Your Divorce Specialist

Why that Gosh-Darn Financial Affidavit is so Intimidating!

When you go to divorce or family court you have to complete this gosh darn intimidating financial affidavit.  It may be called something different in different states, but all family courts are pretty much asking for the same thing.  They want full financial disclosure of what kind of income you and your spouse bring home (less deductions and taxes) and what kind of expenses you have going out.  And somewhere in the document, all of your marital assets and debts!  Should be simple, right?  For so many people it is the most intimidating document they have to complete in order to get their divorce!  It’s really simple accounting.  Yeah, right, if you are an accountant or a numbers guru!  For most of the people I have met over the years, they go numb, freeze up, and hyperventilate!

Why do people react this way?  I wish I could say the answer was simple.  I’ve seen people who just are clueless.  They didn’t manage the finances or pay the bills, so they have no idea how much is coming in or going out.  While others although they may have paid the bills, are uncertain how to deduct all of the taxes and payroll deducted expenses.  That’s why if you are working with an attorney and they hand you this document, you will inevitably go back to their paralegal crying or asking for help.  But it really is simple math.  What comes in goes out somewhere!  You may have to pull out bank statements and credit card statements to figure it out, but you can do it!

Another reason why it is so intimidating is because it can be emotional.  By completing the document and handing it over to your attorney or the judge, you are consenting to finalizing the divorce.  This can be downright frightening.  I had a lady one time come in to my office and refuse to do it because she said she knew if she saw the numbers, she would know there wasn’t enough money to support two households!  She said she would rather live in the unknown than see those hard numbers on paper.  She would rather live in the fear of the unknown than the world of reality!  Really?

I’ve had macho men in my office brought to their knees with this simple little document!  But I’ve also had the opposite when one spouse comes in with both filled out by their spouse.  Once I had to go head to head with my client’s husband’s CPA.  The husband had both of the parties financial affidavits completed.  I challenged the CPA that my client’s expenses were simply not adequate and I had all the bank statements to prove it.  We ended up throwing his version away and using mine.

So whether you are frozen in fear because you lack the knowledge, are frozen by the emotions or your spouse is dictating what your expenses should be, you can get this document completed quickly.  You may benefit from paying an outside financial expert to help or utilizing your attorney’s paralegal’s expertise.  One thing’s for sure, don’t sign it without understanding what the numbers mean and that they are as accurate as you can get them! Plus, review your spouse’s financial affidavit for accuracy before you sign your final decree.  You might find that you and your attorney will need to challenge it.

Why you should be honest about your mistakes in a failed marriage

It takes two to get married, but only one to get divorced. You may be one of these people who were blindsided by the divorce. If you can look back through your marriage were there any signs? Were you really blissfully happy the entire marriage? You may be ready for this or not, but there is usually not 100% fault in one spouse contributing to the breakdown in the marriage. When I was going through my first divorce I blamed it all on his alcoholism as to why our marriage didn’t work out. I tried, I told myself. I really did. I even went through a bible study called ‘The Excellent Wife’. I followed everything the program suggested to be the excellent wife God had intended for us to be. All it did was fuel his alcoholism and show me that the mistake wasn’t in how I was acting as a wife, but that I never should have married him. Looking back it started at our rehearsal dinner. He was acting out and when I asked him to behave, he told me he could act however he wanted around our family and friends (and he was acting very crudely). He also told me that when we married I belonged to him. He could do with me whatever he wanted. I was a possession to him. Hearing all this, I married him anyway. That was my first mistake.

 

Then we had children. I thought this would make our marriage better. It didn’t. The problem was we had different goals and aspirations. I had a college degree and he didn’t. I always felt like he was intimidated by that, so I lowered my goals and aspirations to make him feel good about himself. All that did, was give him control over me. And I allowed it. That was my second mistake.

 

If you could look back through your marriage where did it start to go wrong? Was it after having kids? Did you act differently toward each other than before kids? Did you give up a career that you really didn’t want so he could advance his? Five years ago I interviewed about 25 women who had been through divorce. We talked about their marriage, their divorce, and what happened in between. I took these women through their marriages, their divorce, after divorce and how they had grown since then. Many of them never should have married the men they married, while others had what sounded like great men, but they became lost as an individual person and decided they needed to move on as a single person.

 

No matter what your circumstance is, take time to reflect what went wrong, take ownership in your part, forgive yourself, and move forward into your new life as this new person. Several of my clients have been terrified while others were thrilled to be making decisions on their own. I had a client who found it strange sleeping in a bed by herself, but she also found it exhilarating that she didn’t have to make the hospital quarters with the sheets and make the bed every morning. For her this was liberating!

 

Take notice of the changes in your life from a couple to an individual. Some things will make you lonely while others will be freeing. I have found if you own up to your mistakes, you can forgive yourself and move on rather than playing the blame game.

25 Inspirational quotes to ease the sting of divorce

I’ve compiled my favorite inspirational quotes to help you through these tough times. Take time for daily affirmations. Whether you believe in what you are saying to yourself or not, eventually you will start believing in yourself, your new life, and that you will be okay. If you can’t remember them, write them down on sticky notes and place them where you routinely go in your house, your car, or at work. It really works! I promise.

 

  1. How beautiful it is to stay silent when someone expects you to be enraged.
  2. Sometimes you just have to smile, pretend everything’s okay, hold back the tears and just walk away.
  3. The minute you begin to do what you really want to do, it’s really a different kind of life- Buckminster Fuller
  4. The more you love your decisions, the less you need others to love them.
  5. You can tell who the strong women are, they’re the ones building each other up instead of tearing each other down.
  6. Everything I need comes to me at the perfect time.
  7. Everything you go through, grows you.
  8. Your divorce is just a blip over your life’s timeline.
  9. Not to spoil the ending for you…..but everything’s gonna be alright.
  10. Failure doesn’t mean you are a failure, it just means you haven’t succeeded yet – Robert H. Schuller
  11. My prince is not coming on a white horse….he’s obviously riding a turtle somewhere really confused.
  12. When you feel like quitting, think about why you started.
  13. You will begin to heal when you let go of past hurts, forgive those who have wronged you and learn to forgive yourself for your mistakes.
  14. Forgiveness is a funny thing, it warms the heart and cools the sting – William Arthur Ward
  15. It’s very fun to be single because you know what happens? You find yourself, you understand what it means to love yourself, instead of putting all this energy into give and tug in a relationship- Keke Palmer
  16. Get clear on why you’re chasing what you’re chasing – Danielle Laporte
  17. Go for it now, the future is promised to no one – Wayne Dyer
  18. Hang in there, you’ve had some life-changing realizations which have reorganized your perspective and made you feel fragile and vulnerable. Soon you’ll feel like yourself again….only BETTER!
  19. Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned – Buddha
  20. I am not what happened to me; I am what I choose to become – Carl Jung
  21. I don’t like to be labeled as lonely just because I am along – Delta Burke
  22. Your life does not get better by chance. It gets better by change – Jim Rohn
  23. When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change – Paula Coelho
  24. You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them – Maya Angelou
  25. My fairy tale has absolutely changed. I don’t need the prince charming to have my own happy ending – Katy Perry

Yes, you will get through this and when you come out the other side of your divorce, take time to reflect on your experience.  Move forward and let the past be just that, the PAST.

Why your divorce may be the best thing that ever happened to you

Now why in the world would anyone in their right mind think that their divorce was the best thing that ever happened to them? A good marriage can be hard work, but it can also be so rewarding.  But what happens when a marriage goes south? When one spouse wants out while the other has no clue what is happening? Over the past 10 years I’ve talked to 100’s of women about their divorce.  In those 10 years I’ve seen many patterns of behavior.  The most common theme I have seen is women will say to me their husband changed. They were no longer the man they married. I say, perhaps the man you see now is the man you married, you just didn’t know him well enough when you married him.

I did this exact same thing in my marriages.

For me, my first marriage was me choosing the wrong man. I had very little self-confidence. He said all the right things and ALWAYS wanted to be with me. I thought I was special, but he was controlling. He needed to know my whereabouts at every moment of each day. I took it as he loved me so much he had to be with me at every moment, when in reality he was controlling, mistrusting of me, and he had stripped away all of the little self-confidence I had in my 20’s.  What did my divorce do for me? I had an intense desire to be self-sufficient, independent, the best mommy to my precious babies and be more successful than I ever would have been staying with him. It put a fire in me to never be dependent on a man again. Until I chose the wrong man again. This time it was worse. He was mean, manipulating, controlling, not a good role model to my children, and he terrorized my family, my friends, and me during our divorce. How could I have done this again? You would have thought I learned the first time. There was a lesson for me this second divorce that I obviously hadn’t learned from the first one.

Divorce makes you look differently at your life like mistakes you made, the new life you have ahead of you, decisions you now must make on your own, and lessons you have learned. There is the grieving process to work through to go forward with your new life. If you don’t give yourself time to grieve, you don’t know when or how that grief will show up! You may need to work with a therapist to help you through it. Working with a life coach can help you set up goals and mapping out your new life.

Can your divorce be the best thing that ever happened to you? Only you can figure it out. One thing is certain, we either learn from our past mistakes and grow from it or we will continue to keep making those mistakes. I did. It took me making two bad choices to finally make a good decision with my third husband. I was a very tough nut for him to crack. I still have my fiery spirit and independent attitude to deal with, but fortunately for me he is very patient, loves me as I am, flaws and all!

Understanding and navigating the 3 stages of divorce

From working with clients I’ve learned that there are three stages to the divorce process.

Stage #1 You realize you are not with your forever prince charming and you need to make some tough decisions about your marriage. Should you stay? Or should you go? Does there have to be a final straw to make your decision? Which financial documents are important to obtain before filing for divorce or leaving the house? It is in this stage where it is critical to seek professional advice from an attorney. You should understand the laws in your state before you make these tough decisions.

Stage #2 You are in the divorce process. Whether you or your spouse has filed for divorce with the courts, or you are settling your divorce with your spouse, you have some critical decisions to make before you sign the final divorce decree.  If you have an attorney you will find that a lot of terminology will be thrown around that is unfamiliar to you. Not only can this be unfamiliar territory it is stressful, confusing, and emotional!  You need to continue with your life while making life changing decisions.  Who do you turn to for help making decisions and how do you keep it together? This is the longest and most stressful stage of divorce.

And finally stage #3 You’re about to sign your final decree or you have just finalized your divorce.  This stage is the shortest, but most critical stage of the process.  You are exhausted and just ready to get the divorce over and go on with your life. Or you never wanted the divorce and are frozen in fear of moving on.  Right now it is crucial to keep your head together and carefully review your final decree before signing it. Take you time to understand what you are signing and ask your attorney questions over any part of it that doesn’t make sense or you simply don’t remember agreeing to through the divorce process. Then you can walk in to the court knowing you have clarity about your divorce settlement.

I have seen so many clients get to the end and simply don’t read the decree until after the divorce is finalized. But they shouldn’t do this! No matter what stage you are facing in your divorce it is important to keep your head up and pay attention. If this seems impossible then seek professional help from a therapist or counselor, rely on your attorney to explain the legal matters and if there are any assets to split, seek the advice of a qualified financial expert who specializes in divorce.

How to Separate Emotional from Logical Thinking During Divorce

When you are going through a very emotional event such as divorce it is difficult for even the best of us to separate emotions from logical thinking.  I should know, I’ve been there myself, twice!!!  As I work with people going through divorce to help them untangle the often complex financial issues that arise during the divorce process, I’ve learned about human behavior through my clients.  Divorce is  stressful!  And what stress does to the body can be detrimental to your physical and mental health.  You can Google it and read all about stress and the body.  I’m not the expert in this arena other than I know it has wreaked havoc with my clients and my own health and well being.

So how do you separate the emotions from the logic?  The first step is to recognize that you are having difficulties making decisions.  During my divorces, I recognized that I couldn’t make decisions.  I knew it was bad when I couldn’t answer my mom about what I wanted to have for dinner!  Let alone make rational decisions about my divorce!  So I sought help from a therapist.  They are trained to help you.  Then I sought the assistance of my medical doctor to get me on the right medication to help me.  This isn’t saying everyone needs medication, but it sure helped me relieve that tight feeling in my chest anytime someone brought it up or I even thought about my divorce!  I also relied on my attorney to take care of matters I simply couldn’t or didn’t know how to handle.  And finally, since I am in the financial business, I could make rational financial decisions for myself. For others consulting with someone in my field would help them understand differences in various assets as simple as a mortgage, a brokerage account or a retirement account.  Just knowing what one item versus another means could make all the difference in the world.  But you need to take care of your mental and physical health during and after the divorce.

I love white boards.  I can show numbers to clients all day long and there are times when there is no connection.  Once I step up in front of a white board with my dry erase markers, an eraser, and start drawing circles and arrows, I can see their brains absorbing and then the ultimate, A-Ha! I see it in their face, they get it, they understand, they can now make a decision based on facts and not emotions. Sometimes this will happen in one meeting, while others will take several meetings to get my client there. I guess I have gained the reputation for ‘unsticking’ clients since so many attorneys have referred their clients to me to get them unstuck and moving forward.

Keep in mind there will always be some marital items like the home, the children’s bedroom furniture, that painting purchased on a great vacation or gifts from the wedding guests that will still spike up the heart rate.  But they are all materialistic things.  As long as their is a roof over your head, a car to drive, some cash in the bank and enough income to cover your basic needs, is it really worth the stress to fight over just stuff?  I’m not dismissing that you shouldn’t get your fair marital share, but some stuff isn’t worth all that stress!

What if you could put it up on a white board and stand back to look at it, what picture would you draw?

 

Financial Analyst Specializes With Divorcing Women Cases

Yes it’s true!  I have finally made the announcement that after working with primarily women going through divorce sorting out their complex financial issues has come to this.  My business has changed to working with women going through divorce across the nation.  Boy, have I received a lot of flack……..from men.  Not women.  Men.  Men, say, ‘hey, what about us guys?’  Here’s the deal, rarely do men ask for help.  When was the last time a man asked for directions?  Or hired a handyman to do simple repairs around the house?  They just don’t ask for help!  Yeah, I know it’s not fair to say all men are this way, but for the most part, how many men out there are searching online for help with their divorce?  Women want help.  Women want to talk about what they are experiencing.  Whether they talk to their girlfriends or search online for a safe place to find other like minded women going through divorce, women will reach out for help.

My new online interactive workshops will start this month.  You may find my schedule on my calendar of upcoming events on my website this week, www.splittingassets.com.  If you are interested in signing up for a particular workshop email me at coulter@splittingassets.com for more details!  I’ve worked with numerous women across the United States with their divorces, making a big difference in their confidence and taking charge of their divorce!  What I have learned over the past 16 years from my own divorces to working with clients locally, to outside of my home state of South Carolina, is now coming together to help you! I will walk you through the often difficult financial challenges women face in divorce while in the process provide you a safe place to connect with other women experiencing the same issues as you!  Something about me you should know, I didn’t always live in SC.  I grew up all over the U.S. so connecting with people is natural for me.  I would love to share my story and so much more.  Feel free to sign up on my website for my free download, Learn the top 5 financial mistakes women make in divorce and weekly e-newsletter.

Together we will help you, Get Your Head Straight Before You Negotiate your divorce settlement!

Women who want to split assets after divorce (Do they deserve it?)

Alright, before you jump on me about the title, hear me out. See I’m like a leper at a cocktail party. The women love to talk to me about what I do because they have either been through a divorce or they have a close friend or relative who has been through one. And they see my value. But the men?! I might as well be a leper. They run for the hills. They will either laugh at me or make some smart comment that really isn’t very funny. For years, I’ve heard my dad tell me the conversations on the golf course with men who are going through a divorce. The other men will give advice on how to hide their money from their spouse. Yeah, you heard me. That’s where the secrets are shared. On the golf course! Or the fishing boat or wherever men hang out together. This is not a post about man bashing, just sharing what I have heard and how I am treated at a cocktail party, networking event, or pretty much any gathering where men and women mingle together.

Where this stems from is my parent’s generation. Where the husband worked and provided for the family and the wife stayed home and took care of the house and kids. The more recent generations experience this some, but not as much as my parents did. So an entitlement attitude is at play when it comes to splitting marital assets. The man worked hard, made all the money and all the wife did was take care of the kids. She isn’t entitled to the assets since she never worked! Or is she? Some states it doesn’t matter who made the money or acquired the assets during the marriage. It’s all split 50/50. But that’s 50/50 of what can be identified! I remember awhile ago sitting in the office of a business owner, who was about the same age as my dad. When I told him what I did for a living, he said his wife wouldn’t get any of ‘his’ assets because she never worked a day in her life! I told him he was wrong. He said, she didn’t deserve what he built up in his business the last 40 years because all she did was take care of the kids. I said, those are your kids! Someone had to take care of them. He said, nope, if she wasn’t around, I never would have had kids. So she deserves nothing from what I have acquired. Very strange conversation to have with a man who isn’t even considering divorce. But I bet I planted something in him, to make some changes in the positioning of his assets. This was not my intention.

It really doesn’t matter who worked, who didn’t, who managed the money, who spent the money, as long as income is earned and assets are acquired with that income in a marriage, they will be looked at as marital assets (consult with an attorney for your states laws). And yes! You deserve your portion of those assets. Just be smart about identifying what those assets are and carefully document the paper trail of where the money started from to acquire those assets.

So how do I introduce myself at a cocktail party now? I work with women going through major life transitions. Most men turn off and don’t care to ask anything further. Women will ask more penetrating questions. Then the conversation just flows.

Stay tuned for my newest free webinar, Learn the 7 Most Deadly Mistakes You Can make When Trying to Negotiate Your Divorce Settlement on Your Own.

Follow me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/splittingassets for more articles, inspirational quotes, and an announcement of my webinars and live-virtual workshops starting in June!

10 Ways Your Divorce Makes You Even Better Than Before

I just had to share this with my followers. She has hit it on the head with these points. Just remember you will get through this and you will be a different, better, stronger person on the other side!

Originally posted on Lessons From the End of a Marriage:

I don’t think anyone ever responds to the childhood question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” with “Divorced.” Yet, for many of us, the end of a marriage does become part of our life story. I know I don’t have to point out the downsides of divorce to you; after all, they have a way of speaking for themselves.

But what about the upsides? What about the ways that your divorce, even if it was of the unwanted or malignant variety, has made you better than before?

Because whether you realize it or not, divorce (like many other life challenges) has changed you. Shaped you. Strengthened you.

Its harsh grit has left you polished. Its demands have made you grow. And the pain has left its mark. You aren’t the same person you were before. You’re better.

Read the rest at The Good Men Project and join…

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Financial Elements of Divorce Can Be Challenging. Are You Prepared?

So last week’s post addressed getting your head out of the sand before you negotiate your divorce settlement.  This week I will address some of those financial challenges.

Every divorce settlement is different, yet there are common issues to consider.  It is financial.  When a marriage breaks down and divorce ends up being the end result, there is a process of separating assets, debt, and a life time of ‘stuff’!  If you lived in the same household together when married, one or both of you have to move out.  Whether you have millions of dollars at stake or just the clothes and car you had when you married, there will be something financial to consider.

I can easily break this down into two categories: what are the assets/debt that were accumulated during the marriage and how much will I need to live post-divorce.  The second is most often NOT considered when dividing assets/debt.  The attorney you hire to guide you and take you through the divorce process will not put as much emphasis into what your lifestyle will be like after divorce as much as what is at stake! I see that both are equally important.

So what’s at stake?  Of course it is very important to get an accurate accounting of what assets are at stake for purposes of settling your divorce!  But it is difficult to know which assets would be beneficial for you post-divorce without considering what your new lifestyle will be!  Divorce is such a stressful time and it is a process, that the person you are now will not necessarily be the person you will be a year from now!  Why is this important?  You really don’t want to be locked into a new mortgage in a new house right away without knowing where your life will take you in a year.  You may be acting like a hermit now because you are stressed and afraid and not spending money versus 1, 2, or 3 years from now when the dust finally settles and you are ready to try new things! My first piece of advice is start with a mock budget, something that seems reasonable now, but be flexible that it may change in a year or so.  If you have no idea where to begin, work with an adviser who specializes in post-divorce budgeting.

I recently had a client who was so frozen in fear of the unknown future that she actually said she would rather live in the constant fear of uncertainty with her estranged spouse than go to court and have a judge tell her she will have less money than her spouse is paying now on his own!  I asked her, ‘you would rather live like you are now never knowing if the power, cable, or even sewer will be turned off for lack of payment than go forward with the divorce process and go to court?’  She said, yes, at least he is paying, even if it is not on time.  She was so frozen in fear of her life post-divorce that she would rather stay in a life of uncertainty than a life of certainty that could be less or it could be more.  I couldn’t help her.  Only she could by deciding to see what her life could be like after divorce.

Now you and your attorney have gathered up financial statements and you may or may not have a spreadsheet of financial assets/debt in front of you to consider.  What do you do if you have no idea what it means to forego a pension versus taking more of your spouses 401k now?  Or you have no clue if the credit card debt is in your name or if you just  having signing authorization?  I don’t think this blog is even long enough to review each possible asset and scenario.  What you will need to do is consider 5 things: 1) you need a roof over your head 2) transportation 3) cash in the bank 4) retirement and 5) income.  Put on a piece of paper your income, child support, and/or alimony and total up your total income, then it’s basic accounting.  Minus out your post-divorce expenses.  Will this be enough?  If it is not, you will need to find more income and most likely that will be in your assets.  So your assets will act in a dual role as assets and as income.  So go ahead and do it.  Draw columns or circles of the 5 categories and fill them in from your assets.  The roof over your head and car could be an asset, but the cost of keeping them will be part of your budget.  If you don’t understand what it means to put an asset in your column for settlement purposes then ask your attorney for guidance.  Let your attorney put those numbers in the appropriate columns for court.

Don’t forget taxes!  Some assets have high taxes that come with it.  Consult with a CPA or accountant.

It sounds simpler than it really is, but that’s what I do to show my clients that it isn’t as difficult as it appears.

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