Divorce: The Hard Way or The Easy Way
As expected, another casualty of the pandemic is that many couples are finding it challenging to be confined with their significant other without creating many opportunities for conflict.
The end result is that the divorce rate in 2020 is sky rocketing! According to Legal Templates, there has been a 34% increase compared to the same period in 2019, and 20% of those cases are newlyweds!
The combination of the ancillary issues surrounding the pandemic, including being confined at home, unemployment, financial stress, home schooling, and possibly experiencing friends and family having Covid-19 or dying from it, has caused irreversible damage to many marriages.
On the flip side, it is expected that there is going to be a baby boom over the next 6–12 months!
The Grandparent Perspective
As a parent and grandparent, I know experiencing your child going through a divorce can be as stressful as going through it yourself. The problem is that parents and grandparents have no rights when it comes to the divorce of a child.
You have no rights when it comes to custody unless there are very significant issues (use of illegal drugs, abuse, or other harmful issues) whereby a parent is incapable of providing the necessary care for a child.
In addition, many times the grandparent is drawn into the divorce issues as accusations are made and tempers flare, and then there is the cost. The cost for a contested divorce can be many tens of thousands of dollars even when there is little money involved.
For those newlyweds without children, the divorce may be fairly simple as most have not accumulated significant marital assets. In this regard, a split is less an issue of dividing assets as it is just getting out and living independently of the other party.
Your Own Divorce Experience
Maybe you have experienced a divorce and are now living in retirement as a single person. If you divorced later in life, you likely experienced the full event of dealing with the division of marital assets and support but likely not having to deal with custody as your children have been emancipated.
Having a child go through a divorce brings back many of the emotions you experienced in your own divorce. That experience can sometimes be helpful, but many times it can cloud how you think about your child’s divorce.
My suggestion is to be careful with how you approach the issues with your child so that you don’t get caught up in the divorce storm and become part of the ancillary damage yourself.
What You Need to Know
First, you would do well to understand that there are many options for the divorce process. These include:
Traditional Lawyer-to-Lawyer Negotiations (Hold on to Your Wallet)
What most people think of when talking about divorce is the battle of the lawyers. Even if there is very little money involved, the cost can be enormous, and you, as the grandparent, may be asked to help with paying the cost.
If the marital assets and liabilities total a negative net worth, and you have several grandchildren from this marriage, how are you going to deal with the issues? Are you going to stand by and watch as the children become the pawns in the divorce when the only issue that really matters is custody?
Be sure you know what you can afford. Also, don’t allow your child’s divorce to cause you financial harm in your retirement. If you pay for legal fees, consider having your child sign a “promissory note” for each payment. That way, the child realizes the cost, and they may get a solution faster.
The note is also an issue when looking at the liabilities of each party when determining support issues. You do not want your child to consider these payments as gifts.
Mediators are independent and neutral advisers in a divorce. They are there to help the parties reach a settlement by gaining understanding of the issues and allowing for self-determination. If the issues can be resolved, the mediator may draft a “Memorandum of Understanding,” or MOU. Each party will sign this document, which is acceptable in court.
However, before signing any MOUs, be sure to have your lawyer review the document and ensure it meets the legal standards. Don’t sign anything unless you can be certain it is not against your best interest.
Collaboration is a process whereby the parties are meeting with a team of their own attorneys, a financial neutral, and a therapist/mediator (coach).
The lawyers involved have agreed that the case will not be resolved in court. This methodology allows for the parties to be totally involved and is the most self-directive of the various methodologies.
Many times, one of the parties may not agree to mediation or collaboration. Instead, they may want to have their own attorney representing their interests. This does not preclude the other party from having a team of their own.
The team may include their attorney, a mental health professional, and a financial professional. As such, the individual is able to gain better understanding of all of the issues and have the ability to look outward to understand the results of the decisions they are making.
Once the parties have settled on a divorce approach, be supportive but not directive.
Understand your own financial situation and let your child know that you may have limitations on the amount of support you can provide.
If you have grandchildren, help your adult child look at issues pertaining to their kids. After all, your child is going to have to deal with their ex-spouse for the rest of their lives as the two navigate involvement with their mutual children.
Let’s Not Make Divorce Nasty
Lastly, my goal for couples going through a divorce is to try and have a respectful divorce. Be self-directive, get help from a financial professional to understand the consequences of what you are agreeing to.
In my practice, I often told clients that their marriage may not have lasted forever, but the PSA (property settlement agreement) will! In addition, having a mental health professional to help the parent and children deal with all of the emotional issues can have very positive results over the long term.
Have you noticed a spike in divorce numbers in 2020? What do you think is the cause? Have you had to watch a child divorce? How did you help? Was there a grandchild that needed your support? Please share in the comments below.