Growing Your Divorce Support Network

Don’t try to keep your divorce hidden from your co-workers. You spend most of your waking hours with them; share your ups and downs as opportunities arise. You’ll get a lot of understanding and sympathy in a natural way. Consider the opposite approach: Are you going to go around, brooding, with a dark cloud hanging over you and giving no explanation for what’s eating you? Better not keep everything inside, especially if you want to stay healthy.

If the divorce includes a battle for your business, you will need all the skills your lawyer can muster. It would help if you had someone to talk to, in addition to your therapist, who understood the effect of a divorce action on one’s business. Your business may be your child, your baby; emotions can run as high in a fight over the business as in a custody battle. You might want to get together with a trusted acquaintance after a seminar or business discussion for a little therapy for yourself. You normally wouldn’t do this with your competitors or customers.

When someone tells you they know of "someone who has gone through the same thing you’re going through," contact that person if convenient. This “someone” probably had someone who he or she leaned on for support when were running the gauntlet—you might be the beneficiary of his or her gratitude. Hopefully, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find how willing a stranger is to spend some time because they remember how “someone” helped them when he or she was down in the dumps. It won’t hurt to try.

Let’s put the support network in perspective with a brief introduction of all the potential members of your team. The number of professionals you will need to use depends upon your unique circumstances.

[A] Therapist

A counselor may help you with a difficult transition. For example, you may feel that you’ve lost your identity because you made so many compromises in the marriage that you’re not sure who are anymore. Divorce after a long marriage is particularly hard. One rule of thumb estimates grieving for five years for a marriage of over ten years plus a year for each additional five years. Ending marriages of thirty-five years imposes an extraordinary burden on the spouse left behind to establish a separate identity.

You may want to use the counselor that you picked earlier. That counselor cannot see both you and your spouse for individual counseling after seeing you together. The marital counseling stopped as soon as one of you said he or she wanted to stop trying to save the marriage.

[B] Lawyer

This is merely an introduction. Don’t rush out to select an attorney in haste. Wait until you prepare your Case Evaluation in Chapter Four. Then, pick your lawyer with the help of the approach outlined in Chapter Six. Choosing wisely is important for all your team members; your lawyer plays the most important role, so the most time should be spent on this selection.

[C] Appraiser

When everything you have worked for during your entire life is at stake, you don’t want to guess at the value of your major assets. Depending on your circumstances, you may need appraisers to value business interests, real estate and retirement plans. More appraisers are needed if assets such as boats and antiques are going to be kept by one of you. Appraisals are only needed when assets to be taken by one spouse. There’s no need to incur the extra expense for assets that will be sold or otherwise divided equally in kind. In some circumstances, you may need informal, rough appraisals just to help you decide how you propose to have your property allocated between you and your spouse.

[D] Tax Specialist

Use a tax specialist to evaluate tax consequences. If you are considering taking an appreciated asset or becoming involved in questionable deductions, you be informed of the risks in advance so that you can make a sensible decision. Use a tax advisor, such as your regular tax preparer, to calculate taxes under various options. Your lawyer will probably advise about common tax problems, such as the net value of that appreciated asset if it’s sold, but should know when to call in a consultant.

[E] Certified Financial Planner

You may wish to use a certified financial planner to calculate the net cash flow available to you under a proposed settlement. Your planner can also recommend ways to achieve your financial goals based on the possibilities available to you under your circumstances.

[F] Business Assistant

If you play a key role in the management of your business, you may need to bring in help, perhaps even a business manager, if your divorce becomes bitter. Your productivity will suffer during a divorce; it always does. The entire business will suffer in a difficult divorce if its success depends heavily on your effectiveness.

Delegate more responsibility to your partners or first lieutenant. Bring in help to handle the mundane aspects, at least, of your business if you’re so occupied in the divorce you’re no longer of any practical use. Chapters Nine and Thirteen also suggest that it may be worth paying a little more and settling now to keep your business from failing while you stubbornly slug it out with your spouse.