With many people divorcing later in life, establishing arrangements for elder care has become increasingly important. But what about situations where divorcing couples have special needs children?

Our guest, Linda Anderson, a certified elder law attorney, will help us understand how to navigate these issues. Linda is one of approximately 50 certified elder law attorneys in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Her practice, Anderson Elder Law, specializes in the legal issues affecting elders, the disabled, and their families. We are thrilled to have her as a guest for this podcast to help us share the information necessary for families with special needs children who are divorcing to do so with clarity and confidence.

The statistics are not clear on whether the risk of divorce increases in families with special needs children. One report states the while the average divorce rate is 50%, the divorce rate for couples with special needs children is 85%.

The most common struggle for these couples facing divorce is how to meet the requirements of their special needs children, now and in the future.

Your Team of Experts

You are likely working with your family attorney as you begin divorce proceedings. You want to ensure that the family law attorney is bringing in a special needs attorney, who has the expertise as it relates to special needs planning and the role of public benefits, and a financial planner, to ensure the structuring of the estate plan for the child is established to determine the rest of the financial settlements.

There is an overlap between understanding the public benefits for both seniors and special needs children and the uses of trusts in both cases. It is a body of knowledge that applies not just to people over a certain age but anyone of any age struggling to maintain control of their medical, legal, and financial issues. When caring for the welfare of special needs children – in a divorce situation or not – there must be an understanding of the public entitlements and benefits. 

Educate Yourself about Public Benefits

SSI (Supplemental Security Income) and Medicaid: these are means-tested; they are determined based on income and assets.

SSD (Social Security Disability) and Medicare: these benefits are not means-tested.

Let’s take the example of applying for SSI for a 12-year-old special needs child in a situation where the parents are not divorcing. How do parental assets/income affect eligibility? They may choose not to apply for SSI because their resources might exceed eligibility. That does not mean, however, that they will not be eligible for Medicaid. So, it is not a mistake to not apply for SSI.

If the child is on SSI when the parents choose to divorce, there are two important issues to consider:

SSI and Medicaid are based on income/assets, so when child support enters the picture, it will be considered income. When the custodial parent receives alimony, that is considered income. 

Establishing Trusts

In most cases, parents choose not to rely on SSI until the child is 18. For a special needs child, child support may never end and will be held dollar-for-dollar against the SSI, in some cases eliminating that payment. The solution? Parents could seek out in-kind distributions or alternative payments, but most will establish a first-party, self-settled Special Needs Trust, aka a D4A trust. That way, the support payments are placed in this trust, and the SSI eligibility is not harmed. Know, however, that with a first-party trust, when the child dies, Medicaid gets paid back.

When parents proactively set up a third-party trust for their special needs child, there is no payback to Medicaid. In this type of trust, they need to make sure the beneficiary designations are drafted properly. The TRUST is the designated beneficiary.

Establishing a first-party trust is fine when the parents remain married. A third-party trust is the better option should the parents divorce.

The Special Needs Alliance (www. specialneedsalliance.org) provides a free trustee guide to help fully understand how to administer special needs trusts.

Linda Anderson’s firm is located in Media, PA and serves the five-county area. Visit AndersonElderLaw.com or call 610-566-4700 for more information.

We Welcome Your Feedback

Thanks for joining our community. We want to hear about the positive steps you are taking for yourself every day. Share them with us on our Facebook Page or via Twitter, and be sure to follow us on Instagram and Pinterest.  For more information about who we are and what we do, please visit our website at www.divorceusolutions.com

October 26, 2017

Episode 5: The B Word



In this episode, we talk about the “B Word.” BUDGET. Mention the word “budget” and reactions can vary from wide-eyed to confusion to sheer panic, but rarely do you receive a positive reaction. Mention the words, "lifestyle analysis,” and the responding look can be very similar. However, when going through the process of divorce, these two concepts are critical components before, during, and after divorce.

How many of us even think of our lives as “lifestyles?” When dating the person who became your spouse, it might have been the difference in lifestyle that was part of the attraction. Here’s this person that you really like and they’re bringing something new into your world. You get married, and now you’re faced with aligning your lifestyles, creating a new shared lifestyle together. Sometimes, your lifestyles are too incompatible for the long run, and you head for divorce.

Lifestyle is an important aspect to consider, especially when we have to make shifts in our budget.

Lifestyle Analysis vs. Budget

What is a “lifestyle analysis” and how does it relate to a budget? Your lifestyle is the way you’ve become accustomed to living. Do you dine out a lot? How large is your marital home? What car do you drive and what are its maintenance costs? Do you take family vacations, attend events, have a cleaning service? When going through a divorce, one of the first questions you’ll need to answer is what is your financial need regarding support, what is the lifestyle you’re accustomed to living, and how will those two factors work together.

Your budget is made up of the items and expenses you need to maintain a household. What are your expenses? What is the income you need for your cash flow? What are the “extras” that come up? Budget is a critical component before, during, and after divorce because the court system, your mediator, or anyone assisting you through the process will use your budget as a guide for what your needs truly are. Other factors -- if you're a business owner or receive bonuses from your employer -- aren't as apparent as a paycheck, so the ability to recreate your expense list and know your lifestyle is really important. It'll help them make sure you have what you need moving forward.

Know also that if you lived on a shoestring budget during your marriage, that shoestring is going to get a little thinner, especially during the divorce process. Prepare your budget based on a household income of one, especially until your support is decided and starts coming in. Even after all of this, if you can’t meet your budget, maybe you can negotiate a raise with your employer or arrange a loan from a family member to tide you over.

There’s no question; your money mindset has to change in divorce.

Put It on Paper

Committing your budget to paper will help you think through the process, and you’ll have it to keep you accountable. Laying it out like this will help you know exactly what you need, helping you know how to adjust, even helping you decide what type of job to get. Some of the categories you’ll encounter as you prepare your financials for divorce are:

  • Food Expense: groceries, toiletries, cleaning supplies, and casual dining out.
  • Auto Expense: car payment, gasoline, maintenance
  • Clothing Expense: shoes, clothing purchases that are necessities, repairs/alterations, and related items
  • Laundry Expense: cost of laundry service, dry cleaning
  • School Expense: tuition, supplies, field trips, lunch money, dues, tutors, locker rentals, arts & crafts supplies
  • Entertainment Expense: fine dining, sporting events, concerts, movies, theater, vacations
  • Incidental Expenses: cosmetics, hair and nail appointments, books, magazines, business dues, memberships, pets, donations, gifts, hobbies, and other outstanding payments
  • Home Appliance Expenses
  • Savings Accounts (ideal goal is to save 10% of your annual income)
  • College Tuition Savings

Rule of Thumb on Percentages

A typical household budget breaks out like this:


A good exercise is to take your monthly income and adjust it to each of these categories and percentages to help you see how your current situation fits.

Making It Work

Catherine was working with a client who realized she was going to have to make some changes. Her monthly deficit was $200. Looking over her numbers, Catherine noticed her cleaning service was costing the client $400 per month for two visits. Rather than lose her cleaning lady, whose service she valued, she decided to cut down to one time per month and have her teenage children chip in and help her the rest of the month.

Are you used to going out in large groups, where the check is usually split equally? Talk with the person who organized the outing ahead of time. Share with them that you want to continue to go out, but you’re anxious about chipping in. Ask if they’d mind if you have your own check. Who knows, this might make the others happy or relieved as well.

You might be single with no kids but used to treating your nephews and nieces all the time. You all look forward to treating them to a nice dinner out but know you can’t continue to pay for these outings. Instead, invite them to your home and ask everyone to bring a dish, moving the sole burden off of you but continuing a good time together.

It’s important, especially when dealing with the stress of divorce, to continue to do some of the things that make you happy, that help you relax and forget your troubles for a little while. The worst thing you can do is isolate yourself. All it takes is a little time and sometimes a little courage to prepare beforehand. Your family and friends will understand. Making these small personal adjustments is hard, but it helps bring your budget in line without completely missing out on these extras of life.

Get Advice from a Financial Advisor

Your cash settlement, alimony and child support comes in. You’re set, right? No, you can't rely on that forever. When those payments start coming in, you're likely still upset about the divorce, even after a year or two. It’s ok to treat yourself with a little splurge – buy yourself that handbag or ring you’ve had your eye on – and then sit down and get that budget on paper and live by it. Do it now, because when your children turn 18, what will you do? Plan now to be ready for the future.

The most important thing people forget is that your alimony is taxable. The IRS will not wait to get paid. Immediately set aside at least 20% pay your taxes quarterly or by April 15 of each tax year.

You Can Do This

All of this may sound like a lot of work, and it may be, especially if you're not accustomed to thinking in these terms. However, the alternative can be very expensive and overwhelming if you do not take these steps now.

Get Our Budget Worksheet

Email us at info@divorceusolutions.com and mention this podcast episode and we'll send you a complete copy of our budget worksheet so you can get started right away.

We Welcome Your Feedback

Thanks for joining our community. We want to hear about the positive steps you are taking for yourself every day.

Be sure to like our Facebook Page and Instagram Page and follow us on Pinterest and Twitter.  For more information about who we are and what we do, please visit our website at www.divorceusolutions.com


As we begin episode four of the We Chat Divorce podcast, please remember that divorce does not define you. Yes, it’s part of our stories and it may be a part of your story, but that’s okay. We’re here to share our insight and inspiration, addressing the good stuff and the bad stuff (aka the BS) and hope this podcast will help you move forward in a positive direction.

Being Present with Each Other

Do you find yourself having a hard time focusing? Does the activity in your life, not to mention in your divorce, have you feeling overwhelmed? It’s a problem we all encounter, especially in our world of instant gratification but disconnecting, especially from social media, is important.

Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent, managing the household or you’re working full time, the most important thing you can do for each other – and your marriage - is be present. It’s deeper than putting the cell phones down.

Make it a point to have a transition time from work to home and then carve out some time to sit with each other and acknowledge you want to be in each other’s presence. Being married and being a parent is about relationships and if you can’t figure out the relationships, you’re going to have a lot of dysfunction going on. Being present and listening, making that person feel heard and affirmed is so critical to healthy relationships. We all need to slow down, listen more, and be in the moment.

Being Present in the Divorce Process

Being present throughout the divorce process is a critical skill to develop. You have a lot coming at you all at once – where to live, will the kids be okay, will you have enough money, will you have enough energy to get up and go to work each day, and on and on. Actively being present is a skill that will get you through each step. It may be helpful to start journaling, even if that means you write down each step and focus on them one at a time.

This is also true with mediation. If you’re going through divorce as two individuals, each with your own attorney communicating with each other on your behalf, you’re not even in the conversation in the moment. With mediation or a negotiated settlement, you remain present and in the moment about the decisions being made. Literally. You’re there in the room together and you’re able to hear you’re your soon-to-be-ex wants a certain asset or more time with your kids. This process allows you to communicate with each other and, above all else, be heard. It changes how you get divorced for the better.

Today’s Takeaways

  • Use the “24-Hour Panic” Rule: Give yourself time to not think about the issue. Write it down if it helps you. Put it on a to do list. When you come back to it 24 hours later, your perspective may be completely different.
  • Stop, Drop, and Let Go: Maybe you’re not wired to let something go for 24 hours. Try 10 minutes. Remember the fire prevention phrase, “Stop, drop, and roll?” Tell yourself, “Stop, drop, and let go.” If you feel overwhelmed or you’re not feeling heard, give it that time, that silence. The feeling may go away or you may master it.

Being present helps to set boundaries for yourself and others. It helps to quiet the noise in your head so you can tune into what others are saying. It helps you to focus on one thing at a time.

We Welcome Your Feedback

Thanks for joining our community. We want to hear about the positive steps you are taking for yourself every day.

Be sure to like our Facebook Page and Instagram Page and follow us on Pinterest and Twitter.  For more information about who we are and what we do, please visit our website at www.divorceusolutions.com


In episode three, we continue our real talk about the world of divorce with a conversation about the realities of co-parenting. Is anyone really ready for that? Co-parenting is always a challenge, for sure, but this podcast will give you practical tools to get through it with your sanity and current marriage intact.

Celebrities, They're Just Like Us!
With all of the money and resources available to celebrities, it’s easy to presume they sail through co-parenting or relating to an ex’s new significant other. At the end of the day, though, we’re all human and need to think of our children above everything else.

Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck are one example. Jennifer recently took their children on vacation and Ben went along. They stayed in two connecting suites of the same size, so their kids could spend time with both parents. They made it work for them and their children.

Ryan Phillipe, who was married to Reese Witherspoon, has said that “You have to get to that point as a divorced parent, as any parent, where you’re not putting yourself first.”

Taye Diggs, who is co-parenting his son with singer and actress Idina Menzel, acknowledges this: “When you have a kid in the mix of it there’s no time for negativity.”

No matter who you are, put your children first. We get married for a reason, we get divorced for a reason, but there’s never a reason to put your kids in the middle of it.

Keeping It Real
Co-parenting is complicated by so many things, the emotional residue of the divorce, new significant others or spouses on the scene, and the world of step-parenthood.

How can you navigate these relationships, stay focused on the well-being of your children, and stay sane? Know when to pick your battles. Here are a few ways we recommend to keep the peace, and your cool:

Drop the Rope
Often, you’ll find yourself in an argument with your ex. It could be a timing issue, or whether your children left things at the other’s home, or any number of issues. Instead of participating in this tug of war, simply drop the rope. You’ll feel more mentally free and present for your priority, your children.

That’s interesting.
This tactic is especially good to use with narcissists. When someone is battling head-to-head, and no matter what you say, you will never be “right” in his or her eyes? Just say “That’s interesting,” and leave it at that. It’s not worth the stress it will cause you or your children.

24 Hour Panic Rule
Things happen. The threat of court, an ex is late picking up your children. Whatever it is, give yourself 24 hours to not even think about it. Give yourself time to breathe. Often, whatever it is will resolve itself, or you’ll have a fresh perspective.

How do you know these tactics are working? React to the reactions of your children. If your child is happy and doing fine, that’s what it’s all about. Talk about it together so your child can feel secure.

When It’s All Said and Done
It’s hard to co-parent through a divorce. Stay engaged, try to better yourself. Be there for the kids, and you’ll all grow and develop together.

Give Us Your Feedback
The hardest part for us is not hearing your voices. Please give us your feedback, your comments, your questions. Let us know in the comments section below this recording. 

Be sure to like our Facebook Page and Instagram Page and follow us on Pinterest and Twitter.  For more information about who we are and what we do, please visit our website at www.divorceusolutions.com

And remember we know divorce is never easy, and your life may be changing.  Change can be good!  We want you to know – you are not alone, and you will be ok.  We’ll talk to you soon. We chat because you matter.


In this episode, we continue the conversation about real people and real situations in the world of divorce. Every person has their own unique story. We’re here to discuss the human element of divorce from a variety of perspectives – from personal anecdotes to divorce in the entertainment world.

Divorce in the Entertainment World

Celebrities can seem like they have it all, but beneath the glamour they’re people, too, with the same feelings and the same problems in divorce. Drew Barrymore has been divorced for a year now. In her 40s with two small children, “When you break up with somebody you’re like, ‘Yeah, that didn’t work,’ but when you get divorced you’re like I’m the biggest failure. This is the biggest failure. I’m so shameful and it’s so hard to actually go through that, even privately.” This feeling of guilt and failure is common in divorce, but isn't who you are.

Divorce in the Real World

A new client came to see us nine months after her divorce. We worked with her, reviewing her documents and creating a timeline, determining that what was happening post-divorce wasn’t supposed to happen to her. The system wasn’t providing what was financially owed to her and what was agreed upon. We helped her go from barely making ends meet to securing the reimbursements and the level of support she was entitled to.

Real Divorce: The Human Element

In our article that appeared recently on the DivorcedMoms.com website -- The First Year of Divorce: 10 Truths No One Tells You But Should – we talk about a lot of the feelings we ourselves went through in our personal divorce experiences, are we messing up our kids, do we miss our exes, etc. We also discovered an article on LinkedIn from the men’s perspective -- How Do Men Really Cope After Divorce? – which covers that men don’t fully realize how their lifestyles are changing until some time passes, that they miss all the activity of home life with their kids.

We’re basically the same – we have a sense of loss and we care about our kids. If divorced couples focus on that throughout that first year, on respecting each other and taking things one step at a time, it’ll make things better in the long run.

As we like to say, “Divorce does not mess your kids up. It’s how both parents behave before, during, and after divorce that can mess your kids up.”

Thanks for joining our community. We’d love to hear from you and love to hear positive steps you are taking for yourself every day. Let us know via our website, on our Facebook page or our Instagram account.

Divorce is never easy, and although your life may be changing.  Change can be good!  We want you to know – you are not alone and you will be ok.  We’ll talk to you soon. 


The We Chat Divorce Podcast brings you conversations about real people, real situations and real divorce. We’re Karen Chellew, paralegal and business manager, and Catherine Shanahan, CDFA (Certified Divorce Financial Analyst). We’re co-founders of Divorce U Solutions, where we work with clients to navigate the often complex and confusing process of divorce. We’re here to share our personal and professional experiences to demystify the big business of divorce. This podcast is time for you to gain clarity and even have a laugh or two.

First up, what we wish we had known as we went through our divorces.

For more information about who we are and what we do, please visit our website at www.divorceusolutions.com, like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram. Welcome to our community!