For your entire life, you have prided yourself on making wise financial decisions. You worked to pay off your undergraduate degree, putting in 30 hours a week while taking classes. You bought used cars. You found cheap places to live with roommates.

When you got married, you kept making good financial choices, but now you had to make them on two incomes. Your spouse actually earned a little more than you. Trusting that income, you bought a house and a new car — things you had always wanted but never thought you could afford. You also went to graduate school, taking out loans to pay for it. With multiple incomes, you could still make ends meet.

However, now your spouse has asked for a divorce, and it’s become something of a financial reckoning. All of those “good” decisions do not look nearly as good anymore.

The impact of divorce

Experts do warn that divorce can have a massive financial impact, and they’re not even really referring to the cost of the divorce itself. Some have gone so far as to call divorce “one of the most financially devastating events in a person’s life.”

Depending on your assets, you may feel like you lose some in the actual split. Your spouse takes assets that you thought of as your own, for instance, even though you both owned them jointly. This is the first financial impact.

The true issues become clear, though, when you drop back down to one income. Most couples with two incomes make all of their financial choices based on the combined value. That lifestyle is not sustainable when you split up.

For instance, maybe the graduate school you chose is so expensive that it takes up nearly all of your income. However, your spouse made enough to pay for the house and the car, plus the rest of your bills. You felt fine taking on that debt, knowing you were essentially living for free.

After the divorce, you have to cover all those costs yourself. As a couple, your costs increase. You need a place to live and so does your ex. You may downsize, but that’s still two rent payments or two mortgage payments. You both need cars. You have your own utilities. The overall financial cost of two people living alone is higher, and now you are doing it on one income.

Debt relief options

Divorce is one way that people fall into debt, and this is one example of how it can happen. The key is to understand that you can make good financial decisions and still find yourself facing incredible debt. That’s when it is so important to know about all of your debt relief options.