How To Move On After Divorce

A moving truck helping someone move on after divorce.

Three things you need to do to successfully move on after divorce.

When I think about all the work I do as a divorce and personal life coach and how I help people navigate the chaos and confusion of divorce so they can get on to living the best of their lives, I realize that the bulk of my work really involves 3 tasks.  I work with people who want to move on after their divorce people so they can:

  1. Take care of themselves
  2. Separate the present from the past and create their future
  3. Realize they’re not alone

These are three tasks everyone is required to complete to be able to successfully move on from divorce.

So many people who get divorced give up on themselves.  I was one of them.  I gave up on myself when I got divorced.  I thought that since I’d failed at my most important relationship what’s the point?  Why bother doing anything more than go through the motions of living?  Yes, this was the voice of me experiencing melodrama and situational depression.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, my work as a divorce coach over the last few years has taught me that most people feel a version of this when they get divorced and that it’s not a place anyone should stay for long.

It’s vital that you take care of yourself when you get divorced.  It’s the only way you’ll be able to move on and discover what’s possible for you.  (You’ve also got to take care of yourself to take care of your kids too.)  Taking care of yourself involves things like eating appropriately, getting enough sleep, finding employment if you don’t have it already and asking for help when you need it.

The next big piece of work everyone who’s ready to move on from their divorce needs to complete is separating the present from the past and taking the steps necessary to create the future they really want.

This recognition of the difference between the past, present and future is the focus of any type of coaching.  Most coaches call it closing the gap between where you are now and where you want to be.

However, with divorce, things are a bit trickier because there’s usually such a strong pull back to the past and wanting to understand why the divorce is happening not to mention grieving the marriage and all that went with it.

Don’t worry if you feel like this is the hardest part of moving on from your divorce because this is the one task that most people have the most difficult time with.  The key to completing this particular task quickly is to have appropriate support.  You might look for the support you want and deserve from a family member, friend, clergy, therapist or divorce coach.  Just make sure that the person or people you’re getting support from really know what it’s like to get through divorce and can help you move on from your divorce quickly and completely.

The third task is the one that really helps people make quantum leaps toward their desired futures post-divorce.  Getting involved in a divorce support group or workshop that focuses on both commiserating AND accountability is the quickest way for you to realize that you’re not all alone when you’re going through divorce.

Unfortunately, not all divorce recovery groups are created equal, so you’ll want to do a bit of research to find the one that will work best for you.  You’ll want to ask anyone you know who’s taken a divorce workshop if their workshop provided both an opportunity to share what they were going through AND accountability for moving forward between classes/sessions.  You can also ask your attorney for a recommendation of a good class in the area.  Here are three websites for organizations that offer divorce recovery workshops that you can check out: Divorce Care, Rebuilding Workshops, and When Your Relationship Ends Workshops.

If you’re ready to successfully move on from your divorce, realize that there are only 3 things you need to do: 

  1. Take care of yourself
  2. Separate the present from the past and create your future
  3. Join a community so you recognize that you’re not alone in getting through your divorce

Once you start your work on completing these tasks you’ll develop the focus and determination to not only move on from your divorce, but to get on to making the rest of your life the best of your life.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

Which of the three tasks to moving on from divorce do you need to pay the most attention to right now?  Most of us like to think that we need to multi-task to get things done – including healing from divorce, but that’s just not true.  All that anyone can truly focus on at any instant is one thing, so start at the top of the list and see, if you need to take care of yourself, if you need to separate now from the past and design your future, or if you need to search for and join a divorce support group.

What help do you need to accomplish this one task?  When you’re going through divorce, just about everything becomes a bit more difficult to do because of the huge changes divorce brings with it.  It’s 100% OK to ask for some help.  So go ahead and ask for the help you need.  You’re worth it!

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice or take the first step to work with me as your personal coach.

© 2013 Karen Finn. All rights reserved under all copyright conventions.

A Designer’s Perspective

This week Hugh Scarbrough, ASID, RID, owner and founder of Hugh Scarbrough Interior Design, LLC, is our guest blogger. Hugh realizes design dreams for his clients that reflect their lifestyles, building client relationships for a lifetime. Touting more than ten years in the industry, he seamlessly blends his exprertise, education as a registered interior designer, and retail/worldwide travel experiences that serve his clients well.

To learn more about Hugh and his work, visit www.hughinteriors.com.

Summertime. June has arrived and so have the “lazy, sunny, and hot days” of summer! It is time for picnics, water sports and relaxing vacations. It is also a perfect time to create a new look in your home or summer retreat.

This year colors abound in design for summer. As I walked through the new fabric showrooms recently, I noticed the bright and colorful prints and paint colors: Chartreuse green; magenta pink; sunny yellow; striking blue; powerful red. Truly colors of the season! Seeing these beautiful colors sparked my excitement about the fun it is to incorporate summer colors into a home.

With the beginning of summer and a transition in your life, perhaps this is an excellent time to create a new look for your home, make a fresh start, and build lasting memories. Whether your style is contemporary or traditional, the bright summer colors may be integrated into the design you choose.

You may have a reluctance to create a new look in your home due to painful memories, including items of certain colors. If one or more of the bright summer colors ignite uncomfortable and/or angry feelings, for example, you may want to look at the colors from a different perspective. As it is important to have the “right” balance of color in a room, using those colors differently may create a fun and uplifting environment.

If you seek guidance from a professional interior designer, express the style you would like to create and the challenges you may be having with certain feelings, such as anger or anxiety. Colors have enormous impact on our moods. Red, for example, increases physical energy and vitality; at the same, it may provoke anger. If red is negative for you, focusing on greens, blues, and even yellows may be the wise direction for re-doing the design in your home. The color green supports balance and harmony. Blue denotes calmness and peace. And yellow increases lightness and personal power. A true balance for our homes and our lives.

As you are making plans for the summer, it is the perfect time to take a look at your home or “escape” retreat. Perhaps a new and nurturing design look may just be the answer!

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

How can you add a bit of summer to your home? I love glass sculpture and I’ve recently added some beautiful aqua vases to my office to make it more summery. You might want to add a throw pillow or a throw to your home to bring the sunshine inside.

© 2013 Karen Finn. All rights reserved under all copyright conventions.

Do You REALLY Trust Yourself?

Man quizzically peering from behind a blue wall wondering about trust and divorce recovery.

Divorce is one of those life events that can cause you to question EVERYTHING.

At least that’s what happened for me. Somehow my change of marital status caused me to wonder if anything about my life was what I thought it was– was any of it real? How could I know what was real and what wasn’t? After all, I had thought I’d be married to my ex-husband for the rest of my life and that wasn’t true so what really was true about the rest of my life? I felt hopelessly lost.

Slowly, though, I began to understand that the only path out of a life of being hopelessly lost was to begin to trust myself again. I needed to believe that I could trust myself and that I was the only one who would know what was and wasn’t true for me. Knowing which path to take is different from actually walking down the path. The walk, for me, took a while because I was walking blind-folded.

When I look back at that time in my life, I know that it took me longer to walk the path to self-trust than it might have. I didn’t know where the path was headed or what was required of me to successfully walk it. But I know it now. I know the path now because of my own journey and because of the journeys I’ve been honored to watch my clients make too.

I’m going to share my knowledge with you so you will be able to walk your own path back to self-trust without a blindfold.

Before I start with the how-to’s of building self-trust, it’s important to define the term. Self-trust is the ability to make decisions, to know that your emotions and feelings are real, and to take care of yourself. It’s a fairly lengthy definition, isn’t it? Basically, self-trust involves trusting yourself on EVERY level – cognitively, emotionally, logically, intuitively and physically.

I’ll bet you’re wondering, “With a concept this big, where do I start?” You start with a decision to build your self-trust and then you roll up your sleeves and begin to work. It won’t be (at least not for most of us) a magical process that once you make the decision you’ll automatically have a wonderful sense of self-trust, but with consistent work you’ll definitely make significant progress in a fairly short period of time.

Here are 6 steps you can use to build your self-trust:

1. Eliminate victim mentality. Victim mentality is living in the belief that things happen to you and you have zero impact, influence or control over what happens to you. I’m not suggesting that you can’t be a victim. What I’m suggesting is that you don’t want to let that be your entire story. Yes, bad things do happen and you can choose how you move on from those things.

As an example, suppose you are divorcing because your spouse cheated on you. You can either live the rest of your life feeling like a victim of your spouse’s choice or you can come to accept that your spouse’s choice was hurtful and you can still move on with the rest of your life regardless of what your spouse has done.

2. Eliminate negative thoughts about yourself. Regardless of whether or not you’re going through divorce, most of us have negative self-talk – you know, those voices in your head that are constantly criticizing you in some way. A friend of mine calls them the shitty committee. Learning to quiet those voices and recognize them for what they are is an incredibly powerful skill.

Most of the time, those hyper-critical voices are that way because they’re trying to protect you from something. For years, my negative self-talk revolved around not liking myself. It took a while for me understand what was behind those messages, but I finally realized that it was because I wasn’t trusting myself to know what was best for me. I would often defer what I wanted to what my ex-husband wanted. Once I came to this realization, it was much easier for me to quiet those negative thoughts and pay more attention to what I wanted.

3. Recognize your strengths and successes. This has a lot to do with self-esteem and knowing that you are capable because you have innate strengths and because you’ve been successful in the past.

I’ve written a previous blog post about how to do this and instead of re-writing it here, I’ll just direct you to that post: https://drkarenfinn.com/divorce-blog/dealing-with-grief/118-a-quick-and-simple-way-to-dump-divorce-depression

4. Become aware of what you’re thinking and feeling. Now that you’ve eliminated a bunch of the stinking thinking in the first 3 steps, you’re ready to start being pro-active with building your self-trust and it all begins with paying attention to what you’re thinking and feeling (both physically and emotionally).

There are a couple of different ways to do this. The first is to ask yourself at least 3 times during each day just what you’re thinking and feeling at that particular moment. Once you have that answer you can then decide what if anything you want to do to improve how you’re thinking and feeling. The second way is to journal about your thoughts and feelings. Most people are more aware of their thoughts than their feelings. If this is you, you might want to journal by using the phrase “I feel…” as many times as you need to so you can get everything out.

5. Keep your word to yourself. Believe it or not we all make promises to ourselves every day: “I won’t eat any more sweets”, “I will start a daily exercise routine today”, “As soon as I finish this report, I’ll take a break to clear my head before starting my next task.” The thing is that despite our promises we wind up eating a fresh-baked cookie a friend brought over to share, we skip a day of exercise and soon we’ve stopped exercising all together, and we skip taking a break because we talk ourselves into believing we didn’t really need it after all. Breaking promises we make to ourselves, sets us up to have a poor level of self-trust.

I used to be especially bad at keeping my promises to myself involving rest, relaxation and fun. I’d usually feel guilty if I wasn’t working and pushing myself all the time and yet I’d hate myself for not taking care of me. It was really a vicious cycle. What I discovered by allowing myself to keep my word to myself about rest, relaxation and fun was that I had LOTS more energy for getting my work and workouts done.

6. Learn from your mistakes. This is the biggie when it comes to divorce. It takes two for a marriage to not work. (I know that might be an offensive statement to some, but it’s what I believe and if you’d like to discuss it with me, please do! You can reach me at karen@drkarenfinn.com.) Learning what your part in the divorce was will go a long way toward helping you build your sense of self-trust because you’ll know that you can take care of yourself.

It took me a while to recognize that I played an active part in my divorce, that I wasn’t a victim, and that there were things I could learn from my failed marriage.

Yes, this is really the master’s level of self-trust. Being able to realize that you are going to make mistakes at times and still trust yourself because you are willing to learn from your mistakes will allow you to take appropriate risks and live a wonderful life.

Once you’ve conquered these 6 steps, you’ll be well on your way to trusting yourself again. So, the next time something happens in your life that changes everything, your ability to trust yourself will help prevent you from feeling hopelessly lost again. Even if you do wind up questioning EVERYTHING, you’ll be able to trust your answers because you’ve learned to trust yourself.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

Make the decision that you can trust yourself even if you aren’t sure you do right now. Making the decision is always the first step in making a change. Learning to trust yourself is critical to having a wonderful life. Emerson said “Self-trust is the first secret to success” and I agree completely!

Take the checklist above one step at a time. Start at the top of the list and work your way through each step. Some may be easier for you to do than others and you may want to re-do some steps along the way, but if you work through them in this order it will be easier for you to master each of them.

Know your limits. This is one of those extra bonus things about trusting yourself. As you trust yourself more you’ll know exactly when you need to ask for help and what kind of help you need.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice or schedule a confidential consultation with me.

If you’re looking for more help recovering from your divorce, read more articles in Healing After Divorce.

Part 3: How To Decrease Stress When You’re Going Through Divorce

I enjoy watching Project Runway because of the amazing outfits the contestants make. This season there was one designer, Patricia, who was the stereotypical creative genius. Her creativity was AMAZING and her workspace was a total disaster. In fact, the state of her space made others on the show concerned!

Patricia’s workspace and the response others had to it made me laugh with a touch of embarrassment because, like Patricia, when I start working on a project, I’m not neat. I have things strewn all over the place which really wouldn’t be bad except for the fact that I’m on to the next project before I’ve cleaned up the debris from the first one. After a few projects, my office looks like the Tasmanian devil from the Bugs Bunny cartoons has paid a visit. I tell myself that what matters is getting the next project done, but what I’ve FINALLY realized is that the general disaster area that I let my workspace become really impacts not only my ability to work, but how comfortable people (including me) feel coming into my office!

So 3 weeks ago, I had the help of an amazing professional organizer, Ashley Easley of MasterPeace Solutions. She helped me fine-tune what I was doing into a really workable process that easily allows me to be creative with my projects and keep things nicely organized. Now I feel good and energized being in my office. I’ve also noticed that everyone else is less reluctant to enter now too.

And here’s how this all matters to you. Even in the best of times, your environment plays a big part in how you feel. When you’re going through divorce, you’re even more sensitive to your environment.

A lot of the stress of divorce comes from a sense of not being in control of the situations you find yourself in. Having your surroundings unorganized adds to the general sense of chaos and loss of control. So, one way many people find to decrease the stress they feel during divorce is to organize and clean. Then there are others (and, yes, I fell into this category) who just look at the disorganization as being too much to deal with and then don’t do anything.

Just in case you’re like me, I’m going to share with you Ashley’s 5 C’s of Organizing. I know that if I had had these 5 C’s back then, the plan would have given me hope that I could indeed help my stress by organizing my surroundings OR that there were professionals available to help me.

  1. Categorize – Sort like items together. When Ashley was helping me with my office we had a bunch of papers on my desk that needed to be dealt with. She helped me divide everything into piles on the floor of “to be filed”, “recycle”, “shred”, “needs more work”, and “goes in another place”.
  2. Consolidate – Once we had the piles created (or really anytime the piles got too big for me to look at) I shredded what needed to be shredded and deposited the things from the recycle pile into the recycle bin in the garage.
  3. Create – Once we had a handle on what needed to stay in my office and what needed to leave, we were able to figure out where everything needed to go and create space for it.
  4. Contain – What I needed to help me get my office under control was file folders and letter boxes. By creating specific spots to put all the papers that I deal with as part of my work, it’s been TONS easier to find what I need when I need it and to put things away when I’m done with them.
  5. Continue – This is where I was really concerned, would I be able to continue keeping things in their proper places and getting rid of the things I didn’t need any more? Well, I’m not batting 1000 yet, but I’m doing pretty great! You can judge for yourself by taking a look at the before and after photos of my office. (Yes, I took the after photo today.)

You can use this same technique to tackle one area of your home or office that is adding to the chaos of your divorce. It might be a drawer, closet, desk, room or even your attic! Today’s Your Functional Divorce Assignment will help you de-stress your environment.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

Pick the one area you want to take control of. I suggest starting small at first. You’ve got a lot going on and being easy on yourself as you go through this process will make it more likely you’ll successfully finish it.

Schedule a block of time where you can focus on gaining control of the area. If you have kids, you might want to choose a weekend when the kids are with their other parent.

Put Ashley’s 5C’s of Organization to work. Having used the 5 C’s with Ashley, I can tell you, it’s pretty easy to follow when you have the discipline to do it and not get caught up in “rediscovering” what you’ve unearthed. I was thankful to have Ashley around to help me focus on completing the job. And, with the focus she provided, we made amazing progress in our time together!

Ask for help if you need it. It’s truly OK to ask for help to keep you focused on gaining control of the area you’ve picked. You might want to call a friend to support you, call your coach to keep you accountable, or hire a professional organizer like Ashley!

Enjoy. Yes, the last step is to enjoy the fruits of your labor and the greater sense of peace from having a little less chaos in your life.

And in case you missed them, here are links to part 1 and part 2.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly adviceIf you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

 

© 2013 Karen Finn. All rights reserved under all copyright conventions.

8 Documents To Update After Your Divorce

Man working on updating documents after his divorce.

If you don’t update them, you won’t like what happens.

There are just a ton of legal, financial and medical documents you’re expected to keep track of to help protect and provide for you (and your family) in all kinds of different situations. For most of us it is overwhelming to try to understand and manage it all – especially when you’re going through the divorce roller coaster of emotions.

Unfortunately, there are lots of people who don’t bother with updating or changing any document outside of the divorce decree. That’s where the problems start. For example, if you were to forget to update the beneficiary to your IRA, your ex could inherit it.

Because it is so difficult to keep track of all the documents you might have and want to update when you get divorced, here’s a list of some of the more common documents you’ll want to make sure to update when you get divorced. (You’ll also want to review them on a yearly basis too.)

  • Retirement Plans (e.g., 401K, IRA, pension plan, etc.)* Retirement plans are monies set aside for an individual’s retirement. When the individual dies, their beneficiary will receive these monies.
  • Life Insurance Policy* A life insurance policy can provide for your family after your death and pay for your funeral costs.
  • Will & Trust* These documents can identify the persons or entities that will receive your property when you die, for you to appoint a guardian for your minor children, appoint those you wish to manage your estate, and revoke or alter a previous will. Remember to update your beneficiaries to reflect your new marital status. You’ll probably also want to review the guardians and managers of your estate.**
  • W-4* This document helps your employer to withhold the correct federal income tax from your pay. With your changed marital status, you might want to adjust your number of dependents to reflect your newly single status.**
  • Medical Treatment Authorization and Consent Form* This form is important when your children are not with either a parent or legal guardian. Because your children are probably in different care situations than before your divorce, you might want to make sure whomever is watching your children can help your children get appropriate medical care should they need it.**
  • Medical Power of Attorney* This document designates a person whom you trust to make health care decisions on your behalf should you be unable to make those decisions. You’ll probably want to make sure you update who this person is.**
  • Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates* A directive helps you communicate your wishes about medical treatment if you are no longer to make decisions due to illness or incapacity. Most people have their spouse listed as the person to make these decisions. If this is what you’ve done, you’ll probably want to make sure to update who this person is.**
  • HIPPA Authorizations at each of your doctors* The HIPPA allows you to indicate who besides you may have access to your medical information. We usually complete these forms allowing the doctor’s office to leave your healthcare information with our spouse. If you did this, you might want to change this at each of your doctor’s offices.**

* The purposes identified in this list are just casual descriptions. For legal descriptions, you’ll want to contact the appropriate authority.
** The changes to consider are just suggestions. You’ll want to work with the appropriate authority to verify which changes are appropriate for you.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

Which of these documents do you have? For each of the documents listed in the table that you’ve already got, take the time to review and update them.

Which of these documents are you missing? For each of the documents you are missing, look at the purpose of the document and see if you want or need to have it. For each document that you want or need, have the appropriate professional create it for you.

Where are your documents? There are some documents that you’ll want to keep handy. You’ll want to make sure that the appropriate family members know where your documents are kept. You’ll probably also want to make copies of the documents for yourself and family members so everyone who might need them has them.

There are other documents, like the HIPPA Authorizations at each of your doctor’s offices, which someone else will keep the originals of so that you’ll just have copies. You’ll want to keep tabs on these as well so you’ll have an easy time updating them next year.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

If you’re looking for more help on how to navigate the challenges of your life now, read more articles on Life After Divorce.

Changing Your Mood Might Be As Easy As Changing Your Shirt

One of the most curious things that happened when I was going through my divorce was that I started to wear black almost all the time. What was so curious about it was that I had always loved color, but for some reason I didn’t understand then, I was drawn to wearing all black for quite a while. It was really different for me and many of my friends commented on my new wardrobe choices.

At the time, I didn’t think too much about it. And after about 6 months, I started to wear more colorful clothing again.

A few years ago, while doing research about emotions and ways that environment affects our moods, I found there is a wealth of research on how colors affect our moods and vice versa. I was really surprised by what I learned because it explained why I had been drawn to different colors while I was going through the worst of my divorce.

Here are some of the things I’d like to share with you about color and how it can affect or reflect feelings:

Black Many of us associate the color black with mourning and that was my first guess as to why I was drawn to it during the worst of my divorce.  Well, according to color therapy theory, black is also the color that gives us space for reflection and inner searching.  I have to tell you that I was doing a whole lot of thinking and trying to figure things out while going through my divorce and so this makes a lot of sense to me.
Blue Blue is the color of a beautiful Caribbean sea and the color of a sunny sky.  Like a sunny day spent lazing on the beach, blue is the color of relaxation.  Color theorists say that blue also promotes relaxation and healing.
Red Red is a VERY energizing color.  You probably remember from watching cartoons when you were a kid that when characters were angry their eyes became red.  You’ve probably also heard the phrase “seeing red” to indicate that someone is angry.  Red intensifies emotions, especially anger.
Yellow Yellow is an interesting color from a color theory point of view.  It is said to stimulate mental activity, promote feelings of self-confidence and increase alertness.  Who wouldn’t want a healthy dose of those feelings?
White White light contains all the colors.  If you need clarity in your thoughts, white may just be the color you need to see more of.

So does this color theory work? Many believe it does. I know that I enjoy being surrounded by colors and that some days I prefer one color over another. I know that when I feel confident and calm, I do tend to wear blue. When I’m feeling vibrant, I tend to choose red. And when I need things to be more organized and clean, I tend to choose white.

What color are you wearing today? Is it a reflection of your mood or thoughts? Is it just the first clean thing you grabbed to put on? Or is it your signature color? You just might be surprised about what the color of your shirt says about how you’re feeling and thinking.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

Determine if color therapy could be useful in your life. This week, have some fun noting the colors you wear each day and how you feel. At the end of the week, compare your color/mood combinations to the list above and see if your moods matched the colors.

If you find a correlation between the colors you wore and your moods, experiment with adding more of the colors you were wearing when you felt good. Adding pops of the colors that help you to feel good into your home and office could help you to get back to and maintain a good feeling.

If you don’t find a correlation between the colors you wore and your moods, don’t worry, it just means that you’re probably not especially sensitive to colors right now.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice or schedule a private consultation with me.

If you’re looking for more help to change your mood after divorce, read more articles about Healing After Divorce.

Divorce Is Tough. The Mortgage Doesn’t Have To Be.

Should your life after divorce include living in the marital home?

By Mark Watson, Loan Officer, Guardian Mortgage Company, Inc.
www.guardianmortgageonline.com

This is a terrific article. It’s jam-packed with information that I am so happy to be able to share! I’ve added just a few comments in square brackets [].

If you are going through a divorce, you are probably exhausted by all the details and decisions that have to be made as the two of you separate. Even in the most amicable situations it can be very emotional. [Remember there are the 5 facets of divorce – social, emotional, legal, financial and functional – that all overlap. So it makes sense that in the midst of making the decisions required to divorce that you would experience a lot of emotions.]

There is usually a lot of discussion about the house as it usually represents the family’s largest asset. [Dealing with an asset would be an example of the financial facet of divorce. When dealing with the financial facet of divorce it’s best to remain primarily in a business mindset instead of an emotional one because you’ll be better able to make decisions you can live with for the long haul.]

While divorce is a tough process, resolving the mortgage doesn’t have to be. According to Mark Watson, Vice President of Guardian Mortgage Company in Plano, Texas, there are three things homeowners can do to make it easier on themselves:

  1. Make realistic decisions.
  2. Understand your loan options.
  3. Seek help.

Make Realistic Decisions.

In many divorces, the home is refinanced in the name of one of the spouses and any profit or losses are negotiated between the couple. Sometimes the home is sold, and sometimes there is a long-term agreement in place about the home. Occasionally, a house with no mortgage is given to one spouse as part of the divorce settlement.

“It makes no difference to the mortgage company whether or not the name changes on the mortgage,” notes Watson. “However, the spouse no longer living in the home usually does not want to be responsible for it. Plus, they may want some cash out of it.”

If your house is paid off, a quit claim deed can be an easy solution to home ownership in a divorce settlement and make your life after divorce easier.

If there is no mortgage on the home, and one spouse plans to keep it as part of the settlement, the process is simple. “The attorney prepares a quit-claim deed and records it as part of the divorce,” says Watson. “The home belongs to just one spouse from that point forward.”

Most homes have a mortgage, though. There are a number of questions that must be answered in order to pick the right process for your situation, but the most important is “which spouse can afford to keep the home after the divorce?” It is often the most difficult as there is often a lot of emotional attachment towards the house that may not have anything to do with the financial realities of the situation. [The best way to answer these questions is from a business-minded perspective. The “businesses” to be considered are the financial business of each spouse post-divorce as well as the business of raising happy, healthy children. In other words, you need to keep in mind what your life after divorce will really be like if you choose to keep the house.]

The spouse with primary custody of the children will often want to keep the home to provide a stable environment and to stay near school and friends.

“I often see couples where the wife isn’t working and hasn’t worked in years,” says Bruce Rayburn of The Rayburn Group of Ebby Halliday Realtors based in Plano, Texas. “This makes it very hard to qualify for a refinance. Even if both spouses were working at the time of the divorce, it doesn’t mean either spouse can afford the mortgage with only one salary.”

“Even getting child support is often not enough,” Rayburn adds.

Besides the amount of income required to qualify for a refinance, the source of the income makes a difference. “For conforming loans ($417,000 or less in most areas of Texas), alimony and child support cannot count towards qualifying income until there have been at least three months of steady payments. In addition, the paying spouse must be required by law to pay for at least three years after the closing date of the sale,” notes Watson.

“For FHA Loans, the requirement is six months of payment. Furthermore, if the amount of alimony or child support is greater than 30% of the borrower’s income, then a full year’s worth of reliable payments is required.”

[Regardless of where you live you need to know a lot about what the legalities and implications of keeping the house are as you make decisions that will impact your post-divorce lifestyle and residence.]

Understand Your Loan Options.

Many couples believe that they have to sell or refinance the home in order to finalize the divorce, which is not always the case. Sometimes sale or refinance of the home is delayed for months to years. 

According to attorney Penny Phillips of Plano, Texas, many families with children want to keep the family home for them until they are older and/or in college. “In this case, one spouse will sometimes agree to wait to get the equity out of the house until after the children have left,” says Phillips.

In Texas, a lien can be placed on the house – called an Owelty Lien Agreement – such that one spouse will own the house, but the other will still retain rights to equity that was present in the house at the time of the divorce. This gives the first spouse the right to make improvements and to own the home, but the second spouse will get his or her share of the equity later when the kids are grown or the market improves or whatever reason the couple has chosen to wait.

“It is a win-win because the owner-spouse gets the benefit of all improvements and equity growth in the meantime, but the other spouse still gets the benefit of all the years of contributing to the equity when they were married,” adds Phillips.

“Since the home is not sold or refinanced, there is no need for the remaining spouse to get qualified for a new mortgage until the cash-out time. They just need to keep making timely payments. This is a good solution for situations where the divorce is fairly amicable and the spouses can work together for this common goal. I always advise that they tell the mortgage company about the divorce, however, as both partners need to continue to get notices about the loan,” says Phillips.

[Keep in mind that just because a divorce starts out amicably doesn’t mean it will stay that way. So making sure that both spouses continue to get notices about the loan is a smart decision. After all, keeping life after divorce amicable between exes requires regular, respectful communication, but tempers can still flare despite the best efforts.]

“We generally see Owelty Liens when a couple is in the process of refinancing the home,” notes Watson. “You don’t need to wait a specific amount of time to use it, and it has the added benefit of letting you do a “special purpose” refinance and go up to 95% of the appraised value of the home. This provides more equity at the end of the process.

“Current “cash-out” guidelines for refinancing in Texas allow for financing up to 80% of the loan value. A special purpose refinance allows you to get an extra 15% out of the home, which is then shared between the couple as per the terms of their divorce. I always talk to my clients about Owelty Liens because it can make a big difference if one partner is trying to buy another home, for example. Also, if the other partner finds out after the fact that they could have gotten more cash out of the refinance and didn’t, it can cause more unhappiness all around.”

Seek Help.

Dividing up the marriage assets is emotional and financially risky if you are not sure what you are doing. Early in the divorce, both spouses should consult their mortgage provider, realtor and CPA as well as an attorney in order to review their options and the financial and tax consequences of certain decisions. These objective outsiders will help you navigate your particular situation and direct you to other resources. In addition, they can act as a go-between if the divorce is contentious.

[One other divorce professional you may want to contact when dealing with the financial questions of divorce is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. These professionals are trained in how to help couples develop different scenarios for an equitable division of their assets and debts so they’ll each have a better picture of what their financial life after divorce will be like.]

“It is a false economy to do a divorce yourself. I’ve seen couples ruin their credit by doing it wrong. In one case, so many mistakes were made; one partner almost went to jail. It’s not worth it,” said Phillips. “Plus the experts can tell you about Owelty Liens and other ways to get the best out of a bad situation.”

“Lack of communication makes the divorce harder,” says Rayburn. “I often will work with both spouses in a divorce to help sell the old home, refinance and/or find a new, less expensive home if that is their post-divorce reality. I’ve even helped people through multiple relationships over the years because I was able to facilitate communications between the parties.”

“I often give my clients a list of good appraisers to call on,” says Watson. “Even if they don’t plan to sell or refinance right away, they need an appraisal in order to fairly determine the value of the home for the divorce settlement. I can then take that appraisal and show them how much equity is in the house so they can have more meaningful discussions.”

As with most issues related to divorce, there is no single best way to handle your mortgage. Divorcing couples must take a long look at their finances, and make realistic decisions based on a thorough understanding of their options.

Have more questions about how to handle your mortgage through divorce? Contact an experienced loan officer like Mark Watson at Guardian Mortgage Company today about your specific situation. Guardian Mortgage Company has been serving North Texas since 1965. Mark Watson (214) 473-7954.

Your Life After Divorce Assignment:

If you’re at the point of trying to decide what to do with the marital home, focus on the business decision you need to make. Despite how much you are attached to your home, the fact is it’s just a thing, a place. Spending your energy deciding how to best deal with this marital asset instead of what it represents will help you come to the best decision for you – the decision that you’ll be most comfortable with financially and emotionally in the long haul.

If it’s difficult for you to separate the business aspect of this decision from the emotional one, give me a call at 817-993-0561 so we can schedule a Complimentary Consultation and together we’ll figure out a way for you to have an easier time making the decisions you need to make as part of your divorce and make your life after divorce as good as it can be.

You don’t have to go through this alone. I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor. I understand what you’re going through because I’ve been through it too. I’ve been helping people just like you who are dealing with all the stress and pain of divorce since 2007. You can join my anonymous newsletter list for free weekly advice or email me directly for a free consultation at Karen@functionaldivorce.com.

Are you looking for more tips about setting yourself up for your best possible post-divorce life? You can find more great information at Life After Divorce.

All Tangled Up?

Have you ever felt all tangled up on the inside and didn’t know which direction to turn?

Or maybe you’ve felt that you’re stuck in quicksand and it’s taking all your effort to just make it through each day?

Or worse, you’ve felt that you’re wearing a choke-chain of all your responsibilities and don’t really know who you are anymore?

Don’t worry. I’ve been there. In fact, everyone I know who has been through divorce has been there before too. Overwhelm can be hard to overcome and yet it’s a common part of divorce. Knowing how to get through it or stop it all together is a critical skill to develop. What I’m going to share with you today are some of the techniques I regularly use with myself, my family and my clients when things start to feel overwhelming.

1. Change your story.

When I was finding my way through the aftermath of my divorce, I used to tell myself really scary stories. They were stories of doom and I told them over and over again – like a broken recording. I was feeling overwhelmed and the stories I told myself made things worse. I didn’t see any way that I could ever stop the chaos I was living in. I felt like I was performing and not really living. I was really miserable!

But, things slowly changed when I started changing my internal story. Instead of envisioning a life of doom and destruction, my stories became more about experiencing sadness and then more about being tired of the sadness and imagining what changes I could make. And then, I started actually making changes – some really big changes. I started living again instead of feeling like a prisoner of circumstances.

It can be the same for you. Simply by changing the story you’re telling yourself, you can dramatically (even if it takes time like it did for me) change your life for the better and stop feeling overwhelmed.

2. Take care of you first.

For those of us who have a tendency to get burned out, when we feel stressed about out divorce it can be especially easy to forget about taking care of ourselves and just focus on what needs to be done for others instead. After all, they’re depending on us, right?

It’s easy for me to identify a new client who isn’t taking care of themselves because they have a difficult time answering questions like

  • Are you getting enough sleep?
  • Are you exercising?
  • Are you eating nutritious meals?

in the affirmative. They’ll squirm a bit before answering or try to deflect the question with a joke or some explanation as to why they can’t sleep or exercise or eat well.

If you can’t honestly say you’re getting enough sleep, adequate exercise and eating well, you would probably benefit from taking better care of yourself. Taking care of yourself isn’t an afterthought – something you do after you take care of the rest of your responsibilities. Taking care of yourself is VITAL to you being able to take care of your responsibilities. Without your physical well-being, you won’t be able to take care of anyone or anything else, so, please, make sure you’re putting you first and treating yourself well.

3. See the lighter side and laugh.

Somehow, when things are really miserable and you’re just not sure how you’re going to deal with one more pressure, there comes a moment when you realize just how ridiculous everything is – all the pressure and stress suddenly become laughable. I’ve found the best thing to do when I reach that point is to laugh. I’m not talking about a simple tee-hee-hee or chuckle, I’m talking about a really deep from the gut laugh.

Laughter is a great cure for stress and overwhelm. It causes you to loosen some muscles and tighten others. It requires you to breathe differently and it gets some different hormones flowing through your body – the kinds that help you to feel better.

In working with my clients, I often incorporate really bad jokes to get some laughter going. Laughing always lightens the mood and allows my clients to see things from a slightly different angle and break the strangle hold overwhelm had on them.

With overwhelm and stress being such common elements of our daily lives – not to mention divorce, these 3 simple ideas can be a great springboard for you to prevent yourself from succumbing to burn out.

Your Functional Divorce Coaching Assignment:

The next time you’re feeling stressed out, pick one of the 3 suggestions above and try it out. After all what have you got to lose besides your stress? I know that if you consistently take the necessary steps to help you deal with the stress of your divorce, you’ll be better able to manage it.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And if you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

© 2013 Karen Finn. All rights reserved under all copyright conventions.

Have A Great Online Dating Experience

Dating after divorce can be confusing. After all, it’s probably been a while since you last dated and things have CHANGED since then.

One of the biggest changes in dating over the last 10-15 years is the number of people who use online dating services. Did you know there are even websites dedicated to letting you know who the top online dating services are? These services are a BIG business and it’s OK to use them. When my clients decide to start dating, most of them use an online dating service or two. Heck I even used one to meet my 2nd (and current) husband.

Online dating, just like any other kind of dating, is terrific IF you’re aware of these three pitfalls.

The first pitfall is lack of safety. I’ve heard stories from both men and women about some positively scary situations they found themselves in when they met a date. Here are some key things you can do to be a bit safer when you date online:

When you’re using an online dating service, be careful of your identity. Don’t use your full name on your profile that’s open to the public.

Ask the other person for their number, don’t freely give yours away. It’s OK to block your number and make your first call(s) anonymously.

For heaven’s sake, DON’T give someone you’ve never met your address to come pick you up. When you’re ready to meet someone, arrange to meet them someplace public. Park someplace where there are lots of others coming and going. It’s also a good idea to let someone know someone know where you are going to be meeting your date and have them call if they haven’t heard from you in a couple of hours.

The second pitfall is looking for a spouse instead of learning to date. One of the most common things I see people do when they’re starting to date again is to focus on finding a spouse instead of focusing on dating. There’s a big difference between the two!

When you focus on finding a spouse, going out becomes a lot more serious, a lot more intense. You might even start to worry about how many dates you go on before you decide if you want to be serious with this person. Sometimes you don’t go out with more than one person at a time because you want to make sure you give the current person the benefit of the doubt.

When you’re focused on dating, the whole thing is a bit more casual. There’s less stress and pressure to impress and more emphasis on figuring out whether or not you’re enjoying yourself. Focusing on dating is a great way to learn what you do and don’t like about others and yourself when you’re around them. This knowledge will allow you to move on when it’s right for you. One important point here is that you need to be up-front with the people you’re dating to let them know where you’re coming from and so they don’t get the wrong idea about your intentions.

The third pitfall is thinking you must respond and/or date everyone who contacts you. You have no responsibility to the people who reach out to you. You don’t have to respond to everyone and you definitely don’t have to go out with all of them either. You deserve to be picky about who you spend your time on and with. Your time and how you spend it is how you create your life, so be picky about whom you spend time with!

I want you to think of dating as cultivating friends and learning about yourself. Most people aren’t ready to get into another serious relationship right after they get divorced. They need some time to rediscover themselves and figure out what they do and don’t like about other people. That means going out with other people to have fun.

Dating is supposed to be fun and using the online services can be a great way to meet some amazing people. Just be sure to avoid the pitfalls!

Your Online Dating Assignment:

Do some research. There really are a lot of sites out there to help you meet people to date. Each site has its own personality. Check out a few and decide which site or sites best fit you.

Be open to learning about yourself. The dating experience should be fun and put you and your date in new situations that will allow you both to learn about yourselves and each other. Successful dating requires that you be ready to learn stuff about yourself without the expectation that you or your date be perfect.

Are you ready to date? OK, this probably should have been the first step of the assignment, but I saved it to last so you’d be sure to see it. There’s no rule about when you’re ready to date, but generally, you want to be through the worst of the emotional part of your divorce. If you’re curious to know where you are on the continuum of being through with the emotional part of your divorce you need to check out the Fisher Divorce Adjustment Scale (FDAS) at http://drkarenfinn.com/work-with-me/how-long-does-it-take-to-recover-from-divorce

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

If you’re looking for more help on how to deal with your life now, read more articles about Life After Divorce.

Small, Simple Things Can Make A BIG Difference

On Wednesday last week, I had a busy day planned. I had a breakfast meeting in one part of town immediately followed by a one-on-one meeting and a luncheon in a completely different part of town. Then I needed to head back to my office for a call with my coach and to get some other tasks done before heading out for my dinner plans.

My day got even busier than expected because I didn’t do the simple things I know I need to do to be at my best.

I’ve learned that I need to eat a substantial breakfast in the morning. If I don’t, I have a hard time thinking and moving. My body just doesn’t have the energy it needs to keep all systems working – at least that’s how I think of it – unless I feed myself well in the morning.

Well, my breakfast meeting was VERY light on the breakfast part. You might expect that I would take something with me just in case I needed something more for breakfast. And you’d be right! I did take something with me – a Clif bar.

Unfortunately, that Clif bar was the small, simple thing that wound up making a BIG difference in my day.

When my breakfast meeting ended I hopped in my car and gobbled up my Clif bar and headed to my next meeting. I wasn’t feeling my best because I didn’t have anywhere near as heavy a breakfast as I usually do, but I knew I could make it through until lunch without too much stomach rumbling.

The location of my one-on-one meeting and luncheon was in downtown Fort Worth and so I drove to a parking garage and starting making the slow left-hand turns to work my way up the levels of the garage until I could find a parking spot. I passed a few up because they were next to HUGE pick-up trucks and I just didn’t think I’d be able to fit my car into them.

Then, I found a GREAT spot! It was on an end with one of those yellow cement posts on one side and a small car on the other.

So I turned on my signal and started to pull in. CRUNCH! My stomach sank. I had hit the yellow cement post.

OK, I thought, if I pull out the same way I pulled in then it wouldn’t be too bad. I put my car in reverse and slowly pressed on the gas pedal. SCREECH!

Well, that didn’t work too well, so I thought maybe if I turn my wheels slightly and pull forward again, I’ll get off of the post. GRRRRRRRRRRRR THUMP! Yeah, that didn’t work too well either.

Luckily, with that GRRRRRRRRRRRR THUMP! I was FINALLY able to reposition my car so I could pull out of the space without any more damage.

I then started making my slow left turns again until I found a GREAT BIG spot to park in.

After getting safely situated in this new spot I turned off the ignition and sat for a moment trying to understand exactly what had happened. It took a moment and then it hit me. I hadn’t taken care of myself by doing the simple things I needed to do. I skipped my regular breakfast and wasn’t at my best. Because I wasn’t at my best, I was having difficulty thinking and moving (driving in this case) and I smashed up my car. As you can probably guess, it wasn’t one of my proudest moments, but it was another reminder that sometimes small, simple things can make a BIG difference.

One of the things I hear about regularly from my clients is that it can be hard to do the things they know they need to do to take care of themselves when they’re going through divorce. The divorce is just such a monumental change in their lives that it can seemingly be easier to skimp on or simply skip the things they need to do to be at their best. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, I challenge them to rethink that just a bit and make the time they need to take care of themselves.

However, they don’t tell me all the subtle and simple ways they stop taking care of themselves because sometimes they’re not aware of it themselves. So, I often probe a bit deeper to help them figure out other ways they might make small, simple changes to take better care of themselves. In this week’s Your Functional Divorce Assignment I’m going to help you do the same.

Your Little Things Make A Big Difference Assignment:

Take a moment and think about which of the following you need to be at your best: adequate sleep, exercise, proper nutrition, fun, meaningful work, relaxation, great relationships with your kids, friends and family. For most people they need all of them. We all need to take care of our bodies by getting enough sleep, enough exercise and good food to eat. We all need to let our hair down to have some fun and relax. We all need to know that what we do matters. We all need to have meaningful relationships with others. This stuff is just part of being human.

Ideally, if I were to ask you to rate each of these on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being perfect and 1 being needs a bunch of work) you’d rate each of these as a 10. But, life isn’t like that – especially when you’re working through divorce. Go ahead and rate your sleep, your exercise, your nutrition, your fun, your work, your ability to relax and your relationships on a scale of 1-10.

For the one you rated the highest, celebrate it! It can be especially difficult to take care of yourself when you’re dealing with divorce and the fact that you’re doing great in at least one of these categories is wonderful!

For the one that rated the lowest, what one small, simple thing might you do to make a BIG difference? I know it can be difficult to come up with something sometimes, but it might be something as simple as it was for me – eat a big enough breakfast to be at my best. If after a few minutes you’re still having a difficult time and you really are committed to making the small, simple changes you know you need to make to more easily navigate through your divorce, reach out to me. Schedule a Complimentary Consultation. Together I’m confident we can identify what small, simple things you might do differently to make a BIG difference in your transition from married to single.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach. I help people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice or schedule a private consultation with me.

If you’re looking for more help recovering from your divorce, read more articles about Healing After Divorce.