Divorce — Planning Ahead or Just Reacting?

health-care costsToday we welcome Guest Poster Jared Diamond. He’s not from New Mexico, so please understand he’s writing generally; he’s also not a lawyer. But the points he makes are good to consider. I have some additional thoughts that I’ll add next week.

Divorce: A Reactive or Proactive Animal?

Divorce and poverty often go together like Laurel and Hardy, but some forward-thinking financial planning can help you avoid that pitfall. Most people are well aware of the short-term and obvious financial consequences of divorce, but there are some long-term and hidden consequences as well.

Some attorneys give reactive advice – “if X happens, react by doing Y” – and that works very well in many situations: divorce can be so overwhelming that many attorneys do not want to overburden their clients with excess information. Others, such as Austin based divorce attorney Jim Evans have more success with a proactive approach – “proactively do Y to prevent X from occurring in the first place.”  For attorneys in the proactive school, financial planning for the future starts while the divorce is still ongoing.

Conserving resources

Because mediation is a good option to reduce direct and short-term legal expenses, many attorneys recommend mediation based on the short-term benefits alone. Proactive mediation also has long-term cost benefits: by increasing satisfaction with the outcome, mediation increases compliance and decreases future legal expenses on motions to enforce and other procedures. Because mediation has other benefits, such as decreased conflict and decreased stress, you are more productive and get more done at work and at home, and you take fewer sick days to deal with the emotional stresses and strains of divorce.

Mediation is not always successful, but it is nearly always at least worth a try.

Planning ahead

The reactive school says to get the best deal possible upfront, and deal with any longer-term financial difficulties if and when they arise. Part of the issue may be that some attorneys are not really interested in a long-term relationship with their clients, so there is a tendency to say “look at the favorable divorce property settlement I obtained for you; call someone else if something goes wrong later.”

Even the most basic financial planner knows that what is good today may not be good tomorrow and, in fact, sometimes it may be worth sacrificing a little bit today in order to have a better tomorrow. NPV (No Present Value) assets in a divorce are a prime example: home equity, stock options and retirement accounts to name a few. But these NPV assets are not magic beans that may be worthless; these NPV assets are very valuable in the future.

Home equity is a gold mine once the house is sold, or if the homeowner elects to take out a reverse mortgage later. Stock options may mature into very lucrative assets that can jump start a retirement or a child’s college education. And your share of a retirement account can help give you the financial security you deserve.

While the reactive school may be best in some situations (why bother formulating solutions to problems that may never be an issue?), a proactive divorce attorney is the best advocate for your family, both now and ten years from now.

Jared Diamond writes on a host of personal finance topics. Jared is a graduate of the Ohio State University with a B.A. in Economics and is an active blogger on a number of publications.

When Parents Divorce in Their Children’s Adult Years

iStock_000006933714XSmall(2)This is a follow-up to the 4-part series written earlier by guest writer Mary Murphy, now EdD, as well as LICSW. Mary was researching the impact of divorce on adult children. The earlier posts are found here: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part FourA summary of Mary’s research conclusions follows:

When Parents Divorce in Their Children’s Adult Years

As a follow up to earlier articles about the impact of late parental divorce on adult children, I am excited to share the results of my dissertation research.  The study is now closed. A total of 167 volunteer participants completed the anonymous online surveys and demographic questionnaire.  No known previous research studies have been conducted on the impact of late parental divorce on adult children from an ego strengths perspective.  The results show a relationship between ego strengths and impact of divorce on adult children who were age 23 years and older at the time of their parents’ divorce.  The study also suggests additional areas of research in this area.

I’ll begin with some demographic information about the participants.  Out of the total 167 participants, over 85% were female.  Over 83% of the 167 participants reported their parents had been married between 25 and 39 years.  A total of eight (8) reported their parents had been married 40 years or longer.  Ninety-one participants (54.5%) were between 26 and 48 years old at the time of their parents’ divorce.  A total of 17 participants were between the ages of 50 and 59 at the time the survey was completed.

Of the total number of participants in the analysis, 32.9% fell into the severe range for impact based on the measure used. The ranges show 28.7% in the moderate range, 15.6% in the mild range, and 22.8% in the subclinical range.  The measure asked respondents to answer 15 questions.  The Impact of Event Scale (IES) directions state to answer each question as it is true for the past seven (7) days.

It is important to notice that the impact of late parental divorce on adult children remains relevant well into the adult years as is shown in age span of participants. A total of over 60% fell into the severe and moderate ranges combined on the IES.  A number of participants did not meet all of the clearly stated inclusion criteria but invested the time to complete the two measures and demographic questionnaire anyway. Their participation is a testament to enduring feelings about a largely overlooked age group when it comes to parental divorce.

Finally, ego strengths were measured by Psychosocial Inventory of Ego Strengths which is a measure specifically for ego strengths identified by the developmental theory of Erik Erikson.  Two Eriksonian ego strengths, Competence and Love, were shown to have reliable inverse relationship to the impact of divorce on adult children who were 23 years or older at the time of parental divorce.  In other words, the data from the study clearly shows the ego strengths of Competence and Love were not as strong in those whose parents divorced, even while the children were adults.

The research is intended for multiple audiences, including adult children of divorce and parents who divorce after their children reach adulthood.  Ultimately, most adult children are likely to adapt to their parents’ divorce.  The reparative process begins with parents and adult children acknowledging the losses and grieving.  Participating in compassionate conversation between parents and adult children will be a guide in the new family relationships to follow.

Mary Murphy HC guestMary Murphy, EdD, LICSW has a private psychotherapy practice in Seattle, WA. Contact information can be found at www.mary-murphy.com. Her full doctoral dissertation study entitled Parental Divorce: Relationship Between Ego Strengths and Impact of Divorce on Adult Children, which describes areas in which adult children are impacted by parental divorce, is also available at her website.