How to Have a Real Discussion About Divorce Finances with Your Ex

Uncontested Divorce Mediation

Posted November 5, 2020

Divorces are hard, and so is talking about personal finances. Between the two concepts, our culture practically requires most people to simply stop talking. No one wants to dig up issues relating to their marriage, and no one wants to talk about the potential for future money problems. However, spouses planning a divorce need to have that very serious conversation (likely several conversations) about finances and their shared-to-separate futures.

denver divorce mediator

How will dividing the income impact your separate households? How should you separate the assets so that everything is fair for both finances and sentiment? How will you resolve financial or sentimental conflicts when it comes to this monetary part of the divorce? These questions need answering. The answers will turn into terms in your final Denver divorce mediation agreement. So how do you broach this difficult conversation and have a real discussion with your ex?

As professional Denver divorce mediators, we can offer a few tips on how to start and hold this conversation, and what to bring to the mediation table for the best possible final terms. 

Meet Just to Talk about Finances

Start by agreeing with your ex to meet just to talk finances. Agree that it’s an important subject and that all other issues fall by the wayside until you can come to some important conclusions. You need to talk about your divorce budget, as that will impact both of your finances after the Denver divorce mediation. You should discuss the cost of living separately, your separated incomes, and the expectations ahead. Talk about splitting assets, dividing those items that mean the most and then using the rest as a value-buffer to make the deal fair. Or agree to an uneven split for other negotiation points. 

The purpose is to meet and stay focused. When you agree to focus, it becomes easier to have a real discussion. You will be more free to explore financial possibilities because you will be less distracted by other factors, ideally.

Prepare: Bring Numbers and Notes to the Meeting

Before the meeting, get your facts together and encourage your spouse to do the same. Collect notes on how much things cost, what your personal finances look like, and the numbers on some of your proposed plans or ideas for a fair split of assets. Take notes and bring them to the meeting so you’re sharing accurate numbers to make your points. Compare those notes with your spouse so that both of you are working with the most possible information that is useful and relevant.

When negotiating or discussing financial issues, having the facts on-hand will help you make the best informed decision.

Talk About the Real Cost of Divorce

Divorces are not free. Some divorces cost $5,000 or less. Some cost over a $100,000. The whys related to this difference matter, and so do your savings. Couples who minimize their lawyer time, do their own research, and settle the paperwork through a Denver divorce mediator can seriously cut the cost of divorcing. Couples that fight and take each other to court spend the most.

Talk both about how to save on your divorce and what your finances will look like after the expense and the split are complete. It’s important to have a full and realistic view of both of your future finances so that you can make smart choices about where the money goes right now.

Avoid “You” Statements

Be kind, and be careful to avoid classic fight-starting behaviors. When talking about your ex’s finances, they might get defensive which is understandable. So try not to say things like “You spend” or “You don’t have” or “You need” By avoiding this simple and often-accusatory phrasing, you force yourself to speak more carefully. Take care to be considerate now that your finances are about to be private from each other, and rightly so.

Ask “Can You?” Instead of “You Should…”

In the same vein, try not to dictate what your ex should do with their finances, even if you have a really good idea. If you’ve thought of a solution or a problem, try asking “Can you…” instead of dictating “You should”

For example, you might say “Can you send us a little more child support to cover Gina’s lessons, or would you rather take over paying the tutor?” instead of saying “You should give us more child support or pay the tutor”. One is much friendlier, though both express the same concern.

Find the Simplest Solutions to Splitting the Finances

Simplify how you split the finances. Don’t focus too hard on a 50-50 split of all thinks, this can get really complicated when drawing a line down things like retirement accounts and property values. Instead, try to find tidy ways to split your shared assets that don’t require extra paperwork. Sell what you aren’t sentimental about and split the proceeds.

Each keep your own retirement accounts instead of splitting them, or fix the balance with a car or stocks instead. Keep your own personal items and if one person has a costly collection that is dear to them, as them, to give up something less sentimental of similar value.

Share Real Concerns in a Non-Personal Way

You will each have concerns, for your own finances and for the other. It’s important that you be able to voice those concerns without starting a fight. You need to be able to say “I’m worried that you won’t have enough left over to buy furniture for your new apartment.” without sounding insulting. They need to be able to say “Maintaining the house costs more than you realize, here are the numbers” with equal respect.

It might help to write down and then read back your concerns so they sound more robotic when stated. Take the personal feelings out of it and just talk about obstacles you see on your shared or separate financial horizons.

Talk About How to Maintain Quality-of-Life

Speaking of furniture and home maintenance, don’t forget that financial agreements determine each of your post-divorce quality-of-life. If anyone is left with too little, they won’t be able to quickly rebuild their lives after the Denver divorce mediation. Even being left with too much can be a burden, like getting the house without being prepared for property taxes and maintenance costs. Talk about income, rent, and grocery costs like two adults approaching a math problem. Talk about how both of you need a good quality of life so the kids are welcome in both homes, if you have children.

Don’t Try to “Win” Negotiations

This is important: Do not try to win at your divorce financial negotiations. If you feel that tickling desire to deny resources to or otherwise defeat your ex, withdraw from negotiations. Denver divorce mediation can often leave someone feeling vengeful, either openly or subtly, and it can be hard not to act on that. Remember to stay civil and fair when talking finances. And remember that cutthroat negotiation often winds up biting off more than it can chew.

Keep Child Support About the Kids, Whoever They Are With

Talking about child support can be very touchy. The worst it gets is when attention is taken away from the well-being of the children. Child support is not alimony. It is not support for the ex-spouse, it is support for the children. So talk only about the children’s expenses. If you need to, talk about the realistic cost of additional bedrooms in a home, of groceries and clothes and school supplies. But do so fairly.

If you split custody so that each parent has the children for weeks or months, consider alternating child support–because it’s about supporting the kids–. Also be prepared to discuss a flexible amount based both on your relative incomes and the changing financial needs of growing children.

Remember to Say Thank-You

Finally, remember to thank your ex for sitting down and talking things out. If the discussion went well, or even if it just stopped with a need to do more research, you can encourage more real discussions by showing appreciation now. Say thank-you. Appreciate that they took the time and also put in effort to do math and not fight. With teamwork, the two of you could be productively divorced in no time.

Contact a Denver Divorce Mediator Today!

Having a real discussion about finances with your ex can be difficult, but it’s a discussion every divorcing pair must have. If you can’t handle it at the kitchen table or some neutral ground, then meet with a divorce mediator to facilitate an organized, practical, and supervised talk about money now and money in the future. Contact Split Simple today to consult on your Denver divorce mediation services.

Split Simple

1624 Market Street #202

Denver, CO 80202