Ten Steps To Money
Presented by the Stepfamily Foundation. Written by Jeannette Lofas, Ph.D., LCSW
- Get the facts; unrealistic financial expectations beget real problems.
Read and understand divorce agreements. What were the financial obligations of the past marriage? Can the prior spouse be counted on to meet those obligations? In addition we need to disclose each other's salaries, expected bonuses and other assets.
- Work out a budget of actual household and children necessities: education,
mortgage, rent, electric, telephone, car expenses and clothes. As a couple discuss and work at just what husband and wife define as needs and wants.
- Remember each of us comes from differing point of view re money expenditures. Our family of origin values and our previous marriage values and experiences heavily impact the way we look at the step marriage and money. Sort this out. If you are fighting over money get counseling.
- Work out who is exactly to pays for what and how. Will you keep one couple bank account and merge your moneys or will there be a his and her bank account and a household bank account. Depending on assets and the state laws, lawyers will advise differently. Commingle all moneys may not be wise if an ex may go to court for “an increase of child support or change of circumstances.”
- Discuss discretionary wants and needs of the couple and then of each member of "in house" and visiting step children. Should upset occur Use A/B Reality Tool in the STEPPARENTING book. NOT! "You overindulge your kids," Instead, my reality is, I feel, I see, I hear. One could say, "when your kids ask you for something I hardly ever hear you say no." If money continues to cause upset, find a divorce and step literate counselor with whom to work.
- At the Stepfamily Foundation we often advocate pre or post nuptials, as ugly and unromantic as it may seem,. These agreements determines such items as percentages of inheritances, who gets custody of the children in case of death, financial determinations in case of divorce, and even who does the dishes or shopping.
- Teach kids how to handle money. Determine age appropriate allowances and children's household responsibilities and duties. Allowances should be used to buy lunch, comic books, games and movies. They should not be withheld as punishment, but simply delayed.
- Endeavor to develop a neutral style of communication with ex’s re money. Using the child as the messenger regarding money, whether verbally or by letter delivered at visitation, is not appropriate. It divides the child's loyalties, places him in the middle and finally results in her lowered self esteem.
- Do not use the child as a messenger regarding money. We know what happens to the messenger. No notes, checks or verbal messages through the visiting child. You may say I have a different point of view or a different reality than mom/dad regarding money.
- After children, money is the second largest cause of break up. Learn good partnering and couple communication skills. Money is difficult, but solvable dynamic of divorce and step relationships. Building a couple partnership is vital. The couple must work things out alone, or with a qualified counselor.
The Stepfamily Foundation Inc. is a not for profit, formed in 1975 to inform and counsel those who live in re-coupled families. Counseling is done on the telephone worldwide and in person in New York City and the East End of Long Island . It also conducts Certification Seminars for professionals, coaches, clergy and attorneys.
Dr. Jeannette Lofas is the President and Founder of the Stepfamily Foundation, Inc., and the author of Stepparenting, Family Rules, Living In Step, and He’s OK, She’s OK. She is a lecturer and noted journalist, and has been counseling stepfamilies for over thirty years.Dr. Lofas is licensed social worker and a certified mediator. She is a member of such organizations as The Association for Family Conflict and Conciliation, The Center for Family and Divorce Mediation and The New York State Council on Divorce Mediation.