Awhile back, I wrote an article, published in the Huffington Post called “10 Ways To Help Someone Going through a divorce.” While I think I gave some good advice, I did not address giving help financially to a friend or relative who is getting divorced.
A few days ago, I received an email from a guy asking if he and his wife should help his sister—who is getting divorced, by giving her money. So, I thought I would write about this very sensitive topic.
First of all, there are few things in life that end up being more of a touchy subject than money. For some reason, people can talk about almost ANYTHING, but when a situation comes up where someone needs money, everyone gets quiet. Why is that?
Well, we all work hard for our money, and feeling the stress over having enough money and saving and spending touches everyone—no matter how wealthy (or not wealthy) a person is.
I hear people complain about money who I seriously cannot even believe are complaining because I know how wealthy they are. But, I might seem wealthy to someone else. So, I will tell you what my dad always said: No matter how much money you have, it will never feel like it’s enough, and you will always have a little bit of financial stress, which is why you shouldn’t worry about it so much. Love that!
The reader’s email asking for advice stated that his sister was going through her second divorce. He said that she has one child from the first marriage and one child from the second. She did not graduate from college, and does not make a good income—enough to support herself. He said she can’t afford an attorney or even a place to live. Her soon to be ex will not discuss his finances or what he is willing to pay her (if anything.) Her first husband does not have money. The couple stated that they don’t know if they should give her money right now, but of course would never let her go homeless. He did say that they are also frustrated because the sister never mentioned anything about getting divorced in the past. He said she doesn’t plan for long-term and that he’s not sure he is hearing the whole truth.
I don’t want to judge this guy, but his email sparked a thought: Should we not help someone going through a divorce financially for our own judgmental reasons?
In this case:
*Because this is her second divorce?
* Because she is a bad financial planner?
*Because she didn’t graduate from college?
*Because she never mentioned to her family that she had marital problems? (Maybe she didn’t want to worry anyone and was trying desperately to save the marriage. I actually give her credit for that.)
All that said, I completely understand his hesitation. It’s not my money and I don’t know them personally. The bottom line is, no one wants to give or loan someone money when they think it will end up not helping in the long run.
So, maybe the guy thinks if he gives his sis money, she is going to make poor financial decisions with it and end up in a bad place anyhow. Whatever his rationale is, he’s frustrated and might feel sort of helpless and guilty if he doesn’t step up.
Another gem from my dad: He used to say that if you loan someone money, you have to bank on the fact that you will never see the money again. If the person pays you back (or even pays you partially back) consider that found money. In other words, if you loan someone money, you have to treat it as a gift to them permanently. If you feel good about that—you have the money and you want to help, then great. If you expect that he or she will pay you back, you are being naïve.
Another important point to all of this is that no one should disregard the fact that both ex’s are obligated legally to pay child support. So, the brother should pay for an attorney so that she can get that money. Even the first husband who “has no money” is obligated to pay something. I don’t think it would cost very much to get two orders for child support.
Here’s the thing. If I was going to help someone going through a divorce in a financial way, I would do it in a way where I would be providing hands-on help to get the best outcome for the person. For example, if I was paying for the attorney, I would manage the relationship and have the attorney speak with me also about the status of the divorce. Or, if I was helping pay for a living situation, I would pay the place directly. I might offer to house them temporarily, and most importantly, I would work very hard to try to get the person a job.
There are exceptions to this. If the person has an addiction issue, I wouldn’t help unless he or she agreed to get medical help and go into treatment. If I thought the person’s morals and/or behavior was unacceptable, I probably would not help. And, if the person was uncooperative and unmotivated, and wasn’t really trying to find a job, then I would have a hard time with it.
Deciding to loan someone going through a divorce money is a really, really tough call, and no one should judge anyone who decides not to because we don’t know the whole story. There are no right or wrong answers and each person’s situation and relationship is unique.
That said, I will make this blanketed statement. if you loan someone getting divorced money, and you do it in the right way, you could truly change their life for the better. Getting divorced is brutal in so many ways, which can include financially. While no one can help heal a person’s broken heart, at least money is one way of helping ease some of the stress and pain.
Like this article? Check out, “How To Save Money In Divorce”