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Can I Keep The House, Inc.

In Print and On The Air

Article written by Sara Stolberg
Published in the December 2005 issue of Remarkable Woman’s Magazine

Chicago-area Women Share Their Divorce Success Stories

Margaret Atwood said, “A divorce is like an amputation: you survive it, but there's less of you.”  I disagree.  Divorce can be the beginning of a better you.  With the right help, the wake-up call can become a starting gun.  My clients’ divorce success stories are proof.

Terry B. never thought she would get divorced.  Not after two kids, 35 years of marriage, and a recent cancer recovery.  But when her husband filed for divorce, she found herself wondering what her future would look like without him.  He had always taken care of the family’s finances and done a good job of it.  How would she make decisions on her own?  Could she stay in the family home for another few years?  Would she be able to retire comfortably as she had previously planned?

Terry was anxious and asked her attorney for advice.  The attorney recommended that she consult with me, a specialist in the financial issues of divorce.  Over the next few months, we reviewed her situation and her goals and created a settlement that would alleviate most of her concerns.  “It was very reassuring to me that I could express things I was worried about,” Terry says.  “It was very helpful to see different scenarios in front of me.  I had a better understanding of what my options were.”

Terry made the best of an unexpected and undesired situation: she kept her home, pays her own taxes and, with assistance, she is beginning to plan for her retirement in ten years.   It’s not the life she imagined, but it has become one of her own design.

I am often told that it is important to my clients that I’m a woman who’s been through it.  I have three children and went through a bitter, difficult divorce four years ago.  I became my first divorce success story.  JW, in the Northwest suburbs, says she appreciated that “I had somebody who understood the finances, like an accountant, but understood the impact on a woman, especially the situation of a woman who is working.”  Although her divorce had complicated issues of stock option valuation and fluctuating child support, “you told me what’s good and not good, what’s fair and not fair.  It’s huge!  Now I have a financial person for life.”  She also appreciated that she was able to find someone to deal with her spouse for post-decree issues.  “You maintained your neutrality.  My ex trusts you not to disclose information he feels is confidential.”

Sometimes divorces are hostile and contentious.  Those are cases when traditional litigated divorce proceedings are most common.  Court can be avoided by using the collaborative divorce model.  Other times, when the couple wants to dissolve their marriage on their own, mediation is an approach that should be considered.  JM says that even three years later, she “maintains a good relationship with my ex.  [Our mediation] was successful, no lingering problems or regrets, nothing unfinished or unsatisfactory.  There were no secrets or issues between us, both were fully aware of the financial situation.”  She is living in a house that she purchased before the divorce was final, as is her ex-husband, and is doing very well, she reports.

“Can I keep the house?” is one of the questions I am asked on a regular basis.  I encourage my clients to look at the long-term consequences of settlement proposals.  We examine budgets, child support and alimony offers, property divisions, and tax consequences as well as my clients’ goals and dreams.  In my practice, more than half of my clients stay in their homes, well above the national average. 

Going through a divorce is one of the most stressful, emotional situations a person may endure, yet it is a time when one is asked to make decisions that will affect the rest of their life.  For a successful outcome, ask for help from a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. 

This article is excerpted from the book “Divorce Success Stories” to be published in 2006.  Sara A Stolberg, CFP™, CDFA™ is one of the top divorce financial consultants in the Chicago area.  Before and during divorce she meets with clients and helps their attorneys with various calculations and analyses.  After divorce, she helps people put their financial lives in order and build their assets.  You may visit her website at  Her offices are in Lincolnshire, Northbrook,  and Schaumburg.

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and federally registered CFP (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete initial and ongoing certification requirements.