Jul 21, 2023
How to Help a Loved One Going through a Divorce
If someone you love is going through a divorce, it can be the most exhausting, disruptive and emotional event they will ever experience. As someone who cares, one of the most helpful things you can do is encourage them to evaluate what is truly important to them and what they can forgo in order to move forward in life with grace and dignity.
We recommend creating a “bucket list”—or rather, four buckets—that can help them organize their thoughts with less emotion while also minimizing cost, complexity and stress. Here’s what to do: have your loved one draw four buckets and ask themselves the following questions:
- What am I legally entitled to?
- What do I (and my children) need?
- What do I (and my children) want?
- What can I let go of?
The legal bucket: shaped by local laws
Local laws generally determine someone’s legal entitlement in a divorce. Your loved one will be legally entitled to an equal or fair share of the marital estate. Divorce laws do not look the same in each state, and they can even vary by county, depending on the judge.
We believe it is important that your loved one hires an experienced divorce attorney to ensure they understand their legal rights and entitlements. We suggest that your loved one have in-depth and ongoing discussions with their attorney about how their assets will be divided and how much support they are entitled to or how much support they might be required to pay their ex-spouse.
The other buckets: an opportunity to let go
Your loved one will likely be overwhelmed with a flood of emotions at the start of their divorce process, and their needs list will probably start off very long. However, in our opinion, it is important that they are candid with themselves about what is a want versus a need.
Understandably, they may want to keep certain sentimental items or assets, but we recommend that they consider whether holding onto these items is worth the emotional and financial cost for them and their children. For example, they might be adamant about keeping the family home and consider this a need. However, upon reflection, they may discover a stronger need to have more liquid assets at their disposal, or they may realize that they would struggle to afford the marital home after the divorce.
Understanding the difference between wants, needs and things they can let go of can help both parties prioritize their goals and negotiate a settlement efficiently. Following the bucket list throughout the negotiation and mediation process may help your loved one keep their goals in line and save them time and money with their attorney and other professionals.
From our experience, it is also important that your loved one often revisits their bucket list throughout the divorce process. Often, needs will shift to wants or wants will move to “let it go” as they get closer to the divorce finalization.
We believe that the more items they can put in the “let it go” bucket, the better. Remind your loved one that letting go of things does not mean they are giving up on what is important to them or sacrificing their values. It often means they are prioritizing their emotional and financial well-being while focusing on what truly matters for them and their children’s futures, which can be the most empowering decision of all.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Julienne joined legacy firm BDF in 2020 as a Financial Planner after graduating with an Economics degree from Bucknell University. She creates and reviews extensive financial plans and retirement projections, builds ongoing client relationships, and helps take care of clients' financial needs. She is working towards becoming a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional.
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