Within the lush homes up and down the quaint streets of the North Shore, countless families will come together over the holidays to spend time together. They will open presents and light candles and bask in the glow of the holiday season.
But sometimes, not everything is the way it seems.
Because for many families, the fact is that this holiday season will come with its share of pain, especially when a couple finds themselves in the middle of a divorce.
“It’s so important for kids to be able to rely on the traditions they are used to during the holidays, even when their parents are in the midst of a breakup,” explains collaborative attorney Rita Ghose. “At the same time, there are opportunities to come together to create new traditions that are cool and fun that everyone can look forward to.”
Luckily, for many couples, the divorce process as a whole has become a bit less painful thanks to the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois (CLII). In fact, Ghose serves as the President of the group, which utilizes the talents of an attorney, a child specialist, a divorce coach and a financial specialist to help couples get through the complexities of divorce proceedings.
“It’s important for everyone involved to know what’s coming down the road, especially this time of the year,” explains divorce advisor and attorney Karen Covy who also works under the umbrella of the CLII. “Divorce is so very emotional and so taxing both physically and mentally. It can often feel like you have taken a second full-time job. But that’s where a collaborative team can help lighten the load a bit.”
Collaborative divorce teams are especially becoming that much more pivotal this year, as federal changes surrounding divorce are making things much more complicated.
“For divorces concluding after 12/31/2018, alimony will no longer be deductible for the payor and that could make it harder for divorcing couples to leverage the difference in tax brackets to agree to higher spousal maintenance payments. Fortunately, those contemplating divorce have the option of a Collaborative process which can help them work together to find creative solutions that meet the couple’s and children’s needs, rather than digging into entrenched positions. The Collaborative process utilizes a neutral financial professional, usually a CFP or CPA, with special training in the financial issues of divorce, who can help the couple conceive of and model solutions,” explains Bill Keffer, a certified financial planner who serves as the treasurer for CLII. “There are also many changes to the tax brackets that are frankly quite complicated, so it’s nice to have an expert in your corner.”
And while so much of divorce comes down to numbers and figures on paper, what really ultimately matters are the children who find themselves in the middle of it all.
“I’ve seen so many children who end up struggling after a divorce,” explains mental health professional and CLII member Paulette Janus. “Personally, that’s why I feel so proud to be more on the preventative side of things rather than helping to pick up the pieces after everything is all said and done.”
And while the holidays might be different for any family going through the rigors of divorce, understanding the process is ultimately going to help everyone in the long run.
“It’s a fact—in divorce, there are no winners,” concludes Ghose. “It’s a loss. But being able to work with a team that you know has your best interests in mind is going to help you sleep better at night. Having a team that is always looking for a workable solution is very freeing, especially this time of the year.”
The Collaborative Institute of Illinois serves people from around the Chicagoland area. For more information, call 312-882-8000 or visit collablawil.org.