(by Pamela A.)
Going through a divorce is one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. But like most crises in life, once you go through it, you can look back and appreciate all the things you learned about yourself in the process. You also want to share your insights with others in the hope that you can help. It’s not that I did everything right, by any means. But I did make a few decisions that turned out to be extremely valuable to me. Perhaps what I learned can help others.
One smart thing I did was to hire Patricia Barrett, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. My divorce attorney (another good choice) recommended I meet with her to discuss any financial concerns I may have regarding the divorce.
Now, I’m no dummy
I hold a master’s degree and am a self-employed consultant with several decades of professional experience under my belt. But divorce had me up against the ropes. To see my 13-year marriage reduced to an itemized spread sheet of assets and debts was shockingly emotional for me, and frankly, overwhelming on top of everything else. I turned to a therapist to help me sort through my anger, sadness, resentment and disappointment. But the finances? That I quickly turned over to Patricia.
At our first meeting, I knew I’d made the correct decision. The things I learned in that one meeting, easily paid for her fee as she steered me away from financial missteps and advised me to focus my attention on key priorities. Her unique knowledge of divorce law and how my finances would be impacted short-term and long-term by my divorce settlement became the foundation of our efforts.
We started by running through my current household budget for my spouse and myself. Then, we developed a post-divorce budget for just myself — my income, my expenses, etc. In divorce, you aren’t just splitting expenses and income in half. You’re really setting up two separate households — so the costs will be higher than you first believe!
Talk about a reality check!
She then put these numbers into her proprietary tables. These are unique spreadsheets based on formulas that allow us to watch the assets and income going forward; we could now run scenarios of how the divorce settlement would impact my lifestyle — immediately and several years out — all the way through retirement. Talk about an epiphany — or more like a major reality check!
We also worked together with my attorney to review these numbers and determine/evaluate potential settlement scenarios. As I learned, a dollar in the value of a family home is not the same as a dollar invested in a 401(k) account. The precise way marital assets are divided in a divorce settlement makes a huge difference in the short- and long-term outcomes for both spouses.
It truly pays to get the best experts on your side of the table to advise you. Patricia and my attorney also debunked numerous myths about divorce. Patricia, her tables and her knowledge and experience turned out to be extremely valuable to me, and as it turned out, to my former spouse to some extent, during our mediation process.
As we shuttled offers back-and-forth to my former spouse and his attorney, Patricia would quickly plug in offers and print out results for myself and my attorney to review. We knew immediately how the offer would likely play out in my immediate and long-term financial picture. Then, we would make a counter-offer based on what we saw. Before long, my former spouse began asking to see the spreadsheets for himself! (His engineer mindset couldn’t resist wanting to see “the numbers” for himself!)
Having the numbers there in black-and-white was priceless!
It was amazing to watch how much my finances would be impacted by a few percentage points here or there. I know we could have never completed our mediation process in one day without Patricia and her tables and the expert advice I got.
A big question for me to Patricia was: can I afford to the keep the house if I stay self-employed? Or, will I need to go back into corporate to pay the mortgage? Believe me, I was in no shape emotionally or otherwise to “do the math” myself by this time. My brain was exhausted! Thanks to Patricia’s post-divorce budget and her tables, I had the answers I needed — what income level I needed to maintain and/or what items in the budget would need trimming or eliminating.
I can’t say enough about Patricia’s calm focus and expertise helping me manage the process and focus on my divorce strategy throughout. So, a word to the wise, get and lean on the expert help you need: a therapist, lawyer and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst! The investment is well worth it for your peace of mind, not only during the process, but when it’s completed.