A good concierge can sometimes save the day during a trip to a place you've never been before. Forgot to make a dinner reservation? Need a kid-friendly activity? Want to find the best spa treatment in town? Turn to your hotel concierge and consider it done, done, and done. In a way, "divorcierge" Karen Bigman has a similar job: providing advice, recommendations, and help when it comes to someplace very unfamiliar … in this case, the world of divorce.
Hey, no one goes into a marriage planning on getting divorced - but life (and lots of other stuff) happens, right? And while the process of splitting up with a spouse will never be fun, Bigman is on hand for those in the process of getting divorced or who are simply looking into the process. She can help create a divorce plan with goals and action items, form the right "divorce team," of financial professionals and attorneys, work through issues surrounding co-parenting plans, plan difficult conversations with kids and spouses, and, perhaps most importantly, help people focus on themselves and move forward despite being deeply hurt.
We talked to Bigman, a CDC® Certified Divorce Coach who runs The Divorcierge, about why she's made this her life's work, why you shouldn't tackle divorce alone, tips for getting through it, and what often blindsides the newly separated.
If someone decides to get divorced, what is the first thing they should do?
The most important thing to do is to step back and figure out what your goals are. It’s very easy to hire the first divorce professional you meet just to "get it over with." It would be fantastic if we could all agree on what’s right and fair at the onset, but our brains are so full of emotions that we probably can’t figure out what that really is. Take your time and do some research. While everyone around you means well and wants to help, sometimes too many voices cloud what is really in your heart and you lose sight of what is important to you.
Write out everything you hope for and then try to turn it into tactical solutions. What are your needs and your wants? What is negotiable and what is non-negotiable? If you take the time before you meet with a divorce professional to organize yourself, you will spend less time and money in the long run and be more rational in your decision making. If you have the means to get the benefit of some input from a neutral person like a divorce coach, that’s your best option.
What are misconceptions about divorce?
We all have the fantasy that we’ll be in court with Julianna Margulies as our attorney battling it out in one hour. But statistically, over 95 percent of divorce cases settle and never make it in front of a judge. Divorce is a long process. There is a lot of negotiating that goes on particularly when there are kids involved or a large amount of assets. Even if you and your spouse agree in principle to be fair and amicable, it feels different when you have to put it on paper.
Any other surprises?
Even though signing the piece of paper signifies the end of the marriage, the emotions come back in fits and spurts for long after. It takes a lot of work for most people to move forward with life afterwards. The good news is that I can attest to the fact that most people are ultimately happier once they move forward, regardless of where they ended up financially or how long the process took.
What are the biggest benefits to using a divorcierge?
Unfortunately, going through divorce is a bigger process than most people expect. It typically takes longer and costs more than we anticipate. Couple that with emotions which are running very high and you can imagine what a toll that takes on everyone involved. Working with a divorce coach and particularly someone who has access to extensive resources can help you keep focused and organized, while helping you stay healthy - emotionally and physically - through this process and beyond.
Why are you good at what you do?
On a technical level, I’m a Martha Beck trained Life Coach and a CDC® Certified Divorce Coach, and also have an MBA and project management experience. More importantly, I’ve been through a divorce and understand the emotions that can come up even in the most amicable of divorces. I have incredible empathy for the women I work with regardless of their situations. People going through divorce really need someone to be the voice of reason, to validate their feelings and to be there as a sounding board when they feel the world around them is upside down. I provide that "cocoon," so to speak. On a more practical level, I act as the center of the wheel to help them stay organized and keep all of the moving parts working together.
A lot of time people point to kids as a reason not to get divorced, but then remain unhappy. What are your thoughts?
It’s important to consider the children in a divorce. Kids are less affected by the divorce itself than by the fighting and being put in the middle. In cases when there is abuse, you should do your best to keep yourself and your children safe. Other than that, if you can find any other outlet for your anger and emotions, use it. Exercising, reading, journaling ... whatever works for you. Your kids will always be the children of divorce but they can still be well-adjusted adults if they grow up in a loving environment, even in if it is in two different homes.
Is there a "perfect divorce?"
The perfect divorce is no divorce at all!