09/12/2012 12:35 pm ET Updated Nov 12, 2012

Money & Divorce: Keeping it Together When Your Marriage Falls Apart

For Women & Co. by Rikki Endsley,

Regardless of how amicable -- or unexpected -- your divorce might be, your heart might not be the only thing that ends up battered. Your piggy bank could be busted, too. With a positive attitude and a willingness to adjust your priorities as you divide your assets, you can come out of a divorce happy, healthy and not homeless.

In October 2011, I made the leap to quit my job and start my freelance writing and editing business, with financial help from my husband. Less than a week later, I discovered that my Mr. Right was breaking wedding vows, and before giving a second thought to the measly savings in my personal account, I called a lawyer. Now I'm a divorced, cash-strapped, 42-year-old single mother. Surprisingly, I've never been happier.

How did I do it? My advice:

Use your network for moral and financial support.
Reach out to your friends, family, or other support networks, such as members of your church, your therapist, or divorced women in your community. The same day I decided to get divorced, members of my network offered to loan me money, give me extra freelance work so I could bring in quick income, help with childcare and shared practical financial advice.

Avoid retail therapy.
Or at least do it with your divorce and finances in mind. During my divorce, I treated myself to a do-it-yourself pedicure one afternoon followed by a pair of "new" peep-toe heels, which I purchased from a resale shop. All that pampering really perked me up, and I was only out $11.

Listen to your lawyer.
Do you want to fight over your flat-screen television, or do you want to save the legal fees and get on with your life? Your lawyer should help you get past your emotions and make practical financial decisions so you don't lose everything in the divorce.

Reassess your entertainment.
My daughter and I rarely eat out at restaurants anymore. Instead, I spend more on groceries and occasionally grill. We've both lost a few pounds, which is another incentive to stick with this new cost-saving measure. We also save money by watching movies on Netflix instead of at the theater, and we attend free community events, such as farmer's markets, art openings and festivals.

Rethink your happiness.
How does a divorced single mom get over the end of her marriage? Picture divorce as a beginning, instead. With a clean slate in mind, I decided to get out of my comfort zone, challenge myself and make new friends. Instead of joining an online dating service, I joined a local runner's group. Running fits my tight little budget and helps me process the roller coaster of emotions I feel as my divorce wounds continue to heal. I've also met dozens of new people and formed fresh friendships. You had an idea of a happily ever after when you got married, and now, with more experience under your belt, you have the opportunity to redefine it.

Give yourself time.
I still don't have the financial cushion I'd hoped to have at this point in my life, but starting over takes time and patience. Expecting to feel financially secure right after my divorce was unrealistic, so I continue to remind myself that recovering will take at least months, and more likely, years.

The one-year anniversary of filing for my divorce falls on October 20, 2012, and I've decided not to measure my post-divorce financial success based on my bank balance. Instead, my success is measured by my ability to keep moving ahead, which is why I plan to run a local marathon that day with several friends. Divorce can mean a fresh start instead of financial disaster, so make the most of your new happily ever after.

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