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Could you survive financially if your marriage ended tomorrow?

·5-min read
Jemimah Ashleigh looks directly at camera with serious expression on her face.
Jemimah Ashleigh was totally blindsided when her marriage broke down. (Image: Supplied).

Jemimah Ashleigh felt totally blindsided when her marriage ended, leaving her financially strapped in 2019.

“During our marriage my ex-husband promised to map out our financial future. I didn’t think I needed to worry about this. I trusted him and this was my biggest mistake.”

Looking back, the 36-year-old understands trust had little to do with it.

“I should have educated myself about our finances; I simply didn’t. I had no idea what investments we had or what debt we owed. Suddenly, I was left with nothing when we split.”

Sadly, Ashleigh is not alone.

Nearly half of women would struggle if their marriage broke down

A 2020 study found that almost half of women surveyed could not survive financially if their marriages ended tomorrow.

Research from Fidelity International reveals 44.1 per cent of women say they would not be financially stable if their relationship or marriage were to end tomorrow. This compares to 29.7 per cent of men.

Women are also vulnerable when it comes to job security with one in three, 34.5 per cent saying they could only manage for up to a month if they were to lose their job unexpectedly, compared to 23.8 per cent of men.

Watch: How much should you have in an emergency fund?

Tania Tonkin from dmca advisory said not having a clear understanding of their financial position is a common mistake women make.

“It’s one of the biggest problems I see in my work… Women often leave the financial affairs to men. Some women can’t even tell me how much they have in a joint account, or how to access it. Every woman should have a sound understanding of their own financial position.”

Next is negotiating a settlement to understand the amount each party is entitled to for their ongoing needs.

“Particularly, if one has a lower earning capacity or their super balance is lower than their former spouse,” adds Tonkin.

Jemimah's road to recovery

Jemimah Ashleigh smiles at the camera in front of colourful wall.
Jemimah Ashleigh now wants other women to pay greater attention to their finances. (Image: Supplied).

With a mortgage to cover, Ashleigh quickly found more work.

“Suddenly, I found myself alone in a three bedroom house, working in my coaching business with a large mortgage,” she says.

“Thankfully, I found a public service job, which allowed me to work on my business at night.”

Next she immediately sourced legal advice.

“I didn’t know enough to even fill out most of the forms. I’m a smart woman but I really dropped the ball on this.”

After the final divorce arrangements she was left with $10,000.

“We had to liquidate everything as quickly as possible, there were still bills coming in. Divorce is not cheap. I am an intelligent woman! Yet, [what] I realised was how complacent I had become.”

“When all was said and done, the legal fees wiped most of this. I redrew from my personal loan and then just worked harder than I ever had before.”

Her mother gave her $10,000 to help relocate states.

“I paid her back as soon as I could. Two years later, things are better. I’m planning on buying a property this year.”

Get advice quickly: Tania Tonkin’s to-do tips once a marriage ends.

  • Get advice quickly to assess where you are at and what you need to do in order to establish stability. Whether it’s from a free counselling service or from a qualified financial advisor.

  • Establish what free assistance may be available to you and what you may be entitled to, especially when you have children.

  • Have a third-party qualified professional oversee your financial settlement. It’s an emotional time and you need someone looking out for your best interest. It doesn’t mean you’ll end up with costly legal battles; however, you do need to understand any financial agreement and how it impacts you longer term.

  • Legal Aid and Family Relationships Australia offer free advice for women facing divorce. There is also some helpful advice on the Government’s MoneySmart website.

Don't fall for the misinformation: Lawyer's tips

Family lawyer, Shaya-Lewis-Dermody said that when a marriage ends, ideally, the first port of call is to seek legal advice prior to separation; if it is safe to do so, and you are not fleeing a violent relationship.

These are her tips:

  • Get legal assistance early.

  • Take copies of all relevant financial documents, such as superannuation statements, tax returns, payslips and bank statements. Being organised is key, as down the track you may not have access to that information.

  • It is not uncommon for women to have misinformation in relation to their rights, which may include remaining in the family home, particularly if children are involved and best for them to stay at home.

  • Everyone should obtain legal advice even if that involves a visit to a few free meetings lawyers; a community legal service or a private law firm which offers complimentary first consultations. Take advantage of the first free meeting, even if you do not think you will engage a lawyer. It will help you to obtain procedural and general legal information about your matter.

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