Couples know how to plan weddings. Motivated by myriad marriage magazines, a plethora of planners and those one-stop-shopping wedding expos, the happy pair works out every detail. Long before the wedding, the bride and groom choose the color of a bridesmaid's flowers, their first dance song, reception appetizers and even the perfect table to stick that uptight, nerdy guy from the groom's office and the bride's wild sorority sister whose cleavage generally shows off a little too much of her tattoo.
Wedding planning tends to leave no detail to chance.
But if the marriage ends up on the rocks, that same husband and wife often jump into the divorce proceedings without a game plan and no place to turn. That is changing.
"I'm just thrilled to see The Divorce Expo coming to Naperville," says Naperville's Connie Walsh Beard, a certified financial planner, owner of Walsh Financial Divorce Solutions in Wheaton and one of the featured speakers at the expo. "We all have to work on getting the word out there that there are options and professionals to help out."
About three dozen professionals will be manning booths and giving presentations during the suburbs' inaugural all-day Divorce Expo 2012 beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 18, at Hotel Arista in the CityGate Centre of Naperville. Early bird tickets at thedivorceexpo.com are $75 each or $129 for a couple. Those pondering divorce, in the midst of one or still struggling with the aftershocks can find information on everything from finances and insurance to dealing with depression and figuring out whose relatives will get to attend the youngest child's high school graduation ceremony.
"You only get so many tickets," notes Kimberly Kick, a longtime licensed clinical social worker and therapist from Libertyville whose expo presentation titled "Letting Go" will explain how divorced parents can communicate in ways that are best for themselves and their children. "The smoother it goes for the parents, the smoother it goes for the children."
Kick and partner Cathy Chestler founded Divorce Communications, a Lake Bluff company that gives divorced parents a number of online tools to let them manage calendars, pay bills, schedule visits and communicate easily. They offer free services to military families.
The Divorce Expo grew out of the personal experience of founder Joost A. Allard, whose 21-year marriage ended shortly after a move to the Detroit area four years ago.
"We don't get married with an exit strategy in mind," says Allard, 51. "Not only did I have no idea what to expect in the process, following the divorce there was a vacuum of services and information to get back on my feet."
That experience inspired Allard and his new partner, Christine McQueen, to start Split Partners, a Michigan divorce consulting firm that developed the divorce expo concept. "We want to help people find the resources," Allard says.
"Divorce never ends," says Kick, noting that many aspects of lives shared continue long after the relationship ends. "I encourage people to talk about how you are going to move forward."
"There are different ways to divorce," notes Beard of Walsh Financial, a certified divorce financial analyst who works with court cases, advocates for mediation and serves as a fellow for the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois. "There are a lot of areas that aren't cut and dried."
People are familiar with the HIPPA health care privacy laws, "but those privacy laws do not protect people in divorce court," says Rebecca Busch, a registered nurse and health care advocate leader who founded Medical Business Associates in Westmont. Busch says she has seen a minor's mental health treatment or a spouse's one-time prescription for a painkiller not only become part of the public court record but be twisted in an attempt to win a legal argument.
"Divorce is complicated enough as it is, but you have people who will take another person's health information, misrepresent it and disclose it," says Busch, whose expo presentation will deal with protecting that privacy.
Other presentations and exhibits include "The Alienated Child," by Judge Michele F. Lowrance, who presides over domestic-relations court in Cook County; dating information from Stefani Safran, founder of the Stef and the City matchmaking service; a presentation from Jeffery Leving, the well-known father's rights attorney and author; and a speech titled "Redesigning Your Life After Divorce" from author and speaker Kathey Batey.
Just because a couple thinks about divorce doesn't mean they will get a divorce, the experts add.
"I've had people who came in 10 years ago and never ended up getting divorced," says Beard, who notes a new job status, evolving financial situations or even a change of heart can keep couples together.
Speaking of matters of the heart and the romantic spark that can sometimes keep couples together, the Divorce Expo ends with a Social Sandbox on the hotel terrace. It promises to give participants immersed in a day of divorce topics the chance to "blow off some steam and get to know other newly single adults."
Just remember that no matter what happens at the Social Sandbox, there probably is an expo coming soon to help you deal with it.