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The Great Pause continues to amplify cracks in the family dynamic which may lead to separation and divorce in farm families. In my coaching practice this year for the first time I am navigating transition planning at the same time the founders are leaving their marriage. I am also receiving calls for help from women who once had a decent farm and ranch life and are now on welfare trying to discover where the assets are hidden.

There is hope. Her name is Sara McCullough and like me she is self-employed. I have referred many folks to her for her expertise as a divorce financial analyst. That headline above that caught your attention is her direct quote. Sara has great mediation skills as a fee-for-service planner, and she’ll tell you that she asks divorcing folks the exact same questions as her married clients. Sara has learned to speak to the common interests of the couple, the things they both want. Usually, parents understand they will always be co-parenting the children, so Sara counsels couples after they divorce, and she does it with grace and empathy. Her superpower is to help clients look at things differently.

How do farm families prepare for divorce by using the services of a divorce financial analyst? They don’t.

Sara just expects you to show up for the zoom call and dive into responding to her queries. Her response to being prepared is: “Why? I don’t prepare when I take my car to the mechanic!”

As couples separate, they may work with Sara in separate meetings, and she shares documents freely between the couple. This approach is effective and efficient. She also drives out to farm homes to sit beside the accountant and the farm couple to answer questions in “real-time.”

Here are some helpful questions for all of us, married or separated.

  • What is the most important to you?
  • What are you most worried about?

How I (Sara) work is to meet with you and your ex-spouse to understand your goals and concerns. I’ll give you a list of the documents I need.

Can you trust that we are working for the best outcome for all?

I know you said that it was important for you to have this specific outcome. Here are my concerns for you if you get that.

I know you’re feeling attacked by your spouse. When you told me how confusing and scary the financial division is, remember your spouse is likely as confused and scared.

Clients tell Sara they “want to know they are going to be okay tomorrow and the next day. Am I doing the right thing?”

Huge grief and loss are real for folks on the divorce journey, Sara says “Clients often feel a lot of shame around a divorce, sometimes family, friends, and advisors use language that increases a person’s sense of shame. It’s time for that to change. You can’t negotiate well or make good decisions when you are feeling ashamed.”

Sara McCullough has carved out a special financial planning niche, starting years ago, as existing clients who decided to divorce refused to separate their planning. Neither one would agree to get a new planner. They had an amicable, not warring relationship, and they like the identical packages of information that Sara shares. Preserving overall family assets was a goal for both people and they didn’t see how two planners would achieve that. Sara is willing to sit with them in the complicated places of life. She helps folks understand in a broad sense how much is going to be allocated in settlements. She challenges clients to put a value on what they do for fun saying “I’m not trying to suck all of the fun out of your life, but are you getting $100 worth of fun out of it?” She encourages her farm clients to save money when they automate their savings automatically out of the sightlines of the farm accounts, even $5000K a month is possible when it automatically is transferred to the savings account.

“Sara Makes Sense” is her podcast that encourages listeners to absorb her financial wisdom and learn from other advisors that she interviews.

I’ve written before about the importance of knowing what you need for family living, and Sara feels many folks don’t really know what is happening with their family living. She says the quickest way to figure it out is off tax statements. Many people like to hide their family living costs and justify their large outflows of cash.

Men are typically initially afraid of endless child and spousal support when they meet Sara. Women tend to be afraid of “not being okay”, in those statements, both men and women are saying they don’t understand how they will each have enough money to cover expenses when they are separate when it didn’t feel like enough when they were together. That’s something that can be worked out, mapped out, and understood.

When you are separating you need to “feel heard” by your former spouse, and not be “firing off at each other.”

As farm women have approached me for advisors, I look to many of my CAFA colleagues, from the Canadian Association of Farm Advisors to give me good referrals. The approach of Alternate Dispute Resolution or ADR as it is known might be able to create a mediated solution and keep you out of court.

Divorce on farms is a long journey, expectations of the “new life” will have to be managed. If you have an amicable approach and consider the needs of the farm successors, you will have a much different outcome than the families who are bickering and hiding assets.

The truth will set you free. Be open and be clear. Remember that your adult children also are grieving the loss of their parental relationships and there are many “unknowns” ahead.

If you would like to have an introduction to Sara McCullough’s work go to https:/calendly.com/plan-with-sara, call 519-569-7526, or vis www.wddevelopment.ca

Keep your financial documents well-organized and continue to check in with the current “state of your union.” Financial stress, mental health issues, and addictions are bending the resolve of many farm couples. Internet relationships are flaring up affairs, and folks are seeking connection in the aftermath of much isolation.

It is not always the woman who is left behind. I’ve also had calls from farm men who are in deep pain when their wives have wiped out bank accounts and taken off.

Family secrets and hidden bank accounts do not make a healthy relationship.

Let’s all commit to a culture of transparency, honesty, and grace. It really helps when you cherish your mate and check in often to see how the other is really doing.

There are 4 farms that touch our farm, and each one has experienced a divorce. I care deeply that folks can create new chapters for their lives when they need to let go of their spouse.

One happy now-single woman used a divorce coach, a psychologist from Victoria named Bob Blank, 250-477-2662. It’s not just about the finances, there are a lot of emotional factors that need healthy input and boundaries as you create a new life on or off the farm.

Cherish one another.


Elaine Froese, CAFA, CSP, CHI Coach is wired to help farm families find harmony through understanding.

Visit Elaine’s store or watch her new speaker reel.

Did you enjoy What’s possible when people are separating & they don’t want to go to war? You might want to check these articles out too:

14 Tips for How to Prevent Divorce on Farms
Creating a Firewall Against Divorce on the Farm
How to talk to your Boomer Dad and Mom

Rave reviews

“A joy to work with, heard loud and clear. When the farmers laughed or asked a great question, I knew they were listening and really wanted to learn from her. Her tips were easy to understand. It was just about understanding that conflict happens, and to have the confidence in yourself to ask for what you want. In the glowing review from farmers after her presentation, I knew they had heard that loud and clear.”
Maddy Berner, Event Planner & Communications Coordinator, National Milk Producers Federation National Milk Producers Federation
“I wanted to say a HUGE thank you for your virtual kitchen table chat with Arlan Academy. My wife and I signed up as it was exceptionally relevant to our current journey with potentially transitioning to her parents’ farm. The session was able to cover so many aspects of these crucial conversations and hearing you speak to both sides of the conversation was eye opening for my own perspective on this topic. It seemed to be very well attended and sounded like there were many other people who would echo my thoughts and feelings on it.”
N. Oakley, Farmer, Ontario
“Elaine helped me allocate $1 Million of assets the night I listened to her. Elaine’s presentation brings value to the use of my services in my office.”
Don Forbes, Forbes Wealth Management
“I recently joined in and listened to your Healthy Farmer Agriwebinar for FMC. I truly enjoyed hearing your perspective and even went and grabbed my Mom, away from her work, to come and listen in on some of your main points as well! One area that really stood out for me, both personally with our own succession plans and with our clients, was your discussion involving "Instant Influence" and how ready are you to change? I loved this concept!”
Annessa Good, FCC Transition Specialist, Alberta
“Elaine Froese truly is the Farm Whisperer. With her big heart and stern resolve, she guides families through uncharted waters and helps them arrive safely at their desired destination. She has been there, done that, and has helped hundreds of families come out on the other side. With your family and your farm legacy on the line, you owe it to yourself to start this conversation. You do not need to do it alone. Let Elaine Froese guide you through. Your legacy is being written day by day. How will you be remembered?”
Tracy Brunet, Host of The Impact Farming Show & CEO of Farm Marketer
“You speak like you’ve been sitting at our kitchen table! You know our family issues well. I am feeling more comfortable understanding what we now need to do. Elaine Froese is real.”
Audience Member,
“I attended the meeting you spoke at in Stratford Ontario recently. We held an emergency family/farm meeting today because of issues that I had enough of. We used a 'talking stick' like you recommended and wrote a chart of rules. The rest of the family thought the idea that we needed a meeting was worth rolling their eyes over, until we got started. The younger ones were quick to clue in that they now have an opportunity to be bluntly honest. The older ones took a bit longer to believe they could truly say what they think. In the end, the meeting needed two sessions because there was so much to talk about… and so many things people didn't realize were a big deal to the others. Your lessons and encouragement have given us the tools we need to get to a better place in our relationships and our business. Truly thankful.”
Kim Martin, Dairy Farmer, Ontario
“Helped me develop my framework to start having constructive and meaningful conversations around the farm.”
Tennille Wakefield, Farm Partner
“Some great lessons, Elaine! You continue to do some remarkable and potentially life-changing work.”
James Mitchell, Principal, Conversations Consulting
“Our family had a good farm meeting yesterday afternoon. Your Fairness video was a great topic of discussion. One of the action items after the meeting was to have my two non-farming siblings watch the video before the next big meeting they are involved with on the farm. It will be a great conversation starter as we catch them up on our current plan. As they are younger, we also hope it will help them to ask new questions that may not have been on their mind.”
G.G., Farm Family Legacy Coach, Alberta
“Elaine gives me excellent tools that help me work with my clients!”
Laurianne Osmack, Financial Planner / Partner, Doell Osmak Wealth Management
“She has a sense of “knowing” quickly what is happening in the family dynamic. Her messages to her audiences drive home what needs to be done next to solve the complex issues of farm transition and conflict resolution.”
Audience Member,
“Eye-opening. Excited to open the door of communication with my spouse and farm family.”
Ashley Hoppe, Farm Partner
“The Strong Farms, Strong Families session gave farm families an opportunity to meet face to face with Elaine Froese... hear her own story, experiences and skill set. From this information packed session and related materials, families could identify areas of success in their journey and other places they need assistance. The greatest take away was that participants could see that Elaine Froese is someone they can trust with the things that they hold most precious.... their family and their farm.”
Nancy Atkinson, Nobleford Ag Society, Alberta
“Elaine’s real-life scenarios help her audiences know they are not alone, knowing there are creative solutions to help them get the life on the farm they have always wanted.”
Audience Member,
“A long time female client who had refined the art of procrastination was so moved by the end of your presentation that she accepted your permission to “drop the bananas.” She contacted me soon after for an appointment to do some planning which included the selling of the family “Century Farm.” A very, very emotional decision on her part that was not likely to have occurred without your presentation.”
Don Forbes, Forbes Wealthy Management
“I just have to say… that your work is amazing and I have never forgotten your teachings from our session in Williams Lake at TRU. It is super important work. I know so many people going through the trauma of succession. I hate to use that word, but I was an “out-law” and know it can get terrible. I continue to forward your emails on to others. Keep doing what you do! You are amazing. You kind of walk into the fire regularly… and with a smile. Proud to have met you.”
Megan, BC Rancher
“As my husband and I eagerly started the course we were optimistic and excited to be taking this next step in our Farm Transition. We were starting to question ourselves and whether or not we were just being selfish and greedy, and if this Farm Transition was still an option for us. We barely got through the first Module and were already having such a huge relief. As we moved through the modulus there were so many times that we just sat back with our hands in the air and thought YES. My husband and I would smile with relief because all of the concerns that we have been struggling with were relevant and came up in the modules. We really enjoyed the course and are excited to move on to the next stages to find our farm resolution.”
Shannon Gilchrist, “Get Farm Transition Unstuck” online course participant
“My hubby farms with 2 brothers and parents, and it’s become a really toxic place. No communication, no respect, etc. Twelve months ago, my husband’s brothers told him they don’t want to work with him anymore and offered him a pay out. His parents did nothing to stop it! He had no choice but to leave. Three months later, we moved off the farm and into town. He has been offered heaps of jobs and is now truck driving and carting hay and grain. We have tried communicating with his parents about what happened but they are not interested. So basically my hubby has lost his family. Very sad but we as husband and wife are overall in a good place and moving on to create our own life. Please continue on with all your wonderful work in helping families on the farm. I continue to tell any farmers I know about you, that they must ‘google’ you, and read your books.”
Donna, Farmer, Australia

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