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Custody Battle - How to Avoid Custody Issues During a Divorce

What is a Custody Battle and How Do You Avoid One?

A custody battle occurs when divorcing or divorced parents disagree about who should retain legal or physical custody of their children. Unfortunately, this is a common cause of litigation in family court, second only to litigation over support payments.

Custody battles are costly, both emotionally and financially, and can wreak havoc in the lives of the children involved. It’s important to educate yourself about the common causes of custody battles, how to avoid one, how to defend your child’s best interests, and what to do if you must file one.

How is Child Custody Awarded?

Absent any evidence that a parent is unfit, family law judges in most states will apply some form of a “best interests of the child” analysis. They will also factor in the rights of each parent to maintain a relationship with their children.

In determining the best interests of a child, a judge will consider:

  • The child’s age (younger children need more hands-on care);
  • Any evidence of the parenting ability of each parent;
  • What parenting arrangement will maintain a consistent routine for the child;
  • How any proposed change will impact the child’s current routine or lifestyle;
  • The child’s wishes, if the child is mature enough;
  • What parenting arrangement best protects the child’s physical safety and emotional well-being.

Historically, family law judges automatically awarded custody to mothers, but this is not the case today. Unless there are compelling reasons not to, judges will award parents joint legal custody, and either joint physical custody or physical custody with one parent, the other to have liberal parenting time.

When one parent wants to change the custody arrangement for any reason, they may choose to go to court. If the other parent disagrees, this is what is called a “custody battle.”

What Happens in a Custody Battle?

In a custody battle, also called a “custody dispute,” one parent seeks to change the child custody arrangement by filing a motion in family court and seeking a court order. The reasons parents need to do this may vary and can be any of the following.

One parent is:

  • Unfit
  • Emotionally abusive or absent
  • Physically or sexually abusive
  • A drug or alcohol abuser
  • In a living environment that is unsafe for any reason
  • Suffering from mental health problems
  • Unable to financially support the children
  • Attempting to alienate the children from the other parent

With the help of a good divorce attorney, the plaintiff parent must prove that for whatever reason, the children’s well-being is endangered by the defendant parent. “Well-being” includes physical safety as well as emotional and educational nurturing. Defendant parents often bring a counter-suit alleging that the plaintiff parent is unfit.

It’s important to know that the plaintiff parent faces an uphill battle to persuade the court that the defendant parent should not have custody of the children, because the law favors joint custody and the rights of parents to have relationships with their children.

Custody battles can be drawn-out and expensive. Not only will you pay court fees and ongoing attorney fees, but you will probably pay fees to experts for their evaluation and testimony, and perhaps fees to investigators. Custody battles also take an emotional toll on the entire family, especially if the children themselves have to testify. Pitting children against their parents in court can cause life-long emotional damage.


Wondering how to coparent when you absolutely “hate” your Ex? You’ll want to read our post about coparenting with an ex you hate.


How Can I Avoid a Custody Battle?

A parent having sole or joint custody of their children can try to avoid a custody battle by allowing their coparent the custody or parenting time ordered and by doing their best to cooperate and collaborate with their coparent.

Unfortunately, disputes arise. Your coparent may disagree with your parenting style or decisions you make and may make an allegation of abuse or unfitness, even if untrue. In this case, you will not be able to avoid a custody battle.

Consult with an attorney if your coparent files a custody dispute. Although your coparent must satisfy a high burden of proof of parental unfitness, you will need to assert your rights immediately. In cases where abuse of any kind is alleged, your children can be taken from you before it is proven in order to protect the children from possible harm.

What to Do if Your Coparent Alleges You Are Abusing Drugs or Alcohol

If you have a history of drug or alcohol use, this does not automatically make you unfit to parent your children. You should gather evidence that you have sought treatment and have been successfully treated for drug or alcohol dependency. This evidence can include proof of attending rehabilitation and negative drug or alcohol tests. Agreeing to continued drug or alcohol testing will help you retain custody of your children.

What to Do if Your Coparent Alleges You Suffer From Mental Illness

If you have a history of mental illness, this does not necessarily mean you are unfit to parent your children. You should gather evidence that you have recovered or are being successfully treated. This evidence can include the testimony or affidavits of psychologists or psychiatrists or the testimony or affidavit of the doctor who prescribes your medication.


How do you feel anchored when you are thinking about divorce and also spinning with all the information and unanswered unknowns? Check out “Overthinking When to Leave Your Husband.”


I Want Sole Custody of My Children, What Can I Do?

If you feel that the best interests of your children dictate that you have sole custody, you must file a custody dispute. Be advised that this will be expensive and may take months if your coparent defends.

Gather evidence that shows your coparent is unfit. If the reasons your coparent is unfit include any form of abuse, such as emotional, physical, or sexual abuse of your children, contact your local police and file a report. This can expedite the removal of the children from the coparent’s care and keep them safe while the court decides whether or not to change the custody arrangement.

Although a custody battle can be expensive and ugly, sometimes you cannot avoid one. Put your feelings aside about your partner as a spouse and ask yourself, is s/he generally a good parent? If so, it’s time to come to terms with the fact that your children deserve equal time with him/her. On the other hand, do not hesitate to file a custody dispute if you suspect that your children are unsafe or unattended to while in the care of your coparent.

 

About the Author

Veronica Baxter is a blogger and legal assistant living and working in the great city of Philadelphia, USA. She frequently works with Lee Schwartz, a noted child custody lawyer in Philadelphia.

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 oft 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.

How to divorce your husband and get everything by Weheartit

How to Divorce Your Husband and Get Everything

Emotions are tough to excise from a divorce. After all, being unhappy is how you got here in the first place. So, it’s not inconceivable that you would seek to learn how to divorce your husband and get everything.

Feelings, however, don’t write divorce laws or sway judges. And fuming into your divorce proceedings with a “get everything” attitude could be costly, both financially and emotionally.

It’s a natural byproduct of living in emotional warfare to want to get revenge. The hunger for validation and some kind of compensating vindication is understandable.

And nowhere is that more true than in a marriage with a narcissist.

Getting Your Fair Share When Divorcing a Narcissist

The emotional manipulation is constant. The mental twisting of gaslighting is maddening and exhausting.

And the narcissist’s mastery of playing his manipulation of you against his charming of others is isolating and even dangerous.

One of the must-knows when divorcing a narcissist is that you will not be receiving any thanks or compassion for your years of tortured commitment.

If anything, he will up his game to prey on your emotions and leave you with nothing.

All the more reason to study up on how to divorce your husband and get everything, right?

Well, not exactly.

Going into the mud with a narcissist is never going to end well for you.

He’s not going to see the error of his ways. And a court isn’t going to weigh its decision on your attempt to expose him for what he is.

Your safest and ultimately most advantageous approach is also the one that will not come naturally.

Emotional detachment.

Go ahead and scream. I know you want to. And God knows that man deserves it.

But once you enter into negotiating your divorce, you have got to put on your all-business face and put emotions aside.

“But he has ruined my life!”

“He was emotionally abusive.”

“He’s lying about everything.”

“He doesn’t deserve to get anything!”

Maybe so. But divorce court isn’t marriage counseling.

Knowing how to survive a nasty divorce is less about your relationship and more about the laws governing divorce in your state.

Sounds kind of heartless, doesn’t it?

In some ways it is.

And that’s not to say that the circumstances of your marriage will have no bearing on the final terms of your divorce.

It’s really just to say that the best tip for how to divorce your husband and get everything is to keep things transactional.

That means focusing on the business side of the contract, surrounding yourself with the right experts, and being prepared.

Develop a Level-Headed Plan for Your Divorce

You should even carefully plan out the timing of declaring your desire for a divorce (assuming you are the one initiating it).

Preparation also includes collecting hard copies of all your and your husband’s financial records and assets. Everything.

It means researching the divorce laws for your state and specific area. You need to know what you are entitled to before you can fight for it.

For example, some states have communal property laws. Not only will the assets acquired during your marriage be considered mutual property, but so will your debts.

Also, alimony isn’t a given in every state, even if you have been a stay-at-home mom.

Build Your Divorce Support Team Wisely

Probably the most important part of your preparation is the assembly of your divorce team.

If you’re looking for a way to divorce your husband and get everything, you may be tempted to find the most cut-throat attorney you can.

But be forewarned. This approach could end up costing you the money you want and the peace of mind you need.

Remember that divorce attorneys aren’t working out of a spirit of philanthropy. They’re expensive, and they round up, not down.

Going in with an attitude of “I want it all!” may get you a high-five and “Let’s get the bastard!” There are plenty of attorneys who will happily match your mindset if the money is there to support it.

But organizing a solid team isn’t necessarily about hearing what you want to hear, let alone an echo of your own thoughts.

Building a solid support team is about getting sound advice and guidance in areas where you’re not an expert.

It’s about hiring people intelligent, experienced, and ethical enough to look out for your best interest.

It’s about being courageous enough to trust experts to tell you what you need to hear, not necessarily what you want to hear.

For example, a tax expert should give you not only a current view of your liabilities, but your long-term ones, as well.

Adjust Your Ideas About “Getting Everything”

You may think in the moment that it would be sweet revenge to rip your 10,000-square-foot mansion out from under your ex-to-be.

But what is that asset going to mean for you down the road? Without access to your husband’s full ongoing income, will you be able to maintain it?

Or will you be weighed under by the mortgage, property taxes, and maintenance?

Investments and retirement are other considerations. You may “want it all” today, but you may not want the future liabilities.

That’s why you want to have outstanding financial, tax, and legal representation.

And that means representation that doesn’t delude you into believing that “getting everything” is likely, let alone prudent.

Dealing with Emotions During (and After) Divorce

Now, back to those emotions I told you to disregard in the interest of treating your divorce as a transaction…

It would be unrealistic to expect you to ignore your emotions during your divorce. This is one of the most emotionally traumatizing events you can experience in life.

It’s important that you understand what divorce does to a woman. And you’re not going to get the complete picture of that in one place.

The wisdom and preparation of this time simply calls for prudence in choosing who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Use the experts on your team for their chosen expertise. And use your therapist, divorce coach and an  educational divorce support group to hold you up emotionally and provide camaraderie.

Difficult as it may be to hear, planning how to divorce your husband and get everything warrants a shift in perspective.

“Everything” acquired in a state of anger or revenge will not be the “everything” that sustains you and builds a happy future.

You don’t have to forfeit anything.

And you should never forfeit your peace of mind.

 

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.

*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”

 

Uncontested Divorce a by Weheartit

What’s the Difference Between an Uncontested and Contested Divorce?

When most people think of divorce, they think of conflict. After all, that is the image of divorce that we see time and time again. According to pop culture, it seems like the only way to call it quits is to engage in an expensive, lengthy, and stressful fight in which nobody really wins.

According to the CDC, America’s divorce rate has declined (in general) by 27.5% between 2000 and 2018, but it’s still a common enough experience, especially if you are a woman of a certain age. So, shouldn’t we find a better way to break up?

There are lots of great ways to skip the epic court battle in favor of a more peaceful approach. No matter the method, they all come down to one important key term: uncontested divorce.

What is a Contested Divorce?

Before we get into the details of uncontested divorce, let’s learn a little bit about contested divorce. This is the model of divorce which the uncontested ethic seeks to avoid.

Before your divorce is finalized, you and your Ex will need to figure out what to do about issues like property division, alimony, child support, and child custody. Sometimes couples begin the divorce process with a spirit of compromise, but often divorcing couples face major disagreements.

A contested divorce is when a divorcing couple is unable to reach a mutual agreement and therefore relies on a judge or arbitrator to develop divorce terms that are fair in the eyes of the law.

In general, contested divorce should be a last resort. It tends to be a more expensive, lengthier, and more stressful process than developing your own settlement agreement.

However, if your relationship with your Ex remains extremely adversarial despite your best efforts, then contested divorce is the best and only way to dissolve your marriage and begin the next phase of your life, a phase that may be more exciting than you can possibly imagine right now.

What is an Uncontested Divorce?

When a divorcing couple manages to reach their own settlement agreement, either by themselves or with the support of legal counsel or a divorce coach, they avoid needing a judge to make the important decisions. We call this an uncontested divorce. This means your and your spouse (or team) successfully negotiate divorce terms like child custody, child and spousal support, and the division of shared debts and assets.

There are a lot of reasons why an uncontested divorce is often the better option. For starters, it’s usually a lot less stressful than ending up in court.

It also tends to be faster than contested divorce, because you aren’t at the mercy of an overloaded court system. Because less time means fewer billable hours, uncontested divorces are also usually a lot less expensive than their contested counterparts.

Finally, when you opt for an uncontested divorce, you and your soon-to-be Ex retain a lot more control. The two of you have the final say in the terms of your divorce, and nothing can happen without both of you signing off on it. This can be especially important for parents, because it can be really hard to accept a stranger making decisions about your child.

This probably sounds really appealing, but is it really this easy?

As it turns out, you don’t actually have to like your Ex in order to cooperate with them.

How Uncontested Divorce Works

Uncontested divorce doesn’t mean that you and your spouse have to agree on everything right off the bat. Initially, the two of you only have to agree that you both want to make uncontested divorce work. Once that’s established, you’ll work together to choose the best method for your family.

Some lucky couples have pretty good communication to begin with, they just don’t want to stay married. These folks might be good candidates for DIY divorce. This means they fill out paperwork, draft their settlement agreement, and submit to their local court for the final approval.

If you and your spouse know what terms you want but are a bit intimidated by the process, we don’t blame you! If this sounds like you, then you might be better off ending your marriage through an online divorce platform.

These services handle the paperwork for you at an affordable flat rate. Some more comprehensive divorce packages will even manage your divorce case from start to finish. This means you won’t have to give it another thought after you finish answering their questionnaire.

Uncontested Divorce Support

You can also work with a mediator if you’d like. Mediators usually have a background in either law, psychology or finance, and they are trained to help you and your spouse negotiate more effectively. They cost more than an online divorce platform, but usually much less than a full-on court case.

Finally, you may rely on traditional divorce attorneys who have proven themselves as good negotiators. Hiring an attorney does not mean you are necessarily going to court. What is means is that you are relying on this traditional model to change the status of your marriage. Using a divorce attorney to advocate for you may wise if you have children, assets, or considerable debt.

Regardless of what model you decide upon as you seek your uncontested divorce, at SAS for Women, we recommend that every woman secure a private legal consultation with a divorce attorney (not a mediator, nor a collaborative divorce attorney first) to hear what your rights are and what you are entitled to BEFORE you and your spouse start splitting things up.

Is Uncontested Divorce Right for You?

For some divorcing couples, uncontested divorce is a no-brainer. They can agree on divorce terms immediately, they get along well enough, and they’re ready to take on this new project with gusto or determination.

For others, uncontested divorce is a goal to work towards, but they’re not sure if they’ll be able to manage it. Well, I’m here to tell you that when both parties have the right attitude, this goal is utterly attainable.

When it comes down to it, the key to a successful uncontested divorce is not sweating the small stuff. You shouldn’t let yourselves get riled up over every last piece of silverware, or you won’t maintain the calm necessary to stay out of court.

Instead, focus on the big things like your home, car(s), and, most importantly, your kids. If you can sort out these complex issues, the rest will fall into place.


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


It can also be really helpful to take a deep breath and remind each other why you want to keep your divorce uncontested whenever you feel tensions starting to rise. It benefits everyone involved when you take a more peaceful approach to divorce.

When in doubt, re-focus on what matters.

If you and your Ex are parents, it might even help to keep a physical copy of your child’s photo on the negotiating table. It’s nice to constantly have that implicit reminder of why you’re doing this. The more time and money you spend on your divorce, the less you have left over for your kid.

Breaking up is almost always a difficult prospect. When you said “I do,” you expected it to last forever, and it can be really hard to give up on that dream. It can be hard managing a household alone, or sleeping by yourself, or not seeing your spouse across the dinner table.

However, just because breaking up is hard doesn’t mean that the divorce process has to be. If you’ve been searching for a way to approach your divorce with a greater degree of mutual respect, consider this the sign you’ve been waiting for.

 

Notes

Moriel Berger is a Los Angeles native with a background in writing and marketing, primarily in the startup world. She is a J.D. Candidate at Loyola Law School and holds B.A. in Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence College. After watching her parents go through a prolonged and painful divorce when she was in her early twenties, Moriel became inspired to learn about more positive alternatives, which eventually led her to join the team at It’s Over Easy.

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.
divorced women share survive holidays

Divorced Women Share 14 Secrets to Surviving the Holidays

The holidays can feel anything but “holy” or “holly-filled” this time of year if you are reverberating from divorce. If you are thinking about divorce, for example, you could be feeling schizophrenic right now, or like a fraud, trying to honor the hallowed rituals at the same time you are feeling fragmented and splintered about your future. If you are dealing with divorce, you are coping with some of the cruel realities of what change genuinely means now for your life (and your children’s). And if you are recovering from divorce, well, let’s face it. It’s a whole new game and you are probably looking at some time alone. All alone.

To help lessen the impact of the season and its expectations, we’ve turned to thoughtful, divorced women who are survivors. We’ve asked them, what suggestions and ideas might they share with you for coping with the holidays? What we’ve learned is that these other women who have come before you — those who have experienced the pain and isolation of living outside the conventional norms — want you to not suffer as deeply. What follows are 14 secrets divorced women want you to know about surviving and indeed, repurposing the holidays.

The reality is, we could all use a little help.

1. Don’t deny reality

“The holidays are a construct! They are celebrated by what seems to be EVERYONE. But don’t beat yourself up if you’re not feeling it because of your divorce or something else. Don’t participate if you’re not into them this year. Give yourself a pass to hang out and do anything you want if you’re alone. Ignore the holidays if you wish. Or go all out if you want. Don’t stop with the tree, hang a holiday light from every inch of your house. Inside and out! The point is, you have a choice and don’t go along with something that’s not comfortable. The holidays will come again. And you may want to lead the Macy’s Day Parade next year.”

June B., Minneapolis, Minnesota

2. Give yourself permission to do it your way—or not at all

“If this is your first (or second or whatever number) solo holiday, my best advice is to be gentle with yourself. Be grateful for what remains and then seek out others. Accept invitations that you historically would have turned down for whatever reason. Try to cultivate a new tradition for yourself and your children that is uniquely your own. Reach out, it gets better…I’m told.”

Susan, Boston, Massachusetts

“If you are in the throes of divorce, instead of trying to figure out how to do the holiday cards like you always have—with you, your spouse, and your children—give yourself permission to skip the holiday cards altogether this year. Or if that’s just not possible (you are too committed to the tradition), create a card that focuses on your children. That’s right—nix you and Mr. X from the photo!”

Molly K., Geneva, New York

3. Make a plan well in advance

“If you don’t have children or they’re not with you this upcoming holiday, make a plan right now on how you will spend that day. Brainstorm ideas. Maybe you are going to connect with long lost friends and have a meal, or go away on a trip or a retreat, or spend the day hiking, or go to a movie marathon. That’s what I did ten years ago, on December 25. That was my first Christmas alone, I mean utterly alone. And somehow sitting in a warm, dark movie theater with strangers — the theater was packed! — and getting caught up in a 4-hour epic drama transported me. It transported me out of my own drama, giving me a sense of warmth and community on a day that could have gone done as one of the worst in my life.”

Liza Caldwell, SAS for Women Cofounder

4. Love yourself this holiday season

“I bought myself a new bed with a good quality mattress and some new bed linens that cater only to my taste. The linens are a very feminine design and are superb to the touch. This new bed gives me good quality sleep and a better mood in the morning as a result. Instead of being upset that I sleep alone, I feel like a queen in a queen-sized bed on my own. This has worked so well that I’ve asked myself what else can I do to love myself. So I’ve changed my diet a little. First, I realized that I get more pleasure cooking for myself than I do eating out. I try to really listen to what I would like to eat and not compromise. I buy ingredients that I didn’t used to buy. They are ones that give me pleasure, like very fresh fish or a mango for breakfast.”

Eva, Moscow, Russia

“At 2:30 am, I admitted it was insomnia and I opened up a free app on my phone called Insight Timer for a guided yoga nidra session. The app offers lots of approaches to stress, insomnia, and more. I don’t know if I was conscious for the whole thing or not but I had an awesome sleep in the time I had left. I plan to listen to it again while awake in the daytime to learn about relaxing while awake and to think about regular breaks from constant focus on how much I have to do in too little time. I would like to reduce the mental energy I spend on problems and share my time with increased experience of what’s good and right.”

Susan W., Bethesda, Maryland


Looking for more suggestions from smart, divorced women? Check out this post on how to cope with divorce like a modern woman.


5. Let your boundaries be known

“By you and others. If you expect to see family, your Ex, or friends (the ones you are still in contact with), share your preferences. Let them know if there are gatherings you will not be attending this year or topics you’d rather not get involved with. If you worry you’ll see your Ex at a gathering, find out for sure and ask for understanding if you are going to beg out of attending this year. This helps manage your friends’ and family’s expectations and may also help ensure their good time lest they be worried about you.”

Alice, San Diego, California

6. Practice your script

“The holidays are a time when you are bumping into well meaning and not so well meaning acquaintances, friends, and family. Practice your lines so you are not taken unawares when people ask you about your divorce—the elephant in the room. I used to get caught off guard and didn’t know when to shut up, always regretting that I said too much when people asked me how was I doing. Now I know it doesn’t help anyone to talk about my feelings indiscriminately. In fact, few people are deserving of knowing what I’m really feeling, especially this time of year. So I keep it neutral. Why ruin their rum punch?

‘Thank you for asking about me. I am doing okay and doing what I must to take care of myself and work on my healing. How’s your puppy?’”

Bernadette, Athens, Georgia

7. Be careful with the rum punch

“Holiday parties and alcohol could be the perfect opportunity to forget your misery. But not really. As tempting as it is to numb your feeling with the spiked eggnog or oddly available drug, remember your emotions are just under your skin and you are still healing, if not hurting. It won’t take much for your emotions to be triggered and for your wounds or anger or hollowness to come bubbling out. Spare yourself and others any unpleasant outbursts or regrettable performances, and save the over indulging for a getaway with your best friends. Ask a friend to accompany you to a party and to take you home if you start acting a little vulnerable. Protect yourself.”

Janet, Boca Raton, Florida

8. Volunteer

“If you don’t have children or you don’t have your children for the holiday, maybe you’re feeling lonely? A good way to get out there and enjoy the holidays is to volunteer. Do it early because places book up! You may also meet some really great people.”

Alina, New York City, New York

“Perhaps volunteer time at a food shelter or church to pass out holiday meals or anything else they need your services for. I have found it to be very humbling and rewarding, and it helps to put the holidays in true perspective. One time I did this with a girlfriend, and after the event, we came home for a glass of wine—okay, bottles, wink, wink. We had goodies prepared for ourselves and had a lovely time reflecting on how blessed we really are.”

Lori, California

9. Focus on your children

“If you have children, you can’t simply write off the holidays. That would be tough on them. But be mindful that you may not have the capacity or resources to do everything you’ve done in the past. Nor should you try to compensate for the divorce by spoiling them with presents. Instead, give your children genuine time with you! Pick the most important rituals you want to focus on—cookie making or holiday decorating or caroling or visiting family and friends. Don’t try to do everything. By striving to stay present with your children, you may find you’ll experience the magic through their eyes, and you will savor some of the joy that is there for you too.”

Pam, Galveston, Texas

10. Get rid of old traditions

“I always hated how we had to get dressed up in fancy party dress every year to attend my in-laws New Year’s dinner. My children were too young to really participate and behave well. And there was always so much pressure and so many eyes on me it seemed, as their mother, to make sure the kids kept it together. Well, guess what? That’s on my Ex now. This year, for Thanksgiving, I am inviting my family, friends, and children to join me in wearing their ugliest Thanksgiving Sweaters, and we’re going to watch football. I am going to show my kids there are many ways of being together. The important thing is being together.”

Kendall, Cleveland, Ohio

11. Create new rituals

“I make an event of watching films that I always liked for the holidays and any day for that matter. These films are ones I couldn’t indulge in before as my husband didn’t like them. In my case, these are French comedies or Woody Allen films. And these are just for me!”

Eva, Moscow, Russia

“The holidays can become redundant, boring, and stiff. I think they are supposed to serve as a comfort, a ritual for celebrating, but I know the holidays can draw attention to what is missing or who is missing. To me that’s one of the biggest reasons for trying to do things differently. To be really conscious of what we love most about the holidays. I try to involve those aspects into plans. For me, as a single person, it’s all about who I will be with. I call those people up a month before a certain holiday, and I say, ‘What are we going to do to remind ourselves we are alive?” I’d rather eat Stouffer’s frozen lasagna from a microwave then spend a holiday faking it anymore.”

Maria, Portland, Oregon

“… For me, as a single person, it’s all about who I will be with. I call those people up a month before a certain holiday, and I say, ‘What are we going to do to remind ourselves we are alive?” I’d rather eat Stouffer’s frozen lasagna from a microwave then spend a holiday faking it anymore.”

Maria, Portland, Oregon

“Organize a ‘SisStar-Giving’ amongst other ladies who may be recently divorced or may not have children, friends, or family locally. To remove the stress of over-planning and being overwhelmed with meal preparation, you can provide one main dish (you can’t go wrong with wings) and ask each guest to bring the dish that people always ask them to make. To guide the menu, you can suggest some categories like appetizers or desserts. There’s bound to be a ‘mixologist’ in the crew. That one may opt to bring wine or other beverages. You could theme it as Jeans & Tee regarding dress code to make it as casual as possible, and look up party games to play. Crank up a mobile device with some good tunes, and you have a night to remember. Keep it simple by not going over the top, but one must have a ‘Thankful Circle’ in which everyone shares at least one thing SHE IS absolutely thankful for.”

Queen V, South Carolina

12. Be present and open

“I always hear advice for divorced women with kids. Sometimes it’s a little lonely and scary for someone who is in their mid/late 30s with no children. We may have expected to have children by this point in our lives and we don’t. To women like me, I say, ‘Give yourself permission to smile and enjoy the people who love you in your life. You are worth it.’”

Alina, New York City, New York

“I was getting concerned about my birthday on Dec 30th. This will be my first birthday after being separated. I was wavering between ‘doing something unusual’ or ‘sulking and doing nothing.’ By accident or by will of the Universe, ladies from work suggested we all go to the ballet on Dec 30th and have a dinner afterwards. I feel so happy and am so much looking forward to my birthday now.”

Eva, Moscow, Russia

13. Have a Plan B and a Plan C

“One of my biggest coping mechanisms, now that I am my own team, is to always have a plan, but if that plan doesn’t work, to be able to resort to a Plan B or a Plan C. Life is always shifting. I know I can dream about my ideal scenario and do everything to make it happen, but if something goes wrong, it’s a great comfort to have a Plan B and C so I am not left out in the cold.

For example, a friend of mine who can be a little whifty said I could bring my kids over to her house on Christmas afternoon, that her brother was coming over to give the kids a pony ride. I thought this sounded amazing and so different from what my kids have done in the past, but I worry. I’m not in control of the event so it might fizzle out and not happen. I’m not going to mention it to my kids until the day of and make it a surprise if it comes about, and if not, I’ve already looked online and found that there will be caroling in the town square at 5pm. We’ll go there. And if not, then we’ll go ice skating (Plan C) at the civic center which I’ve already confirmed is open on Christmas Day.”

Mary Beth, Addison, Wisconsin

“Plan ahead for the time when your children will not be with you. Having a fun plan for myself, such as time with friends, helped me feel loved during the holidays in a new way and helped with the intense feelings of missing my children.”

Laura, Middlebury, Vermont

14. As with everything, we promise it will get easier

“Getting divorced has been MAJOR! It’s meant losing friends who I thought were my besties. Losing possessions. Losing a way of being—not just losing my Ex. There are so many new and good things that have happened as a result of this ‘loss vacuum,’ but I’ve also learned something about me. I’ve been adapting. I’ve been learning and adapting and that makes this major change easier bit by bit.”

Jenny, Kansas City, Missouri

“The first time you do something new, like experience a holiday as a single person, it can summon up all the grief you’ve ever felt about the changes you’ve lived through. It’s okay to feel sorry for yourself. Be kind to yourself, too, though and remember, it will get easier. Your past is there, yes, but so is your future, a future for you to shape. Consciously. And that includes holidays you can and will experience the way you choose. You are not on autopilot anymore. And there’s something about that that is THRILLING!”

Mel, Garden City, New York

Thank you to all the divorced women in our community who cared enough about other women to share their ideas and secrets for surviving and repurposing the holidays.

If you needed this, know that every single one of the women above have experienced the gamut of feelings you’re going through, even if the geographic location or specifics of each of their stories are uniquely her own. And know as well that these women offering counsel are still here, they are still surviving and, yes, sometimes, more than they ever thought possible, they are thriving. We hope you find comfort in this, too. For this holiday season, and all days in your new chapter, find your old and new people who understand you. But above all, follow your own path as you continue onward in your divorce recovery. And as always, always, be kind to yourself. With all you’ve been through, you deserve it.

 

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

“Divorce can be on your terms.” ~ SAS for Women.

Gray divorce

What Does a Gray Divorce Mean for You?

On the subject of gray divorce, it seems that there’s an elephant in the room.

The divorce rate is slowing for millennials and younger age groups largely because people are waiting longer to marry or not marrying at all. Fewer marriages mean fewer divorces, and the fact that both men and women now have jobs or careers outside the home contributes to this.

But for the 50-plus age group, divorce is “skyrocketing”. In 1990, divorce ended the marriages of one in ten couples age 50 or more. In 2013, that number had increased to one in four, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing.

It used to be that men were far more likely to have a life outside of their marriage. In fact, they had meaningful access to these other facets of personhood, a source of self-esteem, and venue for accomplishment. (By meaningful I’m referring to careers vs. jobs). Now, women also have the advantage of a professional context, a place where they have value beyond being a wife and mother. They, too, have a “work family,” and yes, they too could be on the hook for paying alimony. That is, if they are making more money than their spouse.

The True Costs of “Gray Divorce”

Most of the articles on “gray divorce”—the dissolution of marriages between people in their 50s or older (the Silent Generation, the Baby Boomers, and now Gen Xers)—talk about the negative financial impact that divorce has on this age group. Or that women are still likelier to initiate divorce, even given the negative financial impact.

There’s a lot of that, to be sure. It isn’t just the expense of divorce, which averages at about $11,000 for divorces with a lawyer involved. And it isn’t just the loss of retirement funds and savings accounts at a time when there are far fewer remaining years to regenerate that nest egg. It isn’t just that women more often bear the social, emotional, and financial burden of raising children after a divorce. And it isn’t the fact that the women of the “Betty Crocker Generation” were far more likely to be funneled en masse into stay-at-home mom (STAHM) roles to find their worth in home-making and child-rearing and basing their financial security in their ability to be with the right man.

In her 1993 University of Chicago Law Review article, Cynthia Starnes writes:

“Seriously at risk are the heroines of the Betty Crocker culture, women who have already devoted their most career-productive years to homemaking and who, if forced into the labor market after divorce, suddenly will be viewed as modern dinosaurs” (70).

Social Costs of Gray Divorce

But here’s the catch: financial assets aren’t the only assets that disappear with the end of a long-term marriage. There are physical assets as well. Physical attractiveness is the other currency involved in gray divorce that can cause women a disproportionate amount of depression, grief, and self-image issues.

We have come a long way, baby, it’s true. However, society still ties women’s currency to our physical attractiveness. Not to mention, global attention spans are even more camera-absorbed, image-driven, and youth-obsessed than ever. This is especially the case now that so many of our interactions are occurring over Zoom in order to comply with COVID restrictions.

The research puts it as plainly as a nose on a face. In 2017, the Pew Research Center published a study that focused on what qualities we value in men and women. While honesty, morality, and professional success are what we expect of men, the top qualities for women are physical attractiveness and being nurturing and empathetic. According to the article, large majorities say men face a lot of pressure to support their family financially (76%) and to be successful in their job or career (68%). At the same time, seven-in-ten or more say women face a lot of pressure to be an involved parent (77%) and be physically attractive (71%).

Society’s Unrealistic Beauty Standards

Girls and women feel enormous pressure to be attractive and stay that way regardless of the passage of time. Moreover, our culture of homogenized beauty standards is only just beginning to recognize women of varying sizes, skin colors, and ages as worthy of being called beautiful. It is still far too easy for us and our male counterparts to see the assets of our youth as diminished by gray hair and crows’ feet or to not see them at all.


If you are thinking about or beginning the divorce process, you owe it to yourself to consider Annie’s Group, our virtual group coaching program for women looking for support, structure, and community.


Until we fully embrace the idea that age brings about its own kind of sexiness and beauty, we will be functioning at a deficit.  And that doesn’t begin to touch on the amount of actual money women spend on anti-aging products. An October 2018 article published by InStyle puts that global estimate at $330 billion annually by the year 2021.

Financial Security in Gray Divorce

While no-fault divorces make it cheaper and simpler to divorce, they also leave women without the means to recover afterward. For gray divorcees re-entering the professional arena after working primarily in the home for 30 years, there isn’t enough financial leverage to recover the years spent.

To paraphrase one of my favorite New York Times best-selling authors Jennifer Crusie: we can’t get back the high and tight boobs or the perfect skin, but we can always make more money.

This may be poor comfort for those who are already coming out of the hen house of marriage as silver foxes, but if you are still in the process of divorce evaluation, get yourself squared away in the job market before you jump and keep in mind that—partnered or not—plot twists do come late, and we can always rewrite ourselves.

Notes

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer and former journalist living on the West Coast. Nicknamed Verbose at a young age, she loves wordcraft but has to keep a short leash on her fondness for the profane. Jennifer enjoys her cat’s input on her rough drafts (talk about snark) and the freedom of being her own partner. Connect with Jennifer here.

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 oft times complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

*SAS for Women is an all-women website. At SAS, we respect same-sex marriages.  For the sake of simplicity in this article, we refer to your spouse as a male.

Divorce Judgement

What is a Divorce Judgement?

There are many legal documents you may face during the course of the divorce process. These may include those certified or sworn by the parties and the judge’s orders. This article will explain what a Divorce Judgement is as well as what other legal documents you may encounter.

Keep in mind that a Divorce Judgement can also be called a Divorce Decree, a Judgement of Divorce, or a Final Judgement of Divorce. This language depends upon the state in which you file your divorce proceeding. This information about Divorce Judgements is from the office of a busy Philadelphia divorce attorney.

How Does a Divorce Unfold in Court?

How a divorce judgement unfolds legally will depend upon whether you have a contested or uncontested divorce. This is the determining factor of whether or not you go to court. An uncontested divorce is when you and your spouse agree to:

Note: An uncontested divorce can also occur when one party files for divorce and the other party fails to file an Answer or officially acknowledge receipt of the papers.

Uncontested Divorce

Even in an uncontested divorce, it is not common for couples to agree on a solution to every single issue that must be resolved as part of the divorce. This is the work of the divorce attorneys. Their job is to negotiate on behalf of their clients until both parties agree upon terms. If the parties refuse to come to terms, the court may get involved in disputed matters. Regardless, you can expect that an uncontested divorce will finalize much more quickly than a contested divorce. 


To understand more about an uncontested and contested divorce, read How Much Will My Divorce Cost Me, Financially & Emotionally?”


The timeline of the divorce process will vary according to the procedure in each state. However, a couple filing an uncontested divorce can expect to divorce in as little as four or five weeks or as long as a year. This timeline depends upon the family court docket backlog–or how busy they are at your local courthouse

Contested Divorce

A contested divorce is another matter entirely. The term “contested divorce” refers to a divorce proceeding in which the couple adamantly disagrees about any or all of the following: 

  • Whether to get divorced
  • Who was at fault (in an at-fault state)
  • The terms of the property settlement agreement in general
  • What assets are considered community property (in a community property state)
  • The terms of the parenting time arrangement
  • Whether child support should be paid
  • The terms of the child custody arrangement
  • The amount of child support that should be paid
  • Whether spousal support should be paid
  • The amount of spousal support should be paid

The length of time it takes to resolve all of the issues in a contested divorce will vary greatly from case to case. If the parties enter into mediation or arbitration, that may help speed up the process. If the parties cannot agree and must make their arguments to the family law judge and let him or her decide for them, those hearings will proceed as quickly (or as slowly) as the court’s docket allows.

Typically, family law courts are busy. It is not unheard of for a contested divorce to take at least a year to conclude, and in some cases, to drag on for years.

So, a tip to the consumer: when you are asking questions and interviewing lawyers, and feel very strongly about a particular issue, make sure you ask the lawyer how winnable that issue will be for you and what the ballpark cost might be if you have to go to court to win it.

What Legal Documents Arise During a Divorce Proceeding?

The Plaintiff (and his or her attorneys) create the following legal documents:

  • Complaint (or Petition) for Divorce
  • Case Information Statement
  • Certification of Service of Process on Defendant/Respondent

Note: Some states refer to the Plaintiff as the Petitioner.

While you may be the one filing for divorce, it’s possible that you are instead on the receiving end of a divorce filing from your spouse. Don’t panic! Instead, educate yourself about what to do if you are served divorce papers.

These are considered legal documents, and those filing must certify or swear that the information contained within them is true and correct to the best of their knowledge.

What Happens After I File Divorce Papers?

Upon receipt of the filing, the family law judge will then issue a Joint Preliminary Injunction (JPI) preventing either party from selling or giving away marital assets, including the joint bank account. 

Assuming that you are the one filing for divorce, your spouse (the Defendant, or Respondent) will have a certain amount of time to file his or her Answer to the divorce papers (Divorce Judgement). Again, your spouse must certify or swear that the information in their Answer is true and correct.

After receiving the divorce papers, if your spouse agrees with your filing or otherwise fails to file an Answer within the allotted time, the Plaintiff receives a Judgement by Default and a Final Judgement of Divorce. This will include a Child Support Order if needed, a Spousal Support Order if needed, and a Property Settlement Agreement providing for the distribution of the marital assets.

If your spouse disputes your divorce claim or requests different agreement details, he or she must also file a Case Information Statement. This statement discloses their financial situation and must also accompany a Certification of Service of Process.

In a contested divorce where your spouse expressed issues with custody, support, or distribution of marital assets, the court will then issue orders while you negotiate. Once both parties resolve all issues, the court will memorialize them in the Final Judgement of Divorce.

Are There Legal Documents That Come After the Divorce Judgement?

Yes. Additional court orders may occur if disputes continue. Such orders include:

  • A modified Child Support Order
  • Modified Spousal Support Order
  • Modified Child Custody Agreement

If either party is not complying with the agreed terms, the judge might also issue an order for Contempt of Court or an Order to Pay Attorney’s Fees and Costs. Additionally, if a party fails to appear in court, the family law judge may even issue a Warrant for Arrest.

Lastly, if there are allegations of spousal or child abuse or harassment, the family law judge may issue a Temporary Restraining Order or a Final Restraining Order.

In conclusion, a divorce judgement finalizes your divorce but is not the only important legal document stemming from your divorce process. Your divorce judgement also may not be the last legal document governing you and your Ex. If there are disputes over child custody agreement, properties, or support amounts, more documents may follow. Also, if the financial circumstances of either spouse changes, this may affect the divorce agreement.  Lastly, if there are allegations of abuse or harassment, there may be additional court orders following the Final Judgement of Divorce.

 

Notes:

Veronica Baxter is a blogger and legal assistant living and working in the great city of Philadelphia, USA. She frequently works with Lee Schwartz, a noted Philadelphia divorce lawyer.

Since 2012, SAS for Women has helped women face the unexpected challenges of considering divorce and navigating the divorce experience. SAS offers six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

How much will my divorce cost me?

How Much Will My Divorce Cost Me, Financially & Emotionally?

Losing your marriage is difficult enough. But add to it, your fears about the financial and emotional price tags, and you may feel paralyzed. You might try to simplify and ask a clear question, How much will my divorce cost me?  — a logical and pragmatic question to ask.  And then you hear that its answer isn’t so straightforward either.

It’s of little help to hear, “It all depends” when you’re searching for absolutes in the middle of chaos. But the cost of divorce really does depend… on a lot of things.

When it comes to the cost of the divorce itself, the biggest determining factor is what you and your ex-to-be can accomplish on your own.

If the two of you can agree on how you want your divorce to look, you can save both time and money on legal fees. 

That may sound like a tall order when “not agreeing on anything” is part of how you got here. But it’s not impossible, especially if you both value what the effort could save you in dollars and sanity.

An uncontested divorce is less complicated, less expensive, and less time-consuming than a contested divorce. Even if you use lawyers for a small part of your case—a process called limited scope representation—the savings can be substantial.

All states have a fee for filing divorce papers. If you write and file your own, your fee could be as little as $70 and as high as $500. Some states will even waive the fee for filers with low income.

If you choose to go the DIY route, the person who files will have to serve the other spouse with divorce papers. If a private process server is used, that could add another $50.

One catch to an uncontested divorce is that it’s non-appealable. Given that the two of you came to your agreement on your own, this shouldn’t be a problem. 

So far, not so bad.

The more complex answer to “How much will my divorce cost me?” depends on the experts and the amount of time involved. And this is where a contested divorce can become quite costly.

If you and your ex-to-be can’t agree on one or more areas of your divorce arrangement, your divorce will be contested. 

And, if you can’t settle out of court, your divorce will have to go to trial. Your divorce terms will then be at the mercy of a judge. 

That means that, after all the money spent on legal fees, you still may not get what you want. The judge will decide what gets prioritized and how.

The average divorce takes 4 to 11 months. If a divorce has to go to trial, however, it could take over a year.

This is where forethought and unemotional planning can save you a lot of money and mental anguish. 

Time is money, and attorneys and courts round up, not down. 

The national average cost of divorce is about $15,000 per person. That includes legal fees, court costs, and the cost of hiring outside experts. (Even if you do a collaborative divorce, for example, you will have to build a team of experts. You will have your attorney, of course. But you will also have specialists like a financial advisor, a child custody expert, and maybe a therapist.)

How much will my divorce cost me when it’s all said and done? Well, that will depend, in part, on the following factors:

  • Is the divorce contested or uncontested? 

Even an uncontested divorce will cost, on average, $1,000 and up to $5,000 in attorney’s fees.

  • Does your attorney charge a retainer fee or by the hour? 

A retainer fee will include most of your legal and filing fees. It will also cover the cost of meeting and communicating with your lawyer and your lawyer showing up at court on your behalf. 

If your attorney charges by the hour, you’re looking at an average hourly rate of $150-250 in some areas of the country, and more in other regions. That rate can skyrocket depending on where you live and the complexity of your divorce. So make sure you ask the attorney you interview about their retainer and hourly fee. (Visit here for more smart questions to ask a lawyer during an initial interview.)

It’s important to remember that the legal profession rounds up when it charges by the hour. That 5-minute quickie phone call will be billed as at least 15 minutes. And 35 minutes of document review could be a full billable hour. 

So, regardless of whether your divorce is contested or uncontested, lawyers don’t give sympathy-vote coupons. 

Being organized and concise and having a well-thought-out and reviewed plan is essential to not throwing money away.

  • Where do you live? 

You will pay a lot more to get a divorce in California, for example, than you will in most other states. (But that’s true for everything in California. Why should divorce be any different?)

Be sure to educate yourself about the average costs of divorce by state.

  • Do you have children?

Custody can be complicated. If you and your spouse are contentious over this subject, the court may require an evaluation from a custody evaluator. That could add another $1,000-2,500, assuming you don’t hire a private evaluator.

Child support will also have to be decided on, and that will depend on incomes and visitation or custody arrangements.

  • Will there be alimony? 

Every state has its own guidelines regarding alimony. Texas, for example, has strict criteria for alimony eligibility. 

When you start asking, “How much will my divorce cost me?” you’re most likely thinking in terms of money and pragmatics. 

You may be searching for ways to pay for a divorce, and that could affect your decision to file if the divorce is your initiative.

You may be getting a grim picture of what divorce does to a woman in terms of finances and lifestyle. And that could make you fearful of stepping out on your own.

But there is another cost to divorce that often gets overlooked or pushed to the background during the tediousness of the divorce itself—and that’s the emotional cost.


For more on the economics and emotions that may come with your journey, read our What Does a Gray Divorce Mean for You?”


Both men and women will go through the grief process as it relates to the loss of their marriage. But there are some emotional aspects that tend to be unique to women.

First of all, women file for divorce more often than men. If you count among that group, you have had a head start on your husband. And that difference has an impact.

Even if you have been miserable for years, nursing the idea of divorce over time gives you an emotional advantage.

By the time you inform your ex-to-be of your intentions, your brain has already made adjustments. It has silently grappled with past and pending losses, and you have maybe started to envision the future.

This doesn’t mean the consequences of your divorce will be easy. It simply means that there is a difference in emotional adjustment between the person who “knew” and the person who didn’t.

Working Through “Surprise” Divorce

If, on the other hand, you were on the “surprise” end of the divorce and don’t want it, your experience will be very different. 

The shock can open the floodgates to a wave of emotions—devastation, anger, fear, panic. You may even cling to your marriage or make promises and concessions that don’t honor yourself. 

While men are quicker to remarry after divorce, women are more likely to build and rely on a strong support network. They are also more likely to suffer financially and for a longer period of time.

Women also often struggle with their identity post-divorce. 

If they are mothers, they are now single mothers, and they’re likely living on limited income. 

They may have to start working outside the home and leaving their children in daycare. Feelings of guilt and sadness are only natural.

And now that their identity as wives has been annihilated, they have to reevaluate who they are in the context of love and relationships. 

On a positive note, the beauty that often emerges from this cocoon is a clear, confident, unshakeable love of self.

Women have a remarkable ability to reinvent themselves, even in the face of limited resources. And their willingness to reach out for help and support helps them create a sphere of influence with far-reaching benefits.

Perhaps, when the question “How much will my divorce cost me?” becomes paralyzing, you can benefit from a shift in perspective.

Ask yourself what your marriage is costing you and what your loss of life-force will be if you remain stuck.

The examination may lead you to a realization that there is still work left to do on your marriage.

It may also lead you to the realization that your work there is finished.

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.

*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”

How to file for divorce during uncertain times

How to File for Divorce During Uncertainty

Divorce is an obstacle course of flaming hoops, even under the simplest and most amicable conditions. But knowing how to file for divorce when you’re still uncertain is its own form of uncertainty.

There’s so much to figure out. Do you stay and work it out when you’re unhappy and unmotivated? Should you start planning for divorce but stay quiet about it? Do you tell your spouse you want a divorce before doing anything?

Or do you take matters into your own hands and start proceedings?

And what about all the chaos and uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic?

Sheltering in place can certainly foster much needed family and relationship time. But it can also confirm stirring doubts if a marriage is unhappy or unhealthy.

Even if you know that divorce is the way you have to go, the circumstances of this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic fuel their own doubts.

And where do you even start? Divorce is complicated enough without having limited access to necessary resources and agencies.

There’s something about certainty that provides clarity. It’s as if the path ahead clears itself in anticipation of your next move. You’ve decided. You’re focused. You’re driven.

But permanent, life-changing decisions like divorce are rarely so clear-cut.

You may be overthinking whether to leave your husband. Perhaps you’re terrified of the loss of financial security, social approval, and custody of your children. Maybe you’re stuck remembering the good times, unsure of how to move on.

You may be determined to go through with a divorce, but the current circumstances brought on by COVID raise new questions and concerns.

For example, many courts and legal services were closed in the early months of the pandemic. Even those that have reopened may be playing catch-up for a long time. Then there’s the uncertainty of whether the courts and legal services will remain open as the number of COVID cases begin rising again. You will have to think about how that could affect the timing of your divorce and your access to needed services.

Additionally, you or your spouse may have lost your source of income. Your investments may have taken a big hit, especially if you have had to rely on them for survival. Any changes in employment and finances during this time could make your settlement more difficult to negotiate.

Even the pragmatic issue of physical separation could prove problematic. Most realtors and landlords have resorted to virtual property tours to avoid in-person contact, potentially making a home search more difficult.

How could your kids be affected by a divorce or physical move at this time?

If you have children, you know that schooling has become more complicated, even from school to school. Some have returned to in-person attendance, some are virtual, and some are a blend of the two.

There are countless reasons to feel overwhelmed with uncertainty at a time like this. And that overwhelming feeling can make it difficult to focus on learning how to file for divorce if and when you decide to do so.

The less confusion and fear you have about the process itself, the more clarity and security you will have about your decision.

Just as importantly, that clarity will keep you from making mistakes that could cost you heartache and money now and down the road.

As tempting as it is to be easily triggered and reactive, wisdom would advise you to convert that energy into making a plan.

Educate yourself on the various stages of divorce and what it takes to dot your i’s and cross your t’s. And know the consequences if you overlook something.

It’s important to know upfront that every state has different laws. From residency requirements within your county and state to waiting periods, every state has its own divorce process.

Here is an overview of the divorce process, regardless of what state you’re in. This can serve as an outline for guiding your questions and helping you get educated and prepared.

  1. Prepare a divorce petition. 

One spouse has to file for divorce, which starts with a divorce petition.

Every state provides couples the option of filing a no-fault divorce, which can make an uncontested divorce much simpler (and less expensive).

  1. File the divorce petition.

The petition for termination of marriage must be filed with the correct court within your district.

  1. Ask for temporary orders if necessary. 

Perhaps the required waiting period isn’t possible for you. You may need a court order to secure child custody, child support, and spousal support.

Other temporary orders include status quo orders, temporary property restraining orders, and restraining orders.

Depending on your situation, you should become educated on all of these orders and their possible necessity in your divorce.

  1. Serve your spouse with the appropriate documentation. 

There are laws governing the serving of divorce papers and reporting it to the court. There can also be consequences for not following the required procedures and deadlines.

  1. The recipient files a response. 

The recipient response, whether agreement or contest, must also be filed within a certain amount of time.

  1. Negotiate a settlement. 

Obviously, your divorce will go much more smoothly if you and your spouse can negotiate your own terms. Division of assets, child custody, and support, alimony (if applicable)—the list is long and should be thought out in detail.

Even if you and your spouse are able to be agreeable, you would still be wise to seek professional guidance for this stage.

  1. The hearing. 

Depending on your and your spouse’s ability to work agreeably, you could have either an uncontested hearing or a trial.

  1. The final judgment. 

Just what it sounds like, this final step is the first step to your new life. It’s also the point at which you will want to feel secure that you have done everything right leading up to it.

If all of this sounds daunting, know that your feelings are only natural. You’re considering the end of a marriage and a change in life for your entire family.

But now is the time to channel that consternation into preparedness. You’re seeking clarity so you know your options and can best prepare for and protect your future.

Learning how to file for divorce when there is so much uncertainty will be easier if you surround yourself with experts knowledgeable about the process.

Clarity comes from knowledge. And there are plenty of resources with the knowledge you will need to navigate this life-changing process.

You may not have a clue how to get started, but you can build a trustworthy team to guide you.

A divorce coach, for example, can serve as the hub of your wheel, directing you through both pragmatic and emotional decisions.

A financial expert can help make sense of your marital finances and lay the groundwork for an equitable settlement and a plan for your future.

And a good family law attorney that specializes in divorce will provide sound legal guidance and walk you through the legal process.

Here are some tips for how to file for divorce when you’re feeling uncertain.

  • Grab a journal.

Give it a hope-filled title if that will inspire you to make it your constant companion. The important thing is that you get used to documenting… everything.

You don’t have to be on the verge of the War of the Roses to justify documenting everything that is or could be relevant to a divorce.

This journal is your private, dedicated space for logging questions to ask a divorce attorney, answers, research, resources, events, conversations, and concerns.

When you have this vital information safely written where you can easily access it, you can let go of some anxiety. You will also be prepared for discussions with lawyers and other consultants.

  • Get organized.

Now is the time to start collecting and organizing copies of all information that could affect your settlement and therefore your future.

This is also one of the first vital steps if you’re asking, What should I do to leave my husband? 

In the context of fear and uncertainty, organization is incredibly clarifying and empowering.

Buy an accordion folder and organize all your documents. Make copies of any documents that pertain to both of you.

If you have been in the dark regarding your marital finances, be sure to get access to all relevant information. Investments, accounts, retirement (401(k), IRA), life insurance, social security, past taxes, children’s records (medical, education), mortgage and home expenses, etc.—it all matters.

  • Consider hiring a divorce coach.  

According to the American Bar Association, “Divorce coaching is a flexible, goal-oriented process designed to support, motivate, and guide people going through a divorce to help them make the best possible decisions for their future, based on their particular interests, needs, and concerns.”

The more upheaval and uncertainty you feel as you look to the possibility of divorce, the more essential a divorce coach becomes.

An experienced divorce coach will be able to advise you as to whether a traditional, pro se, mediated, or collaborative divorce is best for you. And she can also help with aspects of the process that an attorney can’t or won’t.

From pre-divorce to post-divorce, a divorce coach can be your link to sanity and hope. Some coaches offer not only private coaching, but educational, divorce support groups, which can lessen the expense of working with a coach and give you a much-needed community so you feel less weird, less alone.

  • Talk to an accountant or financial advisor.

Find someone who can do a thorough analysis of your financial situation and help you prepare for the future.

Women commonly enter into a life of lowered income post-divorce, so they need prudent guidance in forecasting their situation and future needs.

The longer you have been married and the more complex your marital finances, the more important it is to have expertise on your side.

  • Find the right lawyer. 

Whether or not you want to do your divorce on your own, at least consult with a family law attorney. Have your questions and concerns listed in your journal and bring your portfolio of documents.


If you are wondering what else you can do BEFORE you file, read our “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce”


Being organized and prepared will not only help with legal expenses but will help you to hear the answers more effectively.

  • Update your resume and start researching employment. 

Whether you have been actively employed or have been out of the workforce raising kids, this is the time to look ahead.

Update your resume, polish up your relevant skills, and do some research on the job market, even if you currently work.

If you have lost work during the pandemic, you may find that your options are limited. Or you may be forced to change the way you work.

Working from home, for example, may not be as simple as it sounds if you’re starting divorce proceedings.

Entering the job market during the cultural uncertainty of COVID could be challenging. It’s therefore important that you have a firm grasp on your gifts and skills and are prepared to be creative in their use.

You may not have had to worry about things like health insurance and retirement funds in the past. But now you could be on your own without those safety nets.

  • Get your credit in good shape. 

Know where your credit stands. Get a copy of your credit report and review it before sharing concerns with your accountant.

You may have credit issues tied to your spouse. And you may have debts accrued by your spouse but reflecting on you.

It’s imperative that you know where you stand and how to protect your credit going forward. You will need good credit to secure essentials like housing and credit cards in your name.

Now is the time to work on rebuilding credit in your name, even if you simply start with a secured credit card.

  • Don’t jeopardize the outcome.

Simply put, mind your p’s and q’s. Don’t do anything that could give your spouse ammunition to use against you in your divorce.

Don’t start dating. Avoid making large or unnecessary purchases. Don’t start pitting your kids against their father. And don’t unilaterally change your parenting practices.

Knowing how to file for divorce during uncertainty starts with a focus on achieving clarity.

Just because you research the divorce process and prepare yourself for the possibility doesn’t mean you’ve signed off on a divorce.

It simply means you will step confidently and wisely into your future if you do decide to end your marriage.

 

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

*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or “he.”

 

What to do with a cheating spouse

What to Do with Your Cheating Spouse

What do you do with your cheating spouse?

Well… nothing illegal, ladies. Roll your eyes, sure, but let’s start with that bottom-line simplicity, even if we think it’s an “oh-I’d-never” scenario because rage is a lovely antidote to the pain. The sadness, the betrayal. Like a good alcohol buzz, rage can become addictive and erode good judgment. And while (hopefully) most of us would not choose to, say, put those kickboxing lessons to good use, nor apply that “gesso and stucco” section of our Art 101 course to his new car or her front door, there are moments that follow the discovery of a cheating spouse when it’s helpful to have a little reminder to not make your rage-fueled fantasy a reality.

What else helps?

Laughter.

The ludicrous nature of the rage fantasy does help us laugh at ourselves and the situation, and laughter is an even better antidote to pain than rage. Where rage depletes us, laughter is sustainable; it increases immunity, beauty, endorphins, lung capacity, and hope.

Laughter leads us right into embodying the adage that “happiness is the best revenge.”

So have a great time with the fantasy; hell, write a book. At least read one that will make you laugh at the situation. Fiction can be a nice escape because it allows us to experience emotions while being removed from them. We can live vicariously through the characters, where people can do things they wouldn’t do in real life. One of my favorite authors (Jennifer Crusie—I love that woman) does a great scene in her book Bet Me where a pissed off stay-at-home mom punctuates every screeching syllable of …“thirty-seven goddamn years!” with a pointy-toed kick of her Manolo Blahniks as she accuses her husband of being a cheating spouse. Then there’s the scene from one of the Harry Potter books where one character encounters his spell-bound cat and goes hunting for the culprit, demanding at the top of his lungs, “I want to see some punishment!”

Can we relate? Make the cat in the story a metaphor for your pride: would we like to “see some punishment” for cheating, which smashes a promise to remain faithful and destroys our sense of self and our faith in our character judgment? (How could we have picked someone who would do this? I gave him everything! How did I believe this guy)? Yes, most of us can relate to that. And most of us won’t get it in a no-fault state, which most are.

Managing Your Emotional Reactions to Cheating

There are a lot of opinions weighing in on this subject, as cheating is one of the top three reasons for divorce. I personally know of only one exception to the rage reaction, and she had been wishing for a divorce for years before discovering her husband had cheated on her. For her, at that point, it was a giddy relief: she finally had an iron-clad reason to demand a divorce—a reason he couldn’t gaslight her out of. Most of us, however, experience rage as the primary emotional response to a cheating spouse.

Regardless, try to laugh and find your other joys in life as soon as you can, and refrain from the illegal. Avoid assault (including verbal and on social media). Avoid destruction of property. Indulge the fantasy for a bit, but leave that mental vacation on the island and re-enter reality as soon as possible.

“Ultimately, women need to know it’s good to fantasize about getting even; but the court and the law care not a whit that you’ve been cheated on,” says SAS for Women co-founder and divorce coach Liza Caldwell. “So seek your justice another way, or learn to accept he’ll get his in a bigger court.”

In recognizing that there is a higher, karma-centered court, we take a step back from allowing our spouse to blame us for the cheating, rather than owning their own choice. Whether the cheating spouse has done so once or many times with multiple partners may also make a difference in whether we choose to divorce or stay and make it work. On the other hand, we co-create our marriages, so another facet of healing from infidelity involves taking responsibility for our part.

Own Your Side of the Road

Did you make everything in the marriage about you? Did you tell him to stop singing while he washed the dishes because the noise stressed you out? Create a dictatorship out of the cute kitchen accessory that says “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”? Do your own form of cheating by attaching to an addictive behavior like drinking too much, spending hours and too much money shopping online, working too much, getting too wrapped up in your children’s lives instead of making a life with your spouse? Owning our side of the road in a marriage can be galling when dealing with a cheating spouse, but it’s even more necessary at that point. If done well, often with professional help and your spouse’s ownership of their own side, divorce may not have to be the outcome.

That being said, it’s also essential not to take the blame for the infidelity. The cheating spouse has to own their choice to cheat, not redirect all responsibility onto you. Their decision to do that is their fault, not yours, and a spouse who refuses to see themselves or their choice to cheat as wrong or recognize its hurtfulness probably should be left.

There is a choice to stay or go. Depending on the scenario and each party’s willingness to own their part, it is possible to come back from infidelity with a stronger marriage and a greater understanding of each other and ourselves.

Stay or Go

Whatever you decide to do, though, decide fully. Choose happiness fully, and if you stay, choose to forgive completely. Either way, wash your hands of it entirely and let it go. To spend the next 30 years punishing your spouse with barbed comments and the occasional replay, playing the guilt card, living in suspicion—all of this is toxic. (All of us give in sometimes to bringing up something from the past that hurt us, but to invest energy in sustaining that hurt is another matter).


Annie’s Group :: for those thinking about or beginning the divorce process.  

“There’s a comfort in strangers, that is simply not possible with friends and family who are not themselves divorcing.”  ~ T.Y., New York City


Either choice—staying or going—requires work. If you divorce and go, go fully, with joy in who you are, especially now that you’re stronger, savvier, and have more self-knowledge.

Inside every regret and each mistake is the seed of positive change and new growth. We might practice saying to ourselves, “I was {this or that} in our relationship, and I regret it, but I see it and own it, ask forgiveness for it, forgive myself, and embrace the lesson, which is to become the regret’s opposite.” For example, if you regret not being fully present in the relationship, become fully present to yourself, without distraction. If you enter a new romantic relationship, you’ll know much better how to be present for that person as well as yourself, and be better equipped to do both.

Embracing the Hill

Staying or going, forgiving fully, laughter, choosing happiness, taking ownership of your side of the road, identifying where it’s not your fault, and sometimes developing the skill to deflect manipulative blaming and redirection—each choice requires work. One of the leaders at a local community mental health agency is a long-distance runner with rheumatoid arthritis; in that person’s office is a plaque with the motto “Embrace the Hill.” Whatever the choice, it will involve work and working through the pain. It passes, but you have to choose to let it pass. No dwelling, wallowing, brooding, stewing, or perseverating. Embrace the hill and know that most challenges that come after a cheating spouse will feel like rolling downhill; it will seem easy.

 

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 rebuilding their lives afterward. Schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation with SAS. Tell us confidentially what’s going on, and we’ll give you black & white feedback, resources, and suggestions for your next steps.

*This piece was written for SAS for Women, an all-women website. At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.