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<xTITLE>What’s in Your Wallet? (Do You Know?)</xTITLE>

What’s in Your Wallet? (Do You Know?)

by Joy Rosenthal
December 2019

Joy Rosenthal's Mediation Blog

Joy Rosenthal

One of the things that I’ve noticed when I mediate is that one person in a couple is often much more financially literate than the other. What do I mean by this? That one person has a better sense of what things cost, what the family needs, and what their financial futures might be. Often one person pays the bills and the other person has only a vague idea of what the household budget is — just that the credit card is paid each month.

This often surprises me, but it shouldn’t. We are not really taught in school how to deal with money the way we are taught how to read. Most of us are not formally taught how to figure out a budget, how to keep track of expenses, or which obligations to pay first. We might learn this from our parents — or might not. Just as it is important for both adults in a household to know how to cook or to do the laundry, it is important for both partners to know how to pay the bills and manage a budget.

This really hits home when couples are thinking about living in two households. One of the most challenging aspects of divorce (at least in New York City where housing costs are sky-high) is to stretch the budget — that used to be just enough for one home — to cover two homes. Thus, it is especially important for both partners to be financially literate — that is, at least to understand what they have coming in, what their expenses are, and to come up with a plan for how to fill in the gap. (Hint: either increase income or decrease expenses.)

It can be quite overwhelming. Sometimes I see the less financially oriented person give up, saying something like, I’m an artist — or stay-at-home parent, or dreamer — you know I don’t think that way. And this might be the first time in their adult life that they have to deal with such mundane things as making sure the light bill gets paid.

In this type of situation, I often recommend working with a financial coach — someone who can educate and guide the less sophisticated partner, to help them make smart financial decisions.

There is a whole industry built around divorce financial planning, and there are some wonderful resources available. Here are a few:

Do you have any favorite tools or resources that you’d recommend? Please email me and let me know!

Facing a new life on your own can be daunting. Don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it.


Joy S. Rosenthal, Esq. is a compassionate mediator, a skilled negotiator and an intelligent litigator with extensive background in the private and public sectors. Joy served as a Staff Attorney at the Legal Aid Society's Juvenile Rights Division for nearly 10 years, where she represented hundreds of children and teenagers in foster care, child welfare, custody, adoption, PINS (Person in Need of Supervision) and delinquency cases in the Bronx and in Brooklyn. Joy was honored to be selected for a one year fellowship at New York University School of Law's Family Defense Clinic, teaching law students to represent parents in child welfare proceedings. Joy founded Rosenthal Law & Mediation in 2006. The firm's practice centers on family and estates law, as well as family-based mediation. In addition to her private practice, she mediates custody and visitation disputes for the New York City Family Courts and serves as a Guardian Ad Litem, protecting the rights of youth and the disabled in New York City Surrogates Courts. She also serves as President of the Board of Directors of the Family and Divorce Mediation Council.

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