When I am working with clients who are going through a divorce, as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) my focus is helping them understand the financial implications of the divorce. Many of my clients are over the age of 50 and are coming out of a 25, 30 and yes, 40-year marriage. It is sometimes paralyzing for them to make a decision. Why? Because for the past 25, 30 or 40 years their spouse has looked after the finances. So, when I am with them reviewing the proposed settlement their lawyer has negotiated, it gets complicated. And at times, I feel like a divorce coach.
The definition of a divorce coach from the American Bar Association: “Divorce coaching is a flexible, goal-oriented process designed to support, motivate and guide people going through divorce to help them make the best possible decisions for their future, based on their particular interests, needs and concerns.”
Divorce coaches are a relatively new concept in the divorce process. Coaches have been used in other areas to help clients achieve professional and personal goals. I was once told by a personal coach that a coach works with clients on present and future goals; that it is not counselling. A coach serves a different role – to build one’s confidence in being accountable and making choices to attain goals.
Many of my clients say they feel like they are on an emotional rollercoaster with all the decisions that they must make during the divorce process. Do I keep the house or sell it and downsize? Who gets the family cottage, or can we share it?
Some clients are terrified of the thought of being responsible for their own finances. In that situation, I support and empower them to understand that they can handle their own personal budget. When they are creating their personal budget, we review every expense and discuss whether it is a need or a want. This gives them the power to take control of what their finances will look like going forward.
For other clients, it is getting them to believe they are quite capable of understanding how the assets and equalization payments are paid once they sign the settlement agreement their lawyer has negotiated for them. For some, they are afraid they will ask a stupid question.
When it comes to your financial future, there are no stupid questions and no judgment. So yes, at times I feel like a divorce coach but I am not.