What I Learned From My Mom’s Post Divorce Financial Journey

Gabrielle Hartley, Esq.

By Gabrielle Hartley, Esq. | Aug 25th, 2019

I can remember when my parents split, my mom had no sense of money whatsoever. She was, and is, an incredibly talented and prolific artist. After traveling the world and studying with the best, she settled down to marry my father and raise me and my bro while she stayed home and made art.  But then, in her early thirties, when their marriage fell apart, she had to figure out a way to keep it together; if not for herself, then for my brother and me.

Her Masters in fine arts just wasn’t going to make the cut to support our family, even with my father’s child support. As a bit of a free thinking, artistic, hip NYC woman raised in the 50s and 60’s she envisioned herself as a famous artist in the trendiest circles. And she showed and sold her art consistently but not enough to support our family. 

So, reluctantly she pulled herself up by her bootstraps and began substitute teaching and attending classes to become a teacher. My mother sat down nine-ish-year-old me and told me in no uncertain terms “get a career so you can support yourself; you never want to depend on anyone else for your money.”

In my younger years, I felt quite envious of my friends who hadn’t been delivered this harsh message at a young age. Internally, I felt somehow robbed of my youth by this enlightening news. A lifetime later, I now feel so grateful for the incredible modeling my mother did. She started from scratch and rebuilt her financial life one step at a time. Patiently accepting the shift in perspective that she made ultimately allowed her to find great joy in her work. While she had imagined her life on a certain path, with some clear focus and attention she was able to take a step back and move forward.

My mother powerfully modeled for me that way to change your financial story is by shifting your internal narrative. One story and one moment at a time.

At the time when my parents separated, many women felt forced to live in poverty until they remarried or moved in with family.  As slow as progress may feel, actually financial trends for divorcing women are finally beginning to shift. Worthy’s divorce financial study shows that today, 44% of women view their divorce as a chance to reinvent themselves and nearly 91% of divorcing women see their divorce as an opportunity to focus on their career by working, studying or starting a business. So, while fear of financial ruin often exists at the point of divorce, this research strongly indicates that the tide is starting to shift. My mother powerfully modeled for me that the way to change your financial story is by shifting your internal narrative. One story and one moment at a time.

Today, in addition to teaching teachers, my mother is a prolific textile artist and her work can be seen across many designer collections. When I began working as a divorce attorney I quickly realized how common my mother’s story was. Although the facts and circumstances are not identical, it is all too common for women, even the most educated among us, to have a very limited understanding of personal finances. More often than not, filling out the financial disclosure document is an emotionally wrought and complicated task. If you’re overwhelmed with the task of unravelling your financial situation, just know that you are not alone. And, above all, don’t be afraid to ask questions. In my practice, I have helped countless women take a big step back and put the pieces of their financial lives together one step at a time. While you never know the twists and turns your personal life may take, it’s never too late to take control of your financial circumstances to move meaningfully and powerfully forward. 

Gabrielle Hartley, Esq.

Gabrielle Hartley, Esq.

Gabrielle Hartley Esq, is an author, family law attorney, mediator, case closer, and speaker.  She founded The Positive Divorce Movement and is the creator of The Better Apart Method.

What I Learned From My Mom's Post Divorce Financial Journey

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