7 Lessons this Divorce Coach Wish She’d learned before Getting Divorced
How do I file for divorce? Would you believe I never asked the question? I took for granted that the information I learned from friends and family and my husband was right.
“If you don’t want to fight, you have to mediate.”
“My mediator was the best mediator, I got a really good deal.”
“You’ll never get more than you’re being offered in court, so you have to take the deal.”
“If you hire an attorney, you’ll end up in a huge court battle.”
I was so afraid of what “could” happen, that I didn’t bother to ask. I took my seat at the mediation table (chosen by my ex), and kept my mouth shut, terrified that he would take the ‘generous deal’ off the table.
“You don’t need a budget since we’re splitting the assets equally.”
“You will be getting enough that you don’t need spousal support.”
“You’ll have plenty of money, don’t worry about it.”
So, I took the money and ran. No consulting attorney, no spousal support, just a pile of money. I continued living my lifestyle assuming that there was enough to last forever. The kids were grown, and he was taking care of all their expenses. After all, my ex wasn’t a bad guy, he wouldn’t try to screw me or deprive me intentionally. I had seasoned financial professionals doing all sorts of projections that had me living like a queen and bequeathing my fortunes to my children.
I have an MBA, I know what I’m doing!
What I learned though, I REALLY wish I had known before I agreed. Regardless of the dollar amount you end up with (unless of course, you’re a Bezos), the pot is finite. Not paying attention is no excuse when you realize you’ve been living way beyond where you should have been. There’s no going back to the negotiating table.
About four years after my agreement was signed, I started paying attention. I noticed that the assets that were supposed to sustain me for the rest of the days were a lot smaller than I thought they would be. The more I dug, the more uncomfortable I became. I started doing the math. My monthly spending was so high I was being forced to sell investments to maintain my lifestyle. That promise of a Queendom to leave my kids?, let’s just say at that point I was hoping one of them would find a room for me in their castle.
If only I had paid better attention, asked the right questions and not stopped until I understood. You are your own best advocate but you can’t advocate for something that you don’t know you need! Before you finalize your financial agreement make sure you follow these steps:
- EDUCATE YOURSELF. What does it really mean to get divorced? What is Mediation? What is Litigation? What are your rights? How does the law work? There’s no lack of information out there. I’ve got a condensed version right on my website: Breaking the Divorce Code: The Ultimate Guide to Divorce.
- BUDGET. Some attorneys recommend a financial professional to do a ‘Lifestyle Analysis’. That’s a fancy word for a budget. Whether you do it for yourself or have someone help you with it or do it for you, YOU MUST UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE SPENDING.
- BUDGET AGAIN FOR YOUR POST-DIVORCE LIFE. The financial statements you prepare for your divorce negotiations represent the moment in time before you create them or are representative of a few years of spending. You will have new expenses. Even if you’re still paying the housekeeper the same amount, you are now bearing the full load of that bill.
- WATCH WHAT YOU SPEND REGULARLY. That sale at Bloomingdales that was such a deal? It set you back $1000 (even though it was a $5000 value). Are you going to spend $1000 less on something else? Plan for the requirements, save for the indulgences.
- UNDERSTAND THE TAX IMPLICATIONS. You don’t need to complete your own complicated tax return but you do need to know that you will be solely responsible for everything on the return once you start filing separately. Any audits, credits, outstanding tax bills will belong to you.
- ASK QUESTIONS, DON’T ASSUME ANYTHING. My son’s nursery school teacher said that “the only stupid question is the one not asked.” Take her advice. If you don’t know what something means, find someone who can explain it to you. Don’t let anyone pat you on the shoulder and tell you not to worry! They won’t be paying the consequences of your misunderstandings.
- DON’T BE AFRAID OF SPEAKING UP. You have a voice, use it. You are now in charge of your own life, it doesn’t get better than that!!
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