By Cady Kuzmich
Clifton Park — Two local women are carrying on a legacy of support for individuals in the divorce process through a collaborative workshop called Second Saturday which began with the Women’s Institute for Financial Education in the late eighties.
Second Saturday was started by WIFE — a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women reach financial independence.
The workshop, which brings community members together with resources such as financial analysts, therapists and attorneys on a rotating basis, meets in Clifton Park and Albany on the second Saturday of each month. The workshop features rotating specialists in an effort to help community members find the right fit.
Tonia Kelley, a wealth management adviser for DLG, is originally from Oneonta but has called Clifton Park home for the last 20 years. Kelley, who introduced herself as “happily divorced,” earned her certification as a certified divorce financial analyst about six years ago. She and her partner Jenn Vucetic decided to work together to help people in their community through the process.
Topics discussed in the workshop range from child custody, child support, how to deal with a hostile spouse, self-esteem, how to divide property, tax consequences, helping your family cope and how to avoid divorce court. The monthly meeting begins at 9 a.m. and runs through noon. Each session costs $25, though Second Saturday offers scholarship options for those in financial need. Kelley and Vucetic also help people find pro-bono work when necessary.
Vucetic works as a real estate divorce specialist in Clifton Park. “I kept seeing the same trend — people stuck in divorce with no one to guide them.”
The two remain neutral and work to “validate both sides,” according to Vucetic.
Describing the divorce process, Kelley said attorneys help you get divorced, therapists help you see the light and financial analysts, like herself, help make sure things are divided fairly. When it comes to dividing assets in a fair and realistic way, Kelley said “We look 10 to 20 years in the future,” she added.
The whole idea of the workshop is to inform and empower people as they move through the divorce process. “It’s a sit down workshop so they can get the info they need and understand they need their own team,” said Kelley. “When you’re going through a divorce you feel so alone. You need to feel like there are people to answer your questions,” she added.
With first-hand experience with divorce, Kelley knows how stressful and confusing the process can be. “I was up every two hours. I couldn’t sleep. I know the stressors,” she said. “They come to the meetings and realize they’re not alone,” she added.
Vucetic agreed saying, “You can see it happen — a shift in the room.”
“A lot of time people want the biggest shark. They get a lot of bad advice. Everyone has [an idea] of what they should be getting,” said Vucetic. The pair recalled a couple who fought over Tupperware after one spouse stole all the lids. Their job is to keep people level-headed and in-tune with realistic expectations. “You want to keep the house but you can’t feed your kids the shingles,” said Vucetic. She added, “We’re not sugar coating this so they can go in with their eyes wide open.”
Kelley said they’ve had cases wrap up in a matter of a few months and others which drag on for years.
Kelley said about 10 people usually come to their meetings each month. While the vast majority of their attendees are women, she said they have worked with three or four men over the years. “We get a wide range of ages and incomes,” said Vucetic. “It goes all across the board.”
“We don’t advocate for divorce,” said Vucetic. “Someone just called me up and said ‘we’re going to try to work it out.’ I say good for you!” said Kelley. “It can be depressing to see a relationship, which started as something beautiful, end,” said Kelley.
Their advice for brides and grooms to be is this: “Know how much you earn. Know what your spouse earns. Decide who is going to buy what. Budget. Have a plan to manage your finances.” Vucetic strongly insisted that anyone considering marriage talk to a marriage counselor before, like she and her husband did. Vucetic said she had known her husband for many years before they decided to tie the knot.
Speaking of the workshop, Kelley said, “It’s very straight-forward non-emotional advice, though we do have a box of tissues.” When asked what she hopes people will take with them when they walk away from the Second Saturday workshop, Kelley said, “Information and control over their lives.”