Four Sources to Consider When Restructuring Your Income Post-Divorce

If you are a non-working spouse going through a divorce, it’s important to fully understand your sources of income and determine whether you need to return to work to supplement your maintenance payments and other income-generating assets. Even if your former spouse made a good living, the combination of a high cost of living in Colorado and your preferred lifestyle might mean it may be in your best interest to return to full-time employment and/or enroll in career training to become employable. 

In this post, we’ll outline the top four sources of post-divorce income to consider as you evaluate and restructure your finances during the divorce process, and what these income streams mean for future financial needs.

1. Income from Child Support 

If children are part of your divorce, you’ll likely be awarded child support until your children reach the age of 19 in Colorado. This payment is based on the number of overnights you have with your children, each parents’ income (including maintenance, if any), the age of the children, childcare needs, healthcare needs, and other potential costs. This child support payment can fluctuate if there are changes in the child’s living situation or income changes for the parents. Logistically, this income should be used to provide the same standard of living to the child as the other spouse, and because this income stream is temporary, it’s best to rely very little or at all on this contributing income for your lifestyle. Therefore, doing your best to a build a budget that does not require this income to pay your bills, qualify for loans, and pay for your own lifestyle choices is the most financially prudent direction from a long-term perspective because at some point this income will stop.

2. Income from Maintenance

Finalized as part of your divorce settlement, Maintenance income is the result of income disparity between spouses. Maintenance, sometimes called rehabilitation support, can be structured several ways. The goal of Maintenance is to provide support for the lower-earning spouse to re-enter the workforce so that they can eventually provide for themselves financially, ideally by the time the maintenance payments end, or retire. In Colorado, the duration of Maintenance is usually based on the length of the marriage whereas the amount of Maintenance is based on each party’s annual income. Therefore, like child support, this income stream could change but at some point in the future, will end.

The duration of Maintenance, along with your age, plays a large role in how this payment will impact your future. For example, if you receive Maintenance until you are eligible for retirement benefits, you may not need to return to the workforce. On the other hand, if you are 45 years old with a maintenance award of 10 years, you should work on your career and ways to supplement your maintenance income unless you have adequate assets to live off of for the rest of your life, essentially retiring early. Adequate retirement planning, no matter your age, could provide insight on whether you need to re-enter the workforce and at what level.

3. Income from Earnings 

If you do decide to work on your career and re-enter the workforce, you’ll undoubtedly have more power and control over your income. This stream of income can last forever and has ancillary benefits, such as retirement savings, healthcare, and other professional financial perks. Skills you acquire through going back into the workforce and the associated income you’ll earn with those skills can’t be taken away from you. Even if you get laid off, you’ll likely receive some sort of severance along with maintaining the skills you need to be employable elsewhere. Therefore, your earnings are an extremely valuable and empowering asset for a stable financial future. 

If you are raising kids, balancing a great number of priorities, and not accustomed to also working on top of these responsibilities, it can feel overwhelming to imagine full-time employment. If you are considering career training, evaluate the types of jobs that might fit your lifestyle. For example, while your children are young, consider careers that more commonly provide work-from-home options to help you balance your existing responsibilities. Since COVID, there are many more employers who offer work-at-home opportunities.

Your earnings are the most flexible and abundant source of income and can be the most dependable asset in your financial future.

4. Income from Other Assets

It’s possible that you’ll divide assets in your divorce that provide monthly income. These assets might include investment dividends and interest, rental property income, passive business income, and more. Depending on how these assets are managed and structured, they could provide steady income for a long period of time or disappear completely. It’s important to work with your financial advisor to evaluate the level of risk and reward you might encounter with these less common forms of income to make sure they last for as long as possible or are used in an appropriate manner that reflects your goals and priorities. 

If you don’t earn as much as your former spouse, consider conserving these assets or taking steps to reduce your risk. For example, rental property income can be fruitful until you can’t find consistent renters or need to make significant improvements to the rental home, which you may not have the funds to address. Similarly, these types of assets can lose substantial value and you may want to liquidate or withdraw the assets for specific purposes. Your financial advisor can help you retain and stretch the assets for as long as possible. 

At A.M. Financial, we provide support to individuals going through a divorce by designing budgets that align with financial goals, discussing asset division strategy, and modelling retirement plans. We offer a free consultation to learn more about your unique situation. Contact us to schedule yours today.