Divorce has become a hot topic after families have spent months quarantined together amid the coronavirus pandemic, but experts warn against rushing into the process.
Ending a marriage can be overwhelming, panelists emphasized on a recent webinar titled Divorce 101: Love-Law-Finance, and involves much more than a legal dissolution. When it comes to emotional or financial preparation, there are a diverse array of professionals here to help.
“Sometimes, my team tells clients they’re not ready for the divorce process yet,” said panelist and matrimonial attorney Jill Stone of Garden City. “Mental health intervention, financial security, life coach… do all that before [the divorce] so you can help yourself.”
Also featured on the panel were marriage therapist Dr. Joan Neehall from Canada, financial coach Peter Lichtenberg from New York, transformation coach Victoria McCooey from Nassau County, and certified divorce coach Angela Shanerman from Suffolk County. The webinar, hosted by Schneps Media, the parent company of the Long Island Press, was sponsored by JStoneLaw.com
Preparation will help ease the painful divorce process, the experts said.
“You don’t want to spend all that time to have the attorney hold your hand because you’re compromised,” said McCooey, whose own six-year journey in divorcing an abuser showed her that the court system itself can re-traumatize survivors. Instead, she suggests going to see a mental health professional who can help emotionally prepare the spouse for what is ahead, especially for those dealing with abusive marriages.
Part of the emotional journey of divorce is a “grief process,” according to Neehall. “It’s a death that continues through life — there’s no finality.”
Her number one tip was to seek meaning and purpose throughout the journey so that both sides would not devolve into self-blame.
“The marriage failed; you didn’t fail,” Neehall stated.
There are also more factors to consider in a divorce, though McCooey says they shouldn’t hold one back from making the right decision for themselves. It just requires more careful planning.
“Find out who the doctors are, your children’s friends… Bills, finances, joint accounts… did you ever look at a tax return?” Stone said.
Since most of the time, childrearing and financial planning are tasks one spouse takes care of for the family, spouses considering divorce need to make sure they “get educated” on all aspects of their family’s affairs, Stone said.
Lichtenberg echoed these thoughts, specifically regarding finances. He said often, two spouses may have diverging financial philosophies and risk tolerances. His service not only helps with alimony payments, but also conducts “comprehensive financial X-rays” to aid spouses with little financial experience.
All experts agreed that the most important thing is to maintain as much control as possible, despite a volatile system.
“You have to make sure that you put everything in place before you move forward, or else you won’t be an asset to yourself in the divorce process,” Stone said. “There are some things that we do not have control over. You’re putting your life and your children’s lives into a stranger’s hands.”
Shanerman compared the divorce process to jumping into quicksand. Luckily, there are many divorce experts who can help navigate unfriendly territory.
“I know how to get you out. I’ve been through the process, and I can get you out with minimal impact,” she concluded.