roadblocks.
If you and your ex-spouse disagree on issues pertaining to your children, a parent facilitator can help sort things out.
A parent facilitator is an excellent, objective resource who can help settle disputes such as whether a private school or public school is best for the child, how related costs will be paid and by whom, who pays for uniforms, etc. Or if one parent feels the child is over-scheduled with ballet, karate, violin and more, that’s something a parent facilitator can help resolve too.
About the author:
Christine Powers Leatherberry is a compassionate family lawyer who is equally comfortable in the courtroom as she is counseling her clients one-on-one. She is a past chair of the Dallas Junior Board of the Big Brothers Big Sisters and was a Big Sister to the same Little for 11 years. To learn more about your divorce and child custody options, please call 214-306-8441 to speak confidentially with a knowledgeable and considerate member of the Connatser Family Law team.
She herself is a single mom to her children, ages 3 and 5. “School life tends to be tailored to two-parent families. I didn't know how I was supposed to …
I divorced my daughter’s dad approximately 9 years ago and it has taken us about that long to get to a civil place of co-parenting where nobody is yelling at each other, jealous, hurt or angry. I call that years of wasted time. Nobody, and much more importantly no child, should have to wait that long for parents to get their acts together, put their differences aside and communicate effectively. Life is too short. Children will grow up and soon they will be out of the house and on their own. You can spend all that time bitter and bickering and then all of a sudden wondering what you did wasting all of that time fighting with your ex?
While divorce can seem like the end of the world and in some cases it can be a mental, financial, and emotional drain on everyone it is far from rock bottom. The heavy lifting begins when you can acknowledge the CHANGE in the relationship, accept responsibility for your own actions, set aside blame for your pain and live with the REQUIREMENT that you must co-parent in order to provide stability for your child as they grow up.
What is co-parenting?
Before we get into my go-to resources I’d like to set a definition or guideline on what co-parenting is. Co-parenting is or being a “co-parent” is a situation where two parents work together to raise a child even though they are divorced, separated or no longer living together. Obviously it is more than that. The root word is “Co-” and when I think of the root word I think of words like cooperation, coordination, collaborate or concur (to agree). If one parent doesn’t agree with you it doesn’t automatically mean they don’t want to co-parent. It takes a lot of compromise, choosing your battles and your words carefully, and negotiation. Sometimes one parent will refuse to negotiate or another parent who is agreeable to everything (even terms they don’t like) just to avoid a fight or avoid setting boundaries. In cases of high conflict divorce it may be best to resort to Parallel parenting. Parallel parenting is where divorced parents are able to co-parent by means of disengaging from each other, and having limited direct contact, in situations where they have demonstrated that they are unable to communicate with each other in a respectful manner. This is not the ideal situation but it works for some. It is how my ex and I started to become effective co-parents when we decided to try parallel parenting first. As relationships evolve so do those that evolve after divorce. The differences between the two are important to differentiate and the divorcemag.com does a great job in explaining it in further detail in their article, “What’s the difference between co-parenting and parallel parenting?”
Top co-parenting resources and tools for single moms
Over the years I have read and tried numerous resources to help me on my co-parenting journey. I am glad that people are more willing to research this topic and make a concerted effort at co-parenting. Many divorce courts in the country require parents to take parenting classes that introduce the concept of co-parenting and have wonderful resources at your disposal regarding how best to co-parent. Check with your local family courts.
Online Co-parenting Education
Places like UptoParents.org provide parents with a free online class about co-parenting. They also have videos and articles with information provided in English and Spanish. One of the posts I enjoyed reading was an age by age guide about how children deal with divorce and separation and provided by Tarrant County Family courts in Tarrant County, Texas. Their guide, “Child Behavior by Age during Divorce” allows parents to identify physical and emotional behaviors in their children as the family goes through divorce. Being able to identify these behaviors can help you understand how best to help your child in the process.
Messaging and Scheduling Tools
This is the sticky part of most child custody agreements and it has to do with communication. It can be very confusing to remember visitation schedules, school schedules and activity schedules. In coparenting if both parents are to be involved, it is helpful to keep schedules organized. Parents can use paid tools or free tools. One such tool is Our Family Wizard. The OFW® website is subscription site that helps parents reduce divorce conflict by providing a central, secure location to document and share important information about your family. You can schedule parenting time, share vital information and manage expenses like un-reimbursed medical through the site or the mobile app. You can also use an online tool such as 2houses.com for scheduling coordination.
You honestly don’t need a special app for messaging if your children’s other parent can communicate effectively via email, text and phone calls. In fact, one parent may get defensive if you want to use a special app so be open to how you share information and don’t send messages through family members or through the kids. Be up front with the other parent. A scheduling tool is only as good as the people inputting the information and using it.
Helpful books on co-parenting
To this day, the book that I go to for some of the best advice regarding co-parenting is the book Mom’s House, Dad’s House by Isolina Ricci, Ph.D. I read this book from cover to cover on a flight recently and it is a resource I check with every so often. What I like about this book is that it goes in depth as to the psychological history of how certain relationships that end have a better of chance of being able to co-parent over others. Those that had high conflict marriages will almost certainly continue that high conflict after divorce. It helps put a perspective on how you view and enter into your future relationships and allows you the opportunity to be able to take a step back to your own individual responses to your children’s other parent. There also helpful tips on how best to communicate with your ex and ultimately putting you on the path to letting go of the relationship that once existed without sacrificing the identity and security of your child or children. It is really a helpful and powerful book. It also looks like they have an edition just for kids.
The Co-Parents’ Handbook: Raising Well-Adjusted, Resilient, and Resourceful Kids in a Two-Home Family from Little Ones to Young Adults
A much more recent and modern interpretation for today’s young families, The Co-parents’ Handbook also addresses the relationship ending part to then create a successful new family structure. Addressing parents’ questions about the emotional impact of separation, conflict, grief and recovery, the authors skillfully provide a road map for all members of the family to safely navigate through separation/divorce and beyond. Parents discover through practical guidance how to move from angry/hurt partners to constructive, successful co-parents. The Co-Parents’ Handbook: Raising Well-Adjusted, Resilient, and Resourceful Kids in a Two-Home Family from Little Ones to Young Adults does a good job at discussing kids at different age group levels. It’s an important book for navigating the co-parenting relationship.
BIFF: Quick Responses to High-Conflict People, Their Personal Attacks, Hostile Email and Social Media Meltdowns
Not a coparenting book per se but a definite must to learn about communicating in hostile or high conflict situations. This book not only helps on difficult communications with your children’s other parent but also other family members, coworkers or bosses, and any other situation that may warrant it. I believe this is an important step in learning how you communicate yourself and what your emotional intelligence says about you. If you have to co-parent with someone that has a personality disorder or who you believe has a personality disorder then this may be the book for you in helping to understand their situation.
What I most love about these resources is that they are stepping stones on a path to much more emotional freedom and gaining stability for your families. The decision to no longer stay in your marriage or relationship is a difficult one. We don’t get married with the goal of splitting up and our children deserve the best from both parents.
Q: The woman I've been dating — a single mom with two young boys — and I have decided to get married. My only reservation, and I've told her this, …
Thanks to CROSS Pens for partnering with me for this post!
One of the things I have learned about being a parent is that there is no such thing as “balance” and you really can’t have it all no matter how many self-help books try to positively get you to affirm otherwise. Very rarely does somebody choose to be a single parent and the life of a single parent comes with the dichotomy that with all the trials and tribulations you may go through there is that peace and satisfaction in knowing you did the best that you could to “feed the children.”
Single Parents as Superheroes – The Superhero dad in my life
Quite often the reality of a parenting as a single parent is really about appreciating the small things, conquering big things in small bites and slowly steadying the bow as you shoot those arrows (your children) to the not so distant future of adulthood. I sometimes read memes and stories comparing single parents to superheroes. I was always uncomfortable with that. I felt I did my job the same as any other parent. Of course my parenting experience has always been that of a single mother so I truly can’t compare or try to understand what it is like for other parents. I partnered with Cross Pens and their Marvel Collection of fine writing instruments to talk about the superhero dad in my life. For that superhero dad in your life you can get the #WriteGift with Spiderman, Ironman, or Captain America in the Century II series or the multi-functional Tech2 series of your Marvel favorites. CROSS has always championed the pursuit of greatness. From the spark that inspires a passion, to the hard work and creativity needed to make it happen. It takes courage and a lot of heart, but those who take this path of single parenthood are the ones who make their mark on this world. This courage is really what this superhero dad in my life embodies in so many ways. His story is not so unique or otherworldly like what you expect from superheroes but nonetheless it is what makes him a superhero to me.
How Dallas Single Dad became Ironman
For over a year I have dated someone who I aptly nicknamed “Ironman.” The nickname stuck after he got a head injury and miraculously fixed his injury on the spot and went about his work day. It was the day after our first date and the nick name stuck and the rest of the story resides in the archives on this blog. What is it that makes him a superhero or extra special? This superhero is also Dallas Single Dad and he has shared his personal journey along with me as a single dad with primary custody and now a single dad with sole custody. Like most single dads with sole custody it comes with its own set of ups and downs. Like most superheroes he has to manage not only external conflicts but internal ones. Dallas Single Dad is constantly questioning his own ability to parent, raising three children, getting by with no child support, and co-parenting with an alcoholic. This road was not easy and he chose this path of single fatherhood reluctantly, like most superheroes that choose the path to possibly fulfill their destiny and discover their talents. It is in these stressful times, that we come out of our struggles a lot stronger and amazed at the person we have grown into.
Like a pen from Cross, the work he has put into himself and his children is a symbol for so many things. Having just completed his Electrician Journeyman Apprenticeship program he is definitely proud of his achievements and accomplishments. He uses his CROSS pen wisely, reaffirming his extraordinary vision and strong entrepreneurial spirit with the tools needed to make their mark. CROSS will always continue to be the #WriteGift for recognizing the deserving moments in anyone’s life from a job promotion, to marriage, to graduation. He really is an inspiration to many including his kids for everything he has gone through.
Like most divorced parents, he grieved over the end of his previous marriage and began to rebuild. It took patience and dedication. Then when we met, it was truly about being pillars that stood together with no one person overshadowing the other. This is truly what it means for me to admire this superhero dad in my life.
More about the CROSS Marvel Series
CROSS fine writing instruments teamed up with Marvel to launch a series of Super Pens featuring the most prominent icons in the Marvel universe, Iron Man, Captain America, and Spider Man.
The pens are available in two styles. First the brand’s evolutionary Century II series finished in a high-gloss lacquer and includes a collectible, character-specific romance card (MSRP $150 USD.) And the second is the Tech2 series, which transforms from a ballpoint pen to a stylus in a flash (MSRP $45 USD.) Both styles endow users with the “superpower” of expression via a fine writing instrument.
For more information about this collection, please visit cross.com.
A Cross pen is a symbol of high quality and those that receive a Cross writing instrument know that they are getting exceptional quality. All Cross writing instruments are unquestionably guaranteed against mechanical failure for life.
Price – Tech 2 Series begins at $45 USD and the Century II Series starts at $150 USD
Related Items and Accessories
Cross also has an array of journals, wallets, padfolios, money clips and a host of other accessories.
Disclaimer: Promotional consideration was given in order to provide a product review and some links above may be affiliate links. All opinions presented are 100% my own. For more information, please read my disclosure page.