By Allison Mifsud
Few of us expect to be living back with our parents in our adult life but it becomes a reality for many in the days after marital separation. Friends’ sofas and spare rooms are also possibilities, as are hotel rooms or serviced apartments in some instances. The transition between living in your family home and setting up two new separate lives, post-separation or divorce is complex and painful in almost every case. But as you scratch your head in the ‘divorce-what next’ phase, know that there are solutions – it will just take the essential ingredients of patience and time.
As your family navigates through the emotional trauma, solutions are put in place that solve immediate problems. But over the long term, more permanent decisions must be made. The financial toll of this can be significant, not just in the aftermath, but on your long term financial goals as well.
Setting up a 2nd home for your children to share time with you can be impossible in some cases. Moving back in with your parents may be the last option you’d consider but, on a short-term basis, it not only reduces the financial pressure on you, it also provides a little extra support for the children by having loving, and hopefully unbiased grandparents around. Of course, this is not an option for everyone so more creative solutions sometimes need to be found.
The immediate priority is to find a place to live and if you are already paying all of the family’s existing living expenses, adding a 2nd residence to that can be costly. Consider the most inexpensive option you have and work out how long you could use that as a solution. Once you have the time frames clear, you can also work out how much money you can realistically save during that time to put towards a property purchase in the future.
Sometimes the biggest dilemma is prioritising between the emotional needs of your children (assuming children are involved in your situation) and the financial needs of your family. Moving into a small cheap studio by yourself and only seeing the children at the family home or in public places (parks, beach, movies etc) might make better financial sense but can be heart breaking when what was once a part of your everyday gets reduced to a few hours, once or twice a week.
It’s important to remember that this period of rebuilding your life after divorce is hopefully only temporary. Giving yourself a year or two to focus on rebuilding will make better sense in the long run. Over committing yourself in the midst of the fallout can be disastrous and you may never be able to get back in front again financially.
A going-back-to-basics approach can be emotionally therapeutic - sometimes we have to lose everything to realise what it is we really want. It can be difficult to adjust to a dramatic lifestyle change if you no longer live in the family home, and much of the grief that divorcees experience is the loss of their hopes and dreams built around a future taken as a given. The best way around that is to plan a whole new version of it!
The first step may be to invest small in something that solves a problem or has some potential to boost your savings. Choosing some creative accommodation options such as buying a small house boat or some kind of relocatable home, means you have a place to live without the burden of high ongoing living expenses. If you have accommodation sorted out, buying a car space in an up and coming commercial area may be a good way to invest in the short term, to generate some passive income and have the option to sell down the track at a much higher price. If you have a little extra capital to play with, why not stay with a good friend for a while and buy a studio apartment as an investment to get the ball rolling? Or maybe a 2 bedroom apartment that has space for the kids, as well as doubling as a short-term holiday listing when they aren’t there?
The recovery period won’t be easy but if you are patient and strategic, it can be revelatory and in the end, empowering for everyone involved. The important thing is to look after the emotional wellbeing of those you love. Try to make solid sensible decisions that provide solutions and help you on your way to rebuilding a brand new future.