Articles Posted in Divorce Recovery

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CarolynCarolyn Woodruff, a North Carolina CPA and Family Law Specialist, frequently is faced in sending a divorce client in the right direction after receiving a retirement plan in a divorce settlement.   Here are her thoughts on the subject:

The recipient may be receiving generally one or more of three types of retirement funds: (1) IRA; (2) 401k; and/or (3) defined benefit plan. Each type of plan should be evaluated as each has unique characteristics discussed hereafter.

Overall, there are four questions the divorcee should ask immediately post-divorce: (1) Age: What is my age now and at what age do I expect to retire? (2) Debt: What is my debt? Do I owe credit cards? Car debt? Is my home paid for? (3) Advisor: Do I need a financial planner or advisor, or am I competent to make investments myself? If the divorcee can do some basic investment herself, she can save administrative costs with mutual funds such as Vanguard. (4) Goal:  How much will I need for retirement adjusted for inflation? The goal is to develop a plan that achieves the goal with moderate or low-risk investments.

Hypothetical: A 40- year-old divorcee would like to retire at 67, which means she has 27 years to plan for retirement. Let’s say she has a 20-year mortgage on her newly acquired home, so this should be paid for before retirement, and perhaps available for a reverse mortgage at some point after retirement if needed. The availability of a reverse mortgage might be the source for medical bills in retirement.  However, she still has school debt, credit card debt and a car payment. She thinks that she will want $4000 per month in retirement after inflation adjustments are made. Let’s say she receives $100,000 in a 401k at the divorce, $20,000 in an IRA, and a small defined benefit plan that will pay $250 a month for her life when she is 67. Her predicted social security is $1500. So with social security at $1500 and the defined benefit plan at $250, she has $1750 of the needed $4000, so she has to make up $2,250 per month or $27,000 per year.. Let’s say her life expectancy is 88, but quite frankly it is good to plan for 100 so you do not out live your money. So that means the money needs to last for 33 years in retirement. The question is how does the divorcee plan for $27,000 per year for the 33 years? What is the amount of savings she will need to make up the $27,000.  At a planned withdrawal rate of  5 percent in retirement, this divorcee is going to need around $540,000  in retirement to meet her goal. At a planned withdrawal rate at retirement of 4 percent, she will need a nest egg of $675,000.  While a financial planner could do some allegedly precise calculations, here’s generally how the discussion will go. (I say allegedly because no one can be sure what inflation will be and what investment rate of return will be. Conservatively, the IRA should grow to at least $150,000 in 33 years. The $100,000 in the 401k should grow to make up the remainder of the needed money. So, the focus should be on investment vehicles that will turn the $20,000 in the IRA and the $100,000 in the 401k into $675,000 between now and retirement.

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By Sarah Andrew, Blog Writer, Woodruff Family Law Group

s.andrew headshotWhen I think of Friendsgiving, I think of my first attempt at baking pumpkin muffins. I remember my joy at having an excuse to try out my roommate’s fancy stand mixer, my panic at using so much butter at once, the brisk three-block walk to my friend’s apartment, in ill-advised boots, with the warm bowl nestled between my gloves. Steam rising from homemade food is such a cozy thing, even when you’re not jaunting about in the cold.

Maybe you’re feeling more cold than cozy this year. It’s the first major holiday since your divorce, or it’s your ex’s turn to celebrate Thanksgiving with the kids. You could visit your parents and extended family, but you have a news feed’s worth of evidence that dinner will devolve into a political knock-down-drag-out before you can even request the salt. Here’s the beautiful thing about Friendsgiving: Friends. Sanity. Casual, low-stakes discourse over a meal everyone makes together, in one kitchen or in several. If someone gets too mouthy, you can kick him out without worrying that you’ll be left out of the will.

So how do you plan for the ideal Friendsgiving?

First, start a group chat with a few people in your same—or a similar—boat. Suggest a menu with the basics, from the bird to veggies to dessert, and let everyone choose what they’d like to contribute. Maybe everyone wants to cook together at your place. Maybe they’ll cook at home and carry their dishes over. Maybe they’ll secretly buy a pie from Harris Teeter and transfer it to their great-grandmother’s china. Great! If you tend to be a perfectionist, stop and take a deep breath. It’s okay if every item isn’t vegan and gluten-free. Make sure people are aware of potential allergens—and you eliminate cross-contamination by shared utensils— and they’ll eat what they can eat, until they physically can’t anymore.

Have games and icebreakers ready. Perhaps you’re lucky enough that the members of your various social circles already know each other. Even if that’s the case, who doesn’t love games? Go around and let people share their favorite Thanksgiving memory, or funniest-in-retrospect Thanksgiving argument. Have a few games at your disposal, too: Trivial Pursuit, Last Word, and of course Apples to Apples are always popular choices. Continue reading →

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Diana Westrick, Legal Assistant, Woodruff Family Law Group

*This blog has practical wisdom and is not intended as legal advice.

Diana WestrickWe have all been there: something upsetting, traumatizing, and devastating occurs, and we look to those around us for comfort and support.  You know, someone who is willing to nod silently while we vent.  Now, be honest, how often does that actually happen?  The art of “listening” seems foreign to most people, despite their best intentions.  Instead, you get advice.

Don’t get me wrong; sometimes you actively seek input from other people, specifically those closest to you and your particular situation. Yet, most often, the advice seems to come in unsolicited form and only seems to add to the stress of the situation.  As a prime example, here is my advice to you that you should accept and apply whole-heartedly:  Don’t take advice.

After a separation, divorce, custody battle, or even an impending marriage, people will try to tell you what you should do. Continue reading for some of the most common post-breakup “wisdom” people like to dish out and how to respond without kicking them in the shins (while it is always an option, and may be satisfying, it is not recommended).

Scenario #1 – They didn’t really love you anyway; I saw this coming.

Desired Response:

Oh, really? You knew my 10-year marriage was doomed for failure while you helped yourself to the open bar at our wedding?  I’m glad you kept that to yourself!

Hindsight is always 20/20, except when it is not.  Some people gain satisfaction thinking that they can predict the future.  The gloating, itself, apparently is not enough; they need to share it with everyone.  Hence, bad advice.  No one knows your relationships like you do, and despite looking from the outside in, others can only speculate to the truth of your experiences.  So how do you react to these know-it-alls?  Stand your ground and assertively let them know their words are not tolerated.

Recommended Response:

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By Amy Setzer, Legal Assistant, Woodruff Family Law Group

AmyWhen you become newly divorced, a funny thing happens: everyone in Greensboro gets in line to provide (mostly unsolicited and sometimes contradictory) advice on how to move on with your life. It’s a remarkable phenomenon, indeed; all of a sudden you’re surrounded by expert attorneys and therapists. However well-meaning those folks may be, there’s something none of them can help you recover, and that’s your ability to trust.

I suppose you can count me as one of those amateur psychologists too.  Being divorced myself, I usually write about my own experience—I share things that helped me get through my own breakup and the aftermath that was my life in the months following.  For weeks I’ve been trying to write an article—this article—about how to recover faith in people, only to get stuck and give up. I could not for the life of me understand why it was so hard. I mean, I found my ability to trust again, so how come I couldn’t explain how to do it?

I tooled around on Google for a while to get some perspectives.  Let me tell you, the number of editorials on this subject is overwhelming.  Many of them actually do have step-by-step instructions. But none of them made sense to me. I don’t think there is a standard set of directions. That’s why I had so much difficulty with the topic.

I can give suggestions on how to communicate with your ex or share ideas to help you think positively.  Those issues can be tackled by suggesting some small, concrete lifestyle modifications.  Trust isn’t like that. It isn’t exactly built upon anything. It’s not consistent or steady. It’s not an emotion either-no exercises can create it or alleviate it. It’s not a way of life.  I don’t think a few quick tips organized into a quippy blog will help you feel good about putting your eggs in someone else’s basket.

So how do you help someone get it back? How did I get it back?

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Diana WestrickBy: Diana Westrick, Legal Assistant, Woodruff Family Law Group

Ok, you get to choose which unofficial holiday you celebrate in the month of June: Old Maid’s Day or National Hug your Cat Day.  For those that have pet allergies, neither of these options may seem too exciting.  However, try to consider the underlying point of which I’m trying to reach: you may be single, but you do not have to be alone.  Pets are a wonderful option for those overcoming the life change of a separation, divorce, or shared custody.  Not only are these fuzzy beings willing to offer unconditional love, despite your marital status, but they may offer you the comfort and affection that may be void, but intently needed.

I have two and a half cats (the half being a foster), and I cannot tell you how many times these fuzz balls get on my nerves to the point I want to shut them in a different room. Yet, I don’t.  Why?  Because while these balls of fluff do not understand the concept of personal space, they are only invading my bubble because they want to show me affection.  Not to mention, it’s hard to stay upset with their adorable faces.

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By Kristina Pisano, Blog Writer, Woodruff Family Law Group

I know it is a bit strange, a divorce party? They are currently trending in popularity, but think about it. Different major events in your life, graduations, birthday, weddings, and retirements are all celebrated. If you went through a messy divorce, wouldn’t you want a chance to celebrate surviving and coming out a better person? A friend of mine had a “Celebration of a New Chapter” party a few years ago. It was after a divorce from her husband of 5 years who she found out was cheating on her with her close friend. It tore her apart emotionally and financially, but she now realizes how much better off she is now that she is isn’t with someone who could break their marriage vows. She had a simple celebration, pot luck style with her closest friends. She even had a cake that she cut and served to everyone. It made her feel like she could surround herself with her true friends and family and celebrate the new chapter in her life. It was a success!

Not everyone could hold a divorce party. Sometimes it is not appropriate or it just might be too painful. Here are some fun ideas for those who want to have an extravagant event, or for those who want to have a simple and personal celebration.

Go Fancy! Go big or go home and celebrate YOU! Choose a venue space, colors, a theme and dinner. It’s almost like preparing for a wedding, but instead you get to make the decisions without the nagging of your ex-mother in law. Get a DJ to dance the night away, have a bartender make fun theme inspired cocktails and go all out. Invite your closest friends who got you through this divorce as well as your family. Most of the time families need to celebrate your divorce because they were just as close to your ex as you were. It would be very inappropriate to invite your children. Plan the party around a weekend the kids are with your ex and just celebrate you!

Girls Weekend! We all have been to a bachelorette/bachelor party to celebrate the soon to be Mr. & Mrs.’s last night out as a single person. Why not celebrate officially being single and ready to mingle? Go bar hopping around town with a limo, spend a weekend at a winery in the mountains or head to the beach. You can always stay close to home and have a good old fashion sleepover with your friends and watch chick flicks, eat popcorn and gossip all night. Your best friends know how to have fun, so they will enjoy celebrating your new change in life. Continue reading →

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By Kristina Pisano, Blog Writer, Woodruff Family Law Group

On Thursday, May 5, I graduate from the University of North Carolina Greensboro! I am so excited and can’t wait for my close friends and family to watch as I finally get my bachelor’s degree. In the midst of all the graduation excitement, a friend of mine who is also graduating is dreading it. I know it sounds crazy, but, while she is thrilled to be getting her degree, she, unfortunately, has to deal with “the parent drama,” as she puts it. Her parents divorced when she was three years old, and ever since then, every birthday party, dance recital, big or small celebration there is always drama between her mom and dad.

“One time,” as she explained to me over lunch, “my mom got upset with my father because brought me a dozen roses for my 5th-grade dance recital. She said he was showing her up because all she could afford at the time was carnations.” She further explained that “…every time they have to be in the same room it is like a competition for my love. One of them will probably have a large glittery sign that says how proud they are of me while the other will have a bull horn to grab my attention during graduation.” I cannot relate as my parents are married and have never acted this way, so I just laughed off the silly scenario with her.  As graduation approaches, my friend was getting more anxious about having to deal with her divorced parents.  Seeing her like this upset me because her parent’s childish behavior was taking away from what matters, my friend’s accomplishments.

A broken relationship of any kind is unbelievably hard. A divorce that involves children at any age can be even worse. If your son or daughter is graduating this year and you have to see your ex, as much as you want to outshine them or show them that you are the better parent, think of your child. Here are some thoughts on how to keep the spotlight on your graduating child and not your divorce:

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By Diana Westrick, Legal Assistant, Woodruff Family Law Group

Have you ever noticed that what you are thinking does not always translate into what you are trying to communicate? Let’s refer back to those people from Part 1: Despite the most complicated, high-stress situations, they somehow manage to get their point across in the most concise manner possible.  Is it luck?  Do they have a background in intensive conflict resolution?  Maybe, but not likely.  Having a basic understanding of the four types of communication styles can help you determine where your communication typically lies, why it may not be working for you, and how to communicate most effectively.

The Three Communication Styles You Should Try to Avoid

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By Kristina Pisano, Blog Writer, Woodruff Family Law Group

The flowers are blooming, the sun is shining, and a warm breeze is telling you it is that time of year again…wedding season! You have been getting happy couples pictures asking you to “Save-the-date” for their special day since January 2. Bridal shower invites are rolling in on your email and Facebook event list, and you just can’t keep up with all the registries, bows and what color towels the happy couple prefers. It gets worse when the official wedding invitation comes, and you have to RSVP that it is just you, arriving solo. How depressing? Wedding season is tricky after a divorce. You want to be happy for your friend who found their soul mate, but how can you survive the wedding season without the feeling that you somehow failed at married life? These tips can hopefully give you advice on how to survive the season of wedded bliss.

  1. It’s your best friend’s sister’s wedding who is marrying her high school sweetheart. You never really got along with her, you were more of just an invite by association, and your best friend knows how hard this divorce has been. If it would do more damage to you personally by attending this love-fest, tell her you to have other commitments. Send her those purple bed sheets that are on her registry and make a date with your best friend for after the wedding to hear all the juicy gossip. If your best friend happens to be single, you two need to enjoy the night out, live it up and never leave the dance floor!
  2. Your college roommate is getting married and she REALLY wants you to come. It has been almost four years since you have seen her, but she actually looks happy with her new fiancé. They are getting married in your college town, and some old college friends will be there. Check yes on your RSVP and order the crab cakes! This could be a good night out showing everyone that your divorce did not hurt you. Arrive the night before and see if your other college buds can meet at your old college hangout. Make it more about catching up with friends than focusing on the wedding and marriage you didn’t have. You never know if your old college crush will be around. Continue reading →
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By Diana Westrick, Legal Assistant, Woodruff Family Law GroupDiana Westrick

We all know those people.  You know, the ones who seem to have everything fall into their lap; no obstacles or signs of struggle in sight.  We all hate those people, simply because, if we’re honest, we know we want to be them.  Just imagine this scenario: you’re a new divorcee, but to others, you are a strong individual who seemed to breeze through the drama of a failing marriage and came out unscathed.  Or how about this, despite losing half of your assets to your ex, you exude an aura of power and confidence, like you “obviously” came out with the better deal.  Nothing can touch you, you always live where the grass is greener, and you are simply lucky.

I am telling you that you can be one of those people.  No, I’m not going to refer you to a magic, voodoo, or lucky charm connoisseur.  Rather, I encourage you to read on to learn how a new perspective can alter others’ perception of you; and, more importantly, how you respect yourself.

Part #1 – How do you define yourself?

I want you to think of the three words that best represent you as a whole. Ok, you have them?  Look below to see if your descriptions fall into a “danger” category.

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