Children and the Financial Impact of Divorce


Recently, I was asked to be an expert on a podcast with IRC Wealth discussing divorce and how to manage the financial impacts that it may have on children. With divorce, decisions made regarding the children are often some of the most difficult. Will we split custody? Where will the children primarily live? Will the children still attend the same school?

What can often be overlooked, is how the financial decisions that you are making throughout the divorce, might impact your children just as much as the other decisions you make regarding their health and well-being.

In the podcast, I discussed a few tips to help ensure that the financial impacts of divorce will have the least impact on your children. Below, I’ve discussed the first two tips.

  • A well thought out financial agreement benefits everyone in the family. The transition out of marriage can be much healthier for everyone, including your children if you have a detailed well thought out financial agreement. This might include decisions for your children as big as who will pay for college, and as small as, who will pay for their sports equipment. Some of these decisions may seem minuscule at the moment but will be extremely helpful in the long run. It will make it easier to make sure your kids are not a part of financial decisions and discussions in the future.
  • Recognizing the difference between financial decisions and emotional decisions that relate to finance. For example, sometimes it helps to have a duplicate of your child’s everyday things at both mom and dad’s house. Initially, this may seem like a financial decision. However, it may be comforting to your son to know that he has a baseball glove at both mom and dad’s house and that he doesn’t have to think about bringing one back and forth. This might add on extra cost at the beginning of baseball season but it will help your son to move forward into his new reality if he is not constantly reminded of his previous reality.
  • Financial decisions are grown up decisions. Strict boundaries should be put in place about what is discussed with the children in terms of financial decisions. In the midst of so many changes, that is one thing that can help children to feel secure. You also should never tie financial decisions that you’ve made for your children back to the divorce. Children do not need to hear that you cannot afford to buy them something because your financial situation has changed due to the divorce, especially if there is a large discrepancy in how much each parent receives. Instead, teach critical life skills and help your child work toward earning the money to purchase the item for his or herself.
  • Prioritizing your children. Now that your marriage is over, your primary role within the family unit is to parent. Sometimes you might have to make sacrifices in order to keep stability and structure for your children. What does this look like from a financial perspective? This could look like approaching your budget as if you are a single parent if the other parent isn’t willing to cooperate. For example, if your child has always been in private school but the other parent is no longer willing to contribute to tuition, you may have to make sacrifices financially in order to keep structure and consistency for your child. These kinds of decisions are not always possible, but bottom line; don’t lose sight of your children when making financial decisions, even if you don’t always “win.”
  • Find stability while managing the unknowns. There can be a lot of instability for children throughout the time of a separation and divorce. In the beginning stages of divorce, kids often ask many questions that are concrete in nature and often deal with finances. Some of the questions we hear often at GROW are: “Will we have to move houses?” “Will I change schools?” “Will I still play my favorite sport?” The underlying theme in most of these initial conversations is change. Kids and teens want to know if their everyday lifestyle will change. The truth is it is hard for parents to promise or predict that, especially before all of the financial details have been ironed out. This is where it is helpful to have a team of professionals to rely on. In therapy, we can work through the fear and uncertainty that you and your kids might be feeling, while you make concrete financial decisions with a financial planner.

Written By: Amanda Dempsey, LAMFT