16 Aug YOUR DIVORCE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Lawyers are lawyers. Sounds obvious doesn’t it? However, family lawyers (and mediators) routinely deal with legal matters that take place in emotionally charged and/or financially complex situations. They are highly skilled professionals.
But it would be unreasonable to expect your legal professional to know and take care of every possible issue that comes up in your divorce. Besides, your divorce is not occuring in a vacuum. You’re likely dealing with multiple areas of change in your life as well as your kids’. These may not qualify as legal matters, but how you handle them often directly impacts your legal and financial interests, both short term and long term. Things like your emotional and physical well being, financial management skills, access to parenting resources, job flexibility challenges, and so on.
To save money and time over the long run, as well as to put you in the driver’s seat to make the best possible decision for your future, create your “Divorce Board of Directors.” This is a somewhat cheesy phrase I coined during my divorce, to refer to a select group of people I could rely on, to give me honest, reliable, and credible information, advice and support. To this day, I’m grateful to my Board. As a Divorce Coach, I’m now fortunate enough to regularly serve on Divorce Boards.
Your Board may include paid divorce professionals, such as a family lawyer or mediator, counsellor, divorce coach, financial planner, and accountant. Some of these professionals provide initial consultations to determine mutual fit, so having a list of prepared questions helps maximize both parties’ time. Often these professionals network with each other, so don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations when you need them.
Referrals also come from your trusted health and well being professionals. My referral network includes different types of doctors, physiotherapists, massage therapists, counsellors, acupuncturists, social workers and personal trainers.
These professionals help you manage the stress and negative emotion of divorce, which can unfortunately manifest in your body. Paying attention to what’s happening to your body, and keeping your service providers in the loop allows them to assist you more effectively. A number of these services are also covered under extended health benefit plans.
Finally, your Board also includes professionals and others who are already in your accumulated personal network of trusted family members, friends and colleagues.
By now, it probably sounds like you’re going to have the biggest and most unwieldy Board of Directors ever. Not good. There are obvious dangers in having a Board that is too big or too small. Too big, and you end up getting so many conflicting opinions that it only adds to your stress and sense of overwhelm. Too small, and you unnecessarily burden people who are supporting you, or you make important decisions with far too little information. These can be costly in the long run.
My suggestion, which many clients have found practical and invaluable, is to keep a notebook and calendar – manual or electronic – in which you record things that come up, including questions, deadlines, and steps you need to be take. Rather than swimming around in your brain, you make these items concrete and actionable. This reduces your stress, and keeps you moving forward.
Remember to save space in your notebook to record who (or where) you might get some of the answers from. This not only helps you determine who ends up on your Divorce Board of Directors, it also keeps the Board’s growth deliberate and tied to your divorce needs.
And by the way, Directors don’t just have to be people. Don’t let a small network thwart your ability to get the information and services you need. There are so many valuable print and online resources related to divorce.
Two of my favourite books are Divorce: Overcome The Overwhelm and Avoid the Six Biggest Mistakes by Pegotty and Randall R. Cooper (Divorce Coaching, Inc.: Tampa, 2014) and The Truth About Children and Divorce: Dealing with the Emotions So You and Your Children Can Thrive by Robert E. Emery Ph.D. (Plume: New York, 2006). My online favourites include the Divorce Angels website (www.thedivorceangels.com) as well as J.P. Boyd on Family Law (www.wiki.clicklaw.bc.ca).
There are many great professionals and resources to help you during your divorce. Forming a Board of Directors can help reduce divorce overwhelm, as well as increase your resilience and decision making ability.
Vindy Teja, B.A. LL.B.
CDC Certified Divorce Coach®