Bontle admits that finances were the undoing of her marriage. ‘The strain of our finances weighed heavily on us for 11 years. Throughout our marriage, we had financial peace for about 3 years. We even started entertaining buying our first house together, but that idea was short lived.’
They fought about money all the time. This is what led to their divorce. Neither of them had the money for a protracted divorce battle so they went to the Magistrate’s court to get an instant divorce. It took all of 12 hours to finalise.
Bontle didn’t fight the maintenance order out of concern for her ex-husband since she made more money than he did at the time. The result of that was an unfair settlement that is now coming back to haunt her. The children are in her custody and she foots the bill for everything. She’s had to move back to her parent’s home, she’s funding the bulk of the cost of raising their children, she’s had to let go of a business she was running and had to sell her car due to affordability reasons.
‘The only relief is that we had a roof over our heads, food in our belly and public transport to get around’, she explains. ‘My regret in terms of how I started my marriage was purely from a financial perspective. We needed to sit down and have a look at what we are both bringing into the marriage (debt and income), who was going to be responsible for what, where the money would come from etc’.
Bontle now has a very different perspective about money. The pain and struggle with money in the past has forced her to think and behave differently regarding her finances. She has decided to own her situation and actively take control of every aspect of her finances. ‘I am paying off each and every one of my debts diligently. I even managed to buy a car cash after my divorce and I plan to move us out of my parents’ house soon.’
This is what Bontle says she has learned from her divorce:
- One of the most important conversations to have with a partner/would-be-spouse is about money. Don’t shy away from it. Confront this head-on long before committing to someone
- Discuss up-front how much you earn and decide, based on that, what you will be responsible for financially. Have individual and joint budgets. Keep talking to each other about money
- Discuss marital regimes honestly. Decide together what the best marital contract will be for you and consult a professional to advise you. Bontle was married in community of property and this was largely due to pressure from extended family members. She paid the price for this
- Update your will, life cover and retirement benefit details as often as your circumstances change
- Plan your finances for after the divorce. Seek the services of a financial advisor to help you transition from married to single life. Even though Bontle gets some spousal support, she plans as a single parent
- Be prepared to downscale. Invariably, costs tend to rise when you’re footing the bill alone. Make provisions for that and try not to make emotional decisions.
The reality is that divorce is painful but it doesn’t have to devastate you financially. It all starts with having healthy, realistic discussions about money and for you to plan adequately for every possible outcome. For Bontle, this was a major eye-opener. She’s had to hit rock bottom financially for her to realise that she cannot avoid the topic of money any longer. She is now having frank conversations about money with her eldest child and is working with us to help her improve her financial situation.
It can only get better from here.