A recent survey looked to find out how financially aware women were at the time of a divorce. The results seem somewhat surprising or expected, depending upon your view of the persistence of gender roles in marriage today.
The biggest surprise for women turned out to be the lack of awareness of the marital debt, from the mortgage or mortgages to credit card debt to other loans. This seems consistent with studies that show women still tend to leave finances to the husband, which can leave the women in the dark to their true financial situation, and can also leave the women vulnerable to husbands hiding assets or taking on heavy debt for personal use.
In second place, women were surprised to find they would have to return to the workforce. Apparently, many women, again based on gender roles, assumed that their ex-husbands would have to continue to support them post-divorce. But, as we have discussed in this blog, maintenance is not a lifelong stipend but a short-term stop gap to help the other spouse become self-sufficient. Indeed, to be eligible for maintenance, a spouse must make good faith efforts to become employed.
Close behind and closely related, many women assumed the amount of maintenance or child support they would receive would be much larger. It stands to reason that if many women continue to operate in gendered roles with less familiarity with their finances, they would underestimate the amount of support they would receive or the amount they would need to maintain a certain standard of living.
Other common surprises: assuming they could keep the marital residence; unaware of the cost of health insurance; and underestimating the cost of divorce.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the survey was how these results held true for young and older women alike – one would think the gendered roles would be less prevalent in the younger generation but they still seem to harbor traditional ideas about marriage.
The survey results suggest strongly that women should become more aware and more empowered about their finances during the marriage so they can be much better prepared in the event of a divorce.
If you have questions about finances and divorce, contact us – we can help.