The Long Term Health and Financial Consequences of Divorce
Health News Digest reports that there may be health and financial costs to divorce that do not reveal themselves until long after the divorce is complete.
It is widely known that because of the economies of scale, many families going through a divorce and those with children, in particular, will face some diminution in their standard of living after the divorce. The reason, the income that used to support a single home when the marriage was intact, must now support two households. The same income must now pay two rents or mortgages, stock two refrigerators, pay two cable bills and the list goes on. There may not be enough resources to pay for all the things that intact family took for granted.
However, the article is interesting because it goes beyond the obvious costs and shows some of the hidden costs of divorce.
To this must be added duplicate items for the children: when the bicycle goes to one house, a second one will have to be purchased for the other house because neither parent will want to be seen as less generous and caring than the other, and this is true for all items, essential and non-essential alike; clothing, beds, towels, doll houses, video games, school supplies, and so on, plus the time and money required to replace, repair and upgrade these items. Certain expenses, such as daycare costs and doctor visits, may be divided more or less equally (assuming both parents are willing and able to pay, which is oftentimes not the case), but for daily living expenses, a safe rule of thumb might be to count the number of kids you have and multiply by two—then add the costs of a second home.
And if, for example, the parents live an hour apart and transfer their children back and forth thrice weekly, that adds up to another thirty hours of driving time per month, plus gas, and related expenses, not counting delays, schedule changes, forgotten items, extra pick-ups and drop-offs, and extracurricular activities that were previously managed through some sort of division of labor, but must now be done separately. In varying degrees, this holds true for most other household activities—efficiency is lost when spouses must function without the support of each other—and as the old saying goes, time is money.
This change in our financial picture, however, does not stop at the home front, but reaches into the workplace as well: the U.S. government reports that half of all single mothers receive public assistance, while divorced men earn between 10% and 40% less than their married counterparts having similar educations and backgrounds. It should come as no surprise then that at the age of retirement, divorced couples have a significantly lower net worth than those who remained married. After divorce, the yellow brick road quickly loses its luster, and life is rarely easier.
Of course, here we’re just talking about money matters, and as we all know, divorce involves a lot more than financial losses. Divorcés also experience significantly higher numbers of early death of almost all the major diseases, as well as higher rates of in and out-patient psychiatric care, suicide, physical abuse, accidental injury, and drug and alcohol use. But those are other issues. Here we’re focusing only on dollars and cents. One hurdle at a time.
In summary, although divorce leaves us in a highly emotional state, we should be careful not to let those emotions rule our thinking, particularly those that blind and bind us to the grim consequences of such decisions. Before making that call to an attorney, or presenting your spouse with your decision to leave, make sure that you’ve taken the time to ask yourself if divorce is really worth the financial price you will pay. If it is, then fine, you can move on to the other matters mentioned above. But do you homework first—and make sure that your pencil is sharp.