How To Avoid Mistakes During The Divorce Process

This is part 4 of a 7 part interview with Massachusetts divorce mediator Tracy Fischer acknowledging that divorce can be challenging for women, our panel of experts offers practical tips on navigating financial concerns, keeping emotions in check and rediscovering themselves. Watch the entire Navigating Divorce interview video.

Jenine G.:                            You often hear of mistakes that people make. I know I’ve had many conversations with women who say they wish they didn’t rush it. They were so emotional. They just wanted to get out of the relationship and they realized, looking back, that they probably made a lot of mistakes. Talk to me about, both of you, some of the mistakes that you’ve seen. I mean, Lori, do you want to start?

Lori Hubbard:                    Common mistakes that you don’t want to make obviously tend to be financial, so it’s going to be important to understand your sources of income. A great way to do that is obviously through your tax returns, but those are extremely difficult to understand. This is a great time to consider talking to your CPA to give you a full financial picture. But you’re also going to want to stay on top of your finances, because whether you’re filing for divorce or whether divorce has been sprung on you, you want to be prepared. So we do have some divorce worksheets through our heritage planning series that’s located at the bottom of your screen in your console.

Jenine G.:                            Great. Tracy, what would you add to that?

Tracy Fischer:                     I would say one thing that I see often is that during a marriage, people fall into roles such that one person may cook, one person may do the food shopping, one person may put the kids to bed, one person may drive them to school. We do that because it’s efficient and it makes sense. People are busy. But when people divorce, these roles really have to change. Each person is going to have to do a little bit of everything. And oftentimes, it’s used as a, “Well, you’ve never done that before. How can you take the kids to an after school event? You’ve never been there?” Or, “How can you make dinner for them when you’ve never cooked dinner?” I really try to explain to people that it’s going to change. You made dinner before you got married, you’re going to make dinner after you got married. And all these things, everybody’s competent and capable of doing all of this they just haven’t needed to.

Tracy Fischer:                     I suggest that we need to look at it as a new start, and not look at everything the way it was in the marriage. I think people should not, especially women, not feel bad that if they don’t know the whole financial picture, that may have not been your role in the marriage. You may have been involved in another part, and maybe your spouse was doing the financial work.  It is really a time to open your eyes, learn about what you hadn’t learned about, and do it with an open mind.

Jenine G.:                            I think that’s great advice, because so many women do feel badly that they didn’t know the whole financial picture, and you do fall into roles. I learned the hard way with my second husband. I didn’t think he really did much, but I guess he took the trash out and he mowed the lawn, and I had to learn to do that on my own. I did not mow our lawn successfully, so that kind of went down the drain.
But anyways, financial assets, because that’s one of the biggest topics besides children, as you mentioned before. The house, the topic of the house can be a big conversation. What’s your advice with that?

Tracy Fischer:                     The house is an emotional issue, and it is a difficult issue. What I would suggest to women, men, whoever, is that they really think about whether staying in the house makes sense. Not only can you afford it, but does it make good financial sense? It may not really make the most sense for you to live in a house with four bedrooms if you’re just one person. So that’s something to think about. It’s better to leave the emotions and try to think about moving forward. It may be better to move when you’re going through this change in your life anyways. It may be better to start over in a new place.

Jenine G.:                            Yeah. For my second, I kept the house that had that very, very big yard, and that was a terrible idea for me. What happened to your house Lori?

Lori Hubbard:                    We had a thing with the house too. Timing is everything, and so we purchased our house and then we got a divorce, and then I was kind of in love with the house, so I did everything I could to keep the house, so I bought him out. So I kept it.