Navigating Ultra-High-Net-Worth Divorce: Honoring The Emotional Component (Part III)

In This Podcast


Will:  I’d like to welcome everybody to the third and final podcast in our three-part series about ultra-high-net-worth divorces. Once again, my colleague, Martim, is joining me here at Geller to touch on a topic that we think often gets overlooked, but—as financial advisors who support individuals going through a divorce—is something we consider to be very important.

Recognizing the emotional component of going through a divorce early on and guiding an individual to ensure that they have the right support in place during what can be a very stressful situation is something we’ve found to be invaluable.

It’s of no surprise that a lot of emotion arises amidst divorce proceedings and being able to help somebody cope with those emotions by looking through to the end of the divorce and helping them see what their life can look like after the divorce is just one of the ways we aim to show up for our clients.

Martim, to kick this off, you’ve been in this business for several decades.

What’s been your personal experience working with clients as a financial advisor, during what can be an incredibly challenging part of their lives, that you can share with our audience today?

emotional vs. behavioral components of divorce and their impacts on strategy and financial planning

Martim: Thank you for having me and it’s been terrific to spend time with you over this series.

I’m going to expand the terms that we’re using from just emotional to emotional and behavioral. I think that we should distinguish between emotions and behavior.

The way that I distinguish between these words is that emotions are what you feel at the time; it’s a current state of being. Your behavior is the outshot of those emotions—and can certainly have more permanent outcomes.

I’m not a psychologist. I don’t have any background in psychology. However, what I can tell you is that as part of a team of advisors advising a client on a divorce, it’s critical that you pay attention to, and have some sensitivity for, both the behavioral and emotional aspects of divorce.

Will: Emotions and behavior can obviously lead to friction at times, which can lead to challenges in planning and strategy. What’s the best way to work toward a resolution?

Martim: This is an extremely broad topic, but I think that one thing that must be understood by advisors is that a client who is approaching, in the midst of, or coming out of a divorce is likely to be in a tough state. There can be all types of emotions that accompany this life-circumstance, but individuals are also prone to exhibiting certain behaviors and certain biases that can be significant in terms of their impact on decision making.

And again, as we’ve discussed in previous podcasts, there should be a behavioral expert—a therapist or a psychologist—as part of the team. And even with the presence of a therapist as part of the team, as advisors in the other fields, we must be conscious of and cognizant of the fact that some decisions may be made by someone who isn’t in the best state of mind, and often with behavioral biases that could indeed be a result of the circumstances the client has endured or is enduring.

a right time and right place for decision-making:
Timing (and re-timing) is key

Will: Can you provide some guidelines or gentle thoughts about what’s worked, in your experience, in helping navigate as the advisor through some of these issues?

Martim: The first thing I’d say is there is a right time and a right place to ask your client to make certain decisions. Be sensitive to timing.

The second thing is to be aware of certain triggers. Be aware of the best way to present information and present the need for decisions to be made. Consult with a psychologist if you need to. Understand that there are very strong emotional and behavioral backgrounds to the circumstance that you’re going through with the client.

Third, be aware that, because of this fact, clients may change their minds and they may change their minds frequently. And you have to be ready for this.

One best practice is to ask the same question in different language or in varying modes of communication. Don’t overload the client and don’t be overbearing. Again, it’s all about timing and it’s all about an opportunity to get the best out of the client in terms of decision-making power.

Will: All the things we’ve discussed so far have been related to challenges during proceedings and negotiations. One of the things that you and I both enjoy so much is having a client come out on the other side. When we play a part in helping a client envision and take hold on the new chapter in their life, we feel like we’ve done our job well.

It’s so rewarding to watch somebody walk through that door once they’ve been able put all of this behind them and become empowered to focus on the things that are important to them.

As we close today, Martim, with your experience walking clients through to the other side of the divorce, what are some things from the emotional and behavioral standpoint that you might encourage individuals just entering the process to think about?

a shift in perspective: visualizing a new life beyond divorce

Martim: I don’t speak from experience as a divorced person, but I think that individuals coming into this tend to look at the process a little bit like being in a grinder. You enter in one form, and emerge in another form entirely, in pieces.

I think that getting your client to visualize it differently is beneficial. There are methods that are used by psychologists in these circumstances, such as visualization, that can be not only helpful, but even healing. Visualizing what the outcome could be, visualizing what this new life could be, helping to make this new life a reality. It can help a client look beyond what is a very traumatic time in their lives.

One thing that we cannot forget is that some of these clients have children and have other family members.

In fact, divorces amongst older generations are becoming more common. There might be children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. These other individuals are also part and parcel of the process. When we think about the behavioral and emotional side to divorce, we must bring those individuals into consideration.

Will: In closing, as we reflect on our podcast’s three topics—assembling the team, the strategy and planning, and the emotional and behavioral component of ultra-high-net-worth divorces—we hope that this discussion has proven to be of value to you.

We could spend hours talking about each one of these topics, but what we’ve tried to do is to provide a framework and a thought process around how you can start thinking about being supported as you enter into divorce yourself, or if you’re an advisor supporting a client going through a divorce.

Martim, is there anything else as we close today that you’d like to share?

Martim: No, nothing other than to thank you, Will. And for all of those who are listening to us and who may be going through a divorce or thinking about divorce, I wish you all the best and I want you to know that there are resources and people that are ready to support you.

Will: Thanks, Martim. It’s been great doing this podcast with you. Thanks everybody for joining us. We look forward to our next conversation.