A new year is upon us, prompting us to reflect on this past year (it went in a blink of an eye) and setting intentions going forward. Technically, January is the FRESH start to the new year. It means opening the door to new beginnings and closing the door to useless shit that serves no purpose, causing stress and wasted energy, soooo long, see ya!
And for some, it goes beyond this.
Unfortunately, January is sometimes referred to as “Divorce Month,” with the highest divorce filings at the start of the year. So I guess that makes me a statistic.
This January marks seven years ( I remember the day vividly) when I walked into my lawyer’s office (referred to me by a close friend) not knowing what to do or where to start. Finally, I sat across from her and said, “now what?” As far as the legal side of things, I had a good divorce lawyer, and her job was straightforward, to provide me with legal advice on all my rights and obligations.
I lucked out, BUT it doesn’t always go smoothly or according to plan. I had my moments of anxiety and wondered, who do I turn to? Even though I had my close friends nearby, there were times I felt alone. Friends are the best at being supportive during our worst hours, but sometimes their advice isn’t always the best, and you need to seek the guidance of a professional.
Enter a Divorce Coach
Q & A
With Chantal Contorines, Divorce Coach, and mother of two
What brought you into this line of work?
Going through my divorce and stumbling across a divorce coach helped me become clear and educated me in all areas. I can say without exaggeration that he changed the trajectory of my divorce process by supporting me all along the way.
What do you enjoy the most?
I work exclusively with women and love to watch them gain back their confidence, clarity, passions, visions of their dream futures, freedom, independence, and live a life of peace that they get to design. Divorce can be so incredibly overwhelming, daunting, isolating, and scary.
My role is to make it all less so, to support my clients throughout the entire process so that they can truly move from surviving to thriving. Yet, there is so much life and joy and happiness post-divorce.
To be part of this journey is a great honour for me.
Have you, yourself, been through a separation and divorce?
Yes, it was incredibly overwhelming, isolating, scary and created so much anxiety for me. The first year of my separation was by far the hardest, and I felt like I was stumbling in the dark, completely overwhelmed by the legal process, which was utterly unknown to me.
How did it impact you?
I realized that my story and experience could help me support other women going through the same or similar experiences. However, you truly need a team of professionals to help you navigate this process.
It’s vital to have the right lawyer to deal with the legal side of divorce and a coach who can support you along the way and refer you to any of the professionals you may need.
So, you’re like a liaison, helping your clients with a “separation dream team,” Who’s part of your team?
That’s exactly what I am- a liaison.
My team includes the top and highly respected: Certified Divorce Financial Analysts (C.D.F.A.), Financial Advisors and Planners, Forensic accountants, Accountants, Lawyers, Mediators, Child therapists, Therapists, Realtors, Mortgage Brokers, Health professionals, Nutritionists, Yoga instructors, and Parenting Coordinators.
What are the telltale signs of a marriage in trouble, and at what stage should a client reach out for help?
I firmly believe in the sanctity of marriage and that couples should try their hardest to make it work, especially if children are involved. But, if you’ve tried therapy and still cannot overcome the desire to divorce, then it may be time to part ways.
I am very much pro-happiness, and if that means divorce, that is what needs to be done.
My work is incredibly beneficial during the process of divorce but also before separation, as I can assist my clients in becoming clear as to what they want and what they need.
Sometimes, that means that they try one more time to make it work; other times, they start the divorce process. I wish I’d had a coach before my separation- I’m absolutely positive it would’ve saved me a lot of time, money, anxiety, and overwhelm.
What’s one piece of advice you would give a couple who is contemplating a breakup?
You have to overcome any sense of bitterness or hurt to ensure that you always act as your best self. You never want to look back and think you could’ve done better. Unfortunately, too many couples work from a place of emotion and not from a rational stance, which we refer to as the business of divorce.
If emotions run the show, couples often fight to prove a point and assuage their pain or bruised egos. And nothing good ever comes from this- too many people waste so much time and money trying to get back at their spouses.
Many people suffer silently in a loveless relationship; they’re afraid to make the first move. What would you say to them?
That it takes courage to end a marriage, it’s the death of a life you had envisioned, and this is incredibly sad for many people, even those that are miserably coupled. But, while taking that first step is hard, staying in a loveless marriage is so much harder.
You only get one life, and while a divorce is very hard, it can also be the launchpad of life you get to design and the start of something better.
There is nothing worse than being coupled but alone- it’s the loneliest place in the world to be.
Once an individual or couple has decided to move on from their relationship, where do they begin their journey?
If they are lucky, then they should start with a divorce coach.
We act as their biggest educated support system and walk them through what is needed and how to proceed. This is honestly the most prudent way to proceed, as it genuinely can save you so much time and money.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all breakup, and for some, it’s like a death. So how would you help your client be accepting of this loss?
For many, it’s the death of a life they dreamed of. And they have to grieve that loss as they would any loss.
My role is to support them to see the plethora of possibilities after divorce- I cannot say this enough: there is so much happiness and joy after divorce.
Can you describe the typical client that comes to see you and their most significant challenges?
My typical client is a woman, a mom, who has lost her passion and independence, living her life on the back burner, and likely partnered with a high conflict personality (H.C.P.). She may not even be aware of the full extent of this personality.
My area of specialty is H.C.P., so part of what I may do, educate her as to what this looks like and how she must proceed to avoid unnecessary conflict.
She’s overwhelmed, and scared of what divorce will do to her children, lonely, and cannot see a life past divorce. They tend to be financially dependent, have lost their independence and no longer know who they are or even what they want.
What would one expect from working with a divorce coach?
An incredibly educated support system.
Like any other professional, you should connect with a few before making your choice, as what works for one client may not work for another.
Our goal is to fully support you through the entire process so that you are crystal clear as to what your future looks like. So that you can take the steps in that direction, and if you veer off the path, you can return to this North Star to guide you back.
Explain a typical session?
Depending on which session, there’s always a takeaway for my clients. They decide from the beginning: what do they want to accomplish today? And we work towards that.
I help them create firm boundaries, learn to communicate with their spouse/ex-spouse, learn to co-parent but also parallel parent if their ex is an H.C.P.
I’ll connect her to vetted professionals, and help her work through financial documents so that she can present them to her lawyer. Also, create clear questions for her lawyer so that she doesn’t waste time and money going back and forth. I am not a therapist, nor a lawyer, so she must rely on the professionals to help her, but I can prepare her so she presents as a client who knows what she wants.
As parents, we want to protect our children from any stress associated with separation and divorce. Tell me how a divorce coach would counsel the family in these circumstances?
Kids must be kept out of conflict. Divorce does not hurt children. It is the conflict that can arise from hurt parents that hurt children.
My goal is to ensure that my clients act as their best selves and always put children above their needs. Children are innocent in the entire process: they did not choose for you to marry nor for you to divorce. So while you may loathe your ex, they are part of your children, and if you disparage them, you injure your children.
I always recommend therapy for children so that they have a safe space to release their hurt, sadness, and even anger. Even a few sessions can be incredibly beneficial for children going through a divorce.
There’s a lot of emotion involved in a breakup, especially in an abusive environment. How would you manage this?
With absolute skill and education.
I work primarily with women who are leaving high conflict personalities, ,and there is often a risk of post-separation abuse. It’s very common when an abusive partner starts to lose control for them to escalate their abuse. And it can get worse before it gets better. So I take this very seriously and work with these clients closely to monitor potential escalation.
How has the pandemic affected couples?
The stress of the pandemic has resulted in a spike in divorces.
There are many causes for this spike, including financial stress and a rise in mental health issues. Also, many couples rely on outside stimulants to prop up their marriages- outings, gatherings, and social events can act as buffers for couples who have grown apart.
Unfortunately, the pandemic took away all of our societal crutches and forced unhappily married couples to face their unhappiness without any cushions or buffers.
How do couples remain friends after separation and divorce?
If they can let go of the emotional aspect and work from the business of divorce. Therapy helps work through the pain of divorce and allows people to release any animosity they may hold. But it takes a lot of work and dedication for couples to remain friends.
It would be fantastic if all couples could do so, but it’s not the reality for many. And that’s okay so long as you can remain cordial, especially around your children.
Chantal Contorines is a Certified C.D.C. Divorce Coach & Certified C.D.C. Transitions and Recovery Coach at The College for Divorce Coaching. She’s a Certified High Conflict Divorce Coach: Divorce Coaches Academy, and B.I.F.F. Responses Coach, at The High Conflict Institute and a Bachelor in English and Psychology at S.F.U.
THE DIVORCE HUB