Ending a marriage requires a lot more than an address change. Divorce involves emotions, finances, and an unfathomable amount of logistics that must be sorted out before signing on the dotted line. True, a divorce lawyer will get you from Point A to Point B. However, there are also a group of non-legal professionals able to assist with the process. Their skill sets are not the same as those of your divorce lawyer or to each other, and you may want to consider their advice beforehand or in tandem. Depending on your situation, you may not need or want everyone on this list. Instead, choose which professionals best suit your circumstances.
1. Marriage Counselor. Even if you are sure you want out, a marriage counselor can still be of value. Not only do marriage counselors counsel couples trying to save their marriages, they also work with couples wishing to exit them. If both parties are open to it, a marriage counselor can help clarify issues, as well as provide couples with the tools they need to extricate themselves from their relationship.
When my husband and I were on the verge of divorce, we visited a marriage counselor together. By the end of our first (and only) two-hour session, I was confident that divorcing would be the best decision for me. Not every situation is as cut and dry, and a marriage counselor can be exactly the impartial actor a couple needs to move toward a new beginning, either together or apart.
2. Therapist. Even if a couple is seeing a marriage counselor together (and also possibly on their own), it can be beneficial for each party to see a therapist or other mental health professional individually as well. The divorce process tends to be an emotional roller coaster ride fraught with extreme highs and extreme lows. Seeing a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist on a regular basis can serve as a stabilizing force during a time when the future seems uncertain.
For me, having a non-judgmental ear during a time when I felt like my every move was being scrutinized helped. I received strategies from my therapist for coping with stress and, over time, learned to keep my divorce in perspective. Divorce was something I was going through; it didn’t define me.
3. Divorce Coach. If you are divorcing for the first time, chances are you do not have a full understanding of what to expect. A divorce coach can provide you with an overview of the divorce process, as well as provide you with guidance during and after it. In addition to their professional training, often a divorce coach has been through his or her own divorce and can provide valuable insights and emotional support different your divorce attorney.
Divorce lawyers do not come cheap, and a divorce coach may be a more economical way to find valuable resources, prepare for meetings, and have someone with whom to share ideas. Best of all, your divorce coach can provide you with advice on how to move forward once your divorce is final.
4. Accountant. Before you get started, it is important to take a good hard look at your finances and ask, “How much will I be able to devote to this process?” There is nothing worse than receiving legal bills each month and watching your assets, the assets you have spent the duration of your marriage accumulating, dwindle. Set a budget for your divorce—yes, this is possible. And then stick with it by negotiating up front with your lawyer and/or using alternative dispute resolutions such as mediation to reach a settlement. If you are going to receive support (the tax burden for alimony and child support differ), be sure to ask your accountant what the tax consequences of receiving that support will be.
5. Financial Planner. Perhaps the biggest question you should ask yourself is, “How much money will I need to survive after my divorce?” A financial planner can help you get a handle on your current finances and determine what you will need to maintain your post-divorce lifestyle while you save for your future. If there are presently deficiencies in your financial picture, a financial planner can identify those areas and address them by creating a financial plan that will help you meet both short-term and long-term goals.
Surrounding yourself with reputable professionals, those with strong credentials, a proven track record, and references you trust can turn an overwhelming situation into a manageable one. Ask a lot of questions. Listen to a lot of answers. And make informed choices.
“Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.”—Tony Robbins
Stacey Freeman is a writer and blogger from the New York City area, a divorced single mom, a lifestyle editor at Worthy.com, and the founder and managing director of Write On Track, LLC, a full-service consultancy dedicated to providing high-quality content to individuals and businesses. A respected voice for divorce issues affecting both women and men, Stacey has been published in The Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Woman’s Day, Town & Country, The Huffington Post, xoJane, Scary Mommy, The Stir, MariaShriver.com, The Good Men Project, and various well-known platforms worldwide. Stacey is frequently called upon for her expertise and insights on the divorce experience and has repeatedly been quoted in The Huffington Post’s divorce vertical. Stacey holds her B.A. in English, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from the University at Albany and her J.D. from Boston University School of Law. Email Stacey today at [email protected] or call 800-203-1946 for a free consultation and proposal. For more information, visit www.WriteOnTrackLLC.com.