There are a wide range of issues that you will be confronted with when going through a divorce. What are the most important financial considerations when getting a divorce? What are the most important non-financial considerations when getting a divorce? In this post, we discuss several of these issues with a divorce and co-parenting expert.
We want to welcome Jill Barnett Kaufman, MSW, LCSW, a divorce coach, therapist, and co-parenting expert based out of New Jersey. Jill has over 20 years of experience in coaching clients through child custody issues and the emotional aspects of going through divorce.
Top 3 Non-Financial Considerations
When going through divorce, finances are one of the most stressful issues that you have to work through. However, there are several important matters that have nothing to do with finances that must be considered. In my 20+ years of working with people going through divorce, these are the 3 aspects that rise to the top as most challenging beyond finances:
1. Child Custody and Parenting Schedules: One of the emotional hot button issues in divorce is negotiating child custody and parenting schedules. When you’re used to having your children with you all of the time, any time spent away from them can be a painful reminder of the loss you have experienced.
I tell my clients to be prepared that in the beginning, nights without your children can be lonely and you can feel lost. Proactively plan to be with friends or family when you know your children will be away. As time goes on, you’ll realize that having some time to yourself is a good thing. It gives you time to re-connect with who you were before you had children. You can develop friendships you haven’t had since you had children. You can rediscover hobbies or activities that you enjoy. Having quiet time to yourself in your own space can be a bonus in divorce. It’s okay to embrace this.
When you’re negotiating your parenting time, take into consideration the fact that not only is it good for you to have time to yourself, but in most cases it’s good for your children to spend time with both parents.
2. The Experience of Loss Even If You Wanted the Divorce: Many of my clients are surprised at how difficult the pain and loss of divorce is. Even if you wanted or initiated the divorce you may not expect to feel the intense emotions of grief. This is a normal part of the healing process when you’re going through divorce so it’s ok to give yourself some time to get to a better place emotionally.
The reason that grief is so intense is because you’re experiencing so many losses at one time. It’s not just your spouse that you’re losing, you’re also losing the intact family unit. You don’t truly know what that feels like until you go through it. It’s normal and understandable to grieve this loss. In addition to losing the intact family unit, divorce may cause the loss of some family and friends, time with your children, and status in the community. Because so many parts of our society are built around being a couple and the family unit, divorce results in feelings of loneliness and even sometimes shame. That’s why it’s so important to get support while you’re going through divorce. Divorce support groups, a divorce coach, a therapist, and supportive friends and family are all important to the healing process.
3. If you have children, you will always be connected to your ex: This may be hard to digest, but even though you’re ending your marriage, children will tie you with your ex for the rest of your life. It’s important to recognize this and acknowledge that the best outcome for you and your children is for you to have a good relationship with their other parent.
You may have to make decisions regarding your children’s medical care or schooling together. You may be attending life milestones like graduations and weddings that you’ll celebrate with your children. Recognize that working with your ex-spouse is good for your children (and yourself). Research shows that children benefit when their parents aren’t in conflict.
Think of your ex as a colleague or co-worker. Take the emotion out and focus on the present day. Speak to him or her respectfully. Write emails or texts in a respectful way. Thank them for something they’ve done for your children. You may be surprised by how a little respect goes a long way toward making the relationship better.
Top 3 Financial Considerations
Not only are there emotional and psychological considerations, there are also important financial considerations when going through a divorce. People often do not realize the complexity of their financial situation, and how their finances are going to change, until they are deep into their divorce. We want to outline some important items to consider in the early stages of your divorce.
1. Understand exactly what you have: One of the most important financial considerations when going through a divorce is to simply understand what your current assets and liabilities are and how they are titled. Having a thorough understanding of this will provide a great starting point in understanding how your financial situation may change post-divorce. Your needs and goals will look much different after your divorce which will impact many aspects of your finances. Things such as your current spending, needs from your portfolio, and cash flow situation will likely change. Going through and updating your financial plan can help you better understand the changes to your goals and financial situation.
2. Your investment portfolio will likely change: Not only will your income and expenses change after your divorce is finalized, but your risk tolerance and investment portfolio may change as well. Perhaps before your divorce, your portfolio was set up for growth for your future needs. However, after divorce, you may need more income from your portfolio to help supplement current living expenses. Perhaps you are a more conservative investor while your spouse was a more aggressive investor. Prior to your divorce, you may have had an investment portfolio that was more moderate when it came to risk to accommodate your ex-spouse’s higher risk tolerance. When the time comes to split up your investment portfolio, the investments you receive from the divorce settlement may no longer meet your appetite for risk.
3. Hire a financial advisor: Arguably, one of the first steps in the divorce process is seeking the help of a financial advisor. When going through a divorce, not only is your personal life going to change, but your financial life will inevitably change as well. Many people do not realize this and often do not seek the help of a financial advisor. Things such as your current spending, needs from your portfolio, and cash flow and income situation will likely change. These are all issues that we, as fee-only financial advisors, can help advise you on.
Going through a divorce is hard on you and your loved ones. There are many emotions involved with the various aspects of your divorce. Often, those going through a divorce can let their emotions get the best of them which may lead to poor investment and financial decisions. It’s common for people to act emotionally relative to their investments, selling and moving to cash at the wrong times, trading too frequently, and not properly aligning their investments with their goals. Working with a neutral party, such as a financial advisor, can help you to make logical investment and financial decisions without your emotions taking over.
Engaging with a financial advisor early in the divorce process can help you better understand your income and spending needs going forward. A good financial advisor can also take you through how your goals, financial plan, and investment portfolio will need to be adjusted to match your new financial situation.
Not only is it imperative to consider these non-financial and financial issues, but it is also important to consider how they may interact. For instance, the feelings of grief and loneliness, while completely normal and rational, can lead to poor and irrational financial decisions such as overspending and making investment decisions that could put your future goals at risk. Having the appropriate advisers for both financial and non-financial impacts of a divorce can help you and your family have an easier transition to your new normal.
While these issues in divorce can be difficult, it helps to be prepared. There is solace in knowing that what you are going through is common, so you do not feel so alone. If you could use more guidance as you navigate divorce or separation, please contact Jill directly on her website.
You can also view our full interview with Jill Barnett Kaufman here, and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more valuable insights.
Jill Barnett Kaufman, a divorce and co-parenting expert, has over 20 years of experience as a licensed therapist, divorce coach, divorce mediator and parent educator. She’s helped hundreds of individuals and families work through the transitions of divorce with less stress, more confidence and a greater sense of peace. She’s also a sought-after public speaker and leader, having led workshops and trainings at corporations, schools, religious institutions and conferences. She is the mother of 3 adult children and is committed to helping families thrive through divorce.