In this episode of the We Chat Divorce podcast, we’re joined by Charissa Liller, an attorney based in Doylestown, Pennsylvania practicing Family Law with the firm Curtin & Heefner. She began her career as a prosecutor and has been practicing law in Bucks County for over 20 years, with over 15 of those years focused on Family Law. Charissa is also running for Judge in Bucks County. She is seeking to bring experience, empathy, and consistency -- qualities she brings to her family law practice – to the bench in support of families experiencing divorce.

Today she joins us for a conversation about guidelines and best practices related to Spousal Support, APL (Alimony Pendente Lite), and Child Support. Highlights include:

Support: an Overview

  • You do not have to be married to file for child support, as long as parents are living in separate households. If the parents are living within the same household, the court requires proof of a need to distinguish financial separation (bills aren’t being paid, utilities being turned off, groceries, certain expenses for the child)
  • If you are married, you can file for spousal support as long as you’re residing in physically separate residences.
  • Once you have filed for divorce, spousal support is then called APL.

Spousal Support vs. APL

  • APL is only when a divorce complaint is filed
  • With spousal support there’s an entitlement defense; the payor can claim claimant spouse is cheating, but the court requires proof. The remedy is to file a divorce claim, then you can file for APL.

Child Support Orders – What to Know

  • Extracurricular activities are not addressed in support orders. You can add provisions to the child support order providing both parental parties are agreeable to doing so and to the terms.
  • Medical expenses are always addressed. However, psychological and psychiatric expenses are not included with medical, so that language must be included as a provision in the order to ensure that expense is covered as a medical expense.
  • Support orders are always modifiable.

Final Tips:

  • Work with a CDFA to be clear on what your financial picture is and what it will be.
  • Don’t file support modifications on your own. Always consult with an attorney. You don’t know what you don’t know is key in divorce.

If you have questions for us or a topic you’d like us to cover, contact us at hello@mydivorcesolution.com.

It makes us sad to think of the people who are unhappily married, especially during the holidays. When you are unhappy, you behave in a way that doesn’t allow you to live your best life. You live just waiting for each day to end so a new one can begin. You tend to overlook all the beauty in the world and all the possibilities for a joyous life. You live with envy of others and the life you thought you were supposed to have instead of living with purpose and aspirations of attaining your dreams. We know this firsthand because we felt all of those emotions and more while we were going through our divorces. We also know it doesn’t have to be this way.

We also want to caution you to not simply jump into divorce because it’s at the top of your New Year’s Resolutions (right next to the Polar Bear Plunge). Consider these ten insights before taking the plunge toward divorce:

It matters where you start. Know your options.

  1. Divorce does not define you.
  2. Believe in yourself because you are enough, and you deserve to be happy.
  3. Bullying is never acceptable, not even in divorce.
  4. Divorce does not mess up your kids, it’s how both parents behave before, during, and after divorce that can mess up your kids!
  5. When negotiating your divorce, know that there is a difference between what is fair and what is equitable.
  6. You are stronger than you think.
  7. Don’t feel guilty for wanting to be happy.
  8. Knowledge in divorce is everything.
  9. You will be OK!

If you have questions for us or a topic you’d like us to cover, contact us at hello@mydivorcesolution.com

 

Is this your first holiday after your divorce? Getting through all the "firsts" is a challenge. In episode 11 of the We Chat Divorce podcast, Catherine and Karen share their experiences with their first holidays during and after divorce. The emotions, the awkward situations and, ultimately, how they embraced all the opportunity that came with this change.

In Episode #10 – Real Solutions with Real Estate, we talk about the realities of making decisions about real estate during divorce. Whether it’s a shared asset you’d prefer to sell or deciding whether to stay in the family home, this episode has solutions. We’re happy to be joined by Hilton Head Island-based realtor, Karen Ryan. You may view the original We Chat Divorce broadcast here.

The Unwanted Asset

Catherine shares about a recent experience where we were able to work together with another professional to provide a creative solution to end a client’s ongoing stress. In this case it was with our guest for this episode, realtor Karen Ryan:

“We had a client who was getting nowhere with her divorce. She was two years into the process, and they were stumped on this rental property that they owned ‘down on a beach somewhere,’ as she explained it to me. She did not want this rental property. She was the bread winner of the family. Her husband wanted this property. But there was really no way out, the attorneys did not know what to do about it. They were going back and forth, but he clearly could not afford it. She had some emotional issues with having it because of things that went wrong in their marriage. So, I said to her, ‘Where is this rental property?’ She said, ‘Hilton Head, South Carolina.’ And I said, ‘As a matter of fact, I’m going there; I know a realtor, I’m going to talk with her, see if she’ll take me there. And then I can evaluate it financially, see if it would be worth while keeping, and maybe we can financially be creative and come up with a solution finally end your divorce.’

That’s when I called today’s guest, Karen Ryan, and told her the situation. She took me through the property, went through everything, and said, ‘We manage properties, so the stress would not have to be on the client.’ We went through the numbers and she gave me a spreadsheet of possible rental income on this property. I went back to Pennsylvania, met with the wife, we went through the numbers, and our client actually started to cry. She said, ‘I can’t believe you have a solution for me. I can’t believe these two years can come to an end, because this could work.’ And I said, ‘Yes, it could. Go back to your attorney and here’s what you should tell them.’ She did. They got divorced. To this day, she’s still renting that property and she’s very happy about it.”

So, know that there are ways to think creatively about a financial situation, to take the emotion out of why you think do not want an asset, when the asset can be positive for you financially.

It’s so hard to make decisions in the divorce process at any moment, because you’re just so driven by your emotions and everything’s so new and unknown. That’s why we say we’re going to start with knowns and we’re going to keep going from there.

The Devil’s in the Deed Details

Another thing to consider is making sure everything is correct on the property deed. Even though it seems like a simple transaction, if it gets messed up it can be a reason for litigation later. So, any time you’re wrapping up things after divorce, and you’re ending up with property, make sure you get that deed reviewed by a real estate attorney.

Q&A

Today we have a letter from Janet in Milwaukee:

“My name is Janet. I never thought I would be in this position, but I’m a new empty-nester and I’m facing divorce. I want to keep the family home, but don’t know how I can afford it. I’m afraid to live on my own, and I am not sure how I can keep up with all of the household responsibilities. Do you have advice for me?”

When you’re choosing to stay in your home, along with the responsibility of everything that is now on your shoulders, realize that this is probably one of your biggest assets. So, that asset will go into your column, which means that your spouse is probably getting retirement monies or cash, and you will find that you want when you move on in life. So, don’t decide to just keep this big responsibility and this big asset all wrapped up in this house without going through your financials, going through your post-divorce budget. And really thinking about where you visualize your life moving forward.

It could cut into your travel time, time with your grandkids, or you know, a whole host of things that you may want to do. You’re so connected emotionally to your house, but after a year or so, it becomes a burden, and an albatross of sorts. And then you have it, and then you have to spend the money to sell it, which, is not inexpensive either.

Or you really realize, as your children are older, how often do your kids come home? Then they start having children, so you’re going to their homes to visit them. So don’t be overly attached to your home.  

We recommend that you make two columns - in the first column, write down all of your expenses to own the home. Just go through it line by line. And in the next column, maybe a less expensive home, and things you may want to do and see how that feels. In any event, make the best decisions for yourself and your situation.

Real Solutions with Real Estate

Karen: We are so happy to have Karen Ryan of Weichert Realtors here from Hilton Head Island with us today. Welcome!

Karen Ryan (KR): Thank you! I’m so happy to be here with you.

Catherine: Well, we’re so happy to have you.

Karen: Absolutely. Karen, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background and what you do and what makes you get up every day.

KR: Sure! I love what I do. I’m Karen Ryan. I’m a broker/ owner of Weichert Realtors Coastal Properties. I’ve lived on the island for 25 years and I manage the residential sales team. I love working with buyers and sellers and I loved working with the client that you referenced, Catherine.

Catherine: That was just so wonderful.

KR: What you do is so needed, because it’s just such an emotional time. Any real estate transaction is an emotional decision, whether it’s positive and happy or really stressful because you’re going through such a life change. So, that you’re there for people at that time when they are so uncertain of what’s coming next, all these unknowns as you talk about, it’s great to have an advocate.

Karen: We have a lot of questions for you. Number 1, we get asked a lot. How does a person’s credit score affect their ability to buy or rent a new home?

KR: Greatly. It very greatly can affect your ability to buy. The first thing I would say, is to know your financial condition. Know your finances, where your money is. Find out what your credit score is, your ability to buy. You can go to Equifax, or many services to find out your credit score. You’ll be able to get a greater amount of money and your interest rates will be lower if you have a better credit score.

Karen: What if you have no credit score? We run into that.

KR: We have seen that with women who are going through a divorce. And they feel like, oh you know it’s going to be fine, we have bought many, many homes over the years. And they come to find out that they have no credit. No credit is actually worse than bad credit.

Catherine: That’s so interesting.

KR: Yes, the scores are far lower. They have no history. The banks have no idea what kind of risk you are. So, if someone finds themselves in this position and they have no credit, the first thing they should do is get a credit card, and make payments on that credit card. You want to not necessarily get a charge on there and pay it right off, you want to get a charge on there and pay it over time. So they can see that you’re paying the minimum or more on the card. Don’t put yourself in financial risk, but show some history of on time payments. That really will help.

Karen: I would not have realized that. So, how long does it take to establish credit?

KR: Well, usually it will take about a year to establish credit. You can do it in six months. You can at least start to make a dent in it where it’s not the low 300 credit score because you have no credit. In six months, you’re going to see some established credit. So, it can happen relatively fast, but you have to know your position and where you are to start. Gather all the information you can.

Catherine: I’m curious what your thoughts are about renting and buying. So, renting – is it easier for someone to do that first and then transition to buying? Especially if you don’t have credit –it gives you that year to build some credit up.

KR: Right, sometimes. You know it really depends, I get a good idea from talking to the client if they really want a place of their own, and they’ve really just gone through an emotionally difficult time, and this is going to be their happy place. You know that’s a whole different scenario than somebody who’s very uncertain, who has a hard time making decisions. If I see somebody in that kind of state, I will say, “I really recommend that you rent for a period of time. Rent, we’ll continue to look, something will feel right.”

Catherine: Oh, that’s nice. So, you actually take that on as yourself. You say let me assess this person, and see how emotionally they’re ready for this  – I like that.

KR: Yes, and I get a good sense from someone. And I think anybody that’s been in real estate a while can get a good sense from somebody if they are indecisive about what they want to do. One day they want to do one thing, the next they dial it back and say, “You know, I’m not ready for this.” I don’t ever want to push somebody in that position to move forward with buying. You’re right, have them make a list of how much it’s going to cost and they can make an informed decision. But I do recommend if someone is going through a very stressful life change, like divorce, and they’re uncertain with what’s next, it’s probably better to rent.

Catherine: When you take someone through to buy a home, and let’s just talk about a woman in transition, because we’ve all been there, when you go through the divorce process, and this is the first time you’re making this grand purchase for yourself now at this time. It’s all your responsibility. I was used to doing it for a spouse or with a spouse. Do you ever have to have the reality talk with them, that they can’t afford the upkeep of the home? Because a lot of people can afford to buy a home, but can they afford to maintain the home? And what negative effect that would have on them in the long run.

KR: Yes, I think, sometimes, if they’ve never owned a home by themselves, there is that unknown. And they don’t realize in some cases, there’s a regime fee and a property owner’s association fee, and there are transfer fees, there are all these different fees that come into effect with certain properties. So, we always lay that out – what it will cost them to get into that home, what it will cost for monthly caring costs for that home. And then they can make a decision, if that’s something they want to move forward with.

Karen: And alimony, the receipt of alimony plays in two different ways. One, how long do they need to have alimony in place before they would qualify? But also, alimony is going to end at some point, most of the time, and then, you know, they need to plan beyond that. And so many times, that’s not really taken into consideration. First of all, how many months of alimony do they need to have in place before they would qualify?

KR: They need, to have a history of six months of alimony payments or receipt of payments in order for that to count towards qualification for a loan.

Catherine: Which is a really good point to bring up. That needs to be negotiated in your agreement. So, if you are in the process and you are thinking of buying a home, make sure that it is recorded somehow that you’re receiving those payments sooner than later, if you are in anticipation of buying.

KR: Great point. Yes, because, they come out thinking, “Oh I’m going to get this and this is going to count toward it…” but it can’t.

Catherine: Because you actually take the decree and you have to submit that with your application, as proof that you are receiving that alimony. Along with the receipts and the length of time. You have to receive it for three years at least?

KR: Yes, to qualify. And then after that point, you have to just show that you can afford the property.

Catherine: There’s a lot to think about.

KR: There’s a lot to think about. But as long as you know these things, you go in prepared, you just gather that information. Talk to the right professional. I think your service is so awesome for somebody who is “deer in headlights.” They really need an advocate. And talk to a real estate professional, who will place them with a great mortgage lender who can give great advice. You don’t have to move forward either way. You shouldn’t be working with someone who is putting pressure on you to make a decision.

Catherine: Absolutely, I agree with that. And I like how you assess how they are feeling about their decision making and you’re willing to go, let’s go to rental right now. Because we say that often, I always say, just rent for a year and then decide. So it’s nice that you do that. And if someone is being aggressive, back off.

KR: Right, a real estate professional wants that person in the right home. We love home ownership, we love making someone really happy with a home.

Karen: Well, I would like to cover one more question before our time is up, because this really factored into when I was buying a home. What is the typical ratio of the income to housing expense?

KR: Well, what’s required by mortgage lenders is 50, no more than 50 percent of your income or your debt to income ratio. That’s a lot though. So, when you’re first getting divorced, you know you want to have a lifestyle, you want to go out. Really more comfortable is 40, 45.

Catherine: Twenty percent down? As a down payment in most cases.

KR: You can go 15 percent down, twenty percent down is for an income property. But there are other scenarios where you can put 3 percent down. Just depending on the kind of loan and kind of property.

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Divorce is complex. That’s the reality. The good news is, with sound counsel from your professional team, you can still navigate the process with clarity and confidence. In Episode #9 – Complex Divorce, we go behind the scenes with a recent client, answer a question from our audience and learn how to proceed in a complex divorce with our guest, attorney Mary Fran Quindlen of Beaufort, South Carolina-based Quindlen Law Firm, P.A.. You may view the original We Chat Divorce broadcast here.

Karen: Welcome, Mary Fran. Thank you for joining us.

Mary: Thank you

Karen: Why don’t we start out with you giving us a little bit of background about how you got into family law and where you started and how you got to where are now.

Mary: I'm originally from New Jersey, where it's very cold and snows. I graduated from Rutgers and knew that I wanted to move to the Beaufort area. I have been coming here since I was a child, and I knew this was where I wanted to be. I went to the University of South Carolina for law school, but first I joined the Marine Corps. Then I went to the University of South Carolina for law school and after I graduated from the University of South Carolina, I went to training for the Marine Corps. The basic school, naval justice school, and then I was stationed to Parris Island which is, for anybody who's not from here, right across from Beaufort, within Beaufort. When I was on active duty, I did about two years of defense work and about two years of legal assistance, which is basically family law. That's when I learned that I really, really understand and like doing family law.

Karen: We're glad that you do that, and we love working with you. We're going to circle back to a question that was asked a little bit ago that we wanted to ask directly to you. The question is, "Do you tell your clients what to do, or do you help them make the best decisions for themselves?"

Mary: Well, I was wondering if I was the “pitbull” attorney that your audience member was asking about in the previous segment. I say, you know, when we walk out of these doors, whatever you want ultimately, you're paying me to advocate for you. As long as it's not unethical, illegal, or damaging to my professional reputation, I will go out and let you spend $3,000 to fight over a $20 end table because it means that much to you. But I'm going to tell you why you're wasting your money and why you're wasting your resources. I never tell a client what decision to make. I always present them with as many options as possible. Particularly when it’s a strategic question for trial, so, you know, "He isn't paying the credit card bill on time. I want to rule him in, I want a contempt action. Will you do that?" And I'll say "Okay, well let's talk about it. Why isn't he paying the payment on time?" "Well, he just got laid off." Okay, well, we could still do a contempt action rule to show cause if you want, but a defense is the inability to pay. Then I flesh it all out and I'll write down, "here are your options.” You know, option A is the “pitbull” attack, and this is what I think the likelihood of success for that is and why you should do that and so on.

Catherine: One thing that I love about you from personal experience with joint clients is that you really do want the individual to move forward in a positive direction. You really do want them to transition through this process in the best possible way and you're really open to them making decisions outside of your room. But, if that goes awry, you are so ready to be that aggressive attorney, and that's such a great mix. It's very good.

Mary: I appreciate that. I will say though that what I frequently say to clients is that in family law, if you do complex cases -- and complex doesn't always mean a lot of money -- sometimes it can be custody battles, sometimes there might be international components, there can be lots of things that can make a case complex. But if you do complex work, it means you love to litigate because you’re going to court a lot and I tell clients all the time that I love to litigate and I've got lots of children to put through college. So if you want me to litigate, I am happy to do it and I like to litigate but my happiest clients control their own destiny, settle their cases quickly, and have minimal contact with me.

Karen: What do you do if a client sits in front of you and says, "I don’t know what to do. Just tell me.”

Mary: I'd send them to you guys! You know, it depends on what it is they're confused about. Obviously, I don’t send people to you if their question is, “Should I separate the twins?” If it’s money, I tell people all the time there are two things that save clients thousands of legal fees: private investigators and divorce financial planners. I say, "I'm happy to sit here and my hourly rate and go over how much you have for cell phone bill and how we can reduce your cell phone plan to make it more effective for you but that doesn’t seem like a good use of your money.” But I will do it. And I have. I always say to the clients, “What’s your endgame? What’s your wish list?” And then I say, “What do I need to get you there?” You can’t ask me about financials, I’m not a CPA, I’m not a forensic accountant, I’m not a financial planner, I don’t know how to get you an eight or six or a four percent return or how much you need based on that. If you can bring me a plan that’s been put in place with a clean financial declaration and, preferably, a marital asset addendum, that shows how were getting there, then it’s my job to take that and work toward the client’s desired outcomes.

Catherine: I love that approach. It really gives the client the real feeling that you are looking at everything in the best interest and you are looking to save them time and money and stress by using other professionals to help with the whole team and the whole process. It really is so much better for anyone going through this process

Mary: When I do consults, I say to them all the time that in my years of experience, I try to be holistic because I only do family law. I say, “I know what I don’t know and I know what you don’t need to pay me to do.” Sometimes people think, “Well, we can work this out so I’m not going to go get these experts because I’m already paying much to the attorney,” sometimes we'll get into the case period of time and I’ll say I'm not saying I told you so, but what I'm saying is now I have to have someone who can give me this information.

Karen: We tell our clients that as well. You know so many people think when they’re going through a divorce, the first call is to their attorney, but if they do some homework ahead of time, it gets them so much farther down the road and more swiftly. And that actually goes with my next question. What can a client do in preparation for working with you?

Mary: I do a very detailed initial consult. It's just my style. Every attorney has a different style. My style isn't the most lucrative for me, but allows me to make informed decisions and allows them to make informed decisions. I always give people the names of other attorneys that I think might be a good fit for them. And they’re usually people that I practice with that I like that I respect. And I genuinely gauge the person and say, “You know, if you leave here and you say that crazy redhead was fast talking, I didn’t understand half the stuff she said, she made my head hurt and my dad hated her,” go see someone else, because a lot of it's about style. We’ll all ultimately come to the same thing but one of the other things I say to them before they come in is to bring five years' worth of tax returns with you. It depends if it's an emergency, protective or a complex custody matter, it might be different but I always need five years worth of tax returns. Get me any kind of documents that you have related to retirement accounts. Show us what you own and what you don't own. Complete this financial declaration. And a lot of times I also have clients come in 30 minutes beforehand and I intentionally ask them to fill out the paperwork while they're sitting there because it gets their head in the game. So many people do come in crying and upset and they want to spend the first hour getting therapy and I say I'm a great therapist, but I am not really licensed to do it. And so, you can stay focused if you've met with a financial planner ahead of time. If you can't afford a divorce financial planner, do you have someone in your family who's good with numbers? When people come and say, “I don’t know what I need, and I don't know what I have,” it's very expensive. I'm happy to help them, but subpoenas are not the least expensive way to get your information.

Karen: Absolutely. So, can you go over with us what exactly is complex litigation?

Mary: In my opinion, because we don't have a family law specialty in this state (South Carolina) which would define something like that. Complex litigation is anything that I think is very likely to end up at trial. And even if it doesn't end up in trial, and the majority of them don't, anything that's a high net value case often times will be considered complex. But sometimes you having a lot of money doesn't make it complex because they are easily divided, but if you add debt into the mix, particularly during a recession, or if you make $60,000 a month, but you spend $62,000 a month – that's a complex litigation case because of alimony. Those sorts of issues make it very complex. Anything that would be subjective to a judge, makes it complex.

Catherine: How many cases do you think actually go to court to litigation? Percentage wise?

Mary: Well, I think it depends on the attorney, honestly. Different lawyers have different ways they manage. Not everyone only does family law. That might just be a very small portion of their practice. For me, I would say that at least 8-15% of my cases get to the brink of trial and I say probably 10% of my cases go to actual trial.

Catherine: That's what I was thinking

Karen: Thank you so much for being here. We so enjoy working with you.

Catherine: Yes, we do.

Mary: Thank you for having me.

 

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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.mydivorcesolution.com

 

This is the audio from our March 2018 episode of We Chat Divorce, which aired in March 2018. You can watch the episode here.

In today’s episode, we’re joined by Cecilia Halseth, author of Walking is for Wimps. We had a great time discussing how to start, and keep, a healthy routine throughout a stressful time.

Karen: Welcome to We Chat Divorce. This is where we talk about real people, real situations, and real divorce. I'm Karen Chellew, and I'm here with Catherine Shanahan, we cofounded a Divorce Solutions company that really is committed to changing the way people get divorced. And we do that by having this show and having guests that help us help you navigate your divorce process. So today we're going to be talking about managing stress and how it affects your well-being physically and mentally.

Catherine: We see a lot of people and they are concerned, and we're concerned for them, and we assess them about their financial, emotional, and physical well-being. Have you ever heard of the divorce diet?

Karen: No.

Catherine: Okay so when I went through my divorce, there's this "divorce diet", and it was great. I lost 20 pounds, and it felt so good, but it just wasn’t good for me. It was all stress related. It wasn’t anything I was doing healthy for myself. I was just stressed out all the time. So, I'm really excited for our guest today to get us on track on what to do properly. Even though I lost that 20 pounds and I felt great, it has come back. As you know I can't fit in some of my clothes right now because it has come back. So, I need some help today and I'm really excited about today.

Karen: Me too. My divorce diet was not eating at all. When I manage stress, I just don't eat. I feel like crawling in a hole. So, I'm excited for Cecilia to be here. And we notice when people talk about divorce, one of the first things they want to talk about is "I'm a mess", "I don't feel good", "I don’t look good", "I'm not eating well", "I'm eating differently", just because the whole family dynamic is all shaken up. And, so, that needs to be address right at the beginning.

Catherine: Yeah. And we're all so focused on that. I remember my first spinning class. I'm by myself and I'm sitting in the gym, and I'm to the right and it’s a really dark room. And I'm spinning away, and the class is over and I'm trying to get off the bike. I hear a group of women, the instructor also, talking. And I hear the instructor say, "I lost 185 pounds." Now I don't know any of the women, or the instructor at that time either, and I'm thinking "Oh my gosh. 185 pounds! How did she do that?" So, I'm thinking "I'm pretty social. I'm going to go meet these women." So, I go over and say "Excuse me, this is such a great class. I'm so curious, how did you lose 185 pounds?" And they all start cracking up and she says "Well I just divorced the guy I was married to! He weighed 185 pounds and I'm rid of him now". She's a good friend of mine now and I found that to be so funny. But fast forward, me going through my own divorce, I realized maybe it's not so funny, that we focus on that. Or often you'll hear "Oh, he lost a lot of weight, He must be doing something he shouldn’t be doing." Or "He's preparing to divorce me." So, it will be really nice to hear a healthy approach to look at ourselves.

Karen: Absolutely. So, our guest is Cecilia Halseth. Cecilia is a ball of energy, and the author of a book entitled Walking is for Wimps. Cecilia holds a degree in exercise and physiology and she's been a part of the fitness industry for over 25 years, teaching exercise classes and giving lectures.

Catherine: She'll help us help you get on a healthier path to a nice future.

Karen: Cecilia, thank you for joining us!

Cecilia: My pleasure. Thank you thank you I'm so excited. So, I was listening to you guys and exercise is an important part for anybody to not only feel better, but as a mood booster, which is one of the big problems when you are separating from someone you loved sometimes for many years, and you're going through the stress of divorce. Exercise could help as a stress releaser, and as a fantastic mood booster.

Catherine: I'm so excited to hear how you'll help us stay on track. First, get on track, and then stay there, which is what I'm having a problem with.

Karen: But wait, walking is for wimps. Please tell us.

Cecilia: Wimpy wimpy. Well this is very interesting. I have for many years created and filled in my own personalized "keep in shape plan". One of the things I discovered is that so many women get frustrated because they exercise but cannot lose the weight. It's because they're not doing it efficiently and effectively. And that's one of the things I see. I see many women walking, having a good time. Chit chatting, and they take a nice long stroll through the park, through the street, but they're not trying. So, don’t take me wrong. Walking is a wonderful way to exercise. But, if you're doing it very easily, it's either because you're very old, because you've been injured, or because you're recuperating from illness. But most of us who are active and young, you must add what I call "moments of intensity". And those moments of intensity could translate to sprints or walk faster. So, that's what I mean by walking is for wimps. You must add moments of intensity. Even 30 seconds of where you feel your heartbeat go up, you start feeling moist, you start feeling sweaty. That's what will create changes. That's what will allow you to lose the weight faster. And nobody gets more motivated then when you start seeing it reflected on the scale. So, walking is for wimps means to add moments of intensity. Then you can lose the weight faster and stay motivated.

Karen: Okay so we have young mom going through a divorce. She has two small kids, with no time. And as a matter of fact, she's overwhelmed because there's not enough hours in the day. She's not eating well, she's not exercising, she's totally stressed, what does she do?

Cecilia: This is very interesting because I've seen people being in that same situation. And I think to myself "Okay you're stressed to the max, you're probably also part-time working or full-time working, you go back home and must deal with the kids, there's not another parent to help, and you want to go work out? Oh please." What we want is a glass of wine, a little cheese and crackers, and to put the kids to bed. So, how do you incorporate? The first thing, I believe, to incorporate exercise into your life consistently is that you must start by being motivated. Motivation is a process in which you will start to feel motivated once you start losing the weight. But how do you start the motivation process? The first thing we must understand is that we must be absolutely at our whit's end. Out of frustration, of weight gain, and say "I have to incorporate a stress releaser." Even for ten minutes. So, the first thing these people must think is "Okay, I have all this stress, I have all these kids, and now you want me to work out for an hour?" No. That's also a part of the title of the book. Because if you walk wimpy, then you must walk for an hour, 45, 50 minutes! We don't have time. What I suggest for these people is that if you're an early riser, then think "I'm going to take 15 minutes in the morning before the kids get up, and if you can afford it, then get a little treadmill. [And it doesn't matter if you're in your pajamas], get a pony tail, and go before the kids get up for 15 minutes. And add those moments of intensity. Walk for four-five minutes and then push it a little bit. The moment you push, and your body wakes up, then you say "Ham! I think I can do another minute". So that's one of the things you must think. If you've an early riser, then do it then. If you go to work, go at lunch time. You just change your shorts and do it for 15 minutes, and you still have an hour of lunch time. So, go there, change, go outside, feel, inhale, push it and push it, come back, put a little deodorant on, and then it's over!

Karen: Speak for yourself!

Cecilia: Yeah, you can do wonders with perfume. And in the afternoon, if you finish early with your walk and you don't have to pick up your kids until 4 or 5, then incorporate that exercise. Again, do it efficiently and effectively, add your moments of intensity, and do it for 15 to 20 minutes, and then it's over!

Catherine: So, I'm hearing you say just start with day one. Take 15 or 20 minutes. Say "This is what I'm doing today for myself" because we deserve it. Everyone deserves 15 or 20 minutes to themselves. And you don't have to start with "I need to do a 45-minute class," or " I need to go work out for an hour" or "I have to run for 30 minutes". You can start with just a walk, add some intensity, and make it a regular habit.

Cecilia: A regular habit... That's very interesting that you bring that up because you cannot change physically, emotionally, and mentally if you don't achieve consistency. That's a big one – consistency. So, the first thing you must think is, most people think consistency means they must do it 3-4 times a week. No! Start twice a week. But really commit to it. Like I myself obviously have really committed to exercise because I already know the wonderful benefits of exercise and now its part pf my life. But it took years. Because the first thing I wanted was to lose the weight. I wasn't thinking "Oh I need to work out so that I can increase my lung capacity. No! The first thing I wanted to do was to lose the weight.

Karen: So, about being consistent with exercise – especially when you're dealing with a stressful situation. I wanted to tell you guys this story because exercise became a very important component of my lifestyle when I went through divorce. My kids were 7 and 5, and I didn't eat. So, it wasn't a weight loss thing for me, but it really was an anxiety reliever for me. So, I would have play dates for them. After school they would be on the playground and I would just run around. I started with ten minutes and I couldn't breathe. But over time it became a lifeline. It remains a core part of my day. But I always need to exercise with someone. So, I have an issue. When that someone isn't available, I sleep in.

Cecilia: It's very interesting. First, I want to say I also did that. If I didn't have the time, then I'd play ticklish monster. I'd chase all the kids in the preschool. And believe me after 20-30 minutes you end up with your tongue out. Something about the companionship, I highly suggest that if we love a song, and we're listening to the radio and we're driving, you start moving. Go write down those songs and say, " I cannot wait to listen to those songs!" And go out there whether you have a friend or not. In fact, no friends so you can go and pump it. It's a fantastic way to do it by yourself.

Catherine: Do you use music when you work out?

Karen: I do, just sometimes...

Catherine: You want the person?

Karen: Not necessarily that I want the person, it's just the pattern that I've set for myself. So, for instance my friend stubbed her toe and I didn't get up and my husband said, "Oh you didn't work out today" and I would say "Well no, she stubbed her toe, so I can't work out." So, I just noticed that about myself.

Cecilia: So that's the thing. If you have the plan A and plan B music and if you are listening to music when you're with her as well, your music is not like "YES I am SO energized" because you want it loud and clear to push you. In fact, some of the parts of good music that excites you, I use as moments of intensity.  When it gets to a certain part of the music, I know that's when I push it, and then come back.

Catherine: Yeah. I say we challenge Karen, and anyone else watching, that they should have their workout buddy be themselves. And you can log it in. I'd like to see how much you work out before our next show.

Karen: You're on!

Catherine: I love challenges.

Cecilia: You were talking about refueling. What does that mean?

Catherine: I lot of times in divorce, the reason couples grow apart is because someone is giving, like we give to our children, we give to our friends, we give to our spouses, and I remember being asked the question, by a therapist, is that "who's refueling you"? Being a stepmom of three children and then having two children ourselves, and with my ex-husband working all the time, I was always giving, giving, giving. Then because we didn't have a connection that was more emotional, I was feeling lonely a lot. So, the question was "How do we refuel ourselves?". I didn't grow up exercising. So, in your book I know you talk about that day to refuel which I'm excited to hear about because it could be something I could connect to.

Cecilia: Well refueling is interesting because it must do with how you manage your caloric intake? One of the first things I want to make very clear is that I love to eat, and I don't mean rabbit food. There's nothing I enjoy more than rich, high-caloric foods. If all the rich, high-caloric foods had the same number of calories as a carrot, we would not be overweight. One of the things that we must do is to plan – and it's okay to plan. It's not an obsessive thing. Every single person who has maintained their decent body weight think, every single day, how they are going to eat. How are they going to make themselves feel better through food or through exercise. I have fuel days, I have maintenance days, and I have cheat days. You must have cheat days. So, the fuel days, usually for me, are Mondays. Why? Because the weekends are mostly my cheating days. So, by Monday you feel so guilty, it is for sure a healthy day. You are going to put fuel in your body, but healthy fuel. Potato chips, fried chicken nuggets, are not fuel. I'm talking healthy fuel. And when you feel so guilty, your body and your brain tell you "Yes. You need to eat healthy." And then maybe Tuesday's another fuel day. Wednesday, I feel good, so I do a maintenance day. Maintenance day means you can still cheat a little bit, like, I'll have a nice salad, with a creamy dressing. Instead of liking on Monday I would have a salad with lemon juice. And maybe on a maintenance day you'll have a bag of Doritos or half the bag. And then cheating day doesn't mean that the whole day you're going to be cheating. What I'm trying to say is that you cannot cheat the whole day. So, what I do on a cheating day, I'm very aware of my exercise, a little quick workout, and then I know that that evening is the party evening. So, I can eat and enjoy myself, eat when I want, slowly. And there's specific tips on how to eat in moderation, a little lower portion, and how to enjoy right, high-caloric food within certain trade-offs – so that you will not gain everything back.

Catherine: You're pointing at me

Cecilia: No! Well you said that you will gain it back. So, one of the things is that you must fight back with all you might [against] that weight gain. And in my book, I have tips about it. Because nothing makes us more frustrated – us women – is [gaining] body weight. Practice managing the low-caloric fuel days, feel good about yourself with intensity and [sweat], and it will release the tension and you'll start feeling better with yourself. It will be a snowball effect. You start feeling better, you start losing the weight, you start being a little more aware or your food intake. Then people start saying "Oh my gosh you look great!" And that's the beginning of your new lifestyle.

Karen: That’s great. And you cover all of that in your book. Walking is for Wimps. Thank you for joining us as We Chat Divorce.

Catherine: And our viewers can get her book right from her website.

Cecelia: Walkingisforwimps.com

Karen: We look forward to seeing you next time. If you have any questions for us or if you want to suggest a topic for one of our next episodes, email us at info@DivorceUSolutions.com. Thank you for joining us.

Catherine: And remember – We chat because you matter.

 

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This episode of the We Chat Divorce Podcast also serves as the debut of our new television program airing on WHHI-TV in Hilton Head, South Carolina. What you’ll hear is the audio from the episode, which you can watch here.

In today’s episode, we introduce ourselves to our Hilton Head audience and share our divorce stories. We’re also joined by Colleen Kowal, of Hilton Head Island Counseling. Colleen is a Licensed Professional Counselor with the State of South Carolina and a certified Imago Relationship Therapist. Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Karen: We were just talking in our last segment about how going through the divorce process is, sometimes people need to think about, "Am I emotionally ready?" They think they're ready, but they may not be. And we were saying we need to refer them to relationship experts sometimes. Your approach we find very intriguing so hopefully you can talk to us a little bit about that.

Colleen: I'd love to talk to you about that. I'd love to talk about Imago. Imago is about 30 years old, and it was developed by Doctor Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt and they wrote the book Getting the Love You Want. I was young and married and not doing very well in graduate school and fell in love with the work. And really decided then that this was the first thing that I had ever really read that made a lot of sense not just about marriage but about relationships in general. How to help manage conflict, and where conflict comes from. I really committed way back then to eventually study this work and I'm really excited now to be able to do this and I think I'm the only person in our area that provides Imago counseling.

Catherine: Is it actually a certain amount of sessions or is it an ongoing process?

Colleen: Well that's it, that's a good question because I think the answer is that it depends on the couple. I do a workshop four times a year where couples sometimes come and do the workshop and never really come to therapy. They actually learn a lot, and the purpose of my work is to help couples come in and be able to learn how to communicate. I see myself very much as a relationship coach, and if they can learn how to communicate safely and effectively then they can really develop a deeper connection, and once they know how to do it, they really don't need me anymore. 

Catherine: Wow that's interesting. You should probably take that before you get married.

Colleen: And some people say "Why would I do the workshop? My marriage is pretty good," and what I say is, "Would you like to deepen your relationship?"

Catherine: Yeah well you know a lot of people will ask me "What would you change about the divorce process because Karen and I are helping people get through this process. And my response is that I really wouldn't change anything about my divorce process because we negotiated it ourselves – my ex and I. But I would change things about my marriage, because we should have been in counseling the day we got engaged, honestly. Being a blended family is not an easy thing to do and being 23 and becoming a stepmother that quickly; really, I look at it now and I'm like "what? I look like a kid!" But our relationship went like this, and it worked, but the communication really wasn't there. So, really, it would have been nice to have that.

Colleen: The Imago process is based on a dialogical process that creates the safety of the conversations so that it doesn't go all over the place. You know, so you start talking about "Why don't you want my mother to come for Thanksgiving?" And before you know it you're talking about the last time that you know, you didn’t help clean the garage, and at the very end, you don't even know what you were fighting about. And so this process really helps keep it really safe, really tight, and it's actually a lot of fun.

Karen: Colleen, I noticed on your website that you have an entire page on your philosophy. Talk to us a little bit about that.

Colleen: Well, I mean, I was an educator for years, and so I taught first through seventh grade, and I was a school counselor, and I've been in private practice. For me and lots of friends and my own life, for me at the heart of every problem is a broken relationship. Whether it's a mother that's passed, something from childhood, a problem with your spouse, your brother, but at the heart it is really relationships. We're born into relationships, we're connected through relationships, and I really know that we can be healed through the relationship. And so that's the frame of the work that I use.

Karen: Wow! That's awesome. And I love seeing that one page dedicated to philosophy because I don't see that on a lot of websites, but I really appreciated that about yours. I know that one thing Catherine and I see a lot is someone coming in, thinking they're ready for divorce, because of infidelity. But when we ask them the question "Do you still love your spouse?", it becomes a little shaky. So how do you address that? Because some people want to work through it, for some people, that's a big line that someone crossed. How do you respond to that? And can some couples heal from that?

Colleen: They really can heal from infidelity. There's a lot of research about affairs really being a symptom of the problem, and not the problem itself. And, so, when we can help couples really identify what went wrong, and what did you really need, and what did you not get from a relationship that you were crying out for but maybe you didn’t know how to ask for it? And then for the other partner to not... it's really helpful for the partner who's been betrayed to realize that they really didn't do anything wrong, or that they were not enough.

Catherine: Which really frustrates me when I have someone in there that's heartbroken and blindsided, and they're told that if they would have only been better, "I wouldn't have cheated" or "If only you would have done this for me, I wouldn't have done that." So not only are they beaten down, but now they're taking all the blame for something that [really wasn't] their fault. There is no fault, I guess.

Colleen: Well no, I mean I think that people have to take personal responsibility for leaving the marriage to think they're getting what they need. What we know statistically is that second marriages fail to 60% divorce rate. People think that when they get in trouble in their marriage or that they fall out of love that It's over. And so then they start to seek that same feeling with someone else. Because when we fall in love, what we're actually in love with, is ourselves. We love the feeling that we have about ourselves. That we're vulnerable, wide-open, that I [want to] be with you all the time. There's so much freedom in falling in love. That period lasts between two and eighteen months, and all these great chemicals are released in our brain, which is the same chemicals that actually create the effects of ecstasy, the drug. So, we wonder why we're so in love with love, it's powerful. And then once those chemicals go away, and then we start seeing all the things that used to be cute, finding them annoying. We start to feel like "Ugh, maybe I really made a mistake". And that’s when I think people start to have affairs or find other ways to exit their relationship.

Karen: Wow. And we see financial infidelity a lot as well.

Catherine: Oh, wow yes, that's a whole other infidelity. And that is just spending, you know. Spending and hiding money from your spouse. And buying things and hiding things and that creates another level of tension.

Colleen: You brought up something really interesting thought that I do see a lot and that is that someone will come in and that is that they definitely want a divorce and as we explore it, sometimes we do make that decision, but I love to help them get really clear about it. Because it affects lots of people – their children. Divorce has this huge ripple effect. When you're that emotional and you've been hurt, or betrayed, we really are in a part of our brain and do not make great decisions. And it's really important for people to find a way to work through all of that and I know you both help so much with that too, so that they can really make logical choices that are going to have better outcomes long term for the bigger picture

Catherine: That brings me to, I want to share a story about someone, we do a lot of divorce management planning. That is mostly women who aren't ready, but have been thinking about it, we have the Great Divorce which is very big now. There is no reason for the divorce other than your kids are grown and you want to be on your own, you feel like you've fell out of love, or you found someone else that you think you're in love with because you're going through the phase that you call it. And we have sometimes met some people who do this for months, and then when it comes to the serious conversation with their spouse that you know, "I don't really love you and it's time for me to move on, our kids are grown", and the guilt sets in. And the trigger with the children, and then they decide to stay. And for us it's fine. We give them counselors names, we offer counselors for their children, for their spouses, whoever you need, go seek that help. But I hear often that "It's just easier I'm going to stay," "I'll just grin and bear it," "I have this big house," "I have this, I have that," or "I have everything taken care of." How long, if they don't get help, will that last?

Colleen: It can last a lifetime. I think what we're experiencing now in our culture is that we've left the marriage of need and moved to the marriage of want, because women can take care of themselves. So now we have a more lateral partnership and we don't know how to do it. So, that's one of the things taht I do, I teach people how.

Karen: Okay. And do you also coach divorcing couples through their divorce?

Colleen: Absolutely. We do co-parenting sessions where they can create a vision for what co-parenting looks like. So when they have that vision they can really say, "We created this together and this was our goal and this was our long term plan for our children, how can we support that goal?" And that's how the couples counseling works in that sense as far as parent support.

Catherine: And I love that. I really want to mention your workshop because I do think that you should take the workshop maybe before thinking of getting a divorce. I'm always about giving it your last hope, or even before you get married. That's great. So your workshop is...?

Colleen: It's March 23rd, 24th, and 25th, 2018. It's right here on the island so you don't have to travel. They have them all over the world, so you can go to a more exotic place if you want to go away from home, but we are having one right here at the Hampton inn and they can find out more about that on my website which is HiltonHeadIslandCounseling.com.

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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

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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:

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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.

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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

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