12 Sep Do I have to keep saying no to my kids?


One of my clients described how her son was afraid to tell her that he’d outgrown his running shoes. Another said her daughter declined invitations to go to the movies with her friends because she didn’t want to have to ask for movie money. Kids understand the financial changes that occur after divorce.

How can you make ends meet and maintain your family’s lifestyle if your income after divorce is insufficient?

Child support payments are not intended to cover all costs associated with raising a child, and often fall far short. They take into account the cost of food, housing, and clothing. But they do not cover a range of other expenses from after school activities like music lessons or sport lessons to vacations, or cell phones to school supplies. These expenses rise significantly as children get older. Does everyone under the age of 18 really have an I-Phone?

The first thing to do, whether you’re contemplating divorce or are in the process of divorcing, is quantify how much your lifestyle truly costs. As a divorce financial professional, I help clients put together projected budgets. It’s important to account for as many details as possible:  the cost of summer camp, rep hockey, tutoring, a computer the child will need for school in later years.

Then we weigh these financial needs against a couple’s ability to pay. Does the family income cover this budget plus a reasonable amount for the non-custodial parent?  If not, can a division of marital assets help supplement the difference? Can we scale back to a bare-bones budget? Can we distinguish between wants and needs?

In divorce, financial support comes from 4 sources: Employment Income, Child support, Division of marital assets, spousal support. Each of these sources has different tax and financial consequences.  Yet because household spending on adults and children is intertwined, all three can contribute to a child’s financial welfare.

I work with clients to look at the financial and tax implications of proposed child support and spousal support payments along with the proposed division of marital assets.  I use software to project the short and long-term impact of a proposed divorce settlement. These projections can be really powerful.


What if you’re already divorced and find that you can’t make ends meet,  a financial planner specializing in divorce can work with you to put together a saving and spending plan and help give you a holistic picture of your finances.

Wouldn’t it be nice to say “yes” to your kids once again?


Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

01 Mar Don’t divorce your kid’s expenses

Child support guidelines were created for the average of all families- not for any particular family.  Kids need food and heat and transportation.  They also need bikes and computers and birthday presents.  Someone has to pay for lessons and activities, sports equipment and school trips. Without a good road map the kids are likely to get caught in the middle.

Some parents need to get back to the drawing board to create a good operating plan to  ensure their kids get what they need in a financially responsible way.  The authors of
“Difficult Conversations” (Stone, Patton and Heen) suggest the following:

  • Don’t argue over facts, talk about what you perceive (“We might not be able to agree about why you bought the computer but I was left with the impression that you felt that you could make the decision to buy it without asking me first”.)


  •  Stay away from blame and focus on joint responsibility (“If we put some time towards making a budget for extra expenses for our kids, I think we could make better decisions as a family”.)


  • Don’t try to figure out what was intended, talk about the impact (“When you buy expensive items for the children it sets up expectations that I can’t meet.”)

Remember the goal is to distribute the responsibilities for what the kids really need between the households.  The object is to make sure the kids know what to expect and to have a sense of fair play about having their needs met.  And above all- the example set by both parents is a learning opportunity for kids to understand good money management and cooperation.

16 Dec Wellbeing of the Children

Say what you want about Charlie Sheen but he has at least one good thing going for him: a good parenting relationship with his ex-wife Denise Richards.  Despite what Denise calls “one of the worst divorces” it seems she and Sheen have put their difference aside for the sake of their two daughters Sam and Lola.  Richards has been there to support Sheen throughout this year’s many public falls, support she offers because “We’ll always have a bond with our daughters, and I wish nothing but the best for him.” Richards’s support of her daughters’ troubled father shows the importance of putting aside ones ego and focusing on what is important: the wellbeing of their children.

09 Dec Planning to Separate after the Holidays?

Many families postpone their separation until after the holidays.  There are things that can be done in preparation for that change while you have the time to research online or make enquiries during your time off from work.

Here are some tips:

1.    Start collecting financial documents like credit card and bank statements, investment and RRSP statements, mortgage and property tax statements, etc.  Prepare a file so that you both have what you will need.

2.    You can check your credit rating.  In that way, you will have the same information as the bank when you start to negotiate lines of credit or changes to your accounts or even your mortgage.

3.    Work from a budget for the holidays.  In the event that you are using joint credit cards, it is easier to agree on who will be responsible for costs when you are planning a purchase than when you are paying for it.

4.    Find time to research your options.  Such things as:

  • a survey of the cost of alternate accommodation in your area
  • the dates of the school holidays for the upcoming year
  • local divorce professionals and their approaches to separation and divorce
  • local mortgage brokers
  • local real estate agents

Remember that your involvement in your separation and divorce is the most important factor in reaching an outcome that works for everyone.




It is not uncommon for families to delay taking steps toward separation until after the holidays are over.  For many, this can mean sadness, tension and worry that their children may be affected by the breakdown of the relationship.

It is normal to put off difficult first steps.  It is also normal to be hopeful that time together with the family may provide a chance to rethink such a big decisions.

Adding to the mix is the seasonal overspending that most of us succumb to every year.  Sober financial realities get pushed aside.  Credit card statements that will resurface in January are part of the tensions and worry for those already confused about how they will restructure finances if they separate.

Here are a few tips that may help:

*   Find activities for the family that are cost free such as skating, a winter walk around Toronto Islands,  a stroll on the boardwalk in the Beaches, etc.

*   Take the first step and look into mediation or Collaborative Practice before the holidays so that you have some idea what it is all about.

*   Set an example of good communications in front of your children. When you finally tell them about the separation, you will be able to point to the holidays as a time when you were already thinking about separation and help them see that you will still be able to talk to one another.

*   Try having a good conversation about budgeting for the holidays.

*   Set some new traditions that will mark the season.

Remember that there are many services for helping families have a good separation.  The more you are involved in making decisions about how you will separate the better the outcome will be for the whole family.

28 Nov Reading to Your Children about Separation and Divorce:

If you have children you may find the hardest part of your separation is telling them.  There are many important strategies to keep in mind when telling your children you will be separating (telling them together, using age appropriate language, not putting them in the middle) but perhaps one of the most useful is having books you can read together about divorce and separation.

Children learn through reading, you teach them about ABC’s, 123’s, feelings, opposites, rhymes, almost everything through reading books with your children.  Teaching them about divorce is no different.  There are many books which can be helpful for children trying to understand and deal with their parents’ separation.  Below are just five of the great books available to help you and your children through divorce, from understanding what divorce is, what it will mean for your family and how to deal with the feelings that will arise throughout the process and after.

1.  It’s Not Your Fault, Koko Bear: A read together book for parents and young children during divorce by Vicki Lansky, illustrated by Jane Prince

2.  Dinosaurs Divorce: A Guide for Changing Families by Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown

3.  When Mom and Dad Divorce: A Kid’s Resource by Emily Menendez-Aponte, illustrated by R.W. Alley

4.  Divorce is Not the End of the World: Zoe and Evan’s Coping Guide for Kids by Zoe and Evan Stern with a little help from their mom Ellen Sue Stern

5.  Mom’s House, Dad’s House for Kids: Feeling at Home in One Home or Two by Isolina Ricci, Ph.D.

While each of these books is great, it is important for you as parents or as a family to look through them and find out which will work best for your family.

21 Nov Case for Collaborative Practice

More than half of the respondents to our online poll said that their children were their most important concern when considering separation.  53% of respondents listed children first. Financial issues were ranked number 2 at 36%.  These results tell us that many separating couples may benefit from working with an Interdisciplinary Collaborative Practice team consisting of trained family, financial and legal professionals.   

Collaborative Practice teams help couples maintain open communication and create shared solutions and negotiate a mutually agreed upon settlement.  Most people who are divorcing want the same thing, a great relationship with their kids, knowing they will be OK financially and, having a decent rapport with their ex. Working with a Collaborative Practice team can help couples achieve these goals.

09 Nov Finding the Positives

A new study concludes that regular exercise not only keeps you fit, but it also promotes your desire to keep fit.  Other research has shown that the stimulus that provides energy to cells through aerobic exercise increases when you exercise.  This is like a continuing boost to the system.

Why is this important?  One reason is that when we look after ourselves, we feel better.  And when we are in crisis, and separation and divorce is one of life’s setbacks, we go through many emotions, from anger, to denial, to sadness and eventually to acceptance.  While we feel badly, we need help to feel better.

It is difficult to remember to take care of your health especially when feeling overwhelmed by the emotions of separation.  Making time for exercise, whether it is a long walk or a workout in the gym, is one proven way to promote recovery.

It is normal to feel that spending time with the kids is a higher priority when the family is going through a separation.  Try thinking about it in a different way.  “I want to spend more time doing the things that make me feel better and I want to spend more time with my kids.”  The importance of your own wellbeing is not an “either/or”.  It is an “and”.    Spending time working out a positive plan to make it happen is part of feeling better.

27 Sep What Kids Cost

The cost of raising a child from birth to age 18 for a middle-income, two-parent family averaged $226,920 last year (not including college), according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s up nearly 40% — or more than $60,000 — from 10 years ago. Just one year of spending on a child can cost up to $13,830 in 2010, compared to $9,860 a decade ago . Although based on American statistics… we can assume the numbers are similar in Canada.

Each  parent may have a partial sense of these expenses,   depending on how family financial responsibilities have been assigned. It ‘s important that couples know all these numbers when going through divorce so they have a complete picture of the costs connected with raising children.

Clothing -$13,200 -6%

Health Care – $18,420 – 8%

Miscellaneous – $19,110 – 8%

Transportation – $30,900 – 14%

Food – $36,210 – 16%

Childcare & Education – $39.420 – 17%

Housing – $69,660 – 31%

For each category, the expenses represents the average for a child from age 0-18 in a two- child two- parent family.  SOURCE: U.S. Department of Agriculture

09 Jul How to Divorce and not wreck the kids

The documentary, ” How to Divorce and not Wreck the Kids” is being rebroadcast tonite (CBC ,8 p.m.) It is an informative and practical Canadian documentary  about “Collaborative Divorce” in which a separating couple agree that is the end of a marriage not a family. It follows three couples as they work through  the separation process. Worth watching .