(Or Not…If You Are Thinking About Divorce)
January is dubbed “divorce month” because many people are now saying, “Let’s make this the last good holiday for the kids and our families” or “Let’s wait until after the New Year when the kids go back to school.” No matter what the reason, divorce is never easy, and there is no good time for planning it. I know; I’m divorced and wished the first holidays away. I also can tell you, from experience, there is no last best holiday.
My first Christmas divorced went much smoother than I expected. I set realistic goals and put my children’s thoughts and feelings first. I even enjoyed the two hours alone and my glass of wine before they returned home for dessert. However, everyone is different, and both parties involved must be willing to put their kids’ feelings first. (Please note: The best advice anyone can give you through divorce: “Consider your children’s feelings FIRST.”)
If divorce is what you are thinking for January, you can still plan ahead, and, with planning, you may just pull off a wonderful holiday too.
1. Complete a budget. Fill out a budget of your spending over the last year. Ask your spouse to do the same since you’ll need this moving forward. Make a holiday spending budget with and without your spouse. Overspending over the holidays adds a lot of stress to happily married couples, so imagine the stress it adds to divorcing couples. Alleviate some of this anxiety by setting expectations on gift giving. I suggest that you both set cash aside and agree to only spend that. If cash is not an option, agree to a set amount to charge and write it down.
2. Be careful with credit cards!! Get a credit report at http://www.annualcreditreport.com. Credit reports allow you to see all outstanding bills and credit problems, if any. If you do not have a card in your own name, apply for one now. When going through divorce, oftentimes money is unavailable and expenses need to be paid by credit. If you only have joint cards, access may be shut off by your spouse. Be mindful that your friends may advise you to max out your credit, but they might be unaware that you may also be responsible for repaying the debt.
3. This is when year-end financial statements will be generated. Look for them in the mail and make copies of anything that you find. If you see prior year statements, gather them. Copy any and all credit card statements.
4. If you receive monetary gifts, keep them in a safe place out of your home. Don’t commingle them. Explore obtaining a safety deposit box or leave money with a trusted family member. This is also a good idea for storing any financial statements that you gather.
5. Be mindful of social media! Once you put it out there, it stays there forever. Think of how others perceive what they see and how it would affect your children. The world doesn’t need to know your business through divorce. Emotions take over, and poor decisions are then made. You should change all your passwords and create a safe place, perhaps a new email, to send and receive private financial and legal information.
6. Start thinking about your divorce team. Some of the advisors you may need are a certified divorce financial analyst (CDFA), mediator, therapist, CPA, CFP, and lawyer. Call me to help you put this team together.
7. Start a new tradition with your children, family, and/or friends this year. By doing this, next year you will all have something to look forward to, and you will enjoy having something new for now. This will also act as a reminder that this is not your last happy holiday but the beginning of a new happy.
8. Finally, play your favorite holiday music, journal the things that you are grateful for, and remember that this is a wonderful time of the year if we focus on the endless opportunities life has to offer!
Since my divorce, I made a New Year’s resolution to “Make the Rest of My Life the Best of My Life.” I thought it would be interesting to hear what some of my clients’ New Year’s resolutions are. These women are either separated, divorced, or in the thick of the process.
● “Create a budget and STICK TO IT.”
● “Always remember I have options! That way I never stay stuck.”
● “Embrace whatever life throws at me and accept that every day happens for a reason.”
● “Forgive and let go and move forward.”
● “Live the best and most fulfilling life I can and just be happy.”
● “Make a point to no longer feel guilty over things I can’t control.”
● “Looking to be excellent!!”
● “Get through a day without thinking how horrible my ex is.”
● “Once and for all to deal with my anger and allow myself to fully embrace happiness”
● “Focus on myself more; I’ve never really done that.”
● “Maintain a healthy body, be mindful, and practice loving kindness!”
Being a CDFA has allowed me to help many people through the divorce process. Raising five children has allowed me to understand what it is like to love unconditionally. Now, as a divorced woman, I understand this emotional process and how the holidays can be difficult. In time, things get better, and I look forward to you all believing that life is what we make of it and we can create our own happiness!
To the few clients whose resolutions I used above, congratulations on taking steps to a bright future. You all inspire me, and for that I am grateful. Thank you and Happy Holidays to you all!!
By Catherine Shanahan, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst
CSM Divorce Solutions
1705 Newtown-Langhorne Road, Suite 5
Langhorne, PA 19047
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