Divorce and Money
It doesn’t matter whether you and your spouse are worth $50,000 or $50 million, deciding what to do about the assets and debts from your marriage and resolving other money-related matters is a very important part of your divorce. The advice and assistance of the collaborative financial professional in your divorce will be extremely valuable when you are making those decisions. A collaborative financial professional can help you and your spouse (with legal advice from attorneys) make informed financial decisions. Almost all of these decisions have short- and long-term impact on your future financial stability. Some of the most important are:
- Dividing the assets from your marriage, including the marital home. Deciding if one party will keep the marital home or if it will be sold (or some combination of plans) is often an emotional subject. This decision will have a great impact on the future financial stability of the restructured family. The Collaborative financial professional can provide unbiased information on the implications of either of the parties maintaining the home after a divorce. Or, the Collaborative financial professional can help the parties determine an “affordability” range for their future homes. The Collaborative financial professional can also give you some common sense input about which assets may be easiest to transfer between spouses as part of a divorce.
- Dividing the debts from your marriage. The more debts you owe, the more challenging it is to ensure that you aren’t liable for your ex-spouse’s debts after a divorce. The Collaborative financial professional can offer some options to minimize this possibility.
- Meeting your children’s financial needs. A thoughtful plan at the time of divorce for meeting your children’s expenses will minimize the potential for future conflict.
- Providing insurance for the parties and children after divorce. In many cases, one spouse has employer-provided health insurance covering the entire family. It is often helpful to review the available options to determine what makes the most financial and practical sense for health insurance going forward for both the former spouses and the children. In addition, life insurance policies can often provide post-divorce security for children if either of the parties dies.
What do financial neutrals do on the Collaborative team? A neutral financial professional is a licensed Certified Public Accountants (CPA) and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) who helps you to make informed decision about your financial future. The financial neutral will gather, organize and help you understand the financial information relating to your divorce. Financial professionals are trained in the collaborative divorce process and joins the collaborative team as neutrals – they will not be on your side or your spouse’s side. Their role is to help you understand enough about your finances to make informed decisions. The neutral Collaborative financial professional can help you and your spouse:
- Gather and organize required financial information
- Verify information about your estate
- Develop realistic financial goals for the future
- Become educated about financial matters related to the divorce
- Prepare future household cash-flow plans and projections
- Prepare plans to meet current and future expenses for children
- Develop settlement options and analyze the pros and cons of different ways to resolve the financial aspects of your case
- Provide specialized tax calculations and analysis
- Identify separate-property or other financial claims
- Help with placing values on businesses, real property or other assets of the marital estate
Divorce and Children
Many factors that determine a child’s adjustment to divorce are beyond your control, but are important nonetheless. For instance, research has shown that children under the age of five initially experience the most pain from parental separation, but over time they are better able to adjust to divorce than older children. Boys appear to have more short-term difficulties, while girls are more likely to exhibit effects of a divorce over a longer period of time.
Perhaps the single most important factor in determining how your children adjust to the divorce is something parents do control: how they interact with each other. Almost all divorcing couples will experience a certain amount of hostility toward each other during their divorce, and that conflict sometimes continues for a time following the divorce while the family adjusts to its new structure. But when conflict continues for years, the negative consequences for the children can be profound. The more intense the conflict between parents, the greater the potential for damage to children. Likewise, the longer conflict continues, the greater the risk of long-term negative effects on children. You and your ex-spouse may be raising children together for years to come, and working towards an effective co-parenting relationship from the moment you make the decision to divorce is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children.
Children love both parents, and see themselves as being part mom and part dad. When one parent attacks the other – even where no physical violence is present – children feel personally injured. Avoid discussing these subjects with and around your children:
- negative comments about the other parent (and their family and friends)
- the divorce process and events leading up to it
- money in the context of child support
- details of the other parent’s life or your children’s time with their other parent
- the other parent’s relationships
You damage your children and inhibit their ability to adjust to a new situation when you put them in the middle of communication between parents. Never ask a child to keep secrets or to spy on their other parent. Give your child the space and support to love both parents. If you have questions about parenting practices in the other parent’s home, check it out with the other parent before you discuss the situation with your children. If a child reports an event that seems troubling, say, “I need to talk with your mom/your dad about that.” You can then gather necessary information, and you are sending a clear message to your child that you and their other parent are united where children are concerned.
While it is crucial to support and listen to your children, it is impossible (and unwise) for parents to be children’s sole source of support and comfort during and after divorce. Children are often highly attuned to a parent’s emotional state and children can take on the task of helping mom or dad to feel better — sometimes at the expense of their own emotional well-being. In addition, children typically find it difficult to be completely open with their parents about their experience of the divorce. Both parents will likely be more emotionally fragile than normal as they find their own ways to heal and regroup after divorce, so outside resources can be most helpful.
Information about helping children adjust to divorce is frequently available at the community level through child and family service agencies, and many therapists specialize in helping families transition through divorce. Therapy provides a safe place for a child to speak openly and attend to his or her needs without having to worry about hurting a parent’s feelings. School teachers are excellent sources of information about how your child is adjusting outside of the home, and school counselors can be a good starting point for conversations between your child and a therapist. Find more resources on children and divorce on our Divorce Resources page.
The collaborative divorce process gives parents the opportunity to divorce in a way that will preserve that important part of their relationship that involves raising children. The collaborative divorce process brings a team of professionals together including child specialists to help parents to restructure their relationship in an environment that does not pit them against each other, but can instead help them create new, more effective ways to communicate and work together for the benefit of all concerned.
Coping with Divorce
Now is the time to take care of yourself. The emotional stress of divorce can manifest itself in any number of ways. One person might be more susceptible to illness than usual; another might find it hard to concentrate at work; you might have far less patience with the people you care about. It is critical for you to find ways to help you relieve stress and stay centered.
Strategies for maintaining your health throughout your divorce include:
- Physical activities such as exercise, yoga and meditation are excellent ways to turn off your thinking, which is typically working in overdrive (and not necessarily for your benefit) during a divorce. Bodywork like massage can also be very effective for releasing emotion and restoring balance.
- A professional therapist can help you sort through your feelings and provide a place for you to unload some of the overwhelming emotions that tend to dominate people during divorce. If powerful emotions are not directly addressed and defused, that they will manifest in other ways, often unexpectedly and sometimes destructively.
- Many communities offer divorce recovery groups, which typically provide an outlet for processing emotions and a peer group that can be a wonderful source of support.
- If you enjoy writing, journaling can be an effective way of expressing and processing emotions.
- Supportive family and friends are great resources – accept their kindness. Those who do not support your happiness but want to stir up drama are not people you can count on now. You will surely get lots of well-meaning advice. While this is informative, you are ultimately best served by listening to your own feelings and the advice of unbiased professional resources. Asking yourself, “What do I need right now?” can help you access the right resource in the moment.
- Be gentle and generous with yourself during this challenging time – this is the rainy day that you have always saved for. Seek the courage to experience this painful transition as deeply as you can bear. In doing so, you will ultimately find relief, compassion and understanding.
Divorces resolved through the collaborative divorce model are less traumatic than litigated divorces, but that does not mean they are easy. Most of the legal side of your divorce requires you to make business decisions – right at the time when you are not thinking clearly. Doing your best to handle your emotions outside of the joint meeting room will result in a smoother process and a more beneficial result for all concerned.
Maintaining Privacy in Your Divorce
Divorce can be a public affair. Information in a traditional, litigated divorce is often part of the public record. Multiple motions (some with affidavits alleging bad behavior attached), pleadings, lists of assets, and sworn statements are all filed with the court clerk. In most cases anyone, regardless of their motives, can view and copy documents. Hearings are held in open court for which transcripts are readily available. For some people, that is not a concern. For others, the threat of publicity can become a coercive weapon.
You have options that can protect your privacy in divorce. Protecting privacy has developed into one of the most important advantages of collaborative divorce. Almost everyone has an interest in keeping some information out of the public eye. Details about people’s personal lives, habits, health and relationships are generally considered not to be for publication. Likewise, business executives and professionals do not want friends, relatives or competitors to know details about their business or profession. The collaborative divorce model provides a safe, private venue for clients who must deal with family law matters. Minimal paperwork is filed with the court, and the papers that are filed generally contain no facts specific to the people involved in the case. The only time anyone goes to court in a Collaborative case is to make a short appearance to get a judge to grant the agreed divorce on terms to which the husband and wife have agreed.
Taking Control of Your Divorce
The following is a list of the top ten strategies for helping you maintain control in your divorce:
- Decide what is most important to you and your family in your divorce. Gather as much divorce information as you can to make an informed decision on the divorce process that is best for you.
- Surround yourself with professionals whose expertise you respect and trust. This is the time to ask for and receive help to support you through your divorce.
- Make sure you’re physically safe. Courts can issue restraining orders and protective orders, but they’re just pieces of paper. If you feel that you and/or your children are physically unsafe, call the authorities.
- Take care of yourself physically. Find a way to release stress, move your body and clear out your mind. Coping with divorce will be one of your greatest challenges.
- Find an attorney who fits your style and personality. Remember, you’re the boss. Your attorney should tell you your options, explain the consequences and costs of each choice, and then let you decide what to do next.
- Determine how you will pay your living expenses when you are no longer married. If you need education, find out where to get it, how long it will take and how much it will cost. If you need to change jobs or get a job, do that before you are desperate for money, if possible.
- Learn as much as you can about your financial situation before you separate. Make copies of old records, go through the files and consult with your accountant.
- Join or create a support group. Family, friends, church members, colleagues, neighbors – anyone except your children. There are churches, therapists and other professionals who run divorce support groups. Find the same thing for your children. Many school counselors run ongoing groups for students whose parents are divorced or divorcing.
- Look at the big picture. It is easy to get caught up in small matters that are irritating now, but that won’t matter in the long run. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
- Encourage your children to have a positive relationship with their other parent. When they go to his or her house, tell them to have a good time. Don’t talk bad about the other parent to the children or in front of the children.
Life After Divorce
As with any loss, you will go through stages of grief, ideally arriving at a state of acceptance. Not only does this afford you the peace and contentment you so richly deserve, it also positions you to make clear and thoughtful decisions regarding your future. Take the time to process the loss: accept the love and support of your family and friends, see a therapist and talk through your emotional experience, join a divorce recovery group, explore meditation or yoga. Allow this loss to find a place in your identity that doesn’t define that identity, but instead enriches it. If you find yourself unable to break free of an overwhelming sense of grief, seek professional help.
Divorce frequently brings changes to your social life. Engaging in activities that you enjoy, that bring you into contact with others who have similar interests, can be an excellent way to explore new social networks and make new friends: take a cooking class, join a cycling group, look up the local chapter of the Sierra Club, volunteer for an organization you support. This is a time to explore and rediscover what brings you joy. If you are feeling peaceful about your divorce, with some understanding of what happened and how to minimize the chances of history repeating itself, you’ll bring a great foundation to new relationships. If the wound is still raw, consider concentrating on new friendships instead of romance for the moment.
No matter how you and your ex managed finances, once divorced you are responsible for establishing and maintaining a household entirely on your own. This is a good time to assess your financial situation, establish some goals, and begin working with a budget. Draw up a new will, plan for retirement and organize your affairs to reflect your newly independent status. Finances can be a tremendous source of anxiety as you launch your new life, and gathering information to help you understand your situation and enable you to make informed decisions can go a long way towards addressing that anxiety.
If you’re a parent, a lot has changed for your family as a result of this divorce. The best gift you can give yourself and your children is to establish a workable parenting relationship with your ex-spouse. Start a dialogue as soon as possible to lay the groundwork for a two-household approach to parenting.
Establishing a life after divorce can be daunting, but it can also be exciting. This IS an opportunity, with lots of changes and – perhaps – some tremendous improvements. It’s a time for exploration; a time to see what feels good to you and fits in your life. You may try some things and say, “Never again!” but the opportunity is there to get in touch with some undiscovered parts of yourself. As much as you can, stay open and courageous!
Books on Divorce
Books about Divorce and Co-Parenting:
- Boyan, Susan Blyth and Termini, Ann Marie; Cooperative Parenting and Divorce; Active Parenting Publishers; 1999.
- Brumley, Janet P. and Fairchild, Lori; Divorce Without Disaster: Collaborative Law in Texas.
- Garrity, Carla B. and Baris, Mitchell A.; Caught in the Middle: Protecting the Children of High-Conflict Divorce; Jossey-Bass, Inc.; 1994.
- Neumann, M. Gary; Helping Your Kids Cope With Divorce the Sandcastles Way; New York: Random House; 1998.
- Ricci, Isolina; Mom’s House, Dad’s House; Fireside; 1997 (revised).
- Wallerstein, Judith; What About the Kids? Raising Your Children Before, During and After Divorce; New York: Hyperion; 2003.
Books about Divorce for Children For Elementary-aged Children:
- Brown, Laurene Krasny and Brown, Marc; Dinosaurs Divorce; New York: Little Brown; 1986. (Ages 4-12)
- Lansky, Vicki; It’s Not Your Fault, KoKo Bear; Minnetonka, MN: Book Peddlers; 1998. (Ages 4-10)
- Masurel, Claire; Two Homes; Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press; 2001. (Ages 3-8)
- Ransom, Jeanie Franz; I Don’t Want to Talk About It; Washington, DC: Magination; 2000. (Ages 5-10)
- Rogers, Fred; Let’s Talk About It: Divorce; New York: G. Putnam & Sons; 1986. (Ages 3-8)
Books about Divorce for Children For pre-teens and teens:
- Daly, Melissa and Cadier, Florence; My Parents are Getting Divorced; Sunscreen Books; 2004. (Ages 12-19)
- Krementz, Jill; How It Feels When Parents Divorce; New York: Knopf; 2003 (revised). (Ages 10-19)
- Swan-Jackson, Alys; When Your Parents Split Up … How to Keep Yourself Together; New York: Price Stern Sloan; 1997. (Ages 12-19)
Books to Help Manage Emotions During Divorce:
- Chodron, Pema; When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times; Boston: Shambhala Publications Inc; 1997.
- Cohen, Gabriel; Storms Can’t Hurt the Sky: A Buddhist Path Through Divorce; DaCapo Press; 2008.
- Fisher, Bruce; Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends; Atascadero, California: Impact Publishers, Inc; 2006.
- Lerner, Harriet; The Dance of Connection: How to Talk to Someone When You’re Mad, Hurt, Scared, Frustrated, Insulted, Betrayed or Desperate; New York: Harper Paperbacks; 2002.
- McWilliams, Peter Bloomfield, Harold and Colgrove, Melba; How to Survive the Loss of a Love; Prelude Press; 1993.
- Vaughan, Diane; Uncoupling: Turning Points in Intimate Relationships; New York: Vintage Books; 1990.
Other Websites with Divorce Information