A Client’s Journey: The Challenging Decision to Divorce Your House When You Divorce Your Spouse
The clients we encounter and develop relationships with come from all walks of life. Each person’s story is different. As is the case with all things, not everything is as it seems from a distance. This is an important thing to be cognizant of, especially as financial advisors and planners because it is our job to identify what we can do to help people make changes in their lives that will benefit them financially, but more importantly give them a feeling of confidence and self-empowerment.
We met Jeanette at a financial independence session that we held a few years back. She was in her mid-fifties and had been divorced for two years. Jeanette confided in us that her marriage ended due to infidelity on her husband’s part and that it had been difficult to let go of the pain and anger that those circumstances caused her.
The Big House
In her divorce settlement, Jeanette was awarded their family home. She raised her three children in this beautiful five-bedroom home and had made a great many memories there. The trouble was that the sprawling $2 million home was expensive to maintain, and she was now the only one living there. Jeanette had been hopeful that she could maintain it as a home-base to visit for her children and grandchildren. But her children had grown up and were living in different states so the opportunity for them to come and visit her often just wasn’t there.
Jeanette was facing a major emotional and financial challenge. The home where she raised her children gave her solace after an extremely upsetting divorce. She was having difficulty coming to terms with the fact that she needed to begin making financial decisions based on her needs and direction in life at present and not what those needs and goals were decades before. Jeanette needed to come to the understanding that she was independent of her children and her former husband and that she needed fewer expenses and more income in order to support the lifestyle she wanted.
As Jeanette talked we listened and provided her with some advice that we thought would empower her to come to the conclusion to sell her house on her own. We discussed opportunities for her to rebuild her network of friends. We talked about some of the housing communities that are available in Suffolk County that support a lifestyle of meeting new people with similar interests and values. After a few more meetings she began to understand that her current needs for her new lifestyle was not supported by living alone in a five-bedroom home on an acre of secluded property.
Her house was in a very desirable neighborhood ideal for young families to raise their children. She recently attended a block party in her neighborhood where she was able to meet the new families living on her street. She came to our next meeting and said, “After meeting some of the younger people in our neighborhood I realize it may be time to let someone else enjoy my home. They are like I was 30 years ago. it’s time for them to have the opportunity to raise their family.”
Planning for the Future
We enlisted the expertise of several real estate brokers and within a few weeks, our client had several offers from families eager to buy her home. With that process set in motion, we were then able to help Jeanette make a plan for her new life. We helped her to identify new goals, and with the freedom of not having the space and expense of her old house, she was able to start envisioning a new life for herself that was on her terms and no one else’s.
Jeanette’s story is like many other women who are divorced, widowed or seeking more independence. It can be challenging at first to look to the future without holding onto the past. With some open conversations and guidance from those who are willing to listen and provide options and alternatives, the transition to a new you is possible.