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Divorce Support Chat Rooms as suggested by a woman with a computer

Get the Support You Deserve But Exercise Caution with Divorce Support Chat Rooms

There are so many reasons women turn to divorce support chat rooms. Divorce feels isolating. It can feel terrifying to open up to others, but when it’s the right person, it can also feel like taking a deep breath after a long time spent underwater.

It’s natural for women to seek out the solace of other women. You may have more friends and family than you can count or you may have come out of your marriage realizing just how many people you’ve left behind—either way, entering a divorce support chat room offers the chance to tap into a community of people who understand exactly what you’re going through.

But as with most things on the internet and in life, there are two sides to every story. Exercising caution in these chat rooms is crucial.

Reaching out to others from behind a screen feels safe

When you talk about your divorce with friends and family, it’s not always easy to be that honest. You might be afraid, rightfully so, that your loved ones will judge you or your Ex, who may still be a big part of your life, especially if you have children. Your friends and family will often have opinions you never asked for and questions you can’t even begin to answer. Did you decide this together? Have you tried everything to save your marriage? What exactly? Aren’t you mad? I know in my marriage I just had to …

Your loved ones are (usually) well-meaning, but their entire perspective is limited by which aspects of your relationship you chose to show the outside world. And as we know, that’s not the full picture of your marriage. But beyond that, you won’t have the answers, or maybe, you’ll have too many answers. And as well, it’s hard for your friends and family, who are not experts to hold back on their own stories, judgement or agendas.

If you are dealing with divorce and feeling frustrated or disappointed by friends and family (especially as you approach the holidays, maybe with dread!), you might prepare a script for yourself — one that blocks their questioning, but kindly: “You know, Karen, thank you for your interest in hearing what’s going on. Let me assure you, I’m working on myself right now and if I think of a way you can be of help I will let you know. How are your cats?” You can redirect the conversation away from your divorce. You don’t owe anyone anything, after all. Or, you can simply go online.

Divorce support chat rooms feel private and safe. By definition a “chat room” is a space on the internet that allows users to communicate with each other, typically limiting the conversation to a particular theme. Search Facebook for divorce support groups for women and countless choices will appear in front of you. Most, if not all, are not public. You have to request to join the group, and once accepted, it feels comforting to see other women posting about their own divorces—their stories might not be the same as yours, but you can see glimpses of yourself in them anyway.

Places like Reddit Divorce are full of people anonymously asking others for divorce advice, too, and because those responding are strangers, it can feel like the conversations are more honest than those you might have with someone who actually knows you in “real life.”

But do you want to simply chat about your pain? And take in the anguish of others? Do your homework to find out which type of online support you really want.  Perhaps what you are looking for is something that allows you to share but also provides traction or structure to move forward and do SOMETHING with your pain so you get to a better place. This action could be doing something with your emotions or taking critical legal, financial, or practical steps. For especially these reasons, it’s important to research what kind of online divorce support group is best for you.

The downside of easy access

Not all divorce support chat rooms and groups are the same. Many are unmoderated. Others are facilitated by professionals from large organizations with a standard set of materials to work from, leaving little room for addressing the specific needs of individuals. And other groups have their own personality, combining educational steps, guidance and support.

One problem with online divorce support chat rooms is that many of the conversations you have aren’t guided. They are full of other people who are struggling and hurting just like you—people who might not be in the right headspace to offer you the kind of advice that will help you move forward with your divorce recovery.

Women first enter these groups to vent, but the venting can quickly turn into endlessly reliving of your trauma and that of others. Instead of feeling better about your situation, you end up spinning and wallowing, comparing your marriage to others and searching for meaning and connections. Does it really matter who’s at fault? Is that a riddle you can even solve?

What if instead of looking for answers that still won’t change your reality, you worked on finding yourself? You need a professional to facilitate your conversations and direct your energy so that you can release it and reach a better place.

You can revisit and tell your story until you turn blue in the face and grow sick of hearing your own voice, but if the person you’re speaking to can’t tell you which direction and steps are right for you specifically — “right” meaning healthy and smart — then you aren’t getting the help you need. And you may only be reinforcing your spin cycle or your painful status quo of knowing and doing what you already know.

Putting an end to conversations that go nowhere

An expert, like a therapist or a divorce coach, is trained to guide you through conversations with specific goals in mind. If you need true and lasting divorce support, be selective about whom you reach out to.

When you’re looking for a divorce support chat room or group, do your research. Be aware that there are people out there who lead programs without proper training. The group you participate in should not simply be an endless series of conversations where each person takes her turn to complain about her life and funnel negative, contagious energy. Are you learning and growing? Chances are great that this group format is not serving you and is a waste of your time. Ask yourself, do you have a lot of energy to spare right now?

Getting support when you need it is good and positive and necessary. When we bottle up our emotions, they weigh us down. The world feels heavier and darker, and we can get lost in our own sadness, unable to see a way out. But if the support you’re getting isn’t the right kind, then conversations move sideways instead of forward. They feel circular, and progress is halted.

Believe us when we say that you have so much life left to live—your best memories are not behind you. They are in front of you! Now is the time to step outside yourself. Indulge in some self-care. Take up kickboxing or find a local hiking group. Find your way back to an old hobby or explore new ones. If you are recreating after divorce, join a productive women’s divorce support group to find other people ready to heal and move forward. If you are in the confusing state of not knowing if you should divorce, or are beginning the process, find the right group that focuses on the legal, financial and emotional needs you have in this stage. It’s healthy and natural to reach out to others, even in a divorce support chat room, but the wrong kind of help can lead you to the wrong place. You need a leader to guide you, as you create a genuine vision of what healing looks like for you and the concrete actions steps you must take to get there.

 

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 confusing afterward. 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.

“Divorce can be on your terms, one step at a time.” ~ SAS for Women.

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.

Changing name after divorce

Changing Your Name After Divorce

Changing your name after divorce can feel freeing—or it can feel like pouring salt on an open wound. And it’s possible, certainly, that it might even feel like both. Where you stand depends on the circumstances of your divorce and your particular mindset.

In either case, it’s the attachment to our spouse and the way that a name change seems to cut right through it in a way that’s more tangible (and sometimes more visible to the outside world) than simply saying “I’m done” that makes it feel so weighted with importance.

But there’s the mental leaps and bounds we must go through while ending a marriage, and then there’s the legal realities, like figuring out custody or changing your name after divorce. We know that it’s all just paper and words and so much ado about nothing, maybe, but it’s still our lives. Paper and words can mean everything.

Even if you’re not a sentimental person—even if you and your spouse got creative and chose to combine and hyphenate your last names—you chose your married name in the same way that you chose your spouse. Going back to your birth name may feel, in a way, like breaking a promise to yourself. It could feel like failing, an emotion divorce brings out in us over and over again, even when we know we’re the only ones keeping score.

So why do some women choose to keep their Ex’s last name while others go back to their birth names? And how does one go about changing her name anyway? Read on below to learn more.

How to go about changing your name after divorce

Divorce laws vary depending on where you live, but most states allow a spouse to change their name during a divorce by requesting the judge enter a formal order to change your last name back to your birth name. If your divorce is already final, you may be able to request an amended divorce decree. The more common way is to wait until the legal process is over. Once you have your divorce decree, you can use a notarized copy of this document to change your name everywhere else. For legal changes, you’ll often need to submit a notarized version of the document to …the social security office, the DMV, your bank and credit card companies, and the entities holding your retirement accounts, etc.)

There are, however, some states that don’t require any paperwork at all, allowing you to go back to your birth name right away as long as you are using it consistently, and others that treat changing your name after divorce the same as any other name change petition, so be sure to speak to your lawyer about which option is best for and which laws apply to you.

Whatever you do, get educated and do your research. There are plenty of women who still use their Ex’s last name not by choice but because their lawyer simply never informed them of their options. Getting an amendment to your divorce decree or changing your name via petition in the future could come with additional financial costs.

How women feel

Women keep their Ex’s last name for many reasons, some that are emotional, others that are practical, and some that fall in-between. It’s easier, for one. (There’s far less paperwork to fill out if you just sit back and do nothing, especially if your divorce is already final.) If you use your name professionally, then it’s less confusing and more consistent. If you have children, it might make transitioning to life after divorce a little smoother for them. You may not be living with their father anymore, but you’re still a family with a shared name.

Let’s just add, that even if you change your last name, in regard to your children, you are still a family but your family has shifted in look — like so many modern families.

Some women genuinely like their married name better than their old one, so they keep it. Maybe it’s just easier to pronounce than their birth name or they didn’t have the best relationship with their father. And for other women, it comes down to a sense of who they want to be.  Going back to a maiden name may feel like returning home, to one’s most authentic self.

If you change your name, people who may have only guessed or heard rumors about your personal life before will now know without a doubt that you are divorced. For you, that might be a good thing. You might be ready for your newly-single life, for a sense of independence you’ve been craving. Or, it might feel like yet another chink in your armor.

How experts feel

But there’s something to be said for taking back what’s yours, no matter the circumstances. Some experts say that going back to your birth name can be a way of “restoring your prior identity.” The exception, of course, would be if you’re one of those women mentioned above who uses her name professionally. Otherwise, using your birth name could be one way to start feeling whole again as you continue on your divorce recovery journey.

So many of us lose ourselves to relationships, wrapping our identity up with another’s so closely that we can’t remember what we actually want or need or even like by the end of it all. Because changing your name after divorce is yet another thing that affects our identities, it can feel even more final than the actual end of our marriage.

And keeping your Ex’s name? Well, there’s nothing wrong with that either, but it can give the impression to both your children and potential romantic partners that there’s a deeper connection between you and your Ex than there actually is. For your children, this connection is likely comforting, but for a potential love interest, it may be threatening or, at the very least, uncomfortable.

What really matters

Marriage felt like the tying together of your identity to your husband’s, and now you’re slowly undoing all that work. It’s terrifying and exciting, but so are most of the best things in life.

At the end of the day, it’s really about how you feel. It is, after all, your name, and you have to live with it. Do you have children? Do they have strong feelings about you changing your name after divorce? For that matter, how does your Ex feel about it? How does your married name feel on your tongue? What’s your relationship with it? Was it a name you chose? Was it forced on you by your spouse or your family’s expectations?

There are so many factors to consider when changing your name after divorce, but don’t forget that what you want and need should be front and center in your mind.

Whether you are considering a divorce, navigating it, or recovering from the challenging experience, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do divorce 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.

SAS offers women 6, FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you and your future. Join our tribe now.

Divorce help for women

Divorce Help for Thoughtful Women

There’s no one way to be married, and the same is true for divorce. Smart women find the best way through it is by viewing the divorce process as a whole, and then narrowing in and breaking down each piece into manageable sizes that can be more easily accomplished. Take things slowly, and make sure the direction you’re headed in is the one you really want to go in. Like any journey, you have to first take a look at the lay of the land and develop a holistic understanding of what this new place you’re venturing into looks like.

We are all about divorce help for women. Here are a few pointers to get you started, whether you’re thinking of divorce or just beginning the process.

Get educated

Being informed makes us feel more powerful. It’s also eye-opening because as much as humans love to play the “blame game,” we know too well that in a marriage fault is very rarely easy to assign. Do your research. Read books on divorce. Talk to professionals. Become an expert on your own options because that way, no matter how things turn out, you will feel confident that you’re making the right choices for yourself and your family.

Develop a safety net

You need to find new ways of creating stability in your life—there is so much that’s outside of our control, but saving money, connecting with new and old friends, and creating spaces for ourselves that feel safe and empowering are things that are very much within our control. You just have to be brave and disciplined enough to go out and do them. So start a “war chest,” where you save money for both yourself, your children, and your future. Nourish yourself. Find a women’s hiking group. Find a new job. Do things that make you feel whole again.

Be careful who you trust with the whole truth

People often enter into conversations with their own set of preconceived notions. If you have people in your life who you trust and know to be open-minded or objective, then by all means, allow them to be a shoulder to lean on. Otherwise, you may want to keep the details of your divorce to yourself. People judge. They give out opinions where they’re unwanted. Right now, you have to protect yourself as much as possible—even from people who mean well. Surround yourself with positive people.

Get organized

Get an email address you use specifically for divorce matters (you might even use a private or incognito window if you’re on a shared computer). Keep a notebook, and divide it into three sections: emotional, legal, and financial. You could also add other sections like family or other if you’d like. Write down your fears in the emotional section. Then take a look at the list and ask yourself which are actually legal or financial questions and move accordingly. Maybe they’re something else entirely. Now look back at all your legal and financial questions. Who can help you find your answers? A lawyer? An accountant? A certified divorce financial analyst? A divorce coach? There are countless professionals out there offering divorce help for women.

Keep a folder where you store important documents. What do you own? What do you owe? Keep a calendar of appointments and important deadlines. If your divorce isn’t amicable, you might even need to document your husband’s transgressions.

Get a legal consultation

Google can only take you so far, and the information you find generally only covers the basics of divorce laws in your state. We all think we can avoid going to see a lawyer, or that the cost isn’t worth it. But the fact is that you can’t afford to remain ignorant about your own circumstances—you’re only hurting yourself.

Find a new normal

You have to find a new normal. Even if you and your husband end up deciding there is still enough love left to work on reigniting the spark, you have to live your life like that saying “you can’t go home again.” You can’t go back because that life was no longer serving you. You need new routines and positive habits. At some point, you have to stop searching for divorce help for women. You have to feed your body and your soul. Exercise, and go to classes. Get a medical exam. Go do all the things you keep saying you want to do but have never quite gotten to. Step outside yourself and your comfort zone in order to find a new way forward.

Understand the journey you’re on

Manage your expectations. This divorce recovery will not only be about overcoming the legal and financial aspects of divorce but the emotional as well. What kind of support will you need to cope with the stresses of divorce? Be sure to look into therapy, reach out to a divorced friend, and look into the benefits of working with a divorce coach (even if you don’t end up getting divorced, they can be tremendously helpful). And if you’re not quite ready for divorce, then be sure not to threaten your husband with it until you know exactly what it means and what it looks like for you. Whatever you do, don’t rely on your attorney alone; they’re not there to cover the entire scope of divorce and the emotions that come with it.

There will be a tipping point

There’s rarely a moment in any of our lives where we can say with 100% certainty that we are making the right decision. We plan, we research, we talk things out. We trust in our intuition and our smarts. But at the end of the day, we don’t possess the crystal ball we so desperately want. The same is true for divorce. Even when you reach your own personal tipping point—that thing or the distance that pushes you over the edge from simply consider a divorce to actually getting one—you will still feel a little uncertain. But know that there is life after divorce, and what it looks like is different for everyone.

Most importantly, be kind to yourself and take things one day at a time. There is divorce help for women out there. But the past will only drag you down if you let it. Focus on what’s right in front of you, the aspects of your life that are within your control now, and create a plan. And if you can, be kind to your spouse too.

When we reach a point in our relationship where divorce is suddenly on the table, the decision feels as though it was already made for us. Asking for what we need to be happy isn’t always easy. Nor is it obvious what we are legally entitled to. Get educated on what your rights are and what is legally yours, and as well, learn about the healthiest ways for evaluating your choices and moving through the process. Around the corner, there is a beautiful life you cannot yet imagine and it’s waiting for you.

Whether you are considering a divorce or already navigating the confusing experience, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do divorce 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.

SAS offers women 6, FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future.

“A successful divorce requires smart steps, taken one at a time.”

~ SAS for Women 

Dealing with joint custody

Joint Custody: What Is It, and How Does It Work?

I spoke with divorce attorney Kathy Wagner about joint custody recently. She shared some critical insights from her 30-plus years of experience practicing family law in Somerset County, New Jersey. While there will be similarities in family law state-to-state, there are also important differences, so be sure to Google custody law in your state before taking action on any of this.

The difference between physical and legal custody

In New Jersey, the person who has physical custody has actual possession of the child, meaning the child lives primarily with that person. Having legal custody means having the right to make decisions for the child in the areas of health, education, and general welfare.

When the parents are married, both of these powers are vested in both parents. This means the child lives with both parents, and both parents can and do make legal decisions for the child.

After the parents live separately, the physical and legal custody arrangements must be settled with a custody decision either amongst themselves, memorialized by the court in the final judgment of divorce, or by a family law judge if the parents cannot agree.


Remind yourself of what your children deserve. Read How to Help Your Child Cope with Divorce.


The best interests of the child dictate the custody arrangement

In New Jersey, family law judges determine what custody arrangement is in the “best interests of the child.” The judge begins by presuming that children benefit from maintaining “frequent and continuing contact with both parents” and from having both parents “share the rights and responsibilities of child-rearing.” N.J.S.A. 9:2-4. Then the judge weighs the following factors, among others, in determining what custody arrangement is in the best interest of the child:

  • The parents’ ability to agree, communicate, and cooperate regarding the child
  • The parents’ willingness to accept custody and any history of unjustified withholding
  • The interaction and relationship of the child with the parents and other siblings
  • History of domestic violence
  • Safety of the child and/or either parent from physical abuse by other parent
  • Preference of the child of sufficient age and capacity
  • Needs of the child
  • Stability of home environment
  • Quality and continuity of child’s education
  • Fitness of parents
  • Geographical proximity of parents’ homes
  • Extent and quality of time spent with child both before and after separation
  • Parents’ employment responsibilities
  • Age and number of children

Contrary to popular belief, a judge will never exclusively use one factor—like a parent’s income level—as the sole deciding factor in who gets custody of a child.

There are three types of custody in New Jersey

In New Jersey, custody can be summarized by these three possible arrangements: Joint, Split, and Sole custody. Sole and Joint custody is defined specifically by New Jersey law.

Joint custody

This is what married parents have by default. Both people can make decisions about the child’s welfare, and the child lives in the same home as both parents. After a divorce, parents can often retain joint legal custody, even if the child lives mostly with one parent or the other.

According to state law, any joint custody arrangements must include specific instructions for consultation between parents on important decisions and residency of the minor child.

Split custody

If parents have more than one child, the court could split the children between the two parents. This is rarely done—in most cases the courts won’t split siblings apart so long as there is another option. In exceptional cases, such as there being a child from a previous marriage or a large age gap between siblings, the court might be more willing to split custody between parents.

Sole custody

Sadly, some people just aren’t fit to be parents. It could be due to alcoholism, criminal behavior, or abuse, but in any case, the case courts will not leave a child in the care of a parent who seems abusive or negligent. In these cases, one parent takes legal and physical custody of the child, while the other parent loses those rights.

Unless the other parent is found to be abusive or negligent, the parent with sole custody must still make arrangements for the child to have time with the other parent. The statues provide no guidance for what constitutes “appropriate parenting time,” and this is a frequent cause of custody battles.


Learn about the relevance of drug use in divorce in Coparenting Through Divorce: Drug Use, Drug Testing & Family Court.


How does joint custody work?

Again, parents can share joint physical custody, joint legal custody, or both. If parents share both, then it is common for their child to live with one parent during the school week and with the other the remainder of the time. The parents consult with one another regarding major decisions and collaborate to parent their child as best they can despite the divorce.

Joint custody obviously requires a great deal of civil and constructive communication between parents, and not every divorced couple is capable of this.

Can we make the joint custody arrangement without a lawyer?

It’s highly recommended that you speak to an attorney and file a motion with the court if you want to change the child custody arrangement set by the court. Of course, you have the right to represent yourself pro se if you wish, but be forewarned: the courts won’t make special accommodations for you as a layperson, and you will be expected to follow the same procedures as a lawyer.

If you and your Ex try to change the custody arrangement without going to court, this can be problematic in that if either of you decide not to follow your new arrangement, the new arrangement cannot be enforced by the court. In fact, it is the person insisting on the new arrangement that will be found in the wrong by the family law judge, who knows only about the original arrangement.

Find the best lawyer for your joint custody case

Family law is a highly specialized area of practice, and laws vary state-to-state. In New Jersey, custody disputes are settled in separate courts from other legal matters by dedicated family court judges. Even if you and your Ex seem to agree on most things and believe that you can make joint custody work, you need to find an experienced family law attorney in your area who can help you craft an arrangement that works for your family and get that arrangement approved by the court.

Veronica Baxter is a blogger and legal assistant to Katherine K. Wagner, Esq. Katherine practices divorce and family law in Somerset County, NJ.

Whether you are considering a divorce or already navigating the confusing experience, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do divorce 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.

SAS offers women 6, FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future.

“A successful divorce requires smart steps, taken one at a time.”

~ SAS for Women 

Woman contemplating getting divorce

10 Critical Things I Wish I’d Known Before Getting Divorced

When you go through a catastrophe like a life-crisis alone, the ground shakes. You lose your bearings as the tectonic plates of your routine and What’s Always Been crack and shift. As you struggle to gain footing, you realize you don’t know what else is coming, what else you’ll be faced with.

You simply don’t know what else you don’t know.

Getting divorced is like that, one full-blown life crisis where your “normal” breaks and collides with splintering parts—not only with what’s happening outside you with your partner, family, friends and work—but inside too, with your mind, body, and heart in spiraling conflict. Sometimes it seems like stress alone is the only rope keeping these disparate pieces together—stress is the one constant as you try with all your might to get through and beyond.

But once things begin to settle and you start to emerge from the heat and protracted legal process, and you arrive on the other side, starting to live on your own, you often find yourself looking back, instead of forward. For time gives you a chance to search for reasons now, lessons that explain how you got here, and what’s more, what’s good about this new place, if anything.

Sometimes you’ll wish, “Ah, if only I’d known this before while going through my divorce.”

Hard-won lessons, below are a few that resonate with me, a divorced woman and divorce coach. Between my personal story and professional experiences hearing from other women, I’ve learned of many such epiphanies, Eureka moments that only reveal themselves farther down the divorce road. So, for those of you struggling — thinking about or navigating divorce — I share a few as a way of giving you perspective on what else you don’t know and can’t know based on your today.

Here are 10 essential lessons WE divorced women want you to know … not after the fact … but right now!

1. Eventually “New Rules” will rule

When you live one way for a long period of time—as in a marriage—you forget there are other ways of living. It’s a feeling not unlike traveling to a new country or immersing yourself in a foreign culture—you don’t realize how trapped you’ve become by familiar patterns and behaviors, things you can do and things you cannot, until you’ve stepped off the plane. As I stepped out of a former life, I discovered I’d be letting go of an entire worldview that, consciously or not, had been dictated by my Ex. That worldview (even my rebellion to or acceptance of it) had dominated my life. Until it didn’t.

After getting divorced, I could begin again. I could create and make something else, a world ruled by my values. A place of peace, laughter, and the occasional shrimp cocktail (my Ex was allergic to shell fish). A place where I wanted to live. A place that genuinely existed. A place where there were New Rules.

2 . Don’t strictly rely on a lawyer

Diversify your insights. Get feedback from various strategic people as you go through your divorce. It’s too easy to get caught up in your own emotions and to keep telling your story the way you always have. The story can become like cinder blocks tied to your feet, dragging you down and preventing you from moving forward. Make sure you speak to multiple someones—who can help you understand the process (the legal, the financial, AND the emotional journey)—so you protect and take care of yourself. People who understand divorce can make the burden you’re carrying feel lighter and make you feel less alone. They can help you see what you are unable to see, or even know what to look for.

Even more importantly, take steps to do this in the healthiest possible way so you and your family will heal. This means knowing whom it’s okay to unload on and how much they can realistically handle before you overstep. Your friends, family members, and colleagues might be great shoulders to lean on, yes, but they are not therapists or divorce coaches. As well-intentioned as they may be, they often give you advice based on their own or someone else’s story. Not yours.

3. You will lose

I thought I’d be losing a mate as a result of getting divorced. I had no idea I’d be losing so much more—friends, people who I thought were friends, extended family members, and acquaintances who stopped “seeing” me. Beyond people, I’d also lose a way of living. A lifestyle. I’d lose a way of being.

I also discovered the flip side. This long list of loss would usher in a cleansing. And in the wake of loss, there opened up a new space for all the incoming positive people and things my soul genuinely desired and especially needed.

4. It’s how you leave your marriage that will hurt your kids the most

Even if you have a history of high emotions and conflict in the house, understand it’s all about how you and your husband* behave now that will impact your kids the most. This is the reason to try to keep it civil, or restore civility and respect, as you struggle through divorce and do everything possible to recover from it.

You’ll want to learn about “good coparenting,” best suggestions and tools for boundaries, all directed to keep you and your children (and your soon-to-be Ex) sane and healthy. The fact is that if you are a mother, the father of your children will never entirely disappear. (So, you’ll edit that “loss” from your list above.) Chances are, your Ex will always be in your life to some extent. How you reframe this relationship is key for your children and their divorce recovery.

5. Now’s the time to learn about your financials

In particular, you want to find out what you own and what you owe—but don’t let NOT knowing these answers keep you from getting divorced. You can still find out or identify the people who can help you read statements and documents so you understand what you have and what your choices in life really are. Get fully informed before you start making decisions. And commit to the idea that once you are independent you will begin learning more about protecting and growing your money.

6. Figure out ways to generate income for yourself

Some women leave their marriages with full-time careers while others find themselves reentering the workforce or fearing that they will have to. If you find yourself lumped into the latter groups, step one is to stop telling yourself you are unemployable because it’s simply not true.

There are too many jobs out there to count, and every one of them requires something different of each of us. Take baby steps, if need be, but volunteer, hire a job coach, learn about iRelaunch, go back to school, start your own freelance business with a partner. Make a plan to support yourself and, in turn, seek the support you need to make it happen.

7. You can’t figure everything out in advance of getting divorced

Nor do you need to have everything figured out to move forward. It is a blessing to have search engines like Google in our lives, but it’s also a curse. Google makes us believe we can solve everything if only we research it well enough, if only we type in the magic keywords!

Phooey—at some point you have to get specific feedback about your personal circumstances from experts who deal with divorce and not just whatever articles, Facebook groups, and mind-numbing blog posts and forums you stumble across.

I get it—you’re scrappy. You can teach yourself nearly anything. But you are not a divorce attorney and you can’t become one fast enough.

8. What’s waiting for you is probably bigger and better than anything you can imagine right now

I can’t tell you what’s in store for you after getting divorced, and even if I could, women like me living on the other side of divorce know our words could never do it justice. What we can say is that when women like you face your fears and move through them, you are capable of nearly anything! We know women who after getting divorced recreated careers based on buried dreams, and women who have found happiness in their new freedom and sense of peace. We’ve met women who were scared to death about being alone only to find their figurative dance cards full and that their friends, some of them long lost, were waiting with open arms.

Remember why ending your marriage happened. And know that your future is better than you can even think possible. Trust us.

9. You must learn what being “healed” from divorce will look like

There will come a time when you must evaluate the role you played in getting divorced so you can truly heal yourself and stop blaming your Ex for everything that went wrong and for the hellish journey you’ve been through. The earlier on in your divorce that you confront this the better—it’s a necessary step for moving forward, for growing. It’s what true healing looks like.

10. You can let it go now

That Little Voice in your head? The one keeping you in a dark corner, feeling especially stupid and unloved? You can let it go. Because you’ll discover that divorce has a way of breaking you open, and as you watch all your messy insides spill out, you’ll eventually get to choose which parts of yourself you’ll keep and which you’ll toss into the heap. Your shame? Your guilt? Your regrets? Let it all go. None of it has ever served you anyway, except for now, as a marker symbolizing your critical turning point.

Going forward, take heart and practice intention. We know you don’t want to just divorce your husband—you want to end your marriage in the healthiest way. But that takes more than simply wanting something. It takes preparation and action. This is your life. This is your children’s future. Get a map, yes, but then take the wheel and steer.

 

Change the course of your life — AFTER DIVORCE!

Paloma’s Group™: Learning the Art of Reinvention.

For newly independent women, post-divorce. Over the course of (only) 3 months, each group-class ​builds on a core theme required to ​design a life you deserve. Schedule a free 45-minute coaching session to explore (and experience) how this remarkable group of post-divorce women will plan and act on creating a life they love.  

We promise — whether you join us for Paloma or not  — you’ll walk away from your complimentary coaching-session discovering a next step in your unique After Divorce journey. 

“We choose not to do it alone.” ~ SAS for Women

 

*At SAS for Women, we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

divorced women

What All Divorced Women Have in Common

Years ago, when I was still shell-shocked from learning of my husband’s infidelity and angry that I had become a divorced woman, I went out to dinner with two friends. Both were divorced women, so we had that in common. But one was talking easily about co-hosting her son’s graduation party with her Ex and his new wife—the woman he’d left her for.

She barely even rolled her eyes when she said his name!

I couldn’t believe it. “How can you stand to be in the same room with him?” I asked, thinking of my own Ex-husband and the knot of dread and anxiety I felt just seeing his name pop up on my phone.

“It’s been five years,” she said. “After a while, I stopped caring about the past. You’ll get there too.”

She said this casually, with so much assurance, that I felt I had to believe her. But how could I?

I couldn’t imagine a day when I could be civil to my Ex

And I considered this pretty normal. Certainly, my other girlfriends who were newly divorced weren’t planning parties with their Ex-husbands. Like me, their scars were too fresh. They were still reeling from divorce fallout that seemed unending: Sandy was constantly facing her Ex in court, while Roxanne’s Ex refused to see or speak to her for more than a year. Linda was grieving not just the loss of her husband but the loss of her best friend, with whom he had an affair. Katie, in her sixties, had given up her retirement plans and savings for her second husband only to be abandoned and forced to navigate the harsh realities of a grey divorce.

What I knew for sure was that my friends and I, and many women like us, had been thrust into situations we never asked for.

As divorced women, how could we stop caring about the past when the past wouldn’t leave us alone?

I gave this a lot of thought. And I kept hearing my friend’s confident voice saying, “You’ll get there too.”


For more suggestions on how to move forward, check out What to Do After Divorce: Your Top 15 Best Moves


Then a funny thing happened. The more I thought about the past, the more I began seeing it through a different lens. In the same way that I had never imagined getting a divorce, I’d never imagined doing other challenging things, like not getting permission from the judge before moving my children to a safer, less expensive apartment. Or buying my own car without consulting with my Ex. Or enrolling in a course to become an energy medicine practitioner. Or learning to say no (full stop!) when my Ex tried to control my life.

When I focused on all the strong, independent moves I made throughout my divorce, the past didn’t seem so suffocating. In fact, I saw that I actually came through my divorce with the best gift imaginable: I met the best version of myself.

And this has been true for my friends too. We have something wonderful in common.

Divorced women have a secret superpower; it’s the strength to rise again

Not all of us look wildly successful on the outside. All of us still face challenges and struggles, but we share an inner strength that we never knew existed.

Here’s what that strength looks like:

Sandy spent so much time in court that she connected with someone who offered her a job as the office manager of an all-female law firm.

The extended cold shoulder Roxanne got from her Ex gave her the space to meet an amazing new partner.

Linda kept loneliness at bay by focusing on her education and career. She earned a doctorate degree and became a department head at a Big Ten university.

Katie, like me, wrote an award-winning memoir about surviving divorce.

Now, when I meet someone going through a divorce, I want to be the one offering assurances. I want to share what my friends and I have learned. I want to take that baffled, disbelieving woman gently by the shoulders, look her in the eyes, and tell her to have faith.

Divorced women are the strongest women you’ll ever meet

A divorced woman knows that the best version of her has gone ahead and is pulling her forward.

A divorced woman has earned a seat at a table loaded with resilience, clarity, wisdom, and freedom. And yes, it’s the very same table where she may, one day, have dinner with her Ex and her Ex’s new wife.

And it will be no big deal. I promise.

Tammy Letherer is an author and writing coach. Her most recent book, The Buddha at My Table: How I Found Peace in Betrayal and Divorce, is a Gold Medal Winner in the Living Now Book Awards and in the Human Relations Indie Book Awards. It was also a finalist in the 2018 Best Book Awards and National Indie Excellence Awards. 


Change the course of your life — AFTER DIVORCE!

Paloma’s Group™: Learning the Art of Reinvention.

For newly independent women, post-divorce. Over the course of (only) 3 months, each live-coaching, online class ​builds on a core theme required to ​design a life you deserve. Schedule a free 45-minute coaching session to explore (and experience) how this remarkable group of post-divorce women will plan and act on creating a life they love.

We promise — whether you join us for Paloma or not  — you’ll walk away from your complimentary coaching-session discovering a next step in your unique After Divorce journey. 

“We choose not to do it alone.” ~ SAS for Women

* At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

how to make divorce cheaper

How to Make Divorce Cheaper

You’ve gone through a lot. Now you just want to get ending your marriage over with.

And while a divorce is the only way to move forward sometimes it’s also the problem, especially when it comes to the cost.

The estimated cost of getting divorced in the United States is $10,000 to $20,000. Yes, that’s a lot. But here’s the good news: if managed properly, the overall cost can be much less. How, exactly, does one make divorce cheaper, might you ask?

While every divorce situation is different, there are some things you can do to lessen the cost.

Remember that it isn’t going to be easy

Since your spouse will no longer be there to help you financially, expect a significant reduction in your income. It’s not easy, especially if you have children to send to school and bills to pay. Don’t expect that you will be able to maintain your present lifestyle. Money will be tight, that’s for sure. There will be times when personal loans, such as emergency cash for single moms, is the only way to keep up with your financial responsibilities. But you shouldn’t feel discouraged. The key is to plan ahead. Think about ways to augment your income and try to keep your expenses down.


You may want to read 7 Ways to Pay for a Divorce.


Work through it together

It may sound counterintuitive because you are divorcing your husband*, but trying to be reasonable with him is actually the path to an inexpensive, quick, and easy divorce. In this setup, both of you will have your own attorney. You may choose to work with a divorce financial specialist and, especially, a divorce coach too. This latter investment may look expensive at first, but in the long run, a divorce coach will actually save you money by helping you understand what you can and cannot be doing so you avoid a drawn-out, exhausting divorce that ends up going to court.

The experts will work together to advise and help you and your husband achieve an amicable settlement. Be ready to compromise on several issues, particularly those concerning property division and child custody.

There’s nothing more draining than embarking on an all-out-war with your husband. If you trust him, be willing to share needed information with him. Be willing to negotiate. It’s not always about getting all you can get. Sometimes, you may have to settle for less to avoid most costs.

Assess your current financial situation

The more work your attorney has to do, the more expensive the divorce process gets. Get organized and make sure you have all the information on hand, from your list of assets to your bank information, investment funds, pension plans, etc. Make copies of all relevant documents for yourself and your attorney. This will go a long way as you attempt to make divorce cheaper.

Choose your battles

Remember this—every conflict in the divorce proceeding will cost you. Figure out what’s most important to you. Financial security? Family home? Custody? Deciding on this matter early on should help you concentrate your attention and expenses to things that are more important. This should also help your lawyer deal with your case and make the process easier.

Take it online

Instead of going to your attorney’s office right away, you can start the process online. But first, check if your state allows e-filing for divorce petitions. It’s easy, quick, and convenient. You can download the forms from your court’s website and fill them out before heading to an attorney. Alternately, you can get an online divorce paper preparation service, which will cost you no more than $400.

Online filing is really best to make divorce cheaper, especially for those who do not have a lot of assets or debt and no children. It is also easier when your divorce is uncontested. Meaning, you and your spouse agree to the terms stated in the paper. Ensure that all the divorce details are in the documents you have prepared such as your social security numbers, marriage date and location, addresses, names of your children, and the properties you are dividing. If you have a more complex situation, it is much better to work with an attorney.

Get rid of joint accounts

When all is done and over, the last thing you want to happen is to pay for your Ex’s loan because he defaulted. Before getting divorced, get rid of joint accounts you have with your spouse. If you can’t get rid of such accounts, check if you can have them under one name only.

Focus on the future

A divorce is an event that affects the rest of your life. You must look at every financial issue from the perspective of how it will affect you, especially your children, in say five to ten years. This should help you make smarter financial decisions. Do what’s best for your kids. After all, at the end of the day, they are the ones who will suffer or benefit from the outcome of your decisions.

Divorce itself is a difficult and expensive process. So why make it worse? There are things you can do to make divorce cheaper, easier, and quicker so you can get on with the healing that is critical to your divorce recovery. You and your spouse have to cooperate and agree on many things. Think about what’s most important to you. This way, you can make better decisions that can save you money in the long run.

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to support them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce. SAS offers women 6 FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future.

“When a woman comes through divorce with the proper guidance and her questions answered, her life stands before her like something she could never imagine while she was is in the dark.” ~ SAS for Women

Lidia Staron is a part of Content and Marketing team at opencashadvance.com. She contributes insightful articles about the role of finance in the strategic-planning and decision-making process.

A family dealing with parental estrangement walking on a dark path alongside a building

When is it Parental Estrangement and When is it Parental Alienation?

Divorce is full of big words—the ones the lawyers and courts toss around, the ones your friends and family are scared of, and the ones your divorce coach and therapist use to label processes and behaviors that seem almost incapable of being contained so easily. When it comes to divorce and children, two common terms parents become aware of are parental alienation and parental estrangement.

Even the smoothest divorces can impact your relationship with your children. But it’s not always easy to pin down the source of your specific issues. Your mind starts racing. Is it something I said during the divorce? Are my children angry with me? Or disappointed? And which is worse? And when the answers to these questions don’t come quickly, you begin slipping down that slippery slope. Have I broken them somehow? Maybe it’s not anything I’ve done at all—maybe it’s him*. What has he been saying to them?

Two different things could be happening here, and you have more control over one than the other.

But what exactly is the difference between parental estrangement and parental alienation?

Parental estrangement

The source of parental estrangement can be murky. Your children have cut off contact with you or, at the very least, there is a growing distance between you. You get a sense that your children are blaming your for something but what that blame is for is less clear, especially if your children aren’t the type of people to freely share their feelings and opinions. But with estrangement, your children’s feelings are their own. They have not been influenced by their other parent (even if that other parent, coincidentally, shares many of the same feelings).

If you feel estranged from your children and they’ve communicated to you why that is, you might feel defensive, but as hard as it may be, we recommend you keep those feelings from your kids. Children often see things as black or white and right or wrong. Little moments or impulsive actions take on vast meaning. Your children are experiencing so much for the first time, and divorce has a way of dredging up all of it—the good and the bad. Even if you can’t understand where your children are coming from, you must respect their point of view and work with them from that perspective.

Know that it’s okay to accept each other’s differences, but as the parent in this situation, you should defer to your children’s point of view to repair your relationship. Whether the reasons your children are distancing themselves from you are real or perceived, they are still their reasons.

Are you experiencing parental estrangement?

Think through your divorce: Were there times where you let your stress levels get the best of you? Did you get depressed and disappear? Did you get angry and lash out? Did you turn to substances to numb your pain? In what ways did your divorce disrupt your children’s lives? A new home? A new city?

Did someone hit pause on your lives? Have you remembered to press play again?

Have you been giving your children space? Maybe it’s actually too much space. Maybe what they really need is a more hands-on form of support. Sometimes if you wait for your children to “come around on their own” they just, well, never do. They learn, instead, to get by on their own. They take your space as a hint: You’re alone now. Time to suck it up, and grow up. Make sure your children understand that you are still their parent even if the dynamics of your family have changed. Play an active role in repairing and creating a new relationship with your children.

Sometimes parental estrangement feels a lot like parental alienation (more on the latter below) because “the symptoms” of both situations overlap in some cases. Both situations are isolating, for the parent and the children. And both situations can have long-term effects on your relationship with your children. The key difference? With estrangement, there isn’t another parent behind-the-scenes working against you.

Parental alienation

With parental alienation, you know exactly who the perpetrator is: your Ex or, perhaps, even yourself. In this situation, one parent is actively campaigning against the other parent, both manipulating their children and monopolizing their time to foster negative feelings toward that other parent.

It’s a subtle difference, but it’s one that matters. While this is nothing short of devious, it’s hard to repair the rift without causing more mental harm to your children in the process.

You can’t, for instance, outright call their other parent a liar because that plays into the same mental games of alienating your children from their other parent. You can’t get the courts to cut off or reduce visitation without proof that your Ex is actively working against you, and to gain said proof would mean pressing your kids to testify against their other parent. Perhaps worst of all, even if you do “fix” your relationship with your children, those achievements are likely to be temporary—your Ex, after all, is still out there waiting for his next moment to strike.

Are you experiencing parental alienation?

Parental alienation can be hard to distinguish from parental estrangement. You can’t know what your Ex is saying to your kids, and for obvious reasons, you shouldn’t ask your children to divulge private conversations—it can be hard on them to repeat the negative (and perhaps genuinely horrible) things that your Ex may have said.

But there are some telltale signs of alienation: One parent constructs a negative narrative around their children’s other parent. They list off reasons for the divorce, for instance, and always put the blame on the other parent. Or they suggest that the other parent doesn’t care about their kids because they don’t spend as much time with them. Or maybe it’s less deliberate—one parent consistently vents to friends and family members about their Ex and the children overhear, or post-divorce, one parent is depressed or otherwise in a bad spot while the other parent is seemingly thriving.

Regardless of the specific ways in which you’ve become alienated from your children, the rift will grow worse over time. Your Ex is, in effect, poisoning your relationship with your children, and like most poisons, they grow stronger the more a person is exposed to them.

Parental estrangement vs. parental alienation

Parental estrangement, then, is when you can look back at your actions throughout your divorce and recognize that you’ve made choices that have left your children feeling unsupported in a time of need. Even if you can’t recognize this yourself, your children have likely accused you of doing so.

Parental alienation is when your children’s other parent is actively poisoning your relationship with your children. It’s an ongoing psychological battle that isn’t about your children’s best interests or yours or even your Ex’s, really. It has more to do with power than anything. But here’s the other thing we haven’t mentioned yet about parental alienation—over time, it becomes an actual syndrome. By that, we mean that parental alienation syndrome is habitual. A pattern develops, routines settle in, and your children may no longer play passive roles in the damage that’s being done to your relationship. Instead, they begin to see the world through the eyes of the parent who’s targeting their other parent.

What you can do in the case of parental estrangement

If your life involves parental estrangement or you’re hoping to avoid it, there are some things you can do to start to repair your relationship with your children. (Depending on the specifics of your situation, some of these may help in cases involving parental alienation as well.)

  • Has your child spoken up about the growing distance between you? Don’t wait for them to “get over it” or “come around.” Address your children’s concerns directly by listening to them, trying to understand, validating their feelings, and telling them that you want to work on their concerns with them so you two can repair your relationship.
  • Don’t wait for your children to contact you to repair your relationship with them—you are the parent. Even if your children have hurled insults your way, ignored your messages, or placed an unfair amount of blame on your shoulders, you need to take the first step and reach out. Even if your children have crow’s feet and their fair share of grey, this particular dynamic will never really change. Your children may eventually come around on their own, to be sure, but you may lose more time than any of us is comfortable with if you wait too long.
  • If you’re struggling to get through to your children, know that persistence is key here as are the words you use—let your children know you love them, that you want to repair your relationship, and that you’ll keep checking-in with them so that they know you’re there when they’re ready to talk to you. We’re not suggesting that you harass or stalk your children, to be clear. There are ways to reach out that feel less invasive than a text or call, like a letter, for instance.
  • Don’t violate your children’s boundaries. Don’t show up unexpectedly at their school or other parent’s house to talk or force your company on them. This can backfire and cause your children to feel even more distant from you.
  • Do not give up on communicating with your children—no matter how long they ignore you. You might feel abandoned, and that’s a bitter pill to swallow. But, again, you are the parent in this relationship, and your children were never here to emotionally support you. Call your children on their birthdays and holidays even if they don’t answer. Set an example of the type of relationship you want to have with your children, and in time, they may grow to appreciate that you never gave up.
  • If your children do come around and feel ready to speak with you, they might want to talk about the aspects of your relationship that made them distance themselves from you in the first place. Whether you agree with their side of your story or not, you must do your best to react neutrally and find a way to work together to overcome your past. An unwillingness to see your shared history from your children’s perspective is just one reason you may have been cut off from them in the first place—and while that may seem harsh, it has more to do with your children feeling as though they are living in one reality while you exist in another. There is no greater distance than that.
  • Be ready to admit your shortcomings to your children. Of course, we know that we’re simply humans—we’re far from perfect. But your divorce and how you handled the aftermath may have been the first time in your children’s lives where they really came to understand this firsthand. Don’t sweep your mistakes under the rug. Own your flaws, and let your children see you work through them.
  • You might be ready to move on, but your children might need more time to be angry or sad or confused. To just feel and experience whatever emotions are flooding through them. If you children are acting out, don’t punish them or push them to get over their feelings. Instead, make sure they know that their emotions are valid and that you are there for them whether they are ready to move forward or not.

Understand that a “repaired” relationship with your children may look different than you thought it would. If there’s one thing we all know, it’s that you can’t change the past and you can’t return to it. Before divorce, you didn’t have to deal with things like a custody agreement, a different home, or your Ex’s new partner. Your relationship with your children—indeed your entire lives—have changed in fundamental ways that you simply can’t ignore.

What you can do in the case of parental alienation

There are a few additional things you can do to try to repair your relationship with your children when your Ex is actively working to poison it.

  • Let your children know that their mental state comes first. Explain that they might feel upset or pressured or mad at you but that’s okay—they don’t need to tell you why, but if they ever want to talk, you are there for them and will always love them unconditionally.
  • See if your Ex will agree to therapy for your children. This way there’s a third party there to help your children navigate their relationship with both parents and work through any negative feelings they may have in a safe environment.
  • Don’t worry about being right or about proving your Ex wrong—instead, model healthy parent-child behavior by not crossing that boundary and focus on things that are within your control. Focus on strengthening your relationship with your children and not tearing apart their relationship with their other parent. Forcing your children to be the middlemen between you and your Ex will only isolate them further.
  • Work on good coparenting skills with your Ex. This is especially true if the alienation is accidental more than purposeful (though in either case, we realize this isn’t always easy, especially if some sort of betrayal was responsible for your divorce). If your Ex is in a bad place mentally and is using your children as a therapist, talking to them about what’s going on and appropriate places for help might work wonders in repairing your relationship with your children.

In general, you want to be clear with your Ex about the fact that, post-divorce, you two have every right to be upset and vent about one another, but that, for the sake of your children, that should be done privately. And because children have a way of overhearing things they shouldn’t, it’s best to vent your feelings when they’re not at home.

Why is the difference between parental estrangement and parental alienation important?

Name your demons, and maybe then you can face them. Divorce is different for everyone. It’s the naming of each part of the process—contemplation, finding a lawyer, awaiting your divorce decree, to list a few—that makes us feel like we’ve arrived somewhere and are now standing on firmer ground. The more information we have, the more prepared we feel to face whatever comes next.

But naming your demons isn’t enough. You have to take ownership of them or you will never feel like you are truly in control of them. And that’s why knowing the difference between estrangement and alienation is so important.

With parental estrangement, feeling in control means being honest with yourself: Do you want a relationship with your children? Then stop making excuses for yourself. You know now that you and your children can live without one another, but is that what you really want? Whatever attempts you’ve made in the past? They didn’t work. Think long and hard about why, and next time, approach things differently.

With alienation, feeling in control means exercising an extreme amount of patience and accepting that, ultimately, you’re not actually in control. It means learning when to let go and focus on you for your best divorce recovery. Understand that you simply can’t change other people or push the clock forward so that time heals everyone all at once—it’s simply not an option. So let it go.

We choose to focus on what we can control, and we recommend you do the same. Even though it may feel like it, you’re not the first person to weather this storm. Meet up with other divorced women. Use this time to travel. Lose yourself in nature so that you might find yourself again. Reach out to a divorce coach who can help you understand your choices and the actions leading to the results you really want—so you, your children, and your relationship with them make it safely through this time in your life.

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unique challenges women face when dealing with divorce or navigating its afterward. Discover the smartest, and most educated, next step for you and your family. Schedule your free, 45-minute coaching session with SAS now.

*At SAS for Women, we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.