Losing a spouse—either to divorce or death—can be the loneliest feeling in the world. It can be downright scary, too, especially for those who depended on their partner to take care of the business that a marriage entails.
When we are grieving, especially, tending to such details as division of assets, wills, and financial investments can feel overwhelming. That’s why, even if you, your spouse, and your marriage seem to be in great shape, a little advance planning can go a long way.
Recently, I listed six suggestions for coping after a marriage ends: embrace change, find support, take care of yourself, create balance, dare to dream, and take action. For many, finding support may be the most difficult. How do you build a team of people you trust to help you navigate your new life?
Start with the foundation
Two of the first professionals you should seek are an attorney and a financial advisor.
Whether you’re facing divorce or dealing with a deceased spouse’s estate, having a solid, trustworthy attorney who will represent your best interests—not their own—is key to success. If you live in a small town where the number of divorce attorneys is limited, consider interviewing them all before deciding on one. The best way to find a great lawyer, however, may be good, old-fashioned word of mouth. Talk to friends, associates, and colleagues who have been in your situation, and ask whether they would recommend their attorney. A word of caution: Be wary of lawyers who like to fight. They may (or may not) get a better deal for you, but they will almost certainly increase tensions between you and your ex-to-be—which could be harmful not only to you, but also to your children.
Equally important is finding a quality financial adviser. A lot of people call themselves “financial planner,” yet have minimal or no education in the field and lack certification. Some questions to ask are: What kind of college degree does the person have? How long have they been in the industry? Have any regulatory complaints been filed against them? What makes them qualified to give you advice? Have they personally ever filed bankruptcy? What advance degrees do they have? What industry licenses do they have and what regulatory entity regulates them? Why did they choose to be in the financial industry? How many firms have they been affiliated with in their career. If they have been many changes, there needs to be good reasons as to why they changed. Be picky, and insist on a college graduate with the CFP® (Certified Financial Planner) certification and at least five years’ experience in the field.
A couple of close friends or family members you can lean on. Divorce is a long emotional and sometimes legal process. Don’t confide in too many people, you will wear them out and you may alienate people who want to but are uncomfortable with your situation. Instead, consider leaning on a couple of people who encourage you, are loyal and have discretion. Be open to their feedback and use this difficult period as an opportunity to grow and change. This new chapter is an opportunity to live life differently.
We’re only as good as the people we surround ourselves with, especially when it comes to managing our affairs. “Suddenly single,” like parachuting from a plane, can be a terrifying experience or an exhilarating one, depending on your level of preparation and your attitude. For that initial leap, why not go tandem with professionals and advisors who you can trust with your livelihood, if not with your life?