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Getting Divorced? Don't Let Emotions or Exhaustion Take Control

Motley Fool Staff, The Motley Fool

You've probably heard the quote: "The course of true love never did run smooth." William Shakespeare had it right on the money -- in any century, there are way too many things that can prevent a couple from reaching their happily ever after. As the young lover Lysander points out just a bit later in that scene, even if a pair does avoid the obstacles and comes together with the best of intentions, the affection may not last. Well, this week, Motley Fool Answers cohosts Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp will tackle the labor of love lost in their series about major life events.

Guest expert Amanda Kish of Motley Fool Wealth Management brings her best advice on how to get through a divorce and come out the other side. And as she explains in this segment, one of the biggest mistakes people make in the process is to rush through it. Because this isn't just an emotional battleground -- it's a business transaction, and you need to treat it like one.

To catch full episodes of all The Motley Fool's free podcasts, check out our podcast center. A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on June 11, 2019.

Alison Southwick: Well, we have asked you to come in and help tackle the topic of divorce, and particularly you're going to walk us through, as much as possible, how to have an amicable divorce and you are going to be speaking a bit from personal experience, but also from your experience as a planner.

Amanda Kish: Exactly. What I'm going to talk about are my five top tips for having an amicable divorce and I'll preface this. I'm not a lawyer, so these are just my experiences. Again, it's just my personal experience and my experience from my financial planning work.

The top tip that I would start off with would be to remember that, more than anything, your divorce is a business transaction. Really, you need to think of it as a business partnership that you are unwinding; that just didn't work out. It's very important to keep the emotion out of it.

It's a difficult shift for some people, but when you're talking about the divorce proceedings, you need to recognize that your spouse very likely no longer has your best interests in mind, so you really need to be your own advocate and be present in the entire process. If you have a lawyer, certainly that's someone that's going to be able to advocate for you, but you need to be there. You need to be fully present in order to let your lawyer do his or her best job.

Some mistakes that I have seen people make in the divorce process is letting those emotions get involved and letting that cloud their judgment as far as the whole business part of it goes. I've seen cases where a client would say, "I'm tired of fighting. I don't care. Let her take what she wants. I don't want to deal with this. I just want to get this done as quickly as possible. Whatever it costs. Whatever it takes."

I've seen cases where someone has taken the attitude of, "Well, he's more concerned about the money. I'm not that selfish so I'm not going to fight him because I'm a better person and I'm going to be more noble and suffer." Those are both reasonable defense mechanisms, I guess, and ways of coping, but, they don't help with the ultimate business of coming to the table and negotiating for what's in your best interest. So it's best to keep that clarity.

Southwick: Does it help to see a therapist? You're like, "OK, this is my money side, but I also need to take care of my emotional side and maybe I can work out some of that emotion with a therapist to leave me a little bit clearer when I'm dealing with my lawyer."

Kish: Yes, and that's actually one of my points for later on, it is dealing with the emotional side so you can be a little bit more present for dealing with the financial side of things.

Robert Brokamp: That's sometimes difficult advice to follow...

Kish: Absolutely.

Brokamp: ...because it can be such an emotionally draining experience that you might be tempted to think, "I just want to get this over with as soon as possible." In my parents' case, their divorce was also prompted by my dad's business failing, so there were all kinds of things going on and I've seen that in other divorces, as well. There's something else that's going on that is the straw [or the bale] that breaks the camel's back that brings the marriage to an end. It's often not just the divorce that's happening. It's so much turmoil and people are like, "I just want to get this done." Ten years later you realize, "Oh, I wish I didn't rush that!"

Kish: Absolutely! You don't get a do-over, so you do want to take your time and make sure that you're making decisions that are right not only in the near term, but in the long term. A lot of folks look at it and say, "What do I need to do in the next couple of weeks or months to get to D-Day when I sign the papers," and not necessarily thinking about how that is going to affect you 10 or 20 years down the road.

For an example, a client may say, "All I want is to keep the house because I want stability for my kids. I don't want them to change school districts. He can have everything else. I'm not going to worry about that." That may not be the best decision if you're then stuck with a house that you can't afford and you're draining financial assets to support that. So you need to consider not only now, and today, and the day after the divorce, but also a decade or two down the road.

Amanda Kish, CFA, CFP is an employee of Motley Fool Wealth Management, a separate, sister company of The Motley Fool, LLC. The information provided is intended to be educational only, and should not be construed as individualized advice. For individualized advice, please consult a financial professional. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.