The financial challenges of divorcing with kids

Divorce, Money

The phrase “staying together for the kids” is a cliché for a reason. Many couples choose to stay together because of their concerns about the psychological effects of divorce on the children.

But for others, financial issues—particularly worries about the impact of child support and the costs of co-parenting—are the primary reasons behind staying in an unhappy marriage.

Cost concerns, by the numbers

A relationship study conducted by Avvo addressed this issue directly, asking respondents several questions regarding relationships, children, and finances. Fourteen percent of the survey respondents who have ever been in a relationship or have been married said that they “stayed in a relationship longer than they wanted because it was more affordable than being alone.”

The money concerns only go up when children are involved. Seventy percent of parents surveyed said it is more expensive to raise children when the parents are apart. Digging a little deeper, 72 percent of married parents believed the childrearing costs of being apart would be higher, while only 66 percent of unmarried parents shared the belief.

“The cost of childrearing is an important factor in deciding whether to not to divorce,” Nika Kabiri, a law and society analyst at Avvo said of the survey. “People won’t usually stay with a partner for money if they can leave and be happy. But throw kids in the picture, and that can change.”

The price of staying together

Staying in an unhappy or unsuccessful marriage has costs above and beyond finances. While choosing to separate or divorce should never be done lightly, both spouses need to be honest about their reasons for staying in an unhappy marriage. Sometimes, “staying together for the kids” can be an excuse to avoid looking at the real reasons.

Mel Schwartz, a psychotherapist and marriage counselor, wrote about this for Psychology Today. He highlighted the fact that staying together might be more detrimental for the entire family. This is even true if parents wait until the kids are out of the house to divorce.

As Schwartz writes, “Waiting for the children to go off to college and then divorcing may make the kids feel guilty that their parents sacrificed their own happiness for them.”

Child support resources

There is no doubt that child support is one of the most complicated aspects of divorce and co-parenting, but it doesn’t have to be paralyzing. There are many resources available through the spouses’ divorce attorneys and the courts to help manage the transition and prepare the support agreement.

Parents need to be open and honest about their financial situation and what is best for the children. Having parents that are supportive and loving is the best relationship model for the children—a model that sometimes can only be attained by dissolving an unhealthy marriage.