Oh No… the Holidays are Here

Oh No… the Holidays are Here

In the month of November thus far, we have had no less than 15 new consultation meetings with clients who know their marriage is over and are wondering when to start the divorce process. Many of them decided to wait until after the holidays for the children or so that their extended families would have one last holiday together. Mix that with the number of couples we are currently working with who are in the divorce process and the multitude of couples we helped walk through divorce and are finalized so far this year. In our little universe that is a lot of people dealing with sadness this holiday season, I can only imagine the numbers outside our little bubble. Add that pain to the stress and strain of trying to maintain the status quo and all the extra pressures of the holidays – that is tough! Although there are no magical solutions to cure the holiday blues, here are 10 things you can do to make it easier to cope. I used many of these tools during my own divorce which extended through a holiday season and the first year after the divorce.

1. PLAN AHEAD

Plan to do something that is fun, relaxing, and as stress-free as possible with people you really care about. When I was in the midst of my divorce I planned a Christmas trip to my brothers’ house in northern Vermont. That was literally the best holiday I had experienced in years. It was magical. I was away from my home and the stress of the divorce. I had my child that year for Christmas and was surrounded by people who loved me. I had to plan that with my family and my attorney prior to December 25. Even if you don’t have your child this year, plan to be with family or friends whom you love.

Coping with the Holidays

2. DO SOMETHING TOTALLY DIFFERENT

If the holidays are just too painful and the reminders are everywhere, consider a vacation that allows you to “escape ” the painful triggers. If you have never been on a cruise for Christmas or been to the Bahamas – this may be the year. I had a friend who starting going to the Grand Canyon each year for Thanksgiving and then Vegas each year for Christmas (the family-friendly part of Vegas and they were out by New Years). If travel is not an option, volunteer someplace for people who have nothing. That will not only help you forget your situation for a while, but you’ll also feel good about the help you are giving to others. We have made dollar store Christmas stockings before and handed them out to the homeless. Anything to help others will help you!

3. CREATE NEW RITUALS AND FAMILY TRADITIONS

While you may want to hold on to some of the past traditions, it’s a good idea to create some new rituals with friends and family. We started going to see different “wonderlands” with holiday lights and we took a second trip back to my brothers’ house in Vermont. We also started going to a new church and celebrating with their traditions. We adopt a child through the church each year and shop for them. We still go look at holiday lights but we added a Starbucks stop for hot cocoa along for the tradition. We created new Thanksgiving traditions by blowing off the traditional food options and eating Chinese every year with friends. You could even do something around each family member’s favorite foods and let the kids help cook.

Coping with the Holidays

4. REASSURE KIDS THAT HOLIDAY CELEBRATIONS WILL CONTINUE, BUT IN A DIFFERENT WAY

Children can help create some of the new holiday rituals and traditions. Take time to brainstorm with your children about new ideas for celebrating. I googled holiday traditions and tried out several with my daughter and we found a few we both enjoyed. Invite them to be a part of the new experience and let them find new traditions. Try different things – just stay positive in front of them.

5. ASK IF YOU ARE ACTING “IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD”

Decide ahead of time how holidays will be divided. Talk to your attorney about this if you are in the midst of the divorce. This is one area where you want to speak to your attorney as soon as possible and solidify plans for pick up/drop off and days and times you have with minor children so there are no surprises. The structure of knowing when I had my child the year we were separated provided me a lot of comfort and the ability to plan. Your attorney will know how to make that happen, just talk to him or her as soon as possible. I think it also helps to reassure kids that you will be OK while they are with the other parent.

Coping with the Holidays

6. ASK FOR HELP FROM SUPPORTIVE FAMILY AND FRIENDS

Rely on a healthy support system if you are feeling isolated, lonely or depressed. Tell your support people what you need from them (companionship, understanding, compassion, listening, etc.) My family was so helpful during this time and my friends were even more so. I could not have survived that first year of “firsts” without them. I also love Divorce Care. This group of understanding, compassion people helped me tremendously during my divorce and after.

7. BE REALISTIC

“Picture perfect” holidays are usually just an illusion. Have realistic expectations about the holiday season, especially the first year. Hallmark movies may not be the best viewing options either!

Coping with the Holidays

8. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF

Get the proper amount of sleep and exercise and eat healthy in order to maximize your ability to cope. It’s easy to overeat or party too much to medicate your pain, but in the long run, it creates more problems. Walking daily if you are not already working out can also do wonders for you.

9. SCHEDULE TIME FOR REST, RELAXATION AND NURTURING

Give yourself a break. You deserve it! A bubble bath, a long-overdue facial, a hair cut – anything to pamper yourself and nurture yourself. We have a client who recently took a woman’s only weekend spiritual retreat and it was life-changing for her. If that’s not possible, at least a good pedicure where you are not rushed and can enjoy the “me time” and the pampering. For guys, a guilt-free afternoon of golf with your best buds or a long overdue fishing trip.

10. ONE DAY AT A TIME – ONE HOLIDAY AT A TIME

It will get easier. It will get better. It will hurt less. Right now, just concentrate on one thing at a time and the next right action. Just one foot in front of the other, one step at a time.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, or stuck, GET PROFESSIONAL HELP. Therapy can provide a safe, supportive environment in which you can gain insight, learn problem-solving skills and find solutions to dealing with the anger and pain of separation and divorce. If you need help finding a therapist that works well for you, contact us for a referral at www.divorcestrategiesgroup.com or 281-210-0057.

Advice for Divorcing Men: Common Mistakes in Divorce and How To Avoid Them

Advice for Divorcing Men: Common Mistakes in Divorce and How To Avoid Them

What’s a man to do? You’ve decided to divorce and now you are finding that there are multitudes of services that cater to helping women during a divorce. Granted, we still live in a society where the more-likely scenario is that the husband has handled the finances during the marriage and the wife needs a little more hand-holding. But this is not always the case and men can struggle to find the resources they need.

Even if you have handled your family finances for the entire marriage, you still need to be sure you understand your financial options as well as your legal ones. With the help of the right financial expert, you’ll find there are still some helpful tax laws that can make a creative and amicable settlement very appealing. The following are some common mistakes in divorce to avoid that, in my experience, has saved lots of money for my clients!

common mistakes in divorce

Mistake #1: Thinking that the assets are all yours because she didn’t work.

Oh, this is so hard!! You have fought rush hour traffic, dealt with stressful deadlines, clients and bosses. You’ve hired and fired people. You may have enabled your wife to stay at home and raise your children (and maybe play tennis with her friends). You have contributed a lot!! However, and this is hard, it’s not all your money. Texas is a community property state which means that half of every dollar that enters the house via income during the marriage belongs to you and half belongs to her – no matter if it went into the house, the bank, the 401(k) or any other asset. It’s a marital property issue. Even if you begged your wife to get an outside job for years and years and years and she just refused. Grab a beer with your buddies, bark about it (I understand) but in the end, it is what it is. The more you fight that the more you are going to waste money.

common mistakes in divorce

Mistake #2: Making promises too soon.

One of the most common mistakes in divorce is making promises too soon. I see this so often. DO NOT MAKE PROMISES BEFORE YOU KNOW THE FACTS!! She will hold you to them until her last dying breath even if they are unreasonable, unjust and even unattainable. Do not tell her you will give her anything until you know the law, your rights, her rights and your living arrangements/budget post-divorce. Do not, out of guilt, tell her you will financially take care of her for the rest of her life and make sure she is okay because she will remember that, and it will be brought up again and again. You are also hindering your wife more than helping her by promising things you cannot or will not keep. If you have children, you are going to co-parent for the rest of your lives. Don’t start that post-divorce parenting relationship by promising things you cannot or will not deliver. It hurts her and it hurts you. Don’t do it.

Mistake #3: Refusing to give up retirement accounts.

A lot of times, men get emotionally attached to pensions and retirement plans and will negotiate a settlement that lets them keep those assets. I understand it is a reward you’ve earned for a lifetime of hard work. But remember, both pensions and retirement assets are taxable income when you receive them. If you are earning significantly more money than your spouse for most of your life, chances are you will always be in a higher tax bracket than her. Take advantage of this fact and give her the ENTIRE settlement in retirement assets adjusted for HER tax rate instead of yours. This strategy has saved couples that I work with tens of thousands of dollars in taxes and they get to share in the benefit.

man bullying woman

Mistake #4: Being a bully.

Our society has come a long way on how we regard bullying. Even with that knowledge, fear can show up in the negotiation process as anger and I see lots of men that make the mistake of thinking that being angry will strengthen their case. Gentlemen, it’s just a bad, bad idea. You’re both scared. Make sure that you work with a CDFA® practitioner, or Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® practitioner that will incorporate future financial planning into your settlement negotiations and everyone’s fears can be addressed fairly.

Mistake #5: Not asking for help.

The last tip I have for you is to realize that you don’t know what you don’t know. Men are often motivated by saving money and will attempt to have a do-it-yourself divorce where they draw up their own paperwork. Bad, bad, bad idea. There are so many intricacies, both financial and legal, to the divorce process that you will save thousands of dollars by making sure that you cover all the bases the first time. At the very least, consult a professional to be sure your decree is enforceable.

common mistakes in divorce

At Divorce Strategies Group, we want to help EVERYONE in the divorce process to have a kinder, gentler, much more affordable process. Let us help you avoid those common mistakes in divorce. Book a strategy session to learn your next best steps.

CDFA™ Professionals can help to create financial settlements that work – both now and in the future

CDFA™ Professionals can help to create financial settlements that work – both now and in the future

A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ (CDFA™) professional can help you address the financial issues of divorce with reports that can help achieve settlements that work today – and in the future. If you are considering hiring CDFA professionals, read on for more information about how he or she can help you.

A CDFA™ professional can:

• Complete the detailed financial work for the client and the client’s attorney, making case preparation and settlement easier
• Provide in-depth analysis of the short- and long-term financial effects of a proposed settlement
• Work as a consultant or expert witness

woman with people in background

About CDFA Professionals

A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ (CDFA™) professional has:
• Graduated from the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts™
• Extensive financial expertise in the fields of financial services, accounting, or law
• Received specialized training in the financial issues of divorce
• Fulfilled continuing education requirements

Founded in 1993, the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts™ (IDFA™) is the most established and recognized designation in financial planning for divorce. In order to become a CDFA professional, a candidate must successfully complete a series of exams based on a self-study course offered by the Institute, be in good standing with his or her firm or broker/dealer and any governmental regulatory agencies, and complete 20 hours of continuing education courses every two years.

How a CDFA Professional help a Family Law Attorney?

CDFA professionals help lawyers and their divorcing clients address the special financial issues of divorce with data that can help achieve equitable settlements. A CDFA pro is trained to:
• Produce powerful case exhibits in the form of spreadsheets and graphs
• Give lawyers professional support to make sure they’ve covered all the financial “bases”
• Provide litigation support to divorce lawyers
• Serve as a financial expert on divorce cases
• Analyze the financial implications of different divorce settlement proposals
• Create a rock-solid personal financial analysis for the client
• Make sure the client understands the short-term and long-term financial impact of different settlement proposals

How a CDFA Professional can help the divorcing client

• Separate vs. Marital property
• Valuing and dividing property
• Debt, credit, and bankruptcy
• Retirement and pensions
• Spousal and child support
• Options for the Matrimonial Home
• Tax problems and solutions

The Experts Talk about CDFA Professionals

“However the divorce [financial analyst] enters the process, the participation of a financial specialist can benefit both clients and lawyers, according to Sandra Morris [former president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers]. While the [CDFA] wades through the financial morass of a divorce, the attorney is freed up to focus on legal issues.”
– Lawyers Weekly

“The professions of divorce financial analysis and matrimonial law have a long, prosperous future together. The skilled CDFA brings rationality to an irrational situation.”
– Frederic J. Seigel, Esq.
Partner, Fitzmaurice & Seigel, CT

“CDFAs can provide invaluable information that allows the court to arrive at a fair, equitable, and just resolution – not just at the moment of trial, but down the road as well.”
– Honorable Kathleen M. McCarthy, JD
Family Court Division Judge, MI

“[CDFAs] watch out for tax snafus, help clients obtain health insurance after a split, and demystify tough-to-value private-equity or hedge-fund investments.”
– The Wall Street Journal

Local Financial Support for Your Divorce Needs

Denise French - Local Financial Support for your Divorce NeedsWe at Divorce Strategies Group are here to help you with your divorce case whether you are the client or the attorney. We not only have the professional experience to expertly help you navigate through the divorce financial and tax maze, but we also have the personal experience of walking through divorce ourselves with a complex financial estate.

Contact us for more information and resources on divorce, and to schedule your consultation.

Advice for Divorcing Men: Common Mistakes in Divorce and How To Avoid Them

The Gifts of Divorce

woman paying bills

I think a universal truth is that divorce is a tough thing. When you’re in the middle of the process, the light at the end of the tunnel can resemble something short of heaven. I know. I’ve been there myself. I am here to let you know that after the divorce, it gets very different. There were many benefits of divorce in Texas on the other side. Let me share some of the upsides of life after divorce to help get your closer to the light – some lighthearted, some a little deeper.

1. Space
I no longer had to share the office, the garage, the kitchen, etc. I was especially happy to have that closet all to myself. That was the most impactful, immediate gift. I vacuumed it, cleaned it from top to bottom and put my clothes throughout the entire closet just the way I wanted. Bliss.

2. Peaceful Sleeping
After many nights of restless sleep, it was so nice to have my bed all to myself. No longer listening to snoring or going to bed unhappy with someone who doesn’t want to be there. No more sleeping on the couch. The peace of mind was a sweet treat.

3. Control & Freedom at Home
One of the best benefits of divorce in Texas is I could spend all evening watching Say Yes to The Dress, The Voice, American Idol, and chick flick movies! Not that I did, but the choice was mine. It’s now yours too. You can listen to the music you want, watch any shows you want or dance in your home without judgement. ENJOY IT!

emotional gifts

4. Emotional Gifts
I made a list of all the emotional benefits of divorce in Texas I acquired as a result. I was stronger, no doubt. I had shattered the “dance” of my divorce – no longer letting him emotionally control me. I realized I could be a single, working mother and thrive. I realized I was tough, smart and successful – on my own. I had new friends, new hobbies and new meaning in my life. I had 3 pages of “gifts” I wrote after this experience. Try writing yours. You may be very pleasantly surprised!

5.No Money Battles
Almost every couple that divorces had conflict over finances. Be sure to recognize your weaknesses and set a plan to make good decisions for your own personal finances. After you do, it’s nice not to have to battle with anyone about the decision.

Now is your chance to make the most of your second phase. Make it count!! We can help you with the financials through our sister firm French Financial Group. Call today for a post-divorce consultation free of charge.

Resources for your Divorce

Resources for your Divorce

The emotions of divorce are vast and wide – but not unique.  Nearly everyone who has ever asked for or been asked for a divorce feels similar feelings.   Lost. Scared. Lonely. Shaken. Sad. Angry. Bitter. Relieved. Hopeful. Excited. Angry. In shock.   These are just some of the stops along the emotional roller coaster that is divorce. It’s not anything that anyone should have to endure alone. Divorce has become so commonplace that there are tons of resources available to help you survive the process with dignity.

There are also resources for divorce that are NOT a good idea.  When your FRIENDS AND FAMILY find out you are getting a divorce they are going to be full of ideas, tips, tools and stories.  They are well meaning, kind people who are trying to help you but mostly, they are not helping!!!  They are stirring up fear, bad ideas and likely hurting your case, usually without realizing it.   Rely on friends for a shoulder to cry on and a good ear to listen, but not for advice.  Do your best to get advice from objective professionals and NOT biased family and friends.

The resources that I think EVERYONE needs during the process and for a time period after are:

  1. A Good Therapist– Divorce stirs up so much emotional trauma, everyone involved needs an outlet for that trauma. A great therapist is the perfect person to channel those emotions.  Not only that, the therapist will help you uncover why you picked the person you didn’t love or why you picked the person who treated you so poorly – so you are not doomed to repeat the same behavior.A therapist is also the place to take your anger, fear, bitterness and other emotions – NOT your attorney.  The attorney is getting paid $350 an hour not to hear how hurt you are, but to help you with your legal case.Also, Divorce Care is a great tool and a way to connect to others facing divorce and struggling emotionally. Divorce Care is offered nation-wide at many local churches along with Divorce Care 4Kids.
  2. Certified Financial Divorce Analyst or CDFA™ – One of the most common fears in divorce is “Will I be ok financially?” It’s almost unavoidable. Before you agree to any settlement, you really need a second set of eyes and some financial projections, so you know what your post-divorce lifestyle will be. Divorce is tough and during it we tend to focus a lot on the right now. Hiring the right person for financial guidance will assure you comfort and security for the future.A CDFA can also use their knowledge of divorce tax laws and taxation of different financial accounts to help clients walk away with more after-tax money than a straight 50/50 split might offer.Be sure to hire someone with financial knowledge of divorce matters. Often, I see current financial planners write up settlement options prior to divorce negotiations are underway that set expectations too high and it causes a lot of problems in divorce proceedings.  It causes issues when you are expecting to receive 70% because he cheated, only to find out you cannot get 70% because of an affair.  Having to come down from that expectation along with dealing with divorce is hard, harder than it needs to be.
  3. The Internet– Divorce has become big business. New resource sites pop up every day offering a wealth of free information, downloads, blogs, referrals, directories, etc. It can be somewhat overwhelming so just pick out what you connect with and leave the rest. Go slow. Be kind to yourself. Going to a few is a good idea but don’t let yourself sink in too long.

This is going to be a challenging time in your life. Ultimately, you will be stronger, happier, and ok – as long as you choose to. Use the resources for divorce available to you to make good decisions for yourself. Today truly is the first day of the rest of your life.