Divorce: from Inside Out to Right-Side Up with Karen Bigman
This week's Q&A is with Karen Bigman, Founder & President, The Divorcierge, and like-minded ally in helping others navigate challenges and cultivate resilience in the face of life transition. Karen marshaled her resources and skillset to support those managing the financial and legal ramifications of divorce proceedings in NYC. Here's Karen with more.
Onward: How did you come up with the idea to launch a "Divorcierge" business?
Karen: I walked into the local bank one day and one of my closest friends was there in a tizzy. She had just finalized her divorce and was trying to open her own accounts. This was a very intelligent, highly educated woman who had her own business and couldn’t get a credit card. She was overwhelmed by the banking choices and the very idea of dealing with all the administrative pieces of post-divorce life was daunting.
I began working with her on setting up all her accounts electronically, getting her household in order and helping her with simple things like fixing her internet which had been down for days. It dawned on me that like her, there are likely many women who are faced with similar situations. Individuals that took care of everything else but never really worried about how the household or finances ran because their spouse was in charge of it.
I launched my business on the premise of being a Concierge for the divorce process, what started as helping navigate post-divorce life has morphed into a larger scope beginning with the initial phases of the divorce process right through getting back on your feet and finding a new relationship.
Onward: What do you think are the biggest pain points of divorce?
Karen: Every marriage is different so you could imagine that every divorce is different. Different personalities or financial complexities create different issues.
One of the biggest pain points is expectations. I tend to work with clients that are in situations that are likely to be or are already high-conflict. When people enter into to the divorce process, they have no idea how long it will take or how expensive it will be. If you can be realistic and understand that divorce goes as slow as the slowest person, you will be mentally better prepared. Whether it’s your spouse digging his/her heals in, or the court system that is overwhelmed with divorce cases, your divorce is likely to take much longer than you’d like and cost more than you hoped.
Another pitfall - which is one I try very hard to help mitigate – is legal bills. Clients often use their attorneys as therapists, financial advisors and parenting experts. Your lawyer is best for giving you legal advice and advocating as best as she/he can for your rights. Not only does bombarding your attorney with minutia cloud the issues she/he’s trying to help you with, the costs associated with your attorney are the highest of all the professionals you’ll be working with. Attorneys charge in 6-10 minute increments. At $600/hour, one email can cost you $100!
Onward: What do you think people need to keep in mind when it comes to dating after divorce?
Karen: Don’t start dating before the ink is dry on your divorce papers. Divorce is a very lonely experience and the inclination is to find someone to share it with. Getting into a relationship before you’ve figured out what went wrong in your marriage will only cause you to repeat your same mistakes. You’re also very vulnerable and subject to getting hurt by those who prey on people in your situation. Take the time to strengthen your resolve, feel good about yourself and have the confidence to find someone who deserves to be in a partnership with you.
Onward: What are some financial considerations people need to be mindful of pre/during/post-divorce?
Karen: Next to making sure you and your children are safe and supported, figuring out your spending is the most important thing. You may have enough to support your lifestyle now, when you’re divorced those same assets will now be supporting two households. Not only should you do a present-day budget, you need to be very clear about what your needs will be after your divorce. Once you sign on the dotted line, it’s extremely difficult to go back and ask for more money.
Use a financial professional to review your agreement. Don’t assume you’ve got it figured out. There are tax implications that you may never have thought about, any many other considerations that are related to that. You don’t have to have a ton of money to get a few hours of consultation from a good financial professional. A Certified Divorce Financial Advisor is one such professional.
Onward: What are the things people often overlook or forget to manage when they are in the divorce process?
Karen: Take care of yourself. You need a break from your divorce. If you’re not healthy, you will likely make bad decisions that will cost you later. Take some time every day to focus on something other than your divorce – exercise, meditation, knitting – whatever gives your mind a break.
You also want to make sure you look at the long-term implications of everything. Whether it’s keeping the house, forgoing spousal support or the living arrangements of your children. What’s true today may not be true 5 or 10 years in the future. When you’re overwhelmed with all the emotions and decisions, you may want to just get it over with, take a step back and assess before you make any final decisions.
Onward: If you could sum up, in one sentence, advice you would give to someone at the beginning stages of their divorce, what would that be?
Karen: Don’t try to do it alone. Divorce is one of the top 5 stressors in life. Find someone like a Divorce Coach that can offer you non-biased advice and has your best interests in mind. Join a support group, get a therapist, whatever it takes to prop you up, the road is long and tumultuous but you will get through it!
Life on the other side of divorce will be better than you ever imagined. I’ve seen it time and again with clients who came through the most harrowing divorces. Don’t lose hope, life is so much better on the other side!
After a long marriage and subsequent divorce, Karen Bigman started The Divorcierge to help women struggling with their families and finances during divorce, and those trying to build a new life afterwards. The Divorcierge has become global and now grown to include male clients. Karen’s background includes a B.S.B.A. from Boston University, a M.B.A. from Columbia Business School, Martha Beck Life Coach and iPEC Coach certification. Karen is a CDC® Certified Divorce Coach. Her articles have been featured in the Huffington Post, Medium, YourTango.com, NextTribe.com and BetterAfter50. She has also been profiled in the Financial Times, New York Post and UK’s Daily Mail.
To work with Karen or simply to learn more, visit her at https://thedivorcierge.com/