Divorce is never the intention of any married couple, yet it happens to nearly 50 percent. But after that long, emotional process is complete and the ink is dry, how do you move on with your life? We talked to the professionals in law, finances, real estate and personal training about how divorces affect most aspects of a person’s life and how you can be prepared if you find yourself moving on from a breakup.
Added Legal Issues
If your divorce is litigated through the court, the process will take up to one year to complete due to a directive from the Administrative Office of the Courts. But using mediation or the collaborative divorce process, it could take a much shorter amount of time and money, says Bruce Matez, a partner and shareholder at Borger Matez, PA.
But after divorce, there is still a chance that you may have to seek out legal help again regarding your relationship with your ex.
“Life goes on and people’s circumstances change; things do not remain static and exactly as they are when couples divorce. There may be a job loss or a change in employment, unfortunately someone may become disabled, someone may retire, people move their homes, children grow up and their needs change, they eventually graduate from high school and may go on to college or trade school and eventually are emancipated,” says Matez. “When one’s circumstances change, the terms of their agreement or a judgment of divorce may need to be modified accordingly.”
Matez and his partner, Gary Borger, give their clients a bit of advice before sending them on their way after working with both sides of the puzzle in a cooperative and collaborative manner. “Get some counseling to help get through the trauma of the divorce, reduce anger, bitterness, frustration and hurt, and seek out peace and happiness,” says Matez. “Work toward having good and effective communication with an ex-spouse if children are involved, so that they can resolve any disputes without the need for lawyers, judges or mediators in the future.”
Focusing on the Finances
Besides the children in what could become a custody battle, a couple’s finances are a huge spoke in the wheel of divorce. M Financial Planning Services’ Catherine B. Allen, a certified financial planner, says she would rather meet with a client before the divorce is final.
“If I meet someone after their divorce they may not have divided assets that are best for short-term and long-term financial security,” says Allen. “For example, if they kept the house and let their spouse keep their retirement assets, it could be detrimental to their financial future. You cannot retire on a house.”
Allen says it is crucial to expect the expenses that may be unexpected after your divorce. Health insurance could be more than a person thought when they may no longer be on their spouse’s employer health plan and they don’t have coverage through their employer or don’t work outside of the home, Allen says.
“Household expenses may not decrease that much and may possibly increase if there is unexpected maintenance [like] needing a new water heater, new roof, etc., and property taxes may increase, to name a few,” says Allen.
Stan Molotsky of SHM Financial agrees with Allen that it is better for clients to come in before the divorce is final but if that is an afterthought or not plausible, there are some steps you can take with a financial advisor after a divorce to financially secure yourself.
“Our general theme is to sit down, look at what the assets are currently, what they need to do in order to live a lifestyle close to what they had and then where the money is going to come from in order to do that,” says Molotsky. “Hopefully they have gone through some of this beforehand so they have an idea, but sometimes they haven’t and therefore they have to sit down and adjust themselves accordingly.”
The one bit of advice Molotsky says he and his colleagues continually give out to their clients is to not rush to do anything. “Take a couple of steps back, take a couple of deep breaths, don’t be rash and just take each step as a mini step,” says Molotsky. “Don’t spend a lot of money on anything, just see what develops over three, six, nine, 12 months and then gradually try to put your life back in order and move on from there.”
Making a House a Home
One of the biggest things fought over in a divorce is who gets the house. And if kids are involved, that decision is even more complicated.
Anne Koons of Berkshire Hathaway says the decision of either choosing to keep the home in which a couple resided or choose to sell it and split the assets varies with her clients as to when they begin that process. “Some do it in the beginning, some do it during the process and some are referred by lawyers,” says Koons. “Most of the time it’s a little bit of a sticky situation because there is usually one that wants [the home] more than the other.”
When it comes to the type of home a client is looking for, Koons says it is almost always based on what is best for the kids. “If they have kids, they usually want to stay in the same school district and sometimes, depending on what the divorce entails, they are allowed to stay in the home until the child finishes school and then the house gets sold,” says Koons.
Working with both buyers and sellers who have gone through divorces, Koons says it is always best to keep everything as professional as possible. This is especially important when working with both sides of the couple during the process.
“I try to treat it as a business transaction and try to take the emotional part out of it,” says Koons. “That’s not always easy to do because there are a lot of emotions involved and if they have children, it makes it even harder.”
Working Your Workout
With any type of stress in life, some people often turn to food and seek solitude in their homes away from the world. This type of binging isn’t only bad for your body, but your mind as well. That’s why post-divorce, people often seek out personal trainers to get back into shape and make themselves feel more confident if they had gotten lazy in their eating and exercising.
“As in any major life change or event, people often seek solace in trying something—like exercise—that is either new or that they have not done in a long time,” says Kelly Hasbrouk Nicastro, fitness director at Cherry Hill Health & Racquet Club. “Having a personal trainer or fitness coach to provide accountability is the key.”
Nicastro says that her clientele isn’t sided to just women or men; she sees both divorcees regularly two-three times a week. Her clients aren’t only coming in to look good; they are coming in for their sanity and health, too. Exercise is a natural way to get into a better state of mind, due to the release of endorphins in the brain. Nicastro says it can almost be a natural high for some people.
“Exercise can be therapy for any individual going through any life change, such as a divorce,” says Nicastro. “I speak from personal experience as I went through a divorce myself in the past seven years and, without exercise, I do not know what I would have done.”
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 2 (April, 2017).
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