I remember when I made the decision to finally end my marriage. I was terrified of being alone. I felt responsible for all the people in my life, from my three children to my in-laws and extended family, whom I deeply loved, to my friends, and even to my husband. After all, we had built a life together over more than twenty years and had three children we both loved. Unfortunately, the core of that life was filled with lies, pain and disappointment. I was alone in that marriage and I needed to step away. And so, when he shared an itinerary for a vacation in Italy that I had been dreaming of and I couldn’t imagine going, I realized I was really done. I somehow bravely said, “I don’t want to go away with you. I want to get away from you.”
At that moment I felt brave and strong, and I also felt incredibly vulnerable. I realized that every life burden would be on my shoulders. I would have to take care of myself and my kids alone. I knew that his anger would come, but I didn’t know exactly when or how. Though we both felt some relief at that moment - he knew it was the right thing for us too - when it comes to dividing a life between people who have struggled to communicate for years and have divided family responsibilities so that only one person owns the financial responsibilities/information and the other owns the childcare responsibilities, there are power imbalances that are difficult, if not impossible, to navigate.
What I have learned in the many years since then, is that you don’t have to navigate the divorce journey alone. There are many professionals, in addition to the divorce attorney, who are trained to support and guide you through the process. In this article, I will talk about two of those professionals, the divorce coach and the certified divorce financial analyst, the CDFA®.
It is only in the last few years that I became aware of the field of divorce coaching. As a retired litigator, 20+ year community leader, public speaker with a masters in Jewish education and a certificate in spiritual counseling through the lens of addiction recovery, I realized that divorce coaching was the field that weaved those skills and my life experience together. I immediately enrolled and became certified as a divorce coach and a divorce/life transition coach. Next, I added a certification in conflicted co-parenting coaching to my skill-set. Essentially, what this means is that I am trained to walk the path with people during their most challenging, high conflict moments, before, during and after divorce. I help people see what they need to see, and focus on the practical issues at stake, especially related to their kids. I may be the first person who really listens and sees them. They guide and prioritize the process and I help them become the directors of their lives. I became a divorce coach to support women and men who want to access their greatest strengths during the process, maintain their own integrity and don’t want to get mired in the same kinds of conflicts that defined their marriages. I help them separate the emotions of divorce, from the business of divorce.
My role as a divorce coach is to work with clients to help them define their next best steps to create the best outcomes for their future. I provide a flexible goal oriented process designed to support, motivate and guide people going through divorce to help them make the best possible decisions for their future, based on their particular interests, needs and concerns.
In fact, working with a divorce coach helps clients feel supported and strengthened before, during and after the divorce process. We establish a safe space to unload fears and concerns and explore new methods of communication where your voice will be heard. Through coaching you unlock the freedom to envision a future you might never have dreamed of before.
Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, the CDFA™
In many cases, my clients are concerned that they relinquished responsibility for financial matters to their spouses. They feel ashamed and overwhelmed by what they don’t know, and what they think they should know. That’s a hard place to be. And they are not alone. It is a fact that many families, whether they are divorcing or intact, allocate responsibility for financial matters to one spouse only. To address that imbalance, the field of Certified Divorce Financial Analysts was developed. The CDFA works to enable clients to reclaim an understanding of their financial situation, grow their financial knowledge, build financial well-being for the future, and keep financial resources within the family and outside the divorce process.
A CDFA is a Financial Analyst who is trained specifically to assist clients in addressing issues related to divorce. They are best at providing information related to:
Valuing assets and debts
Valuing the marital home
Dividing retirement and pension accounts
Alimony: the amount and duration
Tax implications of alimony and property division
Setting up a budget for life after the divorce
Other related matters
Undoubtedly, a CDFA can help their client save money during the divorce process, and can help the client evaluate proposed settlement agreements so that they understand all of the ramifications of what’s being offered, including the tax and retirement implications.
By using a CDFA professional, a client can have a clearer view of their financial future. Only then can they approach a legal settlement that fully addresses their financial needs and capabilities. A legal settlement that floats back and forth between attorneys without the client having a clear understanding of all financial ramifications can be detrimental, time consuming and expensive. CDFA professionals can educate their clients by providing a thorough knowledge and understanding of the often-complicated financial decisions. Perhaps most importantly, using a CDFA professional can reduce the amount of apprehension and misunderstanding about the divorce process. For a client who is learning about managing her financial life on her own for perhaps the first time, this is instrumental in supporting her and helping her develop the clarity, confidence and courage necessary to build the foundation for her best future.
The Team Approach
While most people assume that attorneys are the only professionals they need to address their divorce needs, the fact is there are other professionals who can support clients in ways that the legal issues that attorneys are trained to address. The Divorce Coach and the CDFA are critical members of your divorce team that can support you emotionally, financially, and educationally to give you the tools you need to build the future you deserve.
Having a team means you have a support system, not simply a support person. Each professional has a role in your divorce that is unique and specific and addresses distinct needs. Though you may feel that the initial outlay of funds feels challenging, it is an investment in your long term financial and emotional future. How you set the stage and the boundaries of your divorce process at the start will go a long way to effectively and efficiently guide the length, the tone and the results of your divorce, keeping your best interests and the best interests of your family’s future at the center.