Reflecting On What Matters

Reflecting On What Matters

An essential first step when people decide to divorce is figuring out what matters most to them.

 In fact, I decided to offer my new workbook package, Our Family in Two Homes, to help people articulate their priorities before starting the actual divorce process. It’s that important!!

I’ve lost count of how many times the adult children of a divorcing couple field hurt and nurse wounds from their parents’ split – and the older couple did not realize this could happen because their children were already grown!

For couples with children, I hear time and time again that their kids matter most. Often, they’re not worried about money or property because their primary concern is their kids. And people are willing to give up a lot for what they perceive as their kids’ well-being.

But that can only get you so far. There are child support guidelines in the state of Michigan (and in every state), and parties can deviate from the guidelines, but only if there is a good reason to do so. Ultimately, divorcing parents must be able to provide a home and everything their kids need, so making too many financial sacrifices during a divorce won’t help as much as it may hurt.

Also, your kids may be the most important thing to you, but it’s likely they are also top priority to the other parent and you want to be careful not to create a power struggle over your children.

When older couples divorce, they often also emphasize that their family is their priority, and that might include grandchildren, children-in-law and more. Again, preserving those relationships is primary, and if the divorce becomes bitter, that can be hard to do.

I’ve lost count of how many times the adult children of a divorcing couple field hurt and nurse wounds from their parents’ split – and the older couple did not realize this could happen because their children were already grown!

When adult children take sides, it really hurts because not only are you losing your child, but you may lose access to the grandchildren. Be careful not to burden your adult children with your woes or inadvertently make them take sides – it will only hurt everyone in the long-run.

It’s always wise to consider engaging in family counseling when going through a divorce. That way, all parties can have the support they need, and everyone can work toward preserving their prized relationships as they adjust to this new family norm.

Reflecting On What Matters

The end of a calendar year is a good time to reflect on what matters to you. Whether you’re going through a divorce or not, checking in with your priorities and how they inform your life decisions is always time well spent. I recommend doing so once a year at least, to make sure you are in touch with your inner needs and living your life to the best of your ability.

Start a Divorce Case with the End in Mind

Start a Divorce Case with the End in Mind

Start a Divorce Case with the End in Mind

One reason I like Collaborative Divorce so much is that we begin the divorce case with an ideal outcome in mind.

Usually, the divorcing parties want to be collegial and, if they are parents, work together once their marriage is legally over.

With these goals, you make decisions to get there. Often, you don’t want acrimonious opposition or endless arguments because the working-together part won’t happen easily.

Instead, you take steps toward divorce that include listening to the other side, considering a variety of options, and having conversations with an open mind.

It helps that in a Collaborative Divorce, you’re not just supported by a divorce lawyer – you also have the benefit of a financial planner, a divorce coach, and/or a child specialist who come together as your team to help reach your desired outcome.

Whether or not you choose a Collaborative path to divorce, you can begin with the outcome in mind.

If you want easy co-parenting, try to hear the other parent’s desire for time with the children. View other details of custody and parenting time arrangements with that goal in mind.

If you love the house and want to remain in it, consider what the other party might want in exchange for giving you the house.

If you like to vacation Up North every summer for a month, be prepared to give your ex-spouse a month of vacation with the children, too.

Divorcing with the end in mind keeps you on track to negotiate with intellect rather than letting emotions drive the process.

It’s easy to let hurt, anger, resentment and long-held feelings of dissatisfaction cloud judgment – but doing so does not usually lead to a positive next phase of life.


Think big picture.

Think about the tone you want to set for your children. Think about the good times – there had to be some! – and honor and respect the good memories to help you part ways in a good light.

Read more about Collaborative Divorce

New Alimony Tax Laws

New Alimony Tax Laws

New Alimony Tax Laws

This year brought new tax laws, following President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. In my world, the biggest impact of these new tax laws is how it impacts divorcing couples where alimony is involved.

Read about it here.

It used to be that when a divorced spouse paid alimony, the payor could claim 100 percent of that payment as a deduction against earned income. It also meant that the recipient had to pay taxes on that money as income, but presumably at a lower tax rate than the payor.

travel work

New Tax Law Deductions

That’s no longer the case! The new tax law removes the tax deductions and implications on both sides. So, the payor is paying taxes on those monies he or she actually earned. It used to be that tax laws in divorce shifted the tax to the lower-income earner. We are no longer able to shift the tax burden.

This lands the entire family in a situation where there is less money to go around.

New Territory

new alimony tax laws
During the last half of 2018, clients were eager to finish their divorces so they fell under prior tax laws. Now we’re in new territory, and our negotiations have to change. There was so much stress and tension surrounding the idea of the impending changes, trying to figure out how we needed to change the details of divorces going forward. The fact is, these are the facts, this is the situation we have, so we have to make the best of it.
Frankly, divorcing couples must change their expectations for the way their divorce is going to unfold. In my practice, I always tried to look at alimony in real dollars – what a client might receive after paying taxes, or how much of a deduction a client might have when paying alimony. It’s a total pot of how much money you have, and it remains so. Like I did in the past, I continue to give my clients a more realistic number, so they can see the full picture.

Negotiations remain the same as they always were. Now, we are trying to find ways to still derive a tax benefit, and thus far, we’ve found one workaround that works in some cases.

Ultimately, we must work with financial professionals who are skilled in tax law as it applies to divorce, to figure out a new solution, get creative, and find creative solutions to make things better for our clients.

alimony tax laws new
With any change, we must get used to the new way things are, and accept the change as a different way of doing things. It’s not like we have a choice, after all! Making peace with the details is one step toward healing the dissolution of a marriage and stepping wholeheartedly into the next phase of life.

Read more Legal Process posts

The Power of the 11th Hour in Last Minute Divorce Negotiation

The Power of the 11th Hour in Last Minute Divorce Negotiation

The Power of the 11th Hour in Last Minute Divorce Negotiation

Sometimes finding creative ways to reframe divorce settlements can ease tensions.

For example, a client’s husband found it more palatable to pay attorney fees directly to his wife’s attorney rather than to pay his wife money as property settlement which she would then use for her attorney fees. It’s all the same amount of money; creative redistributing can make an easier outcome for all.

Small shifts can make a big difference when feelings of anger, sadness or uncertainty are involved. Although I was prepared to improve my client’s settlement, she and her husband agreed on our bottom-line offer.

If you’re caught up in a last-minute divorce settlement, remember to step back and take a deep breath.

As divorce trials approach, the hours before a court appearance can be filled with last-minute negotiations and rounds of offers and counter-offers.

Emotions between the divorcing couple run high, and it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture, the context and the greater good.

There’s a fine balance between taking on the other person’s perspective to get closer to settlement and making sure you maintain enough of your own perspective that you don’t settle for too little. The offer on the table must be weighed against the cost of extensive attorney fees for trial and the possibility that a mediated or trial settlement could be better or worse.

There is no sure settlement in court, even though the current offer may fall short of your expectations. Weigh in on the costs of continued litigation with the financial reality of the result you seek – and the emotional impact on family members who are directly involved in the restructuring of your family, especially your children.

Read more Legal Process posts