By Lisa Brick
Money and finances are an ever-present focus in adult life and a central and almost always thorny aspect of divorce.
Conversations around money and finances are more likely than not a major stress for all involved, and a divisive mess. There is a way to begin CLEANING UP that mess, at least IN YOUR LIFE if not your ex or soon to be ex’s.
In the example below the couple is collapsing the actual numbers with what they think the numbers mean:
June brings home $75,000 a year. Mark brings home $150,000. These are the numbers. June thinks that she should not have to roll back her lifestyle (based on a $225,000 combined income) or lose her home because Mark walked out on the marriage. Mark thinks that $75,000 is a “good living” and therefore alimony is not appropriate, and because he is taking the children half of the time he should be paying only half of the child support. These are the numbers, the thoughts, and the meaning collapsed together.
The consequences of the collapse between what is tangible and measurable (the numbers) and what each spouse THINKS (I should, he/she shouldn’t) has been persistent CONFLICT AND STRESS. This couple, like so many before them, go at each other round after round with their different thoughts and conclusions while paying tens of thousands of dollars to their attorneys. Each feels that his/her position is “right”. Each has enrolled family and friends to support them in his/her positions. In reality, neither spouse is “right” nor “wrong”. Each has a perspective on their collective situation that is preventing forward motion.
The unknown around your financial future is tremendously uncomfortable. It makes it difficult to plan ahead. It is also temporary even if it may not feel like it right now.
How temporary it is and how much or little stress you experience while coming to a settlement can be more dependent upon you; your thoughts, and your actions, and less on your spouse’s. It is up to where you will focus.
Separating what is specific and measurable (real and tangible assets) from the storm of emotion that comes with the break up of a marriage allows for clarity and focus. NOW is the time you are going through the process of determining what financial resources and commitments will come with you into the future. NOW is where focus and clarity makes a difference.
So, how do YOU distinguish between the numbers and the meaning that you are attaching to them?
A first step is to separate the hurt, betrayal, fear, fury, self-doubt, self-recrimination, etc. from money. It’s not that you should or shouldn’t FEEL your emotions…YOU DO FEEL THEM yet to maximize your financial future and minimize additional stress KEEP THEM APART. Imagine leaving them in a shoebox or locking them in the car in preparation for discussions about money.
A second step it to familiarize yourself with the law. Unless the two of you are in agreement about finances the law, not what you or your spouse thinks is fair, will guide your settlement. Your ability to think logically within the framework of your state’s laws will save you time and money while supporting your mental and emotional health. It will allow you to GROUND YOURSELF IN FACTS.
The facts about money are addressed through three primary areas in divorce: child support, maintenance, and the distribution of marital assets. Familiarizing yourself with these areas and the laws in your state will give you an oasis of solid ground to stand on. Matrimonial attorneys and certified divorce financial planners offer expertise and support to help you to understand the legal rules of divorce and navigate the decisions you will be making rationally.
The calmer and more rational you are, the calmer, more rational, and emotionally healthy you will be and show up as – always a plus.
While you and your spouse may be, and understandably so, deep in anger, blame, resentment and antagonism, your state’s laws WILL BE FOLLOWED. Laws are not opinions nor are they debatable by the individuals bound by them (Supreme Courts debate laws and offer opinions regularly). By knowing what the laws are you can determine the most likely outcome for your circumstances. Once you familiarize yourself with the guidelines (on line or through a legal professional) and separate your emotions from the facts you will develop a strategy in line with the law and your situation.
Using money as revenge will prolong both the process and the misery. Your ultimate success as you move on depends on your willingness to accept, adjust, process, and plan now. The desire to punish your spouse for the pain you are experiencing is understandable yet destructive for you and your family.
A third step is to choose a date on your calendar that you would like to have a settlement by. Let your spouse know the date. If it looks as if you will not be reaching an agreement by then, utilize the court system. This will minimize expenses and aggravation in the long run. If you are grounded in the facts and have used the law as a reality check for the settlement you are requesting you will have the best possible outcome.
These three steps, determining what is real separate from what you think, discovering what the rules of the game are, and setting a time frame in which you take decisive action will move your life forward. If you haven’t been living like this before, NOW is a perfect time to start. Shorten the misery and get to the other side.
Our coaches at Journey Beyond Divorce are here to support you in discovering how much easier the painful and difficult journey through divorce will become.