How to adjust after a divorce

By Faeza
30 September 2016

Marriage is a union entered by two people who are in love and want to live life together forever. But forever may be five to 10 years from now, sometimes even less than that. A recent report by Statistics South Africa shows that about 24 689 people got divorced in 2014 and most of these marriages lasted between five to nine years. This report further revealed that 51,7 percent of divorces were initiated by women.


Divorce counsellor and mediator at South African Divorce Support Association (SADSA), Nadia Thonnard, believes the problem lies in viewing divorce as a problem as opposed to it being a solution. Staying in an unhealthy marriage will have ongoing, eroding effects on someone’s life. “While some relationships need some assistance to get back on track, others should be allowed to end. A divorce is not a breaking point in one’s life, it is a change of direction,” she adds.


The conclusion of the court process may bring a sign of relief and sense of achievement if the marriage was not healthy for you. However, you soon realise that you have to make important decisions such as budgeting with a single salary. A marriage is about love but divorce is about money and the children. There are many financial surprises which will depend greatly on many things. For example, how involved were you in the day to day finances, did you work or not, how open was your ex-husband about what he earned, was the financial situation between you and your ex transparent and communal or did you both have your own accounts. All these need to be considered when sitting down to approach the discussion of sharing the assets and contributing to maintenance.


Most of the time life-changing events such as divorce can force you to review and reflect on your life to see where you’re not progressing. When there’s a joint salary at home, it’s easy to overlook whether the work you do can sustain you or not. Even though the court may award spousal maintenance, this is not always a guarantee and there are many factors that need to be considered.

Attorney at LO Attorneys, Liesl Oosthuizen, says spouses don’t have an automatic right to spousal maintenance after divorce and this means each one of them should be financially independent. A woman becomes responsible for all financial responsibilities. Irrespective of what the divorce settlement says and whether or not the father will be paying maintenance for the kids, if any.


The parent needs to be matured about this because how they will deal with their new situation will impact the children. Children are going to be the witness and recipient of this change of emotions. The best way to adjust and move forward from your divorce is to first seek counselling or divorce coaching. With a clear head, challenges will be tackled in a healthier manner. With older children, it is important to prepare them by being very specific about the things in their life which will be different.

For example, telling them about a different school that they may attend, or that they may not go on as many holidays as they used to. It is important not to draw the children into maintenance arguments or issues but rather focus on explaining the changes that will take place. This information could increase their understanding and assist them to move from denial of the situation to empowering them to cope. It will also reduce stress that could affect their academic performance and peer relationships. If the children are too young to understand, this is probably easier as they will not notice the change in lifestyle as much as older children.


Life coach and speaker, Phelicia Jarvis, has been divorced and says cutting down on certain things especially the luxury items should be your priority. Give your children as much love, affection and quality time as you can. “I know as a single mother, a woman would want to put in extra hours for overtime if applicable or apply for another position or job that pays more, but your kids need love, affection and your attention way more than money,” she says. The reality is you will have to downscale the lifestyle you were used to.

¯ Come to terms with your reduced lifestyle:

If you linger over what you are losing, you will fail to see what lies ahead. Having to cut down on a certain lifestyle may be necessary. But while downsizing is one thing, giving up on certain things and seeing your lifestyle change dramatically is another. Feeling sad, hurt, lost and angry are emotions you will experience, in different order and different intensity. These are not a good base for making any future plans.

Organise your finances and map out your spending: This may be the first time in your life that you are faced with managing your finances. You may have no idea where to start and it is scary, but ignoring this reality will not make it go away. Educate yourself about money, seek financial guidance and be real about it. “Do not make promises you know you cannot keep to your children. It will come back and haunt you. Similarly, do not burden them with worries that should only be yours, like telling them about all the bills you have to pay,” warns Phelicia.

¯ Don’t let money control you:

This is an important time for sorting through your emotions as a primary focus and it will go a long way and prepare you for making some sound decisions. When you know what you can and can’t afford, everything becomes easier. If you want

something that you can’t afford, find a way to afford it by saving or working some extra hours. Consolidate and pay off any debt such as retail accounts.

¯ Start saving:

It is never too late or too early to save and this should be included in your budget. You may not be able to save for your retirement yet, but start saving for those rainy days.

¯ Focus on the future:

Right now may not be the best time of your life but see it as an opportunity of a lifetime to review your dreams and goals.


If a woman or mother is in financial distress, reaching out to family for emotional and financial support is crucial. This will take some burden off your shoulders while you get back on track. You should consider to ask for financial assistance from your extended family when you realise you cannot meet your basic needs which are rent, clothes, food and your health. A good support system is important.



Phelicia Jarvis