Here's the sad truth: Divorce doesn't just break your heart; it can leave you broke.

When married, women's median weekly earnings are about 20 percent higher than women who are divorced, separated, widowed or who have never been married, reports US News and World Report based on figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Married women even have the edge on single men, earning almost 10 percent more than them, too.

But after divorce, a woman's financial profile plummets, falling by 41 percent, on average, nearly twice the income loss of divorced men, according to a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

According to research by Stephen Jenkins, a professor at the London School of Economics, men, on the other hand, see their incomes rise more than 30 percent post-divorce.

The pay gap is partly to blame. In heterosexual marriages where both the man and woman are employed, the man out earns the woman 77.8 percent of the time, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But the divide is not entirely accounted for by the difference in earning power between men and women so much as it is the pay disparity for the unpaid labor of parenting.

The main reason women bear the brunt of divorce's financial devastation, according to Jenkins, is that during the marriage, they are more likely than men to leave their careers to raise kids. "The key differences are not between men and women, but between fathers and mothers," he tells The Guardian.

Having stepped off the corporate ladder for a number of years, these child-rearing women may not have advanced as far in their careers as their spouses who didn't take off, leaving them less developed workplace skills and holes on their resumes.

"The dynamic is changing a little as more women are staying in the workforce and continuing and accelerating their careers," Nicole Mayer, a certified divorce financial analyst, and partner at financial planning firm RPG Life Transition Specialists tells US News and World Report, "but typically, divorce hits women harder than men."

And that's not even counting the bill of the divorce itself. According to Divorce Magazine, the cost of divorce can range from as little as $8,500 to over $100,000 for lawyers and legal fees. But if the split is amicable and you can take the DIY divorce route, you might be looking at a tab closer to the cost of an airline flight — from $200 to $500.

Remember: if the divorce isn't done yet, the price tag for lawyering up need not fall only on you, a divorce lawyer in Boston tells The Atlantic: "If someone calls me and says, 'I need an attorney but I have no money,' I remind them they're not divorced yet, so they actually do have money. In those cases, I file a motion asking for retaining fees and the other person's lawyer will cut a check."

In fact, in all divorce matters, it's important to remember your legal rights. Here's a big one: if you didn't sign a prenuptial agreement, and you live in Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, or Wisconsin, you're entitled to half of any assets acquired during the marriage. Those are joint assets to be divided equally. Even if your name isn't on the deed to the house, half of it is rightly yours.

You may have let your emotions get the better of you when you were falling in love, but don't let them cloud your judgment here at the end. The objective is to not let the pain of the breakup lead to further financial distress. Marie Claire found that women who wanted to "get it over with," experienced guilt over the end of the relationship, and those who trusted their exes to make good on promises once the divorce was finalized suffered financially.

"The silver lining [to divorce] is that most women feel much more confident, much more in control of their finances after the divorce than before," Natalie Colley, an analyst at financial planning firm Francis Financial tells US News and World Report. "That's because they're finally the ones in control of their finances."

"You always assumed there'd be two of you and maybe two 401(k)s and two IRAs, and that's now all changed," Mayer says. "So now it's really [about] updating your picture as a whole, your long-term picture."

And that can be a beautiful new image. It's time to start imagining your post-divorce dream.

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What do you do when financial hardship hits and you can't make your monthly mortgage payments? This is a question on many homeowner's minds as nearly 17.8 million Americans are reportedly unemployed during the coronavirus pandemic.

When homeowners face financial hardship, such as the loss of a job, they often look to obtain a forbearance agreement from their lender. A forbearance happens when your lender grants you a temporary pause or reduction in monthly payments on your mortgage. Forbearance is not the same as payment forgiveness, in that you still have to pay the entire amount back by an agreed-upon time.

Mortgage lending institutions differ on their mortgage relief policies and qualifications; however, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act were signed into law in late March of this year to protect government-backed mortgages.

Federally backed mortgages include:

  • Fannie Mae
  • Freddie Mac
  • The Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
  • The US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA)
  • The US Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Under the CARES Act, homeowners with a federally backed loan who either directly or indirectly suffer financial hardship due to coronavirus automatically qualify for mortgage forbearance.

Even if your mortgage is not secured by one of these agencies, you still can call and see if you qualify, as many lenders will still offer the option in order to avoid foreclosures.

Under the CARES act, homeowners can claim mortgage forbearance due to financial hardship from COVID-19 for up to 12 months without requiring any documentation or verification. During the forbearance period, mortgage lenders cannot charge late fees or penalties.

Additionally, as long as your mortgage is current at the time you claim forbearance, the lender is required to keep reporting your mortgage as paid current throughout the entire period.

At the end of the forbearance, the CARES act protects consumers from having to make a lump sum payment. Instead, you will be given a repayment plan from your provider. Since repayment options vary, it's important you ask your provider about all of your repayment options.

Possible Repayment Options:

You may be eligible for a loan modification at the end of your forbearance. With modification, the mortgage terms are changed in order to add payments that were missed during the forbearance onto the end of the loan, extending the term.

Another option that may work for some is a reduced payment option. This allows you to keep paying monthly payments at a reduced amount. The amount missed is usually added back into the monthly payments at the end of the forbearance.

For example:

Regular payment: $1000 per month

Reduced payment: $500 per month

Payment after forbearance period: $1500 (until caught up)

Balloon payments, or lump sum payments at the end of the forbearance, are prohibited under the CARES Act. However, mortgage lenders may require homeowners who are not protected under the CARES Act to make a balloon payment at the end, so again it is best to check first with your provider.

Mortgage forbearance should only be considered in true financial hardship. In other words, just because of the pandemic, you should not take a forbearance on your mortgage if you can still afford your payments. Likewise, if you are able to start making payments before the forbearance period is up, it's best to do so as soon as possible.

The Next Steps:

Before you get in touch with your mortgage servicer, save time by gathering as much documentation about the mortgage as you can. Also, be ready to list your income and monthly expenses. Due to an influx in calls, financial institutions are experiencing extremely long wait times right now, and having your information at the ready will help.

Have questions ready to ask. Here are some questions you should be asking:

  • What fees are associated with the forbearance?
  • What are all the repayment options available to you at the end of the forbearance?
  • Will you be charged interest during the forbearance period?

If your forbearance is approved, make sure to keep all documentation pertaining to it. Make sure to cancel any automatic payments to the mortgage during the forbearance period, and keep tabs on your credit report to make sure your lender doesn't report the loan as unpaid.


For more information on forbearance, contact your lender and discuss your options. If you need more assistance with understanding your options, you can contact a local agent for the housing counseling agency, or call their hotline at 1-800-569-4287.