If you have a situation where a couple is calling it quits and they have kids, share these dozen pieces of advice taken from my book, “He Said: She Said: A Practical Guide to Finance and Money During Divorce,” so the children do not become casualties:
- Children need to feel safe. Divorce makes them feel exposed and vulnerable. Remind your clients that they need to focus on their kids’ well-being as they often wear blinders focusing on their own issues.
- Open conflict hurts children. Avoid fighting out loud when they are present. As hard as it may be, ask your clients to wait until their children are not present. When they are within range, voices should remain low.
- Alienating children from an ex-spouse can backfire. Most times, biting one’s tongue is a good idea. Remind your clients to not have their kids take sides. Like it or not, your client’s ex-husband or ex-wife is still the kid’s parent.
- It’s not the kids’ fault. Parents need to accept responsibilities for their own shortcomings and failures.
- Children under the age of 8 are especially vulnerable. Young children cannot make sense of their own turbulent emotions. They can drown in confusion and subsequently act out. Recommend a therapist who specializes in children.
- Older children hate feeling different. Teens do not like the stigma of divorce while all their friends’ parents are still married. They might also look back at their past life and wonder, “Was it all fake?”
- The children come first. It is better if your clients live near each other, so they can stay emotionally and physically close to children and even attend school events.
- Money will not fix the kids. Buying “stuff” does not address the core problem. Plus, overspending can compound the financial challenge of divorce. My deceased husband Herb used to say, “You are not doing your kids any favors by giving them a false sense of security by buying them things or paying for things you cannot afford.” Remind your clients to not spoil their kids. Instead, let the kids learn the value of a dollar by living on an allowance. The constant need for short-term satisfaction can impact their adult character. Learning how to handle money is an important life skill.
- Added expenses. The Internal Revenue Service considers alimony or spousal support as earned income. It is similar to being self-employed. By contrast, child support is not taxable income. Child support might not be enough for the house, clothes, food and education. It usually does not cover the “extras.”
- Women often want the house for the kids. Advise your clients to not give up everything just to keep the house if it is too expensive to keep.
- Disabled children. Have your clients seek expert counsel, especially if they have a child that has a lifelong disability. It should be a burden both parents share.
- Second marriages. Your clients do not divorce their kids when they divorce their partner. A new spouse can resent that money is going to the kids from a previous marriage.
Hopefully this advice helps your clients, especially their kids, get through the trials of divorce if they have to go through one.