For anyone that has been through a divorce, even if it is amicable and a decision you know is right, your emotions are very similar to a runaway train on a roller coaster.
There is a part of your life that is ending, and you owe it to yourself to go through the grieving process. It is important that you take control of your financial life after divorce right from the start.
Although there are five stages of that process, it does not mean that you will go through them in an orderly or timely fashion. During the course of a day, you may rotate through several or you may last weeks in one. The hardest part is learning when to reign your emotions in, so they do not also wreak havoc on your divorce proceedings.
Having finalized my own divorce a little over two years ago, 20/20 hindsight really is a beautiful thing. I look back and remember times when my emotions took over and scrambled the thoughts that were in my head. There were moments when I jumped the gun too quickly and ones when I allowed the brakes to be hit too soon. Unfortunately, you can’t travel back in time, so if you are in the midst of the divorce process, please take heed in my advice, because once your decree is signed, the opportunity is gone.
- Put the kids first when making any decision. You may be getting divorced, but you are still a family and your kids need to know, understand and feel that. Your actions speak as much, if not louder than your words. Maybe your marriage is ending because of infidelity and you want your ex-spouse to “pay”. Maybe you grew apart or realized your values, communication styles and/or financial beliefs are just not compatible. Regardless of the reason, your children have no say in what is happening so make sure what you are doing does not punish them or affect their well-being. You need to take care of your financial life after divorce by taking care of it while you are going through your divorce. Going out spending the money in the joint account to “punish” your ex-spouse. Hiding or siphoning money because you don’t want to share it. While that might make you feel powerful in the moment, in the long run, it will more than likely compromise the life that you and your ex are trying to rebuild separately, but still for your kids. By putting your kids first, you remove your ego. By removing your ego, you take the emotion out of it. By taking the emotion out of it, you make the responsible choice.
3. Take Your Time to Read any and All Documents. I signed what, when and why? Eight days before my wedding, I signed a prenup. I was young, I was naïve, and I was embarrassed to even tell my family. So, I didn’t. I used an attorney my soon to be husband’s family recommended and signed on the dotted line, believing this was arbitrary and something that would not really matter once we had kids. Then we started divorce proceedings and low and behold what was pulled out…the prenup. Not only had I forgotten about it, I did not even remember the specifics of what I signed. I had not considered what my financial life after divorce would be like. Instead, eager to get the divorce over and feeling that my ex was being generous with the marital home (see #4), I never challenged it. Heck, I never even re-read it until after the divorce was signed and filed away. That’s my regret, that I am learning to put behind me. Do I think something would have changed? Possibly not. But I do wish, that when sitting in mediation, the time was taken to fully review the document, spark the memory a bit and have the conversation about what this really means. So please, learn from my mistake, take the time to read and re-read any documents that are being brought up during the divorce proceedings. Don’t push any aside because emotionally, you just want this over with!
4. Marital. Home. This one can be tricky, pending the cost of the home, the mortgage and the overall finances of the both parents. If it is possible to have one parent stay in the home, take your own emotions out of the equation, and explore all options. There are clever ways to figure out a buy-out agreement or have one parent stay in the home until the youngest child is off to college. Don’t let anger or the desire to have extra money in your pocket drive this decision. I am fortunate enough to still be with my kids in the home that was purchased while I was married. Yes, there are anger driven moments when the only thing that I want to do is sell this home and be done with it. However once the anger fades, and I look at how it will affect my kids, I realize that staying in my home is the best path forward. I stress the word “my” home, because I also made it my home. I suggest you do this too when you have the financial means to do so. Little changes make a big difference, so start small and take your time.
5. Choose your battles! Yes, you are angry. Yes, you no longer want this person in your life in the manner they used to be. But taking out this anger on every line item in your divorce is not going to make the anger go away. Most likely, it will cause more aggravation, while extending the amount of time it takes to finalize your divorce and cost you a heck of a lot more money in the process! Figure out the top items that are the most important to you and be open to compromise on the rest. Don’t waste your time and money fighting everything. I have friends whose divorces have taken years to finalize, costing thousands upon thousands of dollars and an incalculable amount of emotional stress and angst. When you look back and realize that you spent at least as much money as one of your children’s college educations will cost, you will wish that you handled this all a bit differently.
Like I stated earlier, even the most amicable divorce is hard. Life is taking a turn that no one dreams about when they are younger. Working through the emotions that come along with this is an important part of learning how to move on.
However, when dealing with the details of the divorce decree, you are better off leaving your emotions at the door. When the dust settles, you will move on and you will realize no one walks away from divorce as “the winner.” However, your financial life after divorce can be a success. You can walk away, with your head held high, hard earned life lessons learned and knowing that you are about to embark on what may very well.
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DISCLAIMER: The commentary, advice, and opinions from Gabrielle Hartley are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice or mental health services. You should contact an attorney and/or mental health professional in your state to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.
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