The topic today is How to Stay Strong and Get What You Deserve in a Divorce. The impetus for this topic was a phone call that occurred about a week ago from a new client who was going through divorce. She called crying, very, very upset, and basically said “I just want this to be over.” I’ve been working with her for about a month or so, and it has been a difficult time for her in trying to get this divorce. A lot of conflict, lot of back-and-forth. Just a lot of name-calling. It’s become very, very difficult.
When she said “I just want this over; I’m willing to accept what he’s going to give me,” and if I thought it was fair, if I thought it were equitable, I would say “That’s fine. I think that makes sense. Let’s try to not incur any more legal expenses. Let’s just get this done.”
Unfortunately, in this situation, what her soon-to-be ex-spouse was offering was anything but fair. There were a tremendous amount of assets that are due to my client, and he was just unwilling to compromise. But because it’s become such a heated divorce, she decided “I just want this to be over.” This is what I’m hoping to prevent with her, and I’m also hoping to prevent with the listeners out there. When you’re in a divorce, the one thing you want more than anything else is just for the fighting, the name-calling, the acrimony to be over. And unfortunately, what we can often do in those situations is settle for something that is less than what we deserve, just to get the divorce complete.
So here are a few ways that you can stay mentally strong. Even though you want to get the divorce, you want it to be over, you still need to be able to be strong so you can fight for what you deserve.
The first thing to keep in mind is that going into the divorce, you have to expect this to be a marathon. This is not a sprint. Divorces can take months and months and months, and you have to go into it with the mindset that this is going to last quite awhile, and it’s going to be tough. That will prepare you mentally for the grueling weeks or months that it takes to get this finalized.
And maybe it finishes quickly, maybe it finishes without any sort of dispute, without any name-calling or acrimony. And if that happens, that’s great. But go into it thinking that it’s possible that this is going to take longer than you thought.
Second idea to keep in mind is that, almost as if it were a marathon, if you were out of shape, would you attempt to run 26.2 miles? Probably not. So you want to stay healthy here – physically and mentally healthy. You want to get enough sleep; you want to make sure that you’re eating the right foods; you want to make sure that you’re exercising, doing the things to keep yourself physically strong, and by doing that, you also help yourself remain mentally strong.
Another – this is a big, big, big idea here, is if you’re considering settling on a particular division of assets or marital support, work with a financial planner, someone who specializes in working through a divorce, and run different “what if” scenarios.
For example, your spouse is offering X, Y, and Z. Well, how does this look, not only the day after the divorce, but how does this look 5 years from now, 10 years from now? What are the assets that you’re getting, what are the assets that your spouse is getting, and model both of those so you can see, “If I settle for this, how is this going to look for me financially in a few years? Is it going to affect my retirement? Is it going to affect my ability to pay for my child’s education?”
Run those numbers, because in the heat of the moment, our initial reaction is just “Let’s just end this thing. Just get me whatever you want, and I want to walk away.” But that’s why these “what if” scenarios are really important, because you can see in black and white what is going to happen to you financially if you settle for less than what is coming to you.
The fourth idea is try not to lose yourself in the divorce. I know if you have friends who have been divorced or are going through a divorce, it can be all-consuming. Everything is about the divorce. The texts are about the divorce; talking to your friends, the topic of conversation – the divorce. If you can separate yourself somewhat from this, the more the better, because the more ingrained you are into this, the more stress it’s going to create, and the more likely it is that you’re just going to want to put this behind you, and that you’ll settle for something less than what you deserve.
Another thing: if you get a proposal – maybe you’re in mediation, and you “agree” on something, and you’re just not feeling right about it – take some time. Sleep on it. Sleep on it before you make the decision. Sometimes just that gap, that separation of being in the heat of the moment will help you get clarity on the situation, and you can make a less emotional decision and more rational and more financial.
The sixth – this should be at the top of the list; it’s extremely important – it’s listen to your advisors. Most people may experience one, two, maybe three divorces in their lifetime. Okay, how many divorces has your family law attorney experienced? How many divorces has your financial planner experienced? Could be hundreds. Obviously not their own, but in working with their clients, they have experience. They’ve seen the ins and outs, they’ve seen what works and they’ve seen what doesn’t work.
So they come to the table with a depth of experience and a depth of knowledge that you just won’t have. So rely on them. You’re paying them, so listen to what they’re saying. They can help navigate you through this obviously very tumultuous time.
The seventh – this is extremely important, and it’s to focus on the future. Again, we’ve talked about in the heat of the moment, during the divorce, you just want this thing to be over and done with so you can move on with your life. So focus on what the future is. Don’t focus so much on the current pain, on the current mediation, on the battling of what it is that you’re trying to get. If you focus on that, you’re going to want this to be over, and you may settle for something less than what you deserve.
But if you focus on the future, if you focus on two months from now, three months from now, six months from now, you’ll think and come to decisions less based on emotion and more based on what’s really right for you.
So if you’re in the middle of a divorce or thinking about getting a divorce, keep these ideas in mind so you can stay mentally and physically strong so you can get not more than what you deserve, but so you can get what you deserve in a divorce.
If you have any questions, visit our website, pacificawealth.com. Feel free to give us a call, send us an email. We’d love to hear from you.