Every woman who walks into our office wants an answer to the exact same question. She wants to know this: Will my family –both me and my children –be financially OK after the divorce?
To help answer that question, I advise all my clients on the importance of assembling a skilled, experienced divorce team. We talk about what they need to do in order to get their personal credit and finances in order. And, we discuss “the divorce basics,” such as the difference between separate and marital property, etc.
But, what comes next? If you’re going through divorce, is there anything else you can do to keep the odds in your favor?
Well, interestingly enough, over the years, I have noticed that certain personality traits seem to serve women particularly well during the throes of divorce. Women with these qualities seem to emerge from divorce in relatively good shape, and they start their single lives with determination and vigor.
With these women in mind, I’ve compiled a short list of the six key personal traits I think can help you successfully survive divorce.
While you are going through divorce, you need to make best efforts to:
Put your emotions on the back burner. As I tell every one of our clients, it is absolutely critical that you learn to Think Financially, Not Emotionally®. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Going through divorce is a personal struggle on multiple levels, and it’s only natural that you are going to have strong emotions, especially when it comes to issues concerning your children. Still, you simply must work to keep your feelings in check as much as possible. That’s the only way you can think clearly about the important financial decisions ahead of you — and those decisions are significant. In fact, decisions you make during your divorce often have the potential to impact you for the rest of your life. Clearly, this is not the time to take actions that are based on revenge or malice . . . or even sadness, for that matter. Instead, you have to be objective and practical. As someone once said, “Marriage is all about love. But, divorce is all about money.” You have to make calculated, smart moves, ones that point you in the direction of a stable financial future.
Maintain your cool under pressure. Emotions are bound to run high at some point during your divorce, and when that time comes, your best bet is always going to be to remain calm, cool and collected. This is especially true, if/when you appear in front of a judge. Losing your composure or having outbursts of anger may severely compromise your case –and your husband’s attorney knows it.
I know it sounds like a terribly insensitive strategy, but getting you to lose your composure and show anger is a common tactic of many divorce attorneys. By constantly pressing your buttons (and going over the same issue over and over again), your husband’s attorney is hoping that you will lose your cool. Then, he can say you have anger issues and that your temper makes you an unfit mother. Even worse, if you have been a victim of domestic abuse, your husband’s attorney can use your outburst to make the claim that your husband was the victim of your abuse and that he was only protecting himself. Believe it or not, this happens all the time! Obviously, keeping your cool and maintaining your composure is critical, especially in custody battles and/or domestic abuse cases.
Delegate. Divorce may be tough, but you don’t have to go through it alone. Recognize that you need help –for legal issues, financial matters and emotional concerns –and then organize a top-notch divorce team that can deliver results. Issue tasks according to professional abilities, so you can devote more of your time and your energy on taking care of yourself and your family.
Keep a healthy focus on the future. Anyone who is going through divorce has to keep their sights trained on the future. Realize that no matter how horrible things are now, ultimately, you and your kids will be okay. There is life after divorce . . . and with the proper planning, your single life can be productive, fulfilling and financially secure and stable, as well.
Stay organized. Divorce proceedings require you to juggle many things simultaneously. Therefore, it’s imperative that you stay organized. Since you’ll have to keep track of appointments, paperwork and deadlines, it may make sense to invest in a strategy to help you keep organized. For some women, that may mean it’s time to upgrade to a smartphone or buy a new home computer. These days, there are many great programs and apps that can help you keep track of your appointments and stay organized. (But remember: Make sure your husband didn’t install any spyware on your electronic devices). Other women may opt for a more low-tech approach, such as a pocket calendar. In any event, do not keep your important papers at home or any place where your husband may have access to them. You will need to obtain a safe deposit box, or store your important papers with a trusted friend or relative.
As Marilyn Chinitz, Partner at Blank Rome, points out, staying organized can help you make smart decisions about your future.
“Keep monthly statements of your bank, brokerage and retirement accounts. Keep copies of the joint returns filed. Keep records of your credit card charges, all of which should be independently maintained by you, not your spouse or his accountant, ” Marilyn advises. “No one knows more about you, your children and your expenses than you do, and when you are armed with accurate, up-to- the- minute information, you are a formidable and impressive opponent who makes decisions that are right for you and your children.”
Educate yourself. Divorce involves the scrutiny of every aspect of your personal and family finances. Make sure you know all these details, so you develop a working knowledge of your financial circumstances. In addition, make a commitment to understand divorce terminology and how your state’s divorce laws apply to you. This may seem like a daunting task, at first, but you’ll be glad you made the extra effort.
“Knowledge is power,” Marilyn concludes. “A successful divorce is dependent upon how invested you are in knowing about you and your spouse’s financial circumstances, so don’t wait until the word “divorce” is mentioned to learn the answers to critical questions, such as:
- What are your assets?
- What does it cost to maintain your lifestyle?
- What are your expenses?
- What will it cost to send the children to college?
- What are your liabilities?
- How and where are your assets held?
- Is there a life insurance policy to protect you and the children?
If you educate yourself now, which you should do regardless of your marital status, you are guaranteed to survive the difficulties of divorce. Take out the unknown and provide your attorney and divorce financial advisor with concrete information in order to obtain the results you want to achieve in the divorce.”
Nurturing these six personal traits can help you survive divorce both emotionally and financially. Remember: there are two different ways to look at divorce. On the one hand, divorce can be financially disastrous. But, on the other hand, divorce can be the opportunity to lock in a secure financial future. The difference lies in how you handle the process.
Team up with an experienced financial ally, and you’ll be able to approach this major life change with confidence. First, you’ll need to shore up your financial position so you can enter the divorce process prepared. Then, you’ll need to develop a solid strategy to help you emerge from your divorce in the best financial shape possible and face your future with confidence.
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