6 reasons NOT to fight for money you’re owed in divorce

Pro tip: Leave the tube top at home when negotiating divorce.

Pro tip: Leave the tube top at home when negotiating divorce.

When going through my divorce I had a very intense affair with my iPhone calculator. I would run numbers day and night, figuring  how much child support I would receive, how much he owed me for his share of the hospital bills and health insurance. How much I would have to pay him to buy out the house? How much would he transfer from his IRA to mine? I was committed to demanding what the kids and I were entitled to, to what was fair, and what the law allowed for.

I got some of it, but not nearly all. At some point I stopped fighting, and not because I was weak or lazy. I gave up because it was the right thing to do.

Money is often cited as the No. 1 thing divorcing couples fight over. Financial disagreements clog the courts and wrack up attorney bills — not to mention burn untold units of stress and misery for each party, their children and anyone within earshot.

Historically, women do not fight hard enough for their share of the marital property, and take their baby daddies to court for child support less than half the time. That is wrong. Ladies, fight for everything that you are owed.

Then stop fighting.

Here are 6 signs you should stop fighting your ex for finances:

1. It’s costing you more money than you stand to receive in a settlement. Life is not fair. There are laws designed to protect women and children in divorce, and there is also the universal law of what is just. But there is also the legal system, and it is messed up, unfair and is designed to support mainly the right. Unless you’re Elin Nordegren and Tiger Woods, there is often a very low threshold to cross before it stops making sense to spend money on lawyers to get what you are owed. Do the math. Then take a deep breath.

2. He doesn’t have the money. You can’t get blood from a stone, as the old adage goes. Sure, he may owe you tens of thousands of dollars in back child support. You could have the courts take his car and send him to jail. But if you honestly know that he doesn’t have that cash, do you really want to do that? Maybe. But what do you get in return?

3. You’re fighting out of spite. Anger and spite are normal. God knows I’ve spent a lot of time being pissed at my ex! But exuding all that negative energy to take revenge is not a good reason to fight for money — even if you’re entitled to it. Good reasons include providing a better life for yourself and your kids and/or because the money is genuinely yours.

4. He needs it more than you do. Maybe each of your financial situations have changed. Maybe you have indeed moved on and are now killing it financially. Maybe he lost his job and is struggling. Maybe you’re both stable, but you see that the money in question could help him out a whole lot more than it could help you. And now that you’ve moved forward, and you are no longer spiteful and angry, you have the energy to do the right thing.

5. You’re exhausted. Divorce is one of the most stressful, draining crises a person can go through. In many cases — especially if there are children and significant assets involved — it is worth taking your time with a good lawyer to negotiate a fair settlement. But until the mailman delivers the manilla envelope containing your sighed divorce decree, you will likely feel that your whole world is in limbo. Letting some stuff go moves everyone forward.

6. You’re holding yourself back. Deepak Chopra tells us that human beings have infinite energy, and I accept that to be true. But we are also physical beings living in the real world, and a girl only has so much to go around. You have a choice: Spend your time, energy and power to fight with a dickhead, or invest those resources in yourself to earn far more money than he owes you from his 401(k). My mantra: The best revenge is living well.

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11 thoughts on “6 reasons NOT to fight for money you’re owed in divorce

  1. EXACTLY! I always tell women don’t bother trying to get blood out of stone. Save the energy and money and depend on yourself, you won’t be disappointed.

  2. I agree with all of this, although in my situation I have a very rich husband who has managed to hide a lot of his money. I recently have had my son come to live with me 100% of the time, and I have my daughter the majority of the time, and soon will be completely out of savings, so I have no choice but to try to modify support. That said, in the past few years since I received no support, I felt much freer psychologically because I didn’t have to raise a stink to get the child support check every month or deal with my frustration when he deducted small amounts from it. And, yes, unless you’re Elin Nordegren, it sucks being a divorced mom.

  3. I especially like #6 because that is where I am at. The only way out of this mess to take matters into my own hands and prove to myself (and to him) that I can over come this emotionally and financially. I love your mantra–so true!

  4. Yes, it has been a long road getting to this point, and I know there is a long way to go, but it is good to believe in myself. I am a teacher, and luckily I was able to get a job quickly when my world fell apart. However, I know with 3 kids and lots of debt (from his schooling), I will need something else to get me out of this financial hole–the money spent on milk alone for 3 boys is crazy–ha! I am working on starting a business and seeing your blog is inspiring–thank you!

  5. I also am working on all these points a lot – in my head (“I can do it! I can earn much more money myself, even when I can only work part time because of my 2 boys, 4 and 7 years old”) and on paper (writing applications for further employment, I am a freelancer). My therapist says something like this: it’s not about justice – it’s abourt taking responsibility and being in charge yourself, not seeing oneself as a victim. The other day, 2 days before moving houses because of the separation, with tears running (because of our apartement) I wanted to put batteries in scales which we hadn’t used for a long time. I was holding it in my hand – and it broke in a thousand little glas stone pieces – it hadn’t fallen down, I did not do anything, I just had it in my hand and it broke with some strong power. I am seeing it as a symbol of my ‘old’ idea of justice which was very very important for me (and would normally be very important for me now). The breaking as a symbol and an impulse to letting go of this idea and move forward – to living my life without expecting too much of my former husband.

  6. What kills me is not being able to even give my children their own room(s) in the apartment they share with me. At least my child support allows their mom to keep our old three bedroom apartment and their my kids have their own rooms.

    I have accepted that the child support allows her a rent free existence but when her fiancée moves is after their marriage I will be paying for the roof over his head. My child support won’t be reduced at all.

    I hope he makes my children’s lives better in other ways. G-d forbid I mention that to her.

    We divorced using a mediator to minimize the adversarial process. In the end she got half my 401k, bought me out of our Mitchell Lama 3 bedroom apt for literally a song, and I can never retire. I have no idea how I will even afford their college costs. At least at 18 my child support will go to college room and board.

    Sorry griping again. I am one of the cant get blood from a stone former spouses.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Eric – I’m re-evaluating my position on alimony in the framework of a) what is fair, and b) what is feminist. Wondering: Can’t you re-visit the alimony? Especially since she is getting remarried (which, I believe, can be calculated in the event of the lesser-earning spouse remarrying)? Paging Morghan Richardson ….

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