By Karen McMahon
If you are in the early stages of divorce there are two vital steps that you must take to prepare for this challenging transition.
The Legal Process:
We experience so many changes and have to make many decisions during divorce, it is essential to learn all that we can about the process. One of the most important facts to know is that divorce court does not judge us or our spouse. Barring serious abuse or physical danger, divorce court does not determine who is right or wrong, good or bad. If you are looking for justice, you will not find it in divorce court. A legal divorce is basically the business of deciding custody and allocating finances.
Custody aside, divorce is about the money. Understanding our finances requires that we gather information on all our assets, debts and income streams as well as the laws regarding maintenance and child support. If we are not the person in charge of our finances, this can feel overwhelming.
On our site, we have checklists available for you to begin the process. We will need to find and copy documents, make inquiries, and most important, enlist the support of a professional. The are financial planners, financial advisors, and Divorce Certified Financial Advisors. The key is finding the right professional that is not only an expert in their field but also has the personality style that enables us to feel comfortable and trust them.
The issue of child support is one of the most straightforward. There is a calculation based on gross income and the number of children. In some states, there are additional criteria in calculating support. It is best to ask a matrimonial attorney to clarify the support laws in our state.
There are so many details when considering custody. If our children are young, it is easy to get caught in negotiating from the perspective of parenting young children. Keep in mind that they grow into teenagers and will often choose who if anyone they want to spend time with and then they are off to college. A good custody schedule balances the support the children need when young and the flexibility that they will want (and demand) as they grow older.
The details of when, where and how are better ironed out in the agreement so that we don’t emerge with different interpretations of what the agreement means. As well, things like purchasing cars, car insurance, additional tutoring support in college if not listed in the agreements are not the responsibility of the non-custodial parent. Even if our children are young, it is important to think through their future needs and include them in our agreement. The more thought we give our agreement; talking to other divorced parents who can share what they forgot to add or the challenges they faced will better equipped us to create a solid agreement and cooperative co-parenting relationship.
If we were to visit a foreign country, we would equip ourselves with a guide to translate, an itinerary, and a map. Embarking on divorce requires the same support. There are three key support people that will enable us to move through your divorce effectively, efficiently and affordably. It may feel counterintuitive to hire all these people as a way to save money. However, attorneys are not schooled in either finances or emotional support and their fees are the highest. When we rely on our attorney to be all things, often we spend significantly more, and post-divorce find ourselves still immersed in pain, anger, fear and uncertainty and unsure of our financial future.
Hiring A Coach
Divorce is an emotional roller coaster. There is a lot to process which requires we talk through fears, regrets, worries, uncertainties, etc. It is easy to get stuck in chaos and confusion. Speaking to a coach enables us to get clear on what our priorities are, create a strategic plan to stay on track moving forward and get gentle non-judgemental support in the way of a sounding board and accountability.
Finding A Financial Expert
Financial advisors and planners can help us to understand what we have and what we will need to maintain our lifestyle in the future. If we need to cut back, they can show us where and how. If we will be responsible for investing our assets for the first time, they can guide us in best practices. If we need assistance creating our ‘networth’ document (the main financial document upon which your settlement is negotiated) for our attorney, they can guide us in that. Financial experts are schooled in finances, lawyers are not. Finding one that we trust EARLY ON in the process and having their support throughout the process will minimize our fear and anxiety around our future financial security.
Choosing An Attorney
There are different type of divorces...mediation, collaboration and litigation. Then within each of these, there are many different personalities. All to often I have seen clients hire their soon-to-be-ex’s personality in their matrimonial attorney and then feel intimidated, abused and unempowered throughout the process. Interview at least three attorneys. Bring a friend as it is overwhelming. Decide what is important. Besides someone who is capable of ‘standing up’ to our spouse, what do we need? Someone who is patient and explains things to us? Someone who responds to us when we reach out? Someone who is gentle when we are struggling?
Put together a list and remember, we are INTERVIEWING the attorney. Make sure it is a good fit as this is our most important relationship during the transition of divorce.
Search Journeybeyonddivorce.com for articles on learning how to budget, financial support, divorce court, and any other issue or emotion you want to read more about.
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