Divorce is never easy. Divorce is never simple. Unfortunately, it becomes even more complicated when you own a home.
I have dealt with helping couples through the refinance process and divorce so many times over the past fourteen years that I feel I have it down to a science. The first part is very simple, the person getting the home, has to refinance a new mortgage solely in their name.
It’s the second part that gets tricky, especially if you care about your clients like I do. Earlier this year, I was working with mother of two young children and helping her navigate the refinance waters. Even though the actual refinance process can be done in 30-45 days, I was working with her for close to 9 months to make sure everything was done correctly from start to finish, BEFORE the divorce decree is negotiated and finalized. We start the refinance AFTER the decree is 100% legal. This can take months.
When a family planning attorney refers me a client in this situation, the first thing I do is walk them through what steps we will want to take to protect them in the divorce negotiations such as having an appraisal done to start the negotiation process. I then prepare them for the emotional hurdles that will come up. In this case, the current mortgage was not in her name, just her soon to be ex-spouse. So we were going to have to include him in this process either with her calling/talking with him or via her attorney.
As you can imagine if you haven’t been through divorce, this is one of the most emotionally difficult things someone can go through and doubly so when the divorce is not amicable (in my experience, they rarely are). Looking over the entire divorce process, my job no longer is simply about logistically finishing the refinance. My job is to listen, to help keep my client focused on putting themselves in the best position for their future and most importantly, to listen. Yes, I listed listen twice. It’s THAT important.
Once the pain of the divorce settles, I want my client to look back years later and be thankful that I helped them use this opportunity to best plan for the next phase in life and retirement. Not only did I help her refinance into a mortgage that would put her further ahead in 10 years than she would have been before the divorce, but I also walked her through setting up her own retirement savings plan and budgeting for a family of 3 with an income a fraction of what she had been working with prior.
By the time her kids reach college, she won’t be thinking about the divorce, she will be thinking about the plan we put in place to allow her to pay for her Children’s future…and that makes my heart swell with pride.