The Retrograde Ideas About Women & Money That Make Divorce Even Harder

A cautionary tale with some advice, if you’re headed for a split

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Divorce is hard on women. We know. But does it need to be this hard, for such stupid reasons, in the year of our lord 2016? For Bust, Dena Landon details some of the many trials she went through, imposed on her by various bureaucracies and financial institutions, while trying to decouple from her husband. She begins the section about her house with, “I thought it would be easy.”

Two years of bank statements, all retirement statements, two years of taxes, two years of W-2’s, the last four months savings account statements, two months of paystubs, and on-going requests for more supporting documentation. At least twice what had been requested of me when I’d previously applied for mortgages (both pre and post the subprime meltdown).

Finally, in exasperation, I exclaimed to my mortgage broker, “You know I have the cash to just pay off the damned thing, right? Why are you asking for so much information?”

His response: Well, my underwriter needs this information because it’s going from two people on the mortgage to one. And, you know, you’re the wife. So there are some concerns.

Landon works full-time, so imagine how much less pleasant this process would be if she had been a dependent.

She points out that, in many ways, she’s lucky: she’s educated, she’s articulate, she has a good job with a boss who lets her have the time she needs to wait in endless lines at the DMV. Not everyone has these privileges, especially less well-off women and women in abusive situations — many of whom cite financial pressures as the reason they return to the partner they had tried to leave.

I have the knowledge to go toe to toe with bankers trying to convince me they can hold onto large checks for thirty days, or who want to talk to my ex-husband about an account he’s never been on before they’ll talk to me. And I had an ex-husband who was motivated to get himself off the accounts, too. But many women, particularly low-income women, do not have these advantages. …

By not considering the needs of all their customers, many of these institutions are contributing to circumstances that keep women in unhealthy and abusive relationships.


  • Go through your paperwork. Are you, a lady, listed second to your spouse on the title of, say, your car? Are you ever the primary account holder? Maybe get that fixed now, in case.
  • Sexism doesn’t require malice; sometimes, just laziness will do. Institutional laziness, on the part of companies who assume they will and should be dealing with a man, and individual laziness, too, on the part of spouses who assume that their partners will either always be there or will, in the case of divorce, still act with their best interests at heart. But sexism also doesn’t need to be malicious to have destructive, time-consuming, and expensive repercussions on your life.
  • Oh, and companies?

When I called to remove him each and every company insisted on speaking with the ‘primary account holder.’ The man. As much as I try to not lose my temper with customer service representatives, by the fifth phone call I’ll admit to losing it. “Why was he put first on the account? It was my account!” And, time after time, I heard, “The husband is just put first automatically.”

Stop being dicks.

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