Real Divorce Stories - James Hourihan

In this episode Tamsin is joined by James Hourihan. James divorced 10 years ago. He talks about the importance that counselling played in his path to dealing with the grief of divorce. He also discusses the early days of separation and how taking a break from constant communication could assist with gaining closure more quickly.

Director of Financial Planning and Chartered Financial Planner Tamsin Caine has a strong background of over 15 years within the financial services profession. She began Smart Divorce following her own experience with divorce; she now advises people in the same situation as she once was, enabling them to take back control of their life and finances. If you need any help with sorting your finances out during your divorce, please drop Tamsin an email to


(The transcript has been created by an AI, apologies for any mistakes)

Tamsin Caine 0:06
Hello and welcome to the smart divorce podcast. This podcast is for you if you're thinking of separating already separated or going through divorce. My name is Tamsin Caine and I'm a Chartered Financial Planner will speak to some fantastic specialists who can help you to get through your divorce hopefully amicably and start your new chapter positively. Now over to today's guest Hello, and welcome to the smart divorce podcast. I'm joined today by James Hourihan, who went through divorce around 10 years ago. He talks to me today about the lack of attachment that he has to property, which I'm sure that many of us could learn from, and also the value of counselling and talking to somebody who isn't your friend or partner. Whilst we sometimes think of it as a sign of weakness. In the UK, it is most definitely considered a sign of strength in other parts of the world. And in fact, some of the strongest people around actually have cancelling. I really hope you enjoy my conversation with James. If you'd like to get in touch with smart divorce, you can find my details in the show notes. I'd be delighted to hear from you and see how we might be able to help get your that get through your divorce more smoothly and sweet your finances out so that you can separate amicably. I'm delighted to be joined today by James Hourihan, how are you, James?

James Hourihan 1:42
Yeah, I'm good. Thank you.

Tamsin Caine 1:44
Fantastic. So do you want to introduce yourself? Tell us a bit about your current situation?

James Hourihan 1:51
Yeah, I live in in Sale. And I've been divorced for 10 or so years. And I have two children that live with me half the time and I have a partner who doesn't live with me. At this point in time. Things are going pretty well.

Tamsin Caine 2:08
Excellent. That's always good to hear. And so from the point that you agreed to separate with your ex wife, do you want to tell us your story?

James Hourihan 2:20
Yeah, obviously, when when we agreed to separate it was it was a difficult decision, or very sad, the children were quite young. So we had to make some big decisions really about what we're going to do with the kids and where I was going to live and things like that. So I I made sure that I, I moved fairly close to where we both live. So I can by literally only move what quarter of a mile down the road, really, to a flat that was between their mom's house and school, which enabled me to do a lot of school runs and things like that. And I was quite fortunate because of my job that I can I can sort of take take the time to do that sort of thing. So yeah, so that was sort of the the initial the initial phase, then I suppose with everybody, you know, you get divorced for a reason. And there were there were some, you know, pretty dark times as well. And some and some pretty good times, you know, we we did all right, I think between us, with the kids trying to get that's the main thing for me. Is that what happens with the children?

Tamsin Caine 3:34
Yeah, no, absolutely. So what process did you use to go through divorce? Did you use a lawyer?

James Hourihan 3:43
Well, we did we we started off by having two lawyers, but we realised very early on that actually, we didn't have anything that we disagreed on, all we wanted to do was make sure that the the children were registered to both, you know, they were they were living in both addresses. So they were there was not just joint custody with joint residents. We were splitting the sort of equity of the house 5050. And that was it. There was no other sort of financial separation, there was no other issues around that. So we worked out we were spending a fortune on two lawyers. So we sort of made a decision to step back and get a lawyer to just write up the documentation, which they didn't want to do, because they felt that they, you know, there was a conflict of interest, but we instructed them to get on with it. And I have to say that the legal process and my my experience of lawyers who you know, charging their blocks of sex is that they do like writing letters that are nonsensical, and the number I had to read pen and send back for spelling errors was kind of terrifying. And, you know, but what it did do is it cut down our legal bills by 50% If not all, and because there was no, there was no contesting anything, basically, we just gave them clear instructions of what to write. They weren't happy with that, but then that, you know, not paying them to be happy and paying them to do you know, their contracts. That's it, really. And I think that there is sometimes with the legal profession, they like to spin things out a little bit more than they need to. I think that'd be a polite way of putting it.So yes, yeah,

Tamsin Caine 5:32
there are there are, there are, it's like any profession, isn't it? There are the good guys in there. And they're not, not quite so good guys. And some of the good guys would, would certainly be saying that they they weren't in that bracket. But yeah. Yeah, guess what, guys? Possibly, yeah, quite possibly. And so did you wait for two years of being separation of being separated? Or did you go down a blame route?

James Hourihan 6:08
We deliberately stepped away from that, and did a two year separation? It just removed a lot of the pressure, really, I think, to do it that way. You know, in every in every divorce, there's, he said, she said, you know, or he said, he said, or she said she said, process by but I think that creates quite a lot of, you know, can create a lot of friction. You know, we made a fairly sort of, I think, sensible decision that rather than go through the what the wording is going to be and how it's going to look and, and all that sort of stuff, and and the motions that it brings up without blame is to just step back and just say, let's just wait two years, and do it that way?

Tamsin Caine 6:59
Yeah, absolutely. Do you think that you would have waited two years if no fault divorce had been available to you without waiting two years?

James Hourihan 7:15
Yes, probably. But yeah, probably. I think so. I don't think we were in any absolute rush to get divorced. You know, but yeah, I think we probably would have gone down that route.

Tamsin Caine 7:27
Yeah, absolutely.

James Hourihan 7:29
Sure, it would have saved us a huge amount of time.

Tamsin Caine 7:34
Possibly not, possibly not. So how long did did divorce take from kind of making the decision to separate to come in to the end and having the financial settlement done in their absolute in your hand?

James Hourihan 7:55
I think it was just over two and a half nearly three years, from from point to point, you know, from the fact that the financial settlement being you know, in my, in my accounts, I think was probably just under three years.

Tamsin Caine 8:10
Right. Okay. And, and how, how do you feel about settlement? Now, is the,

James Hourihan 8:17
in terms of the the amount of the settlement

Tamsin Caine 8:21
in terms of, of does it feel right, though? It doesn't, numbers aren't necessarily important. But But does it? Does it still feel right?

James Hourihan 8:34
Yeah, I think it was, it was a settlement. That was it was done. There was sort of two angles to look at the first was financial, you know, what, what proportion of the the assets were mine? And the second was was emotional, you know, what do you walk away with? That makes you feel like, you know, what you've contributed has been valued. But all there's also at the same time, what do you walk away with? It doesn't, you know, financially destroyed the other person. And I think we balanced that out pretty well. You know, I think I'm sure that I'm sure that it was probably painful writing the, you know, or writing the cheque or transferring the money from from her side. But yeah, I think we were both pretty comfortable with how much there was. Okay.

Tamsin Caine 9:25
Did your ex wife stay in the family home?

James Hourihan 9:29
She did. Yes. She. So they've, they've stayed in that home and the, you know, and that was, again, part of what we we wanted to do in terms of stability and making sure the kids were fine and that they always had their own rooms, and things like that. So yeah, that was part of it.

Tamsin Caine 9:48
Yeah, no, absolutely. That that's really important. Where, because obviously it's it's, it's really, really difficult to leave. somewhere that's that's good. have been your home and all the things that are in it. But were you attached to particular particular items that were that were in the house,

James Hourihan 10:11
I think this is where probably my, my story diverges quite rapidly from everybody else's in some respects and that I don't, I've never really grown up like that I've lived, you know, all over the world. I think by the time we bought that house, that was like my, I would say probably 25th or 26th house I've lived in. So the attachment to property has never really been a big thing for me. I do I do sometimes, because obviously, I you know, we go backwards and forward to the children we have done since we've got divorced. So, you know, pick up and drop off as at the house, and I, you know, I do go in, they've, they've changed quite a lot of the house so that there's an extension and the, you know, the kitchen has been changed and all that sort of stuff. But you know, it is it is quite sometimes, I don't know, nice to see photos that I took that are on the wall and, and things like that, you know, of the kids. So yeah, so there's those kind of attachments, but I don't really, you know, property in that respect really doesn't hold much interest for me. But you know, I'd be Yeah, but I don't really care about things like that. That's not my that's not my thing. To be honest.

Tamsin Caine 11:24
It probably helps makes makes things easier. If you don't have those attachments. I would I would imagine building as far as it gives a nice building that is just, yeah, yeah. Is there anything looking back that you would have done differently?

James Hourihan 11:41
Yeah, I think so I think that there was there was first sort of year or so it was quite quite a dark period, where we were still trying to work out whether there was a, you know, potential for, you know, solving our problems, and maybe, maybe going back to the relationship, and I think in that in that period, probably, we should have certainly taken more of a breather away from each other for a bit just to, you know, get away from the emotion a little bit. And I think that that's, you know, you know, as a colleague of mine is critical psychologists once said, you know, it's divorce is a little bit like a bereavement, you know, the person has died in some respects, but you, you haven't buried them, although some of us would wish we would. But the, this idea that you've, you've relationships dead, but you actually have to be able to accept that. And from the point of acceptance to being comfortable and normal, it takes about a year. But the problem with divorce is that if you have children, and you're going backwards and forwards that that wound is always slightly open, until you can accept it and, and move on. And I think that was in the first year or so we should have maybe spent some time, you know, not communicating, rather than communicating because it opened it open wounds that made made the transition a lot a lot more difficult. I think that it could have been having said all of that, you know, where we are now as, as friends is brilliant. So, you know, clearly it wasn't that destructive?

Tamsin Caine 13:19
Did you seek any emotional advice? advice at the time, did you see a counsellor or coordinator

James Hourihan 13:29
I saw a counsellor, and, you know, to help deal with a whole range of things, because, you know, always the concern, I was going to lose sort of the input into my children's lives. And now that they're, you know, my daughter is off to university, the theory of the university in Italy over, you know, I sort of looked back and I realised that, you know, I haven't been there for 50% of her growing up, you know, same with my son who's 16, you know, for 50% of the time they've been with their mum. But then also, I believe that we, we managed to do it in such a way, I probably spent more time than a lot of dads do with their kids anyway. But I think the first stage this sort of counselling, thing that I went through was really to help me deal with the, you know, the the absence of that other 50% of the time from their lives, where, you know, what am I going to do and how I'm going to how am I going to make it work and how am I going to, you know, make it is as positive as possible with the with the kids. So I'm really glad that I helped with a few other things as well. You know, it's, as I say, emotional, you know, getting divorced is an emotional time and it's important to have some outlet that's not your partner, your friends.

Tamsin Caine 14:51
Yeah, absolutely. And I know you're not British, James, but I think cancelling in Britain is just something They're discovering more and more that people do. But nobody ever seems to talk until somebody else fesses up. You know, it's almost, it's almost like, Ah, you know, it should be something that's hidden not or something that we should be ashamed of. And it's actually mental health awareness week this week. And, and it's interesting that I do think it's more useful when people who've been through kind of quite open and, you know, and talk about their experiences, because, especially at time like divorce, it's really important to have that emotional support, like you say that it's not your ex partner, or your mates who have often have strange opinions on on the situation.

James Hourihan 15:54
Yeah, I think the, the idea of counselling, certainly, you know, when I was growing up, when I came to this country, and other sort of attitude towards that sort of thing is that, you know, needing to receive counselling is seen as a sign of weakness. But some of the, you know, outwardly strongest people go to counselling, you know, whether it's in a coaching perspective, where they've got somebody independent, to talk to about how they feel about, you know, work and things like that, or if it's in a personal life perspective, but realistically, you know, the most important thing about counselling for me is not necessarily the type, whether it's Gestalt or whether it's, you know, any of the other sort of, you know, theories that are out there, it's the relationship you have with the counsellor and how comfortable you are just being able to be able to offload. I think the best line I got, when I went to counselling, as I said to the candidate, she asked me why I wanted to be there. And I said, I'd like to be killed. She said, You're not a ham, which I was like, Oh, right. Okay. So yeah, that was the idea that you basically, you're there to talk through things and work out better ways of managing stuff. And I think that was really helpful. It's not a sign to me, it's a sign of strength to be able to get up and, you know, go and talk to somebody about how you feel and offload it in a, in a way that's trying to deal with your problems, rather than showing them off to one side. You know, and it was painful. It was Pappy and it was really painful and exhausting. You know, going to counselling, we, if you're doing it properly is absolutely draining. You know, our counselling session feels like you've been for a two hour run. You know, but but very, very worthwhile. very worthwhile.

Tamsin Caine 17:43
Yeah. I totally agree with that. How has your divorce changed things for you now? And I'm not saying, Well, I'm no longer married, because clearly that has been how it's changed. But do you think it's impacted on the way that you think about relationships, the way that you think about finances, the way that you think about your career, and, and so on?

James Hourihan 18:11
Yeah, if I sort of go in reverse on that, I start with my career, I'm quite fortunate that for the most of the period that I was, you know, post post separation. And during, during my marriage, I was self employed. So I, you know, run training, and I could, I could sort of dictate how the training worked, you know, because I trained organisations. So it allowed me to have the children on a regular basis, and to make sure that I was able to, you know, do school runs and do school things, I became a governor of the school and I got, I think, to be honest with you, the divorce probably was a wake up call for being a dad. And I truly believe that I'm a better dad, because of it, I think I would have probably, I probably would have drifted a little bit if I'd stayed married, and, you know, allowed my ex to do more of the sort of upbringing of the children than I did. So there's that sort of element. I think that from a career point of view, I made a conscious decision to step back. And as the children have got older, you know, I'm now stepping back into my work a bit more, which is, again, you know, something I'm fortunate to be able to do, in terms of, you know, my, my other parts of my life, has it changed how I feel about relationships? Yeah, probably in some respects. I think that I've made the decision as well. You know, it's another conscious decision that if I'm ever in a relationship that makes me unhappy in any way that I don't stay in it. I don't mean sort of superficially unhappy, like, you know, the dishes haven't been done. I mean, I mean, unhappy in it. You know, I don't feel valued, I don't feel like you know, there's a mutual respect, I don't feel like we're, you know, happy to see each other. You know, that's one of the key things to me, I'm quite a sort of, emotive person. And if, you know, if you walk into the house and the person ignores you for the first hour and a half, I find that a little bit weird.

Tamsin Caine 20:22
A little bit weird

James Hourihan 20:24
about being there. You know, and I like the idea of, of, you know, your partner being pleased to see you. You know, and I think that that's, that's a big thing for me, you know, they're not just your partner, they're supposed to be a friend, you know, new friends should be pleased to see. So that's, that's probably changed that my, my perspective on relationships I've, I've, you know, I won't go into relationship because I feel I need to be in one. I'll go into one because I like the person that I'm with. Yeah, I can't remember. The third one was finances. Finances? Oh, yeah. Well, that's, again, you know, taking a blown stepping back from work. To make sure I had the kids, you know, has has changed my sort of my generation of income, I've, I've had to, again, make a conscious decision that is it more important to spend time with my kids or to make a lot of money. And sometimes, sometimes I wish that I'd made the decision to make a lot of money. But think it for me, I much happier having spent a lot of time with my kids than chasing chasing the money. So financially, yeah, it's caused me some problems. But I'm still here. still happy still got my kids. So good with that?

Tamsin Caine 21:47
Yeah, absolutely. And what one piece of advice would you give a friend who is in the early stages of separation?

James Hourihan 21:56
Stop, breathe, think, keep your mouth shut. It just, you know, simple as that. Sometimes, when that's getting really emotional, when you're in that first stage, stop what you're doing. Have a think about what their perspective is, you know, what are they? What do they sort of see from this conversation you're now having? Or discussion, whether it be about, you know, the emotional impact, or children or finances? What, where are they coming from? So stop and think about that. You know, take a breath, take a massive breath. And then if you think what you're about to say, is going to make things worse. Don't say anything. Just wait, wait until tempers have calmed down and do it at a later date. Having said that, from my experience, and my experience in my training, and all the stuff that I do, the reality is that when you're in that emotional situation, those that piece of advice will go out the window.

Tamsin Caine 22:55
Yeah, that sounds pretty good advice in the whole of life, not just in, in a divorce situation. And yes, yeah. Totally. Totally agree with that. Is there anything else that you'd like to add to our conversation today? Um,

James Hourihan 23:15
yeah, I think that, you know, what you guys are doing with the, the smart divorce is probably something that you know, rather than going down the legal route, when we were doing it, you know, going down, but while we were fine, but I think it would have been quite helpful to have somebody like you guys around to give us some advice, you know, and an impartial you know, external person to give us advice, you know, and what would we have been? Would we both have been better, far better off financially? Have we done that rather than, you know, doing it on our own? So yeah, that's probably the only thing I know.

Tamsin Caine 23:48
Brilliant. That's fantastic. Thank you so much for joining me today, James. It's been lovely to speak to you.

James Hourihan 23:54
No problem at all.

Tamsin Caine 24:00
Thank you for listening to the smart divorce podcast. If you'd like details of our guest today or of myself so you can get in touch. Please check out the programme notes. Many thanks. See you again soon.

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