I feel trapped in marriage. Financial reasons are keeping us together. I want to break free from my partner, but how do I get a divorce if I have no money?
Does that script sound painfully familiar? You’re not alone. Leaving a marriage can be one of the most challenging decisions a person faces.
You might feel scared about navigating the world alone. You may wonder if calling it quits is really the right decision, especially if you share children or important assets together.
There are numerous other logistics to consider. For example, who will leave the house? How will you split custody? What kind of relationship will you have moving forward?
Things become even more complicated if you feel trapped or lack adequate financial resources. This guide will provide you with a thorough, step-by-step guide on how to get out of a bad marriage with no money.
Table of Contents:
How Do You Leave a Marriage with Nowhere to Go?
What do you do when your husband doesn’t give you money? And what do you do when your marriage is over, but you can’t leave?
If you’re contemplating divorce, you’re already likely feeling stressed. You might feel angry, sad, or guilty. Unfortunately, being a victim of financial abuse or having no income only seems to make matters infinitely worse.
Making sure you have water, food, and a roof over your head is the main priority. Yet, securing these essential needs can be a real concern if you’re in a bad marriage with no money to your name. Here are the first steps you need to take.
Mentally Commit to Leaving
How can I get out of a bad marriage? Should I just stay because it’s easier than the headache of trying to leave?
You might find yourself waffling back and forth on what to do. This questioning is normal, but you have to be decisive when it comes to ending the relationship.
Remember that if you’re unhappy, that’s enough of a reason to leave. However, if you’re still on the fence about divorce, consider spending some serious time reflecting on your future.
What do you envision wanting for yourself? And how does your husband fit within those plans? If you only feel a sense of dread, anger, or sadness, pay attention to those feelings!
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Before you start drafting a plan, you need to have the willingness to follow through with your intentions. Being wishy-washy will only perpetuate more relationship issues. Instead, reach out for support during this time.
Anticipate Conflicting Emotions
It’s normal to still experience some skepticism about the divorce. In abusive relationships, spouses often convince their partners they need them.
This convincing is insidious, and it can have severe ramifications for your self-esteem. Accept that you may experience intense emotions, but aim to be objective with your actions. Try not to let erratic emotions dictate your behavior.
Make a List of All the Reasons You Want to Leave
Once you decide to end the relationship, you might find yourself romanticizing all the good parts. This paradox is known as ‘euphoric recall,’ and it can happen once you start reflecting on all the joyous moments in a toxic situation.
That’s why writing down specific reasons motivating you to leave can help. Likewise, having access to this visual reminder offers direction for why you intend on moving forward.
Meet with a Therapist
Seeking therapy can be a first step in helping you come to terms with your decision. Therapy is confidential, meaning your clinician cannot disclose meeting with you or share details about your treatment without your written consent.
Some couples decide to pursue couples therapy to decide whether to end the marriage. While this may be an option, therapy is not a recommended choice for abusive relationships. Exploring your discomfort may trigger intense rage or more abuse. It’s more important that you can explore your hesitation and other emotions without worrying about your spouse’s opinion.
Look into Low-Cost or Free Mental Health Resources
Therapy doesn’t have to be expensive. If you have health insurance, start by asking for a list of in-network providers. You can also inquire about your co-pay (the amount you will pay for each session) and your out-of-pocket maximum (the total cost you will pay for all healthcare-related services).
You can also look into nonprofit health clinics or universities. Additionally, some therapists offer a sliding scale or pro bono services as part of their practice.
How to Get Out of a Bad Marriage with No Money? Be Discreet With Your Preparations
I’ve decided to end my marriage, but how do I prepare to leave my husband without him knowing?
It’s a valid question, especially in the context of abusive relationships. However, as a general rule, do not talk about divorce until you have your affairs in order. Ideally, you want to start brainstorming without your spouse’s awareness.
Start collecting any evidence of abuse or problems within your relationship. For example, if you have suspicious of your spouse having an affair, write down any red flags. If they are late to pick up the children after school, note it.
Having a paper trail helps organize your thoughts and build a case. If doubt starts creeping in, documentation can serve as a visual reminder that you’re making the right choice.
Start Earning Money
According to Laura Adams, MBA and personal finance expert, “if you don’t have a job or any stable income, that’s the first area of your finances to strengthen before leaving a marriage.
She recommends looking for work or creating self-employment income with a side hustle. Adams states you likely have plenty of skills that people or companies would pay for, such as organizing, cleaning, writing, tutoring, walking dogs, driving, and doing computer work.
Be Aware Of Tracking Warning Signs
Your spouse may have installed tracking software or apps on your phone without you knowing it. Hacking software can cause excess data usage, quick battery draining, and phone sluggishness.
As a precaution, make sure to keep your phone updated, delete any apps you don’t recognize, change your passcode regularly, and consider rebooting your phone back to factory settings. If you’re still concerned, use a public computer at the local library.
You might also want to look around for hidden cameras. These devices are small, but many people hide them in unsuspecting places like fake plants, books, smoke detectors, stuffed animals, electrical outlets, doorbells, and wall decor. Start by turning off the lights in the home and using a flashlight to scan the room.
Look into Any Financial Documents on Hand
While married, some people are entirely in the dark about money. If that applies to you, start getting a grip on your financial picture as best you can.
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You may need to start some digging. Peek into any bank statements or tax returns that arrive in the mail. If you happen to overhear your spouse discuss anything related to your finances, pay attention and make a note of it.
Open a PO Box
If you have any spare money, consider opening a PO box where any mail can wait in a locked box for you. You can use this box to redirect any attorney information or financial statements in your name.
While costs vary, rentals typically range between $20-$50 for a 3-month term. A PO box can also be practical if you live in-between places or reside in a high-theft area.
Open a Personal Bank Account
At a minimum, try to open your own checking account separate from your joint account. Do not share any username or password information with your spouse.
Some accounts require a minimum initial deposit, but many banks (especially online ones) will allow you to open one without any costs. If you start working, consider routing money to this account.
Consider Opening Your Own Credit Card
You may be able to secure a credit card if you have an existing credit score and can report your total household income. If you don’t have credit to your name, you can often use collateral to secure a card.
If needed, having credit offers you some financial security to float you through the next few months.
Find the Closest Food Pantry or Soup Kitchen
Food banks issue perishable and non-perishable food directly to low-income people. They also might provide toiletries, paper products, home supplies, and baby goods. For example, the US alone has more than 200 food banks serving more than 63,000 agencies.
Food banks have various distribution methods, but call your closest pantry to determine how their services work.
Be Selective With Social Media
Always assume that an attorney will comb through any social media posts to use against you. When in doubt, avoid sharing personal details in a public forum.
Be Careful In Telling Your Friends about Your Plans
You might be tempted to reach out to friends for moral support right now. That’s a normal reaction, but you should be cautious with disclosing your plans to any mutual friends.
It’s not fair to expect them to hold onto a massive secret. But, at the same time, it could lead to serious consequences should they spill your news to others (or your spouse).
Of course, you do need support. It may be helpful to consider joining a support group or leaning on close friends who don’t have a friendship or alliance with your spouse.
Be Willing to Be Vulnerable
Keeping your discreet nature in mind, it’s okay to ask for help. However, now is not the time to let pride get in your way.
Kimberly Perlin, licensed clinical social worker, recommends, “Find out who can help you in your circle – does a relative know of a job opening? Does anyone have an extra room where you can stay? Do you belong to a church that helps people in need?”
Seek Immediate Safety if Needed
I want to leave my husband but have no money and don’t know where I’ll stay tonight.
If you are concerned for your or your children’s imminent well-being, it’s critical to remove yourself from your home environment. Relationship abuse can quickly escalate, and taking your chances, and waiting can result in devastating consequences.
Remember that physical abuse isn’t the only red flag. Abuse comes in many different forms, including sexual coercion, emotional threats, name-calling, and financial control. Many times, the abuse follows a predictable pattern.
The abuser lashes out, making a promise to stop, only to repeat the same behavior. This cycle can undoubtedly impact your physical and emotional well-being.
If you’re suffering from abuse and worried about your safety, here are some quick, short-term, free options:
Reach out to a friend: Let a personal friend know about your situation and ask if you can stay with them. Make sure this person isn’t in contact with your partner. It’s best if you avoid sharing details with any mutual friends during this transition time.
Stay with family: Ask a trusted family member if you can stay with them. Be careful with this option, particularly if you spend a lot of time with this person and your spouse knows how to reach them or come to the house.
Reach out to a shelter: There are nearly 15,000 homeless shelters and social services in America. You and your children may be able to stay in a local shelter for immediate safety and relief.
In addition, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or contact 211 for essential community services.
Look Into Low-Cost Housing Options
Several government programs can help connect you with affordable housing. It’s essential to look into these options in advance, as some locations have long waiting lists.
Public housing: Public housing offers affordable housing for low-income families. You will need to connect with a public housing agency in your state. Each state has its own directory with various contact numbers and addresses.
Private housing: Some private landlords offer affordable rent because the government pays them. You can use a resource locator to find a place near you.
Housing choice voucher program: Formerly known as Section 8, the public choice voucher program enables you to find your own housing and use government support to pay for some or all of your rent. Eligibility varies, but the program will take your annual gross income, family size, and immigration status into account.
How to Get Out of a Bad Marriage with No Money? Start Researching How Much Things Cost
If you aren’t in acute danger, it may be beneficial to wait a few weeks or months to brainstorm your plan and save some money. But to really understand what lies ahead, you need to prepare yourself for potential expenses.
Here are some immediate costs to consider:
- Job-related expenses (if you plan to return to the workforce).
- Baby or child-related expenses.
These costs fluctuate wildly based on your location and individual circumstances. After leaving, money will be tight, but having some ballpark numbers in mind keeps you informed. If possible, consider getting a part-time job right now. Having some of your own cash gives you more options as you get ready to leave.
Secure Legal Counsel
How do I financially leave my husband? What are my options to make sure I protect myself and my children?
First things first, things might be tight. Even with support and some resources, this is going to be a stressful time. And unfortunately, when it comes to ending marriages, freedom tends to be costly.
Divorces can undoubtedly become messy, and it’s imperative that you secure your future for yourself and your children. Having legal support can make all the difference in moving you forward.
Prepare For Legal Costs
It’s crucial to understand various fee structures when you consult with lawyers. You may need to engage in a brief geographical search to determine the average cost for your area.
In some cases, according to Rajeh Saadeh, divorce and family law attorney, “it’s possible to get an award of attorney fees from your soon-to-be-ex to pay for the divorce lawyer you want to help get you to the finish line while vindicating your rights.”
Keep in mind that these instances tend to be rare. The judge will examine both you and your spouse’s financial resources and your behavior during the case. There
Hourly rates: You pay your lawyer a fixed amount for each hour they work on your case.
Flat rates: you pay your lawyer a single, predetermined rate for all services.
Retainers: You pay for legal services in advance (often coinciding with hourly rates)
You might be reading about these fees and asking yourself, But how do I get a divorce with no money? You still have viable options.
Pro Bono Lawyers
Numerous federal grants subsidize various legal service offices that provide legal resources to low-income people. Additionally, some lawyers offer pro bono services as part of their practice.
Most legal aid offices only offer support for people below a certain income threshold. To find a service near you, try a Google search using the terms “free legal services” or “pro bono lawyers near me.”
Law School Clinics
Many law schools have programs facilitated by law professors and run by current law students. Students gain experience practicing law under supervision, and you can receive excellent counsel free of charge.
Consider conducting an online search for local law schools in your area. Ask if their programs offer any low-cost or free legal counsel.
Local Court Programs
Gabrielle Hartley, divorce attorney, mediator, and divorce strategy coach, agrees that divorce can be expensive. She recommends checking out your local court resources to begin your process.
According to her, “The Access to Justice initiatives across the country are providing services that make things a bit easier. For example, many jurisdictions across the U.S. allow for fee waivers in cases where it’s the only way forward.
This typically will mean that you will not have to pay for filing or service of process expenses. Today many states have all the necessary paperwork online ready for you to fill out and file. Also, some courts have programs such as “lawyer for the day,” which give people the opportunity to sign up to speak with a free lawyer for a consultation. While this rarely is enough to get you through the divorce process, it may help move things along and help you to save money.”
DIY Divorce Options (Proceed With Caution)
Hartley acknowledges that the “the Do It Yourself Craze is here, and the divorce world has gone crazy for it! DIY platforms offer a high-tech, interactive way to get divorced than simply filing paperwork (but it’s significantly less costly than hiring professionals).
She indicates that the cost ranges from several hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars depending on the support you need. Hello Divorce, It’s Over Easy, and The Quick Divorce offer these kinds of services.
Most of these platforms are regional, but if you Google search “do it yourself divorce,” you should be able to find one near you. That said, Hartley recommends always having a lawyer review your paperwork before filing. Even though that will cost money, inexpensive divorces can turn out to be incredibly costly.
If you have debts or children, divorce becomes invariably more complicated. According to Douglas Noll, lawyer and professional mediator, most low-income couples need mediation, a process that entails negotiation about debt divisions and parenting plans.
According to Noll, “the mediator should be trained and experienced in family law matters. An internet search will uncover appropriate mediators. Today, couples are not limited to local mediators. Most mediators have gone virtual because of the pandemic, which means couples have a national pool of mediators to choose from.
The cost of mediation will vary by the quality of the mediator. However, expect the mediator to charge $2,500 to $5,000. In addition, one of the parties will have to engage a family law lawyer to draft the marital settlement agreement and the legal paperwork and file everything with the court. That will usually cost another $1,500 to $2,500. While $7,500 may sound like a lot of money, the average cost of a contested divorce is now $100,000.”
Getting Back on Your Feet Financially
Now that you know how to leave your husband when you have no money, it’s time to focus on moving forward. First, you will need to pay close attention to your finances and build a new nest egg.
Make a Budget
Keep detailed track of how and where any money is going. You can use a pen-and-paper method or download a free app and sync it with your bank account and credit card.
Focus On Building an Emergency Fund
Do your very best to set aside a percentage of money each month. This may take time, but it’s always worth the effort. Unexpected expenses will occur, and lack of financial stability can make challenging surprises seem catastrophic.
Ask Friends and Family for a Loan
If you need cash fast, consider reaching out to your network for support. This option is almost always better than payday loan companies offering short-term, high-interest-rate loans. Payday loans often create a vicious debt trap that can feel impossible to escape.
Make a Debt Plan
Divorce leaves many people in debt. However, financial institutions want to work with you to make a reasonable payment plan. Try to focus on paying one debt at a time, and prioritize the highest interest rates first.
Determine if you are eligible for any low-rate balance transfers. If you struggle with credit cards, cut them off and turn to cash instead.
Keep Building Your Credit
Get a secured credit card if needed. They require an initial deposit equal to the line of credit offered. Then, use the card and pay off the total balance each month to start establishing credit. Make sure your ex is removed from any shared credit card amounts.
Review Health Insurance Options
You may lose health insurance coverage after a divorce, particularly if you received it through your spouse’s employer. However, try not to go without coverage- any gaps can be extremely costly if something happens.
Focus On Earning More Income
Now is the time to double down on making money. Offer to take any overtime work. Consider taking a side gig to earn extra cash. Apply for a second job if you need it.
Be careful of any companies that require you to pay to work for them. These multi-level marketing organizations often prey on vulnerable populations by promising limitless amounts of money- in reality, most people earn very little to nothing.
Change Any Beneficiaries
If you have a will, insurance policies, or retirement accounts, your ex-spouse may be the beneficiary. You will need to look into these policies and make the appropriate changes.
How to Get Out of a Bad Marriage with No Money? Final Thoughts
Learning how to leave your husband when you have nothing can feel daunting, but knowledge is the first movement towards taking action.
If you’re still asking yourself, how can I get out of a bad marriage? remember that you can take things one step at a time. There are people and resources available to help you. You don’t have to fight this battle alone.
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