Thursday, 26 April 2018

8 financial tips for men getting a divorce

In TV shows and movies, the typical divorce narrative is to portray women as celebrated victims. Meanwhile, men are depicted as silent sufferers who feel resentment, anger, depression and fear over lingering financial issues, relationship turmoil and worries over breaking up their families.

Off camera, the truth is that men don't always have the tools — or the support — to deal with these very real concerns.

"Divorce is difficult for everyone involved, but it can be especially challenging for men who don't typically express their feelings," says David Blaylock, a LearnVest Planning Services certified financial planner™. "They want to keep their divorces private — and that's not a good policy. You want a support system in place, just like any other major life change."

Sure, the old adage is true: Time heals all wounds. But good advice helps too. The more men know about what to expect when they're dissolving their marriages, the easier the process can be. So we consulted Bari Zell Weinberger, a matrimonial attorney at Weinberger Law Group, as well as Blaylock, for the key dos and don'ts of what men need to know about the financial side of divorce.

1. Do know the numbers
For an average divorce, Weinberger says you should expect to pay about no less than $20,000, which includes lawyers and experts, real estate costs to divvy up shared marital property, finding a second place for you to live, as well as financial advice and therapy for you or your children.

That said, the cost of a divorce can still vary — and widely.

For instance, says Weinberger, the price can increase exponentially if your divorce requires niche experts, like a forensic accountant or a co-parenting counselor. Other pricey scenarios: You need to get your business evaluated (your ex is entitled to equitable distribution if you launched the business during the marriage, and even if you started your business before you were married, a spouse may be entitled to part of the increase in the business's value), you have high net worth and need a best-interest evaluation or you're facing a hotly contested custody battle with your soon-to-be ex. All of these situations could bump the price of your divorce up to the $50,000 to $100,000 range, and in some cases much more, Weinberger estimates.

However, adds Weinberger, if a man comes to her office with a straightforward divorce — where all the terms have already been decided, and communication is open between the partners — then the cost could be as low as $3,500. In fact, if you have a particularly simple situation, with no minor children or unusual financial circumstances, a divorce can run less than $500, with filing fees, Blaylock adds.

According to Weinberger, one other crucial element that men — and women — who are parents should think about if they're embroiled in extreme litigation: The more money you spend on your divorce, the less money you have to give your kids. "You're taking your children's [college] education savings," she says, "and you're kissing one semester goodbye."

2. Don't be too proud to pay alimony…
Alimony offers monetary help to the spouse who was supported financially during the marriage — especially if one parent left the workforce to focus on the family for a long period of time. Spouses usually provide alimony in one of three different ways, depending on state laws: As a lump sum, in regular payments, or in another predetermined arrangement — say, if you cut a check to a third party to pay an ex's mortgage. (It's also important to note that alimony is separate from child support.)

But the impact of alimony isn't just financial — there's also a psychological component. Men may feel that a former spouse doesn't deserve to receive "free" income based on their hard work. Weinberger notes that many of her clients are resistant to paying because no one — man or woman — wants to have to write out a check to an ex.

Weinberger's advice? "While no one wants to pay alimony, if we're working out a global package, then it could make sense from a tax perspective," she explains, adding that alimony is tax-deductible. (Just be sure to file a separate tax return using a 1040 form.)

3. …And don't be too proud to collect alimony
If a woman is making more than her spouse or if the father is a stay-at-home parent while the mother works, then the ex-husband could be entitled to receive alimony. According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 56 percent of divorce lawyers have seen an increase in mothers paying child support, and 47 percent have seen more women paying alimony, as well.

But being an alimony recipient can sometimes bring about feelings of insecurity, notes Weinberger. "I have men who say, 'How is the community going to look at me?'" she says. "I tell them that they're entitled. If they're a stay-at-home dad or there is a large discrepancy in income, they should receive it."

4. Do create a post-divorce life budget
When a man going through a divorce comes to David for financial planning advice, he sits him down to talk logistics. "We try to make a budget for his new life," Blaylock says. According to Blaylock, men typically think about the money that they'll have to pay upfront for divorce-related expenses — the actual divorce, child support, alimony — but forget that everyday expenses are going to change once they're newly single.

For example, if you have joint custody, you'll need things like clothes and toys so your kids can live comfortably in your house. Some co-parenting experts say that many kids who split the week between moms and dads actually prefer to have all of the items they need at each house, so they don't lose anything in the transfer.

5. Do divide things equally
A half-half split is easier said than done — just because you're getting divorced doesn't mean that you won't still feel tremendous attachment to your ex. Because of this, says Blaylock, many men (and women) cave to lopsided agreements — and this is often the case with men who are used to taking care of a spouse financially.

"A lot of men want to continue that role, even though they no longer have that obligation," says Blaylock. "I just had a best friend go through this issue. He gave her everything, much to his financial detriment." Dividing your property — furniture, artwork, camping gear, music equipment — should be done in a way so that you don't end up with resentments or regrets. It's O.K. not to let your ex have it all.

6. Do look into alternative child support solutions
Typically, child support covers basic necessities — food, clothing, shelter. Depending on how you arrange your settlement, it may also include uninsured medical expenses, educational fees, child care, transportation, travel, entertainment, college and extracurricular activities. Many arguments can erupt between ex-spouses over managing these costs.

"Children are expensive," says Weinberger. And, unfortunately, all of those expenses may be tough, if not impossible, to itemize. "It's never going to work out that Dad is going to feel secure that the child support is going to be applied directly to the child," she explains. "I have so many dads who want everything identified with invoices, slips and statements. And they're not going to get them."

That's why Weinberger advises her clients to come up with what she calls "hybrid" solutions. For instance, if you can pay a service provider directly, like a child-care provider, then you can avoid fighting over the money. One father I know, Weinberg recalls, even prepaid medical providers, as well as contributed to the mother's share of their 529 plan.

7. Do set up a cellular plan
For children who are old enough, buy them a cell phone that's designated for the sole purpose of contacting you. Call it the "Dad Phone," and ask your ex to leave it in a spot where your child can always find it. Adding an additional line to your plan should be relatively inexpensive, though the cost will vary depending on your provider and whether or not you opt for a pricier smart phone.

8. Don't make impulsive financial decisions
"Divorce is more like death than you can ever imagine," says Blaylock. "It's O.K. to be emotional. It's O.K. to be hurt. It's O.K. to grieve." This is precisely why Blaylock urges men to treat their divorces with a sense of gravity — and not make any major financial decisions for six to 12 months. Don't switch jobs. Don't move to a new city. "Hold status quo in your life," he says, "as you deal with this adjustment."


Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Letting go of memories after divorce

Inspired by Russell Crowe I’ve decided to hold my own Art of Divorce auction. It sounds much more glamorous than a garage sale. A grand event to say goodbye to the pieces of a previous life and start anew.

"Here is my stuff," Crowe wrote in an amiable note at the start of the auction’s printed catalogue.

"Stuff I have worn, stuff I have bought, stuff I have admired, stuff I have loved, stuff that has made me laugh, stuff that I have sweated through."

He said the sale would mark a cathartic end to his amicable divorce proceedings from Danielle Spencer.

And I get that. Memories get caught up in all sorts of stuff. From sturdy leather jockstraps to chariots.

But alas, my catalogue won’t be as extensive as Crowe’s, no leather boots worn in Romper Stomper, nor violins from the 18th century, just the detritus, if that’s not too harsh a word, of a near 30-year relationship.

But where to begin? At the beginning of the end, nay, a few years before, for the beginning of the end is always further back than first seems. The amicable separation of furniture and saucepans and blankets and Tupperware that happens when you agree to set up two homes.

But now my stuff is mine. Stuff I have worn, stuff I have bought, stuff I have admired, stuff I have loved etc, but occasionally you’re reminded that some of that stuff that remains still reminds you of what has gone.

Every now and again I have purged, my minimal living even more pared back. The linen cupboard is as bare as it’s ever been, shelves too stripped clean. A box of cards and letters, many from him, was riffled through. Did I really need to keep anniversary cards from 1990 whose sentiment was no longer relevant? No.

But what about children’s drawings and wedding dresses and photographs of holidays and books once shared?

In her Huffington Post article Memories Matter - Resist the urge to purge after divorce Theresa Stiles found she couldn’t get rid of the stuff, nor the stories of what it all represented.

“My children have family pictures in their rooms that assure them they were created out of love,” she writes. “I still hang the personalised ornaments on the Christmas tree that show the four of us as sleigh riding penguins or happy little elves. I feel it’s important to remind them we are always going to be a family ‘til death do us part; we just define it differently now.”

She says happy memories serve as an anchor, tethering us to the past in a positive way. She admits sometimes that it's easier said than done. And it is.

On my son’s bedside table is a photograph of his father and I, from a wedding, not ours, caught laughing, long ago, that period where all your friends are committing themselves to love, to life. Sometimes I look at it and wonder what happened. More and more I look at it and my first thought is, was I ever that young? I think that’s a good sign.

Yet I remember one moment of acute heartbreak in the packing up process when my ex left behind a photograph he had taken of me atop a mountain in Switzerland somewhere. Our first overseas holiday. The view from that mountain, and of our life to come, stretched out beyond the horizon. That view wasn’t his now. I sometimes wonder if any physical memory of me has a place on a shelf somewhere in his new life.

Yet I’ve long been a believer that women are the keepers of memories. That we’re more likely to store stuff as well as stories, tucked away in corners of our homes and hearts. Part of me feels that the albums filled of photos of newborns and first steps and first days at school belong with me. That I was the one to hang finger paintings on the wall, file away report cards from kindergarten. The one to build our family story.

I know, on the good days, that it’s time for me to start building my own family story, making my own family memories. I know that all four of us will be forever intertwined but I’m at my happiest now when these new chapters are being written.

Holidays, meals, conversations, experiences. It’s different. Lighter in a way. More free. The children are older and that’s changed the core of it. I watch them make their own memories and I know I have to let go. Let go of many things.


Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Cash Problems Stress the Kids

Finances: What to Do when Finances after Divorce Stress Your Children

Joi Freemont, a dentist in Atlanta, Georgia understands how tough divorce-related financial problems can be for children. “I frequently see children whose parents are recently divorced. When the breakup happens, the kids are suddenly having their braces removed because neither parent wants to pay for them anymore.”

The statistics for divorced families are grim: 27 percent of children living with their mothers and 12 percent of children living with their fathers are in poverty, according to the 2006 Yale University Press book, Divorce: Causes and Consequences, by Alison Clarke-Stewart.

“Financial changes that result from a divorce can be as emotionally difficult for children as they are for parents. Even when they are babies, children can feel if their parents are stressed,” cautions Sharon Fried, a clinical psychologist and author of Children are People Too. Dr. Fried advises, “Although children do not need to live in a fantasy world, parents who share details of the family’s financial troubles will be placing unnecessary and troubling burdens on their children. These unnecessary burdens can affect their schoolwork, their socialization, and other critical factors while growing up.”

A divorce is often a financial blow to families. Parents discover that two homes mean two of everything: beds, desks, tables, toys, and much more. Younger children who had previously enjoyed weekly trips to the movies might suddenly find themselves confined to the T.V. 
Older children might be shocked to learn that new video games have become a thing of the past. So how are co-parents to best help their children to adjust to these new limitations?
Financial changes need to be explained in an age-appropriate way. Younger children do not have the reasoning abilities of adults and may grossly misinterpret certain statements. Author Linda Leitz of the upcoming book We Need to Talk: Money and Kids After Divorce says, If a mom says to a preschooler, ‘We can’t afford to do what we used to,’ that may sound like ‘We’re going to have to live on the street,’ instead of ‘You need to choose between ballet and soccer.’ So with all kids, it’s good to stress that they’ll be ok even though some changes will be on the horizon.”

One of the most common and jarring changes for a child is moving homes. Children are forced to deal with new bedrooms, neighborhoods, schools and friends. Author Jenn Hollowell morosely remembers that her “room went from being on a sun porch to being in the basement because there wasn’t enough room for me.”

Joshua Forman, matrimonial and family law attorney at the New York firm Chemtob Moss Forman & Talbert LLP says “financial difficulties must be carefully explained and not blaming the other parent will help the child understand the new realities of life.”

Although children should be protected from adult decisions and problems, honesty is sometimes the way to go. Brette Sember, author of The Divorce Organizer & Planner, recommends parents tell children that while there might be fewer funds available, you as a family are going to be creative about how you deal with it and that you will all support each other and focus on the things that are really important, your relationships together.

“Parents who are overwhelmed by financial-related problems stemming from divorce may consider outside or professional help. It is imperative that a parent seeks emotional support during times of high stress and trauma,” says licensed professional counselor Diane Cantrell. “Emotional support can come from family, friends, clergy, the family physician, and mental health professionals. Many agencies offer counseling on a sliding scale and provide divorce recovery groups.”

“In a silver lining mode of thinking,” says Linda Leitz, “there may be positives that come from financial changes. Appreciating the time kids and parents share is so much more important than what the parents buy them. Whether kids spend equal amounts of time with each parent or have a primary and secondary parent relationship, the parents can focus on having their time together meaningful.”

Leitz recommends finding low-cost activities such as reading and cooking family meals together. In the end, parents must do their utmost to ensure a child understands that they are protected, safe, and that money isn’t everything. “During a time of great transition like a divorce,” says Tammy Gold, founder of Gold Parent Coaching, “a good lesson is that no matter what changes in life, Mom and Dad’s love will never change.”


Monday, 23 April 2018

10 Things To Keep In Mind When Telling Your Kids About The Divorce

There are ways to soften the blow.

Telling your kids that you plan to divorce is not a conversation to be taken lightly. It’s one that marks a turning point in all of your lives.

For the sake of your children’s mental health, it’s important to be prepared. Below are some expert tips to help you share the news with your kids in the best way possible considering the circumstances. 

1. Watch your tone.
“Both parents should try to speak in a calm tone, without intense or out-of-control displays of emotion. The goal is to show that the divorce is the best choice for everyone, although it is a sad situation. Crying may be unavoidable, and can even show the child how you take the divorce seriously and understand how hard it will be. However, if a parent gets loud or loses control, it can scare the children and teach them to associate the divorce with fear and trauma.” ― Samantha Rodman, clinical psychologist and author of How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce

2. Let them know that the divorce is not their fault.
“Children of all ages tend to blame themselves when their parents are upset. It’s essential to let them know they are innocent and not to be blamed on any level, even if you’ve been fighting over them.” ― Rosalind Sedacca, Certified Divorce Coach and author of How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce

3. Use clear language.
“Sometimes parents mistakenly think they can soften the blow for kids by not using the words separation or divorce. Instead, they may say something like, ‘we’ve decided we need a break to think things over.’ Other parents try to dodge the bullet by offering an alternate explanation for why things are different, such as, “mom/dad has a big project at work and will be moving out for a while so they can be closer to the office.’ When this happens, kids are often left hanging in limbo. They may also hold fast to the hope that things will eventually go back to the way they were before. To avoid confusion, be sure to talk with your children in a direct way using clear language that is age appropriate.” ― Christina McGhee, divorce coach and author of Parenting Apart

4. Tell all the kids at the same time.
“Make sure that every family member is included in your announcement. Telling older or younger siblings in different ways can make children feel like they must keep a secret until the whole family knows. Gather everyone, sit down and have an honest discussion about your plans.” ― Chelli Pumphrey, therapist and author

5. Give your kids advance notice before a parent moves out.
“I usually suggest that parents give school-age kids about two- to three-weeks notice before a parent moves out. Younger kids don’t have the same sense of time, so a few days is best for pre-schoolers. There is no magic number; the idea is to give children enough time to wrap their minds around the news, but not so much time that they feel they’re living in and endless, anxiety-inducing limbo.” ― Kate Scharff, psychotherapist and divorce mediator

6. Consider timing.
“Avoid birthdays, special days, exams or significant events. Ideally, tell your children when there is time on the back end to process the news. For example, at the start of a long weekend when they and you will be home and present to support them.” ― Deborah Meckinger, mediator and therapist

7. Let them know you’ll both always be there.
“Young children often feel that if their parents divorce each other, this means they could divorce the kids too. They see that their parents don’t love each other anymore and worry that the parents may fall out of love with them too. Be sure to tell the children you will both be there for them and will always be their mom and dad. The fear of abandonment is an important issue to keep in mind even if the children cannot express it openly. They will also have to grieve just as the adults do after a massive life change. How children manage and adjust to divorce is directly related to how the adults are handling it.” ― Karyl McBride, marriage and family therapist

8. Show a unified front.
“Parents should back one another up in this discussion and show a united front for the children. This situation is confusing enough for kids without having to witness a difference of opinion between their parents about key issues. If Mom says, ‘you’ll live with me, mostly’ and Dad says, ‘you’ll split time with us,’ a child feels anxious not only because she doesn’t know what will actually happen, but also because she senses that a big conflict is brewing over this issue.” ― Samantha Rodman 

9. Offer a sense of stability.
“Along with addressing how things will be different, give your children solid ground to stand on by talking about what will stay the same. For example, you might say something like, ‘Although the relationship is changing between Mom and Dad, there are things in your life that will stay the same. You will still have a mom and a dad, we will both still love you very much and you will still go to the same school and have the same friends.’ Whenever possible, do your best to minimize the number of changes kids have to deal with in the early stages of your separation or divorce. Keep in mind that this does not mean that children should maintain one primary home and only have occasional contact with the other parent. When safety is not an issue, children benefit most when they have consistent and regular contact with both parents.” ― Christina McGhee

10. Don’t tell them you still love each other.
“If you’ve ever been told ‘I love you, but I’m not in love with you,’ you know how hard it can be to grasp the distinction. Degrees of love are abstract. They’re confusing to young kids and frustrating to older ones. It’s tough to find the right words. For young children, try saying: ‘No, we don’t love each other anymore, but that only happens with adults. Parents never fall out of love with their kids. Though we’ll be living apart, we’ll still take care of you together.’ For school-age children and teenagers, try: ‘We don’t love each other anymore, but we’ve been together a long time and care deeply about each other. The main thing is that we want to support each other in being the best parents we can be.’” ― Kate Scarf


Sunday, 22 April 2018

How a Couple Can Stay Together Without "Being" Together

Divorce lawyers would love your business, but there's a better way.

Every family law attorney I know dreads going back to work in January, and all for the same reason: They know they will face a barrage of phone calls first thing after the New Year from potential divorce clients. (It’s not that they don’t want the business; it’s just that the volume can be overwhelming.)

According to one attorney, there’s a 30 percent increase in the volume of calls in January (link is external)compared to other times of the year. The first business day in January has actually been dubbed "Divorce Monday," and January overall, "Divorce Month."

If you are not among those motivated to file, you may wonder why anyone would split up in the middle of their kids’ school year. It doesn’t seem to make sense.

If, however, you or someone you know is a petitioner, you or they would likely say that the holidays were more than you could stand in a loveless (and likely sexless) relationship; you may have wanted out months ago but, as fall approached, decided you didn’t want to ruin the kids’ holidays, or have to share the news with your extended family. Now, however, enough is enough. With the turning of the calendar page, many people's first resolution is to move forward with a filing, determined to make this the year to be true to themselves and take charge of living the life they want to lead. Waiting much longer, they’re afraid, might do them in completely.

With one's finger perched on the button that will change the fate of their marriage (and their life), the last thing they want is for someone to come along and talk them out of it, or try to make them feel awful or ashamed about wanting to make a break.

It’s not my intention to make anyone feel bad or wrong. As I tell all my clients, I have no agenda as to whether they stay in or leave their relationship. In fact, I have a saying: “The world doesn’t need more married people. The world needs more authentic and happy people.” I would not try to butt in to anyone's life, were it not for a completely viable but little-known alternative to divorce.

Divorce does not harm kids, per se. There’s ample research out there that divorce isn’t the worst thing that parents can do to kids: Fighting terribly and subjecting them to your vitriolic hatred toward each other is the worst; staying married in such a state is actually worse for kids than if you actually got divorced. I’ve seen many people divorce and, because they handled their emotions well, the children also did well. I’ve also witnessed couples do significant damage to their kids by staying in an unhealthy relationship and trying to “make it work.”

But, because it is also true that a two-parent households typically have some significant advantages over two separate, single-parent homes, it’s worth asking: What if you could stay for the kids and lead your own life—possibly even having outside roma
ntic relationships?

I know what you’re thinking: People do this already; it's called an affair. I’m well aware that romantic affairs go on illicitly, but what I’m suggesting is that this can also happen in an above-board, respectful kind of way. It’s called a Parenting Marriage and more and more couples are turning to this option as a way to “stay for the kids” without staying stuck in a bad relationship. As spouses, you basically change your job description from lover, best friend, and co-parent to co-parent first and foremost, friends maybe, and lovers no longer.

During the past six years, I’ve helped dozens of couples across the U.S. transition from their traditional marriage to this non-traditional variation on the theme. Many find it surprisingly workable. Of course, it’s complicated and the need for having clear agreements in place is paramount, but it can be done if you both want the same things.


Saturday, 21 April 2018

How to Provide for the Kids Post-Divorce

If you think providing for your children after divorce is basically about diapers, dentistry, and diplomas, you're in for a life of surprises.

Whether you’re supporting preschoolers or those who have returned home after college, experts say preparing for any scenario and putting everything in writing is the best way to defuse potentially explosive situations in the future.

Helene Bernstein, a Brooklyn-based divorce attorney with more than 20 years of experience in family law, says even small items can cause big problems.

“Little things that couples argue about and they don’t think of is who pays for the children’s clothing? Does the clothing travel with the child? Who pays for the birthday gifts? They get expensive. When they’re little, they go to a lot of parties,” Bernstein says.

Other considerations such as orthodontia or therapy, should the child need them, are important to take into account. If a child is diagnosed with a medical condition, parents should think about how they would handle treatment and the possibility of unreimbursed medical expenses.

“When a child has attention deficit disorder a lot of people disagree on whether medication should be administered, and that’s a really big thing,” Bernstein adds.

The lawyer and mediator recommends that parents renegotiate their agreements every few years because children’s needs change as they get older. One thing she advises clients do immediately is change their beneficiary information.

Growing Pains
Lili Vasileff, certified financial planner and president of the National Association of Divorce Financial Planners, in Greenwich, Conn., says that while basic child-related expenses are included in a budget intake form that is part of divorce negotiation, many people don’t think to plan beyond their child’s current age.

“If you’ve got a 3-year old, when they’re 16 they’ve got driver’s ed, auto insurance, or the prom,” Vasileff says. “Bar mitzvahs, or let’s go a bit farther, college applications are like $250 a pop, and who’s going to pay for the child traveling to go see those colleges? All the things that are prospective, that occur on an if-and-when basis, are generally left unaddressed. It’s up to the parents to discuss how to address those costs. Leaving it open results in a lot of misunderstanding, miscommunication and acrimony.”

Jeff Landers, founder of Bedrock Divorce Advisors, LLC, agrees. He says if a child has been taking violin lessons or gymnastics and the money is there, most courts will try to maintain the status quo for kids. However, there are plenty of gray areas within those extra-curriculars that can cause trouble.

“You can choose an $8,000 summer camp or go to the Y. If you talk just about the nature of the expense but not the character of it, then you’re setting yourself up for all future arguments which the child realizes that they’re the cause of, and that is very, very difficult,” adds Vasileff. “Unless you’re working with an expert during this process who can really pull the threads on each one of these areas to help you think in the future or at least has enough experience to say, 'these are the things that can come up,' how are you going to address these things head-on when they happen?”

Jodi Paige, a divorced mother of two, says she and her ex-husband agreed on the number of enrichment activities that will be covered and have a contingency plan in place for dividing expenses beyond that number.

“I pay for the first two classes and then anything else that they want to do, my ex pays 50 percent of the cost of that,” says Paige. “The state guidelines are pretty low, so if you live in an area where classes are more expensive, make sure your agreement reflects that.”

The College Years
While big-ticket items such as college tuition may seem fairly straight forward, the devil is in the details, say financial planners who specialize in divorce.

Landers says it’s essential to ask what’s included because if you don’t negotiate it up front, then “good luck trying to get it after the fact.”

“Is room and board included? Is a computer for the child’s use included in that? Does it include traveling back and forth?” Landers says. “You really need to get into the nitty-gritty details, and I’ve seen some agreements that will state, ‘I will pay for a state school but if the kid wants to go to a private school or an Ivy League, not my problem.’ A parent may say I’m not going pay unless the child maintains a 3.0 GPA, since it’s not a legal requirement, it’s very much up to the negotiations between the parties.”

He adds that some agreements may include a “cap,” whereby a parent will be on the hook for no more than the state university charges.

Boomerang Bucks
Paige also recommends including a stipulation that if one parent’s finances significantly improve, the amount contributed toward college be raised accordingly.

“Situations change, and everything needs to be very much spelled out,” she says.

The Boomerang Generation
Vasileff points out that even after paying for college, many parents are still supporting their adult children.

The good news, she says, is under Obama healthcare, coverage continues until age 26. But parents usually don’t think about is who is going to pay for an adult child’s healthcare should he or she be unemployed.

Vasileff says the boomerang generation, the group of adults who return home to live, poses a whole new set of issues for divorced parents.

“When you have adult boomerang children who come back to live with you, how do you set the rules? Are they supposed to pay rent; are you supposed to pay for their groceries?” she asks.

According to a U.S. Census Bureau report, the number of men ages 25-34 living with their parents grew from 14 to 19 percent between 2005 and 2011; the number of women rose from 8 to 10 percent. 

While most people to some extent address the cost of college, Vasileff says few plan for those kids who take a year off or return home without any plans to leave.

Second-Family Complications
Experts agree that counseling for all parties also bears consideration. Providing the least disruptive environment possible is also important.

We got an apartment and for the first nine months, my ex-husband and I went back and forth and the kids stayed in the house,” explains Paige, who's been divorced since 2006. “It was important for them not to leave their safety zone and we got a feeling for how tiring and crappy that was. It’s a good perspective thing for parents.”

Vasileff also recommends parties discuss what would happen in the event that one or both parents have new families, which she says is something very few people think about unless one party already has a serious new partner.

Paige suggests discussing what will be left to the children after the parents are deceased, especially if children from new marriages enter the picture.

“Don’t leave things vague. Things change, especially when a person gets a new significant other,” Paige says.

While no one can see into the future, anticipating expenses and deciding how to divide them can make things a lot less contentious down the line.


Friday, 20 April 2018

After a divorce, how to talk to the kids about money

No matter how rocky the divorce, if the household has children, both parents usually want to make sure the kids feel as secure as possible. Part of instilling that sense of security is discussing the family’s financial picture.

The finances for both soon-to-be ex-spouses will likely change. And usually not for the better, given that two households will be living on the same income that had been supporting one.

When a divorce hits a family with children, the average income of the household where the kids reside drops an average of 40% to 45% if the primary custodial parent, usually the mother, remains divorced for more than six years, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. Moms who divorce or separate also land in poverty almost three times as often as those who stay married, according to a Family Research Council study.

Causes: the monetary value of spending time with children, as well as the lost salary and career impact, usually is not calculated in divorce settlements; and child support often falls short and further falls behind as children age and their needs increase.
How do parents explain this often-grim new economic reality to their children, particularly during such an emotional and vulnerable time?

If the kids are under 10 years old, simple expense-related explanations may be all that’s required if the children are staying in the same schools and home. “We’ll have to drop the karate classes for awhile, guys. But hey, let’s replace that time with some extra trips out to the park with friends.”

If schools are changing, perhaps because private tuition is no longer affordable, the conversation may need to be a little more creative. Such a move, like that to a new house or neighborhood, also will likely be a disappointment. Still, focus on the positive. “The school has a great gymnastics team. Our new house is a 10-minute drive to the beach.”

Teenagers might need to know specifics. If splitting up will change your financial picture radically — as it often does — the view in your kid’s mind may differ from reality, based on what he or she has seen provided to older siblings or peers in your neighborhood or school. Discuss how you will or will not be able to help pay their college tuition. Warn that a car might not be a birthday present this year, if that is an expectation among peers.

Creating a household budget that shows the sources of income and the expenses, both mandatory and optional, that all family members understand and take part in may be a worthwhile exercise. Perhaps provide the children, if they are old enough, with a budget in a spreadsheet. Going through the budget is also an opportunity to teach some valuable life lessons regarding financial responsibility and choices.

Mention that a part-time job could replace an allowance, and remember that earning money can be a tremendous source of confidence for your teen. Work with their growing need for independence, and help them figure out ways to get the things that they need or want that are not in the family budget.

Sometimes, a child may have to improvise to obtain something once thought to be a given. Encourage this. I know a child, a high school freshman, in advanced placement math, who felt she needed some tutoring, but money was tight after a divorce. So, the enterprising young woman started tutoring 6th- and 7th-grade students to pay for her own tutor.

Parents sometimes also may have to come up with alternative solutions. Consider the phenomenon of “nesting” children after a divorce. This term means that the kids get to live in the house, and the parents move in and out, as the custodial and visitation schedules allow. No more uprooting the children to see Dad, or Mom, at an apartment cross-town for the weekend or the summer. Dad comes back home for the weekend or longer. Mom moves out for the weekend or longer.

Maximum stability for children is the goal with nesting. It might also, however, lessen the possibility of one parent out-spoiling the other parent, an activity often referred to as Disney Dad syndrome in which non-custodial Dads take the kids on a vacation to Disney World while Mom takes them camping.

Adult-age children, meanwhile, might need to understand how an estate plan works, particularly if you have established trusts, or simply what’s in the will and its location.
They will need to know they are being taken care of, that the proper investment and banking vehicles are in place, and the arrangements treat everyone fairly.

Adult children also may need to be reassured, just like younger offspring, that the financial changes affecting one or both of their parents may be difficult, but manageable.

This communication will be important to establish now; if remarriage comes along, estate plans can get even trickier, and will likely need to be amended. Attitudes among the adult children at this time can become suspicious.

When the children are this age, particularly in wealthy families, a financial adviser might be present when the parents discuss these issues with the children. An adviser, projecting authority and confidence, can explain the particulars and provide assurances.

A practical issue that may not occur to parents to discuss with their children is the need for the parents to acquire life insurance. A parent’s obligation to support his or her minor children does not end with that parent’s death. Therefore, courts often require the parents to insure their ability to continue to meet their children’s financial obligations, in the event of that parent’s premature death. One could argue that talking about a parent’s possible demise does not lead to instilling security in a child, but when that child is old enough, it may be a conversation worth having.

Talk to your children about money in an age-appropriate manner, without papering over the truth. Be sensitive but not overly opaque. Parents probably already know that their kids, unless they are in their 20s or older, do not yet reason like an adult and tend to misinterpret, exaggerating both fears and hopes.

Although divorce can often feel like a financial blow to both parents, it needn’t feel that way to their kids if communication with them is empathetic but also honest and if the children feel safe, secure, and loved.

Think of this time, too, as a perfect opportunity to teach your kids that although money is important as a tool, it isn’t everything. It’s quality time together, not the material stuff, that you and your children will remember.