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Wealth & Well-Being

I Wish I Knew

Six years removed from my divorce has allowed me to gather some perspective on a transition that lasted a lot longer than I wanted it to.

During the unraveling of my marriage and the dividing  up of furniture and bank accounts, I remember feeling like it would never be over.  Like many in the midst of a major life transition, I wanted to move from the end of my marriage to my new normal - whatever that was to become, without spending time in the unsettling, uncomfortable passage stage in between.  Everything was so uncertain including; where I was going to live, how I was going to support my two children and what the future held for us.

I wish I knew... Those feelings wouldn't be forever.  I bet you're thinking of course not! After having some distance, I too am able to know that truth.  To someone in the middle of a life crisis, though, I wish someone had told me that my feelings were normal and that being overwhelmed an indecisive was to be expected.  These are common physical responses to prolonged periods of stress.  I simply couldn't for the life of me figure out why it was so difficult to complete the tasks my attorney had assigned to me and why I had such over exaggerated emotional responses to every little detail, when in the past I had always been very level headed.  As a result of my fatigue, I ended up making several hasty financial decisions that were not in my best interest.  It's only with some hindsight that I am able to see that powering through those major life and financial decisions in order to minimize the temporary discomfort did not serve me well in the long run.

I wish I knew...The process.  Upon my decision to leave my marriage, I found an attorney, paid the retainer and had my husband served papers.  He obtained an attorney, and thus the spiral began.  We immediately set out on the path to litigation – the most expensive, most contentious form of dissolving your marriage.  In a litigated divorce, attorneys and judges control what happens, how it happens and when it happens by following the laws of the family court system.  There were motions, contempt charges, interrogatories and depositions.  In the end, the judge makes all of the decisions for you, including when you will see your children.  Can you imagine? At the time, we couldn't agree on anything and so decided to give up all of our power.  Now we have to live with a legal settlement that neither one of us agree with.  I wish my attorney had encouraged me, or at least educated me, to try other options first.

I wish I knew the right questions to ask my attorney.  I believe that he did the job he was charged to do and that he provided competent legal counsel.  I have the utmost respect for the family law attorneys' skill and recognize that their profession is not an easy one.  Especially when I consider that I was an emotional wreck and not a very cooperative client.

It wasn't until well after the dust cleared, did I learn about the alternatives of mediation and collaborative negotiation.  Both of these methods are considerably less expensive than a traditional divorce and are particularly attractive if you have minor children and need to craft a parenting plan that will be in place for several years.  In both mediation and collaboration, the parties retain control and make their own decisions with professionals guiding them along the way.  I wish I did more homework and knew those options existed.

I wish I knew...The cost - both financial and emotional.  It never occurred to me that the legal process would literally drag on for three years and deplete my resources in a way that took several years to recover from.  More shocking to me though, was that many relationships with family and friends would be forever changed.  There were just as many kind, supportive people in my life as there were those who turned away due to the awkwardness of the situation.  The "jury of public opinion" was a surprise to me.  Even people who were trying to give helpful advice felt as though they had a right to comment on all aspects of my personal decisions.  I wish I knew to expect their remarks.  Maybe I wouldn't have taken everything so personally.

Lastly, I wish I knew...that this transition of mine was truly a gift.   Of course I wouldn't have believed it if someone told me that while I was wallowing in the muck.  Not only did my experience give me the courage I needed to move forward and create a new life for myself and my children, I learned to believe in my decisions and that I was responsible for my reinvention. A failed marriage does not equal failure as a person.  This was not an easy lesson to learn for me.

The greatest gift of all was that my experience prompted me to further my professional training to be of service to others who would benefit from having financial guidance during their passage. Imagine having someone along side you who understands the highs and lows of the journey and can hold the big picture for you when you feel stuck.  I truly wish I had that support and consider it a privilege to be able to do that for others.

If you would like to learn about the role of a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) or a Collaboratively Trained Financial Professional, I would welcome the opportunity to talk with you further at 603.458.2776.

Written by Kristina George, CPA, CFP, CDFA 

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