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

Browse Articles on the topic of Getting a Divorce

The reality of divorce in New York

The Reality of Divorce in New York

People know New York for its glitz, glamour, and grit. Everything’s loud, over-caffeinated and fast-paced. For some who experience the loneliness of all this, there can be the feeling of being left out, of never being enough, of someone else always lining up to replace you. But despite all of this, or in response, New Yorkers are equally known for being tough and seemingly invulnerable. Even when it comes to romance. Romance, New York style is often over the top or of the quirky variety, the kind of love that sweeps you off your feet. Think Carrie and Mr. Big. Harry and Sally. Jane Fonda and Robert Redford in Barefoot in the Park. It’s the kind of romance they write love songs about. Until it’s not. But divorce in New York? Well, in most of our minds, breakups are equally cinematic. Flash to messy scenes from the Real Housewives of New York, or nuggets of gossip passed privately through whispers, then splashed across Page Six for anyone to see.

Yet, for all those clichés, in reality, divorce in New York State is far more mundane than any image you carry in your mind. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control, the divorce rate in New York in 2011 was 2.9 for every 1,000 residents. That’s a lower rate than most states in the country!

Of course, when the divorce is happening to us it doesn’t have to be the literal end of the world to feel like it’s the end of ours. Your divorce might come as a complete shock, or it may seem like a long time coming. Either way, it can all feel surreal, like you’re having an out of body experience. How you wish it were just a movie! Yet, this is your life. You are getting a divorce. And throughout your divorce, the surprises may keep coming, bringing out the worst and the best of you.

You may not be feeling so much like Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City—young and colorful and ready to take on the world—as you are Sarah Jessica Parker in HBO’s Divorce, a little jaded and angry, feeling dull around the edges but looking for reasons to hope.

If that’s you, if you’re done considering divorce or have had divorce forced upon you, then here’s a primer highlighting what to expect when getting a divorce in New York.

Divorce law in New York

In New York, there are two kinds of divorces, a contested divorce and an uncontested divorce.

In an uncontested divorce, the most trouble-free approach, you and your husband agree about the need for a divorce and you believe you will come to terms on how your property gets divided and how your children are cared for. On your own or with the help of lawyers or a mediator, you and your husband come to an agreement on everything and do not need the court to get involved to divide assets or make decisions about spousal or child support or custody.

Typically, an uncontested divorce moves more quickly through the system. It’s less complicated and less expensive. You will likely never set foot inside a courtroom with an uncontested divorce.

In a contested divorce, you and your husband are not in agreement about any or all of these things. (Hello, your marriage?) If there are disagreements, and often there are, you will likely need the help of a legal professional(s) to resolve them. The more intense the disagreements, the more expensive the process can become and the greater risk you run of having to go to court to have a judge decide.

Many couples will begin the process of a contested divorce and then, before trial, reach an agreement. This is a settlement.

Thanks to the Internet, though, it’s become increasingly popular to consider a Pro Se or DIY divorce and thereby eliminate the costs of lawyers. Couples who do this successfully are couples who are almost always in agreement. (Hmmm.) They are doing an uncontested divorce.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you and your husband really in agreement about everything?
  • What are the critical issues?
  • Do you understand the finances?
  • Do you understand spousal support?
  • What about child support?
  • What are your options for custody arrangements?
  • How are you going to handle your debt? Whose debt is whose?

Our experience is that most women do not know these things, nor do their husbands—but the idea of saving money on legal fees (or being bullied into the DIY process) blinds them from finding out what they are each entitled to by law. There’s a phrase, “You don’t know what you don’t know,” and it couldn’t be more aptly used for this scenario.

How can you split things up if you don’t understand what you’re splitting — like the finances (are you aware of their long-term tax implications?) Or what negotiated variable is going to benefit you more in the long run? You need feedback from someone who’s an expert on your situation.

In short, we recommend you NOT consider a DIY or online approach unless you have no children, there is no debt and little or no assets, and the marriage has not been for very long. And if you do pursue a DIY model, we encourage you to consult with an attorney privately at least once (but preferably throughout your completing the paperwork).

Divorce facts in New York

New York also allows you to get either an at-fault divorce (you must prove your husband is responsible for the need to divorce) or a no-fault divorce.

For most people, it’s easier to seek a no-fault divorce. You don’t have to prove anything other than the relationship is irretrievably broken. “To qualify” in New York, the relationship must be broken for at least six months. Also, New York usually requires that you or your spouse have lived in New York State for at least one year before you can file for divorce.

New York is often associated with all things progressive and liberal, but it was actually the last state in the country to allow no-fault divorce. That means that until 2010, getting a divorce in New York almost always meant that one spouse had to prove the other spouse did something wrong and is to blame. What’s more cinematic than a jilted lover or “cold-heartedly” calculating your actions to create a case where you are the wronged party? It’s a recipe for disaster, for heightening emotions and irrational behavior—for people to lash out and for proceedings to get ugly and expensive and to heighten the risk of going to court.

This said, you can still get an at-fault divorce in New York. To do so, a spouse must have the “legal grounds,” which usually involves adultery, cruel or inhuman treatment, or abandonment. Most divorce lawyers in New York will advise you not to go the at-fault route no matter the dramatic details you may throw their way. It is generally considered a poor use of resources to have a trial on grounds now since the system no longer requires it.

With this in mind, you will want to make sure you understand why your lawyer is pushing for an at-fault divorce, such as “cruel and inhuman treatment,” and how it will benefit your situation as opposed to pursuing a no-fault divorce. We had a client, for example, whose husband had serious mental health issues and refused to seek treatment. Her lawyer filed an at-fault divorce for “cruel and inhuman treatment” as a strategy to protect the children and to impact the custody arrangement, so the children were not left alone with him until he was fully recovered, healthy and functioning.

New York is an equitable distribution state

In New York, assets (the things you own) get divided through “equitable distribution,” meaning, in general, everything you owned prior to getting married is your separate property and everything acquired after your marriage gets divided as fairly as possible.

The separation of property—how you will divide it up—is negotiated between you and your husband, or more likely, by your lawyers after they have consulted with each of you, or with the help of a mediator. But it has to be done well and fairly enough that the court will sign off on the agreement.

These are just a few of the facts that come into play when discussing divorce in New York. There is more you’ll want to know before you proceed further. But we don’t want to contribute to sensory overload.

What matters most is that you are not going to do it all at once, but you will want to be in a position to learn and come to understand what your options are before you make decisions about your property, the debt, child support, custody, spousal support, legal fees, insurance, and more. You might need an order of protection if abuse is a concern, which complicates matters even further.

This is why, whether you pursue a DIY approach, or go to mediation, or use a collaborative attorney, we urge you to get educated on what your choices are first.

Read Divorce in New York: 10 Things to Know Before Seeing a Lawyer

Divorce court

You must know that about five percent of all divorce cases go to full-blown trial. Less than five percent. So turn the television off. The standard way people divorce is still the traditional one, of your hiring an attorney to represent your interests and your husband hiring an attorney to represent his. Your lawyer meets with you individually, as does your husband’s, and then the lawyers negotiate the settlement through phone calls or meetings.

Divorce negotiations are different from negotiations in most other legal matters in that clients usually attend the meetings—known as “four-ways”, with their lawyers. If one side fails to negotiate or settle, then the risk of going to court does increase, and both parties must attend every court appearance with their lawyers. This traditional approach is still the best way for the less-moneyed or less-powerful spouse (the one who lacks money or knowledge about the finances) to get a fair share.

Diversify your insight into how you will divorce

On the plus side of living in New York is that the city and the state can often be frontrunners of change. Just by virtue of your living within New York’s boundaries, there are far more resources available to you than people living in other parts of the country. Take advantage of those resources, like law schools that offer free legal aid, or referral services offered by the New York Legal Bar Association.

You don’t have to rely on visiting a lawyer and learning things the expensive way as most people have done in the past. There are now people like us, the divorce coach, who can help you learn about divorce (and yourself) before you commit to anything. A certified and experienced divorce coach can also connect you to vetted lawyers and other experts — like a certified divorce financial analyst (who can help you answer the money questions). How you choose to divorce matters for your children and your own recovery.

How long does a divorce take in New York?

Okay, we know, you are maxing out. You want to hear how long this is going to take. If we are talking only about the legal aspect to the divorce and not your recovery and healing, than the time it takes to finalize a divorce depends on two things: how motivated you and your spouse are to organize your papers and documents and to push your attorneys to negotiate the agreement and how busy the court that receives and officializes your settlement agreement is.

For some people, it can take as little as six weeks, for others, six months or more for an uncontested divorce. With a contested divorce, there is no way of forecasting it, but certainly, a deciding factor would be when the money runs out.

What’s certain is that divorce anywhere is a (long) process, and while that wait can be frustrating, it also means you won’t be able to jump into anything without thinking it through first (and that might just be a blessing in disguise).

Divorce support groups for women in New York

There are over eight million people living in New York City and more than twice that in New York State. You are not the only one “feeling lost in New York,” or like everything’s falling apart even as you try to put it back together. We say this a lot but only because it’s true: You are not alone. If your couple friends have disappeared and disappointed you, you are lucky to live in a city and state where there are many divorced women and men—and the stigma of divorce is not as pronounced as it may be somewhere else.

Your job is to connect with those people who understand what you are going through and get educated on what your choices are and who you want to be as you make these important decisions. You might consider joining an online education-driven support group with other women who share similar experiences and who seek to find their voice and change their circumstances for the better. Women just like you.

Remember, divorce in New York rarely looks the same as it does on TV, where the drama’s amped to increase ratings and to get you coming back. This is a process none of us wants to experience even once, let alone come back to. Your divorce doesn’t have to be so dramatic. You can choose to let go the theatrics because they don’t serve you, your Ex, or your children, and to focus on what you do control: getting educated fully before you commit to any one path or decision, and to move through the process smartly and with the greatest sense of integrity and compassion for everybody — including you. 

For more steps to help you with divorce join us for your free 45-minute consultation.

Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to help them through the emotional and often times complicated experience of divorce. For emotional support and structured guidance now, consider Annie’s Group, our virtual divorce support and coaching class for women thinking about divorce or beginning the process. Schedule your 15-minute chat to learn if this education is right for you, where you are in your life, and most importantly, where you want to go.

 

This article was authored for SAS for Women by Melanie Figueroa, a writer and content editor who loves discussing women’s issues and creativity. Melanie helps authors and small businesses improve their writing and solve their editorial needs.

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

Divorce decree

Demystifying Your Divorce Decree

What is a Divorce Decree? And who decides what’s in it?

The Divorce Decree, often referred to as the “Judgment of Divorce” or “JOD,” is the document that makes your divorce official under the law. It’s an Order of the Court that formally dissolves a marriage.

As anyone who has been through the process will tell you, the road to that Divorce Decree is long even in a straightforward case, and just when you think the end is in sight, there is often another bend in the path. People are usually relieved to arrive at a Divorce Agreement (the final resolution of all the issues in the divorce by agreement of you and your spouse—with or without the assistance of a court along the way) only to learn that the divorce process is not quite over.

Divorce Decree vs. Divorce Agreement

The Divorce Decree is a completely separate document from your Divorce Agreement, and no one even starts thinking about the Decree until the divorce case is fully settled between you and your spouse and memorialized in the Divorce Agreement, or all the issues have been decided by the Court.

The Divorce Decree is only a handful of pages whereas the Divorce Agreement could be fifty or sixty pages. However, just about every Decree includes a sentence saying that the terms of the Agreement are made a part of the Decree “by reference.” This means that each term of your very, very detailed Agreement is solidly enforceable regardless of whether it is also specifically mentioned in the brief Decree.

The Divorce Decree is prepared by your lawyer and submitted to the Court to be signed by the Judge. Most often you, your spouse and your lawyers agree to the wording of the JOD and sign off on the Decree that is submitted to the Court. But sometimes you won’t be able to agree on the terms of the Decree. When this happens, each party submits a Proposed Judgment to the Court and the Judge chooses which one to sign.

Once the Judge signs the Decree, it needs to be processed by the County Clerk’s Office and entered into the County’s records. Only then is the Judgment finally ready for pickup.The lawyer who filed the Judgment is usually the one who obtains a copy from the Court, and she will serve it on the other party with a cover sheet called the Notice of Entry. Service of the Divorce Decree with Notice of Entry and filing a copy of that Notice of Entry in Court makes your divorce as official and final as can be.

I keep hearing about “Divorce Papers.” What are those?

The Judgment of Divorce is submitted to the Court with about fifteen other documents (give or take depending on the case, but always including your Divorce Agreement if you have one). Some of these need to be signed by you, some need to be signed by your Ex, and some are signed by one or both of your respective attorneys. Together, these documents are referred to as “Divorce Papers.”

One spouse’s lawyer will prepare the Papers, and the other spouse’s lawyer will review and edit them. The back-and-forth over the Divorce Papers usually takes a few weeks, but take heart: this process is generally low stress and a world away from negotiating the Divorce Agreement.

The court system in most places is very strict about the contents of the Papers so the negotiation about the contents primarily centers around technical concerns and formalities rather than substance.

Related: How Long Does It Take to Get Over a Divorce? And 4 Signs You Are On Your Way

So when will I have that final Decree in hand?

In geographic areas with busy court systems, like New York City, it often takes about three months from when your lawyer files your Divorce Papers until the Judgment of Divorce is signed by the Court, entered into County records by the Clerk, and made ready for pickup. In today’s automated world, this long processing time seems shocking, but the Court system is mind-bogglingly old fashioned even in the “greatest city in the world.” In other places in the country it could be must faster—or slower.

Your lawyer needs to send someone to hand deliver the Divorce Papers to the Courthouse where there is sometimes only a single person whose job it is to review and accept the Papers. When this person takes a vacation, no Divorce Papers can be filed. It is as simple (and absurd) as that. Depending on whether your case was ever in litigation or not, your Papers will either go directly to your Judge or be randomly assigned. Reviewing Divorce Papers is tedious grunt work, and all the Judges have stacks of them so they tend to hang out for a while. When the Papers finally make it off the Judge’s desk and are recorded in the Clerk’s Office, your lawyer is not notified by email but instead by postcard.

But I’m ready to work on moving on and putting the divorce process behind me. Am I at the mercy of the County Clerk to start living like I’m divorced?

The good news is that most people will feel emotionally divorced upon the signing of their Divorce Agreement and Divorce Papers.

The “Big Day” in the life cycle of a divorce is the day the you and your soon-to-be Ex sign your Divorce Agreement—or less frequently, the day the Judge hands down a final decision after a trial on the issues in the divorce.

By the time most people receive their signed and entered Divorce Decree in the mail from their attorney they have put much of the upheaval of the divorce process behind them. They’ve been living by the custody and support terms of their Divorce Agreement for a few months and have divided most, if not all, of their property. They’ve begun the important work of individually recovering and rebuilding their lives.

Is there anything that absolutely must wait until I receive my Divorce Decree?

While most of the terms of your divorce go into effect when you sign an Agreement or after a Judge decides the issues in your case, there is one big exception.

You cannot make changes to health insurance coverage until the Divorce Decree is entered in the Clerk’s Office. The law is extremely strict about this—you are entitled to remain on your spouse’s health insurance plan until the Judgment of Divorce is entered into the records of the County Clerk.

My Divorce Decree is finally ready. Where do I get a copy, and what do I need it for?

You can obtain a Certified copy of your Judgment of Divorce at any time for a nominal fee. In New York County the fee is $8.00 plus a few cents per page in copy charges. Some counties allow you to obtain a Certified copy by mail, but others still require you to go to the County Clerk’s Office in person. If you are represented by an attorney, he or she will usually obtain a Certified copy and send it to you for your records as a matter of routine.

The Divorce Decree is an extremely important record akin to a birth certificate or marriage certificate. You will need it if you want to change your name after divorce and again to obtain a marriage license if you want to remarry someday. It is also proof of your divorce that may be relevant to areas like your income taxes, insurance policies, social security benefits, and retirement accounts.

Your Divorce Decree is also a powerful document because it is a Court Order. If you ever need to call the police because there is a custody problem, you will want to have the Decree to show them. Similarly, if you ever need to go to Court to change or enforce the terms of your divorce, you will need to submit a copy of the Decree.

Two or three Certified copies retrieved directly from the Court is probably enough to maintain on hand as a photocopy will suffice for many purposes. You can obtain additional copies at any time no matter how long ago your Divorce was filed.

For more than 20 years, Nina Epstein and law partner Elyse Goldweber have helped individuals and families in the New York City metropolitan area with the full range of legal issues associated with creation and dissolution of personal unions—including divorce, separation, and child custody and support. Ariella Deutsch is a more recent but no less passionate member of their legal team. For more information on how they might assist you please call (212) 355-4149.

Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional and often times complicated experience of divorce. We invite you to learn what’s possible for you. Schedule you free, 45 minute consultation with SAS. Whether you are coping or already navigating your life afterward, a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do divorce alone.

how to bring up divorce

How to Bring Up Divorce

Divorce is not—no matter the circumstance—going to be an easy subject to bring up with your soon-to-be Ex. While you might be fed up with your husband* and, without a doubt, want a divorce, you’re afraid that using the dreaded D-word is going to hurt or shock your partner. You want to bring up divorce, but walking down that path seems as terrifying as Snow White running through the woods, all your fears clinging at your skirts. Once you mention divorce, as soon as your partner hears that word, you know you’ll have to stop running and confront those fears one by one.

This post is for you, the woman who’s ready to stop running. Because maybe you’ve tried counseling. You’ve used your words. You’ve turned the other cheek (or not). You’ve looked past his faults and have worked on your own. But you still aren’t happy. “Happy” is a long way off.

It’s time to stop dwelling on exactly how to bring up divorce because there is no one right way, and instead, reach within yourself for the strength you’ll need to have a frank and open conversation with your partner about what is real and the decision you have come to.

We have some general tips on where, when, and how to have this conversation, but remember, divorce isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. You understand your situation and your soon-to-be Ex best. The tips below are merely suggestions—it’s up to you to decide how to best adapt them to your specific situation.

The setting

This is a tricky thing to think about, but it is one of the best places to start: where are you going to bring up divorce? Going out might seem like a good idea—a way to minimize your partner’s ability to have a big, possibly dramatic reaction—but that can often backfire. You can make your husband feel as though you’ve tricked him by bringing him out on a date only to drop the D-bomb on him.

As divorce coaches, we do recommend going out to have this conversation but to a neutral place so you are not reminded of domestic triggers or distracted by routine interruptions. A neutral place is not a restaurant where you can be interrupted by waiters or even friends who might see you. Instead, we like the idea of sitting on a park bench or taking a walk on a quiet path. Breathing fresh air and moving around helps you gain perspective and lowers stress levels.

If you are in counseling or have a couple’s therapist you can speak to, a session would also be a safe and appropriate place to bring up the D-word. Your counselor’s office is both a public and private place where you’ll have someone available to help you along during the conversation.

If you choose to bring up divorce at home, make sure your kids are in bed or—better yet—out of the house with a trusted loved one or at another activity. If there is yelling or crying, you don’t want your children to witness your fight. You might want to have a meal prepared and a space you feel comfortable in before you speak to your partner. Your talk with your spouse might be long and involved, or it might be short and simpler than you think—either way, choosing a space where you feel safe is crucial.

The timing

While you can argue that there really isn’t ever a great time to bring up divorce, there are plenty of very not good times that you should probably avoid, like an anniversary, a major holiday, a child’s birthday, or while your kids are applying to college. (“Thanks, Mom, I didn’t get into Harvard because you — and your springing divorce on Dad!”)

With all of that said, sometimes the conversation needs to happen sooner than later—sometimes ending a relationship feels especially time-sensitive, rightfully so, if your soon-to-be Ex has had an affair or brought an STI into the bedroom. Is there domestic abuse? The timing of the divorce really depends on the urgency and necessity of divorce.

Even the time of day should be taken into consideration. If your partner is leaving for work in 15 minutes, for instance, it’s not the right time to bring up divorce because you won’t have time to thoroughly talk it through and, instead, he’ll be at work all day ruminating on divorce. He’ll come home upset and in a state of mind that isn’t helpful when having a serious conversation like getting a divorce. Similarly, bringing up divorce right before bed can lead to a night of restless sleep in which you and your future Ex spend the night discussing the same issues over and over again rather than actually sleeping.

One of the best times for bringing up divorce might be over dinner on a Friday, or really any day when you and your partner don’t have to get up and go to work the next morning. This way, you can talk, rest, or think without worrying about putting on a good face for others.

The script

When the setting and timing is right, it’s time bring up divorce. Your tone, overall, should be empathetic—you know this isn’t going to be an easy conversation, and you aren’t asking to get a divorce out of anger or malice, so let your tone convey that.

Try to remove any accusatory language from the conversation. Don’t try to assign blame to your Ex, either, even if the divorce was brought on by something that he did or maybe even many things that he’s done. Instead, use “I” language, like “I feel like we’ve tried various way of getting our relationship back, and it’s not working. I don’t want to live like this anymore. It’s time we talk about divorce.” This makes the conversation about moving on and not about assigning guilt or blame for the end of your marriage.

While you want to have an empathetic tone and you want to use “I” language to avoid assigning blame, you also want to stand firm on what you want and follow through with your plan to pursue a divorce. Your husband might be upset and plead with you to give him another chance. He might promise you that he’ll change—but hold firm and let him know the time for change has passed. While you might be sure he can work on himself and improve in the future, it will have to be for himself or his next partner, not you.

More on tone

As divorce coaches, we like to recommend to clients that they also reassure their partner, because the word “divorce” induces all kinds of nightmare scenarios. While we believe you do not have to have all the answers on how you will divorce (what you will ask for, how you will split the 401(k), etc.) to have this difficult conversation, it is wise to endeavor to set a certain tone for the conversation and your interactions going forward.

Reassure your partner you don’t want to end your marriage as their adversary. You might say, “I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know how we’re going to do this exactly. But let me reassure you for the sake of both our lives (and our children’s), I want to do this the healthiest way possible.”

This may bring the temperature down between you and your partner, who may worry you will try to keep the children from him or you will try to be vindictive or cruel, resulting in a divorce that costs a lot—both financially and emotionally.

When you feel that you’ve said what you must say (keep it simple) and that your soon-to-be Ex understands your feelings and what this means for your relationship, it’s time to end the conversation. This can be a really difficult spot to feel out, but once you do, it’s time to set a future meeting date to talk about how you might separate or divorce — traditional approach, mediation, using the “collaborative divorce model” or DIY.

Caution

This conversation—the one in which you bring up divorce—shouldn’t be the lets-get-it-all-done-now conversation. That’s far too much to talk over at first. You and your soon-to-be Ex need time to process what just happened before you take the next steps in getting a divorce.

It’s an important thing to remember that it’s taken a lot of time, pain, and thought to arrive at this place of discussing divorce with your partner. On some level, you’ve been preparing for this day for a long time. But your partner has not.

Chances are things have not been good, but if you are saying divorce first, it’s important to give your partner time to really take in the fact that you are serious. If you’ve said “divorce” before but then caved, remember that he’s been conditioned to believe you don’t really mean it. If you do mean it (and we do not encourage you to use it as a threat unless you really mean to follow through) expect your partner to have an emotional reaction to your truth. He will need time to metabolize what you’ve said and what it really means.

The aftermath

After all is said and done, you have just taken a big step toward making your divorce real. It’s not an easy journey, even if your conversation with your Ex goes well. Even if you and your Ex seem to be on the same page during the start of your divorce, you will likely need ongoing support discovering and staying focused on your most meaningful goals—and not getting caught up in the emotional drama.

At SAS for Women, we like for a woman to be educated on what her rights are and what getting a divorce might look like BEFORE she decides fully decides to divorce or has this momentous conversation with her partner. A good divorce coach can help you not only figure out if you want to end your marriage, but what your choices genuinely are, and how to bring up divorce with your partner. A certified, seasoned divorce coach can help you figure out all the little and big decisions throughout the divorce process, too. You’ll want the right support shepherding you through these challenges to the new place you’re headed to, the place where you actively pursue your happiness and rebuild your independence.

Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to help them through the emotional and often times complicated experience of divorce. For emotional support and structured guidance now, helping you move forward the healthiest way possible, consider Annies Group, our virtual divorce education, support and coaching class for women thinking about divorce or beginning the process. Learn what your choices and goals really are. Schedule your 15-minute chat to find out if this education is right for you, where you are in your life, and most importantly, where you want to go.

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

snowy pine tree

Surviving Divorce Series: 11 Tips for Getting Through the Holidays Intact

Every month my partner Liza and I jump on the phone and host a free call for women facing change, coping, and surviving divorce.  We don’t have fancy equipment nor do we rehearse…let’s just say our schtick is far from polished. But we find more and more women joining us each month as we informally chat about the challenges divorce throws your way, and what’s more, the actions you can take to not only survive, but to actually nurture yourself.

A while back we hosted a call about surviving divorce and the holidays, a topic near and dear to our hearts. Liza and I both distinctly remember the eggshell-walking, crazy-making holiday times during our own divorces. Liza spent many years with her young girls feeling torn: on one side throwing herself into the merriment, on the other side, feeling like a fraud.The first time the holidays came around for me after I left my husband, I was unprepared for just how lonely and lost I would feel. For these reasons and for many others, Liza and I opened up our call to other women to hear what’s on everyone’s mind and to offer a few insights.

Surviving the holidays is possible if you prepare for them.  How?

1.     Lose the Norman Rockwell interpretation. Why is it that when this time of year rolls around we all have visions of sugarplums dancing in our heads? (What is a sugarplum, do you even know?)  The storybook version of the season is never how it really turns out and you know it.  Under the best of circumstances things go sideways so don’t set yourself up for disappointment.  Expect things to not go perfectly.

2.     Avoid winging it, have a plan. Anticipate what parts of the holiday you might struggle with and make a plan for what you will do during those times.  Where will you go Christmas Eve or the first night of Hanukkah? Don’t assume you’ll be fine and figure it out in the moment. Chances are that day will come and you won’t know what you want to do – and you’ll end up feeling sorry for yourself instead.

3.     Also have a plan B.  Just in case you really really don’t feel like doing what you originally planned to do, have an alternative plan ready.  Perhaps you were going to spend the day with your family but now the thought of that is just overwhelming…perhaps your plan B will be to go to the movies with a girlfriend who understands.  Tell your family ahead of time about plan B, let them know you will do your best to be there but that you might need to pass this time to take care of yourself. They’ll better understand your absence if it’s not a last minute cancellation.

4.     Don’t be afraid to mix it up.  There is no rule that says you always have to get a tree or bake or make latkes or spend a certain day at so and so’s house.  If what you’ve always done before is now something you find yourself dreading, do things differently. Create new traditions and new patterns that you can actually look forward to. If you have kids, brainstorm together what things you’d like to do for the holidays.  Challenge yourselves to think outside the box!

5.    Look ahead to the next holiday, now.  If you have kids, you’ll actually need two plans for each holiday:  One for when you have the kids, and one for when you don’t.  Use this planning time to think ahead to this time next year and all the holidays in between.  This is long range planning, not just what will you do to get through the next 3 weeks.  Get out the calendar and take a moment to brainstorm ideas so you don’t find yourself at a loss when the time comes.

6.    Try changing the setting.  We live in New York and this time of year is dreary, dark, and cold.  If you are feeling cheerful about the holiday season, you can pretty easily overlook the weather and the tree and window decorations give you a boost.  However, if you are not feeling so “fa-la-la…” well those decorations just annoy you and the weather can literally put you into a state of depression.  You must change your environment.  Plan a trip if you can, someplace with a very different feel from home. Perhaps you can visit an old friend or connect with a family member you might not typically see this time of year. If you can’t travel, do something to alter your environment at home… maybe try new curtains and a bedspread or rearrange the furniture. Changing your environment will help your brain get out of the negative thinking pattern.

7.    Boycott if you want to.  When I was navigating my own divorce recovery, I simply wanted nothing to do with the holidays.  I didn’t want to go to any parties nor make myself crazy shopping…I just didn’t have the heart for it.  I gave myself permission to disengage from most of my usual obligations one year.  I spoke to my friends and family, letting them knows that I needed some time off and that I’d be back next year.  Granted, I did not have children at the time and I know this might not be possible for some of you moms…but I do encourage you to pull back on the number of things you are beholden to.  Choose the most important traditions and honor those – while giving yourself a break and some breathing room from some of the others.

8.     Maintain safe boundaries. Your friends and family might know (or at least suspect) what’s going on with you and your marriage, but you do not have to feel obligated to open up and talk about it.  Establish a boundary that feels safe for you and create a statement that you can say if someone tries to cross the line… saying something like “I know you care about me and I appreciate your concern.  I’ll let you know when I’m feeling more comfortable with sharing the details” will go a long way in helping family honor your privacy.

9.    Start a gratitude journal.  Believe it or not, there is actually a lot of research that supports the fact that writing in a gratitude journal has positive psychological and physical effects. Here’s how it works: 1. Buy a notebook or journal that you love. 2. Once a week (not more often, that has a reverse effect and starts to make it feel like a chore) write down one thing you are grateful for. Throughout the week you’ll find yourself thinking about what you’ll write next week and that keeps you in a place where your brain is regularly engaging in positive thinking – helping you to see everything in a more positive light.

10. Recognize this is finite and start scheduling the new year.  It’s easy to get stuck in a funk and lose sight of the fact that this is all temporary. In fact, there are only a handful of holidays in a year but they get so easily get blown out of proportion.  Look beyond the holidays and start making appointments and planning things for the regular days ahead.  Schedule appointments and notes on the calendar for January and February so you have plenty to look forward to.

Toward the end of our call, a listener added an 11th tip to the list (… thank you Patricia!) that we think is ESPECIALLY important to include here:

11.  Don’t play the victim anymore! We sometimes fall into the trap of thinking everything is happening to us alone, or that our spouse is so beastly, or our kids are so insensitive. In short, we convince ourselves we have no power here. That isn’t true…you can choose to stop playing the victim. Turn the table and actively decide that you are going to stop letting others dictate how your feel. Make the choice to stop letting circumstances and people rob you of your joy, this time of year, or any other day or hour.

 

Since 2012 SAS for Women has been entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face when dealing with divorce and major life changes. We invite you to join us for one of our powerful, virtual group coaching classes starting soon. Or if you cannot wait, and you’d like specific, confidential feedback on your situation right now, we offer every woman (whether she works ongoing with us or not!) a free 45-minute telephone consultation. Reread tip #11 and do something for you.

credit: weheartit.com

How Much Does a Divorce Cost?

“How much does a divorce cost?” is one of the first questions we often hear when a woman makes contact with us, while “how long will a divorce take?” is a close second. We wish there were a menu to refer you to, so you could evaluate your choices and pick and choose items à la carte. However, the correct, though immensely unsatisfying answer to both questions is, “It depends.”

That doesn’t mean you should stop investigating your options. It’s important for you to be educated on your choices so you learn what’s possible for your life. The following insights, shared by NYC divorce attorney Orrit Hershkovitz will help you get started on whether your divorce will cost a few thousand dollars or several hundreds of thousands, and whether it will take several months or several years.

So how much DOES a Divorce Cost?  That depends upon…

1. The process you select

There are various methods to dissolve a marriage. Mediation, in which a neutral professional (usually a lawyer or mental health professional) facilitates a resolution between the parties, is generally the most economical means of ending a marriage. Participants can be represented by counsel (their own lawyers) throughout the process. Another option is collaborative divorce, a process that requires both parties to agree in advance not to go to court, and to retain new counsel if they do. While these two models of divorce sound very appealing to most people (they sound amicable, they sound cheap) not all couples are suited to mediation or collaborative divorce, particularly if one spouse has not been, or will not be, given access to the financial information and documentation necessary to make an informed decision, or fears for his or her safety or the safety of his or her children. One or both individuals may also prefer not to negotiate directly with the other spouse.

To learn more about mediation and the collaborative law approach to divorce, we encourage you to take advantage of your free, 45-minute SAS for Women consultation (– provided you identify with being a woman). We’ll hear what’s going on in your story and give you direct feedback on what might be the better options for your situation.

Another choice for divorcing is the more traditional approach: hiring a lawyer to negotiate on your behalf.

Hiring a lawyer does not necessarily mean you and your spouse are headed to divorce court.

An agreement may be negotiated (as in an uncontested divorce), either directly or through counsel, without ever stepping foot in a courtroom. Litigation (or a contested divorce) though unavoidable in some instances, will often increase a couple’s costs.

In a contested divorce, court fees will be incurred. Such fees will include the cost of filing a divorce action and other paperwork required to obtain a divorce decree, and may include fees for making applications (or “motions”) to the court. In New York, for instance, the current filing fees to obtain a divorce amount to almost $400; the fee to make a motion is $45. Obviously, the longer the litigation continues, the more you can expect to pay for your (and possibly your spouse’s) attorney’s fees. Additional funds may be expended on the service of legal documents (e.g., summonses and subpoenas), transcripts, and the preparation of court orders (e.g., Qualified Domestic Relations Orders necessary to distribute certain retirement assets).

2. The number and complexity of the issues that are contested

Some divorces appear simple from the start. The parties, for instance, may have no children or no substantial assets or debts. Or a divorcing couple may have already discussed and agreed upon a resolution of all issues. Other cases are more complex. Not only may the parties not agree on the issues of parental decision-making and access, but they may also have assets that are not easily divisible (e.g., a work of art, a business), need to be valued (e.g., a house, stock options) or sold. But the nature of the issues themselves is only part of the equation.

Any acrimony between the parties can also delay the resolution of even the simplest issue.

By contrast, the parties’ willingness to compromise and cooperate can facilitate the resolution of even the most complex issue. Thus, as with your choice of process, you and your spouse can control the cost and length of your divorce by choosing whether, when, and how to conciliate in a dispute.

3. The lawyer you hire

The lawyer you select to represent you, and the lawyer your spouse may select to represent him or her, is another significant factor that will affect the length and cost of your divorce. The range of hourly fees charged by lawyers varies widely across the country. Even in large legal markets, hourly rates can range from approximately $250 to $750. Where a lawyer falls on that spectrum usually depends on his or her experience, reputation, and the size of his or her firm. The complexity of the case is more likely to affect a lawyer’s retainer fee, which is an advance payment intended to cover at least the lawyer’s initial work on the case.

Read this SAS post for 7 ways to pay for a divorce attorney.

Equally important as a lawyer’s fees is the fit between you and your lawyer. Your chemistry. You should not only be confident in your lawyer’s abilities, but also comfortable with how he or she is advancing your case. Do you feel protected? Understood? Is your lawyer prompt in responding to your calls and e-mails? If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” not only may your choice of lawyer affect the cost and time it takes for you to get divorced, but you may also be dissatisfied with the end result.

If this chemistry issue is starting to sound like a “relationship,” it is. As in any relationship – indeed, as in marriage itself – the compatibility between lawyer and client is critical. Choose wisely.

4. Where you live

How much a divorce will cost tends to correlate with the cost of living in a particular locale. Not only will legal (and especially attorneys’) fees be higher in areas in which it is more expensive to live, but you may also have to pay more child and spousal support. If you live in Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, or other major city, you can expect to pay more than someone living in Hope, Kentucky, for instance.

5. Whether you need experts

If there are substantial assets, you may need an expert to value a business or a pension, or appraise real property or personal property such as art, jewelry, or other collectibles. You may also want to consult with an accountant, financial advisor, or other experts for advice about the potential tax or financial implications of a proposed settlement. If custody is contested, the court may appoint a child custody evaluator to assist the court in making its determination. An attorney for the child or children may also be appointed.

In summary, the decisions that you and your spouse make, and how you conduct yourselves, in the divorce process can, at least to some extent, affect how long your divorce will take and how much it will cost.

Focus on the factors you can control.

Understanding and choosing a process and lawyer wisely as early as possible will help to control your financial and emotional costs. Consider making a free appointment with SAS for Women to learn your next steps, what process might be especially good for you, and for referrals to vetted legal professionals. Or make a list of your questions, your assets and debts, and make an appointment with a divorce attorney who can give you concrete feedback on your unique story.

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while navigating the divorce experience and striving to recover and rebuild. SAS offers women six FREE months of private email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future self.

“Step forth. It’s okay if you fall. Life — your life — is calling you.” 

Orrit Hershkovitz, a partner at Barton LLP, represents individuals in all aspects of family and matrimonial law, including divorce, parental custody and access, child and spousal support, property distribution, relocation, enforcement, and the negotiation of pre-nuptial, post-nuptial, and separation agreements. In addition to her work representing private clients, Orrit is also an active supporter of Sanctuary for Families, a non-profit organization that provides comprehensive services to victims of domestic violence. 

 

 

Getting through a divorce

Getting Through a Divorce: How to Keep Your Head Straight

Getting through a divorce will be one of the most difficult experiences of your life. And your difficulties will start at the very beginning.

If you were the one who decided that divorce was the best way to change the difficulties in your marriage, you know the agony you experienced in coming to your decision. You second-guessed yourself again and again, and throughout your struggle to reach a decision, you faced uncertainties and fears.

Yet, because of your uncertainties and fears, you gathered information, worked through some of your emotions, and maybe planned a bit to make your transition from married to singledom easier.

Easier, but not easy. Telling your spouse you’re finished is definitely not easy. And once he* knows, things will get more difficult because it isn’t just about you anymore — and what your thinking and feeling internally. Now you’re both dealing with the repercussions of your decision. But your partner, or soon-to-be Ex, will not be in sync with you. He’s going to need time to metabolize what all this means.

If your divorce has been forced upon you, then the beginning of your divorce journey was probably shocking. Maybe it was upsetting because you never thought your spouse would actually go through with it. Or maybe you never even saw it coming.

And because your divorce isn’t of your choosing, you’re stuck playing catch up. You must find some way to not only make sense of what’s happening but to begin taking the necessary legal steps to end your marriage.

You also need to accept that you’re not in sync with him. He has been preparing for divorce emotionally, practically, and maybe even legally before you even knew what was happening.

Whichever side of the divorce decision you were on, there are times when you’re probably thinking, “It’s not fair.” And you’d be right. It’s not, but fairness has nothing to do with the realities of getting through a divorce—only (hopefully) with the legal divorce process.

So, no matter how your divorce journey begins, getting through a divorce is not intuitive. It’s difficult emotionally and logistically.

Yet, there are concrete thoughts that you can hold onto that will help you as you continue on your divorce journey:

You’re getting divorced for a reason

It’s heartbreaking to think about ending your marriage when you consider the shared hopes and dreams you and your spouse had at the start. Yet there’s still an important reason your divorce is happening right now; your marriage is broken beyond repair. So, take a deep breath and remember you are here, going through a divorce. It’s in motion.

Seeking justice for your emotional pain will not serve you

No-fault divorce is a very good thing. It means that people can get divorced without having to prove that one or the other has done something so reprehensible that it requires the marriage to be dissolved.

What it also means is that the courts don’t care about your emotional pain. They know divorce hurts. They know that getting through a divorce is probably one of the most difficult things you’ve ever faced. But that doesn’t change the fact that there are no laws to help you extract justice for the hurt you’re feeling.

All that insisting the courts make your spouse pay in some way for the pain you’re feeling will get you is higher legal fees. It will never ever truly ease your hurt.

Create goals that you can stay focused on

In general, goals are like guideposts. They allow you to channel your energy and thoughts toward achieving them.

When you’re going through a divorce, good solid goals can be the touchstones that remind you to stay focused on the big picture.

For example, if you have children, you may want to make their safety, security, health, and happiness throughout and beyond your divorce a goal. To reach your goal, you’ll want to develop your list of nonnegotiables. You’ll also want to know where you can be softer in your negotiations.

Remember your children are watching and learning

As you’re getting through a divorce, you are modeling for your children how to deal with stress, disappointment, and monumental life changes. Would you want your children to behave and react as you are?

If you don’t have children, get clear on the image of you and who you want to be

At one extreme you could be the woman who is completely unclear about what she wants outside of wanting her soon-to-be Ex to suffer horribly not only through the divorce but for the rest of his life. You might be willing to do whatever you can to ensure his suffering.

At the other extreme, you could be the leader through this challenge. You could focus on what you want and go about making it happen.

Keeping these thoughts in mind will definitely help you get through your divorce.

Yet, it’s almost impossible to do on your own

The real key to getting through a divorce is having someone you can turn to for support, someone who is your partner in thinking through every step of your divorce. A thinking partner is someone who can help you not only make it through your divorce but put the plans in place so you can thrive after it, too. A thinking partner has perspective.

The mistake most people make is using their lawyer as their sounding board. There are a couple of real problems with doing so. First, a divorce lawyer is an expert in the law—not how to help you get through your divorce. Second, when you use your lawyer as your thinking partner for anything other than legal issues, you’re wasting your money and energy—both of which are precious.

Having a strategy for how to think is just part of what you need to keep your head straight as you’re getting through a divorce

You also need to know it’s not only OK but necessary to let go of a few things:

  • Ancillary characters in your life and their less than helpful opinions. Save your energy, and do not overshare.
  • Continuing to be a superstar at work and everywhere else throughout your divorce. You cannot do everything well right now. Pick and choose where you put your efforts.
  • Being available to everyone for their needs. The simple truth is that you can’t be everything to everyone else right now. You’ve got to focus on you, so you come out strong in the end.

Without question, getting through a divorce is hard. However, you know now what’s important to keep straight in your head. And with this knowledge, you’ll be able to take the appropriate actions and make the appropriate decisions to get through your divorce, lessening the pain and diminishing your risk of regrets as much as possible.

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.

”A successful divorce requires smart steps, taken one at a time.” – SAS for Women

 

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

Divorce coach can help you heal

How to Get Through a Divorce and Heal: The Surprising X Factor of a Divorce Coach

The idea that a divorce coach could help you figure out how to get through a divorce and also heal might surprise you.

You’re may have heard of the more practical aspects of working with a divorce coach, because coaches are particularly known for helping you understand and navigate the black and white steps of divorce. Often, those steps – those logistical parts — are easier for people to understand.

They seem more obvious.

For example, a good divorce coach will help you understand what your criteria is for really deciding if you should divorce or what your options are when it comes to finding the right legal process for you and your family. The right process is paramount for achieving the best outcome, one that will allow all of you to not only survive the process in one piece but to move on and rebuild afterward.

How to get through a divorce: the nuts and bolts

After helping you understand the different ways to divorce, and which may be the right approach for you (mediation? litigation? traditional approach? DIY?), your coach will help you find the right lawyer or mediator to consult or work with if that seems appropriate. A key piece your coach will help you with is making sure you ask the right questions when you get in front of a legal professional — based on your story and its unique factors. You’ll appreciate having somewhere to go after speaking with a lawyer, too—as you begin the process of metabolizing what the lawyer actually said; and then, developing your strategy for moving forward.

When it comes to the financial aspects of the divorce itself and your life post-divorce, your divorce coach can play a vital role.

“It’s a sad fact that even today many women aren’t especially financially literate,” says Trisha, a divorced mother living in Madison, Wisconsin with her three young boys. “Some of us have allowed our spouses to control the money while we focus our attention elsewhere. When we’re on our own, it all becomes so overwhelming—like we’re starting back at square one.”

It’s because of this that your divorce coach will be invaluable in helping you understand the impact your divorce will have on your finances – and this is different from the legal process ending your marriage.

A divorce coach will support you in making smart financial decisions that take into account your specific situation and particularly, your goals. She’ll also introduce you to exceptionally qualified and reliable financial experts should you need their expertise – during the divorce when it comes to understanding your financial negotiations, and importantly, for building your life as an independent woman.

“Your divorce coach will help you figure out how to make all the moving pieces of your daily life work together—a new living situation, a job, health insurance, child care. Even car maintenance!” says Trisha.

In other words, throughout the confusing, frustrating, and frightening process of divorce one of the critical roles your divorce coach will fill for you is being your “thinking partner.” She will be there with you every step of the way to help ensure that you understand the nitty-gritty details of how to get through the divorce strategically, economically and healthily. Armed with the right knowledge, you can make the best decisions for your future.

But how to get through a divorce and heal? That is another proposal.

A divorce coach can help you more than you realize . . .

Your divorce coach can help you do so much more than deal with the practical nuts and bolts of how to get through a divorce. She’ll help you understand the journey you’re on and the kind of healing that must take place to really recover from your divorce  This path of healing and recovery is very, very different from the logistical, legal, or financial paths that you must also take.

Each step of your divorce journey will evoke powerful and unfamiliar emotions

These negative emotions are often volatile and messy—they live outside the tidy boxes of logistics and documents. And at times, these emotions make us feel ashamed, like they are not normal. We are not “normal.”

“There might be times you hardly recognize yourself,” says Rebecca, who runs her own photography business in Brooklyn, New York. “A divorce coach can help you understand the value of these emotion and teach you how to release or rehabilitate them in a positive, healthy way instead of lashing out at your ‘was-band’.”

Your divorce coach will help you discover who you want to be during and after divorce

She will gently remind you of who you are and what you really want when the overwhelming emotional realities come crashing down on you. She will be your life-line helping you hold steady and connected to your truth along the way so that you don’t drown or wallow in negativity.

“I was so freaking hurt,” said Millie, a Los Angeles woman who had been married for 32 years before her husband asked for a divorce, “that I couldn’t get over my own victimhood, my rage and my incredible sense of betrayal. I look back and I see I needed those emotions at the time, to get through it all, to feel like I had been wronged, that he was the villain. I didn’t know what being whole again would feel like. I didn’t know what constituted ‘being healed.’ Working with a coach made me realize so much about myself — that I had a powerful journey to complete, to feel restored, to move on! I am sure I saved time having an incredible guide. Hell, I may have saved my life.”

Forgiveness is another important part of the divorce journey. Unfortunately, forgiveness is also a very misunderstood act. Your divorce coach can help you realize what forgiveness really is. She can also help you decide who in your life deserves your forgiveness, so you can move on without being haunted by the past.

Experiencing and moving through grief is another part of the divorce healing journey

There are so many things to grieve when one chapter of your life ends—and it may not be grieving the absence of your Ex. Your coach can help you understand what grief is and how to identify and process each and every facet of its confusion. To free yourself from the grasp of what was and could have been, you must embrace a new future for your family and yourself.

One of the key components of healing from divorce is compassion. Ultimately, it’s what will allow you to rise above the strife of this huge life change. With that said, compassion is almost impossible to embrace on your own when you’re in the throes of turmoil.

Luckily, your coach knows the redemptive power of compassion. She will share her skills with you and teach you how to see your world with a compassionate perspective — starting with yourself. This skill will serve you again and again as you face other challenges in your future.

You cannot fully recover from divorce without compassion.

Because your coach will assist you in discovering who you want to be after your divorce is over, she’ll also help you identify the opportunities that are unfolding as a result of this huge life change. Sometimes those opportunities disguise themselves as problems. But with her guidance, your divorce coach will help you see what she sees as being possible for you.

For the right person, a divorce coach can be one of the best sources of complete support you can have as you figure out how to get through one of the biggest, if not the biggest challenge of your life. She is someone who not only understands all the legal, logistical, and financial aspects of the dissolution of a marriage but will compassionately help you embrace your emotions and heal as you invest in yourself so that, moving forward healthily and wholly, you blossom. You become who you are meant to be.

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. 

“A successful divorce requires smart steps, taken one at a time.” – SAS for Women

All women — no matter your economic profile or location — are invited to schedule a free consultation with SAS where you will learn of resources and the best next steps you might consider that honor your life.

 

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

Divorce porn is living vicariously through another's divorce.

Divorce Porn: 4 Types That Are Almost Never a Good Thing

Ever wonder why we pay so much attention to how Angie and Brad split up? Or if Beyonce and Jay Z are really going to stick it out? Or, will she do it this time? The world is watching …Will Melania take 45er’s hand as they board Air Force One?

Turns out, we are secretly fascinated, drawn, repelled and addicted to watching how others struggle in their relationship. It’s a momentary release, allowing us to escape our own relationship (and any problems we’ve been enduring). Love is powerful, so we’re really interested when others mess it up.

Please, mess it up good! Because, even better, we relish spectating in divorce.

Some call it divorce porn—vicariously living through another couple’s divorce. The term became popular and, indeed, symbolized by the release of the movie Eat Pray Love. The heroine’s story was heady, hearty, lusty stuff for us women. Elizabeth Gilbert’s character “seemingly had it all,” but gave it up to wander through Italy, India, and Bali in a journey of self discovery.

What? Leave everything and walk out? Leaving it all behind sounds damn good to many women thinking about or getting divorced, whether they have it all or not.

There’s that, and the fact that this journey was no celibate wander. Let’s remember the story culminated with bonding up, because completion (as popularly defined by finding your soulmate) sells. The prince arrived, once again.

But, wait, back it up. Divorce porn starts back there when the heroine is combusting and falling apart. It’s the particularly juicy part that feeds our culture’s obsession with break ups – and more specifically failing marriages.

Though “divorce porn” may be what we’re calling it these days, the phenomena isn’t new. We all know the experience, don’t we? Even back in high school and college—long before any of our friends were married—the breakup of one beloved couple in our friend group sent ripples throughout the circle, bringing some of us closer together and pushing others away and apart.

From our perspective as educators and divorce coaches, we know this too. And that this coming together or pushing apart effect can be seen through four specific types of divorce porn.

Divorce porn is the kind that brings couples together

Have you ever looked at someone else and thought, “Well, at least I’m not that bad.” We all do it. We grow up hearing phrases like “no matter how bad things get, remember, someone else always has it worse.” This is supposed to make us appreciate what we have, of course, not promote the celebration of other people’s lack.

And so, when a friend or family member has marital troubles and gets divorced, sometimes that impulse to be grateful is the first one we have.

Grateful, that is, that we’re not the ones getting divorced.

Sandy (not her real name) tells us how in her 20-year marriage, when another couple got divorced in their social circle, she and her husband—who had all kinds of strife in their own marriage—would often turn to each other and embrace, clinging to each other tighter than ever before. “It was like ‘Phew, we survived! We’re not as bad off as them. They’re getting divorced!’ We were just so grateful it wasn’t us,” explains Sandy. “Because, on so many levels, we were sure dancing on the edge.”

But, then again, the divorce of a friend or family member can also have the opposite effect on your marriage or relationship.

. . . The kind that’s contagious

Sometimes divorce spreads through social circles like an affliction, as if marital problems were contagious. A friend vents her frustrations and the challenges she faces in her marriage, or maybe she reveals that her husband has been less than faithful, and you start comparing and reflecting on your own situation . . .

Suddenly, you start to notice the same flaws in your own marriage—suspicion spreads like fine cracks on a windowpane.

Or maybe it’s simply the very fact that your friend did it! She got divorced! She and her husband were the first ones in your social circle to do it, to get divorced, and now, it was as if she’d given a pass to everyone. Everyone’s doing it! She normalized it and so now, you can do it, too.

In a 2013 Pew Research study, researchers found that participants were 75% more likely to become divorced if a friend is divorced and 33% more likely to end their marriage if a friend of a friend is divorced. So the idea that divorce might be contagious is one backed by science, much like the next type of divorce porn discussed.

. . . The kind that brings out people’s voyeuristic side

You see? When we witness a fight—whether it’s a violent eruption or a slow simmer—so often our first impulse is to break out the popcorn and pull up a seat. This voyeuristic tendency extends to our obsession with tabloids and soap operas. We celebrate budding celebrity relationships, but we also dig the demise. Part of us craves the drama. Science suggests the human brain is hardwired for gossip because information is a form of power.

Through gossip, we come to know a person, even if that image is flawed and one-sided, and we learn who we can trust. But more importantly, gossip gives us a way to learn from other people’s experiences, potentially sparing ourselves the heartache that comes with making the same mistake.

So when a friend or family member gets divorced, we react much the same way that we do when we read tabloids, watch dramatic TV shows, or gossip about other people.

On some subconscious level, we want to understand what it takes for a marriage to fall apart, what pushes a person over the edge, so that we better understand ourselves.

But the need for gossip can become addicting.

. . . The kind that’s literally, well, pornographic

The effects of watching porn regularly have been debated. But the fact is, no matter what the science or research says, both men and women have reported that porn has negatively affected their relationship and sex life. Recent studies have suggested that married couples who watch porn are twice as likely to divorce as those who don’t.

The “high” someone gets when they watch porn is one the regular viewer needs to chase—they seek out different types of porn to satisfy their desires. Videos that once did the trick eventually lose their appeal. And all this leaks into their real-life relationship. The regular porn viewer might begin to place a set of unrealistic expectations on their partner or create an environment in which tension and jealousy is likely to brew. There may also be the experience that there is no real relationship or marriage anymore. People shut down.

Most people usually start watching porn not because they are necessarily dissatisfied with their marriage but to relieve stress or escape a difficult home life.

Interestingly enough, porn seems to be less of a problem for couples who watch together.

Which brings us to our last point.

Remember, divorce porn is almost never a good thing

Communication (with each other) can help alleviate challenges divorce porn can create. Some couples, for instance, report that porn actually has a positive impact on their marriage. They say that watching porn together makes them feel more comfortable discussing sex openly and without shame.

Other couples have no communication or connection in their marriage as a result of pornography. In a 2002 informal survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (aka divorce attorneys), 60% of the 350 attorney asked, reported that internet porn played a significant role in the divorces they negotiated, with “excessive interest” in online porn contributing to more than half of such cases. At SAS for Women, we are not surprised. Many of our clients cite pornography as a major issue in the downfall of their marriage.

If you think you might be suffering from the effects of divorce porn, remember that there is nothing wrong with appreciating your spouse, discussing frustrations and challenges, or escaping reality every now and then, but, of course, it’s important to reflect on the events that you act upon:

  1. Make sure that you aren’t sensationalizing aspects of your own marriage—strengths or weaknesses—and comparing yourself to friends and family members. Don’t be unfair to yourself because every one of us is different.
  2. Make sure that you listen to and support those close to you because, as they get divorced, they’ll need you more than ever. (But also, remember that pesky biology and don’t feel too guilty about any unwanted emotions you experience.)
  3. Always be aware of the children. If you are unable to avert your eyes from another couple’s divorce, just remember that offhand comments can be overheard and are confusing to children—yours and theirs—and it’s the kids who are the hardest hit by gossip.
  4. If you are a woman dealing with divorce porn (however you define it) and you would like to hear what else is possible for your life, we invite you to schedule a free consultation with SAS. We’ll share stories of inspiring women and what they have done.

Divorce porn, much like divorce itself, is nothing new and the fact that we all need support as we go through divorce isn’t either.

SAS for Women ladies are those amazing women you meet who are entirely committed to experiencing divorce on their terms. Women facing a divorce, or contemplating it, are invited to schedule a confidential chat. “Divorce requires a one moment at a time approach” ~ SAS for Women

Image about breaking up with a narcissist

Divorcing a Narcissist? Here’s What You Need to Know

Calling someone a narcissist is so commonplace these days that, in many ways, the term has become nothing more than a buzzword. People use it loosely to refer to someone who’s behaving “selfishly”.

But a true pathological narcissist is a person who’s much more than selfish. According to the Mayo Clinic, narcissistic personality disorder “is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”

Most women who fall in love with a narcissist do so because narcissists are so charming. They’re incredibly loving and affectionate. They treat you like no one has ever treated you before and sweep you off your feet. They seem too good to be true.

And that’s the truth of it—they are too good to be true, and their personality and behavior will change dramatically over time.

If you recognize the following as being “normal” in your marriage, you know you’re divorcing a narcissist:

  • Your husband* is controlling.
  • He doesn’t listen to or care about your opinions.
  • He makes everything about him.
  • He lies often.
  • He is emotionally abusive.
  • He has no emotional connection to your children.
  • He blames others for his actions.
  • He is manipulative.
  • He is exceptionally aggressive—perhaps dangerously so.
  • He is unaware of his bad behavior.
  • He feels entitled to what he wants.
  • He sees himself as perfect and worthy of unconditional admiration.
  • He rejects change initiated by anyone but himself.

Because of this last point, divorcing a narcissist is extremely challenging. He will fight you every single step of the way. He believes he is a victim and is willing to do just about anything to prove it.

Some of the biggest and most predictable challenges of divorcing a narcissist include dealing with the following behaviors and beliefs:

  • A narcissist MUST “win.” Because of this mindset, negotiating in good faith with a narcissist is impossible. He must prove he is right and a victim—regardless of what the truth is. He doesn’t care what it takes to “win” the divorce, even if that means depleting the marital finances (except for money he’s hidden), destroying relationships, and destroying you.
  • A narcissist will play games with you as long as he can. He needs to feel in control. He does this by being manipulative. He will keep you off balance by making false accusations, criticizing you one minute and telling you how much he loves you the next—anything to wear you down, so he can win.
  • A narcissist doesn’t care how anyone else feels about his actions, including his children. Narcissists only care about their own needs and desires. If someone can help them get what they want, then they will use that person without regard for the consequences.
  • A narcissist will use you to feel good about himself. By engaging you in a court battle (which he will absolutely do), he is using his control of you to make himself feel powerful. He wants the divorce process to take as long as possible. Yes, that does mean he will lie to prolong the process. It’s unlikely he will stop trying to use you after the divorce settlement—even if he is in another relationship. The more people a narcissist can control the better.
  • A narcissist wants you to admit defeat. He wants you to give in to his demands and bow to his power. But not just once—he won’t ever get tired of you surrendering to his superiority.
  • A narcissist wants everyone else to see him as a victim. No matter how horrid he is behaving toward you (and maybe even his children), he craves the pity and support of others, so he can use that pity against you.He will lie repeatedly and quite convincingly (especially if he is charming and wealthy) to perpetuate his role as victim and paint you as a heartless villain. He will even lie to your children and family about you. He wants to turn those closest to you against you because he wants you to have nothing left.
  • A narcissist will attack your weaknesses. That usually means he will go after your children and money. He will remove you from joint accounts or withdraw all the money from them. He will hide money. He will run up your bills any way he can think of. He will also do his best to turn your children against you.
  • A narcissist will take you back to court again and again. As far as he is concerned, the battle is never over so long as he has some leverage. And the leverage is usually your children. He will register the children for activities during your time with them without consulting you. He will “forget” to pick up the kids when he knows you have other plans. He will return the children later than agreed to. He will not respect the custody agreement.

But since you now have an idea of what divorcing a narcissist is like, you can prepare for the battle ahead instead of being ambushed.

Here are some steps you’ll want to take to minimize the damage you suffer during and after your divorce:

  • Make sure your attorney is aware of the problem and is proactive. You want your attorney to have experience dealing with high-conflict divorces and know what to expect from a narcissist. When they’re properly experienced and prepared, they can shut down at least some of the standard tactics a narcissist will use in court (if you must go there).
  • Get a therapist who specializes in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). If you were married to a narcissist, your marriage was full of emotional abuse. Any kind of abuse can lead to PTSD. You will probably want to consider working with a therapist to help you regain your emotional footing.
  • Hire a divorce coach. Learning how a divorce coach can help you stay anchored (and using one!) could be one of your most important moves for securing perspective, strength, and support. Your divorce coach will also help you process the grief, loneliness, anger, and other tumultuous emotions you’ll have before, during, and beyond. If necessary, your divorce coach can even join you throughout the court proceedings. But your “beyond” is critical. Your divorce coach is going to make sure you stay mindful to creating the life you DO deserve.
  • Keep copies of EVERYTHING. Especially when it comes to expenses, you’ll want to keep detailed records of everything. It’s VERY likely that you’ll be going to court repeatedly. The only way you’ll be able to quickly put an end to each new drama when it arises is to have indisputable facts. And that’s what the detailed records are—indisputable facts.
  • Assume all communication with a narcissist is risky. Whenever you communicate with a narcissist, keep things direct, to the point, and non-confrontational. This is the only way to prevent him from using your written or spoken words against you.

When divorcing a narcissist, you must prepare for war. You will face many battles because a narcissist wants to destroy you at virtually any cost.

But when you understand more about a narcissist’s profile (what you can and cannot expect from him) and begin to value your own self-worth—getting the full support you need and deserve—you will eventually have the peaceful life you’re looking for, the life you were meant to live.

 

SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to navigating divorce—on their own terms. If you are considering or dealing with divorce, you are invited to experience SAS for Women firsthand and schedule your free, 45-minute, private consultation. Whether you work further with us or not, we’ll help you understand what your next, black and white steps are for walking into your brave unknown—with compassion and integrity.

* SAS for Women fully recognizes same-sex and common-law marriages. But for the sake of simplicity in this article, we refer to your spouse or mate as “he,” “him,” or your “husband.”