You’re newly di­vorced or sin­gle af­ter years of de­fer­ring all fi­nan­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity to your hus­band/part­ner or split­ting them be­tween the two of you. You’re now on your own, and need to re­gain con­trol. Where do you start? Samke Mh­longo tells us.

Bona - - Contents - Samke Mh­longo

Get di­vorced with­out go­ing broke

Novem­ber is one of my favourite months. When I think of it, cor­po­rate yearend func­tions, get-togethers with friends, short dresses, long cock­tails and wed­dings come to mind! Whether it’s tra­di­tional (by the way, when did white All Stars be­come the tra­di­tional wed­ding uni­form?), or “white” wed­dings, Novem­ber and De­cem­ber seem to be South Africa’s nup­tials sea­son. But, as much as we love wed­dings and all the pomp, fuss and #siyashadisathings (#wed­dingth­ings) that come with them, the sad re­al­ity is that di­vorce is on the rise. Statis­tics South Africa re­leased a re­port in June 2018 show­ing that 4 in 10 mar­riages end in di­vorce within the first 10 years. And, even with its com­mon­ness, di­vorce con­tin­ues to be a de­ci­sion and process with a lot of stigma at­tached to it. Al­though wed­dings are a big cel­e­bra­tion, the trauma of di­vorce is of­ten faced alone, and away from the peo­ple that cel­e­brated the union. Be­ing a di­vorcee my­self, this is some­thing I know all too well. Not only do you bat­tle with emo­tional trauma, but the way it wreaks havoc on your fi­nances is like noth­ing any­one can pre­pare you for. With this month’s col­umn, I aim to help you be more pre­pared to face di­vorce, and come out on the other side a stronger, suc­cess­ful and more fi­nan­cially se­cure in­di­vid­ual. Let’s get straight into it!


Al­though a scary thought, the re­al­ity is that more men than women pre­pare fi­nan­cially for a di­vorce, both in the mar­riage and be­fore! Di­vorce lawyer Gift Mn­cube of Mn­cube Law Inc has dealt with many cases where a fe­male client’s hus­band has un­fairly im­proved his fi­nan­cial po­si­tion prior to the di­vorce pro­ceed­ings. One ex­am­ple is that of a man buy­ing the mar­i­tal home in the name of a third party rel­a­tive. In this way, the mar­i­tal home does not form part of the joint es­tate, even though in most cases, joint in­come was used to im­prove and main­tain it. On the other hand women tend to be more trust­ing and trans­par­ent with their fi­nances, giv­ing their spouse ac­cess to their as­sets and mak­ing it eas­ier for them to put to­gether a list that they can lay a claim against.


Many women suf­fer do­mes­tic, emo­tional and fi­nan­cial abuse at the hands of their hus­bands.

Many have re­lin­quished their fi­nan­cial in­de­pen­dence to be a wife or a stay-at-home mom. Sadly, this is a vul­ner­a­ble fi­nan­cial po­si­tion, and Gift has seen a num­ber of cases where a housewife or woman earn­ing sig­nif­i­cantly lower than her hus­band will ini­ti­ate the di­vorce process, but be caught with­out the money to con­tinue, thus hav­ing to drop the ap­pli­ca­tion. An­other tac­tic that Gift sees men em­ploy­ing is to fi­nan­cially frus­trate the di­vorce process by drag­ging it, so as to ex­haust your fi­nances, and leave you with no choice but to drop the case or seek free le­gal ad­vice via Le­gal Aid. A di­vorce can get ex­tremely messy, tak­ing an aver­age 2–3 years to con­clude. In that time, you must not only ser­vice ex­penses pre­vi­ously cal­cu­lated on a joint in­come, but also bud­get for on­go­ing di­vorce lay­w­ers’ fees. As scary as this thought is, there are ways you can pro­tect your­self and cush­ion the po­ten­tial fi­nan­cial blow on your life.


Abu Ad­dae, CEO of fi­nan­cial plan­ning com­pany LifeCheq, sug­gests seek­ing pro­fes­sional help, and speak­ing to an in­de­pen­dent ad­viser that will “con­sider your whole set of cir­cum­stances”. Abu adds that this in­cludes hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion fo­cus­ing on ma­jor life de­ci­sions you’ll need to make, such as whether you stay in the mar­i­tal home or move, pos­si­ble ca­reer changes, how to han­dle fam­ily re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and other life­style ad­just­ments. It is also ben­e­fi­cial to see a psy­chol­o­gist to en­sure that the heal­ing hap­pens from the in­side out, and doesn’t manifest it­self neg­a­tively on your fi­nances.



A lot of women do not cal­cu­late the cost of a di­vorce be­fore em­bark­ing on it. They of­ten find them­selves hav­ing to drop the ap­pli­ca­tion and carry on in the mat­ri­mony with the man they were try­ing to leave, or pro­ceed with the ap­pli­ca­tion on com­pro­mised terms. They end up set­tling for much less than what was due to them. In­de­pen­dent cer­ti­fied fi­nan­cial plan­ner and ca­reer coach Vu­mile Msweli says one of the ma­jor trans­for­ma­tions that tend to hap­pen af­ter di­vorce is the repri­ori­ti­sa­tion of ca­reers. “In re­build­ing them­selves, I see many of my clients drive to diver­sify and in­crease their rev­enue streams to ser­vice the same ex­penses with half the in­come they are ac­cus­tomed to,” she adds. Abu warns that a wrong move, such as a badly timed home buy­ing de­ci­sion or ca­reer change that doesn’t con­sider your full cir­cum­stances, can quickly un­ravel your fi­nances.


Di­vorce is ex­tremely painful, and there is no need to also add a fi­nan­cial bur­den to it. In or­der to make it a lit­tle more bear­able, plan for your exit by in­ves­ti­gat­ing at­tor­ney fees and their pay­ment terms. And, start think­ing of ways of cre­at­ing, sup­ple­ment­ing and/ or grow­ing your monthly in­come.

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