Saving How to Financially Prepare for a Divorce

Five steps from financial experts to help you separate from your partner—and enter your next chapter from a place of strength.

By Louise Kramer
PUBLISHED 01/18/2023 | 5 MINUTES

Melinda French Gates may be the wealthiest wife to file for divorce this year, but she is hardly alone. 

After a dip in divorces during the worst months of the COVID-19 crisis, divorce rates are starting to climb back to their pre-pandemic levels, says Wendy Manning, co-director of Bowling Green State University’s National Center for Family and Marriage Research.

No matter who your ex is, breaking up can take an enormous emotional and financial toll. “Upon divorce, most people’s economic well-being declines—and women’s declines more than men,” Manning says.

While there’s no surefire way to prevent heartbreak, there are numerous steps women can take to empower themselves financially. Here are six tips from divorce experts to help get your financial house in order.

Arm Yourself with Information

Some financial literacy non-profits for women, such as Savvy Ladies and the Women’s Institute for Financial Education, have robust, free online divorce resources on topics ranging from securing health insurance to covering college costs. Preparing for a divorce can feel overwhelming and there’s often “a lot of anxiety and fear about what might happen in the future,” says Avani Ramnani, managing director of Francis Financial, a wealth advisory firm in New York that specializes in women dealing with divorce and widowhood. Getting some basic information can help to ease at least some of that stress. 

Assemble Your Dream Team

Experts in the field can help you avoid expensive mistakes, says Lori Lustberg, a certified divorce financial planner in South Burlington, Vermont. Ideally, your team should include an attorney, financial planner and accountant—all with expertise in divorce. 

If you can’t afford to bring all these individuals into your battalion, focus on the one that can help with your biggest area of concern. Even a few hours with an expert can set you on the right path, Lustberg says.

For recommendations, tap into your network of family, friends and trusted professional advisors, Lustberg says. Other resources include the Association of Divorce Financial Planners, the National Association of Divorce Professionals, the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts, and local bar associations. 

Know Your Assets and Liabilities

“Start with as much information as you possibly can,” says Ramnani. “In 30% to 40% of our cases, either our client doesn’t know what she has or suspects her partner is hiding some assets.”

Take a deep breath, then start to compile a file of important paperwork, like tax returns from the past three years and financial statements. While you’re at it, be sure to get passwords for all financial accounts and keep track of all account numbers. Make a list of expenses, including your rent or mortgage, health insurance, car payments, school tuition fees and household costs. Document the current value of your assets, including jewelry, art and household items. 

The Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts has helpful online checklists and worksheets that can guide you through this process. 

Build Up Cash

Ramnani recommends squirreling away funds for your immediate future. “As soon as you take a divorce action, you might have to retain an attorney or move out.,” she says. “An attorney may take a retainer anywhere from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. Having access to some money is critical.” 

To start, open your own bank account and get your own credit card if you don’t have one already. “Make minimal charges and make them early and frequently,” says Lustberg. “That can help you build your credit score.” 

Talk to a Therapist

Divorce can be traumatic. Meet with a therapist or counselor to help you process your feelings—and save money in the long run, says Lustberg. “It is amazing how many people going through a divorce don’t have a therapist,” she says. “They’ll use their attorney as their therapist at $300 to $500 an hour.”

Keep in mind that financial organization and knowledge aren’t just for those going through rocky times. Even if you can’t see yourself parting with your spouse, it’s still good practice to be savvy about your marital finances. 

“When famous people get divorced like Bill and Melinda Gates, they are going to do just fine,” says Manning. “That’s not the group we’re really talking about here.” In general, most people will need to think about “the financial ramifications if the relationship doesn’t work out,” she says. 

Millie content is licensed from Dotdash Meredith, publisher of Millie, Real Simple, InStyle, Investopedia, The Balance and more.

Louise Kramer is a New York City-based writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The New York Post and


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