Since My Divorce | Easing The Pain & Stress Of Divorce
Mandy Walker is a divorce coach who went through a divorce of her own. Her blog provides advice about many facets of divorce, including emotional and legal challenges. She also has a great Story Catalog, which includes a large collection of stories about men, women, and children who experienced divorces. They offer unique perspectives that are not regularly found on other sites about divorce.
When a person prepares for the numerous changes that come with a divorce, it’s easy to get caught up in the surface details. Raising your children in different households involves school schedules, sports activities, health care arrangements, clothes shopping, and car rides.
It is easy to forget about the larger picture, which may leave you unprepared to raise your children by the religion that you abide by. It is very common for people to question their beliefs at this chapter in life. Many people react to the struggles of a divorce by rejecting their faith entirely or by diving deeper into it than ever before, and becoming very active in their faith and related social groups.
It is very important to realize that your children have to adapt to your divorce as much (if not more) than you do. They are likely to meet the changes of divorce with a strong desire for stability, and religion is a good way for your children to have personal and internal stability.
Phases of the Path to Faith
As your children grow up, they will likely go through several phases on the path to faith. There are no specific age ranges for the following stages, but this sequence is fairly common:
Unaware – When kids are very young, they live entirely within your worldview. Your beliefs are their beliefs and they don’t even know it yet. At this stage, kids do not realize that different beliefs exist, and it’s not important to them. They are soaking up everything you say and do around them.
Defender – Eventually they understand your beliefs well enough to defend them. This stage can be flattering, but also a bit unsettling for a parent. Their enthusiasm for your faith is not ingrained yet, and this may lead them to argue with those who are different. They see the world in black and white and they believe you know everything and that you are never wrong. They may even come across as dogmatic and arrogant.
Questioning – In order to develop personal religious convictions, every person must face questions and doubts on their own. This phase is usually associated with the intellectual maturity of teenagers and can be deeply concerning and troubling to parents. It is hard to watch your kids struggle, but you must trust that the questions they have about their own religious beliefs are essential to become healthy, mature adults. They must find their own answers.
You want your children to share your faith with you so that you both are like-minded about holidays, customs, and ceremonies. But, even without a divorce and differing influences in their lives, all young people will search for and find their own answers.
Nurturing The Relationship
First and foremost, you should nurture the relationship with your kids. Be there for them, and be proactive in supporting them, no matter how they are reacting to the divorce and no matter which parent they identify with most. Keep in mind how you will want your relationship to look once they are grown up and making big life choices of their own. You want open communication, understanding, and forgiving attitudes toward each others’ differences.
It may be tempting to fight with your ex over matters of differing beliefs. You may want to demean your ex to your children, or argue with them about who is “right”. Don’t give into that. Let your children feel supported and loved by both of their parents in spite of their differences.
If things have to be worked out, such as religious holidays or meals, be sure to communicate with your ex privately. Love your kids by never making them feel responsible for the divorce or caught in the middle of it. Watching how you redefine your life and your relationships after this difficult life change may be one of the most important lessons your children ever receive from you.
Typically, the marital home in divorce either gets sold or one spouse buys out the other spouse but these days we’re seeing more and more cases where this isn’t what people want. Couples are wanting to know how to keep your house with your ex after divorce.
What’s driving these conversations are rising interest rates making it difficult to refinance. Home prices are also going up making it impossible for both spouses to purchase a new home after divorce. Rising home values also create the opportunity for increasing home equity. That makes this an attractive investment opportunity.
If keeping the marital home is what you both want, then there’s no reason it can’t be. There are however many details that need to be thoroughly thought through and incorporated into your divorce agreement.
For this Conversation, I’m joined by Joe Dillon of Equitable Mediation. Joe has over 20 years of financial experience and specializes in helping divorcing couples complete the steps to divorce peacefully, fairly and cost effectively, without attorneys.
Listen in below or keep reading for a synopsis.
What Arrangements Are We Talking About Here?
Broadly, this covers any arrangement where both spouses continue to own the marital home together after divorce. That could mean that one spouse lives in the house, often with the kids while the other party lives elsewhere. It could mean that the adults are nesting so the kids stay in the house and the parents rotate in and out. It could also mean both adults continue living in the house, which is sometimes referred to as living separately under the same roof.
“I would say five years ago, some of those would be unheard of,” said Dillon. “Today, all options are on the table and we’re seeing clients take each of those options in pretty much equal fashion.”
The same considerations also apply for couples who are renting and it would be too costly to break the lease. Typically, in this situation the agreement is for a much shorter period and is just until the lease ends.
When Will The Arrangement End?
It might seem odd but the best place to start with figuring out keeping the marital home with your STBX is to think through how long you expect this arrangement to last. As with many things in divorce, you and your SYBX may have opposing interests.
The person who gets to live in the home naturally wants to stay as long as possible whereas the other party might be renting and is not able to qualify for another mortgage as long as their name is on the mortgage for the marital home.
“So now you have this dynamic between the couple where one is entrenched, one wants to sell,” said Dillon. “You really need to decide that upfront.”
Dillon identifies four different types of exit strategies:
Event-based – typically these are triggered by milestones such as a change in a child’s school, high school graduation or a new intimate partner.
Duration-based – this would be to give one party a specified period of time to get back on their feet and be able to qualify for a mortgage on their own. It might be to allow for the completion of an education or training program, going back to work or could be simply the end of a lease.
Price-based – in this situation, the house prices might be rising and both parties agree that the house will be sold once they can get $x. That price point could be determined by any number of reasons such as what has been paid in improvements or what is needed so that both parties will each be able to buy another property.
Default-based – this is worst case scenario where the mortgage payments aren’t made and the house is at risk of going into foreclosure.
You would also want to include that the arrangement can be ended at anytime by mutual agreement.
What Happens At Exit?
Next step is to determine the options at the end of the arrangement. There might be clear agreement that one party wants the option to buyout the other party, or that both parties agree the house will be sold. What will you do if you both want to buy the property?
It’s best to put as much detail into this as possible. That might include how you will determine the then market value for buyout purposes, how you’ll choose a realtor and how you’ll work together on the sale.
And of course, there needs to be agreement on how the equity in the house will be shared. You might want to take into consideration who will have been making the mortgage payments and if that increases that person’s share of the house equity. Offsetting this is the argument that the non-resident party has been renting and maybe living in a less than ideal situation to accommodate the wishes of the residential party.
There isn’t any right or wrong answer to this. It really is about what is going to work for you and one of the benefits of mediation is that you do get to make that agreement yourselves.
What Are The Expenses And Who’s Paying Them?
You also need to identify all the expenses associated with owning the marital home and then decide who’s paying what. Broadly they are mortgage-related, utilities, home maintenance and capital improvements.
Mortgage-related expenses include not only the mortgage payment itself but also property taxes and home owner’s insurance. This discussion is not limited to who is making the payments (or if they’re shared in some proportion). You also need to decide who gets to take any available tax deductions. With the increases in the standard deductions from the Tax Cuts And Jobs Act 2018, many people may not be eligible for the mortgage interest and property tax deductions so it’s smart to discuss this with your accountant. It would also be a good idea to allow flexibility to accommodate changes in your tax situation and future changes in the tax law.
“I think we can all agree that you want to minimize the amount of money you pay in taxes to the federal and state government,” said Dillon. “That’s one thing that divorcing couples get to agree on.”
The Utilities category is straight-forward. It’s everything that’s associated with living in the home – electricity, gas, sewer, water, trash … Typically we see the residential party taking full responsibility for these because the non-residential party will likely have their own expenses in this category.
Home Maintenance includes those tasks that are required on a regular basis to keep the home in good-working order. They include things like furnace and air conditioner servicing, gutter cleaning, spring and fall yard clean up, lawn care and repairs such as fixing a leaky faucet.
This is not just about who is paying for these expenses but also who is going to take responsibility for doing the work or hiring a contractor. While the residential party may take full responsibility for these, there might be some consideration for sharing repair costs for known issues that have not been addressed.
For the last category of Capital Improvements, you’ll want to define what counts as a Capital Improvement versus Home Maintenance. You might choose to follow the IRS definition so it’s any expense that contributes to the cost basis of the house or you might agree that it’s any single expense in excess of an agreed dollar amount. Since these improvements (or lack of) can have a significant impact on the value of the home, you’ll want to agree that they do have to be jointly agreed.
Often the resident party is the lower-earning party. It maybe necessary for them to have someone else renting part of the home to make staying in the marital home financially viable. This might be a relative such as a parent or sibling or a friend. It could be a month-to-month arrangement, it could be a longer rental agreement and it could also be an Airbnb type arrangement. These are generally roommate situations and are seen and treated very differently from co-inhabiting with a new intimate partner.
You’re going to want to discuss what arrangements are permissible, taking into consideration that your children are also going to be living there and then how the associated income is treated.
Protecting Your Investment
Since you’re continuing to co-own the house, you both have a vested interest in making sure that the person who is supposed to be taking care of specific items is doing so and if they don’t that you are protected.
Imagine, for example if the resident party who is supposed to be paying the utility bill doesn’t, the power is shut off, that causes the pipes to freeze, a pipe bursts, the wood floors are ruined and it comes out that the homeowner’s insurance hasn’t been paid either.
Another example would be the resident party that allows your kids to host a party at the home and provides alcohol to the kids. One of the kids has an accident on their way home and the police are then involved …
There’s some things you can do to monitor that payments are being made, such as sharing log on information to online accounts but you’ll also want an indemnification clause.
“The idea here is if there were to be any fees or legal costs or other costs or problems associated with that non-payment, the person who was responsible is the one who’s going to pay those legal fees or costs and is going to defend the other party,” said Dillon.
It’s still going to be stressful if things do go sideways but you’ll have some comfort that you’ll have some financial protection.
“Make sure deep in your heart you have a really good sense of the party who’s going to be there, that they are responsible, that they’re going to care for it, and that you are somehow limited in your liability,” said Dillon.
My guest for this Conversation, was Joe Dillon of Equitable Mediation. Joe has over 20 years of financial experience and specializes in helping divorcing couples complete the steps to divorce peacefully, fairly and cost effectively, without attorneys. Visit Equitable Mediation to download your free copy of 10 Compelling Reasons To Mediate Your Divorce.
Well, Thanksgiving is done and we’ve survived Black Friday but we’re not through the holiday abyss yet.
This means we’ll most likely be dreading the stress, craziness, and visions of perfection shoved down our throats.
For many of us, the holidays can feel dark, lonely, and stressful—especially if we are going through or recovering from divorce. Instead of looking forward to beautiful decorations, the smell of baking pies, and holiday songs on the radio, we may feel triggered by sadness.
I want to give you all a few pointers to remember as you navigate the next few weeks.
You may be going through a divorce or recovering from divorce right now, but that doesn’t mean this season has to make you feel worse. Moving on from divorce and starting over does not mean that you cannot enjoy the holidays. In fact, you can even make them better than ever before when you remember the following:
Manage expectations, but remain optimistic.
For years, you have been inundated with people telling you how the holidays “should” be. You’ve watched impossibly staged meals on cooking shows. The media shows photos of the perfect holidays. Family members insist “but we’ve always done it this way.” You have been taught to do whatever everybody else wants to do. Have you ever learned to imagine how you want the holidays to be for yourself?
It’s no wonder why many of us feel lonely or stressed when we are spending the holidays alone!
These unrealistic expectations of perfect holidays and families getting along have conditioned us to feel as if we are not up to those standards. We feel that we are wrong and that we’re not celebrating the holidays “the right way.”
You have worked too hard over the years and deserve more than to get sucked into the idea that you’re doing the holidays wrong. This year, it is time to envision what the best holiday season means for you, regardless of where you are in your life.
If you are alone, you are still worthy of celebrating the season any way you like. A change in family circumstance does not mean you are sentenced to feel bad. It just means that you are now given an opportunity to decide how you want the holidays to be, regardless of what anyone else thinks.
Your selective memory may be your worst enemy.
When we are alone, we tend to think about the times when the family was together, when the marriage was strong, and when the holidays were “perfect.” We’re all guilty of remembering our past holidays when we were still married as perfect. It’s easy to fall into this trap when we are divorced. But what we forget are all the things that weren’t great during the holidays when we were married. When we shut those not-perfect memories of family holidays out, we are subconsciously setting ourselves up for failure. Our current holiday mood is held up to an impossible ideal of selective memories that may not be correct. We do this when we are feeling down, trying to imagine a happier time.
This way of thinking does not serve you because you are holding yourself to an ideal that is impossible to attain. Making yourself feel guilty or resentful or longing for the past will not serve you this holiday season. The only way to start loving the holidays again is to reclaim them for yourself… now.
Embrace the season instead of dreading it.
During the holidays, especially the times when you were married or raising a family, you were probably caught up in trying to please others. You were almost certainly trying to make things so perfect that you never took the time for yourself.
Overlooking your own needs stops now.
This holiday season, especially if you are spending it by yourself and are worried about being lonely, gives you a unique gift. You get to ask yourself and do something for yourself that you may have never had the opportunity to do before: Choose the season and traditions for yourself.
The first steps to learning to love the holidays again begin here. Celebrating you in this chapter of your life starts by answering the following questions. Ask yourself:
What do you really want to do?
Is there something that brings you joy this holiday season?
How can you make that happen for yourself?
That is all you must ask yourself. These answers do not have to be complicated. You are not required to spend a lot of money on them.
Now is your chance to reclaim the holidays.
Shaking off your loneliness and reclaiming the holidays is all about taking care of yourself for a change. This is the year that you can say “no” to the things from holidays past that you have not enjoyed and that bring you stress, such as traveling, seeing toxic family members, and spending too much money.
Pick the traditions that you love and throw out the rest. This is the year that you can define what a joyous season means to you and choose to celebrate how you want to celebrate.
Learning to love the holidays again, even if you are divorced, starts with kicking those unrealistic expectations to the curb and ignoring the selective memory that plays tricks on you.
These new few weeks can be the season that you finally recognize that you deserve holiday joy and happiness and you have the power to define that on your own terms. Will you accept that gift?
We all need to heal from divorce. That applies just as much to the person who initiates the divorce as the person whose spouse makes the decision.
The healing process stirs up a lot of feelings and hurts from our childhood and family of origin, our societal and cultural norms and expectations and, of course from the marriage itself and previous committed relationships.
It’s no wonder many people avoid the work of healing! Yet, if you skip this your relationships with family members, with friends and with future intimate partners will be affected and not for the better!
So what does it take to heal from divorce? What’s involved? How long does it take? What can you expect?
Joining me for this Conversation About Divorce is transformational divorce coach and wellness strategist Dawn Burnett. Burnett is the author of Connect: How To Love And Accept Yourself After Divorce, available on Amazon. Listen in below or keep reading for a synopsis.
Everyone Needs To Heal From Divorce
The person you are now is a collection of experiences from your childhood, your early adulthood, your marriage and prior serious relationships. We carry that into the world and then we attract a reflection of that. The danger in not doing the work to heal from divorce is that you will continue to attract the same reflection and that can mean that the seeds for the end of the relationship are there from the beginning.
Burnett likes to ask clients to imagine they are traveling. She’s not a light traveler, She likes her comforts and loves to be self-sufficient. If she’s got it at home, she’s going to take it with her and not just buy it if she needs it when she gets wherever. But you have to be responsible for your luggage and it can’t exceed 50 pounds. You start out with a small carry on and before you know it, without dealing with things and making choices, you have to check it.
“The more we don’t deal with things, the more our trunks start to expand and the larger the size it becomes,” said Burnett, “We take that forth into relationship after relationship which is why you’ll hear of people sometimes getting divorced and remarried like for seven times. They just keep expanding the size of their trunk instead of dealing and healing.”
Understand Why You Married The Person You Did
Part of healing from the end of a marriage is accepting that the person you married came into your life for a reason. It was either something you needed from them or something they needed from you. When your relationship ends it’s because those needs no longer exist and haven’t been replaced by other needs. Do you know the reasons you got married?
For some of us, our expectations of marriage itself are unreasonable.
“We build up this story in our mind, especially as women,” said Burnett. “We have been taught as a little girl this dream playing with Barbies, how it is to be loved, the fairy tale wedding, the prince in shining armor. We fall in love with the story. Then suddenly when we say ‘I do’ and things start to shift and go wrong, that story is not really so.”
It’s confusing and we’re not equipped to handle it because we’ve never been given the tools. That’s where divorce recovery programs come in.
That means go out and date while taking the time to be introspective, to reflect, to journal, to connect and to meditate.
“Find out what your dreams and aspirations are and make sure you’re not out there trying to fulfill your ego, which is an insatiable void,” said Burnett.
The more work you do on yourself, the better you’ll get at spotting red flags and dysfunction.
“Let’s take our time,” said Burnett. “Let’s take a deep breath. We always want to stay checked in and be dating from an observatory position. Non-judgmental, not trying to fulfill something. Just see what flows in and decide what we want to flow right back out.”
Single Is Not A Disease
Just as we are tricked into false expectations for marriage, our society also pressures us into coupledom. If you’re single too long, people start to wonder what’s wrong with you. There’s no need to buy into that.
“There is no greater, more beautiful gift in this world than to have love for yourself in a non-egotistical way,” said Burnett. “You cannot give away what you don’t first have for yourself.”
That doesn’t mean you isolate yourself. Just go out and date or socialize with friends, and have fun, be present and take your time.
Everyone’s Journey Is Different
Asking how long it’s going to take to heal is a good question but not one you’ll get a good answer to because everyone’s path is different, Burnett says you can use dating as a guide to how well you’re doing.
“If egotistical guys are showing up, if you see any form of abuse in them, if you see any form of cheating and lying, any of the things you don’t want to be a part of and you’re still attracting some of that, then that’s a good barometer of how I need to slow it back,” said Burnett.
When that happens it, take a break from dating and get reconnected to yourself.
“We want to enhance somebody else and they should be enhancing us,” said Burnett. “If they are taking away from all the work you’re doing on yourself, your dreams, your aspirations, then he’s not the one.”
Burnett has observed that men seem to jump into dating after divorce much sooner than women and often haven’t done the work to heal. Men seem to struggle with being alone. Not to stereotype, however women are often nurturers and by nature will do more self-care. It’s OK to put yourself first.
It’s also important not to compare yourself to anyone else. Your journey will be uniquely yours.
“There will be things that the universe will deliver to you as a challenge to see if you are ready to move on,” said Burnett. “If the same situation keeps appearing over and over, it’s simple. You haven’t passed the test yet.”
When Does Recovery Start?
Divorce recovery implies that the healing starts after divorce however both Burnett and I have seen, for the person who initiates the divorce, the journey starts long before. It even becomes an essential part to making the decision to end the marriage.
For the person whose spouse initiated the divorce, working to heal from divorce may have to wait until the logistics and practicalities of separating, and the legal process are complete. The reality is that most people don’t have the bandwidth to do all three at the same time.
Find A Community
Burnett’s book, Connect: How To Love And Accept Yourself After Divorce or other divorce recovery guides are great resources to get started but what really helps people is being in community with others.
Check places like Meetup.com or your faith community for local in-person groups. Otherwise go online. Burnett has a closed Facebook group, Thrive After Divorce and for ladies there is also Worthy Women & Divorce.
When looking for a group, Burnett advises avoiding groups where the tone is sharing in your pity and letting you stay in your victimhood. Rather look for cheerleaders who are going to nudge you and challenge you.
“Ultimately, no matter what book you read, no matter what psychiatrist you speak with, no matter what group you’re in, the healing starts and ends with you,” said Burnett. “It’s a head decision. It takes mindset, focus and dedication.”
My guest for this Conversation About Divorce was transformational divorce coach and wellness strategist Dawn Burnett. Burnett is the author of Connect: How To Love And Accept Yourself After Divorce, available on Amazon. Follow Burnett on Twitter as @anewdawnnatural.
An uncontested divorce is one where all of the issues are settled without litigation by attorneys. It requires a couple to agree on all the important points, such as alimony, child custody, and how to divide their property. This is typically the best-case scenario because the divorce will be over quicker, and legal fees will be lower with less for lawyers to do in court.
A contested divorce is the opposite. Strong disagreements between the divorcing couple result in a longer and more expensive ordeal.
You may want to divorce uncontested if you can, but the end of a marriage may be the absolute worst time to find common ground with your spouse. Still, if you and your spouse can sit down and talk it all through with just the two of you, then an uncontested divorce is a real possibility.
Deciding On An Uncontested Divorce
Keep in mind, that uncontested divorces are not the best solution for every divorcing couple. Child custody and sentimental property just might be worth fighting for in court.
In some states, uncontested divorces are not an option for any couples who have children. Even in states where uncontested divorces are legal for couples who have children, additional paperwork would still need to be completed in order to finalize the divorce.
Is an Uncontested Divorce Right for Me? Here are Four Things to Consider Before Pursuing an Uncontested Divorce:
Are you and your spouse both willing and able to sit down and negotiate the terms of your divorce? The negotiations can include division of property and assets as well as living arrangements for your children.
Are you looking for a way to minimize the cost of the divorce? Saving money is more important to the two of you than making the other one suffer.
Do you both realize the marriage is over and the idea of a quiet divorce versus a lengthy court process seems like the best option for both of you? Most uncontested divorces don’t need to go to court.
There are no significant assets or sources of income that your spouse may be hiding from you, or you from them.
If you answered positively to each of these points, consider these tips about pursuing an uncontested divorce before making the final decision about whether or not an uncontested divorce is right for you.
Don’t Trust Your Soon-To-Be-Ex-Spouse Implicitly
Even though you and your ex-spouse may have reached the decision to get divorced amicably, make sure that you do your own research about your ex-spouse’s assets and debts. You don’t want to end up in a position taking on debt from your spouse that you didn’t even know about. Be sure to get your fair share of the marital property.
You and Your Spouse Will Need to Agree on Everything
Uncontested divorces are meant for couples who agree on all key issues surrounding the divorce, including child custody, spousal support, and property division. You can draft your own agreement, or you can use state-provided forms as a template. Make sure to read templates carefully, however, since some states’ uncontested divorce forms say that both parties agree to give up rights to alimony.
You and Your Spouse Will Need to Fulfill Eligibility Requirements
Even though you’ve both agreed to a divorce doesn’t mean you can bypass the basic eligibility requirements for a legal divorce. This means you must pay court filing fees a
nd meet the residency requirements for filing with the court.
It May Take a While for the Divorce to be Finalized
Uncontested divorces don’t bypass the mandatory waiting period established by the state. Most states have a specific waiting period involved before a divorce is finalized. Some also have a mandatory waiting period before either party can marry again.
Make Sure You Know the Value of Your Personal Property
It’s normal for divorcing spouses to negotiate over the division of costly marital property items like cars, electronics, furniture, and collectible items. The value of these items is often exaggerated by one or both of the spouses, so hiring a third party appraiser to assess the value of the property so that a fair division of the assets can be made may be useful in your situation.
You May be Giving up Much More Than You Realize
Many couples are under the impression that property division in an uncontested divorce means that each party walks away with the assets they brought into the marriage. Keep in mind, however, that community property states entitle each spouse to 50 percent of all community assets—including your spouse’s job earnings and real estate—acquired between the date of your marriage and the date of your separation.
Get Your Own Lawyer
Many couples who pursue an uncontested divorce draft their own divorce agreement and hire an attorney to look it over. In most cases, attorneys are reluctant to say the agreement is satisfactory since they didn’t draft the agreement themselves.
Even if both spouses agree on all of the terms of the divorce, it’s generally best for each party to retain their own lawyer for individual legal advice before entering into a divorce agreement. That way, each spouse knows for certain that his or her interests are protected down the road.
It is possible to represent yourself with an uncontested divorce, but a lawyer will look out for your best interests. They can give you legal counsel throughout the negotiation process and make sure that you understand the entirety of your agreement before you officially sign the paperwork. If you have large assets and property that is being divided up between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse, a lawyer can be especially helpful in navigating your negotiations. Remember, once you have signed a document it can be next to impossible to go back and change the terms of the agreement. A lawyer will help to make sure you get fair representation and distribution of assets.
Aside from looking over or drafting the divorce agreement, your own attorney will be able to advise you about concerns specific to your situation. Even if you have few assets to divide, debts are also divided during divorce. Remember that you may need some legal help with dividing debts.
Measure Twice, Divorce Once
Before engaging in an uncontested divorce, it’s important to truly understand how an uncontested divorce works. Even though an uncontested divorce can save the parties a lot of money, those savings will quickly vanish if any contested issues come out during the hearing to approve the divorce decree. Be sure that you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse agree on everything before pursuing the divorce on an uncontested basis.
Alfredo Ramos is a writer specializing in issues important to parents and families – leveraging his experience in divorce, adoption, and other cases through work with the Ramos Law Group. In the past, he has served in the US Navy as the Medical Department Head with the primary mission of mobilization readiness of reserve personnel.
Even if your divorce is amicable, it may be helpful to talk with a licensed therapist or counselor. The ones at Talkspace may also help you figure out your next steps.
Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Talkspace which means that if you use their service I will receive a small affiliate commission at no additional cost to you.
Nearly one-third of all households in New Jersey are headed by a single parent. Some receive support from their former partner, but a substantial number of single parents live on their own income. Frequently, a non-custodial parent is unable to contribute alimony or child support for a number of reasons.
This puts a lot of pressure on the custodial single-parent to provide for their children financially and give the children what they need. Money for college is no exception.
Currently, university tuition rates are skyrocketing. This has made saving money for their children’s college fund a daunting task for many single parents. Then again, there are several ways that you can start and grow a college fund for your children that you can afford. You can make small contributions to your child’s trust fund over a long period of time that can allow your child to pursue higher education.
Set Your Differences Aside with Your Ex
If a conflict exists, try to put differences aside in an effort to work together even if he or she is contributing nothing to your child’s future education. The goal is to make him or her aware that:
There is a college fund for the children you share and any help is appreciated.
100% of contributions will be deposited and a receipt will be provided.
Your ex’s help will be acknowledged to the kids.
The idea is to always leave the option open to give without guilt when your ex is able to help out. Empathy can be an effective tool you can use to help you collect a substantial amount of money for your child’s college education.
Take Advantage of Tax Credits
There are plenty of deductions and tax credits that you should use while you are paying for your children’s college fund. The IRS specifically provides the following tax credits:
The American Opportunity Credit offers up to $2,500 in tax credits (up $1,000 of which is refundable) per student for a maximum of 4 years.
The Lifetime Learning Credit offers up to $2,000 in tax credits per tax return for an unlimited number of years.
The Tuition and Fees Deduction offers up to $4,000 in deductions per tax return.
You should plan for the financial burden that tuition puts on your finances in advance and take these tax benefits into consideration. This will allow you to have more cash flow down the road. Plus, if you have more than one child, you can strategically use the benefits to help pay for college for your other children.
Encourage Academic Excellence
It’s much easier to pay for college when scholarship money is on the table. Whether it be through sports, academics, or both, intellectually engaged children are top contenders for the best scholarships the higher education system has to offer.
Seventy percent of all scholarships awarded pay full-tuition benefits. Of course, not all children thrive in the rigors of academics. If there is an area in which your child thrives, you should encourage your child to apply for a scholarship that highlights your child’s area of expertise. For example, there are also scholarships for excellence in a particular field, such as music or writing.
Discuss Potential Modifications to the Agreement
Sometimes, an ex will ignore his or her obligations towards paying for your child’s college. Your ex may believe that paying child support or alimony is enough, but your ex should be willing to pay for your child’s college education if you are.
By working with experienced divorce lawyers in New Jersey, you can have your post-divorce agreement amended to include college tuition savings. Lawyers also possess a keen eye for family and financial planning. It’s worth making the call.
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