5 Divorce Myths to Stop Believing (And What to Know Instead)
When going through a divorce, you hear a lot of myths. Unfortunately, because you may be hearing the same ones repeated from a few sources, it can seem like they’re more truth than myth. These proclamations of how things “always are” or “never are” can be terribly scary, too. In a time when you’re already going through a lot, you don’t need more stress on your plate.
These five divorce myths have been cropping up a lot among some of my clients, so I wanted to take a moment to play Divorce MythBusters and talk through why these are myths and the truth of the situation instead.
Divorce Myth #1: I pay for an attorney, I don’t need specialized financial support.
The Truth: It will save you time and money to hire a professional who specializes in divorce-related financial issues.
One of the biggest issues I see most often comes from attorneys who aren’t family law attorneys. Similarly, there’s false information given by accountants and financial advisors, especially if they don’t know the whole picture.
Here’s what happens: People ask an accountant or financial advisor for advice, particularly if they have a close relationship. However, few deal in divorce, so they don’t have the training to handle divorce questions. This really causes problems when dividing retirement accounts and pension plans (two things I do most often) because they don’t understand the complete picture of how everything works together.
Along the same lines, people take advice from an attorney because they’re “an attorney.” However, they’re a general practitioner. They can’t guide you through complicated financial questions because they don’t know or understand tax implications or the costs associated with dividing certain assets.
Think of it this way… If you had a traumatic brain injury, you would want someone who only handles brain injuries. Someone who studies them, continues to educate themselves on the best way to handle complications, and practices and performs the procedures daily. They know exactly what they’re doing and have it down because that’s all they do.
The same goes for financial support. It’s a specialized area that can get very complicated very quickly and cost you thousands if you don’t work with a practitioner who specializes in divorice financial procedures.
Divorce Myth #2: Mediation is only for people who get along.
The Truth: The people who benefit from mediation the most are people who actually don’t get along.
Since we’re talking about money, let’s start there. A couple with a higher degree of conflict will often spend a lot of time arguing, which then increases any attorney fees and other litigation-related expenses. When you use divorce mediation, you remove the conflict (and time) associated with the litigation process. In fact, most of the mediations I handle are resolved in two to three two-hour mediation sessions.
Further, because mediation is designed specifically to help you get on the same page, it inherently means you don’t have to start on the same page.
Here’s a checklist of things to prepare for your mediation session as well as a list of questions to ask in your session.
Divorce Myth #3: It’s too expensive to work with a divorce financial advisor.
The Truth: From a cost perspective, a lot of the work I do will save people thousands of dollars.
From a fee perspective, lawyers and attorneys bill by the hour. If they have to research anything, guide you through what they need from you, or wait while you fumble around in a jumble of papers, it will get tacked onto the bill.
So, from just helping clients get organized and pull together all the documentation they need to have ready before they see their lawyer, you’ll see a benefit of working with a divorce financial advisor. Together, we are able to gather things efficiently and use your time and money with your attorney wisely.
Then, there are taxes (again, that I deal with all the time), debt-related interests, and dividing pensions, investments, and retirement plans that attorneys don’t know the best way to handle. You could be leaving money on the table with how things are divided if you leave it up to your attorney.
When I work with clients, I am able to see the best way to help them gain more financial independence and, bluntly, get or save more money in their divorce.
Often, people are afraid to take on additional costs around a divorce, but there are so many financial considerations that you don’t know or aren’t aware of that I can help you minimize, it becomes a very good use of resources to work with me.
Divorce Myth #4: Divorce has to be hard.
The Truth: Divorce will be upsetting, stressful, and expensive, but it does not have to be challenging, complicated, or hard.
Most things in life are determined by your outlook. If you believe it will be a terrible time, you will find evidence of it being a terrible time. It doesn’t help that everyone and their cousin want to tell you about their divorce, particularly the negative aspects of it. When you get that bug in your ear, it leads to evidence of the process being a giant blackhole of complications.
The reality is that every situation is unique. If someone had a hard divorce, it is because of their individual circumstances.
Mediation really does help the process roll along a bit more smoothly. When you choose mediation, you’re able to remove some of the factors that contribute to negatives, like running up expenses, heightened emotions, and feeling like your power is taken away.
Divorce Myth #5: I’m going through a divorce, I don't have money to spend on a therapist.
The Truth: There are going to be bad days and lots of emotions to process. Having a specialist who is trained to help you sort through it will benefit you both now and in the long run.
While I am not qualified to give you therapeutic advice, I can absolutely encourage you to seek out a therapist to support you during this time. They will help you sort out your feelings and explore any mental and emotional impacts this time may have on you.
Think of it this way: You’re hiring a specialist to help you mediate your divorce and working with specialists who are trained in divorce financials. Having a therapist is a specialist for your mental health.
As I mentioned about running up the bill when you’re disorganized because you’re only working with an attorney, you’re also going to incur more hourly billing if you’re spending hours with your attorney trying to make them your therapist.
Let your attorney do what they do best and hire someone else to support you where they are going to make the most impact. You will save yourself money and sanity.
It’s okay (and perfectly natural) if you used to believe these divorce myths. A lot of clients come to us with these questions and more during our information sessions. If you’re wondering how we can help you during this time, I’d encourage you to attend one of our information sessions so we can bust some of your divorce myths and help you come to a more easeful solution to your divorce.
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