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How long does it take to get a divorce by weheartit

How Long Does It Take to Get Divorced?

When you want a divorce, it can’t happen fast enough. But, when you don’t want it or aren’t prepared, it can pull the rug out from under your life. The time it takes to get a divorce depends on a lot of factors — some within your control and some not. One thing that is always within your control? How wisely you use the time you have to prepare once divorce is inevitable.

Regardless of your initiative, mere compliance, or opposition concerning your divorce, your desire and need to know a timeline are understandable. Everything about the divorce process and its aftermath is time-sensitive.

Your first instinct is going to be to consult with “Google & Google, LLP.” Starting your research at the most obvious place makes sense.

But be careful and discerning as you collect information. Google can be a veritable rabbit hole, leading you from a general search with reputable sources to a downslope of information, advice, and questionable links. And it can quickly become overwhelming.

Anyone who has had to do academic research knows the cardinal rule of using primary sources. The reasoning is obvious: to avoid the dilution, changing, or skewing of information.

Educate Yourself with Up-To-Date Information

Online research is no different, but has the added considerations of fast-paced change and, unfortunately, a maddening dose of questionable integrity.

Just be careful and always consider the source. (Besides, the detailed, specific information you ultimately need will come from your team of experts – your divorce coach, attorney, financial planner, etc.)

Also, take note of dates on articles and be cautious about giving any information. You are getting educated and collecting information. Nothing more.

Google is a great place to get your compass pointing in the direction of familiarization and the reliable resources that will guide your journey.

You may have even found this site SAS for Women through a general search. But, as you click through our website, you see that it is thoughtfully, thoroughly, and securely developed. And the information shared here is consistent, reliable, and based on trustworthy sources.

This is the kind of confidence you need and deserve to have in your resources when the difficult time comes to get a divorce.

Again, always consider the source.

Your approach to getting educated about the divorce process can make a huge difference in the smoothness and outcome of your divorce.

It will directly influence your confidence and ability to deal with the inevitable stress of this life-changing process.

It will potentially help you save money and time and avoid making mistakes.

And it will lay the groundwork for how you move forward – and the people who become part of your life – after your divorce is final.

How Your State Affects Your Divorce Timeline

Your first online search should be for your state’s divorce process – and specifically its residency and waiting-period requirements. 

Every state will have its own laws regarding how long you have to live in the state before you can get a divorce. It will also have its own requirement (or lack thereof) regarding how long you have to wait before your divorce can proceed and be finalized.

State-by-State Comparisons

In Texas, for example, the petitioner has to have lived in the state for at least six months prior to filing. Texas is one of the states that also have county residency rules.

Texas also has a “cooling off period” of 60 days from the date of filing. Why? To make sure one spouse or both spouses aren’t rushing into a “forever” decision because of a temporary and/or reparable period of discord. (This is especially understandable when children are involved.)

What this means is that, if you live in Texas, and choose an uncontested divorce vs. a contested divorce, you could be divorced in as little as 61 days.

However, if you and your spouse have points of contention regarding custody, assets, fault vs. no-fault, etc., you will add on both time and expenses.

California, as notorious as it is for the “Hollywood” marriage-divorce-remarriage-divorce cycle, has a six-month waiting period for divorce – one of the longest.

New Jersey, on the other hand, has no “cooling off period.” While a typical divorce involving children and assets takes about a year, a simple, no-fault divorce could be complete in weeks.

State-by-State Residency and Waiting Periods

Getting familiar with your state’s laws for the divorce process is one of the best and easiest ways you can help yourself. (Paul Simon wasn’t kidding when he sang 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover!)

Some states, for example, have long residency and waiting periods and may even have required separation periods and parenting classes. Have a momentary lapse in confidence and come back together for a let’s-make-sure weekend of cohabitating? The clock will start again.

If you’re looking to get a divorce quickly, living in states like Vermont, South Carolina, and Arkansas could test your patience.

Read more about the fastest and slowest states for getting a divorce to get a sense of where you stand.

Avoiding Litigation

Divorce is no stranger to the DIY approach. While you can find all the necessary forms online if you and your spouse decide to go that route, please be careful! If there is anything that could be a point of contention or complication, you are better off with legal representation.

Even if you choose a non-litigated path like mediation, you would do yourself good service by getting a legal consultation. And, whether you are simply “consulting” or hiring an attorney for the entire process, avoid hiring cheap divorce lawyers.

Even couples without years of accrued investments and complicated finances will have financial considerations, usually outside their areas of expertise.

Protecting Yourself Against DIY Divorce Mistakes

The disparity in income levels, years in or away from the workplace, years spent as a stay-at-home-parent, retirement funds, health/life insurance, mortgage – it all matters. And it all has relevance far into the future.

Women especially tend to take a hard hit financially after divorce, and they don’t always regain their financial footing. Their loss can be almost twice that of men and is often accompanied by a number of post-divorce surprises.

As you can probably see by now, that innocent question, How long does it take to get a divorce? doesn’t have a simple answer.

Some things you can control. Some things your spouse controls. And some (many) things your state’s laws control.

Remember that knowledge is power – or at least an analgesic to the inherent stress of getting a divorce

Remember also that the time it takes to jump through all the hoops of the divorce process says nothing about the time it takes to recover from a divorce.

But how you educate yourself, and the integrity and composure with which you navigate your divorce can influence everything, including your divorce recovery, the new chapter you deserve.

 

Notes

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional and often complicated experience of divorce. We invite you to learn what’s possible for you. Schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation with SAS. Whether you are dealing with divorce or are already navigating your life afterward, choose to acknowledge your vulnerability and learn from others. Choose not to go it alone.

 

Top reasons for divorce

Gender Nuances for the Top Reasons for Divorce in The U.S.

For all the statistical data that makes it seem textbook and predictable, divorce really is an organic reflection of many factors. Everything that influences social norms, economy, and current events, for example, ultimately influences marriage and divorce. That means both the rate and top reasons for divorce have contextual relevance.

Add in individual factors like age, gender, education, and socioeconomic status, and both marriage and divorce become dream topics for statisticians and psychologists alike.

Even social stigma sticks its nose into a very personal matter and influences things like the decision and timing of divorce. It can even influence the top reasons for divorce and how parting spouses heal and move on into other relationships.

How Age Affects Reasons for Divorce

It’s worth noting that millennials are both trend-breakers and trend-makers when it comes to marriage and divorce. Thanks in large part to this age group, both marriage and divorce rates are on the decline.

The reason?

Millennials are waiting a lot longer to get married, and they’re staying married longer.

Move up the age ladder to couples over 50, and the rate of divorce is twice that of couples in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. And many of their top reasons for divorce are unique to the circumstances of this life-transitioning age group.

Just when you think a couple is in the home stretch of their lifetime vows, factors like an empty nest, retirement, and emerging health issues take their toll.

If you’re so absorbed in the needs and wants of children and bosses that your marriage takes a back seat, retirement can be a daunting new reality.

(For more info about divorce for this special age group, read about gray divorce here.)

Spoiler alert: Every successive marriage after the first has a significantly higher risk of divorce.

What Vague Reasons for Divorce Might Actually Mean

When reading about the top reasons for divorce, a few things are worth keeping in mind.

Commonly listed reasons for divorce have a certain amount of interpretation embedded in them.

“Irreconcilable differences,” “lack of commitment,” “one partner not carrying his/her weight”—these are all pretty blanketing reasons (especially the first two).

Also, not every survey uses the same terminology.

Finally, especially in a no-fault or uncontested divorce, some couples may amicably sweep their issues under a closing statement of “irreconcilable differences.” “Drifting apart,” “incompatibility,” “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage”—there are various ways to not zero in on a specific fault.

The top reasons for divorce probably won’t surprise you. Here are 6 of the biggies:

  • infidelity
  • financial problems
  • chronic arguing/fighting
  • lack of intimacy
  • physical and/or emotional abuse
  • addiction or substance abuse

The top reasons for divorce become more interesting and relevant when considered in the context of gender, for example.

When you consider that women initiate divorce 69% of the time compared to men, surely you’ll be curious as to why. (You may actually not be surprised at all.)

Remember what we said about divorce being contextually relevant? Well, this is a perfect example of why.

Gender Roles in Marriage and Divorce

There was a time when women weren’t even “women” when they married. They were “girls” or, at best, just-out-of-high school teens. They went from their families of origin to creating families of their own.

And they donned their aprons, stayed home with the children, and had dinner on the table when their husbands came home.

Not all, of course. But women-in-the-workforce wasn’t always the norm.

Women-in-higher-education wasn’t always the norm, either.

But what happens when women get educated and earn their own money? They start expecting more for their lives and knowing they can have it, with or without a husband.

So, when it comes to initiating the divorce, women are often far down the road with their discontent compared to men. Their idea of “intolerable” often registers to their husbands as “What do you mean, you’re not happy?”

Women expect emotional connection, not just financial provision for a home and family. They have individual ambitions in addition to their family ambitions.

So it makes sense that women’s top reasons for divorce include:

  • lack of love, affection, and emotional availability
  • immaturity/marrying too young
  • different sexual needs
  • infidelity
  • inequality
  • control issues
  • lack of communication
  • emotional and/or physical abuse
  • substance abuse

Men’s needs and top reasons for divorce aren’t completely different, but their priority and “weight” are unique.

  • not feeling appreciated or respected
  • financial disagreements and differences in spending
  • infidelity
  • different sexual needs
  • no shared interests
  • feeling inadequate

Some issues have obvious overlap.

Infidelity, for example, is a tough issue for couples to overcome. (And yet, more than half survive it.)

But, in the same way that a heart attack is usually the culmination of several risk factors, infidelity rarely happens in a vacuum. There are other issues — many listed above—that motivate (but never justify) the straying. Check out our surprising article on the Cheating Wife Phenomenon.

Notice that feeling appreciated and respected is a top priority for men, while love and emotional connection are priorities for women.

For an interesting perspective on a very generalized theory about love, respect, and genders, read here.

Inequality in Marriage

Men also rank financial and spending differences as a major reason for divorce, especially if they are the primary breadwinners.

Today’s woman is far less willing to accept inequality between partners. On the contrary, she has very evolved ideas and high expectations of equality.

Unfortunately, men, in general, haven’t caught up to what that looks like, especially in terms of their responsibilities at home. Women are still assuming the majority of childrearing and housekeeping responsibilities, and they are quick to recognize the disparity.

Finally, differences in sexual needs are a top reason for divorce for both men and women. If couples don’t constantly work to communicate their needs and create a mutually satisfying approach to sex, the result can be erosive. Physical intimacy, after all, is what distinguishes marriage from a platonic relationship.

The top reasons for divorce in the USA reflect a host of variables. Some are unique to the individuals and couples themselves. And some are influenced by societal trends and shifting priorities and accepted ways of life.

What matters, in the long run, is that, if divorce is the only viable and just solution to your differences, you embark on the journey with eyes wide open.

 

Notes

SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to rebuilding their lives on their own, healthiest terms. 

If you are thinking about … dealing with … or recreating after divorce, you have specific needs you must attend to in order to advance your recovery. We invite you to learn more about supporting yourself and schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation with SAS for Women. Whether or not you work further with us, we’ll help you understand your next, black-and-white steps for walking into your brave unknown—with compassion and integrity.

Pre-divorce checklist

A Pre-Divorce Checklist? Consider Composing One During the Holidays

“He’s making a list and checking it twice. Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice.”

Should you be making your own (pre-divorce) checklist … and checking it twice? As an experienced divorce attorney in Utah, I find the second phrase to the jingle, “gonna find out who’s naughty and nice” an inspired idea, and one that is not coincidental. The day after Christmas, Dec. 26, marks the beginning of what is officially considered “Divorce Day”: what those of us in the divorce industry call divorce season.

After the holidays have subsided and divorce season begun, our phones are ringing off the hook, with plenty of revelations suggesting who is naughty and who is nice.

Taking the time now to create your own pre-divorce checklist is positive and it’s constructive — unlike racing to a lawyer’s office or venting on social media about the sorry state of your marriage. The slow, deliberate movement of checklist making adds perspective, grounds you, and informs your ultimate decision on whether or not to add to the divorce rate across the United States or Canada, or wherever you may be (besides purgatory).

In fact, making a pre-divorce checklist is, perhaps, the best free divorce advice I give my clients during the holidays. And so, in the spirit of giving, I’d like to share more with SAS readers. Let’s use this post as your go-to guide for creating that checklist.

The Legal Point of View

There are so many different ways to look at a divorce and what you may or may not need to navigate that beginning with the legal perspective is often the best first step. And this begins, if you are a US citizen, by talking to a lawyer in your specific state, because divorce law varies from state to state.

To prepare for that meeting, think about your questions and get the necessary documents organized in advance. This will give the lawyer something to look at, evaluate and base their answers on, when you meet.

If you wonder what documents to gather and organize, check out this post Thinking About Divorce? Be Prepared.

If you wonder what questions to ask, SAS for Women has you covered there, too. Consult this blog post Questions to Ask a Divorce Attorney.  Of course you may have other questions you will not find on that blog post, like should you open a post-office box for personal or divorce-related mail? Would it be a good idea to take money out from an account in advance of the divorce? Can you leave the marital home before officially separating or divorcing? What happens to the money you are due to inherit if you divorce? Should you file for divorce before you get your bonus?

All of your questions (and fears) need to be explored and answered, but be careful about making any radical moves. It’s critical you vet your big actions with a lawyer before you act so nothing is held against you in the divorce.

This is why organizing your documents and meeting with a lawyer is such an important step on your pre-divorce checklist. You must get grounded on reality, what is and what is not possible.  

The Financial Point of View

Next, you cannot underestimate the power of getting educated on what your best business transaction would be if you were to divorce. Which is why gathering your financials and getting feedback on them is critical.

Here you can listen to Certified Divorce Financial Analyst and advisor, Stacy Francis discuss The Financial Do’s and Don’ts Before, During, and After Divorce.  Listening to Stacy will help you further formulate your financial questions. Don’t worry if your money questions overlap with your legal questions, that’s normal.

So, your pre-divorce checklist includes organizing documents, gathering your questions, meeting with a lawyer, and then going deeper with the money and getting feedback on your financial choices. This is best done with a financial person who is familiar with how divorce impacts the money. And now there’s a new professional who does just that kind of work.

Keep in mind to really forecast what you may have for money in the future, you’ll need to gather current Social Security calculations, details on debts, personal and marital property information, and monthly budget figures. Do you keep safety deposit boxes? What’s in them? Have you or your spouse already received an inheritance? All of these details need to be gathered and included on your pre-divorce checklist.


If you are thinking about … or beginning the divorce process, consider Annie’s Group SAS for Women’s virtual group coaching program for women looking for an education, support, structure, and a safe community.

A new cohort (with you?) is starting soon.

 


Consider Your Home Property

Ready to go deeper? You’ll also have to consider your home. If you have not previously done so for your home insurance, take pictures of each room of your house. Make sure each room’s contents are displayed as part of a more thorough listing of assets. With the home, your own accounting is not all that counts. Getting an appraisal can be beneficial as well, so add that to your list. Renting mother-in-law apartments in a home is common these days (all the more so in a COVID climate). Make sure to get copies of leases for in-home or other rental properties. Your To-Do list grows!

Take Care of Your Heart

Don’t forget to factor into your list your need for emotional support (besides all this legal, financial and practical info).

Chances are your heart and your feelings are not going to be in synch with learning about your legal and financial choices. This means you need a safe place to vent what you are genuinely feeling and to learn from the messages your emotions are trying to tell you.

So, add to your pre-divorce list “Emotional Support” and consider how you will find it. Have you got a therapist or do you need to work on finding one?  Or, do you have a coach who understands the divorce journey and can help you feel anchored as you begin to take steps?  Be careful in whom you confide during this vulnerable moment in your life. Sometimes our family or friends are not the best people to share our challenges with, because their opinion, reaction, prejudices may not be in alignment with who we really are.

You absolutely need a safe, neutral, judgement-free place to go and you deserve that place.

As you make your pre-divorce checklist, realize that action with these different steps deepens your awareness and possible commitment to divorce. As your sense of empowerment grows, you may move from flirtation to surety. 

Here are some other pre-divorce checklists I recommend

You might want to check the following to see if there are any other crucial items or steps you want to add to your list:

  • SAS for Women’s “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.”
  • Donna Fulscado, Investopedia, Oct. 28, 2019 “Divorce Planning Checklist: What You Need To Know”
  • Shawn Leamon, CDFA, Divorce and Your Money: How To Avoid Costly Divorce Mistakes, March 1, 2017  “The Ultimate Divorce Checklist: What You Need To Prepare”
  • Communication planning is a unique aspect of Rebecca Jones’s list. Jones is a London-based family lawyer. Her divorce checklist includes letting everyone from family dentists and opticians to utility companies know about a divorce, if enacted. That’s something you can consider to do later on — if you indeed go through with the divorce.

‘Tis the Season for Making a List and Checking it Twice!

Yes, it may be the holidays, but if you are in a troubled marriage, the holidays may be anything but merry.

Breathe deeply, think clearly, and get anchored. Using a pre-divorce checklist will help minimize the overwhelm of everything seemingly coming toward you at once. And checking things off will give you a sense of “doing something” at the same time it keeps you moving in a sequenced, goal-oriented way.

To all, we wish you the Season’s Best, a better 2022, and to all a good night.

Notes

Jill L. Coil is Utah’s leading female family law and divorce attorney and invites you to hire her before your spouse does. She is admitted to the Utah and Texas bars and has contributed to case law by successfully arguing a landmark case before the Utah Supreme Court. Coil is a 2019 Super Lawyer and an author featured on Amazon, contributes actively within her community, and is the proud mother of four children.

 

SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to rebuilding their lives on their own, healthiest terms. If you are recreating after divorce or separation, you are invited to experience SAS for Women firsthand. Schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation. Whether you work further with us or not, we’ll help you understand your next, black-and-white steps for walking into your brave unknown—with compassion, integrity and excitement.

File for Divorce - What it Takes

What Does It Take to File for Divorce?

Perhaps you want it, but he doesn’t. Perhaps he wants it, but you don’t. Perhaps you both want it. No matter who comes to the conclusion that divorce is the unfortunate destiny for your marriage, one of you has to file for divorce.

It’s understandable that the process of initiating the legal end to your marriage would be an emotional step. And no one wants to voluntarily take on that negativity, especially if the other person isn’t aware of or in agreement with the divorce.

This initial step, however, must be taken if the process is going to move forward.

There may be no badge of honor, favoritism, or disproportionate rights granted to the petitioner. But there may be advantages to being the one to file for divorce.

Filing is the official notification to the courts to begin the divorce process.

The person who files, called the “petitioner,” files a petition (or “complaint” in some states) with the court.

(Note that “the court” isn’t just “any court.” Like most family law matters, divorce is handled at the state government level. Petitions for divorce are therefore filed with the state superior or circuit court, usually a county or district branch.)

If you plan to file for divorce, there are things you should do beforehand.

How to Prepare to File for Divorce

You have the advantage during this time of getting educated about your strategy for going through the divorce and assembling your team for support.

Researching and seeking legal counsel, for example, is one of the most important initial steps you should take. And “going first” means you get “first pick” of the best local representation if you choose to use a lawyer to represent you.

Also, the time to understand your rights and get your concerns answered is before you start the clock.

A divorce coach can help you navigate both the practical and emotional ins-and-outs of divorce. And s/he can also give you access to perspective, what is normal, what is not, and a wealth of essential, well-vetted resources like good lawyers, good financial people, recommended mediators, etc.

If you know you are going to be the one to initiate divorce, you also have the advantage of beginning your due diligence early.

We can’t stress this enough: Documentation is everything. Prepare, prepare, prepare! 

Even your petition for divorce will require documentation related to your marriage and finances:

  • Names and addresses of both spouses
  • Date and location of the marriage
  • Identification of children of the marriage
  • Acknowledgment of residency

Every state has its own residency requirements (state and/or county) for one or both spouses prior to filing.

  • Grounds for divorce

You may have at-fault grounds like adultery, abandonment, addiction, criminal conviction, impotence, infertility, mental illness, or physical or emotional abuse.

Or you may have no-fault grounds like irreconcilable differences or incompatibility.

Your grounds for divorce may influence whether your divorce is uncontested or contested. (At-fault and no-fault grounds are decided by each state.)

  • Declaration or request as to how you would like to settle finances, property division, child custody, and other relevant issues.

Once you file for divorce with the court, the petition for divorce must be served to your spouse.

This step is called “service of process.” And it can be as simple as a compliant spouse signing acknowledgment of receipt.

It can also be as difficult as your spouse refusing to sign or being difficult to locate. You would then most likely need to hire a professional process server.

Upon completion of service of process, the clock starts running on your state’s waiting period. This is also the point at which the court will basically “freeze” activity that could affect your settlement and/or custody.

Important Details About The Service of Process

There are some important things to know about what happens after completing your service of process. Neither you nor your spouse will be allowed to take your children out of state, for example. You also won’t be allowed to buy or sell property or sell off insurance related to the other person.

Knowing that these restraining orders will be in place, you may be advised to request temporary orders in your petition.

Perhaps you are a stay-at-home mom with young children, and you rely on your spouse’s income.

Even an uncontested divorce can take a year to finalize. And you can’t live without the means to provide for yourself and your children.

Temporary orders would provide for things like temporary custody, child support, spousal support, residential arrangements, and payment of bills.

By now you’re probably catching on to how being the first to file for divorce can be advantageous.

No, we’re not suggesting in any way that you rush into a life-altering decision just so you can “be first.”

What we are suggesting is that the outcome of your divorce will be largely predicated on your preparation.

Best-case scenario? Both you and your spouse know that your lives are best lived apart. You might work cooperatively to make your divorce as smooth and painless as possible.

Honesty, disclosure, respect, and fairness will guide your dealings.

Worst-case scenario? You file for divorce, and your spouse does everything in his power to fight it.

He doesn’t want the divorce, but he’s not happy with your marriage, either. He is hell-bent on making you pay for initiating the divorce. And he’s not above breaking the rules to do it.

Hiding assets, contesting everything, and trying to leave you with nothing will guide his dealings.

Misery will guide yours.

Preparation is Key

When you have time before filing for divorce, you can prepare your questions, collect your advisors, and do your due diligence. And that due diligence will empower you with much more control in the proceedings, especially if your spouse is uncooperative.

Finding, copying, and organizing everything is essential. Your stuff, your husband’s stuff, your mutual stuff, your kids’ stuff.

When it comes to financial matters, these are the documents you should have and the way you should organize them.

Finally, while being the first to file for divorce won’t give you an edge on your settlement, it can make some things easier.

If you and your husband reside in different states part of the time, initiating the divorce will allow you to decide the location of adjudication. And where a divorce takes place has everything to do with how it proceeds…and turns out.

Waiting periods, residency requirements, fault/no-fault grounds, and even certain financial considerations will be at the mercy of location.

In the short run, all it takes to file for divorce is the decision to go forward with ending a marriage that isn’t working.

Do the paperwork, serve your spouse, and provide proof that he was served.

As the respondent, he is free to send a response of agreement or contest. But the clock starts nonetheless.

In the long run, however, approaching the first official step of your divorce process with forethought and preparation can dramatically influence the outcome.

The road to an empowered life, after all, begins with the first step.

Notes

SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to rebuilding their lives on their own, healthiest terms. 

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce, or that confusing place of recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and often times complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. “A healthy divorce requires smart steps through and beyond the divorce document.” Learn what we mean and what it means for you in a FREE 15-minute consultation.

I am too afraid to divorce

Help! I Am Too Afraid to Divorce!

“Dear Divorce Coach, I don’t know where else to turn. I’m so unhappy in my marriage, but I am too afraid to divorce. I don’t even know if I can trust my own feelings or myself. And, if I can’t even do that, how can I make a life-altering decision like ending my marriage? How can I wreck everyone’s world?

The truth is that I have been unhappy, even numb, for years. But our kids were still in school, and I didn’t want to throw their lives into chaos. Growing up is hard enough.

My husband and I are civil. There’s no abuse of any kind, and, to the best of my knowledge, there’s been no infidelity, no cheating. 

He has always been a good father to the kids, although I know they always wanted him home more. And God knows I could have used more help taking care of the kids and the house.

But I long for so much more than just being ‘civil.’ I’ve longed for an emotional connection for most of my marriage, but my husband doesn’t relate to “feelings” or these needs of mine. We talk about his work and the kids, but he closes off when I initiate any personal conversation. 

It’s as if we live in the same house but don’t know one another anymore. We might as well just be roommates.

We haven’t had sex in almost eight months. I feel ashamed saying this, but I really don’t want to have sex with him. If I don’t feel valued and loved on an emotional level, so how can sex possibly feel natural, let alone good?

I find myself daydreaming about life without him—doing what I want to do, picking up hobbies I used to love, not having to clean up after him, or even meeting new men.

I admit to having started communicating with an old classmate on Facebook. We liked each other years ago, and it’s clear, he’s not happy in his marriage either. He’s like a breath of fresh air. We can talk about anything, and I feel heard and seen. My ideas, my feelings, my dreams, they all matter… just not to my husband.

So yes, I even catch myself envisioning life with this person instead of with my husband. And I know that has to be a signal that something isn’t right.

I have no one to talk to about things relating to our relationship, and I feel completely alone. Sometimes I wonder if I’m crazy or just plain selfish. Shouldn’t I just suck it up?

I have asked my husband to go to couple’s counseling with me, but he refuses to go. And how much good can I do for “us” by going to therapy alone?

When I think about it, there are several reasons that I am too afraid to divorce. 

First, I was a stay-at-home mom until five years ago. But even then I worked only part-time at a low-wage job. My husband was the major breadwinner. How will I ever support myself now? And how much of my lifestyle would I have to give up?

Second, I am so worried that my children will hate me and never understand why I left their dad.

Third, I don’t have a clue where to begin. How do I start a divorce right under my husband’s nose? And how on earth would I afford it?

Finally, I’m afraid that I will be alone for the rest of my life. I’m not young anymore. Is it possible to start again in middle-age?

I am well aware that marriage isn’t all sunshine, flowers, and romance. But is reasonably happily ever after an unrealistic expectation?

I would be grateful for any advice you can give me.

Sincerely, 

Too Afraid To Divorce


 

Dear Too Afraid To Divorce,

Before I respond to your questions, I want to assure you of two very important things:

You are not crazy. And you are not alone. 

Divorce, and what leads up to it, can be very isolating. Because everyone’s situation is unique, it’s easy to fall into believing that you are alone. And problems-on-the-homefront isn’t the usual topic of choice in social settings.

But I assure you, you are not alone.

Perhaps it would be a bit of consolation to know that nearly 70% of divorces are initiated by women. Like you, women are more likely to assume the emotional burden of marriage. They are also more likely to feel held back by it.

At the same time, overthinking when to leave your husbandespecially when there is no abuse, addiction, or infidelity—is easy to do. You get inundated with all the whys and what-ifs. And there’s nothing like “a good day” to throw your whole thought process into confusion and self-doubt. A lot of women tell us how confusing it is, how guilty they feel when their spouse is not a horrible person, but a “good guy.”

My advice is always predicated on taking orderly, strategic baby steps in the right direction. 

Your first task is to decide if your marriage is salvageable. 

If it is, then you and your husband will have to get onto the same page and get the help necessary to save your marriage.

If it’s not, then starting the process of divorce will make sense to you.

Are you in a bad marriage? Only you and your husband can make that final evaluation. But you mentioned a few things that are red flags for me. 

First, you said you’re not having or even desiring sex with your husband.

Second, you said you are fantasizing about life without him. 

Sometimes mentally extracting yourself from your marriage can give you a temporary reprieve from your unhappiness and anxiety. But it’s not indicative of or conducive to a healthy marriage.

And finally, you mentioned befriending someone from your past and feeling the emotional intimacy you don’t have with your husband. 

The danger in developing even an emotional closeness to someone outside your marriage is complex. Not only will you confuse your own decision process, but you could risk the final terms of your divorce settlement. Stay focused on your marriage (or the process of ending it) without seeking another relationship.

Right now you are still in decision mode. You’re contemplating divorce, not actively pursuing it. And that can leave you feeling ungrounded, spinning, and overwhelmed. It’s understandable that your battle cry is stuck on “I am too afraid to divorce!”

Let’s go back to that feeling of being alone. All the advice I can give you is rooted in this imperative: 

Don’t let yourself believe you’re alone. And don’t attempt to do this alone.

Those baby steps I mentioned? The first one is to collect information. Learn about the divorce process, the laws in your state, the timeline for divorce, and even what to expect when you tell your kids.

I have your first reading assignment: “8 Things Divorced Moms Want Divorcing Moms to Know”. You will never get better insight into the divorce process than you will from women who have gone through it.

While you’re learning from and leaning on other I’ve-been-where-you-are women, you’re going to notice a comforting and awakening constancy. Help is always available for those who ask. 

In the course of asking and receiving, you will build your own support system.  And it will be there for you long after your divorce is final.

If you decide to go forward with a divorce, you will need to establish the right people around you, your team of experts—legal, financial, emotional, practical, custodial, etc. A divorce coach can walk you through the checklist of must-do’s and their timelines and even help you assemble the right people, because she’s seen other women like you and has learned what is normal, what is not. And a word to the wise? A lot is normal, so take heart.

Your concern about affordability is a common concern. Believe it or not, there are options for women who believe they can’t afford a divorce, including ways to make divorce cheaper. Your life’s well-being and happiness should never come down to the ability to pay for the help you need.

Divorce comes with costs, both financial and emotional. But it also heralds in unfathomed possibilities and positive changes.

The time after your divorce is your time. It’s a critical time for reflection, learning, adapting, dreaming, and rediscovering yourself.

It’s also the time to become your own best friend and advocate, remembering that you have the support that has been with you all along. Before you know it, “I am too afraid to divorce” will become “I’m going to be just fine.”

If you can embrace this period with fearlessness, trust, and curiosity, you may surprise yourself when you emerge ready to love—and be loved—again.

Stay committed to yourself and the life you deserve,

Susan

(Divorce Coach at SAS for Women)

Notes

SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to navigating divorce — on their own terms. If you are considering or dealing with divorce, you are invited to experience SAS for Women firsthand and schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation. Whether you work further with us or not, we’ll help you understand your next, black-and-white steps for walking into your brave unknown — with compassion and integrity.

Facing the fear of Divorce Change Weheartit Size 2

Fearing the Change of Divorce

Think back to when you were a small girl and how, when you were little, the prospect of change was exciting. Perhaps you were scared but excited about losing that first tooth. But it meant growing up and that the tooth fairy was coming to reward you for being brave. Do you recall when you were invited to do grownup things? Like stay later at the table with adult guests, or accompany a teenager on an outing and how thrilled you felt? Larger than yourself, and suddenly bigger, more important than your peers. Change signified good when we were younger, and perhaps even faced with the shock of menstruation, a part of us welcomed it (maybe) with a particular horror fascination. It symbolized certain doors opening, and a private world of unexplainable mysteries and womanly secrets now to be yours. Most likely, though, fearing the change of divorce was not included in those early imaginings.

When we were little, we understood change as natural. We still do. However, with age, we have come to fear it. Older now, “wiser”, we resist change, we ignore it, and we pay to not see it. And in no place is change more fear-inducing than in our post-divorce, apocalyptic future, somewhere out there, in an unknown galaxy of life after separation.

This “resistance” begs a few questions. How do we look at the change that divorce inevitably brings in a healthy way? 

How do we make friends with it? 

And how do we prepare for it when we can’t know what’s out there?

Change and Its Thorny Opportunity

Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom or losing our marriage, or losing ourselves in a marriage for us to see that something’s got to change because there are no alternatives. There simply is no other choice. That’s the gift for some of us, the catalyst: we have no choice. So, for those who are change-averse, sometimes it takes hitting the wall for change to be accepted. Others say they have no problem with change and embrace it with every opportunity. 

And yet there are degrees to change.

Genuine change is not about getting Botox or our hair colored. It takes work to learn what is changing, what needs to change, and what we want from the change. Put simply, it’s uncomfortable. Fearing the change of divorce is natural, but can also be seen as a huge opportunity for growth and yes, even improvement on the way we are currently living.

Change on the Inside

To understand change, we need to appreciate how our bodies are hardwired and what genuine hard work it is to change. We resist doing something different because it is physically difficult. The brain has hard-wired networks and paths. Any kind of change to our homeostasis or what our networks know as “normal” causes stress for the body. The body has to work extra hard to override old patterns and create a new response.

The fact is we’re not just lazy, or cowards when we’re looking at change: we are conditioned NOT to make it happen.

And society certainly reinforces this, or so it seems at first blush. If we look at myths and fairy tales around the world, they tell us, don’t leave home, don’t wander out of the village, don’t amble into the woods. Don’t change. For there, lurking is the Great Unknown, the wolf, the ogres, the dragons, they’ll get you. No, stay local and do what you’re supposed to do, what’s expected of you. If you don’t change, you’ll stay safe and out of harm’s way.  

But those myths are never about the common folk, the villagers or townspeople who continued doing they always did. The great myths are about that one unusual, individual who chooses to not heed the “stay-safe” words. The hero. The hero is called by the beyond and the hero pursues. S/he leaves the familiar stay safe world and goes off to face the unknown. And it’s that journey, that epic quest of twists and challenges, struggles and fights, that transforms the hero into a changed person, a leader for all. 

The lesson in those myths is not to stay with the same and what you know. If you want to lead a passionate life, it requires you to face change and its harrowing obstacles. It will not be easy, but in the failing, stumbling, and caterwauling on the ground, you will learn anew. As well, the lesson reveals that failure is a profound opportunity for learning.

Rather than focusing on fearing the change that divorce brings, ask yourself: What have you learned from your marriage? 

Preparing for Change When We Can’t Know Our Future

Perhaps you are feeling your fear about divorce, or battling dragons right now in the midst of the legal process. Maybe you’re facing your battle-weary self in the mirror after divorce. Wherever you are in the process, begin by taking stock of the pain you know so well. And then ask yourself, what do you want to do with this pain? Stay with it? Or, use its energy for something that will end it?

Scary, we know. But remind yourself, you’ve been afraid before. Fear has always been with you, ever since you were a child. It’s how you respond to it and what you do with the fear that matters most. 

Ask, what are your genuine choices today? Map them out. Will doing nothing and staying in your status quo end the pain? Or is it another path, where you will have to do uncomfortable things, like explore your options, learn about them and their long-term playouts, that offers a better chance of ending your pain?

Make Friends with Change by Making Friends with Others Facing It

Feel yourself fearing the change of divorce, and then begin. Take small steps. Find the right mentors and communities who can bolster your commitment to facing the fear of divorce in your life. These people hold the knowledge that will help ease your journey and liberate you.

In myths, the hero is always visited or inspired by otherworldly creatures, whether it was Pinocchio’s Blue Fairy or the god and goddesses in the Odyssey. Open up to finding your source of inspiration, your specific light that pulls you forward. This power may come from your spiritual practice or your therapist who’s helped other women leave difficult marriages. It might come from private meditation or the words of a divorced coach. Perhaps your guidance comes from another divorced woman who, further along her journey and healed, is turning to help you be guided from the demons, mishaps, and pitfalls along the way. 

Lean On Group Support!

Don’t overlook the power of the group. Maybe it’s a community of like-minded women, each seeking to learn if she should or should not divorce. Or maybe it’s a group of inspired divorce survivors who have similar values to you: they too are learning what they want from change as they support each other rebuilding their lives. The contagion of the group is powerful. Think of the successful, recovery model of peer-to-peer support in Alcoholics Anonymous, or the triumph of Suffragettes in the early 20th century. Being with others will inspire you, and you, with all your flaws and strengths, will inspire them. Together, there is group momentum. Together, there is greater success in numbers.

Accepting Change Involves Action and Calculated Risks

Though you are allied and supported, you must accept that there is no one else who can change your life. It will come down to the action you must take, and here, your body needs you to do something. You will meet with a lawyer to hear your legal choices, you will evaluate them. You will worry about the money, but you will find out the best business transaction for yourself. If you have kids, you will remind the children, once it starts, this is not about them, and that their daddy* and you love them very much. You will keep taking steps to prepare and integrate change, and to foster your best post-divorce life. You will remind yourself, you will continue to face fearing the change of divorce throughout your journey.


“I never heard of anyone regretting being brave.”  ~ SAS for Women Co-founder, Liza Caldwell

 


In spite of your ongoing fear, all of your steps will be in alignment with your best post-divorce life. Yes. If that is hard for you to imagine, then spend time visualizing what you want in your sweetest life. In the safety of the visualization, go big! Think about your ideal landing ground after divorce. Visualize peace and safety, think about the people whom you’ll have more time for, consider how your body will feel not being constantly triggered by your spouse. Allow change to be an inspiration for you. Don’t hold back. Nurture that vision and infuse it with healthiness and compassion, but also steel-edged resolve for honoring who you must be, who you truly are. Hold that vision front and center and ensure your steps, small or large, are directed toward that vision.

You will fumble. You will fall. Likely, you will find yourself on your knees, and on occasion, your children will be watching. Forgive yourself. You are human, not a god. But your body is an incredible thing. It’s seemingly hardwired to keep you small, and yet, you are learning it can also catapult you into new, exciting places and situations, where you can and will learn anew. You can adapt, and in this adaption, discover unpredictably beautiful things. There are risks with your moves, but there are often greater risks in doing nothing. You’ve accepted “something’s got to change” and you are giving it your all. This is the one precious life you were meant to live. 

Notes

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce or that confusing place of recreating the life you deserve, one thing that makes a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. SAS offers all women six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you—and your precious future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

 

*At SAS, we support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity, however, we may refer to your spouse as “he” or “husband.”

The Truth About Divorce for Women

The Truth About Divorce for Women

It’s unique for every couple and every individual going through it. You know that— with your head, if not with your heart. But the truth about divorce for women (and men) is painted with both broad and fine brushes. And seeing the big picture is as important as seeing the details.

Being lost in the microcosm of an unhappy marriage can be all-consuming. Little things are “everything,” and the thought of going through a divorce can seem as insurmountable as the thought of staying married.

You have friends and acquaintances—and perhaps family members—who have gone through a divorce. You see it played out on screen and in the tabloids of daily life.

And no doubt you have witnessed the full temperature spectrum of divorce, from amicable to contemptuous.

Even under the best circumstances, divorce isn’t for the faint of heart.

Nor is it for the unprepared.

Because SAS for Women is just that—for women—we will be discussing the truth about divorce for women specifically. The good. The difficult. The possible.

What Statistics Say About Women and Divorce

It’s important to revisit what you may find to be a surprising statistic: Women initiate divorce almost 70% of the time compared to men.

Add a college degree and that statistic skyrockets to 90%.

Why do women take the initiative to divorce their husbands more than the other way around? And why are the scales almost equally balanced when it comes to break-ups of non-marital relationships?

Obviously, there is something remarkable about the institution of marriage when it comes to uncovering the truth about divorce—for women, specifically.

In general, women are more vested in the expectations of marriage. Once-traditional roles are no longer applicable, especially as most women are pulling their weight both inside and outside the home.

They invest more. And they want more. The connection, the communication, the fidelity, all of it.

And education only makes them more astutely aware of what they can do and have in life and relationships.

It also makes them unwilling to tolerate less.

Education, after all, is as much about learning how to think and access resources as it is about stockpiling knowledge: a big advantage in today’s marriages.

Education is also a big advantage for women going through a divorce.

The Impacts of Divorce

When it comes to the truth about divorce for women, knowing how to create solutions and where to find help can be lifesaving.

And nowhere is that more true than in the areas of finances and single-parenting.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest shocks of divorce is what it does to women financially. All the upfront preparation often can’t prepare women for the long-term financial struggle they statistically face.

Countless factors influence this possibility, of course.

Women are far more inclined than men to sacrifice professionally in order to prepare for or raise children.

By the time they divorce, they have often lost critical years in the workforce. And they can’t make up for lost time on the earning-front—both in income and benefits.

This is why it’s essential that women have expert financial guidance and heed the most important financial steps after divorce. They have to think ahead to the unknown future in order to make wise decisions in the present.

Difficult as it is to face, the truth about divorce for women means they need to be savvy, both upfront and for the long haul. What may sound like a great settlement at divorce time may not be enough to secure even a comfortable lifestyle down the road without a struggle.

Single-parenthood can be another difficult reality check for women, especially if they’re already dealing with diminished financial status.

On top of doing everything alone, there is also the emotional component of not being part of their children’s daily lives.

And then there is the likelihood that their exes will find someone new to love and marry. And that means a new maternal influence in their children’s lives.

But the reality of divorce isn’t all bad. There is plenty of good on the other side of divorce.

Hidden Benefits of Divorce

If you’ve been trapped in a marriage that has suppressed your dreams and gifts, divorce can open the door to self-rediscovery. It can expand your consciousness of who you are and what you want in life.

Divorce can also offer exhilarating freedom. Not because marriage in and of itself is imprisoning, but because one or both partners can lose perspective of marriage’s liberating, elevating potential.

Perhaps the most positive truth about divorce for women is the sense of empowerment and independence it engenders.

Yes, you can come out of divorce struggling with your sense of self-worth, especially if your spouse was unfaithful, abusive, or neglectful.

But there is power—and potential—in knowing how long to stay and when to go. And being a steadfast advocate for your own dignity, even when it has suffered a blow, is a statement of promise for your future.

As you start to rely upon your own strength, ideas, and resources, in the context of your deepest values, your power magnifies. You realize there is more you can accomplish and dream about.

And in that reaching, stretching, and holding your own, you build resilience. You become an example, not only to your aspiring self but to your children and those who bear witness to your journey.

Divorce, even in the best circumstances, isn’t a do-over with a blank slate. What presents itself as new, free, and self-directed is still seasoned by marriage loss.

What you needn’t lose, however, are its lessons. And, out of its lessons, your resolve to rise, just as a tree adds to its rings while rising toward the sun.

The truth about divorce, for women on their way and women already there, is ultimately seeded in one unbreakable vow: to live into their highest selves for their highest good.

Notes

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional and often complicated experience of divorce. We invite you to learn what’s possible for you. Schedule your free 15-minute consultation with SAS. Whether you are coping with a divorce or are already navigating your life afterward, choose to acknowledge your vulnerability and learn from others. Choose not to go it alone.

Financial consultation for a divorce

Smart Moves for Women: A Financial Consultation for a Divorce

When considering divorce, or before responding to a spouse’s request for divorce, most women know it is smart to consult with a divorce attorney to learn about their rights and entitlements. But few women realize it is equally important to pursue a financial consultation for divorce with an experienced financial advisor. Who is a good financial advisor? It’s not the one you and your spouse have been using (unless s/he is more in your pocket than your spouse’s.) This new advisor should be someone who really listens to you and your concerns as a woman, has at least 10 years of experience, and (most importantly) understands how divorce impacts your money. For this reason, you may wish to cut to the chase and consult with an advisor who holds the certified divorce financial analyst® (CDFA®) designation.

Marital finances are often complicated. If any of the following situations apply to you, you may want to consult with a CDFA even before you consult with an attorney:

  • You wonder if the income that supported one household could stretch to support two;
  • You or your spouse purchased the family home before marriage;
  • The marital estate includes multiple assets such as real estate, stocks/bonds/funds, retirement accounts, pensions, cryptocurrency or private equity;
  • You or your spouse receives equity compensation such as restricted stock units (RSUs) or stock options; or
  • You or your spouse is self-employed or owns a business.

Women Not Confident in Their Financial Knowledge Often Pay More in Legal Fees

We don’t need Sherlock Holmes to discover for us that many experienced divorce attorneys charge high hourly rates. Martindale-Nolo surveyed attorneys and consumers in both 2015 and 2019 and concluded that the cost of divorce was influenced primarily by the attorney’s hourly rate and the number of hours the attorney spent on the divorce case. According to the survey, on average, divorce attorneys charge between $300 and $365 per hour in California and $305 and $380 in New York. 

I work with women across the country, especially with clients in California, and many of them choose attorneys who are certified as family law specialists. These specialists charge between $350 and $575 per hour. Top family law litigators charge even more. 

Your lawyer serves a critical role, whether he or she is advising you as a consulting attorney during mediation with a neutral third party, or representing you from start to finish with respect to your case. But paying a lawyer by the hour to increase your knowledge on the financial aspects of divorce will result in unnecessarily high bills. This is not the best use of your money.

It makes a lot of sense to choose the right tool for the task, especially when that tool is less expensive. Most CDFAs charge rates that are 30% to 50% lower than the rates attorneys charge in their markets. So, if you want to learn how retirement accounts and pensions are divided, whether or not you can afford to stay in your house (or qualify to refinance the mortgage in your own name), how to negotiate a fair division of assets, and what you need to do to ensure long-term finances, then I recommend you arrange a consultation with a smart money person or a certified divorce financial planner.  

A CDFA Helps You Avoid Costly Mistakes

CDFAs are financial professionals who understand your budget. We look for ways to ensure we add value so your investment in time and money pays off. We help you evaluate settlement proposals before you get to the final, divorce financial settlement. Putting in the work in advance will help you avoid mistakes that could prove costly down the road. 

One of the most common mistakes women make is agreeing to a division of assets that might look fair today—but results in a less-than-equal division in the future because they did not consider after-tax values.

If child support and/or alimony (sometimes referred to as “spousal support” or “maintenance” depending on your state) occurs in your case, it is critical to work with a financial professional who can project your after-tax cash flow and assist you with preparing both a pre- and post-divorce budget. You do not want to commit to a lifestyle for you and your children that you cannot afford. And, conversely, you don’t want to pinch pennies and live in a state of anxiety if your CDFA concludes that running out of money later is unlikely.

How to Find a Good CDFA

You can find a CDFA in your area by entering your zip code on the Institute for Divorce Financial Analyst’s website. There you will find newly-minted CDFAs as well as experienced practitioners.  

Many CDFAs have Yelp or Google reviews so be sure to check those sites as well as ask for referrals. 

Ask your divorced friends for the names of attorneys, mediators, and CDFAs. I recently attended a birthday party for a former client and was pleasantly surprised to see two other former clients in attendance. I had only met with one of them via Zoom during the pandemic and it was wonderful to be able to give her an in-person hug. 

Everyone is using Zoom these days so you do not need to limit yourself to a CDFA in your local area. And, in my experience, Zoom is even better than in-person meetings when reviewing and commenting on documents and spreadsheets. As long as the CDFA is familiar with your state’s laws and has experience working with attorneys or mediators in your state, he or she should be able to provide value, but never legal advice (that is what your attorney does).

For example, since one of my specialties is determining the marital and separate property portions of equity compensation for employees of both publicly–traded and start-up companies, it is no surprise that many of my clients live in the San Francisco Bay Area when I’m physically located in San Diego. 

How to Prepare for a Financial Consultation for Divorce

Most financial advisors and CDFAs offer complimentary financial consultations for divorce. I offer consultations by phone and last between 15 and 30 minutes. I also provide 30-minute financial consultations for divorce to participants in SAS for Women’s Annie’s Group. Before your consultation, check out the advisor or CDFA’s website and read their resources. This is your opportunity to have a professional answer your basic questions before you ask specific questions relevant to your unique situation.

To make your consultation call most productive, it’s best to have…

  • a list of you and your spouse’s assets and debts and estimated values 
  • your last two years of tax returns. 

Some women handle the finances in their marriage, so this information is not hard for them to organize. But in reality, only some women have access to all that information so just do the best you can. Any information you can provide is helpful. You will also want to tell the CDFA how long you have been married, whether you are currently living with your spouse, and the ages of any minor children.

While the CDFA may be able to answer some of your questions, don’t expect him or her to answer all of them during a brief consultation. If you are the primary breadwinner in your family, and increasingly many women are, you’ll want to make sure you do everything to protect yourself and support your family. You’ll want to ask the advisor/CDFA how he or she works. Specifically, you’ll want to know whether the fee is hourly or flat-rate, and what you can expect to accomplish by working together. For example, I charge an hourly rate but also offer flat-fee packages for divorce financial planning and analysis before and during divorce like the “It Could Happen” and “Mediation Money Mentor” packages. 

Conclusion

No matter how you choose to divorce (mediation using a neutral third-party, traditional approach of you each hiring a lawyer, litigation, or DIY via an online platform), connecting with a financial advisor is just plain smart to ensure your best future. A CDFA can add value by reducing legal expenses and/or the time it takes to divorce. Once you become educated on your financial options and what is possible, you can more effectively and healthily advocate for yourself during the divorce process. You’ll avoid the possibility of making financial mistakes that will be detrimental to your future. I cannot tell you how many times I have introduced myself at a networking event where the woman will say to me, “I wish I had known about you when I was going through my divorce.”  

Notes

Laurie Itkin, “The Options Lady,” is a financial advisor and certified divorce financial analyst® and has worked on more than 250 divorce cases, primarily in California, either as a financial neutral or advocate to one spouse. Laurie has been quoted in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, San Diego Union Tribune, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, U.S. News and World Reports, Parade, Redbook, and Forbes. She is a member of the Association of Divorce Financial Planners, the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts and the National Association of Women Business Owners and provides pro-bono financial advice to clients of the San Diego Financial Literacy Center and Savvy Ladies. You can request a consultation or sign up for Laurie’s monthly newsletter here

 

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women. We partner with you through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce and rebuilding your life afterward. Schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation with SAS. Tell us confidentially what’s going on, and we’ll give you clear feedback, resources, and suggestions for your next steps.

Before you file for divorce

6 Must Do’s Before Filing for Divorce

Regardless of your situation, divorce is life-altering. Even if you expect to manage a calm break-up, the financial and emotional challenges could make divorce one of the toughest things you’ll do in your life. For this reason, many people do not prepare themselves adequately before filing for divorce.

Unfortunately, most people jump into divorce impulsively—or they face divorce unexpectedly—without ever preparing. In those scenarios, the risks of a bad outcome increase because at least one of you reacts from an emotional, uninformed place. This increases the likelihood of discord, conflict, and pain because “fear” is leading the charge.

Responding from a steadier, educated place will reduce pain in the long run. And so, before you decide to file for divorce or respond to a divorce filed against you, make sure to follow the concrete suggestions below to help get your footing. You must acknowledge your fear, but you must also listen to your brain and take these steps.

  1. Begin By Writing Down Your Questions

Taking action is important, in fact critical, but before you lunge in any direction, take time to be with yourself and to write down the biggest questions you have. Put the questions in categories if possible: legal, financial, emotional/life, practical. Then consider your questions and find the right professional who can help with them. Friends can only get you so far. A professional must look at your circumstances to help you understand your choices. A professional will have experience with these issues. Why do it all alone and exhaust yourself trying to reinvent the wheel?

  1. Gather the Necessary Documents to Get Feedback

Legal and financial documents about your marital life are essential in divorce. During the process, your lawyer and financial advisor will need to see various documentation to give you concrete feedback on what your best-case and worst-case scenarios are. Organizing your paperwork early on, including such essential files as investment and retirement account statements, tax returns, and pay stubs of your partner, will help your advisors understand the financial story and help you develop your best strategy for what you will negotiate for and live on.

Read Are You Thinking About Divorce? Important Steps to Be Prepared

  1. Consult the Right Professionals

Look at your list of questions and begin consulting the appropriate expert. Therapists can help you specifically with the emotional journey you are going through and offer guidance on how to take care of yourself during this time. The relatively new type of divorce advisor the “divorce coach” is a generalist who gives you an overview and structure for what to expect. They will help with some of your questions and help you identify clear steps to take in the right direction. Divorce coaches are also trained in supporting you with your emotional challenges as you are facing this transition. Well-resourced and connected, they can provide you with referrals to other seasoned experts, like a lawyer, therapist, or financial advisor who specializes in divorce.

  1. Legal Support

Even if you are thinking about it, or your spouse is telling you, “Let’s do it DIY!” it is critical that you, as an individual woman, get feedback on your legal situation. This means consulting with a lawyer on your own.

You should look for a traditional, licensed divorce attorney for this meeting and aim to learn what your rights are. Additionally, you should also learn what you are entitled to and what might be potential issues to resolve. You must hear what your state law says about your circumstances (and not rely on what your spouse is telling you.) You’ll probably have questions about child support, spousal support, temporary living arrangements, who determines custody, who’s going to stay or move out, or how to conduct yourself during the legal process. Like a divorce coach or financial advisor (below), a lawyer is that person who speaks to you confidentially and advises you specifically. A good one specializes in family or divorce law, and is experienced, compassionate, and makes you feel heard.

See this link for questions to ask a divorce attorney and how to prepare for that meeting.

  1. Consult with a Smart Money Person

Most often this is a financial advisor, but maybe your sister is an accountant and can help you determine which financial choices would be the wisest for you long term? Getting good financial feedback is not the work of a divorce lawyer, although your lawyer will have a legal perspective. A financial advisor will help you get clear on the financial picture and save you potential pitfalls. One of the goals of the divorce procedure is to have an equitable distribution of all your debts and marital assets. For you to get a fair share during your divorce financial settlement, it’s crucial to attain guidance on assessing your finances beforehand and to do projections for the future as an independent woman. Learning what you own and what you owe as a married couple is step 1.

  1. Connect with the ‘Good Ones’ in Your Support Network

Boundaries are important when you are going through a life crisis like divorce. You must be careful in whom you’re confiding in because most people, well-intentioned or not, are simply not trained in the divorce process or its recovery. Consider your inner circle. Who can you truly count on for support? Who reminds you of your best self? Who’s going to help you now and not judge you? Nurture those people, stay connected to them, and block others. Divorce is not a good time to go it alone. Having a safe place to vent, like a divorce support group, allows you to be more pulled together when you are looking at the financial and legal angles of the divorce.

Conclusion

Divorce is a life challenge few of us ever prepare for. It’s tough and, even in the least conflicted scenarios, requires a sensible game plan for you to healthily manage yourself and your expectations. Before filing for divorce, taking time to consult with the right professionals and to create the best plan will serve you greatly in the long term.

If you read the above six suggestions, you may find yourself saying, “Wow, I can’t even pull the money together to meet with an attorney let alone consider those other professionals!” If this is the case, then you owe yourself at least a legal consultation. The truth is you cannot afford to give away things you don’t know about. Contact your city or state bar and look for their lawyer referral lines. These resources often provide for lawyers who will give you a discounted or free consultation.

A legal consultation, ladies, is a minimum you should do before filing for divorce.

 

Since 2012, SAS for Women has been dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you and your precious future. Join our tribe and stay connected.