Over the last few years, January has been dubbed as the “divorce month” as most couples seem to make the decision to go their separate ways at the beginning of the new year.
But whether you and your partner have a good or bad split, it’s important to be in charge of your own finances. And with this of course being a difficult time for any couple, JustMoney has shared some financial advice to focus on.
Reasons why January is “Divorce Month”
Traditionally, most people see January as a clean slate, a new beginning. And once the aura around the holiday season has passed, many couples decide to break up.
Here are a few reasons why couples decide to take this serious step in their relationship:
For many families, the pandemic has been a time of stress, tension and sadness. People had to constantly be in each other’s space as everyone had to live under lockdown and work from home – those who were fortunate enough to keep their jobs, of course.
And if children were involved, parents also had the added pressure of home-schooling. Most families had to deal with these issues while adjusting to a lower income.
No more holiday cheer
Now that the holiday season is over, many people take the time to “take stock of their lives” and to implement change where they see necessary – “new year, new me”. And so, many people realise at this stage that their marriages are not working and decide to settle on divorce.
And of course, the holiday season usually goes hand in hand with family time…a difficult time for many.
“Interacting with in-laws over the holiday break may highlight major differences between two families. Spending time with one’s own family may reinforce one’s own self-worth and give one the courage and support to make a major life change.”
Do it for the children
It is often for couples who have children to prolong their divorce. Even though they might agree on ending their marriage months beforehand, they will delay filing divorce papers so that a final family holiday can be enjoyed together.
South Africa’s divorce statistics
Even the most “friendly” and mutual divorces take a toll on those involved, as major life changes are taking place whilst dealing with emotional attachments.
According to the marketing manager of JustMoney, “A divorce necessitates making major decisions at a time when a person is experiencing a great deal of anxiety and upheaval.”
According to Statistics South Africa, there were 23 710 divorces granted pre-pandemic in 2019. This number mainly came from couples who were married for the first time. And more women were seen filing for divorce, with men getting a divorce only later in life.
In 2019, the provincial distribution of divorces was as follow:
- Gauteng – 6 318 divorces
- Western Cape – 6 108 divorces
- KwaZulu-Natal – 4 033 divorces
- Eastern Cape – 3 137 divorces
And in 2021, South Africa’s divorce rate was at 17.6%.
How to organise your money matters
When going through a divorce, one of the worst challenges pertains to money matters. Thus, here are a few things that may make your life a bit easier during this unsettling time:
Some divorces can take years to finalise if there are disagreements about childcare, maintenance, asset division, etc. However, a skilled mediator can assist both parties in settling in a shorter time. And this will, of course, also save costs.
“Given that the agreements made now will have an impact on you and your children for the rest of your lives, and that drafting a divorce order is frequently a complex matter, it is important to seek professional advice. The input of both an attorney and a financial adviser can help to ensure that you receive a fair settlement.”
Organise your financial records
When the time comes that important documents are needed, you don’t want to scramble around trying to locate them. So be sure to organise all your bank and investment statements, tax returns, as well as pension information.
Assess your assets and liabilities
When going through a divorce, settling and diving marital assets and liabilities are a big step. This is everything that has been acquired during the marriage, for example buying a house together. Non-marital assets and liabilities should also be known, such as debt you took before marriage.
From there, it’s time to take stock of your debt. This includes both parties of the divorce disclosing their full financial status. This includes home loans, car finances, credit cards, personal loans, and business debts and retail accounts.
Build your financial identity and reassess your income
And finally, it’s time to break away from your joint finances and shared accounts and establish your own financial identity. This entails opening accounts in your own name and building up a good credit score.
And now that you mainly have to rely on your own income, you may want to focus on earning more. And in the case that you’ve been out of the industry for a while, it’s time to learn some new skills and become more tech-savvy.
“No-one enters a marriage thinking that it will end, but sadly this is the case for many partnerships,” says Anthony. “If you can get your financial affairs in order and obtain professional advice so that you do not navigate the process alone, it will be easier to deal with the stresses involved. You are also more likely to be more financially secure in the long run.”