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Jun 9, 2017

This was originally published on Divorce and Your Money here

Does It Matter Who Files First?

In and of itself, the initial act of filing for divorce is stressful and emotionally draining. However, many couples spend an exorbitant amount of time stressing over the details, such as whether or not it matters if your spouse files first. Therefore, what do you need to know about taking that first step towards the end of your marriage? Certainly, there are advantages to being the first to file, but does it really matter if you are the first?

If you file first, you have more control over the proceedings.

The major benefit of being the first to file can usually be boiled down to this simple sentiment: filing first gives you the greatest degree of control over the rest of the proceedings. Spouses who file first have the first pick of legal representation, and they can even select the location of the coming proceedings. If you want to have the upper hand after the proceedings commence, filing first gives you the greatest advantage in these particular areas.

If you are the first spouse to file, you will generally be able to be better prepared than your partner. You will have the freedom to assemble your team of professionals, and you can have them waiting before your spouse even knows the paperwork is coming. In other words, hiring your team in advance allows you to retain the best of the best.

Once your spouse is aware that they will need to hire their own representatives, your choices are fewer. Any professional who meets with your spouse, even briefly, can no longer meet with you, due to protected client information they could divulge. This caveat is a great way for your spouse to make divorce more inconvenient for you.

Do you and your spouse now live in separate towns? The first to file typically gets to decide where the trial is held, and where it will be held for future issues. When you file first, it prevents your spouse from selecting a location that is considerably closer to them, and therefore less convenient for you.

Filing first also gives you the ability to prepare for court in advance, including rounding up documentation, such as income statements and loan details. You may even have the opportunity to financially prepare by stashing cash aside or gaining access to marital funds.

What if you do not file first?

If you are not the first spouse to file, some aspects of the divorce may still work out in your favor. The largest advantage to not being the first to file is the reduced cost on your end. The spouse who files first will typically have to pay a filing fee with the courts, which could cost a few hundred dollars.

In addition to the extra cost of the filing fee, the spouse who files first may come out with a large attorney’s fee in the end. It will also require more time for their legal team to assemble all of the paperwork and gather pertinent information, which adds up on the final bill. If you are concerned about the overall cost of divorce and have little access to additional resources to pay for it, you may greatly benefit from allowing your spouse to be the first to file.

The other major advantage to not filing first is the ability to plan. When your spouse files for divorce, they will typically have to list their demands, which are served to you as part of the initial paperwork. If you know in advance what your spouse is hoping to gain by ending your marriage, you can start planning accordingly with your own team of professionals. Fortifying yourself against the demands of your spouse in this manner can help you secure a more freeing financial future.

Advantages to Both Sides

Overall, it is clear to see that there are definite advantages to both sides of this situation. The spouse who files first has more control over the rest of the proceedings. They have more control over the location, the timing, and the professionals they are attempting to hire throughout the process. If control is what you need most during the coming proceedings, filing first can give you a significantly greater upper hand.

Waiting to be served papers that your spouse has filed can result in a lower cost to the overall proceedings on your end, and it can give you additional time to plan for or against your spouse’s demands in mediation or litigation. For some individuals, these benefits outweigh giving control to their spouses. However, the cost benefits could outweigh their desire to have the utmost control in this situation.

Regarding the end of your marriage, consider where you and your spouse are. The advantages are clear, whether you file first or not. Make sure that you take advantage of the benefits you receive, regardless of the situation you happen to find yourself in.

Does It Matter Who Files for Divorce First?

When you know that divorce is inevitable, you may wonder if there are advantages and disadvantages in being the first one to file. Although many believe that submitting a divorce petition before their spouse is beneficial, that’s not always the case.

Although spouses who file first can potentially have the power to choose where to get divorced, the majority of people going through a divorce believe that monetary concerns are more important than the choice of courthouse.

But financially speaking, it may be in your best interests NOT to file first.

1. Your spouse may know your financial demands.

A divorce petition typically includes the list of your financial wants and demands. It almost always involves property division, including how the petitioner wishes to negotiate finances. Grounds for spousal and child support may also be outlined.

When you’re the divorce petitioner, your spouse will see this list of desires when he or she is served. This action could result in a potential counterattack on your finances, which could cost you more money in the end.

2. You may pay divorce filing fees.

Divorce is a civil affair that entails the judgment of a local court. In order to begin the divorce proceedings, a petition must be filed. This petition is for the dissolution of marriage, and it must be filed with the court clerk in the county you currently reside in.

Those going through a divorce may not be properly informed that the first person to petition for a divorce usually pays the filing fees. These fees must be paid in order to file papers with the court. In most counties across the country, the filing fee is a few hundred dollars. These fees are government-mandated, and they’re on top of any other legal or service fees.

Each court’s exact fee schedules are generally posted on their websites. Be advised that there are some additional, hidden costs associated with filing fees. The court may charge the petitioner for any certified copies of the requested petitions. Any motions, requests, and proposed orders also come with a fee.

3. You may pay more in divorce attorney fees.

When you file first, your divorce attorney gets right to work. While your attorney is busy gathering and compiling information for your case, you’re paying for his or her services. In addition, if you file first, your attorney will assist with the filing process. Again, the time and effort involved has a cost that you’ll have to pay.

Furthermore, your current spouse may contest the divorce, or you may find that you must negotiate terms. And that means more work on your attorney’s part—and more money out of your pocketbook.

Find this information helpful? Share it!

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is the host of the “Divorce and Your Money Show” and Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, with offices in Dallas, New York and Hanover, New Hampshire.

Want more free divorce advice and tips?

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Jun 9, 2017

This article was originally published on Divorce Magazine. You can view the original article here

Consider a Quickie Divorce To Save Time

The divorce process can be a lengthy and painful time that drags on for months or years. When you are amid emotional turmoil over the demise of your marriage, the last thing that you want to encounter is a longer waiting period. Fortunately, there are several ways around the time-consuming portion of the process. An alternative to this norm is a “quickie divorce," which allows couples to file quickly and move on with their newly single lives.

Try The Option of an Uncontested Divorce 

The first method that many couples use to reach a quickie divorce is filing for an uncontested divorce. In this type of arrangement, the two spouses have already agreed upon the specific terms of the settlement. No arguments exist regarding property division, child support, custody arrangements, or any other loose ends.

Situations that involve retirement savings, investments, alimonies, and other complicated financial arrangements may not be able to be settled on their own. Rather, they may require the assistance of a certified divorce financial analyst, attorney, or mediation specialist to reach an agreeable settlement that is fair to both parties.

To qualify for an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse will need to open the lines of communication. To be able to speed up the divorce process, it is crucial that you get on the same page in terms of the details surrounding the end of your marriage and all your marital property. If the two of you are capable of being amicable throughout this process, it allows you to officially end the marriage more rapidly than couples who are less effective at communicating.

A No-Fault Divorce Can Speed Up The Divorce Process

Likewise, it also helps to file a no-fault divorce. In this type of arrangement, neither spouse is trying to prove that the other is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. They simply need to claim that the reason for the end of the union is related to any of the recognized reasons available in their state. Most commonly, this option means filing for divorce because of irreconcilable differences.

Places to Get a Quickie Divorce

Of course, beyond those basic steps to get a quickie divorce, you could also consider moving. Many states offer looser residency requirements and shorter waiting periods, which allow for the entire process to move through the court system faster. If you do not currently reside in one of the states listed below, you may want to relocate if finalizing your divorce is of paramount importance to you and your spouse.

Below is a list of the most popular states that will finalize a quickie divorce, as well as their specific requirements:

  • Alaska This state is one of the few that does not have any residency requirements. Spouses must reside in the state at the time they file, and intend to continue living within Alaska. There is a thirty-day waiting period.
  • Idaho To reach the residency requirement, spouses must live in Idaho for a minimum of six weeks. After this period, there is a twenty-day processing time to finalize the divorce.
  • Montana Montana has a ninety-day residency requirement before individuals can file for divorce.
  • Nevada In terms of obtaining a quickie divorce, Nevada is slightly faster than Idaho. The residency requirement is the same (six weeks), but there is no waiting period afterward.
  • New Hampshire At one full year, New Hampshire has the longest residency requirement of the states on this list. However, for couples who are already residents of New Hampshire, there is no waiting period. Therefore, you could effectively file and obtain an entire divorce within an incredibly short period of time.
  • South Dakota Only a sixty-day waiting period applies in South Dakota, and it has no residency requirements.
  • Wyoming Wyoming has a sixty-day residency requirement, followed by a twenty-day waiting period.

Consider Your Financial Future Before Having a Quickie Divorce

To get the process of divorce over with much faster, consider filing for divorce in one of these states. While a quickie divorce is not ideal for every circumstance, some couples could benefit from this type of arrangement. Open communication is a key component to making these quickie divorces work.

Communication is key when filing an uncontested divorce because the settlement must be agreed upon between both spouses. If there are complicated financial implications or unfavorable settlement terms, this type of arrangement is best avoided. Your financial future could be at stake.

If you believe that there are more complicated issues that could impact your finances or that the settlement is unfair, you may want to pursue a divorce that utilizes an attorney or mediation professional.

Keep in mind that while divorce is a painful process emotionally and financially, you do not want to rush into an unfavorable settlement. It has long-term implications for your financial future, which you will not want to jeopardize if you want to end the marriage faster.


Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is the host of the “Divorce and Your Money Show” and Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, with offices in Dallas, New York and Hanover, New Hampshire.

Want more free divorce advice and tips?

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Jun 9, 2017

This was originally published on Divorce and Your Money here.

What is informal separation?

Informal separation occurs when you and your spouse live apart, but do not pursue formal separation or divorce. Informal separation could be thought of as a trial separation. In other words, you and your spouse are testing what it might be like to live apart. Sometimes, informal separation allows space for you to repair your marriage, while at other times, it may lead to a permanent separation or divorce. Many times, informal separation has a set amount of time, such as six months.

Understand Your Local Laws

If your informal separation leads to a divorce, the separation period may have an important impact on it. The separation date can influence the way property is divided, the calculations of spousal and child support, and other issues related to the divorce. However, all states do not recognize separation dates. If there are major changes to your life outside of the separation (e.g., your spouse receives a bonus at work, or you lose your job), it could impact your final divorce settlement.

Sometimes You Just Need Space

Divorce is permanent. It is a big step. If you are not ready to face the dreaded D word (and everything that comes with it), informal separation may be a way to give you and your spouse some breathing room. Then you can figure out the next phase of your relationship.

Separation is not a copout, and it is not “divorce light.” Just because you choose to separate, that does not mean that you are delaying the inevitable. Your separation may provide the time and space you need to start improving a broken relationship. It is not easy, but for some, it better allows the possibility of getting back together. In fact, according to a marriage therapist in the Wall Street Journal, some couples have a 50% chance of getting back together.

There are some substantial considerations. For instance, what you are you going to tell your family and friends? Is dating allowed during the trial separation? Are you allowed to communicate and talk with your spouse outside of therapy or essential conversations? While there are many considerations, it can be very valuable to take the time to reflect on these issues.

Consider an Informal Separation Agreement

When getting informally separated, it may be wise for you and your spouse to sign an informal separation agreement. This document would help outline your specific expectations while living apart (e.g., bills, spousal support, basic custody arrangements, and other key details). You may also want to consult a family law attorney to help draft an informal separation agreement.

The biggest risk is that the informal separation agreement will turn into a formal separation agreement. In other words, the details you negotiate today are used to determine the relevant support if you pursue a formal divorce. For example, if you share custody during an informal separation period, it will be difficult later to convince a judge that you deserve sole custody of the children.

That said, an informal separation agreement can help protect you by ensuring that the relevant expenses are paid, particularly if you do not have substantial income. Then you can continue living your life, at least to some degree.

Keep Important Benefits

There are many legal and practical benefits to remaining legally married, as opposed to being legally separated. Through separation, you can maintain your health insurance benefits, file joint taxes, and keep other marriage-related benefits. Furthermore, if your religion frowns upon divorce, informal separation could become a permanent solution without having an official divorce.

Final Thoughts

Informal separation can serve as an important glimpse into what divorce could be like. It could show you that life on your own is not what you really want, and it may serve to mend the marriage. On the other hand, if things are really broken, an informal separation may show you that it is time for a divorce.

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is the host of the “Divorce and Your Money Show” and Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, with offices in Dallas, New York and Hanover, New Hampshire.

Want more free divorce advice and tips?

Subscribe to the Divorce and Your Money Podcast, trusted by over 50,000 people across the United States.

Jun 9, 2017

This was originally posted on Divorce and Your Money here.

Divorce Gifts: The Top 4 Divorce Gifts for Men and Women

Although a divorce can be an incredibly difficult and emotional time for both ex-husband and ex-wife, it can also lead to better opportunities in the future. If you know someone who is going through a divorce, consider these 4 heartfelt divorce gifts, which are listed according to gender.

Top 4 Divorce Gifts for Men

1. Out of the Blue Care Package

Do you know a man who always cheers up when he has his favorite snacks? If so, the Out of the Blue Care Package is the perfect way to put him in good spirits. With an assortment of fan-favorite treats ranging from Frosted Flakes to Pop Tarts, this gift basket has everything that he will need to heal after a divorce. Each care package comes with a unique assortment of blue treats, an inspirational card, a can koozie, and a stress ball. The Out of the Blue Care Package really is the best way to help him see that the grass is greener on the other side.

2. Divorce Socks

Depending on the man you are shopping for, a divorce may not mean that he will want to feel upset for very long. If you are the type of person that loves to send gag gifts, these divorce socks are perfect. Not only are they incredibly comfortable, they are also a great way to bring a little laughter and light-hearted fun into a divorce. There are many different designs that you can choose from, but two of the most popular include the “Ball and Chain” and “100% Single” designs.

3. Divorce Mugs

For the man who enjoys a hot cup of coffee or tea first thing in the morning, there is nothing more memorable than a divorce mug. The “I’m really looking forward to never looking back” mug is a great daily reminder to stay positive, even when life puts you through the toughest of situations. By seeing the perfect affirmation every morning, going through a divorce might not seem as tough.

4. Amazon Gift Card

If you are still not sure what would be the perfect divorce gift for him, you cannot go wrong with an Amazon gift card. That way, your loved one can purchase absolutely anything their heart desires. Whether it is protein powder to use once they start going back to the gym or some essentials to keep up their appearance, the options are endless. It is a great way to let them know that you are thinking about him, while putting a giant smile on his face.

Top 4 Divorce Gifts for Women

1. Silver Plated Sailboat Pendant

The silver plated sailboat pendant is a beautiful reminder that there are plenty of good days ahead. And although you might be going through a rough spot, there are always calm waters along the way. The pendant is plated silver and crafted with the highest artisan skills. Therefore, it offers a beautiful design that will be a personal memento and a positive affirmation to see every day.

2. “The Best Is Yet to Come” Pendant

As another great piece of jewelry for a loved one, the “The Best Is Yet to Come” pendant is perfect for women of all ages. It helps signify that life will get better, and it is also a unique memento to remind her of the past hardships that she has conquered. Nestled on a comfortable chain, it is a unique way to represent staying strong, even through the toughest of times.

3. Ceramic Divorce Mug

Much like the divorce mug for men, the “And they lived happily ever after…separately” mug helps put a humorous spin on divorce, especially for a woman that could use a little bit of uplifting amusement. It is a funny reminder that the worst is in the past, and the best is right around the corner. If you are looking for a high-quality, beautiful divorce mug, this design is perfect for reminding your friend or family member that you are thinking about her.

4. “I Love Me” Tumbler

For women that enjoy taking their beverages to-go, the “I Love Me” tumbler is ideal for women that are searching for their independence after a divorce. The bold script and cute artwork on the front of the tumbler help remind her that she needs to focus on bettering herself and conquering her fears. It is also a great way to showcase self-love and show others that she is working on becoming a better version of herself.

When going through a divorce, it may feel like the end of your life. But with the help of a perfect gift, any type of pain can be forgotten, even if just briefly.

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is the host of the “Divorce and Your Money Show” and Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, with offices in Dallas, New York and Hanover, New Hampshire.

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Jun 8, 2017

This article was originally published on Divorce and Your Money here.

Top 8 Songs to Get You Through a Divorce

Nothing compares to the mood-enhancing, cathartic, healing power of music. Music has an energy that our bodies and minds connect to. It is a powerful tool to help you deal with the difficult emotions that an impending divorce can create.

You want to get that anger and sadness out. You want to feel better and more empowered. Therefore, we have curated a list of the absolute best songs about breakups and divorce.

8) "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" by Paul Simon

“You just slip out the back, Jack.

Make a new plan, Stan.

You don't need to be coy, Roy.

Just get yourself free”

Paul Simon wrote this song after his divorce from his first wife. It is about a woman trying to console a man and prod him into leaving an unhappy marriage. The great thing about this song is that it has a slow yet upbeat rhythm, and it relaxes you into feeling like you are free to move on.

“And then she kissed me,

And I realized she probably was right.

There must be fifty ways

To leave your lover.”

It was one of Paul Simon’s biggest solo hits, which makes perfect sense. Many people going through the end of a marriage can relate to the feeling of wanting to be free and move on. The song brings the feeling of hope and the promise of a future without the current emotional upheaval that a divorce causes.

7) “Roses” by Outkast

“Caroline! See, she's the reason for the word ‘bitch.’”

When a marriage breaks up, sometimes things can get childish, and that is what this song is for. Outkast knows how to throw some up-tempo shade, and they do it well with “Roses.”

“I know you'd like to thank your s*** don't stank,

But lean a little bit closer.

See that roses really smell like boo-boo-ooo.”

This song has so many spiteful yet somehow lighthearted moments that it is a joy to sing over and over again. Divorce can cause an immature, vindictive spirit to rise up, and this song can give you an outlet. But remember, it will not always smell like roses.

6) "I'm Still Standing" by Elton John 

“And I'm still standing after all this time,

Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind.”

This upbeat song was written by Bernie Taupin and famously performed by Elton John. Taupin wrote it for an ex-lover, and Elton John performs it with such gusto that one thinks he is actually directing it at somebody from his past.

“And did you think this fool could never win?

Well, look at me, I'm a-coming back again.”

The lyrics paint a picture of someone one who was tossed aside, but began to realize that they could stand better on their own. This song will kick out the depression that divorce can cause, and it will have you feeling empowered in no time.

5) “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette 

“And I'm here to remind you

Of the mess you left when you went away.”

Oh, the spite and anger in this song. It is delectable and just what the doctor ordered when going through a messy divorce. The lyrics are raw and edgy, just like the music. And they speak of the pain and rage left behind when somebody leaves you for another.

“It was a slap in the face how quickly I was replaced.

Are you thinking of me when you *** her?”

There are many rumors about which ex Morissette wrote this song about. However, even though some people from her past may see themselves in her music, she has told reporters that she will never reveal who it really is, so everyone else is being a bit presumptuous. Oh, burn, Alanis. She is very good at that, especially in this song. Perfect.

4) “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye 

“But you treat me like a stranger, and that feels so rough.”

The words in this song make a deep cut. It is a cathartic song—a way to get your feelings out. Sing along with the lyrics, and shout the pain out through the words.

“Told myself that you were right for me,

But felt so lonely in your company.

But that was love, and it's an ache I still remember.”

Gotye was inspired to write the song by mixing together several breakups from his past. Since it not just about one breakup, but several, that makes it general enough to apply any divorce or struggling marriage. It is relatable, and it shares the sadness and emptiness that almost everyone experiences at the end of a relationship.

3) “Forget You” (“F*** You”) by Cee Lo Green

“And although there's pain in my chest,

I still wish you the best

With a... F*** you!”

It feels good to cuss and get the anger out. Cee Lo does it best by saying forget you (f*** you) with a smile. It is highly recommended that you watch the music video to see the pure joy he gets out of saying it. It is contagious and badly needed, spiteful comedy while struggling through a divorce.

“I've got some news for you:

Ooh, I really hate your ass right now.”

Let it out with comedy. Get in tune with the anger and hatred that you cannot help but feel when somebody you thought you would spend forever with someone has turned into a completely different person. Cee Lo Green will steer you in the right direction.

2) "What Goes Around" by Justin Timberlake

“You know I gave you the world.

You had me in the palm of your hand.”

Justin Timberlake explained to several interviewers that this song is about a friend’s breakup with an actress. Still, many want to believe that it is a sequel to his 2002 hit, “Cry Me a River,” which was aimed at Britney Spears after she very publically dumped him.

The lyrics tell the story of a man whose ex cheated on him. He was was very much in love with her, but the guy she cheated on him with is now cheating on her.

“I heard you found out

That he's doing to you

What you did to me.

Ain't that the way it goes?”

So many divorces end in this kind of a scenario. The satisfaction of seeing things not work out for somebody who hurt you so deeply is as good as it regarding something like divorce.

This song will fill you with that sweet feeling of schadenfreude that can raise your spirits during the most emotional part of the end of your marriage. It is highly recommended.

1) "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor

“Did you think I'd lay down and die?

Oh, no, not I

I will survive.”

Gaynor’s reimagining of a little known Righteous Brothers’ song is on many lists about breakups and divorce, and there is a reason: The message never ceases to be empowering. This disco smash hit is about an ex-lover trying to return to somebody who has moved on. It is satisfying in every way because the lyrics describe a person who survived a terrible breakup but became stronger. Therefore, she now gets to show how much better she is on her own.

“Go on now, go. Walk out the door

Just turn around now 'cause you're not welcome anymore.”

Even just imagining saying these lyrics to the person who is causing you so much pain during a divorce is energizing. This sentiment is something that is very much needed when your life is in upheaval. Gaynor captures the goal that everybody has after they have survived the end of a marriage: standing proud and tall.

Emotions are the hardest part of divorce. Your marriage was something that was supposed to be forever, and most people never see their divorce coming. It can hit you like a brick, and the shock that you feel when you realize that things are coming to an end can disrupt your judgment. Even if you have known that things were not working for a while, it still hits you hard when the final decision is made.

Working through those emotions and getting them out with things like music is therapeutic. It helps you heal and find yourself again, and it clears your head. It takes time, though. While you are working through the tough emotions that divorce brings, think about getting advice from a professional. A certified divorce financial analyst (CDFA) can help you avoid the landmines that decisions made under the influence of shock and turmoil can cause.

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is the host of the “Divorce and Your Money Show” and Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, with offices in Dallas, New York and Hanover, New Hampshire.

Want more free divorce advice and tips?

Subscribe to the Divorce and Your Money Podcast, trusted by over 50,000 people across the United States.

Jun 6, 2017

This article was originally published on Divorce and Your Money here.

Did you know there are 5 methods you can use to get divorced? You should know which process is best for your specific situation. The following article will provide a brief overview of each divorce method. I encourage you to deeply consider these options because traditional litigation is often not the best choice for everyone.

Before diving into the key types of divorce, you should understand the difference between uncontested and contested divorce.

Uncontested Divorce

In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse agree upon all the issues included in your divorce. Therefore, all you have to do is file the paperwork with the court. Then a judge will review it and sign off on it, and your divorce is complete.

In general, uncontested divorce is a cheaper, more efficient way to get divorced. However, for an uncontested divorce to proceed, you and your spouse have to agree on all the issues, such as dividing property, child and spousal support, and child custody. This type of divorce usually works well if you have few assets to divide and no children.

Contested Divorce

Contested divorce occurs when you and your spouse do not agree on all of the issues, so you decide to resolve them by using attorneys or a judge (or both). There are many types of contested divorce, so you have several tools at your disposal. The following list is a modified excerpt from my book, Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide:

1) Litigation

Litigation is the most common process for people getting a divorce. It occurs when both parties want a divorce, but they generally do not agree on the key details. In litigation, each spouse has their own attorney represent their best interests. A settlement between the spouses generally occurs, but according to studies, a judge decides less than 10% of litigated cases.


  • Litigation is the most common process, so most divorce and family law attorneys specialize in it.
  • Some states have an appeals process if you are dissatisfied with the outcome.
  • If you go to court, you can have a neutral judge, who strictly follows the procedures of the state.


  • Litigation can span several years, so it is expensive.
  • Litigation is usually the most contentious route for getting divorced, so it will be a fight.
  • Hearings and documents filed with the court are usually accessible to the public, so you will lose your privacy.

2) Mediation

In mediation, the divorcing couple works with a mediator who helps both parties come to an agreement about all aspects of the divorce, even if there are specific issues. The mediator is usually a retired judge, who assists the couple with decisions about what to do while remaining neutral. Mediation is a voluntary process that both spouses must agree to use.


  • If both parties are reasonable, you can quickly reach an agreement. Specifically, you do not have to wait for court dates and potential delays.

  • Mediation is cost-effective, compared with litigation and other processes. Only one mediator with some supporting staff is involved, but you can still hire attorneys to help with the process. Mediation is also generally less acrimonious than other processes.

  • Mediation is private, as documents and discussions occur outside of court.
  • Until a final settlement is signed, mediation is nonbinding, and both spouses must agree to use it. There is not much of a downside with utilizing mediation to settle a specific issue or negotiate an entire settlement.


  • If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement by mediation, you will have to restart this part of the divorce process. Therefore, you could waste money.

  • If one spouse is abusive or if emotional problems are involved, mediation may be an inappropriate method of resolving the divorce.

3) Arbitration

Arbitration is another method of settling a divorce outside court. In arbitration, the divorcing couple hires a private judge to make a binding decision about the issues in their divorce case. It is very similar to going to court, except that the process and the judge’s decisions are private.

In arbitration, both sides still hire attorneys who present evidence to the arbitrator. However, the arbitrator makes the final binding decisions.


  • Since it is usually held in a conference room at a lawyer’s office, arbitration is private.

  • The process is generally shorter than litigation, as most matters are resolved on the arbitration date.

  • Arbitration requires hiring attorneys and a judge, which can be expensive. However, it is generally a more cost-effective process than litigation.


  • There is no appeals process in arbitration unless there is fraud involved.
  • To proceed with arbitration, both spouses have to agree to use this method to resolve their divorce, so it requires cooperation.
  • Every state does not allow arbitration as a resolution to divorce, so it is not always an option.

4) Collaboration

Collaborative divorce is a relatively new area of family law. It is a method that involves both spouses working together to come to a more amicable, peaceful resolution to their divorce, rather than engaging in a process that involves a long, hard fight.

In fact, one of the key contentions of collaborative law is that litigation will not be part of the divorce process. Both spouses have a joint meeting with their attorneys (who generally specialize in collaborative law) to discuss their concerns, priorities, and issues without involving the court.

Furthermore, both spouses agree that they will commit to the legal process of collaborative divorce, and they fully disclose all information regarding their assets, financial accounts, and liabilities. Spouses and their attorneys also collaborate in making mutual decisions that satisfy the demands, needs, and interests of each party, their children, and their families.


  • Collaborative divorce is usually more peaceful and takes less time.
  • Given that collaboration is a less acrimonious process, it is usually one of the least expensive methods for divorce.


  • Both spouses have to agree to act civilly. If they cannot, a collaborative divorce simply will not work.

5) Do It Yourself

Divorcing couples can complete the process without hiring an attorney, which is called a do-it-yourself or pro-se divorce. The required documents are publicly accessible for each state to complete the process, and as a couple, you are responsible for completing and filling out the documents yourself.

It can make sense if there are few assets to split and no children. Otherwise, avoid it.


  • There is no need for attorneys or experts. You only pay any relevant, state-mandated fees. In many cases, you can complete the process for just a few hundred dollars.


  • You can easily make expensive mistakes regarding alimony, child support, child custody, your property settlement, hidden assets, taxes, and a variety of other potential issues. However, a strong divorce team would be able to help you settle these issues.
  • You have to complete a lot of detailed paperwork on your own, so it is time-consuming.
  • If abuse, substantial anger, or other problematic emotions are involved, an unfair settlement could result.

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is the host of the “Divorce and Your Money Show” and Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, with offices in Dallas, New York and Hanover, New Hampshire.


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Jun 1, 2017

This article was originally published on Divorce and Your Money here.

Amicable divorces often sound like an elusive fantasy. But when discussing the breakdown of a marriage, most people can agree that an amicable divorce is far more beneficial for everyone involved, including your children. The emotional toll that it can take on you is significantly lessened, as well as the financial commitment that it may cost you. When you can develop a settlement without over-the-top feuding, your divorce will be less time-consuming and, as a result, less expensive.

What do you need to know in order to have an amicable divorce? Here are the four must-know secrets that every couple should keep in mind to keep things civil:

1) Take care of yourself.

There will not be anything left for you to give to your spouse or children if taking care of yourself is not your top priority. You must meet your own emotional needs if your ultimate goal is to respond to those around you with kindness. Much as flight attendants instruct prior to a flight, you must put on your own oxygen mask before you can assist others.

Taking care of yourself will look different for each individual, but it will almost always involve finding an outlet for your feelings. To give yourself a safe space to process through your divorce, schedule an appointment to see a therapist or counselor. Some individuals may prefer to schedule time with empathetic friends for coffee or lunch. They can support you during this time and understand what you may be going through.

If neither of those options is available to you, you may consider using anonymous online support through pages like Reddit Divorce. If those around you are not considered trustworthy, it is a great place to emotionally vent when you need to.

2) Refrain from assigning blame.

It can be a great challenge to respond to your spouse with kindness when you are solely focused on who to blame. When it comes to divorce, you should be focused on the bigger picture, including the long-term implications of your developing settlement. Focusing on blame can create a situation that involves spiting the other person, sparking arguments, and confronting each other during the negotiation process.

In order to keep from assigning blame during every interaction, remind yourself of the bigger picture: your marriage is ending, and you both need to create an equitable settlement that will ensure your future, as well as that of any children involved. Keep your attention on the issues at hand, not on the ones that led up to this moment.

3) Prioritize your children.

Children see and soak up everything around them, including any hostility you are expressing toward your soon-to-be ex-spouse. Remember that your settlement is supposed to be a long-term plan that gives both of you space to create a fulfilling childhood for them. Part of that childhood should include being raised in a healthy environment, not surrounded by the toxicity of your relationship with your spouse.

Remind yourself that speaking negatively about the other parent is not good for them to experience. Keep their needs at the forefront of your mind, rather than your own.

4) Opt for mediation over litigation.

It may go without saying, but mediation can be significantly friendlier than litigation. Opting for a less drastic method of divorce like mediation gives you plenty of opportunities to openly communicate with one another. As you divide your finances and assets, you will have the ability to share your reasoning about specific desires or demands. When done properly, this sharing can help both parties reach reasonable conclusions about what is most important to them.

The conversations that ensue during mediation can begin to set the stage for future encounters and communications. You gain the ability to have perspective and understand both sides of the argument.

Because an amicable mediation is typically less time-consuming than litigation, the financial obligation could be significantly lower. If the cost of divorce is a major concern, this method of divorce should be highly considered. It allows you to have a more amicable divorce and set the stage for future communication with each other, and you can both save substantial amounts on your final bills.

Creating a Healthy Environment during Divorce

No one wants to live in the toxicity of a dramatic relationship, filled with bitter arguments and snide comments. An amicable divorce is the perfect solution for most couples, who want to set the stage for a future relationship with each other—even if it is only for the sake of the children involved. There are many benefits to creating this type of environment.

You can experience greater emotional well-being and fewer financial obligations, and your children will be raised with an example of open communication, even when facing difficult circumstances. Consider what you and your spouse could do to promote a more amicable divorce moving forward.

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is the host of the “Divorce and Your Money Show” and Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, with offices in Dallas, New York and Hanover, New Hampshire.


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May 31, 2017

This article was originally published on Divorce and Your Money here.

Getting divorced in the United States is already complicated, but when you are facing  an international divorce, the complexity substantially increases.

If you are a US citizen getting divorced abroad, you will be facing at least two sets of laws: the law of the country in which you are getting divorced and the law of the US. You may have international custody issues. You may have trouble tracking down hidden assets. The whole process is much more difficult, so you will need an International Divorce Lawyer.

Choosing an International Divorce Lawyer

When it comes to international divorce, you will need more than one attorney. In a “simple” international divorce, you will need an international divorce lawyer based in the local country or countries in which you are getting divorced. Also, you will need a US-based lawyer to handle any issues related to American issues you may be facing.

For example, you are living in Spain with your spouse, who is a native of Spain but has assets in New York. Your spouse wants a divorce.

You will need a Spanish lawyer to handle the Spain-related elements of the case, as well as a New York attorney to handle the issues there. Preferably, you will have an international divorce lawyer in New York with experience handling cross-border divorce cases.

The complexity arises because you will be operating under the Spanish divorce process for many of the issues in your divorce. At the same time, you may also have to determine if decisions you make in Spain affect issues you deal with in the US.

Hidden Assets Are More Common

When facing divorce in multiple jurisdictions, it is easier for a spouse to hide or obfuscate assets. For example, when in Europe, hiding assets in another country is no more difficult than taking a 1-2 hour plane trip. South America and Asia pose their own unique challenges. You will need international divorce lawyers and investigators with local knowledge in any country that you suspect may house hidden assets.

Get Financial Help

A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) can be helpful for structuring the most financially advantageous settlement under normal circumstances. When dealing with assets listed across the world, a CDFA with international experience is a must. Simple items, like understanding currency transactions and the valuation of assets, and other unique elements (such as dealing with cross-border real estate and investments) add unique complications to the process.

Furthermore, you will need to make sure you have a local accountant help negotiate and approximate any potential tax consequences of financial decisions you are making. With international and local tax rules, there are plenty of complex areas. If you are not careful, you could be paying the price further down the line.

Consult all attorneys before signing a divorce settlement

Here is one of the biggest challenges with negotiating an international divorce: the issues you agree upon in one country do not necessarily have legal standing in the US, and issues decided in the US do not necessarily have legal standing outside our borders. Therefore, you can end up in a position where you think you have resolved a key element in your divorce, only to find out that what you agreed to does not apply to the other country.

Before you sign settlement agreements or other issues, be sure to consult with your entire team to determine the most important issues.

International Divorce is expensive

Unfortunately, international divorce can be more expensive than a US-only divorce, given the more complicated legal and financial issues at stake. You will likely have:

1) An international divorce lawyer

2) A US-based divorce lawyer


4) An international accountant

5) A local accountant

6) Other support

Make sure you build the right team to help you experience navigating complex international issues.

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is the host of the “Divorce and Your Money Show” and Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, with offices in Dallas, New York and Hanover, New Hampshire.


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May 31, 2017

This article was originally published on Divorce and Your Money here.

Movies can be fun and entertaining. They can be a great night out, and maybe you used to enjoy them with your spouse.

However, as you now know, they can also cause a lot of unnecessary trouble. The concept of “happily ever after” is instilled in our minds far too often. We never see what happens after a couple falls in love. We never see the work and constant mental and emotional upkeep that a marriage requires. If only there were more movies about how to save a marriage on the brink of divorce.

If you are considering divorce, it is not a fun time. It is heartbreaking, harrowing, and sometimes even emotionally numbing. What can you do to save a marriage when all seems lost? How can you stop from falling over the edge? Is it even possible to save your marriage?

The good news is that there are a few things you can still try. You do not want to go to that fateful route without knowing that you tried everything you could. It requires you to take a very honest look at yourself and your spouse. If you are willing to do that, read on.

1) Ask yourself if any part of the marriage is worth saving.

Dig deep and remember those good times. What were the conditions, and how have they changed? It is possible to recreate some of those earlier conditions.

Are you able to still have fun and enjoy your time together, or is it constant bickering or ignoring? If there are no good times left and you cannot imagine having any in the future, you could have a problem.

Enjoying time with your spouse is essential for saving a marriage on the brink of divorce. It builds a feeling of family and security. When you share enjoyment, your serotonin levels are raised, and you bond with each other.

2) Be honest and evaluate if you are being fair to your spouse.

This is a tough one. It requires you to really dig deep and take a cold, hard look at yourself. Do you have a lot of stress in your life? If so, could it be clouding your judgement about your spouse? Sometimes if we have a lot going on, we can be hard on those closest to us without realizing it. This would cause them to be defensive, and a vicious cycle begins.

There is also the possibility that your spouse is having a lot of stress in his or her life. Then the cycle is reversed. You are put on the defensive as your stressed-out spouse is unfairly hard on you. Heaven help the marriage that involves two stressed spouses. If you realize that you are in this situation, now is a good time to consider stress-relieving activities, as they can be a great tool for saving a marriage.

3) Do not compare your marriage.

Comparing your marriage with someone else’s is a recipe for disaster. Just as no two people are the same, no two marriages will be the same. Do not fall for the “grass is always greener on the other side” hook. Appreciate what makes your spouse unique, and you might find ways to appreciate the marriage more.

4) Consider marriage counseling.

An outside mediator is always going to be able to objectively show you things that you cannot see when you are too close to the problem. A counselor can point out weaknesses in communication and help you find better ways of communicating, which is always a big factor. It is a blind spot in a marriage on the brink of divorce.

One reason many men block this idea is that they fear they are being set up to be attacked, but that is usually not the case. Counselors are trained to be objective and to make sure that neither spouse feels attacked. They get each party to see the walls they put up and how they sound to each other. They can get you outside of your own head. It can be a huge way to save marriages.

5) Take better care of yourself.

If you have let yourself go, it could be at the heart of a lot of your issues. Many of us do not like to admit it, but it is a very human urge to want to be attracted to your mate. However, a lot of times, once the relationship has gotten way past the comfortable phase, one or both people in the marriage lose interest in keeping themselves in shape. As much as we want it to be, love does not take away our need for attraction.

But here is the good news: if you are both up for it, starting healthy habits and routines together can do wonders for saving a marriage. Exercise raises the endorphins, and if you find activities you enjoy doing together, it will increase your bonding time. Healthy eating and cooking together will also create bonding, as well as an increase in health and well-being. Before you know it, you will both feel and look better.

6) Do not ignore the problems in your marriage.

Trying to pretend like everything is okay to avoid arguing only builds resentment, which will cause bigger arguments down the road. Acknowledging problems as they happen gives you a better chance at resolving them. Then you can stop that buildup of resentment, possibly pulling you back from the brink of divorce. It takes a lot of patience, work, and practice, but if you are serious about saving your marriage, it can be a powerful way to rebuild your relationship.

7) Open up in a non-defensive way.

Try to find non-accusing words to let your spouse know how you feel. Use feeling words instead of blaming words. For example, if you say “I feel” instead of “you always,” your spouse will be less defensive and more open to listening. The less the other person feels attacked, the more likely they are to listen to you.

8) Make each other a priority.

Ask your spouse if they feel important to you. It is likely you know the answer already. Not feeling valued or appreciated can open a whole host of other problems that are tied up with pent-up resentment, just like with ignoring problems.

Do you feel unimportant to them? Let them know in a non-defensive way. As discussed in the previous point, use feeling words, instead of blaming words. Making each other feel important also means feeling heard and understood. If both spouses make this kind of effort, it can be an incredible tool for saving a marriage.

9) Go back to the beginning, and date each other again.

What made you fall in love in the first place? Do you remember what you liked doing together when everything was good? Go on dates again. See if that spark is still there, and find out if you can cause those butterflies again.

10) Laugh together.

Laughter is one of the biggest causes of endorphins and serotonin, and it is an immediate mood enhancer. Go see a standup-comedy or improv show. Watch a TV show that you both find hilarious. Do something light together. Let yourself be open to laughing together. This tactic can an easy, fun way to find good in each other again, and it can make the fear of being on the brink of divorce seem far away.

11) Forgiveness is worth a shot for both of you.

What is it that your spouse has done that makes you feel the worst? Is it possible to forgive them? If you feel like there is no way you could ever forgive them, it is a big block to saving your marriage. Perhaps it is you who needs to be forgiven?  Is it possible to forgive yourself? These are questions that need to be honestly evaluated before making a final decision.

If you have gone through these things or realize that some of these things are not even an option in your marriage, you may have hit a wall. This is not the time to surrender to emotions, as that is when mistakes are made. You will have plenty of time for those later. Right now, you need to keep a level head, so outside help can be crucial. Otherwise, divorce may be the only answer.

Final thoughts

Have you tried everything, but you still cannot find a way to save your marriage? If so, reach out to somebody who is professionally trained to coach you during your divorce. A neutral third party can stop you from making all the common, costly mistakes. Do not let that be you.

As you lose your spouse and the life you built together, it is a time to grieve, but it is not the time to lose your finances.

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is the host of the “Divorce and Your Money Show” and Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, with offices in Dallas, New York and Hanover, New Hampshire.


Subscribe to the Divorce and Your Money Podcast, trusted by over 50,000 people across the United States.

May 31, 2017

This article was originally published on Divorce and Your Money here.

Divorce may be the biggest life challenge you ever face. What do expert coaches recommend you do to prepare? We consulted with 21 Certified Divorce Coaches to share their #1 tip for how to prepare for divorce.  Check out their great advice below!

What’s your #1 tip for how to prepare for divorce?

Cherie Morris

The #1 tip for how to prepare for divorce is to start today to gather information and become an informed participant in the process. This requires a mindset for success. Achieving this perspective may require you to access feelings and skills that you may previously have avoided or did not have. A divorce coach can help with both. I will stand by your side, each step of the way, as you make all of the difficult choices surrounding the decisions in divorce, and will recommend additional resources as needed. You do not need to do this alone. You can thrive after divorce and I can show you how to empower yourself to do so.

To learn more about Cherie:

Laura Bonarrigo

Do your emotional work. Understand why you are going through your divorce on an emotional level. It is your “modern day rite of passage” not just a fight, not just a headache, not simply “something to get through.” When you understand why you’re growing through this experience, all the other practical decisions are easier!

To learn more about Laura:

Karen Mode Lightfield

My #1 tip to prepare for a divorce is to quietly meet with an attorney while contemplating a divorce to see how things might play out for them and their unique situation if they do file. I also advise those considering divorce to check reviews, ask others that are divorced for referrals, and interview potential attorneys until they find one they can work well with through each step of the process.

To learn more about Karen:

Suzan Pearlstein

Our number one tip for preparing for divorce is to take the time to get clear about your values.  You must know what is most important to you and define what you stand for.  Once you identify  what your real priorities are it will  give you purpose and help you make decisions during and after the divorce that will move you in a positive direction to a new and better life.

To learn more about Suzan:

Kerry Porter

You must take control of your divorce process. When meeting with an attorney for the very first time, you should already have an outline of your strategy in mind, as well as a detailed, written plan on paper. Preparation is the key to ensuring that time, effort and money is not wasted, hiring a Certified Divorce Coach can prepare you.  Just as many couples getting married claim to save substantially by working with a wedding planner, hiring a Divorce Coach could be the best investment that you make, helping you to narrow down your options, organize your thoughts, and create a plan which will save you time, stress, and legal fees.

To learn more about Kerry:

Martha Bodyfelt

Learn how to plan and set goals for yourself. Divorce is overwhelming because you are stressed and filled with emotion, which it makes it hard to look beyond the day-to-day drama. But identifying what you want for yourself in the next week, the next month, the next three months, the next six months, even the next year, and listing those goals out puts you back in control of your life.  Once you identify what you hope to achieve, write down the steps to get there.When you take these steps, your stress and fear decrease. Your confidence starts to return. And you realize just how strong you are.

To learn more about Martha:

Mondana Nikoukari

"Owning" your divorce process from the beginning insures satisfaction about its terms many years later. Therefore, planning for your divorce should follow a process of carefully thought out decisions that reflect your long term future goals. Gather a support team of professionals you trust to be your sounding board and cheerleaders for the various facets of the divorce process.  Divorce coaches, financial experts, parenting coordinators, therapists and attorneys can educate you on the many paths and solutions that can make weighty decisions along the way clear, accessible and have successful long term outcomes.  In the long run, these supportive divorce services can save you money and personal anguish for years to come by helping you prioritize the things that are most important in your future.

To learn more about Mondana:

Angela Ianuale Shanerman

My best recommendation to anyone struggling or feeling stuck in their relationship, would be to work with a Certified Divorce Coach like myself. As your divorce coach, I am your thinking partner and champion for you, because you are the expert of your life. In the coaching process, you are going to gain more clarity and confidence in your decision-making, be able to really focus on your concerns, be heard in a safe nonjudgmental environment, so that you really have the best possible outcome. Every area of your life is at stake and impacted from the decisions you make (family, finances, children, parenting, career, etc.), how could you possibly go at it all alone!

To learn more about Angela:

Kira Gould

I strongly believe that knowledge is power, and that information about your financial situation and the divorce process will serve you well as you move through the dissolution of your marriage. But even more importantly, I encourage you to create some time and space to get in touch with who you are, and how you want to move through your divorce. What are your values? How do you want to be seen during and after your divorce? What are your intentions? To be collaborative, compassionate, financially responsible, present with your children? Get a journal and write some of this out. Get clear on what your priorities are. This act of journaling and gaining clarity can help be your touchstone and reminder when faced with any tough decision -- of which there may be many when going through divorce.

To learn more about Kira:

Kimberly Mishkin

As coaches, we help our clients understand that divorce is not solely a legal dilemma, nor is it just a financial question — it is a whole life challenge.  It's vital that you get educated, yes legally and financially, but also practically and emotionally as well.  This is not the time to go it alone, the decisions are too big and important — you must look for someone to guide you, to take your hand and to lead you as you navigate this difficult terrain.

To learn more about Kimberly:

Sharon Qualls

Divorce can overwhelm your whole life.  One of the most important things to do once you have decided to move forward with divorcing is put together your team.  More and more people are seeing the value of a divorce coach as part of their professional team, providing clarity and focus, saving them money and time. Coaches help you choose the right professional team for your situation, your attorney and your CDFA, with a plan and these three professionals, you are on the path to creating a secure future beyond divorce.

To learn more about Sharon:

Carron Nicks

No one is ever prepared for the length of time a divorce will take. And this is not always due to recalcitrant parties or obstructionist attorneys. Courts are clogged, and the process takes time: petition and answer, discovery, mediation, child evaluations, all take more time than you expect. I tell clients two years. If it takes less, they feel they've accomplished something.

My #2 tip for preparing for divorce: Consider collaborative divorce, even if you feel like you're giving up money or ground to your spouse. The process will take less of a toll on you, your family, and often your finances. And, if you have children, it will foster a sense of cooperation that will serve you well as you co-parent.

To learn more about Carron:

Pearl Flax

Take a deep breath, slow down and focus on what is most important. Your health and sanity are always of utmost importance in life, yet many people going through divorce neglect this known fact and allow pressure and stress to get to them. Before even entering the process promise yourself that you will walk this path slowly, take your time and listen to your subconscious mind and body. Educate yourself, try and do as much research as possible before making any rash decisions that you will later regret.

To learn more about Pearl:

Cindy Holbrook

Get a good solid support team because you are in for a wild emotional roller-coaster ride. Your support team will enable you to go get clear on what you want, make the divorce process as pain free as possible for everyone involved, save you time and money, and guide you as you transition into your newly single life. At the very least your support team should include an attorney, a certified divorce financial analyst and a divorce coach, so that you can begin to create the next chapter in your life - a life where you know peace and happiness.

To learn more about Cindy:

Robin Gardner

There are many points to consider when preparing for divorce since preparation is key, but I believe the most important tip overall is to create a healthy inner state of mind along with good self-care.  Your mindset is the one thing you have the ability to control, which will determine the type of divorce that you have.  This calls for you to be emotionally prepared and less reactive, which benefits communication and decision-making.  The right state of mind requires you to stay focused on your goal and create a plan for your life that you will need to get in order, which includes access to important documents.

Having the proper mindset also means being informed by doing research so that you aren’t blindsided by unforeseen facts and circumstances.  To ensure a healthy emotional state, establish a support network that includes trusted friends and family, therapists, coaches, etc. Remember to honor and support yourself every step of the way with plenty of love, self-confidence, and self-care.  Keep your eye on your future dreams and visions, and if you’re feeling overwhelmed…just BREATHE.

To learn more about Robin:

Emily Metzendorf

My #1 tip for how to prepare for divorce is to remember you are not alone and don't be afraid to ask for help! Create a team of loyal, non judgmental, supportive friends and family and professionals- lawyer, mediator, coach, therapist, financial advisor, etc.- who make you feel safe, secure, heard and cared for. Then, after you have chosen them, use them to help guide you and support you through the process. Lastly, remember there is a happy chapter 2 awaiting you!

To learn more about Emily:

Hanna Perlberger

Having transitioned from being a divorce lawyer for over 25 years to mediation and divorce coaching, I am saddened by how many clients get hijacked by their attorneys who drive the process for their own agendas.  And so my number #1 tip is to hire a divorce coach who can discuss all of the alternative options for resolution, and should it be necessary to go the traditional route, to become empowered in how to hire the right attorney for you, to avoid the common emotional pitfalls of bad decision making, and to choices that are aligned with your best self and that give you peace of mind.

To learn more about Hanna:

Valerie Cherneski

The best way to prepare for divorce is to start as you mean to go on. This means that you take the time to understand what your values are, and who you are at your core. It is this version of you that you come back to at every twist and turn — and there will be twists and turns — to keep you grounded.  This could be one of the most difficult tests of your life, and if you can answer the question, "Who do I want to be right now?" in every tough scenario, you will be able to hold your head high and move through the divorce process with integrity and dignity.  Your values will guide you when you do not feel you have the strength to guide yourself.

To learn more about Valerie:

Lisa McNally

Divorce Journaling is an absolute “must do” for anyone facing a divorce who wants to emerge victoriously emotionally, psychologically and procedurally as it relates to the divorce itself.  Divorce Journaling is a method of recording what’s on your mind in a private place meant to be viewed by you only.  It can encompass your thoughts, emotions, ideas, wants, needs, fears and anything else that’s of importance to you. In addition to helping you prepare your mindset for what’s to come in your divorce, Divorce Journaling will help you to clarify and manage your thoughts and feelings, reduce your stress, build your confidence, heal from within and free up valuable real estate in your mind, enabling you to remain mentally uncluttered and focused.

To learn more about Lisa:

Cynthia Bacheller

Don't communicate or make decisions when you are emotional. Instead, give yourself permission to take the time you need to calm down. To do this: 1) Pay attention to your emotions when communicating with your ex/co-parent; 2) Teach yourself to notice these feelings by reminding yourself to pay attention to these feelings and reflect on what is causing them; 3) Specify a timeframe to your ex/co-parent for when you will get back to him/her; 4) Intend, and do your very best to, stay within that timeframe; and 5) Seek the support you need to work through your feelings and make decisions that will ensure your family thrives.

To learn more about Cynthia:

Marlene Bizub

My one piece of advice for divorcing parents is to not automatically think that they have to hire attorneys and litigate in order to become divorced.  Who one selects when they choose an attorney is important too.  There are collaborative attorneys.  Don't feel as though this has to be a contentious process—because it doesn’t!

To learn more about Marlene:


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What are Shawn's top tips for how to prepare for divorce?

1) Be Certain You Want a Divorce

Divorce is a last resort and not the only option in an unhappy marriage. Divorce is often expensive, messy, complicated, and painful. Have you exhausted all your options to save your marriage? Divorce does not necessarily solve many of the reasons you may be unhappy. Consider marriage counseling or living apart for a while as an interim solution. If the pain of staying in the marriage is worse than the fear of a single life, then maybe it is time to go. Just be sure you do not regret your decision to get a divorce.

Want to listen to this episode on your mobile device? Just use one of the following links:  iTunes | Google Play Music | RSS Feed or click on the episode player above.

2) Accept that Divorce is Happening

You are getting a divorce. The vows you made, the life you created, the marriage you had—it is all ending. Divorce is the death of a marriage. You never thought it would happen to you. You are probably experiencing a range of conflicting and confusing emotions, including denial, anger, guilt, sadness, fear, relief, and everything in between. All these feelings are normal under the circumstances, but it is time to step up and prepare for the divorce process.

Want to listen to this episode on your mobile device? Just use one of the following links:  iTunes | Google Play Music | RSS Feed or click on the episode player above.

3) Hope for the Best, but Prepare for the Worst

Divorce can be unpredictable. Initially, you may think you and your spouse will work things out civilly, but the next thing you know years have passed without any clear resolution, and you have a stack of legal bills. In other cases, you may think you are going to have a lot of conflict with your spouse, but it turns out that both of you want to resolve the process quickly and efficiently. Or maybe you are somewhere in between. Every divorce is unique with its own dynamics, and it is hard to foresee the outcome. While you should be optimistic about getting through the process favorably, prepare yourself for a fight. Even in the best of circumstances, divorce takes twice as long and is twice as expensive as you think it will be. Prepare yourself.

4) Plan for the Cost of Divorce

Divorce can be very expensive. You will need funds to pay for an effective team, which will do their best to assist you in managing the process and securing a financial future for yourself. Before you even consider filing for divorce, you may want to think about setting aside some cash on your own. This money can then be used to cover the cost of retaining an attorney, hiring a certified divorce financial analyst, and enlisting the help of a therapist to work through your own emotional issues surrounding the end of your marriage.

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5) Setup New Bank Accounts and Credit Cards

You may not be able to get rid of your old joint accounts just yet, but you can certainly begin to set up new accounts for your soon-to-be single life. Make sure that you form these new bank accounts and that you transfer some funds into the account. Most notably, you will want to switch any direct deposits from your employer into your individual account.

You should also consider opening new credit card accounts that are only in your name. This tactic can help you build up your own credit for the time when you may need to purchase a new car, get a new mortgage on your own, or encounter any number of other scenarios that require a good credit score. Your credit score will need to reflect that you have the capability to responsibly borrow and repay your loans without the assistance of your spouse.

6) Gather Your Financial Records

Ideally, you will have five years’ worth of documents, including tax returns, payroll stubs, benefits information, bank statements, investment accounts and property information.  Make copies of everything and keep them outside of the house — either in a private safe deposit box or at the home of a trusted friend or family member. Having evidence of all of your financials will help speed up discussions during the divorce, and it will safeguard you in case something goes missing.

7) Inventory Your Assets

While you are gathering your financial records, begin an inventory of all of your assets. Separate property usually includes anything you owned before the marriage, any gifts given solely to you, or inheritances. Anything acquired during the marriage is usually considered marital property.

Take digital, date-stamped photos of your valuables such as jewelry, antiques and collectibles. This may seem extreme now, but it is not uncommon for things to disappear once the process starts.

8) Build a Team of Professionals to Help You

As CEO of your divorce, you need to have a team of specialized professionals to help you navigate the complex process. The three key players are an experienced family law attorney, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA), and a therapist. A family law attorney—the most important person on your divorce team—will help you navigate the legal elements of the case and represent your interests. A divorce financial planner (CDFA) does the math, from helping you complete your all-important Statement of Net Worth/Financial Affidavit to determining the long-term impact of different settlement proposals. A therapist will help you work through your emotions to keep you focused on the big picture.

Want to listen to this episode on your mobile device? Just use one of the following links:  iTunes | Google Play Music | RSS Feed or click on the episode player above.

9) Set Realistic Goals for Your Future

What do you want after the divorce is over? Do you want to stay in the house or maybe receive (or pay) a certain amount of spousal support? What about custody of children? You need to determine your most important goals for the divorce process and stay focused on the big picture. If you are mired in the little details and start fighting for that coffee mug you got on vacation years ago, you end up racking up expenses and only hurting yourself in the end.

10) Cut Unnecessary Expenses

It is no secret that divorces are costly. From the moment you sense that your marriage is heading in that direction, you need to redraw your budget and determine how you will accommodate not only the expenses associated with divorce, but also for your new, single life. In order to help build your savings, it is likely that you will have to adjust your lifestyle and cut out anything unnecessary.

11) Monitor Your Credit Report

In order to emerge from the divorce as fiscally unscathed as possible, you need to be fully aware of your current financial situation. To paint the clearest picture, obtain a copy of your credit report, paying close attention to any outstanding debts.

If there is anything that does not add up, you will want to ask your attorney for assistance before you ask your spouse for full disclosure of records. Additionally, it is wise to monitor your credit report throughout the divorce process to avoid any surprises later on.

12) Treat Divorce as a Business Transaction where You are the CEO

As cold as it sounds, the difference between marriage and divorce is a piece of paper. While marriage is about love, divorce is about money. As you go through the divorce process, treat it as a business transaction, as the decisions you make will affect you for the rest of your life. Put your emotions aside, and step up as CEO of your divorce. You must make rational decisions regarding dividing property, child custody, and spousal and child support.

13) Keep Healthy and Fit

The bedtime pint of ice cream starts looking very tasty when you are going through a stressful situation. Or maybe you are thinking about dusting off that bottle of vodka or having an extra cigarette. You are sleeping less. Days between visiting the gym become fewer and fewer, and soon you realize that you are gaining weight and feeling extra sluggish. Do not let that happen to you. Divorce is exhausting mentally and physically; one of the best things you can do to lift your mood and reduce stress is by staying healthy. Physical strength can serve as a good foundation for mental stamina. Go to the gym, take a walk, do some yoga, and clean up your diet. Your body—and your mind—will thank you for it.

14) Lean on Friends and Support Groups

Divorce can be a lonely time, but you should know that you do not have to go through the experience alone. Speak with close friends to help you manage the process, and share what you are feeling. Consider joining divorce support groups, such as DivorceCare and Second Saturday, and many churches and religious institutions can also help. Having others by your side makes it easier to get through the dark times and toughest days in one piece.

15) Take Care of the Children

Divorce can have a traumatic effect on children, with repercussions for the rest of their lives. What do you want them to say about your divorce ten or twenty years from now? Learn how to tell your children about divorce, and try to understand what they are seeing from their eyes. They may act out, have falling grades, or exhibit changes in behavior that you need to monitor closely. If you love your children, do everything you can to protect and reassure them during this volatile process.

16) Act Civil with Your Spouse

If possible, be civil with your spouse. Whether by text, email, or in person, try to avoid a high-emotional confrontation with every communication. You are getting divorced for a reason, of course, but it does not mean you should create extra conflict in every possible situation. Even if your spouse is mean, abusive, or unpleasant, when communicating, treat him or her with respect. Tense and unpleasant communication can not only hurt you if you go to court, but it can also lead to much larger legal bills and often add unnecessary complexity to your divorce.

17) Know You Will Make It

Want to listen to this episode on your mobile device? Just use one of the following links:  iTunes | Google Play Music | RSS Feed or click on the episode player above.

Divorce can feel overwhelming, but you will get through it. Focus on one minute, one hour, or one day at a time. This time in your life will end, even though it may not seem it will at the moment. It is not going be easy, but divorce does not have ruin your life either. Just take one step and then another and another, and those steps will add up, and soon you will be done with the process. You will have the rest of your life ahead of you, and divorce will be in the rearview mirror. You can do it. You will do it. Have faith and believe in yourself.

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May 27, 2017

This article was originally published on Divorce and Your Money here.

Sometimes art imitating life is the catharsis and validation we need when going through something as painful as a relationship breaking up. It is a trying time, so to make things easier, here is a list of some of the best movies about divorce according to Rotten Tomatoes:

Divorce Italian Style (Divorzio All’italiana) (1962)

Tomatometer Score: Critics 100% / Audience 93%


Think your divorce is bad? Wait until you get a load of this situation. Divorce Italian Style is an Italian comedy released in 1962 about a Sicilian nobleman (in name only); in other words, he does not have the wealth that comes with nobility. He pines for a younger distant cousin, and he secretly resents his wife, who he is not attracted to and definitely does not love.

Hijinks ensue when he comes up with a plan to set his wife up to have an affair. Then he can kill her and show it occurred during the heat of passion, so he will get a light sentence according Italian laws at the time. He hires somebody to help him restore parts of his estate, which is when he tries to hatch his plan.

Of course, his plan is foiled several times. In the end, he has to do what he was hoping the mafia would do for him. Once plan is put into place, which proceeds pretty much as he suspected. Everything begins to go his way. Or does it? This film will remind you that it could always be worse.

Boyhood (2014)

Tomatometer Score: Critics 98% / Audience 81%


This Oscar darling took over a decade to make. Director Richard Linklater literally chronicled the same young actor from first grade through college.

The film follows little Mason as he struggles with his divorced parents (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette), both moving on in their lives. How does the divorce affect Mason and his sister? Their parents do not always date the right people, especially his mother. But the raw realism of this glimpse into moments of a divorced family moving forward throughout a decade is what got this film so much attention, and it is definitely a cathartic experience.

Husbands and Wives (1992)

Tomatometer Score:  Critics 97% / Audience 87%


Leave it to Woody Allen to make a movie about breakups and divorce that is uncomfortable to watch yet poignant. We observe two couples (Jack and Sally, and Gabe and Judy) deal with problems and breakdowns in their respective marriages.

When Jack and Sally announce their plans to separate, it puts Gabe and Judy into shock, which makes them start to involuntarily reevaluate their own marriage. Jack and Sally both move on, much to the chagrin of the other couple: as Jack and Sally continue to feel out their separation, things only get worse for Gabe and Judy. They tumultuously get jealous and wonder if the grass is greener on the other side. Then the couples’ situations switch: Jack and Sally decide to get back together and accept the imperfection of their marriage, but Gabe and Judy go through a divorce.

This movie is a realistic portrait of relationships and humanity.

Sideways (2004)

Tomatometer Score: Critics 96% / Audience 78%


Wine country and divorce: the two seem to go hand-in-hand. Sideways is a look into the loneliness of divorce, including how much it can disrupt your life. Our antihero Miles (Paul Giamatti) is a divorced writer making his living as a teacher, a job he desperately wants to leave. The film revolves around a weekend trip he has planned with his best friend to Santa Ynez Valley wine country.

When Miles finds out that his ex-wife is getting remarried, he is sent into a tailspin. Meanwhile, he is roped into covering for his best friend as he has one last fling before getting married. Meanwhile, Miles connects with a woman he meets, who he awkwardly ends up sleeping with.

The film is both funny and heartbreaking, but what really hits home is how alone Miles is in everything he does throughout the film. It depicts the uncertainty of life after divorce.

Scenes from a Marriage (Scener Ur Ett Äktenskap) (1974)

Tomatometer Score:  Critics 94% / Audience 95%


This classic six-episode miniseries was made by Ingmar Bergman, who has always expertly captured a feeling of isolation and claustrophobia. He continues that tradition here by depicting the fear of being alone and how it drives both marriage and divorce.

Marianne and Johan come off like a perfect couple during an interview, in which they discuss their decade-long marriage. After the interview, their life slowly starts to show that their marriage is starting to come apart at the seams.

When Johan admits to having an affair, the stage is set for divorce. However, they both try to move on as they explore whether love is real, and who they really are as individuals. Their fear of being alone leads them back to each other, where they realize how flawed they actually are.

The Squid and the Whale (2005)

Tomatometer Score:  Critics Score 93% / Audience 81%


Oh, what a tangled web we weave when we are married with children. Then during divorce, it all comes crashing down, and sides are chosen. This film deserves its critical praise, as it depicts the confusing, heartbreaking effect that combative parents have on their children during a messy divorce.

As the parents continue to tear each other down in front of their children, the kids feel forced to take sides. One son takes the father’s side, and the other takes the mother’s.  To make things worse, both parents have gotten into reckless relationships, which make things even more confusing for their two sons.

Through the veil of his parent’s divorce, the old son’s journey becomes a heartbreaking coming-of-age story. He witnesses the sins of his father and realizes how much he does not want to be like him. As he reconciles the love of his mother with the narcissism of his father, he is forced to make a decision, and in the end, he chooses himself.

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

Tomatometer Score:  Critics 88% / Audience 89%


If you are facing a long, drawn-out custody battle, you will identify with this film. But even if you are not, it is still a pretty damn good film about divorce and how hard it is to move on.

Ted (Dustin Hoffman) and Joanna (Meryl Streep) are married with a son, but Joanna is not happy with Ted, who is a workaholic. Nevertheless, Ted is shocked to find out that Joanna is leaving him…and their son. Ted has to learn how to be a single father and to cut back on work.

Joanna comes back over a year later and wants custody of their son. Ted has learned how to be a good father and bonded with their son in a way he never would if Joanna had not left them. However, his mistakes over the past year come back to haunt him.

What ensues is a heartbreaking tug of war that ends in a surprisingly tender way. Catharsis level: high.

Blue Valentine (2010)

Tomatometer Score:  Critics 88% / Audience 77%



Sometimes when you are going through a divorce, a good cry can get a lot of the emotions out. This one just might help you do that. It is a story about a couple (Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams) who are kept together by an unplanned pregnancy. They decide to give life as a family a try, and it does not work out very well. The film shows the emotional ups and downs of the couple, as well as the heartbreaking impact it has on their child.

This film is unique in that it goes back and forth between timelines: when our couple meets and dates, and when the marriage falls apart. This storytelling device reflects the way our brains work during high-stress times. This movie gets such high scores because it feels so familiar and reminds you of your humanity.

Using whatever coping mechanisms you can to get through a process like divorce is highly recommended. Losing yourself in a good movie is one of the best ways to do that.

It is important to mentally take care of yourself, as well as physically going through a high-stress situation. If you get professional, objective help from a divorce coach, it can help you avoid mistakes that will cause even more stress, which can be a huge relief. Take some time for yourself, watch some films, and let yourself reflect before making any big decisions that could come back to haunt you.


Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is the host of the “Divorce and Your Money Show” and Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, with offices in Dallas, New York and Hanover, New Hampshire.

May 25, 2017

This article was originally published on Divorce and Your Money here.

Ex-Parte Divorce Meaning

Ex-parte divorce occurs when only one spouse lives in the jurisdiction where the divorce is filed. For example, perhaps one spouse is a resident of California, and the other is a resident of New York. If so, an ex-parte divorce occurs when either spouse files in their state. Even though the other spouse does not live in the same jurisdiction, if a spouse is a legal resident of that state, he or she can file for divorce there. Regardless of which state the divorce is completed in, it is valid across the United States.

How Long Does an Ex-Parte Divorce Take?

On average, an ex-parte divorce takes 6-12 months, which is about the same as a divorce that involves both spouses living in the same area. All divorce laws are local, and every divorce is different. Therefore, an ex-parte divorce may not be a longer or shorter process just because you and your spouse live in different states.

How Much Alimony Is Provided after an Ex-Parte Divorce?

The alimony determined during an ex-parte divorce depends on your local laws.

There Can Be a Benefit for Filing for Divorce First.

If you file for an ex-parte divorce, you get to choose the venue for your divorce proceedings. If your spouse lives far away, that can be a big logistical benefit during your case. If your spouse tries to change the venue of the divorce, it is an expensive, time-consuming effort.

Get a Local Lawyer.

If you are the spouse dealing with an ex-parte divorce that has been filed in a different jurisdiction, make sure the lawyer you hire is in the jurisdiction where the divorce was filed. Otherwise, you will be operating at a disadvantage with a lawyer who does not know the area’s rules and procedures. And if you go to court, your attorney will not know the judge.

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is the host of the “Divorce and Your Money Show” and Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, with offices in Dallas, New York and Hanover, New Hampshire.

May 23, 2017

This article was originally published on Divorce and Your Money here.

Reddit Divorce: How Can an Online Community Help You during Your Divorce?

The internet is chockful of interesting ways to manage your upcoming divorce. Many avid internet users are reporting that the Reddit Divorce site is filled with the information and support they desperately seek. If you are not familiar with the information contained within these highly ranked pages, you may want to spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself with what you have been missing.

What is Reddit?

Reddit itself is an online community that is centered around sharing the most popular articles, videos, information, and stories on the web. Users are able to rate each item, and the results are then posted on the homepage of the Reddit site. The rankings are based on user voting and the number of shares each story has, as well as more detailed information found in the site’s algorithm.

There is one general area for all of the most popular items, often referred to as the “front page of the internet.” However, many users are also finding the “subreddits” (Reddit’s subcategories) to be filled with useful, highly specific information that helps them in their daily lives. These subreddits cater to specific themes or topics, including a page designed for people going through a divorce. These more specific and intimate categories may have different focuses, such as lending emotional support, giving professional opinions, and sharing personal anecdotes.

How Can Reddit Divorce Help Your Situation?

Many users may be wondering about the value of utilizing these online webpages to process the messy parts of divorce. When it comes to applying information, what is the real value in Reddit Divorce?

1. Online communities can lend anonymous emotional support.

It is no secret that divorce can make you feel like you have been emotionally put through the ringer. If you do not have friends and family who can lend an empathic ear to your situation, spaces like Reddit Divorce can give you the emotional support you need. Utilizing these anonymous message boards and communities to rant about the details of your divorce can serve as a catharsis for the emotional strife in your daily life.

One of the best parts of finding your emotional support through these anonymous communities is the cost: a free message board is significantly less expensive than counseling. On the other hand, it does not give you any professional advice. Reddit divorce is best suited as a safe place or sounding board for you to allow your pent-up frustrations or sadness to flow freely.

It also allows you to hear third-party opinions, which is different than asking for advice from a trusted friend or family member that already knows you and your spouse People who know you in real life may be more tempted to choose sides during the ensuing divorce.

2. Hearing the experience of others can help you make smarter decisions.

Reddit Divorce is full of personal experiences that pertain to divorce. Threads are available for topics ranging from custody arrangements to methods of divorce. Hearing these personal experiences can assist you in making your own decisions. You may find out key details that influence your decision by reading about the experiences or mishaps of others.

For example, you may find out that some methods of divorce tend to be more expensive, or you may discover creative ways to handle your property or custody agreements. Alternatively, it may just give you space to process different feelings and scenarios, as opposed to making decisions based on your emotions. There are plenty of subreddits that directly pertain to specific issues, including custody battles, legal advice, stepparents, and blended families.

Keep in mind that Reddit Divorce is designed to give you the opinions of others. It is not actual legal advice, even if it comes from an attorney. Reddit is a community, not a substitute for hiring your own attorney or seeking legal counsel.

3. Set realistic expectations, based on the experiences of others.

Without having gone through a divorce, it can be difficult to know what to expect next, or even just set realistic expectations about the outcome. Each situation is unique, based your finances, your children, and all of the other factors that have to be factored into a settlement. By hearing personal stories from others (including what they wish they had known ahead of time), you can gain some traction and feel more control over the situation.

Setting realistic expectations is critical for your emotional wellbeing and stability, particularly when it comes to your assets and custody arrangements. This practice allows your expectations to be influenced by reality, and it can help you better prepare for an independent financial future.

Using Reddit Divorce for Support

Reddit Divorce is not designed to replace any actual legal counsel or the professional help of an experienced team of experts. However, this anonymous space on the internet gives you a convenient sounding board for the emotions, ideas, and expectations you have surrounding the impending end of your marriage. When used appropriately, this website can help you better prepare for the rest of the process, and it can show you how to have a healthy future, both emotionally and financially.

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is the host of the “Divorce and Your Money Show” and Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, with offices in Dallas, New York and Hanover, New Hampshire.

May 17, 2017
This article was originally published on Divorce and Your Money here.
Is there any position more disadvantageous in divorce than that of a stay-at-home mom? Away from the workforce for a period, many women lack access to their own income to support a newly single status with kids in tow. The disadvantage is quickly apparent as the divorce process begins, so it is of critical importance to get organized as quickly as possible. The faster you can get your affairs in order, the more secure your financial future could look.

With an overwhelming volume of tasks that need to be completed, where should you start as a stay-at-home mom? You will want to consider these six steps before you do anything else regarding your pending divorce.

1. Get your documents together.

Documentation will play a large part in working through a favorable divorce settlement with your spouse. Attorneys, mediators, and certified divorce financial analysts may request any number of different documents to get a clear picture of your current marital finances. You want to make sure that you have copies of important documents that demonstrate your financial status, including:

  • W2s and tax returns from previous years
  • Income statements, including paystubs
  • Bank statements
  • Insurance policies
  • Loan or mortgage details
  • Investment accounts

If you plan to be the one to file for divorce, ensure that you have copies of these items prior to filing. Divorcing a controlling spouse could be a separate issue that will make obtaining these documents more difficult. To gain access to the information you need, you will need to come up with a ruse, such as preparing for a future health emergency.

2. Gain access to funds.

It is no secret that divorce can be a costly experience. Hiring an attorney, a certified divorce financial analyst, a mediator, or any other type of counsel comes with a price tag. It is not uncommon for a stay-at-home mom to lack access to the marital funds, so a critical first step is finding a way around this problem.

When you lack regular access to your marital accounts, you may need to secretly stash cash  away from the eyes of your spouse. Sneaky methods include requesting cash back at the grocery store or storing it up on hidden gift cards; they may give you the financial advantage you need. You may also want to take advantage of learning about your marital finances while you can. Find a way to gain the most realistic picture of your current finances, whether you need to look at bank statements, tax returns, or anything you find lying around.

3. Craft a new budget.

Chances are you have some idea about what your expenses are as a married couple. Mortgages or rent, utilities, phone bills, and all of the other necessities for daily life now need to be multiplied to reflect two separate households. The ultimate goal in this stage is to craft a realistic number and expectation for your monthly expenses. How much will you need to earn to make ends meet as a newly single mom?

Remember, in all likelihood, child support will not cover all expenses or bills for the month, though it may offer some assistance.

4. Plan to return to work.

This option seems like an unavoidable topic for stay-at-home moms who are awaiting the finalization of their divorce. Returning to work gives you access to your own funds, and it grants you the financial freedom to cover the expenses of caring for your children in your own household. Consider what your employable skills are, even if you have taken an extended leave of absence from the workforce. Update your resume with new skills learned, and start the arduous search for careers that could pay well and lend flexibility to your status as a single mom.

What could you do to be more employable? You may want to investigate positions that allow you to work from home. If you have a degree from many years ago, you may want to consider taking additional classes to update your skillset.

If you have already crafted a detailed budget, then you know what your expected expenses are at the end of each month. Allow this final figure to guide your decision to select the right career for the upcoming phase of your life. Do not forget that the benefits offered by potential employers can also play a role in your overall income. For example, these benefits could help replace health insurance lost from a spouse’s employer, or start a personal retirement fund.

5. Consider requesting temporary alimony.

Long-term marriages that allow one to be a stay-at-home mom for an extended period of time may offer alimony on a temporary basis. This temporary alimony or short-term support can give you some financial breathing room while you search for gainful employment. It may also help cover a greater portion of expenses while you return to school and search for a long-term career and a new residence.

Alimony is typically only granted on a long-term basis for spouses who were stay-at-home moms for a very lengthy period of time. After such a time period, a judge may declare that the stay-at-home mom is past the point of being able to learn new skills or find gainful employment outside of the home.

6. Get yourself organized before you begin.

Entering into the workforce and creating a new household when you have been a stay-at-home mom for years can be chaotic and stressful. If you are the one preparing to file for divorce, you need to ensure that you organize yourself as quickly as possible. Have you had time to prepare, or have you been blindsided by the news of divorce? Either way, organization is a key component to establishing financial security moving forward.

Do not allow yourself to be swept up in the emotional aspect of your divorce. You will need to begin preparing and organizing for the upcoming ordeal as you separate one household into two. Sooner rather than later, start considering what you would need to do to care for your family as a single mom.

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is the host of the “Divorce and Your Money Show” and Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, with offices in Dallas, New York and Hanover, New Hampshire

May 9, 2017

This article was originally published on Divorce and Your Money here.

Being served divorce papers signifies the beginning of the end. Unfortunately, it does not always mean that appearing in court will necessarily happen quickly. Finalization could be months or years away, even after you have divorce papers in hand. In the meantime, what should you do to make the most of this time?

Preparing for the inevitable end of your marriage can give you a feeling of control. But it can also assist you in receiving all that you are entitled to as a participant in your marriage. Taking charge of the situation during this initial phase can give you a successful start toward a favorable resolution to your divorce process.

Once you are served with divorce papers, what do you need to do first? Here are a few tips for getting started on the right path:

1) Get organized.

When it comes to finalizing your divorce, you cannot underestimate the importance of organization. Begin by using this time to gather pertinent documents, including tax returns, bank statements, and information about retirement savings accounts. The more work you can do at this stage without the pressure of a time crunch, the more thorough you can be at assembling and gathering everything you need.

This stage could also be a good time to begin thinking through which assets or properties hold significant value to you. Is there a piece of furniture you want to claim in the settlement? Make a list of these items now—without the heat of spousal squabbles. Then you can more easily clarify which items are most important to you.

2) Assemble your team of professionals.

Depending on the complexity of your divorce, you may need to hire quite a few professionals to assist you. Team members may include an attorney, a certified divorce financial analyst, a forensic accountant, or a private investigator. Be sure to do research to determine which professionals have extensive experience in their field and great customer reviews.

You can also use this time to consider how much of the work you will be doing on your own. Some prefer to file their own paperwork, or you can just work out a settlement negotiation with your spouse. Others find their divorce to be more complicated. Therefore, they may need the assistance of an attorney to go to trial.

Knowing how much you want to complete on your own and how much you plan to spend can assist you with hiring the right professionals for the job.

Remember that the people you hire to handle your divorce are there for a purpose. It will be a business relationship, and should be managed as such. Select professionals that you can work with well, as you could be spending a large amount of time and money with your team.

The professionals you hire are the people responsible for assisting you in receiving the best possible settlement. These decisions are crucial for the future of your financial security, and they cannot be overlooked.

3) If possible, try to open the lines of communication with your spouse.

If possible, healthy communication can certainly speed up the process of agreeing on a settlement or a custody arrangement for your children. When a healthy level of open communication is possible, the process can be easier, less emotionally taxing, and significantly faster.

The more you and your spouse can sort out between you, the less involvement you will need from attorneys and other team members. If you open the lines of communication, both of you will typically have an easier negotiation and lower attorney fees.

However, under certain circumstances like abuse, bullying, or manipulation, you should not even consider communication. In these kinds of situations, allow the team you have assembled to handle most, if not all of the communication between the two of you.

4) Take care of your own emotional health.

Even though divorce is an extremely emotionally turbulent time in anyone’s life, the professionals you hire are not there to hear about your feelings. Instead, you hire them to handle the facts, and create a favorable divorce settlement; that is truly all you should be sharing with them.

Therefore, you will need to find another outlet for the emotional response triggered by the impending end of your marriage. For some, this outlet can be as simple as talking with friends over drinks, or taking a yoga class to practice mindfulness.

If you have a smaller support system, you may want to consider enlisting the help of a professional therapist. It may be worthwhile to consider seeking professional help to find coping skills if you feel overstressed.

Over time, the burden of extreme emotional distress can take a toll on your physical health and psyche. Sorting through your feelings can improve your well-being, and it can allow you to participate in your divorce process with a calmer demeanor and more level head. This mindset allows you to be firm during all the negotiations that are involved after being served divorce papers.

Early in the process, take control.

Being served divorce papers truly is the first step toward finalizing the end of your marriage. And it is the start of something new. You will quickly discover that there are a lot of items on your to-do list that require your attention. By taking control of the situation now, you can enter the rest of the process with increased levelheadedness and a sense of calm.

Take the first steps towards securing a financially healthy future in your soon-to-be single life. Once you are served divorce papers, it is time to take control of your life. Following these steps will help you before the divorce process even begins.

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is the host of the “Divorce and Your Money Show” and Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, with offices in Dallas, New York and Hanover, New Hampshire.

May 4, 2017

This article was republished by Investopedia here

Divorce becomes more complicated when you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse own a business together. Businesses require constant care and attention, and they can’t be easily split in half the way funds in a bank or an investment account can.

Your attorney will likely recommend you don’t keep running the business together after the divorce. This rarely works out, especially if you must be in close contact with each other on a daily basis.

Assuming you follow this recommendation, you can handle the business in a few different ways.

Three Options for Divorcing Business Owners

You and your former partner will need to decide who will assume ownership of the business when the divorce process is over. There are three options:

  1. One of you buys the other out of the business and assumes total ownership.
  2. You both sell the business to a third party. 
  3. You both agree to close the business.

Start With an Accurate Business Appraisal

No matter which option you pick, finding out how much the business is worth is the starting point for negotiation. To do this, you’ll need an appraisal from someone certified in business valuation. You also need to know how much of the value you own and how much of the business is considered marital property.

Consider Buying out Your Ex-Spouse

If you or your spouse wants to keep running the business, you’ll need to decide upon a buyout. In other words, one spouse pays off the other and assumes his or her ownership stake in the business.

Depending on the value of the business, you might not be able to give your ex a lump sum of cash. Instead, you could:

  1. Reach a long-term payout agreement in the form of a property settlement note.
  2. Exchange the business value for other marital assets.

Know That Selling a Business Takes Time

Depending upon your circumstances, selling your business might be the best option. It gives you and your ex a clean break so you can both move on to other things. Selling your business has costs, and many elements of the process are complicated. You’ll likely need a business broker, and it can still take many months, or longer, for a transaction to close. If you’re not prepared for this timeline, it could delay your divorce.

Close a Failing Business

This option is often the last resort, but if the business is failing and has a high burden of debt, divorce is a prime opportunity to close and move on. It’s never easy to close a business that you’ve worked hard to build, but sometimes it’s the best choice.

Final Thoughts

Going through a divorce with a jointly-owned business can add an extra layer of stress and complication to an already challenging process. Plan, know your options, and make the best decision for you.

Find this information helpful? Share it!

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is author of Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide and host of the Divorce and Your Money Show on iTunes. Learn more at

May 4, 2017

This was originally published on Divorce and Your Money here

Divorce Mediation Tips

Some couples find that mediation is a useful way to get divorced. Mediation involves hiring a neutral third party (such as a retired judge) who will negotiate the divorce or help you resolve specific issues of contention. Both you and your spouse must agree to use a mediator, but any agreements made are strictly nonbinding.

The biggest advantage of mediation is that it can be a quick, less formal method of getting divorced because court dates and litigation are not involved. It can also help minimize certain issues and acrimony on both sides.

The nonbinding element of mediation is a double-edged sword, as it can sometimes be a waste of time and money. Another disadvantage is that it is not appropriate in all cases. For instance, if you and your spouse have serious issues, mediation may not be the right path for you.

However, you should be aware that mediation will likely save you money. It is an efficient way to navigate the divorce process, and it does not involve a lot of court paperwork. It is not as public as other options, and it does not bind you.

Divorce Mediation Checklist

1) List the Property to be Divided

To start, you need to understand which assets need to be divided. If you do not have a clean understanding of everything you own, you will end up getting less than you deserve during the divorce process. Consider the following:

  • Bank, Investment, and Retirement Account Balances
  • Marital Home
    • Purchase Date
    • Mortgage and Loan Information
    • Appraisal and Valuation Information
  • Other Home(s) Information
  • Vehicle Data
    • Purchase Date
    • Estimated Value (Kelly Blue Book or similar)
    • Insurance Information
  • Personal Property of Value (including jewelry, artwork, collection, and antiques)
  • Insurance Policy Information
  • Any Other Assets or Debts That May Need Division (such as student loans)

2) What to Ask For during Divorce Mediation

Once you know what property you have, the next question is: what are your goals? What do you want to achieve when mediation is over? Do you want to keep the house, or sell it and split the proceeds? Who will have primary custody of the children? You should make a thorough list of what you want. BE REALISTIC. Then rank your priorities in order.

  • Define Your Goals
    • What is essential?
    • What things can you live without?
    • What is on your wish list?
  • Consider the Goals of Your Soon-to-be Ex
    • What do you think they care about most?
    • Do you have areas you will probably agree upon?
    • What areas will likely cause conflict?
  • Prioritize
    • What is most important to you?
    • What is an acceptable outcome?
    • What do you not care about very much?

3) Learn Your Local Laws

To understand if your goals are realistic, you must comprehend what you may be entitled to.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are the state and county laws that govern your divorce? 
  • Are you in a community property or equitable distribution state? 
  • Should you expect to pay or receive a specific amount of child or spousal support
  • How does the state resolve custody?

Preparation Is Key to Success during Mediation

Mediation has the potential to resolve all the major issues in your divorce, but it can also be fruitless. While there is no guarantee of success, one way to guarantee a difficult mediation process is failing to prepare. You should also check out the Divorce Checklist to help you through the mediation process. 

Find this information helpful? Share it!

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is author of Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide and host of the Divorce and Your Money Show on iTunes. Learn more at

May 4, 2017


This article was originally published on DivorcedMoms. You can view the original article here

Understand that marital finances are a critical aspect of securing a stable financial future following the end of your marriage. As the years progress in your marriage, many couples find that one spouse has taken complete control over the finances.

If you happen to be the spouse that is left in the dark, how can you get the financial information out of your spouse’s head and onto paper before you file for divorce? 

If you suddenly start asking questions about the status of your financial affairs, it can raise suspicion about your intentions. And once your spouse has their guard up, it can be next to impossible to gather and interpret accurate information regarding your current accounts or your financial future. Therefore, it could be a good idea to obtain financial information under the guise of something other than divorce, which can help you uncover the information that your spouse has been hiding.

The checklist below offers a few sneaky ways that you can obtain the valuable financial information you need from your spouse before filing for divorce:

1. Plan for a Health Emergency

This strategy is one of the simplest ways to begin discussing marital finances with your spouse. If you “plan” for the possibility of a “future health emergency,” you could gain access to key documents, professionals, and information that you will need to get an accurate read on your finances. When you present this option to your spouse, be sure to obtain copies of all the documents that are critical to your marriage, including:

  • Marriage papers
  • Financial records (including tax statements, bank statements, and investment account statements)
  • Car registrations
  • Income statements
  • Mortgage loan documents 

In addition to the paper trail created by the documentation listed above, find out if there are any key professionals involved in your finances. Investment brokers, attorneys, and financial planners may all be significant sources of information regarding your current situation. You may also want to wait to contact those individuals, but having their information available is a worthwhile consideration.

There are plenty of legitimate checklists available for this kind of situation. By introducing formal lists from reputable sources like the ones listed below, your spouse is more likely to believe that you are actually planning for a health emergency. They can help you find all of the critical financial documentation you need while lending an extra layer of validity to your “planning”:

2. Take an interest in retirement.

If you have never had much of a say in your investment accounts, an effective tactic could be feigning an interest in retirement accounts. Begin by opening up the lines of communication about how the two of you plan to spend your golden years together. To begin planning your idyllic future together, your spouse will have to get you up-to-speed with your current financial standing (in terms of retirement savings accounts, investments, and checking accounts). 

To “manage retirement funds,” be sure to ask questions about any current retirement savings accounts or investment brokers that your spouse is working with. You can also use some of the above checklists to gather together key documents (such as bank statements and records for accounts where funds have been deposited for the future). You may even be able to request copies of W2s and income statements to determine additional contributions (which could be made toward retirement on a monthly basis).

How does this ruse keep suspicions away from your impending divorce? Planning for the future can help take the wariness out of the situation at hand, which allows you to gather all the information you need to confidently move forward.

3. Hire a financial planner.

Your spouse may be less likely to hand information over to you alone, but visiting a financial planner under the guise of receiving assistance can turn the tables. If you have never had a financial planner before, this scenario is an excellent time to notate your current financial situation. Even couples who have used the same financial planner for years may want to consider taking the pulse on their investments. Many experts recommend receiving a second opinion about them, which marks another excellent opportunity to jot down details.

Encourage your spouse to help you round up all of the pertinent documents that a financial planner may request. They may include the income statements, tax statements, bank records, and current investment account statements that you needed to gather for the previous ruses. 

The best part of visiting a financial planner is the ability to sit back while a professional asks all of the necessary questions and obtains an overall sense of your financial well-being. Similar to the way a doctor will ask questions that may not seem obvious in order to assess to the cause of your distress, a good financial planner knows the proper questions to ask to gain perspective about your finances as a married couple. You can simply sit back and absorb all of the information while your planner works through the details.

Finding the Right Ruse

Understanding your finances is a necessary part of receiving a fair divorce settlement during negotiations. You may be asked to reveal any hidden assets your spouse has, as well as produce actual income statements to prove the financial status of your marriage. Finding a ruse that can trick your spouse into sharing sensitive financial information may be the most effective way to prepare yourself for divorce without arousing suspicion.

Each marriage is unique, and you will need to find the right tactic to get your spouse to give you sensitive financial information. Even if the two of you completed these items years ago, you can always ask to revisit them in the present—to make sure your documents and information are current.

These guises are meant to keep the focus on your marriage and future together while allowing you some flexibility in preparing to file for divorce. Find what works best for your relationship, so you can begin to secure a firm financial future yourself.

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is the host of the “Divorce and Your Money Show” and Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, with offices in Dallas, New York and Hanover, New Hampshire.

May 3, 2017

This article was originally published on Divorce and Your Money here.

Divorce Mediation Tips

Some couples find that mediation is a useful way to get divorced. Mediation involves hiring a neutral third party (such as a retired judge) who will negotiate the divorce or help you resolve specific issues of contention. Both you and your spouse must agree to use a mediator, but any agreements made are strictly nonbinding.

The biggest advantage of mediation is that it can be a quick, less formal method of getting divorced because court dates and litigation are not involved. It can also help minimize certain issues and acrimony on both sides.

The nonbinding element of mediation is a double-edged sword, as it can sometimes be a waste of time and money. Another disadvantage is that it is not appropriate in all cases. For instance, if you and your spouse have serious issues, mediation may not be the right path for you.

However, you should be aware that mediation will likely save you money. It is an efficient way to navigate the divorce process, and it does not involve a lot of court paperwork. It is not as public as other options, and it does not bind you.

Divorce Mediation Checklist

1) List the Property to be Divided

To start, you need to understand which assets need to be divided. If you do not have a clean understanding of everything you own, you will end up getting less than you deserve during the divorce process. Consider the following:

  • Bank, Investment, and Retirement Account Balances
  • Marital Home
    • Purchase Date
    • Mortgage and Loan Information
    • Appraisal and Valuation Information
  • Other Home(s) Information
  • Vehicle Data
    • Purchase Date
    • Estimated Value (Kelly Blue Book or similar)
    • Insurance Information
  • Personal Property of Value (including jewelry, artwork, collection, and antiques)
  • Insurance Policy Information
  • Any Other Assets or Debts That May Need Division (such as student loans)

2) What to Ask For during Divorce Mediation

Once you know what property you have, the next question is: what are your goals? What do you want to achieve when mediation is over? Do you want to keep the house, or sell it and split the proceeds? Who will have primary custody of the children? You should make a thorough list of what you want. BE REALISTIC. Then rank your priorities in order.

  • Define Your Goals
    • What is essential?
    • What things can you live without?
    • What is on your wish list?
  • Consider the Goals of Your Soon-to-be Ex
    • What do you think they care about most?
    • Do you have areas you will probably agree upon?
    • What areas will likely cause conflict?
  • Prioritize
    • What is most important to you?
    • What is an acceptable outcome?
    • What do you not care about very much?

3) Learn Your Local Laws

To understand if your goals are realistic, you must comprehend what you may be entitled to.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are the state and county laws that govern your divorce? 
  • Are you in a community property or equitable distribution state? 
  • Should you expect to pay or receive a specific amount of child or spousal support
  • How does the state resolve custody?

Preparation Is Key to Success during Mediation

Mediation has the potential to resolve all the major issues in your divorce, but it can also be fruitless. While there is no guarantee of success, one way to guarantee a difficult mediation process is failing to prepare. You should also check out the Divorce Checklist to help you through the mediation process. 

Find this information helpful? Share it!

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is author of Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide and host of the Divorce and Your Money Show on iTunes. Learn more at

May 2, 2017

Cost is frequently one of the most pressing concerns for individuals who are in the midst of pursuing a divorce. In many cases, the perceived cost can prevent some couples from ending an unhappy marriage. The specific method that you use to pursue the finalization of the end of your marriage can drastically affect the overall cost. In particular, mediation can significantly lower the cost, compared to other methods — including litigation.

What many couples really want to know is how much mediation will actually cost them. Unfortunately, there are several aspects that need to be addressed to determine the real cost of mediation. Finances certainly have to be considered, but your relationship and emotional tolerance also need to be addressed.

So what does mediation really cost? A few of the expenses are listed below.

Financial Obligations

Spouses who are willing to participate in mediation will typically find a lower overall cost for several reasons. First and foremost, mediation is frequently less time-consuming and costs less than attorney’s fees. Especially compared to litigation, the professional costs of hiring a legal advisor to assist you with mediation are substantially lower.

In some situations, there is even the possibility of working through mediation without an attorney. Tricky situations and legal scenarios may require the assistance of an attorney, and you may still want to consider enlisting one to help you get all that you are entitled to.

However, some couples find that they are able to undergo mediation, and it solves any potential marital disputes about assets and finances without legal representation.

What does mediation cost?

Mediators will typically charge an hourly fee in the same way that attorneys do. In a similar fashion, that fee will vary from individual to individual, and differences in education, experience, and skill level play into the cost.

However, opting for the cheapest available professional may not put you in the best position for a secure financial future. You should seriously consider the qualifications of the expert that you and your spouse choose, as this person will come up with your proposed settlement.

In addition, you may want to consider finding a mediator who can put together your final documents for you. Professional mediators who are unable to provide this service may charge less, but you will still need to hire a drafting attorney to prepare your documentation.

As a result of these factors, determining a specific price range for a mediator is difficult. Many of them charge anywhere from $100 to $1,000 per hour. Overall, the cost of hiring a mediator could be just a few thousand dollars, in comparison to the tens of thousands that are often associated with litigation.

Emotional Obligations

While many couples are eager to consider the financial implications of mediation, they tend to ignore the emotional and relational benefits of this method. Because mediation between cooperating spouses can be resolved in a timelier manner, it takes less of an emotional toll on the two of you. Certainly, it is less emotionally stressful than litigation, which requires you to wait for a judge to determine the final outcome.

Mediation can be completed so quickly that some couples are able to do it in just a single day or session. Others may require multiple sessions over the course of several weeks or months. During this time (however long it may be), both spouses are given the ability to hear the other’s point of view about the critical items in the settlement. When the lines of communication are open, it is significantly easier to come up with a solution that is beneficial to both spouses, as well as any children involved in the dispute.

Particularly when children are involved, mediation takes less of a toll on the relationships among family members. Mediation sets the stage for teaching both spouses to begin working on their communication skills in their new post-divorce relationship; that is a critical skill when there are children involved. Therefore, an ongoing relationship will be necessary. Aside from keeping these lines of communication open, mediation allows you to work through difficult issues regarding custody, visitation, and providing a safe space for the children.

Determining the REAL Cost

The ability to use this method of divorce is contingent upon your ability to keep communication open. Situations that involve bullying, abuse, or intimidation will not be able to effectively use mediation to come up with an agreement that ensures a secure financial future for both parties.

No matter what the reason, the breakdown of a marriage always has a hidden cost that can surpass the financial obligations. Though both aspects need to be considered, mediation has the potential to be a more cost-effective solution for many couples.

Perhaps the cost of divorce is keeping the two of you in an unhappy union. If so,  consider the lowered fee associated with mediation, but only pursue it if it is possible to speak openly and discuss potential issues.

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is the host of the “Divorce and Your Money Show” and Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, with offices in Dallas, New York and Hanover, New Hampshire.

Apr 27, 2017

This was originally published on Divorce and Your Money here

What is a QDRO?

QDRO stands for Qualified Domestic Relations Order, which is a court-ordered document used to split certain types of retirement plans during divorce. You will need a QDRO if you are trying to divide a 401(k), 403(b), pension plan or other type of employer-sponsored retirement plans. The employee, or owner of the plan, is called the “participant,” while the non-employee spouse is called the “alternate payee.” The QDRO form tells the retirement plan sponsor how to divide the plan in the event of divorce. Without a QDRO, the alternate payee has no legal right to the funds in a retirement plan.

A QDRO Form Must Contain Certain Information

QDROS are complex, as every retirement plan has different rules and procedures. However, there are four key areas that every QDRO requires:

1) Name, Social Security Number and Current Address of the Participant (plan owner) and Alternate Payee (non-employee spouse)

2) Exact name of the plan that is being divided

3) How the benefits will be divided

At its core, the items seem straightforward, but there are a lot of nuances involved.

How much does a QDRO cost?

A QDRO costs around $400-$1,000 depending upon your state and which QDRO attorney you use to draft the plan. Also know that plan sponsors may charge a fee for dividing the QDRO, which can range from $300 to $1,200 to divide the plan. 

Common QDRO Mistakes

1) Not specifying plan names, types, and dates

Within settlement agreements, common mistakes are forgetting specifics and being too erroneous while drafting up the QDRO. Simply referring to a vague “retirement account” and an unspecified “lump sum” leaves too much room for interpretation: One spouse could argue that the sole intent of the QDRO was to split your 401K account—not your pension plan.

The order should also set a clear date that each account is to be divided. It is critical to be as clear as possible, so that neither party can argue the intention later.

2) Attempting to divide an indivisible plan

Specifying the plan type is also a crucial component of determining whether a plan can be divided. Too often, QDROs are drafted that attempt to divvy up a plan that is indivisible. Only plans that fall under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974 qualify, and not all retirement benefits are required to follow these guidelines.

Non-ERISA plan (e.g., supplemental and excess benefit plans) are not subject to division by a QDRO. Additionally, many of these “golden handcuff” plans do not include survivor benefits, and they terminate the moment the employee passes. To avoid future litigation, it is critical that you and your attorneys know the type of plan before settlement agreements take place.

3) Forgetting to address gains and losses

Defined contribution plans (e.g., a 401K) fluctuate with the market. As payouts for qualified plans can take upwards of 90 days from the date the agreement was signed, it is important to address whether gains and losses will affect the dispersed sum.

The gross dollar value of the plan is almost guaranteed to change. How much it changes depends on the amount invested. In the agreement, make sure to indicate whether the amount dispersed will reflect those gains and losses, or will remain stagnant after the date of signing.

4) Not considering tax implications during division

All plan types are not equal. When dividing assets and retirement accounts, understand the tax implications that come along with each of them. In the case of a pre-tax account (e.g., a 401K) the government will be entitled to its share when it is taken out during retirement. In contrast, an after-tax account (e.g., a Roth IRA) is not deducted upon withdrawal.

In other words, if a divorcing couple is agreeing to split a 401k and a Roth IRA that are equal amounts, then the spouse receiving the Roth IRA will gain more—since that money will not be taxed. To avoid being short-changed, make sure you understand the tax implications during the settlement.

5) Disregarding a loan balance

If a loan balance exists on a defined contribution plan, it must be addressed in the QDRO. Should the loan balance amount to more than the entitled payout, the account will show insufficient funds.

Perhaps a loan balance has been worked into the QDRO, but there are recurring repayments on it. If so, the document needs to define whether the payment sum will reflect the loan balance on the date of signing (or the date of division).

6) Failing to get a QDRO Pre-Approved

QDRO forms and retirement plans are complicated, and you can impair yourself in a situation where you have agreed to a legally impossible division of a retirement plan in your divorce decree - potentially causing months of delays and thousands of dollars in legal expenses to change after the fact. How do you prevent this from happening? Get your QDRO pre-approved before finalizing your divorce. By contacting the plan sponsor in advance, you can avoid costly delays in splitting a retirement plan.

Use a QDRO Attorney for Help

A QDRO attorney can help ensure that retirement plans are split properly and help you avoid mistakes. A QDRO form is highly specialized and requires deep technical knowledge beyond the purview of most divorce attorneys. You need the help of a specialist. Here are some of the companies that specialize in drafting a QDRO.

QDRO Solutions

QDRO Solutions is based in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. It is one of the top firms in the United States for drafting QDROs, as their founder wrote The Complete QDRO Handbook: Dividing ERISA, Military, and Civil Service Pensions and Collecting Child Support from Employee Benefit Plans. You can learn more about QDRO Solutions in this interview here. [Insert Interview] 

QDRO Consultants

There are multiple firms that use the name QDRO Consultants.

QDRO Consultants Ohio

There is a QDRO Consultants firm based in Medina, Ohio. While the information about their team is not clear, members of the firm have authored two books: Dividing Pensions in Divorce and Value of Pensions in Divorce. The Ohio-based firm also has a website dedicated to attorneys at At the moment, they offer a 7-12 business day turnaround time for QDRO forms.

QDRO Consultants Nevada

There is also a QDRO Consultants based in Reno, Nevada, owned by Melinda C. Cameron. The firm has a very clean website describing the drafting process and a QDRO costs $725. They also have packages for initial consultations. 

QDRO Express

QDRO Express, based in Taylor, Michigan, is owned by Robert Treat. According to the website, the firm specializes in QDROs in Michigan and Ohio, but also works nationally. Their QDRO fees start at $500 and increase from there.

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is the host of the “Divorce and Your Money Show” and Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, with offices in Dallas, New York and Hanover, New Hampshire.

Apr 25, 2017

This was originally published on Divorce and Your Money here

How Much Does a Divorce Cost?

Divorce is expensive. An uncontested divorce can cost between $200 and $600, depending upon your state’s filing fees. And a contested divorce can cost more than $30,000. The price of divorce is directly proportional to how much you fight with your soon-to-be-ex spouse.

Ideally, before you begin the divorce proceedings, you must have a plan to pay for the divorce costs. There are some tried-and-true options (e.g., paying out of pocket and selling assets) and other, newer ideas.

10 Ways to Get a Divorce When You Have No Money

1) Start with a Free Divorce Lawyer Consultation

Many divorce lawyers offer a free 30-minute or 60-minute consultation to review the details of your case. This consultation is your chance to get free advice from a divorce attorney before paying expensive hourly fees. You can also visit multiple attorneys to see which one may serve as the best fit for your case. One word of caution, though: the top-tier divorce attorneys in most cities charge for an initial consultation because they have a steady stream of clients.

2) Take Money from a Joint Account

If you have a joint account with your spouse, you are entitled to half of it. Therefore, when you start thinking about divorce, move your half of the assets to a separate account under your name only. You also need to be aware of any legal consequences this action may have in your respective state, so consult with your divorce attorney. Don’t allow your spouse to steal funds from your joint account, leaving you with no funds to pay for your divorce.

3) Open a Secret Bank Account

When you are contemplating a divorce, you should have a separate bank account which your spouse does not have access to. This account should only be under your name, preferably at a bank other than your normal one.

As soon as the divorce process starts, money starts to disappear. Your spouse can transfer funds or take away assets via a number of scenarios. However, you will need funds to pay for divorce expenses, including your attorney. You also have to pay for your everyday living expenses while the process is going on.

4) Ask Friends and Family for Help

If you go to your family or friends for help, they may be more comfortable if you structure it as a loan. To set up the repayment terms, you can find a template for a personal loan online. Then you will show your friends or family members that you are serious about paying them back.

5) Sell Unwanted Belongings

Look around your home for items you could sell. You may have electronics, art, collectibles, physical goods, old cars, and cameras. They could help you get enough money to cover some of your bills and regular expenses. But be careful when selling things; down the road, your spouse may ask you for reimbursement for any joint property.

6) Open a New Credit Card

If your credit is good, consider getting a new credit card. I do not advocate taking out a lot of debt, as it always comes back to haunt you later. However, it may be a viable option if you are struggling to cover divorce expenses — or even just groceries.

7) Borrow from Your Retirement and Investment Accounts

Rules vary greatly among retirement accounts, but some will allow you to borrow from them:

  • 401(k) plans - Some of these plans will allow you to borrow 20-50% of the plan’s value at a low interest rate.
  • IRAs - IRAs are more difficult to borrow against, so you may have to pay taxes and penalties. But if you have a short-term need, you can use a rollover to have access to tax-free funds. You will need to deposit the amount you took from a qualified IRA rollover account within 60 days.
  • Investment Accounts - You have the option of taking out a margin loan. These loans are complicated, so I do not necessarily advocate them unless you understand them in detail. Taking out loans without a good grasp of the terms could hurt you in the long run.

8) Get a Home Equity Line of Credit

With this option, you are borrowing against the value of your home, which must be worth more than you owe. This route requires a lot of approvals, including your spouse’s if their name is listed on the home.

9) Try Crowdfunding Your Divorce

Crowdfunding platforms have recently become more popular. They allow family, friends, and even strangers to donate to a cause or start a business. You can also utilize these platforms to help pay for the expenses of your divorce.

When it comes to divorce, there are three companies that focus on this particular service:,, and Set up your profile, and explain why you need the funds. Publish your profile. Then, send the profile link to your friends and family.

Letting people know you need help can be uncomfortable, but every dollar helps. Each of the platforms listed above has its own rules and fees. Be sure to do your homework about each one. Crowdfunding platforms dedicated to divorce can help you through this difficult time.

10) Make Your Spouse Pay for Divorce

There is an easy way to get your spouse to pay for a divorce, and of course, there is the hard way.  Perhaps your relationship is good, and the divorce was a mutual decision. If so, you can simply ask your spouse to cover the costs on your end and work out your own arrangements.  However, if your spouse is unwilling or it is a complicated divorce, then there are legal provisions that can assist you.

Almost every state has a provision for having the higher-earning spouse pay for the cost of the divorce.  The specific criteria will be different state to state, and the courts will judge on a case-by-case basis. But generally, they will want to know if you have access to money and an income—and if the other spouse can really afford to pay for the divorce.  A good attorney should know the state laws and have an idea about your specific situation.

If the court rules in your favor, you may qualify for what is called an advance on an equitable distribution.  In other words, if you are going to be owed alimony or child support, you can have an initial lump sum available to you to pay for the costs of the divorce.  However, you will have to pay those funds back over time via deductions on the payments you receive later.

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is the host of the “Divorce and Your Money Show” and Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, with offices in Dallas, New York and Hanover, New Hampshire.

Apr 17, 2017

This article was republished by Investopedia here.

Whether you believe your divorce will be relatively amicable or long and painful, one of the most important things you and your spouse can do is separate your finances during the process.

By taking care of the financial aspect of your failing marriage, you will give yourselves the freedom and flexibility to begin moving on with your lives. Fiscal responsibility is important, and you will want to ensure that your name is only attached to the debt and accounts that you are personally responsible for. 

Here are the first three essential steps you should take to begin separating your finances during your divorce:

1. Contact Lenders to Remove Spouse’s Name from Outstanding Loans

You should begin by separating your accumulated debt. Perhaps your divorce decree is final, or you have already been able to amicably divide your debt. If so, you need to find out the necessary next steps for removing your spouse from the loans. In some cases, it may mean refinancing items or taking out an entirely new loan.

Without removing your spouse’s name from outstanding loans, you will not be able to remove your spouse from your credit report. Having your spouse’s name on your credit report does not necessarily affect your credit. However, the waters can be muddied if your spouse does not follow through on making payments. In these instances, your credit can plummet rather quickly.

2. Quickly Take Care of Credit Card Debt

If you know that you are assuming responsibility for a certain amount of credit card debt, you have a couple of options: pay it off or transfer the balance to a new card. If paying off your accumulated debt is not a possibility, you can open up a new card in your own name. By transferring the balance from your joint account into a new individual account, you can cancel joint credit cards.

To avoid having your soon-to-be ex rack up additional debt on credit cards they still have access to, you will want to take care it quickly. Also, then you will not be left in limbo about who is responsible for paying the bill each month.

3. Remove Yourself from Joint Bank Accounts

Removing your name or your spouse’s name from joint bank accounts can be tricky if your spouse will not agree to have their name removed. Perhaps they refuse to give consent to drop their name from the account, or to split your singular account into two separate ones. If so, you can find a workaround. You may want to open an individual account and transfer the money into your own name.

Remember that even if you claim that money as your own, your spouse may still have rights to it.

Separating your finances during your divorce is necessary for keeping your credit and other aspects of your financial health from plummeting. Fortunately, doing so does not have to be time consuming or cumbersome. You can create individual accounts and remove your spouse from joint accounts with relative ease. Then you can begin to move on with your life. 

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Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is author of Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide and host of the Divorce and Your Money Show on iTunes. Learn more at

Apr 13, 2017
This was originally published on Divorce and Your Money here
Often, people going through a divorce do not know exactly what they are entitled to—and what might be awarded to a soon-to-be-former spouse. I want to give you some important details on spousal support that everyone going through divorce should know.

What is Spousal Support?

Spousal support, also called alimony, is payments made from one spouse to another after divorce. The overall purpose of spousal support is to lessen the burden on the spouse who earns lower wages than his or her former spouse. An amount of money is awarded to one of the spouses per a written agreement, or by a court-mandated decision.

During a marriage, one spouse oftentimes sacrifices a career to stay home and raise children. In such a case, whoever has given up his or her career is obviously unable to continue the standard of living that existed during the marriage. As a result, spousal support is awarded.

Is Alimony Taxable?

Yes. Alimony is taxable as income to the recipient. Only payments specifically made as part of the divorce decree or separation agreement are considered alimony for tax purposes, meaning that voluntary or bonus payments are not included. From a tax perspective, temporary spousal support is equivalent to permanent spousal support. However, certain types of payments do not qualify as spousal support:

•   Child support

•   Noncash payments

•   Money for maintaining the payer’s property, such as repairs on a home

•   Use of the payer’s property, for example, lending a home to a former spouse

Is Alimony Tax-Deductible?

Yes, spousal support is tax-deductible to the person paying it. Child support, however, is neither taxable to the recipient nor tax-deductible to the payer.

Can you make spousal support payments to a 3rd party?

Yes. You can make payments to a third party on behalf of an ex-spouse and qualify for spousal support. For example, payments for medical expenses, taxes, and tuition can still qualify as spousal support. Payments must be made in cash, so transferring property or providing a service for payment does not count as spousal support in the eyes of the IRS.

How is spousal support calculated?

Every state is different, and each divorce is unique. In fact, the court system has a wide range of criteria when deciding whether spousal support will be awarded. Typically, many factors are considered, including the financial condition of both parties, the duration of the marriage, the standard of living while the marriage existed, physical and emotional issues, and the time that is needed for the recipient to be self-supporting.

How long does alimony last?

Spousal support is not terminated until the date specified on the divorce decree, or until the court makes that decision. If the recipient marries again, spousal support from the former spouse is almost always terminated.

Although not typical, there are situations when it is permanent. If the spouse is elderly (or has medical issues that hinder him or her from working), he or she may very well receive alimony for the rest of his or her life. If the payer passes away, the payer’s estate (and money from life insurance policies) may very well be granted to the former spouse.

Can you change spousal support?

Sometimes life happens, and your circumstances change. The spouse paying support may lose their job, become disabled, or retire. If these circumstances change, it can be grounds to change spousal support. Spousal support can be terminated if the spouse receiving support remarries or (in some states) moves in with someone else. Spousal support can even change if there is a change in child custody (separate from changing child support).

Even though it is possible to change spousal support, it will not be easy. You will be starting another legal battle, which can get very expensive. If you want to pursue that option, you should have a compelling reason for justifying a change. You will not be able to guarantee the outcome, even if you have a convincing case. If you are the person paying spousal support, you should accept that it may not be possible to change it. If you are receiving spousal support, make sure you are getting enough to live on, and budget accordingly.

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is the host of the “Divorce and Your Money Show” and Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, with offices in Dallas, New York and Hanover, New Hampshire.

Apr 11, 2017

It is never easy to tell your spouse that your marriage has officially reached its end. Preparing yourself for the emotional implications of breaking the news to your spouse is difficult on its own, and it is even more difficult to plan how to do it. However, when you tell your spouse that you will be filing for divorce, it will set the tone for how your divorce process may proceed. For instance, it determines if you will continue having civil discussions. Therefore, the importance of proper planning cannot be understated.

When it comes to having this conversation with your spouse, there are a few general guidelines that all parties involved should try to adhere to. These suggestions do not vary, regardless of who your spouse is. So, for a more successful conversation right from the beginning, you should always follow these basic tips when telling your spouse that the marriage is over:

1) Select an appropriate time and place.

The best place to tell your spouse that your marriage is over is not in the middle of a crowded restaurant. Rather, select a relatively private setting and a time when you can talk without interruptions. If there are children involved, see if a trusted friend or family member can keep an eye on them for a while; it will be more appropriate to talk while your children are not listening.

2) Remain calm.

There is no need to fuel the emotional fallout that can occur during this conversation. Instead, you should strive to maintain your calm and composure, even when it becomes difficult.

3) Be prepared for an emotional reaction from your spouse.

Particularly if your spouse is blissfully unaware that you have reached your capacity to endure the relationship, be prepared for an emotional response. This aspect may take more preparation on your part, but you should be able to remain stoic and calm, despite their emotional reaction. If you are struggling with your own emotions over this decision, seek guidance from a professional therapist or counselor in advance.

With those guidelines firmly in place, you may also want to consider how having a conversation regarding the end of your union will look different depending on whether or not you will be telling your husband or your wife. For more detailed information regarding the best way to break the news, you can see the crucial tips you need to know below.

How to Tell Your Wife You Want a Divorce

Sharing the news with your wife can be an especially emotional ordeal. Before you begin the conversation, you should be certain that you have all speaking points prepared and arranged in advance. This preparation grants you a significant degree of control over the situation, and allows you to keep the conversation as brief as possible. By knowing in advance exactly what you want to say, you can stay on track throughout the conversation and steer clear of your own emotional reaction.

It may help to ensure that you are not blindsiding her with this information. In other words, she should already be aware that there are difficulties and struggles within the marital relationship. Excessive distance in a relationship is not necessarily a clear indicator that the marriage is headed toward dissolution.

Men should be particularly aware of their tone of voice throughout the conversation. Make an effort not to sound gruff or hostile. Instead, strive to maintain a gentle tone that is clear and calm.

How to Tell Your Husband You Want a Divorce

Breaking the news to your husband can be especially difficult for wives to work through. Remember, before you begin the conversation, you need to keep it simple. It is not the time to bring up past hurts or betrayals. A simple script that you have prepared in advance should focus on general unhappiness or primary issues within the relationship. While you tell your spouse that you plan to file for divorce, do not air out your grievances, as it can only make things worse.

Another key tip is to make use of “I statements,” instead of “you statements.” This tactic keeps your husband from feeling defensive and building up an emotional reaction while you speak. By taking responsibility for your own feelings through word choice, your husband will feel less like you blame him for the end of the marriage.

Consider curbing conversations about the specifics of the divorce until a later date. It will be far better to have a team of professionals help you navigate conversations further into the process. Particularly when it comes to negotiations, you will want professionals to help you get what you are entitled to, in order to secure a firmer financial future for yourself.

Keep the Conversation Simple

If you cannot handle the idea of telling your spouse on your own, consider enlisting the help of a third party, such as a therapist or counselor. With someone else present, it may be easier to handle the emotional responses you could face when discussing divorce.

This third party could be especially important if you have an abusive spouse. In situations when you are concerned about your safety, it is always best to refrain from telling your spouse in private. Ensure that you have a third party present or other witnesses that can assist in the fallout from the conversation.

Remember to be kind to your spouse during these conversations. Even when you are met with an emotional response, it is best to remain neutral instead of becoming defensive. To reiterate, this conversation can often serve as an indicator for the future conversations you will need to have regarding the specifics of your settlement. So be sure to guide the conversation toward brevity and simplicity.

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is the host of the “Divorce and Your Money Show” and Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, with offices in Dallas, New York and Hanover, New Hampshire.

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