Getting a Divorce is stressful. Here are some articles to help.

Browse Articles on the topic of Getting a Divorce

Divorce papers by Graham for Unsplash

Divorce Papers: What the Heck Are They?

While no two divorces are exactly alike, one aspect always stays the same: the paperwork. You hear the term “divorce papers” casually thrown around all the time in movies, TV shows, or by gossipy neighbors. But what actually are divorce papers?

It is tricky to know exactly what they are because it is such a broad term. They technically refer to all the papers needed for the divorce process. The actual number of documents included in the complete paperwork varies from couple to couple. However, four primary papers almost always accompany the divorce: the petition, the summons, the answer, and the judgment. 

Paper #1: Starting the Divorce Petition

First things first, someone needs to begin the divorce process. The petition is the first step in the divorce. This means that one spouse needs to officially ask a court to end their marriage. This is the legal step that sometimes follows a separation. So, if you are the person initiating the process, you will fill out a form called a petition (sometimes called a “petition for dissolution of marriage” or the “complaint”). This form varies from state to state and can sometimes be found online or in person at the court.

In some states, the complaint is not a standard form, but an individualized statement. The petition has general information about both spouses and the length of the marriage. This is your first chance to indicate what you want from the judge. In this first form, you might be required to list out any community or separate property and how you would ideally split it. However, just because you indicate this is how you want to split it, it might not be divided as so. If children are involved, the spouse starting the divorce process will need to indicate what they would ideally want in terms of custody and care. When this form is finished, it is turned in or “filed” with the court, and you need to give a copy to your spouse. This divorce paper filing is the first step in the divorce process.


If you’re not ready for divorce papers but are contemplating separation or divorce, 

you might want to start here: “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce”.


Paper #2: Informing the Other Person – The Summons and Service

Now, as lovely as it would be to go through the entire process without your spouse, legally, they need to know that you have filed for a divorce. They learn that you have filed for divorce through the service of the divorce paperwork. 

“Service” is when someone (every state has different laws on who this person can be) gives your spouse the first divorce papers. 

The service aspect of divorce is often a dramatic or awkward plot point in the media, with someone providing the protagonist with the divorce papers at a very inconvenient time. Regardless of how it gets there, your petition must make it to your spouse to give them notice and allow them to participate in the process.

If you’ve been the ONE hit with divorce papers, check out “What to Do When You Get Served with Divorce Papers.”

There are generally two papers being served, the petition and a summons. The summons tells the other person that you have filed a divorce and usually tells them what they need to do next and how long they have to do it. This might include the amount of time they have to respond if there is a preliminary court hearing and general directions for the process. Every state has different rules regarding the summons and court process. 


Do you ever wonder who else in the world could be thinking “divorce”? 

Read “What Percentage of Marriages End in Divorce?” to understand more about the nuances of the question and to realize, you’re not alone.


Paper #3: Responding – The Answer

After your spouse is served with the initial paperwork, it’s time for them to ask the court for what they want. There are two main ways an answer can happen. The first is that your spouse just doesn’t respond to the petition and summons. This means that they have chosen to stay out of the divorce process, and you will skip right to a “default judgment.” A default judgment is when the judge will finalize the process based on the petition.

The other option is for your spouse to participate in the case and fill out and file an answer. The answer is a written response to the petition. It tells the court exactly what they want out of the proceeding. The answer will either agree or disagree with the terms set out in the petition. Some states require an appearance form along with the answer. This tells you and the court that your spouse is taking part in the court case and that they want to go to court (think of it as the counterpart to the summons).

Like the petition, the answer and appearance forms must be filed with the court clerk, either in person, online, or by mail, and served to the other person. You must know what your spouse intends to argue for in the negotiation or court process.

Paper #4: The Final Decision, The Last Step, The Judgment 

After the long process of papers, negotiation, and stress, all you want is for the divorce to be done and over with. However, a divorce is not finalized until the judge gives the final order, called a judgment. 

This final judgment follows some form of discussion (whether it is a contested or uncontested divorce) about what each person will get from the divorce. Judges, lawyers, and most people prefer to keep divorces out of the courtroom, so they will often explore other negotiation options, like mediation and arbitration, before going to court.

Official Decision by the Court

After the couple has come to some form of an agreement, a judge must give the court’s official decision that officially grants the divorce.  This is most often done with lawyers or a mediator submitting the divorce draft agreement to the court for the court to then review and stamp (usually) with approval.

We recommend that every woman, no matter how she divorces, seek a private consultation with a divorce attorney. Learn your rights and what you are entitled to (even if you elect for DIY divorce) before you start splitting things up. (Yes, no matter what your spouse says.) We’re not saying spend a bundle, but you’ll want to know why you don’t want to search for cheap divorce lawyers in the process.

This final judgment or divorce judgment is the final paper in the divorce paper repertoire. However, like all aspects of life and divorce, it is not always so straightforward. After the judgment, there is always the option of modifying the terms of your divorce by a court order. You might want to modify aspects like property division, debt division, or alimony. In order to change a final ruling in a divorce, there generally needs to be some substantial change of circumstances. This can include: a job loss, one spouse has remarried, or one spouse is earning significantly more than they were at the time of the divorce.

Paper #5: Other Common Papers

Every divorce is different, so they will all have different papers that come with them. These can include property division forms, more complicated child custody or visitation forms, or alimony/marital maintenance forms. Every state has a different procedure and might have other forms accompanying a standard divorce. 

Conclusion

Divorces are full of complex paperwork. It is important to keep track of them and stay organized and informed on the different papers needed to complete a divorce in your state. This is key to making the process go as smoothly as possible. 

Notes

Elizabeth Newland is a third-year law student in Chicago who is committed to children and family rights. She aims to work in a family-related non-profit firm after graduation. 


Choose not to go it alone.

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional and oftentimes complicated experience of divorce. SAS offers all women six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you and your precious future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

How to separate from your spouse by Pexels.com (1)

How to Separate from Your Spouse While Living Together

Perhaps your marriage is at a tipping point. It’s not working, but you’re not quite sure divorce is your end-game. You know you have choices (kind of). For one, you can keep living as you are and hope a coconut of wisdom will fall on your head. You can go ahead and file for divorce. You can separate and move out (or have your husband move out). Or you can separate from your spouse while living together.

At a time when the difficulty of making decisions is amplified by emotions and potential consequences, you are forced to choose.

Even not choosing is choosing.

Every situation is as unique as the people in it. The presence and number of children, financial status, employment, age, health, family and friends who can help, amicability—they all weigh in.

Regardless of what’s driving your marriage toward potential finality, you and your spouse have to decide about your living arrangements during the decision process.

This may seem on the surface to be a personal decision that belongs only to you and your spouse. But what you do and how you do it can have legal (and financial) consequences.


You may wish to consider “What Percentage of Marriages End in Divorce?”


So, we’re going to talk about an option that is largely misunderstood but often necessary.

If you’re going to separate from your spouse while living together, there need to be rules in place.

And everyone needs to follow them.

Obviously, an in-house separation, also called a “poor man’s separation,” won’t work if everyone doesn’t “play nice.”

The irony?

The very mindsets and behaviors that have taken a backseat in your marriage now have to take the wheel.

Healthy communication, respect, keeping your word, sacrifice — you can’t have a successful marriage without them.

You also can’t successfully separate from your spouse while living together without them, either.

Obviously, this kind of separation works only when spouses have a functional amount of amicability and mutual respect. 


Read “What is an Amicable Divorce? And 5 Ways to Ensure One.”


If there is abuse, active addiction, and/or constant fighting going on between spouses, safety (physical and emotional), it most likely calls for full separation.

The Benefits of Separation

Let’s talk about legality for a moment.

Separation can serve a variety of purposes.

Generally, it’s a “trial” period that gives spouses a “break” from their marriage to determine how to go forward.

Instead of simply pulling the plug during a high-emotion, high-conflict time, separation gives you an opportunity to cool down and reflect.

Separation can also give you enough distance to get a glimpse of what single life would be like beyond just the “freedom.” If absence makes the heart grow fonder, then, theoretically, two spouses who still love one another will resolve to make things work.

This is, at least in part, why some states have mandatory separation/”cooling off” periods before beginning the divorce process or before the process can be completed. The courts want to know that couples are making the life-altering decision of divorce with forethought, clarity, conviction, and necessary information.

Therefore, if you plan to separate from your spouse while living together, you still need to treat that time as a separation. 

Even if you’re unsure about divorce at this point, you can’t be wishy-washy about your separation–at least if you want it to “count.”

Here are some guidelines for creating an effective in-home separation:

  • Hire a family law attorney to help you draw up the details of a binding, legal separation.

    This may feel like an awkward step when you’re still living together. After all, who’s going to monitor you behind closed doors?

    But, if you are still in a place of uncertainty, you both need to protect all potential outcomes.

    Having an official, legal document in place will give you both a point of accountability.

    It will also start the clock on any mandatory separation (unless your state requires separate domiciles).


Be careful with the lawyer you meet with. Check out “Why You Don’t Want to Search for Cheap Divorce Lawyers.”


  • Be clear about the purpose of this separation.

    Are you going through all this hassle so you can inch your way out of your marriage? Or are you truly using this time to work on yourself and your marriage?

    Are you doing this to save money or for some other reason like children, health, or convenience?

    Will you be attending marriage counseling together? Individual therapy?

    Or will you both be preparing for the divorce process from the convenience of the same home? If so you may consider reading “Women Share How to Survive Living Together During Divorce.”

  • Set a starting and ending date.

    Dates are important for a couple of reasons.

    For you and your spouse, it’s a way of making sure everyone is on the same page. It gives you a timeframe in which to do your “separation work.”

    And it keeps you both on track for reconvening in order to determine the next steps for your marriage (or divorce).

    Legally, dates let the courts know that you have met any requirements for an uninterrupted (i.e. no accidental hanky-panky on a vulnerable night) separation.

  • Separate your sleeping spaces.

    If you’re going to separate from your spouse while living together, sleeping arrangements will be the first pragmatic to tend to.

    You may not have the luxury of unoccupied bedrooms, but there are always creative solutions. Converting a basement, attic room, or office are all options.

    You may even decide to take turns sleeping in the common home and staying with a family member or friend.

    Taking turns in the home can preserve some sense of normalcy and constancy for children. But it will take clear boundaries and scheduling by the parents.

  • Separate your finances.

    Whether you and your spouse come through this separation phase together or are destined for divorce, finances will play a major role.

    This is the time to open separate accounts, even if you keep a joint account open for common bills like mortgage, rent, and utilities.

    By having an attorney work with you on the terms of your separation, you can establish clear guidelines about who pays for what.

    If you’ve been out of the workforce because you’ve stayed home to care for children, you will need that financial clarity.

    If, in the end, you decide to divorce, financial records from your separation will be an important contribution to your settlement documentation.


Separating or not, you might want to read “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.”


  • Establish clear boundaries around everything.

    Are we going to eat together as a family? Who is going to cook on what night? Are we going to shop for our own food and take turns buying for the kids?

    Who will be responsible for what chores and what expenses?

    Are we going to talk when we’re in the house together, or only briefly in passing?

    Are we going to have defined times to be in and out of the house?

    How are we going to handle the kids’ functions?

    Who can know about our separation?

  • Establish custodial guidelines for caring for children.

    Telling the kids. Ugh. It’s inevitably one of the most difficult, awkward steps of both divorce and separation.

    And yet, if you’re going to separate from your spouse while living together, you need to handle this step with great care.

    Younger children, despite their natural ability to pick up on everything, may adapt well. As long as their world remains constant in terms of provisions and care, they aren’t likely to need deeper explanations.

    Teens, however, are in their own relationship-development phase and are more likely to internalize your relationship choices.

    Children of any age don’t need to know the details of your marital issues. But they do need to understand changes in the family dynamics.

    Even an assurance of your love for them and an explanation of the “rules and layout” of the separation can suffice.

    Be clear about who will be responsible for what aspects of child care – what days, what events, what needs.

    Will you divide up the week for things like cooking, bedtime story-reading, and homework assistance?

    Honor the schedule you create. Your children’s comfort depends on it.


Consider “How to Coparent When You Absolutely Hate Your Ex.”


  • Don’t start dating during this time. And definitely don’t bring dates or new love interests into the house.

    Some experts will acknowledge dating as an inevitable part of the separation. But think about it with the long term in mind.

    First of all, you are still legally bound to your spouse. Your assets, your children and custody, your freedom to remarry–everything is still bound in marriage.

    Second, you are living in the same house as your spouse, even under terms of separation.

    You may or may not reconcile, but why add the awkwardness? Why complicate a potential divorce process? Why put another person in the middle of your personal situation when you can’t offer the same relationship perks you want?

    And, especially, why confuse your children or add extra hurt to your spouse?

    Separation is supposed to be a time of reflection and decision.

    Even if you know you’re bound for divorce, both of you will still have a lot of work to do on yourselves, for your children, and for your healing.


It’s natural to wonder.

“Will Your Marital Separation Lead to a Divorce?”

Read more to understand where you’re at.


  • Respect the rules.

    In-house separation will ultimately be what you make it.

    If you and your spouse can’t be within a mile of one another without fighting, then you may need to move at least two miles apart.

    Hopefully, you have enough compassion and respect left between you that you can navigate this difficult arrangement successfully.

    If you’re divorcing a nice guy, you may find it difficult to keep the lines from getting fuzzy.

    If that’s the case, you may discover the motivation to work on your marriage instead of using separation as a prelude to divorce.

    Just be sure to respect the rules you have agreed on, for the time period you have established.

    You can always come back together to change them.

Separation, just like the marriage that led to it, is unique to every couple. It’s deeply personal, and its reasons are often more a series of blurred grays than a distinct black-and-white.

Choosing the option to separate from your spouse while living together offers both conveniences and challenges.

Ironically, the success of this separation arrangement relies on what may have been fading in the marriage in the first place: respect and communication.


Join us for Annie’s Group. 

SAS for Women’s powerful, three-month group coaching program for women thinking about… or just beginning the divorce process.  

Our goals are simple but life-changing in Annie’s Group. We want all participants to learn about their rights and their life options so they make decisions from an informed place. Making decisions from an informed, and thus empowered place, fosters healthier outcomes for everybody. 

Discover more about Annie here.

Essential things about Divorce in Illinois

6 Essential Things to Know About an Illinois Divorce

Divorce is confusing. What makes it even more confusing is that every state has different divorce laws. There is little to no standardization in divorce law across the country. To help yourself in the process, it is crucial that you know the specific divorce laws for your state, and an Illinois divorce has its own intricacies. Understanding the relevant laws allows you to focus on yourself and stop unneeded stress in its tracks. 

Let’s look at six essential things a woman must know about an Illinois divorce.

1. Grounds for Illinois Divorce

Grounds for divorce means the reason behind the divorce. In Illinois, one person does not need to be at fault for ending the marriage because it is a “no-fault” divorce state. No-fault means that you do not need to prove that one person’s bad acts caused the divorce. Illinois divorce takes away the legal finger-pointing for ending a marriage because the law does not require one person to take responsibility for the divorce.

Luckily, this means there does not have to be a reason for the divorce aside from wanting it. This also means that a court will generally not consider things like affairs or abandonment when looking at property division and child custody. However, this does not apply in cases of domestic violence. (If you are dealing with any form of abuse, you will want to read “Leaving an Abusive Marriage? There are Steps to Take.”

 A court will grant a divorce if there is an “irreconcilable difference,” meaning there are such significant differences or difficulties in the marriage that it is “irretrievably broken.” You can show irreconcilable differences in one of two ways: by proving that there is no way to repair the marriage, even though you have tried, or through a six-month separation. A court will consider spouses who have been separated for six months either within the same household or living apart as evidence of a breakdown of the marriage.


Check out, “What are Irreconcilable Differences? Do They Apply to You?”


2. Alternatives to Divorce: Difficult but Not Impossible

Divorce is the most common way to end a marriage in Illinois. It is very difficult to qualify for an alternative to divorce. However, the two alternatives to divorce are annulment and separation. An annulment says that a marriage was never valid and must fall into a strict category. The court must find that this marriage is not valid and was never valid, and the state should never have recognized it. There are only four reasons the court can annul a marriage in Illinois.

  • One spouse could not consent to be married. They cannot consent because of a mental disability, there is the undue influence of drugs or alcohol, or they were forced or tricked into marriage.
  • One spouse cannot have sexual intercourse, and the other spouse did not know about it at the time of the marriage.
  • One spouse was under 18 and did not have parental or judicial consent.
  • Or the marriage was illegal. In Illinois, the couple is closely related by blood, or one person is still married to someone else.

Legal Separation

The other alternative is a legal separation. Legal separation does not legally end the marriage, and it is not as simple as just separating from your spouse by living apart. It is a very technical term. A legal separation will allow the court to rule on child custody, support, and maintenance issues. It will not allow the court to rule on property division, and you cannot get remarried if you have a legal separation.

People might opt to get a legal separation in cases in which they might rely on their spouse’s benefits (like health insurance, social security, or pension), you are not fully ready for a divorce but know you legally need to be apart, or your religion prohibits divorce. If you get a legal separation, you can still file for a divorce if you choose to in the future (which you will need if you plan on eventually remarrying). For more on this, read “Choosing a Separation or a Divorce.”

3. Maintenance

Maintenance (also called alimony or spousal support) is rare in most divorce cases. First, the court will decide if this divorce requires alimony. The court will consider both parties’ emotional, physical, and mental conditions when determining if and how much maintenance it should award. As stated by Illinois law and the Bar association, the Illinois guidelines for maintenance are that maintenance awards are generally 30% of the paying spouse’s gross income minus 20% of the receiving spouse’s income. The court can always disregard the guidelines based on fairness factors that it deems important.


Understanding your finances and just how you will split things up is a good thing to speak to a financial person about. Check out, “Smart Moves for a Woman: A Financial Consultation for a Divorce.”

You may also wish to understand “Why You Don’t Want to Search for Cheap Divorce Lawyers,” when you are googling for legal support.


4. Residency and Waiting Period

To get a divorce, you or your spouse must be a resident of Illinois for at least 90 days before filing for a divorce. Only one person must be a resident of the state to file in Illinois.

Unlike many states, Illinois does not have a waiting period required to fill out the documents for a divorce. When you want a divorce, you or your lawyer can file it with the court immediately to start the process. 

5. Property Division: Equitable, Not Equal

Marital property includes every single thing (and debt) that you and your spouse acquired during the marriage. This consists of all physical items, like cars and houses, as well as intangible things like stocks, investments, and bank accounts. There are few exceptions to marital property. These include student loan debt, inheritance, and gifts. 

Illinois follows the equitable approach to property division. The equitable approach means that the court will divide all marital property equitably, which may or may not be an equal 50/50 split. The court can determine what is equitable based on the circumstances surrounding the items, and the marriage. It can consider each person’s financial contributions in getting the property and their personal financial situation.


Learn more about “Divorce Property Division: Community Property States v. Equitable Distribution States” if you are weighing which state to file your divorce in.


6. Child Custody 

Like most states, Illinois courts look at the child’s best interest in determining custody arrangements. The judge will look at all the factors to determine the best placement for the child. Illinois strongly believes that it is best for the child to have consistent and long-term contact with both parents after a divorce. Additionally, unless the child is older, they generally do not have a say about where they want to live; that is for the judge to decide. 

Unlike other states, Illinois law refers to child custody as “parental responsibilities.” Parental responsibilities refer to two different aspects of parenting, legal decision-making and parenting time. Decision-making accounts for who decides the child’s education, health, religion, extracurricular activities, etc. Unless the parents really cannot work together at all, both parents typically hold this power jointly. The other aspect is parenting time, in which the court will determine which parent will primarily physically care for the child.

Conclusion 

Illinois has many specific laws regarding divorce in the state. In order to make your divorce process as simple as possible, you need to fully understand the laws and nuances of your state. If you are wondering what other steps you could be taking to ensure your divorce goes as healthily as possible, we encourage you to consult “The 55 Must Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist.”

Notes

Elizabeth Newland is a third-year law student in Chicago who is committed to children and family rights. She aims to work in a family-related non-profit firm after graduation.

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.

What to do if your husband leaves you

9 Kick-Ass Things To Do If Your Husband Leaves You

Adulting isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, especially when painful adult experiences throw you back into an emotional childhood. If your husband leaves you, for example, you may feel the somatic eruption of memories from long ago. Abandonment. Disapproval. Rejection. Being unwanted… and the last to be chosen (if chosen at all).

It’s remarkable, really, how instantly a painful experience can connect the dots separated by a veritable lifetime.

Your psyche, though, never forgets. It stores the most affecting memories in every cell of your body.

Even if your husband leaves you and you have no point of reference for the emotional flood, the abandonment will still be all-consuming.

And with that abandonment and the litany of emotions tied to it comes a wave of destruction to all that is self-defining.

Your self-esteem, your self-worth, your self-confidence, your dreams for the future, your belief that you can survive…even your identity. They all take a beating.

Perhaps the most egregious feeling that comes from abandonment is powerlessness. 

With the swipe of one person’s actions, you become helpless to control a huge part of your own life. And you’re left standing alone with that new reality.

Is there anything you can do to re-empower yourself if your husband leaves you?

You know, don’t you, that we are here to restore the inherent yes in your life?

This is the place where others who have already earned their stripes are going to surround you and lift you up with a resounding “Absolutely!”

Here are 9 powerful things you can do now if your husband leaves you and you are feeling powerless:

  1. Be TOO proud to beg.

    It doesn’t matter what your husband has done or why he has chosen to leave. In the movie Where the Heart Is, Ashley Judd’s character says to a young mom-to-be (Natalie Portman), “I know [he] left you. But that’s what makes him trash, not you.”

    If your husband leaves you, he does so with forethought and planning. And trust us, you are above begging for that kind of base energy to come back into your life.

    Do. Not. Beg.

  2. Document, document, document.

    This isn’t about revenge – although success and happiness earned through integrity make for the suh-weetest revenge!

    This is about being smart and protecting yourself and your children.

    If you’re going to have to look out for yourself going forward, the time to rehearse is now.

    Save everything. Documents, emails, texts, voice messages (let your voicemail pick up instead of answering your phone), pictures, everything.

    Keep a dedicated journal for documenting dates, times, communication, and financial actions.

    Basically, be a grown-up Girl Scout: Be prepared. You’ll reap the merit badge in the battle to come. Read our “If You are Thinking About Divorce: Important Steps to be Prepared.

  3. Think like a lawyer, but hire a really good one.

    This isn’t the time to DIY your future. There is too much at stake if your husband leaves you.

    Chances are he has been preparing for a while, and that means you have catching up to do.


For both healthy and smart things to do if you are thinking about divorce, or not wanting to be taken advantage of, read our “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.”


It’s important that you learn to separate your emotions from the pragmatics of this severance.

By researching how to find a divorce attorney and in particular the right one for you, you will learn how to prepare for the most advantageous outcome.

  1. Join a support group, or two… or three.

    This is a time when you need support.You need the professional support of legal and financial experts. And you also need the emotional support of others who have been where you are.

    Be prudent about where and with whom you share this journey.

    Consider hiring a female divorce coach to keep you on-track through this painful and confusing journey.

    And join a group or two (one online and one in person, perhaps) to give you a sense of empathetic community.

    Annie’s Group, for example, is an online divorce support group and program for women who are thinking about or just beginning divorce. What a godsend opportunity to surround yourself with assurance, compassion, and guidance in a confidential place.

  2. Keep the details off social media.

    As I mentioned above, prudence is key at this time. You want support. You need support.

    And you also probably want to drag your husband through burning coals, literally and figuratively.

    But let’s review the previous two points: Think like a lawyer…and seek support in the right places.

    It’s all part of the next point…

  3. Take the high road.

    Remember Michelle Obama’s famous tagline? When they go low, we go high.

    Politics and political preference don’t even matter. It’s an awesome mantra to live by, no matter what the circumstances are.

    Taking the high road has nothing to do with acquiescence or playing weak.

    It has everything to do with staying out of the muddy trenches and connecting your energy only to people and choices of integrity.

    Never, ever, ever doubt that staying on high ground will deliver the best results.

    You may feel the temporary agony of delayed gratification, but stay true to what is right and good.

  4. Protect your kids and prepare for their future.

    If you have difficulty standing up for yourself or fighting for what you deserve, think about your kids (if you have them).How you navigate the aftermath if your husband leaves you is about more than just getting through the divorce process. You need to look far down the road while also checking your rear-view mirror.

    Children are expensive. They need health insurance, food, clothes, tuition, activity fees, college funds, and on and on.

    This is one of the most important reasons to build the strongest professional team you can afford.

  5. Find a new place to live.

    No matter how much you love your home, clinging to it will only keep you attached to someone who has abandoned you.This is the time to recreate yourself and your life.

    Give yourself permission to enjoy the creative process of choosing and nesting in a new place that belongs only to you (and your kids).

    Sure, you may have to downsize for the time being. But that just means less “stuff” to take care of while you do the following…

  6. Take really good care of you.

    If your husband leaves you, he may or may not ever look back.

    While it’s natural to want him to miss you and regret his actions, you are now in the process of clearing out his negative energy.

    Practicing self care is no longer about making his head turn in desire or regret.

    It’s about stepping out of rejection and abandonment with limitless energy, health, and self-confidence.

    Your kids need you, your friends need you, you need you.

    So, whatever that self-care looks like—exercise, good food, sound sleep, continuing education, spirituality/religion, hobbies, social gatherings—do it.

    Consistently.

Abandonment is a vile, passive-aggressive form of rejection. It hurtsdeeply. And the wound doesn’t simply “heal” with time.

While there is no panacea for that kind of betrayal, one truth will ground you so you can step forward into healing:

The only abandonment with the power to destroy you is the abandonment of yourself.

And the only vow that must unequivocally last a lifetime is the “I do” you say to you.

Notes

Whether you are thinking about divorce, dealing with it, or 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 oftentimes complicated experience of breaking up and reinventing. 

SAS offers all women six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you—and your precious future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

Irreconcilable differences

What are Irreconcilable Differences? Do They Apply to You?

Legal language concerning divorce is often hard to decipher. So when you stumble upon the term “irreconcilable differences,” it can take some time to get to the bottom of it. What is it? Should you use it in your divorce? What benefits can it bring you?

Read on to find out.

What’s the Meaning of Irreconcilable Differences?

Some of you may recall a 1984 movie of the same name. One of the lead characters, a 9-year-old girl, asked the court for divorce from her parents on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences.” Her main argument was that she’s tired of being neglected, forgotten, and taken for granted.

Our reality isn’t too far from this comedy-drama film. We use this phrase to denote that the spouses cannot find any reasons to continue living together.

Let’s look at the definition of irreconcilable differences provided by California Family Law, § 2311.

“Irreconcilable differences are those grounds which are determined by the court to be substantial reasons for not continuing the marriage and which make it appear that the marriage should be dissolved.”

Several states, such as New York and Massachusetts, also use “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage” to refer to the same notion.

What are Examples of Irreconcilable Differences?

Among the most cited examples of irretrievable breakdown of marriage are the following:

  1. Disputes about having children.

Every person has certain expectations when they get married. But unfortunately, not all couples discuss the future of their relationships, especially children. And when the honeymoon period ends, it turns out that one person wants to have two or three kids, while the other doesn’t want any. Even if everything else is perfect, these child-related differences can strain a marriage.

  1. Change of views and lifestyle.

A real-life example of lifestyle changes is when one spouse becomes unemployed and has no intention or ambition to find a new job. Even if money is not an issue, it’s very annoying to the other spouse (especially if it’s a woman) to see their partner lying on the couch all day long. (Check out, “Breadwinning Moms Face an Uphill Battle When Married and Divorcing”.) As for men, many of them leave their beloved wives when they stop feeling attracted to their wives physically. It’s an unfortunate reality.

  1. Disputes about how to raise children.

If parenting styles were the same for everyone, there wouldn’t be many conflicts between the parents. But instead, each parent draws on their unique childhood experience and wants to implement it when raising their kids. If the spouses can’t compromise on how to combine two parenting styles, their relationship can worsen with each new collision.

  1. One spouse mistreats the other.

One of the spouses is contemptuous of the values and desires of the other. They show their displeasure with the other spouse’s behavior, status, and earning capability. Over time, this attitude begins to cause strong rejection in the oppressed person and becomes the reason for divorce. Note that we’re not talking about physical or emotional abuse in this example. There are specific grounds for divorce provided in family law when a person suffers cruel treatment.

  1. Issues with in-laws.

It’s not uncommon for a husband’s or wife’s relatives to interfere with the couple’s life. It is especially noticeable in families forced to live together with their in-laws. If the partner whose extended family gets in the way of a happy marriage lets it slide, the other spouse will want a divorce sooner or later.

  1. Sexual incompatibility.

Another example of irreconcilable differences in marriage is incompatible sexual drives. Couples can split because of a lack of sex or its unsatisfactory quality. Such issues occur in almost 15% of marriages. But since the spouses don’t want to publicly announce the real reasons for divorce, they use irreconcilable differences.

  1. Different religious or political views.

Many conflicts can also arise from different political views. For example, according to the IFS studies, marriages between a Republican and a Democratic Party supporter make up only 9% of all U.S. marriages. And if we talk about religion, the problems of an interfaith marriage most often include conflicts about the child’s faith and difficulty communicating with the in-laws, already mentioned above.


To understand how to sequence things, what comes first, what comes second, and how to protect what is fair to you, check out our important “55 Must Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist.”


Irreconcilable Differences & No-Fault Divorce

The last state to adopt no-fault grounds was New York. It happened in 2010. These days, irreconcilable differences are widely used as no-fault grounds for divorce in all fifty states. The main reason for this is the desire for privacy and faster divorce proceedings.

Filing for Divorce Based on Irreconcilable Differences

Starting a divorce on no-fault grounds is undoubtedly easier than blaming each other for a marriage breakdown.

The conditions to file for a no-fault divorce include:

  1. The petitioner (the person who files divorce papers with the court) must state “irreconcilable differences” as the reason for marriage dissolution in the petition. Some states, such as New Jersey, require these differences to occur and continue for six months before filing for divorce. If neither party objects to the no-fault grounds, the court will proceed with the case.
  2. The couple must meet the state’s residency requirements so that the court can have jurisdiction over the case. It almost always refers to a specific period that one spouse must live within the state’s borders before starting legal action. For example, in California and Texas, the waiting period is six months, and in Georgia and Missouri, it is 30 days.
  3. Spouses with irreconcilable differences must agree on divorce terms and draft a settlement agreement. It should include provisions concerning child custody and support, property division, and alimony. The spouses should also file a Parenting Plan, specifying the child’s time with each parent, financial aid, and other child-related issues.

Do You Need a Lawyer?

In theory, family law allows anyone to commence a legal action without a lawyer. The same goes for legal representation in court. It’s not necessary to hire an attorney to present your case to a judge. You can do it independently, especially if your divorce is uncontested. (Read “What’s the Difference Between an Uncontested and Contested Divorce?”)

Those people who proceed without an attorney are called pro se litigants. Most of them are couples filing for a no-fault divorce since it’s less complicated than a fault divorce. Plus, conflictual cases are usually highly intricate and require at least legal advice, not to mention full-scope lawyer involvement.

Essentially, if a couple believes they can avoid conflict in court and trust each other (e.g., no one is hiding any assets), they can go pro se.

If there’s the slightest doubt about the other person’s sincerity, the spouses should seek legal counseling.

Here’s a checklist to understand whether you should hire a lawyer or not. You can do without one if at least half of the following is true:

  • neither of you blames each other for the marriage breakdown
  • you agree with your spouse about divorce terms
  • you don’t have substantial property or debt
  • your marriage was short
  • you want to end your marriage peacefully
  • you trust your spouse.

Divorce Papers for Couples with Irreconcilable Differences

As a rule, documentation for couples with irreconcilable differences is less complicated than in fault-based cases. The forms include a petition (complaint) for divorce, a settlement agreement, a parenting plan, and other papers. Couples with children usually have slightly more paperwork than couples without kids.

A settlement agreement is probably the most influential document to reconcile differences in divorce. But it also requires a great deal of consideration since the terms will be hard to change once the divorce is granted. For example, a person who wants to modify child custody or support will have to file a motion with the court and attend additional hearings.

The Benefits of Choosing Irreconcilable Differences

Why is filing for a no-fault divorce using irreconcilable differences so popular? For some spouses, it is the best choice because of the following:

  • lower legal expenses
  • you can file without a lawyer
  • no need to prove the other person’s misconduct
  • more privacy since the law doesn’t require explaining what exactly caused the breakup
  • less complicated divorce documentation
  • more control over the outcome
  • faster divorce process
  • more chances to maintain civilized relationships after divorce

Should You Go with Irreconcilable Differences in Your Divorce?

Taking all the benefits into account, you can consider a no-fault option if:

  • you had a relatively peaceful marriage and now want to part ways because you can’t find a reason to stay or feel stuck
  • neither you nor the other party did anything wrong that caused the marriage breakdown
  • you’re sure that all the divorce terms you and your spouse agreed to are in your best interests.

How do you know if the divorce terms you and your spouse are thinking about are in your best interest? It’s always wise to have a private, educational consultation with a divorce attorney to hear what your rights are and what you are entitled to BEFORE you start splitting things up. Read “Questions to Ask a Divorce Attorney at a Consultation.”


Conclusion

Choosing irreconcilable differences as the reason for divorce is wise for many couples. It saves nerves, time, money, and energy. But make sure you’re not missing any essential aspects, which can lead to unexpected circumstances. You’ll want to make sure your divorce is genuinely no-fault.

Notes

Jamie Kurtz is a divorce lawyer and a member of the LA County Bar Association and the State Bar of California. She’s a co-founder of a law firm dealing with uncontested divorces and a contributing writer for OnlineDivorce.com, an online divorce papers preparation service.

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 women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

Amicable Divorce

What is an Amicable Divorce? 5 Ways to Ensure One

When seeking a divorce, many couples do everything within their power to simplify the process. And the simplest solution is an amicable divorce, which may significantly facilitate the overall proceedings.

And yet, it may not be that easy to reach an agreement regarding all your divorce-related issues, especially following a heated breakup. Nevertheless, there are several ways to ensure a peaceful divorce. So without further ado, let’s review the amicable divorce definition and learn ways to divorce amicably.

What Is an Amicable Divorce?

Some couples choose to proceed with an amicable divorce, meaning they both agree to the terms and conditions, including marital property division, spousal support (alimony), child custody and support, visitation, etc. It is much easier to go through a divorce if the spouses manage to avoid litigation and create a divorce settlement agreement.

Amicable divorce has gained popularity because it saves time and money on costly attorneys and allows spouses to save their nerves by avoiding lengthy and exhausting fights.

Several Approaches to an Amicable Divorce

Those couples considering an amicable divorce may look into several options for their divorce, which include:

  • Uncontested Divorce
  • Collaborative Divorce
  • Mediation Divorce
  • Do It Yourself (DIY) Divorce, or
  • Therapist Counseling

Let’s take a closer look at each option.

Uncontested Divorce

An “uncontested divorce” implies that it is handled out of court by the spouses themselves. In this case, they sort out their divorce-related issues amicably and come up with a Marital Settlement Agreement.


For more, read our “What’s the Difference between an Uncontested Divorce and a Contested Divorce?”


Collaborative Divorce

Such a divorce is handled out of court when soon-to-be-ex spouses agree to negotiate while retaining separate counsel. This way, the couple saves time and money and keeps their divorce process fast and straightforward. Being able to reach an agreement without the judge involved shortens the process. In addition, if the spouses decide to hire their own lawyers, they may facilitate communication.

Mediation Divorce

This option implies that the parties resolve their divorce-related issues out of court but with the help of mediation services. A mediator is a neutral third party who assists the couple in their disputes. Unlike lawyers, a mediator’s key challenge is to ensure an open dialogue between the parties to move towards a mutually-beneficial agreement.


To consider what you might be doing (and how to sequence steps), check out our “55 Must-Do’s on your Modern Divorce Checklist.”


Do It Yourself (DIY) Divorce

Sometimes called the Kitchen Table Approach, a DIY Divorce is the cheapest option, as it doesn’t require any expensive legal assistance. In a DIY divorce, spouses agree to all their post-divorce arrangements and proceed with their divorce without attorneys. Considering it may be challenging to handle the whole divorce process without legal assistance, spouses can consider an online divorce that provides some structure to the process and helps facilitate the paperwork and filing stage of their divorce.


Read more here: “How Does An Online Divorce Work? And Should You Get One?”


Therapist Counseling

And last but not least, therapist counseling may be a wise decision for couples who are willing to keep their communication efficient to facilitate an amicable agreement. This option is best if the divorce is preceded by heated arguments and strong emotions. The therapist will be able to cool things down between the spouses and encourage a friendlier divorce.

5 Tips on How to Navigate an Amicable Divorce

The right path to an amicable divorce is to keep things respectful and calm. Almost every divorce starts with finger-pointing; however, it doesn’t have to be this way. To ensure a peaceful divorce, the spouses must clearly understand the benefits of the amicable process, such as: saving time and money, protecting the children from conflicts and toxic co-parenting, avoiding lengthy and exhausting litigations, and promoting better mental health for everybody in the family, etc.

Here are 5 tips on how to have an amicable divorce.

#1. Get qualified assistance if you need one

Once you’ve decided that you want an amicable divorce, it’s essential to ensure you have all the tools you need. For some couples, handling their emotions and feelings can become the biggest challenge when negotiating the terms of their amicable divorce settlement.

Thus, it may be wise to seek qualified assistance for your divorce process to go smoothly, whether it’s consulting with a divorce coach to ensure the healthiest steps are taken and in the right order, hiring a divorce lawyer to provide legal advice, considering mediation services to improve the communication between you and your spouse, or just looking for a therapist.

Sometimes a third party allows the couple to keep things civil. But, all in all, it’s much easier to handle your divorce papers when you can ensure that everything is discussed and settled fairly.

#2. Keep your expectations realistic

The word “amicable” doesn’t necessarily mean an easy divorce. Its complexity is totally up to both spouses. So prepare yourself for it and get ready for what you may face.

Some couples find counseling in a therapist’s office handy for navigating the expectations of their divorce process. In addition, counseling can significantly help the spouses prepare for co-parenting after the divorce. Let the therapist work out your feelings and prepare you for a realistic divorce with all its consequences.

A therapist may also help you avoid getting carried away by old grudges and bottled-up feelings while making arrangements for your divorce settlement agreement. After all, it’s only reasonable that your agreements are just and fair and mutually beneficial. And to achieve this, you have to keep your feelings in check and your mind sound.

#3. Work through the terms of your settlement agreement with respect

In some cases hiring a divorce lawyer to handle your divorce negotiations can be a mistake. Some divorce lawyers are qualified to handle an amicable divorce, whereas others tend to go after confrontational and downright hostile proceedings.


This means you must understand the reputation of the lawyer you hire.  Make sure you ask the lawyers you interview how many cases they settle in a year and how many require their going to court. For more smart questions to ask a divorce attorney, visit our important piece: “Questions to Ask a Divorce Attorney at a Consultation.”


Of course, when you’re negotiating the terms of your settlement agreement, you should keep your interests in mind. However, it doesn’t mean that there is no place for compromise. On the contrary, keeping your relationship civil and respectful and getting along during the negotiation process is much more crucial in the long run.

This is particularly relevant for those spouses with children. No one will benefit from you and your spouse becoming mortal enemies, and what’s more, it may end up being incredibly traumatizing for your kids. It’s best to remember dignity and respect and get qualified assistance if your negotiations get out of hand.

#4. Focus on your child’s needs

Amicable divorce with a child can become rather challenging as it involves lots of arrangements. Child custody, child support, and visitation (parenting time) must be resolved considering the child’s best interest. And spouses looking for a fast and straightforward divorce should be ready to reach an agreement out of court, as child custody issues may prolong the litigation significantly if handled by the court.

The goal of an amicable split is to keep the divorce uncomplicated, even with custody issues. Typically, the spouses need to sit down and discuss paragraph by paragraph which arrangement will work best for their children to provide a healthy and stable environment.


Determining child custody can be the most challenging aspect of the divorce process. It’s important to know the facts in order to take the necessary steps to achieve what’s best for you and your children. Read our “Best Advice on Custody for Divorcing Moms.”


If it seems impossible to agree on some custody issues, the couple may hire mediation services. The mediator will help them keep the negotiations reasonable and mutually beneficial regarding the child’s wellbeing.

#5. Negotiate the terms of your divorce agreement in good faith

Engaging in “good faith negotiations” is the best you and your spouse can do to end the marriage in a good place. A good faith negotiation means that both spouses have nothing to hide and are willing to reveal all relevant financial information.

When you separate from your spouse amicably, it is much easier to be frank about your assets, debts, income, bank accounts, etc., which simplifies the negotiation process. In addition, openness will allow you to tackle all the existing issues such as marital property division, alimony, custody, or anything else without any obstacles along the way

The amicable divorce process is not a myth, yet it’s not the easiest procedure. When an amicable divorce with no assets or kids involved takes place, it may save you an incredible amount of time and money, so long as you’re willing to cooperate. There are no issues that cannot be resolved, whether independently or with the help of a lawyer, mediator, or therapist. An amicable divorce requires effort, but it will be worth it in the end.

Notes

Jamie Kurtz is a divorce lawyer and a member of the LA County Bar Association and the State Bar of California. She’s a co-founder of a law firm dealing with uncontested divorces and a contributing writer for OnlineDivorce.com, an online divorce papers preparation service.

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 women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

Selling the house during divorce

5 Must Do’s for Selling the House During a Divorce

When going through divorce, one of many steps to contend with is dividing the marital assets. Oftentimes, the biggest of those marital assets is your house. However, your home is not the same as a bank account or a retirement account for many reasons, the most important being that there is an emotional connection to the marital home. Rarely do you hear of stories where people become emotional about moving their checking account from Citibank to Chase. In contrast, selling the house during divorce can be a complex process.

However, the marital home elicits a reaction that no other asset can. This holds true for your everyday person and celebrities as well. For example, Kim Kardashian West, paid a whopping $23 million to Kanye West in order to buy him out of their California property, so their children could remain in their home. You may have raised your children and made family memories there. You likely poured time, money, and love into the home to make it just that: a home. When making the decision to sell the marital home, it’s important to consider many different factors.

Here are five must-do’s when selling the house during divorce:

1.) Acknowledge your Emotions and Remain Rational

The first step in selling the house during divorce is to acknowledge that you will most likely have an emotional reaction. Because of this, it is completely normal to feel emotional about moving on.

Once you have allowed yourself to feel these strong emotions, it is important to recognize the impact they may have on your decision making. If your emotions control your decision making, you may not be putting yourself in the best position to succeed in the future. Emotions can play a role in your decision-making process, as long as you balance them with rational and reasoned analysis.

For example, take the couple that rents an apartment in downtown Manhattan. Most likely, they are paying a significant amount of money in rent every month and not building any equity in the housing accommodation. Objectively, this is not the best “business decision.” However, there are significant emotional reasons for living in Manhattan, such as the nightlife, restaurants, and the buzz that comes along with living in New York City.

If this couple has considered the financial and emotional reasons for deciding to rent in downtown Manhattan and chose to do it anyways, that decision is at least coming from a place of understanding and rationality. Taking out the emotion while going through the divorce process is easier said than done, but poor decisions are often made when emotion wins out over reason. 

2.) Make Sure Selling the Home During Divorce is the Best Financial Decision

While it may initially seem like a no-brainer to keep the home in the divorce, doing so may not always be the most financially sound decision. In the first instance, you have to determine what other assets you may be giving up if you are deciding to keep the home. Since the home may be your biggest asset, there is going to have to be a significant “give” in order to balance out the marital assets and divide them equitably or equally (depending on the state).

By way of example, if there is $300,000 in equity in the home and the marital bank accounts total the same amount, you would have to give the entirety of the bank accounts to your spouse if you were keeping the home. Understanding what you will be giving up may change your decision as to whether or not to keep the home.


If you are wondering about the house and what you should do, read more “Should You Keep the House During Divorce”.


Another important consideration is whether or not you can afford the carrying costs related to the home going forward. A home is different from most other assets in that it carries monthly cost associated with it. There are the known costs, such as the mortgage, taxes and insurance, and then there are the unknown costs like a pipe bursting or a boiler breaking down. It is advisable to work with a professional, such as a financial advisor (check out, “Smart Moves for a Woman: A Financial Consult for a Divorce”) in order to understand your ability to afford both the known and unknown costs. Doing so will allow you to make the decision to keep the home from a grounded, rational place that takes into account the future.

3.) Determine the Practicality of a New Home

If you make the decision to sell the home, whether to your spouse or to a third party, you will need a new place to live. Taking into consideration what that will look like is an important part of the equation. You should ask yourself (and your financial advisor) whether or not you can afford a down payment on a new home. If so, will you be able to qualify for a mortgage and if you can, will the monthly payment be affordable or cost-prohibitive? If not, will you rent a new place? Having this type of information in your back pocket allows you to make a more informed decision as to whether selling the home during divorce makes the most sense for you.


For a step by step approach to getting divorced, consider our popular 55 Must-Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist.”


If there are children involved, there are even more important factors to consider when determining the practicality of a new home. Are you able to purchase or rent a home big enough to fit your children? Will bedrooms have to be shared? Will moving change the school district that the children are attending? Often when children are younger, the fact that they will have to change schools is less important.

However, it is important to look long-term at what their living needs may be in the future. If the children are older, you may not need a larger home because they are going away to college soon.

Matching your financial capabilities with the real (and desirable) needs of the children is not always an easy task, but if you can successfully do so you will most likely be in a better position to thrive after the divorce.

4.) Work with Trusted Professionals when Selling the House During Divorce

Determining whether or not to keep the home after divorce is not an easy process. That is why it is even more important to work with trusted professionals who can help assist you with the different aspects of the process. As discussed, it is incredibly valuable to work with a financial advisor who can help you determine if you can afford to keep the home or buy a new one.

Financial Advisor

A financial advisor can also help you crunch the numbers and  project out whether you will be able to pay for your home-related expenses, and how that might impact other aspects of your financial plan such as paying other expenses or saving for retirement.

Divorce Attorney

In addition to working with a financial advisor, it is also beneficial to work with a divorce attorney who is a creative thinker with helping you strategize how to get the best outcome regarding your house.  And elsewhere, more real estate specific professionals. For example, working with an appraiser who can give you an accurate valuation of your home is immensely important as that value will be used in your determination of whether or not to keep the home, and what other assets you might have to forego.

Real Estate Broker

If you do decide on selling the house during divorce, working with a strong real estate broker who can help to maximize the home’s value is a must. By deciding on the proper listing price, staging the home, and looking at comparable homes, a good real estate broker can help you get you a great price for your home. Additionally, that same broker can work to find you a deal on your new home.

Divorce Coach

A well-connected divorce coach can support you with helping you get organized and with learning how to evaluate your home, as well as putting you in touch with many of the right, specific experts who can weigh in with their particular knowledge. Leaning on the advice of trusted professionals is a key to making a smart and reasoned decision as to what to do with the marital home and other issues you may be contending with in the divorce.

5.) Collaboration is Key

While it may be easy to see your spouse as your adversary in the divorce process, better decisions surrounding the marital residence are made when you are able to work together. If you and your spouse decide to sell the home to a third party, your ultimate goal is to maximize its value so you each can benefit from the sale price. Additionally, if one spouse begins “playing games” and not allowing the property to be shown or disagrees with the choice of broker just for the sake of disagreeing, it ultimately will cost both spouses financially.


If you are in that place of actively moving out of the family home or you are interested in accelerating your spouse’s departure, you may want to check out “21 Steps to Moving Out of the House After Divorce.”


On the other side, if you and your spouse are on the same page, you both will benefit. Additionally, you can both overcome hurdles through collaboration.

For example, if you decide on selling the house during divorce and you cannot qualify for a mortgage on your own, the divorce agreement can include a clause in which your spouse can help you qualify by co-signing the mortgage.

Consider the example of the “delayed sale.” If you and your spouse have children who are close to college age, perhaps you can agree that one of you will live in the home until the children graduate high school, at which point you will sell the home (or one spouse will buy the other out at that time). This requires collaboration but can be extremely beneficial for both spouses.

Final Thoughts…

Deciding what to do with the marital home after a divorce is not an easy decision. By following these suggestions and consulting with pro’s who are looking at your specific story and needs, you will be in a position to make rational and reasoned decisions that allow space for your feelings. Just don’t make the decision from a strictly “feeling” place.

Notes

Ian Steinberg is a Matrimonial Attorney at Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein, LLP, where he focuses on the litigation, mediation, negotiation, and settlement of matrimonial and family law cases. He also specializes in the drafting of prenuptial and postnuptial agreements. Prior to his current role, he practiced real estate law representing property owners in courts throughout New York City. Ian’s real estate background gives him important insights into the division of the marital home when couples are separating. You can reach out to Ian by email at isteinberg@berkbot.com, via his LinkedIn, or on his firm’s website.

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 women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

Top reasons for divorce

Top Reasons for Divorce. Are You Living This?

Suspicious of getting trapped in a marriage that might erode, my friend and I used to joke that we could get our peers to leave a perfectly good relationship. In remaining single, we weren’t necessarily afraid of the infamous “Top Five Reasons” for divorce. It was more of a disinclination to trade freedom for emotional comfort, if that comfort came with a loss of agency and intrusion of the state by way of the church.

We were also in our free-range 20s, perhaps a little cocky about what we felt entitled to vs. what we could reasonably predict would be best for us down the road.

Thankfully, we never did convince anyone to leave a happy marriage but we did talk a friend through her separation, fearing the change of divorce, and eventually into a happy departure from a husband she felt devalued her.

Long-Term Perspective

Now, at 50, we’ve won some wisdom, self-knowledge and more importantly, some much-needed humility. With all that and the perspective of age, we wouldn’t recommend being that cavalier about leaving a good partnership with a good man – all joking aside. They’re precious, these unions, even with the inevitable dusting of routine, occasional boredom, little resentments, stress, change, family demands, compromises and the sheer effort that intimate partnerships require of us even when they are excellent.

If we can remain honest about addressing our own issues and not project our unhappiness about ourselves onto our mates, and remain hand-in-hand with a someone who loves, supports and understands us, a lot of us would recommend it. Someone who we fell in love with so much it was worth the gamble of believing we could still be happy with them decades later is someone worthy of cherishing even in the midst of day-to-day exhaustion and conflict. If you can breathe life into your own individuality and be yourself in your marriage and your mate can do that as well, keep each other.

In this instant gratification, single-use, image-driven epoch, withstanding years and decades together and reveling in how time marks our lovers’ faces, bodies and souls may be a critical balancing point in returning a measure of wholeness to the planet.

How Culture Affects Marriage

Women are worth being valued both in an older physicality and beyond the physical; men are worth being valued beyond the bread-winning. If you made that promise, said “I do,” and you can be in the marriage organically, authentically and still see a glimmer living flame in each other’s hearts, protect and keep that union and that person with everything you’ve got.

Marriage is not disposable. It’s not a meme. It’s not about the dress or the wedding pictures or what we can post on Facebook. A healthy marriage is a gift that is worth the tending; it can yield years of joy with committed teamwork. It’s the art of creating an emotional ecosystem; it takes time for all the elements to evolve together.

This being a divorce site, there is a lot of attention given to getting out of marriages but it’s always worth reminding ourselves of why staying in them is glorious magic if we can make it.

That said, we all know that not all marriages or partnerships are excellent or even good, fine or functional. Some husbands, wives and relationship dynamics reveal their toxicity after the exchange of rings and promises. Sometimes even when they are good, it’s still necessary to leave. And when it comes to the undeniable top reasons for divorce, it can feel acutely imperative to do so. Take your time. (Consider reading, “#36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.”)

When we’ve reached that point, it’s critical to give ourselves the gifts of acceptance, gentleness and patience. It is normal to grieve, not only what was but what was once possible. It’s normal to be afraid, to talk ourselves out of it many times, to be angry, elated, rebellious and frequently, a thousand other emotions a minute. Each of us has our own process through this but that doesn’t mean we’re alone. We not only give each other permission to move through it in our own way, but offer each other a context for what can be a strange yet empowering journey.

The Biggies

Infidelity, money problems, communication break-down, lack of intimacy and addiction: these are the Big 5 top reasons for divorce, which are indicative of issues not always but often beyond repair.

Infidelity:

Perhaps the most visceral and painful of the top reasons for divorce, infidelity is the first thing that comes to mind when we think of what would cause us to say unequivocally, “Absolutely not.” There’s a lot of it, too. Among Baby Boomers in the 57-75 age range, 25 percent of men and 10 percent of women have cheated. Just two generations later, among Millennials aged 25-40, females outnumber their male counterparts for infidelity with 11 percent of women cheating versus 10 percent of males.

And cheating packs a huge emotional punch. Money issues and communication break-downs are probably far more common, but sex with someone other than your wife or husband is a headliner because it hits our mates at such a vulnerable, primal level. Cheating takes all kinds of different forms, from a surprise encounter to long-term affairs (consider reading, “The Cheating Wife Phenomenon.”) but any of it cracks the foundation of trust between two partners and is difficult to forgive. It takes a lot of work and sincere re-commitment to do that, whether we stay with a cheating partner or not. Understandably, many choose not to. Even with that, it is not just possible to come back from it with the union intact, but with the right kind of professional help, the re-commitment in infidelity’s aftermath can make for an even stronger bond.

Lack of Intimacy:

Another face of a marriage’s sexual dynamic and one of the primary causes of infidelity, lack of intimacy is the emotional desert of the Top 5 reasons for divorce.

It’s starvation mode, denied fulfillment, a girdle and chastity belt on sexual expression and joy.  There are so many different reasons for a lack of desire, from unexpressed trauma or hormonal imbalance, to changing attraction, insecurity, simple preference or physiological discomfort. Communication breakdowns between partners may create a lack of emotional intimacy that form the root of the physical intimacy issues.

It’s our right to say no, always, and yet, it is also everyone’s right to their sexuality, provided it is based on informed consent and a lack of harm to others. If denial of a partner is something that can’t be resolved, does it seem fair to expect that our partner live without fulfillment of this primal human experience for the duration of a marriage?

It may be that lack of intimacy and/or cheating provide an opportunity to get creative with the relationship dynamic. Sexual expression is a foundational part of being alive. If two people love each other and want to remain in an otherwise successful and happy marriage, perhaps bringing in outside, professional help to come up with an alternative to divorce is the answer.

Money Problems:

Money issues are both the drudge and the task master of the Big 5 top reasons for divorce. They require all of the communication skills of sex or parenting and yet have few of the glimmering, laughing highlights. They’re draining, complicated and possibly generate more nagging, nitpicking resentment than any other issue. They are as fraught with the power dynamic as sex and communication and are tied most directly to simple survival.

So, if spouses can’t find common ground in their spending priorities, they create a great deal of conflict. And unless both spouses are earning a living and there’s an even spread of financial responsibility and say-so, there is a lot of room for a power deficit for the spouse who doesn’t have the clout of the dollar behind them.

When women are considering a divorce, it’s comforting to know that they shouldn’t expect themselves to understand all of the financial nuances. (Check out “Smart Moves for Women: A Financial Consultation for a Divorce.”) There are a lot of them and it often takes a specialist like a CDFA (Certified Divorce Financial Analyst) to pinpoint all the loopholes and leveraging points. Additionally, divorce coaches and other professionals spend a great deal of time and expertise directing women toward financial self-education and strategy.


If you are looking for clear steps to take and thoughtful advice on the divorce process if you are woman, read our “55 Must Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist.”


Communication Issues:

Woven throughout the other top reasons for divorce is communication. It’s the common thread running through all human relationships and interactions. Without it, nothing else happens and nothing else is fixed.

The Gottman Institute calls criticism, contempt, stonewalling and defensiveness “the four horsemen of the apocalypse” for a marriage. When it comes to communication, there’s actually a whole herd of horses that can step on this subtle, essential and often complicated part of human interaction.

Know that you are in very good company if communication is a challenge for you and your spouse. Most people, most couples, have trouble with it in one way or another. And sometimes it is not possible to communicate effectively with someone, particularly if they refuse to take responsibility for themselves. Each of us impacts everyone else around us and no one is right all the time.

We shouldn’t continually stifle our own authentic selves to satisfy someone else’s needs or make them comfortable, but we do need to take an honest look at ourselves and change if necessary. Get a good therapist; having an objective third party play referee and help us identify patterns and underlying unconscious beliefs that impact how we speak to each other (or don’t) can be invaluable.


Learn more. Read “27 Cautionary Signs You May Be in a Toxic Marriage.”


Addiction:

As the most tragic of the Big 5 top reasons for divorce, addiction eventually poisons our relationship with ourselves and causes us to choose a substance, a thing, an attitude, a simple activity over our own self-worth or our loved ones. It begins with a single choice and turns it into a habit and eventually a compulsion so that despite its initial insignificance, it spreads like kudzu over the structure of marriage. A drink, a hand of cards, an unnecessary purchase, an addiction to the computer (or what you find on it), a religion or even a belief in one’s own rightness over another, it is something that may seem small at first, that begins as an isolated event, but eventually morphs from snowball to avalanche.

Addiction drains motivation, joy, vitality and monetary resources. It’s an agent of lies and mistrust. Like all the other major issues, it often requires outside help. All of us have an attachment or dependence on something, whether or not we realize it. Some addictions are more corrosive than others. It’s always possible to stop it; sometimes will power is enough, but more often than not, like the other big root causes of divorce, it takes outside intervention.

A marriage is worth fighting for but so are we. Sometimes it is not possible to stay with someone in order to love them or to love ourselves.

Notes

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer, former print journalist and feature writer living on the West Coast. Connect with Jennifer at verbosej@hotmail.com 

Choose not to go it alone.

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional and oftentimes complicated experience of divorce. SAS offers all women six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you — and your precious future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

Public Divorce Records

Public Divorce Records: How to Protect Your Privacy

Privacy is a topic of concern for many, especially as the world moves further into the digital era. Many aspects of our lives are searchable, sometimes even without our knowledge, as certain information is considered public domain. Knowing this, the concern for privacy can make going through a divorce that much more difficult to endure. A public divorce can hinder our ability to feel in control of sensitive information, as anyone can legally find the details of legal court proceedings.

Unfortunately, this means that divorce filings are considered public record, and divorce hearings are open to the public.

This also means that aside from personal identifiers, such as Social Security numbers which must be redacted, any information contained in divorce filings can be found in these documents.

This can become a major point of concern if a spouse reveals private information about their partner or if children are involved in the divorce.

Fortunately, it is still possible to maintain a level of privacy during such a difficult time. Below are some strategies that can help protect your and your family’s privacy during a divorce.

The Decision to File Divorce Records Under Seal

To protect divorce documents from becoming public records, both spouses must ask the court to file the records in the case under seal. When this happens, confidential or sensitive information will be kept private and will not become accessible to the public. Courts have the ability to order entire records or portions of documents to be filed under seal.

It is important to note that courts will not file records under seal automatically. Either or both parties to the divorce must request that the court seal them. The judge has the discretion to decide whether this request will be granted, with special attention given to cases that involve children, abuse, substance issues, or potential libel. The judge will consider whether the potential damage to the party or parties making the request outweighs the public policy to keep court records accessible to the public.


Confused and overwhelmed? Check out “Getting Through Divorce: How to Keep Your Head Straight.”


Reasons for Sealing Divorce Records

There are many reasons why you may want to keep your divorce filings private. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • The need to protect a child’s identity in the divorce records
  • The need to protect victims of domestic or sexual violence
  • The need to protect proprietary business information

If you are a public figure, you may also want to seal divorce records to protect your reputation and prevent any damage to your public image through the exposure of false allegations. However, embarrassing information on its own may not be enough to convince a court to seal divorce records from the public.

Why Divorces are Generally Public

The primary reason that divorces are public is to maintain a level of transparency in court proceedings. The public is able to see what occurs in the courts through access to these court records. They can also see what information may drive a certain court’s decision. In an effort to maintain a positive and transparent relationship with the public, court filings must remain accessible.

If you are requesting that the court seal your divorce records, you must be able to demonstrate the damage you would suffer if the records were to be made public. You must then demonstrate that this damage outweighs the public’s right to open court records.

The court must agree that these two elements have been met to exercise its discretion to seal the records. A knowledgeable divorce attorney can work with you to prepare a request to seal your divorce records and help you demonstrate the losses you would face if the records were made public.


For more things to know and take care of (lest you be caught by surprise), read “55 Must-Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist.”


Tailoring Requests for Sealed Divorce Records

When requesting to seal divorce records, it is important to make sure that the request is narrowly tailored, which means only asking to seal the potentially damaging information. Generally, courts will only seal as much information as is required to protect the privacy interests in question. This may result in redacting portions of a divorce filing rather than sealing entire documents.

Narrowly tailored requests to seal divorce records have a better chance of approval than requests to seal all documents filed in a case.

It is important to clearly state your privacy concern and ask the court to redact or seal the specific information related to it rather than make a blanket request to seal the entire record based on vague privacy concerns.

Using Mediation or Arbitration for Privacy

In many cases, the best way to protect your privacy is to come to an agreement with your spouse before filing in court to request a divorce. Mediation to settle a divorce can keep sensitive information out of the public eye and safe from scrutiny. A mediator can help divorcing spouses to negotiate a settlement, resolve any disputes, and guide discussions during the divorce. If an agreement is reached at mediation that leads to a written settlement agreement, the only documents that will be filed in court are papers to request a divorce and the written agreement. The agreement can be drafted to exclude sensitive information.

Mediation is a great solution to settle a divorce while minimizing your time spent in court. Using this method, you can keep information regarding assets and finances as well as sensitive information regarding children out of official court records.


Considering reading “6 Essentials for Preparing for Mediation.”


Private divorce arbitration is another way to resolve a divorce out of court. Private arbitration is almost identical to a regular trial in court. The difference is that a private arbitrator—who are often retired judges—will adjudicate the parties’ divorce in private. The arbitrator will then issue a decision, which can be tailored to exclude sensitive information. That decision will then be incorporated into the court’s judgment of divorce.

Privacy from Your Spouse

Some people may be less concerned with their divorce being public information and more worried about their spouse accessing their private information. To prevent any of your private information from getting into the wrong hands, it is a good idea to change your passwords for personal accounts. This will prevent others from accessing sensitive data.

Keeping private documents from your spouse during a divorce may also be something to consider. If you still live with your spouse during the divorce, consider storing documents in a lockbox or safe or in a location outside the home.

Another important aspect to consider during a divorce is social media. Attorneys will frequently use social media posts in divorce proceedings. Images and posts may become part of the public record which can be a point of concern to those who want to maintain their privacy as much as possible. Revealing too much on social media can cause issues in the divorce process, whether it be settling or litigating the divorce. This is why it is important to be very careful with what you post to maintain as much privacy as possible.


Settling or litigating? Understand “What’s the Difference Between an Uncontested and Contested Divorce?


Final Thoughts

If you’re worried about the private contents of your divorce proceedings becoming public record, there are some options available to you. Requests to seal parts of your divorce records will be more likely to be accepted by the judge if they are narrow in scope and can demonstrate that harm would be done if made public. If those harms outweigh the public right to information, the judge will likely grant your request. Typically, this is when proceedings include minors (children), infidelity, or other personal information that could tarnish one’s reputation if made public.

Notes

Work with an Attorney You Trust: Going through a divorce can be incredibly stressful. It is important to find an attorney you trust to handle your case and help you get the privacy you want. At Moskowitz Law Group LLC, we are committed to ensuring that you are taken care of during your divorce. Our dedicated team can guide you through the divorce process and take some of the stress off of you during this difficult time. Take action to protect your privacy by contacting an experienced legal professional today.

 

Whether you are thinking about divorce, dealing with it, or 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 oftentimes complicated experience of breaking up and reinventing. 

SAS offers all women six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you—and your precious future. Join our tribe and stay connected.