My Divorce Solution
How We Can Benefit Anyone Navigating Divorce
Five years ago, my co-founder, Karen Chellew, and I had one of those “aha moments” that only happen a few times in your life.
A mutual friend introduced us, and we immediately connected on a topic we both know through our personal and professional life: Divorce. My background as a financial advisor put me front and center into the financial lives of couples in various states of marriage. Some were happy and managing finances together, others were struggling with one person (typically the breadwinner) controlling the checkbook and accounts.
One thing I found for certain was that couples were too often not on the same page with their finances. When going through divorce, couples are often not even reading a page from the same book. Divorce often shines a magnifying glass on whatever problems are already there.
Combing our Superpowers
My co-founder, Karen Chellew, has a background that compliments mine. She has spent more than three decades in the legal field, first as a paralegal, then as a business manager for a firm and now as a legal liaison. She has seen firsthand the impact of divorce in her personal life, but also the role the legal world plays in it. She noticed lawyers would often spend time bogged down in exchanging financial documentation or creating net worth statements for couples or tracking down finances from a disgruntled partner who refuses to cooperate during divorce proceedings. It can be a nightmare.
So, in 2016, we combined our financial and legal superpowers—we’re not quite superheroes yet but some clients say they feel like their life has been saved after working with us!—and started My Divorce Solution.
What is My Divorce Solution?
Simply put, we help make a difficult situation better. We offer a blueprint for financial clarity for people considering divorce. Our trademarked financial portrait—formally, it’s called the MDS Financial Portrait™—provides individuals and couples a clear, singular document to help them make sound financial decisions for their future. That’s where we come in, providing the clarity to make sound decisions early on in the process.
People are Vulnerable During Divorce
Divorce is a $50 billion industry in the U.S. These families are vulnerable and easily pressured into making uninformed financial decisions based on fear and anxiety. Too often, spouses act prematurely and make the decision to get divorced without knowing the financial impact.
One of the biggest mistakes couples make is that they don’t choose the right path to divorce relevant to their situation. There are four main ways you can get a divorce and it’s worth quickly going through those:
Essentially, you want to keep things out of court whenever possible in a divorce. A judge deciding what is best for your family is not something you want if you can avoid it. Judges are there to protect people when they need to be protected. So, if there’s abuse in your marriage—whether it’s financial abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse—that’s a great case to take to litigation because the court will do what they have to do to protect you and your family. However, if you’re arguing over accounts, vacation houses and collectibles, try to avoid court.
Each Person Hires Professionals
In this instance, you both hire an attorney, financial advisors and/or whomever else you want, but you tell these professionals that you want to settle out of court. This way you let them do the heavy lifting, back and forth and trading proposals, all while it’s settled out of court.
You and your spouse, along with a neutral third party, sit down to mediate the situation. That person might be an attorney, they might be a mental health professional, they might have a financial background, but their job is not to decide what’s going to happen there, nor do they give advice. They’re simply helping the two of you reach a decision by facilitating communication or negotiations along the way.
Some companies are now offering online divorces where they have the forms available, and you and your spouse can fill in what you want the court to do. This DIY method is becoming more popular, which is understandable since the cost is a lot lower, the time frame can be much shorter and it’s empowering to do something on your own. That being said, there’s a very narrow window of families where they get the outcome that feels fair at the end of that process. Part of that is because divorce is really complex legally, financially and emotionally.
Where MDS Fits In
We help our clients wherever they are in the divorce process. They may be working with a mediator or attorney—or they may be simply exploring their options. Working with My Divorce Solution and our team, they get everything that financially constitutes their legal marriage on paper. Having that information in hand helps them decide the next steps. Their separate attorneys can come together and hammer out details with a document that is objective and complete.
Divorce is an emotional process and will always be. But a financial portrait helps you separate that emotion from the experience and look at the situation in a rational, realistic manner. Decision-making and healing can begin. We have seen first-hand relationships with children and family saved through our work. We have touching stories that bring us to tears—all because a couple was able to make a difficult situation a little better through the clarity we provide.
Where to Begin
In addition to our financial portrait, we also offer couples clear-cut online divorce classes. DivorceU Online has helped hundreds of couples answer questions about the process before they make the choice.We can help you gain clarity.
DivorceU is a “Divorce 101” style course to simplify and support this major life challenge. Our goal is to share our divorce expertise as effectively as possible. Users complete our course at their own pace and on their own terms — you can learn more and access a free preview here.
What Karen and I ultimately want is for everyone to be able to freely choose their next step and do so with complete financial transparency.
One final note: While divorce is in our name, our financial portrait and educational resources are for a number of people. It’s for couples who are considering their options and haven’t made a decision to file. It’s also for parents looking to help adult children or professionals like attorneys or life coaches looking to provide resources to clients.
About the author:
Catherine Shanahan, CDFA, became a Certiﬁed Divorce Financial Analyst® and trained mediator after 25 years in the ﬁnancial industry and her own life experience with divorce. She and co-founder, Karen Chellew, created My Divorce Solution to create a space for couples experiencing divorce to be heard and have their ﬁnancial portraits explained to them in order to start moving forward with a plan. She was a member of the Bucks County Collaborative Law Group, Administrative Active Daily Money Management (AADMM), the Institute for Divorce Financial Analyst (IDFAtm),and the Association of Divorce Financial Planners (ADFP).
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