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

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Should You Keep the House During Divorce?

Should you keep the house during divorce? Well, it’s not just about the house, is it? There is no way you’re letting go of the car, the jewelry, the investments, your pension, your hard-earned income, or the Baccarat crystal goblets either. And you’re pretty adamant your divorce attorney will agree.

Unfortunately, the law and recent statistics are not in synch with you. According to financial studies, divorcing individuals need a more than 30 percent increase in income just to maintain the standard of living they had before the divorce. Divorce is like that. It’s really about loss and opportunity. But the fact is the loss is harder on women.  One in five women fall to poverty as a result of divorce, while men experience a loss of between 10% and 40% to their standard of living. As devastating as those statistics may sound, divorce is not just about the economic leveling. Sometimes your life and the quality of your inner peace is more important than the house with the gourmet kitchen. Divorce could also be an ideal opportunity for you as a couple, and then as an independent woman, to face reality and get out of debt, or to finally sit down and work out a long-term financial plan for your children’s education.

What follows is a practical conversation about whether or not you should keep certain assets in the divorce. How you are going to come to terms emotionally with this division of assets, or how you are going to take steps to protect yourself and rebuild your life is better discussed in a series of coaching sessions or by reading this article about divorce recovery.

Divorce & the family home – pros and cons of keeping it

There are a few questions you need to ask yourself where the property is concerned. The first is whether you would be able to keep up with the payments and maintenance of the property on your own and whether you would have enough cash to buy your partner out or qualify for a loan to do that. If this is going to place you under pressure, you may want to consider downscaling a bit in order to still live a comfortable life.

The advantages of keeping the home in divorce include:

  • Continued stability for the children
  • Maintaining an asset that will form part of the estate
  • The frustration of moving is not added to the stress that a divorce brings

The disadvantages of keeping the home in divorce include:

  • Mounting financial pressure due to loans or reduced saving
  • The full cost of the maintenance of the property rests on a single pair of shoulders
  • The possibility that there is no access to funds to buy the other spouse out, which could cause ongoing financial pressure

Until you decide what to do

Whether the proceedings are quick and amicable or long and drawn-out, it’s important for both parties to take responsibility for the property and their other financial obligations. Falling behind on mortgage payments following a divorce, could cause serious financial implications. Both parties risk losing their creditworthiness, which means they may not qualify for a mortgage, whether it is for the family home or not.

It is also crucial to maintain other payments, such as credit cards, tuition fees, levies, car payments, and insurances. Failure to maintain payments on these items could have a far-reaching effect on future applications.  At this point, couples may also want to look into making use of a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA). A CDFA will assess the financial situation to ensure that both parties remain on an equal footing for a long period. This is especially handy where one party earns a lot more than the other, or one of the spouses is unable to enter the job market as they need to raise the children. During the calculation, the analyst will determine whether one spouse’s assets will grow and the other’s will deplete, and adjust their recommended asset split accordingly.

If neither of you wants it or can afford it

When you’ve made your calculations and neither of you qualifies for finance, or neither of you wishes to remain in the family home, the obvious choice would be to sell it. But what happens when the value of the property is far less than the actual bond with the financial institution? This is what a short sale is, but it really shouldn’t be the first option as it will have a negative rating on the credit scores of the spouses. When their FICO scores are affected, they may have to wait a few years to enter the property market again.

Other debts and what to do

Joint accounts and divorces go together like a tracksuit and heels. They don’t. The moment there is a whisper of divorce, it’s important to let the banks and financial institutions know. This is to prevent the spouse from running up the debt and getting out of town. Although a loan may be in both names, both parties are responsible for the repayments in full. If you’re left with the repayments and you’re struggling to keep it under control, you will need to contact the bank to make a payment arrangement.

Sit down with the finances and prioritize payments. List the expenses in order of most important, which would include mortgage or rental payments first, then food and utilities,and finally tuition and insurances. The rest will follow. Try to pay debt off as the items clear instead of running up a bill again, but don’t necessarily close the accounts in case the alimony and child support payments come in late. Only use debt for emergency purposes.

And for those issues that fall off the balance sheet … your emotional needs, concerns, your sense of injustice, not to mention how you will begin to rebuild your life and help your kids get through this, contact SAS. We will help you put a system in place to come to terms with what you’ve lost, but also what you will discover. Take advantage of our free consultation so you begin your healing now.

Jess Walter is a freelance writer and mother. She loves the freedom that comes with freelance life and the additional time it means she gets to spend with her family and pets.

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Divorce and Life Insurance: 5 Critical Things to Know

When you are setting up your new life during a divorce, life insurance may not be the most pressing thing on your mind (ahem, we suspect it’s not on your mind at all!) and yet it plays a crucial role. Many of us don’t understand life insurance, nor recognize how necessary it is for protecting us in the future. It’s especially important to understand how divorce and life insurance go hand in hand before you finish negotiating your divorce settlement. We will give you a quick “Life Insurance 101” here, but you’ll definitely want to consult with a vetted insurance broker to make sure you have optimized your plans for the future.

What is life insurance and why do I need it?

If you are working and supporting a family, it’s important to have life insurance coverage. If you should pass away unexpectedly and the income your family relies on is suddenly no longer there … well, you see the problem. Life insurance would provide your family money to essentially replace what you would have made in salary. There are basically two kinds:

Term: This is for a designated number of years (10, 20, 30, etc.) If you pass away while term life is in effect, your beneficiary (ies) will collect the money in a lump sum. It’s a “use it or lose it” sort of policy.

Permanent: This policy is for a lifetime (and usually significantly more expensive). There are different types of permanent insurance including universal and whole. Which one you choose depends entirely on your needs and situation. (Again it’s best to talk with an insurance professional to decide.).

Why do divorce and life insurance go hand in hand?

If you are relying on maintenance (alimony) and/or child support payments from your ex to make ends meet, what would you do if something unexpectedly happened to him and he passed away? Getting a life insurance policy on your ex ensures that you would be able to manage financially should something happen to him. By the same token, if you are working, having life insurance on yourself ensures that you would be leaving your family with some money to replace your salary, should something happen to you.

On a related topic — please forgive our bluntness — what if one or both of you don’t die but get hurt badly enough that you can no longer work and earn a living? You should know that life insurance does not help in that situation. In that case you need to have something called “disability insurance”, another type of insurance you really need to understand and consider having in your divorce settlement. Disability insurance is essentially the same thing but it helps in the event of illness or injury. For the purpose of this article we’ll stick to divorce and life insurance (and address disability insurance in a later article).

So what are the 5 critical things to know about divorce and life insurance?

5 info boxes on divorce and life insurance

Design: Ashley Nakai

1. Securing life insurance does not happen quickly

Life insurance takes some time (several weeks to months) to secure, so it’s important that you start the conversation early in your divorce negotiations. The insurance company needs time to evaluate your case in order to determine if they will offer you coverage and at what rate. This is based on your medical history (medical records or a physical exam may be needed) and your financial history (they may request a current credit report or financial statements for example).

2. You need the right amount of insurance

The amount of protection you need must be evaluated by a pro. Your attorney will make suggestions based on spousal and/or child support to help you protect yourself and your family from the unforeseen. However, it’s always wise to consult with a good insurance broker to hear their professional estimates.

It’s important to consider other factors, such as your current income, earning capability and your current and future financial needs of the family. A trained insurance broker can help you think about other considerations such as education funding and retirement and pension considerations … things your attorney may not consider but may make a big difference in your situation.

3. You have to figure out how long you will be required to keep it

You will negotiate into your divorce settlement how long you and/or your spouse are required to carry the coverage, which is why it’s important to get educated before the divorce document is signed. Again, it’s best to not simply reply on what your lawyer says but to diversify your knowledge base by talking with your insurance broker.

4. You will need to decide on a beneficiary

The beneficiary is the person you designate to receive the money should death occur. Who the beneficiary (or beneficiaries) is should be predetermined in your divorce settlement. It’s also important to be specific in the policy about who owns it, who is required to pay the premiums, and who is allowed to change the beneficiary should the need arise.

5. It’s important to compare policies and prices

Do not simply go with the cheapest rate (or allow your ex to talk you into that) because it’s important to understand what the policy provides for you and that, should anything happen, the company will take good care of you and the kids. This is not something you can just Google. You need a neutral party — a trained insurance consultant — to do that homework for you and present you with options.

We know, it seems a little grim to be talking about people dying or getting sick or injured but the reality is, we don’t know what life will throw at us. We doubt you saw the divorce in your future, back when you got married, so we don’t want you to be naïve as you negotiate your divorce settlement. This settlement is your financial future near and far, well into your retirement. Thinking about divorce and life insurance is a very strategic way to provide for your family now, should things take a turn later.

Did this article bring up questions for you? Jot them down and contact insurance expert, Lisa Horowitz, CLU, ChFC, who for nearly 30 years, has been dedicated to helping women understand how insurance can help them in every area of life including divorce, business and estate planning, retirement, life-altering illness, and caring for elderly parents. If you mention SAS for Women, Lisa will talk to you for 30 minutes for free, no matter which state in the USA you live. You can reach her at (718) 352-1311 or [email protected]

Protesters holding sign that says "Have you no sense of decency sirs?"

SAS Survey: Is the Current Political Climate Impacting Divorce for Women?

Are you feeling it, too? A study published by the American Psychological Association in mid-February (2017) has found that two thirds of all Americans feel anxiety over the future of the country. The analysis, called “Stress in America,” also discovered 57 percent of the nation reported that politics were either somewhat or a very significant source of stress in their lives.

In our work at SAS for Women, a practice dedicated to helping women navigate the emotional and logistical challenges of divorce, we are not surprised. While January, February and March are commonly referred to as the “divorce season” in the family law industry (with the theory being that couples bury their conflict during the holidays and file for divorce in the new year) the start of 2017 feels especially divisive. Since Mr. Trump’s ascent to power, we are hearing more and more about a certain type of stress women are facing, and in particular how it’s playing out beyond and behind the marital chamber’s door.

Our question is how much is this current administration and the daily barrage of headlines proving to be a lightening rod and moving women toward divorce? Is the current political climate impacting divorce overall?

The Survey on political climate and divorce

To learn how much the current political climate is influencing women’s feelings and behavior about divorce we polled the SAS for Women Community — women who are thinking about, or navigating divorce.

Survey showing impact of political Feb 2017 political climate impacting women and divorce

Design: Ashley Nakai

Of the 100 women polled, 53 percent say they are influenced by the political climate. More than a third (35 percent) rate themselves 5 or higher on a scale of 1-10, with 10 representing the primary reason or trigger they are divorcing. 6 percent of the women who participated indicated they were a “10.”

What Women Said:

Many women in the SAS Community did more than simply self-assign a number. They shared comments and thoughts about their dilemmas, circumstances, and outlook for the future:

Answered “3”: “Women’s rights and freedom are in jeopardy as long as Trump is in office and the cabinet and Supreme Court are staffed as they are now. Single mothers are at high risk for poverty, which not only negatively affects them, but also their children. And yet, women must have the option to leave abusive or otherwise unhealthy domestic partnerships without fear of becoming homeless, hungry, etc.”

Answered “9”: “My soon to be ex has always been a Republican and we clashed during presidential elections before (Bush), but he was a Trump supporter and it really pushed me over the edge to the realization that our values and interests were completely different. Upon my announcing I wanted a divorce in October, he immediately became a Hillary supporter and tried to tell me that he agreed with every position I ever had and that I just misunderstood him or didn’t know him. While it was not the primary reason for my seeking a divorce ( I have been unhappy for many years!), it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Answered “1”: “Political factors influence very little of my day to day decisions. My divorce, my children, and my career consume the entirety of my energy. I will not waste limited energy on those things that do not directly benefit my children or my career or me and moving ahead with our lives.”

Answered “7”: “Problems before…but a perceived wider gap in our overall politics (and general direction we are both leaning) has made the possibility of divorce even greater.  I am left shaking my head about who it was I fell in love with 25 years ago and who is in my bed tonight …”

Answered “1”:  “America goes about its business day after day, sometimes good and sometimes bad. I personally take responsibility for my actions and feel that I have the greatest impact on myself and others by owning what is mine, the good and the bad. Politics will always have good and bad realities that will either enhance or detract from our lives and our choices, but that is something we are lucky to have!”

Answered “8”: “The political attack on everything I hold dear and all that constitutes my core values as a human being and a woman recalibrates the tolerance of a husband who is not truly supportive of those values either. I can’t have this President in The White House and be trapped in marriage to someone who is not shook up, too.”

Answered “1”: “Politics have nothing to do with my pending divorce or how my ‘husband’ treats me.”

Answered “8”: “I was just speaking about this to my therapist. I feel so outraged by the misogynistic administration and the misogynistic  culture of the election that preceded this corrupt administration.  I’ve realized that our society is more misogynistic than I had felt and that my husband is not a feminist. It has become clearer to me.”

Answered “2”: “My decision was made way before the current political situation which only strengthens my determination. However, the impact is not that great as the determination was there to begin with.”

Answered “10”: “I am exiting a relationship with a narcissist, after 25 years of believing his spin, his alternative facts, his hostage holding (beholden to keeping kids emotionally safe). It was actually a relief to hear the descriptions of Trump as it clarified the behavior I was looking at but still couldn’t see.”

Conclusion

While 47 percent of the SAS Community self-assigned themselves a “1,” thereby indicating their feelings and actions about divorce are not impacted by the political climate, it is clear that more than half of the women polled claim they are influenced. More than a third of this community feels very much impacted by the current political climate and what it means for them, their families and the future.

What do you think? We would be interested to know — as would our Sister Readers! We invite you to share your comments and thoughts below.

SAS for Women® is uniquely positioned to understand women as they confront the realities of divorce around the world. Our education and coaching services — action and outcome-drive — focus on the healthy approach and appeal to women who are committed to being smart and educated in their decision-making. To learn what is possible for you and your life, schedule your free consultation with SAS by visiting here.

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What Women Should Know about High Net Worth Divorce

Very often in high net worth divorces, women are considered the less affluent partner. They may enjoy a very privileged and even enviable lifestyle, but because they are not the “breadwinner” or “rainmaker,” their own sense of power and independence may feel minimized, especially when it comes to divorce. Of course, the reality is that most of these women played a vital role as advisor to their husbands and often, mothers to their children. They might have financed his education, managed all the decisions around his career and their shared lifestyle, and actually have cultivated and nurtured the professional and social connections that helped them attain and secure their shared, current high net worth life. And yet, these same women may have no access to the cash or understand where the cash comes from. In a perverse reversal of privilege, they might even feel ashamed when considering what’s otherwise possible for their lives. They may feel trapped. While there are clearly many aspects–emotional, practical, socio-economic, historical, etc.–related to this scenario, this article will focus on the black and white legal aspects of today.

Understand that in order to successfully navigate a high net worth divorce, you will have to:

  1. Account for and value your assets (–items or resources that are convertible to cash)
  2. Determine whether or not your husband is hiding assets
  3. Calculate the amount of maintenance (alimony) you may be entitled to
  4. Analyze the impact of any pre-nuptial agreement you (may have) signed.

Although other factors may certainly come into play, this article will focus on these legal points as they are critical in almost all high net worth divorces.

Accounting for and valuing marital assets

During a divorce, you and your husband will have to declare your marital assets. The exception is where you waive your right to financial disclosure, which is usually not advisable. In New York, and many other states, marital assets are divided under the doctrine of “equitable distribution,” which means they will be distributed to you and your husband in a fair way (ideally), taking into account all of the circumstances of your marriage.

A pre-condition to dividing marital assets is that they be accounted for and valued. If you are not sure what marital property you own, you will most likely need the help of a matrimonial attorney who may use financial experts to investigate. For example, a forensic accountant may be able to find assets by tracing banking records, even if multiple accounts were used to buy marital assets.

Your assets will also have to be valued. In high net worth divorces, business valuation experts may be needed, as well as appraisers who specialize in valuing everything from real estate to exotic cars. Marital assets may even include airplanes, artwork, boats, and collectibles like coins and dollhouses!

Hidden assets

It is not unusual in a divorce for one spouse to conceal assets from the other. If your divorce goes through and your husband has concealed his assets, you will forfeit your right to them unless you can prove he did so and therefore the divorce was obtained fraudulently. While such cases exist, they are rare (remember, you have to prove the fraud). It is more common that a spouse who has hidden assets will get to keep them after the divorce. Obviously, this is a result to be avoided.

Some signs your husband may have concealed assets are that he never told you what he earned; made large purchases without saying where the money came from; and supported you in a high lifestyle without having the outward means to do so, or asked you to sign papers without explaining to you what they were for.

Maintenance

Maintenance is designed to provide the less-monied spouse with the means to support herself after the marriage in a way that does not seriously erode the pre-divorce standard of living. Interestingly, in high net worth divorce cases, it is not uncommon, if a large award of cash or assets is made to the wife, that she will not be awarded maintenance (the theory being that the award substitutes for it.) Similarly, there’s the reverse: if the wife does not receive a large award, maintenance may be awarded.

Pre-nuptial agreements

It is not uncommon in high net worth marriages for the husband and wife to have signed a pre-nuptial agreement. In most cases, the terms of the pre-nup will determine the outcome of the divorce as to financial matters. So, if you are facing a divorce and have a pre-nup, it is essential that you have it examined by a divorce attorney so you will understand what you will be entitled to in your divorce.

Conclusion

Preparation for a high net worth divorce is key. The earlier you get educated and understand these factors, the more likely it is that you will secure the kind of divorce the law entitles you to.

Read more from Divorce Attorney Daniel Stock:

6 Ways to Pay for a Divorce

Getting a Divorce with Children and Dealing with a Daddy-Come-Lately

 

Daniel H. Stock, PLLC, with offices located in New York City and Westchester, brings more than 25 years of legal experience to all issues associated with uncontested, collaborative, contested or high net worth divorce. He seeks to reach amicable agreements on matters such as child custody and visitation, child support and alimony, and property division. He favors the kind of outcome that benefits you and your children as you transition to a post-divorce future. However, when discussions are not productive, consensus is not possible and litigation is necessary, he is fully prepared to aggressively protect your rights in court. Make an appointment to speak with divorce lawyer Daniel H. Stock by using his contact form or by calling his firm at 475-232-4105.

Note from SAS: Find strong, wise counsel that supports you and your interests. Before getting fully educated on what your life and divorce choices are, however, do not adopt the knee-jerk reaction of “I’m going to take him to the cleaners!” For in the long term, as we have learned through our women-dedicated divorce consultancy, this approach is rarely clean. For more on this and what you most critically need in terms of legal support, financial support, AND emotional support to ensure your best divorce recovery – and avoid court, contact SAS for a free consultation.

 

 

2 calculators on a desk

Getting a Divorce? Choose the Right Accountant

Whether you’ve chosen the path, or been blindsided by the decision, no one needs to tell you that getting a divorce can consume you – both emotionally and financially, and that because divorce is so complicated, you must often rely on experts.  But it is also possible that you may be finding that the experts you work with, or are considering to hire, are all too often focused on what they do (and bill you for) and not what your needs are. If you are feeling a disconnect, take heart! It’s normal. Divorce is a particular life event that is uniquely personal. There is no magic formula or infallible model (despite what some experts might say, or what your friends might advise you) that will transform you to a place of financial independence, balance, and full healing.  It’s a process specific to you. And for women, it often involves an education in learning how to take control of your life.

Understanding and taking control of one’s finances is just one aspect to the process, but it is a very important one.  After all, it’s the money and the kids (–if you are a mother) that probably have you the most uncertain and wondering what your next best steps are. Finding a good accountant (and not relying on the one you may have used with your mate) is a very good idea.  But how do you proceed to choose an accountant so you set yourself up for your next best chapter?

If you are getting a divorce, or in the divorce recovery phase, here are five things your accountant should do for you as you begin to rebuild your life:

1. Listen

One of the most critical skills your accountant (–and any expert you hire) must have is the ability to really listen to you and your story. Without truly listening to you, any advice given won’t be tied to your individual needs. There is no one size fits all. You must be able to sit down and feel that you connection and be able to communicate with your accountant on many levels. Think about this as you are interviewing or considering an accountant, would you feel comfortable calling this person out of the blue with a random question?

2. Understand your needs (financial, emotional and social)

Tax, accounting, and financial advice must be seen through the prism of your life. Your financial needs and requirements may not only include the fundamentals like caring for the children and maintaining a home but may also include continuing assistance for … your going back to school, or caring for your aging parents, or organizations or charities and other philanthropic organizations you are involved with. Your emotional, career, and social needs must be supported by the financial advice you are given. The three are tied together like a bow. Without understanding your emotional and social needs the financial advice you are given can do more harm than good.

3. Help you plan the process

After listening to and understanding your individual needs, your accountant should now be able to provide you with several scenarios to consider as you plan out the divorce process or begin the restructuring post-divorce. There are many year-end tax planning checklists as well as guides on how to hire the right lawyer, forensic expert, etc., online. You could literally spend hours and hours searching for that information. That is not your job. Your job is to ask questions of your accountant or financial advisor, and then make the decisions that are right for you. Your accountant’s job is to take complex issues and problems and help you find the solutions that fit your needs. S/he must also be capable of explaining your choices in layman’s terms. If you don’t understand what your accountant is saying then the fault is on them, not you. Your accountant works for you and not the other way around.

4. Be your trusted (and tough) advisor

Your accountant must also play the role of “Tough Advisor”. You will have your own ideas about the divorce process, or what to do now that you are single, and your ideas matter greatly and should influence your accountant’s advice. But there does come times when your accountant should be confident enough to disagree with your decisions and be able to provide a rational argument to you. While ultimately the decision on your plan and finances will always be yours, your accountant should take the time to advise you on any concerns s/he has.

5. Be your “Financial General Contractor” for those providing other services to you

Once you and your accountant have established a relationship based on the previous four requirements then your accountant can play one of the most critical roles in your divorce process or divorce recovery: what I like to call the “Financial General Contractor”. Depending on your situation you may have many people assisting you with and impacting your divorce and future plans. Lawyers, coaches, forensic accountants, real estate agents, the IRS, etc., all may play a role.  But just like building a house, or hiring a divorce coach who can help you understand, oversee, and guide the moving parts, you need a Financial General Contractor to turn to who can help coordinate the money in play and help control everyone’s fees.  Your accountant may the best suited to assist you with this financial control. Besides your divorce coach (if you have one), your trusted accountant may have the broadest view of all your needs. Your accountant can also play the “bad girl/guy” role if need be with the rest of your divorce team if the results and fees are not in your best interests.

As an accountant with over 20 years of experience I have been on the other side of the desk (–though I prefer the kitchen table), listening to my clients as they have gone through the difficult process of getting a divorce. What I discovered was that the single most important thing for my clients was the ability to feel connected to the people who are helping though this hard time. My goal in writing this article was not to give you specific advice on what to do with your divorce, or which model to adopt in getting a divorce, or even to tell you what to do with your money. It was simply to provide guidance on how to select an accountant who can best help you begin or continue on your divorce journey.  As the ladies at SAS say, there’s a great big bright future for you just around the bend. You may not see it yet, but it’s there and it’s waiting for you.

Vincent Pungello, CPA, CISA, CFSA is a Certified Public Accountant and the Managing Member of Pungello CPA, LLC. Vincent has extensive experience in matters of personal and business taxation, forensic accounting as well as domestic and international accounting and auditing. If you would like to talk to Vincent to share what is happening in your journey and to hear possible next steps, he provides all SAS readers with a free consultation by phone. Contact him at (732) 814 7480 or email him at [email protected] and mention SAS to begin your conversation about your needs and where YOU want to go.

 

 

Cartoon angry woman's face

3 Ways to Handle Divorce and Anger, If Things Are Getting Ugly

Divorce and anger go hand in hand.

Love and Marriage, Horse and Carriage … Divorce and Anger obviously go together, too. Right? Well … at the very end of the season finale of #DivorceonHBO we hear the main character Frances, who is divorcing her husband, leave this voicemail for her husband: “I imagine that, somehow, you didn’t bother to think through this imbecilic move – you simply wanted to fuck me at any cost. But you have made a terrible, awful, IRREPARABLE mistake.  And you’ve LOST, Robert. You have lost EVERYTHING now!”

Uh, oh. There it is. It all just went sideways.

Oh, how easy it is to give into anger when you are in the middle of divorce, especially if it’s justified (though don’t get me wrong, it’s just as easy to get caught up in your anger because of things that you perceive to be happening, whether they really are or not.) In Frances’s case, she asked and was granted permission by her husband to swap weekends with him, to take the kids skiing.  He changed his mind at the last minute though, because he was furious with her for getting their assets frozen (which actually her attorney did; Frances didn’t really understand what the attorney was doing) and therefore reported her to the police for kidnapping. Which, of course, completely freaked the kids out. Which, of course, completely ticked off Frances, so she lashed right back out at him, hence the voicemail. See the pattern here?

Listen, if you are getting divorced right now, I know you may be feeling really, really angry. And you probably have every right to be furious. Maybe he cheated and lied about it for years … or perhaps he was a workaholic and ignored you, never noticing how very lonely you were … or maybe he abandoned you emotionally and focused his attention on the kids … or perhaps he simply left you without warning and you never saw it coming. You need to make him pay for this right? Well, I’m telling you right now, letting anger drive the legal process is not going to result in you getting the revenge or justice you seek. It will only result in a longer drawn out ugly divorce.

Divorce and anger must be untangled

I’m not suggesting you cease feeling angry … you have every right to that feeling. What I’m suggesting is that you cannot afford to let feelings of anger, resentment, bitterness or even primal raw rage dictate how this divorce will unfold. These emotions must be separated, for your sake and for your kid’s sake as well.

Imagine Anger is a monster inside of you. If you feed it, it gets big and strong. If you allow it, that monster will take over your brain and start to think for you. But Anger has no perspective, no intelligence, no problem solving or rational thinking. Like most monsters, it’s just hungry, so it does things to get fed. It feeds on fear and outrage and hatred and will stop at nothing to stir up those feelings to get a meal. It will stir them up in you and it will not stop there – it will convince you to lash out at others too, so it spreads, and your spouse is the most obvious target.

Feeding this monster does two things: (1) It keeps you in a place where you cannot think clearly nor make smart decisions because the monster is in charge and (2) It forces your spouse into the same position. Now we have two adults, neither of who is capable of making responsible decisions, because both are blinded by Anger.

You must stop feeding Anger the Monster.

As said before, I’m not simply telling you to stop feeling this way. Anger isn’t just going to go because you wish him away. You must honor how you feel, while at the same time figure out ways to navigate the divorce and make good decisions for you and your family. I offer you three things to keep in mind, as a start:

3 ways to handle divorce and your anger, if things are getting ugly

  1. Trust yourself, if only a little.  Listen to that little voice that tells you it can’t be what it seems. Investigate the situation before you let it ignite you. Did he really say that? Would he really do that? Maybe not. Try to give him the benefit of the doubt if you think there is the smallest chance you are overreacting.
  2. Find safe ways to vent and process the anger.  Much like a teakettle that’s corked up, your anger will explode if you don’t find ways to vent the steam. Talking with someone you can trust explicitly or writing in your journal may be important ways for you to get out all that negativity in safe ways.
  3. Get perspective from someone objective. This means someone who is not close to the situation, preferably a professional.  A therapist, divorce coach, social worker, or clergy member will have the expertise you need to help you see things through other perspectives and help you make rational decisions. If Anger threatens to take over, it’s imperative you find someone who is trained to deal with these strong feelings and can help you tame that monster.

Frances says to her dad at one point, “Well, neither one of us is being particularly good to the other, but ya know, apparently that’s how these things go, so….” No, Frances, that’s not right.  Things don’t necessarily have to go that way, unless you let them. You can choose not to let your emotions take over in your divorce, and instead find ways to be civil and communicative with your spouse so you avoid those miscommunications and hurt feelings that Anger so thrives on. You must take active measures to starve the monster.  The best way to do that is with a little help from others.

If you are experiencing feelings of rage and bitterness and just don’t know  to reign it in, schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation with SAS. Tell us confidentially what’s going on, and we’ll give you black & white feedback, resources and suggestions for your HEALTHIEST next steps. We’ll look forward to speaking with you soon.

Sara Jessica Parker on Divorce on DBO sitting in a chair

#DivorceHBO: It’s Not “Basically All Law”

As I get caught up on #DivorceonHBO, I’m debating whether I like it because I work with women going through divorce or because I went through my own divorce… or if I’d like it even if neither of those were true. I’d be curious to know what you think. Do you like the show? I know it’s a little bleak at times, but doesn’t that make it ring true?  Isn’t life a little raw and bleak sometimes?

I think I like the show because it’s grappling with things that my clients grapple with… and those things are not easy nor sexy nor simple. Here’s what’s happened in the last three episodes that mirrors what I see in my practice …

How #DivorceonHBO rings true

Episode 5: “Basically, It’s All Law”

Though Frances and Robert started off in mediation, Robert is (poorly) advised by a friend that he’ll get taken to the cleaners if he goes that route, so he thinks he’d better get his own lawyer. The first one he goes to see reassures him that while he mostly does trusts and estates, “Basically, it’s all law.”  Nope! Abort! Abort, Robert!  It’s most definitely NOT just all law.

Matrimonial law is very specific, complicated, and nuanced. You absolutely want to hire an attorney who ONLY does family law and has a good amount of experience.  Never hire an attorney simply because he is the cheapest or because someone gave you her name.  Do interview several attorneys, ask questions, and select the one that you feel the most comfortable with.  Find out how well he/she knows the judges they will be dealing with in your case…it’s important that they are familiar with the rules and proclivities of each judge.

Episode 6: The Elephant in the Room

Robert is surprised to learn that Frances has yet to tell her parents. She has lots of excuses (she hasn’t had time…she wants to tell them in person) so in an effort to save face, the family plans to show up for Christmas as if nothing has happened. Yeah, probably no one will notice that elephant you have in tow…

Clients often ask me, when do I have to tell people? How do I tell people? Is it by going to everyone, one by one?  Is it sending a mass email? Changing my Facebook status? They dread the reactions, the questions…the pity.  It is a difficult thing to navigate and there really is no one right answer. It helps to tell one person first (a trusted friend who can keep your confidence or a divorce coach, for example) and ask them to brainstorm with you… what can you do to let loved ones know, in a way you are comfortable with?  Brainstorm a statement you can use to let them know you really don’t welcome a million questions. Try something like, “I appreciate your concern.  I’m working through everything.  I’ll reach out when I’m ready to talk.”

Episode 7: We’re Broke?

In this episode, Frances is very unpleasantly surprised (ummm, understatement) to find out from her attorney that they are deep, deep in debt.  Turns out Robert has been making poor business decisions, taking out loans, and remortgaging their home without her knowledge, while she is the sole breadwinner.  Ouch.

One of the most excruciating and yet absolutely necessary parts of divorce is examining your finances. It can also be scary if you haven’t been the one keeping an eye on things. (And yeah, sometimes you uncover awful surprises. When I went through my divorce, I found out my ex had racked up $40,000 in credit card debt with a card in my name.) Often your impulse is to ignore, delay, stall. Don’t. The longer you do that, the bigger the problem will seem and your imagination will fill in the blanks about what you don’t know or understand. Get informed. Gather up as many statements and documents as you can and take them to a professional to help you make sense of it all.  Divorce coaches and/or CDFA’s (Certified Divorce Financial Advisors) are trained to help you get organized if you are considering or preparing for divorce.  Even if the news is less than ideal, understanding your financial realities and forming a plan to address them will still feel better than living in the dark.

I’ll keep tuning into #DivorceonHBO because I’m pretty sure there are more lessons to learn here. It’s likely to get worse for Frances before it gets better.  But if Frances were here, I would impress upon her that it WILL get better.  This WILL end and there IS life after divorce, I promise.

If you’d like to talk with me (or my partner Liza) about your own situation, we’d be happy to connect with you. Or if you aren’t ready, that’s ok too. We invite you to keep reading.

Until next time.

#DivorceonHBO poster featuring Sara Jessica Parker

#DivorceHBO Episodes 2-4: Kernels of Truth

Ok, full disclosure, I originally intended to write every week about #DivorceHBO, giving you my honest opinion as a divorce professional and offering you lots of insight as we watched the characters develop and their divorce unfold. However, as you all know by now, that didn’t happen (yeah, I know, not even close.) Well, life got in the way for a bit and now we’re on Episode 7 and you’ve not heard a peep from me. I hope you can forgive me and let me chime in now?

How #DivorceHBO tells the truth

While #DivorceHBO isn’t wildly popular (63% on Rotten Tomatoes) it is holding it’s own. I suspect that is because it’s accurate and genuine in many ways — anyone who has ever been through a divorce or is going through one now, probably knows what I mean.

Look, is it overdone at times?  Yes, it’s television, so of course. But once you look past that, there is a kernel of truth in every single episode:

Episode 2: The “oh SH*t, what did I do?” moment

In episode one, Frances blurts out, “I want a divorce!” at a birthday party gone awry — and soon realizes, umm, now what? There’s definitely a moment (or forty) where you wish it had never been said, once you’ve said it. Now that it’s out there though, in all its ugly glory, you have to deal with it. Even if it is actually what you want in the long run, you haven’t thought this through and you panic. “Are we throwing away a good thing?” or “Are we going to screw up the kids forever?” Often this is a time you’ll decide to try marriage counseling or “try again” by sweeping things under the rug a little while longer.

It’s completely normal to have these feelings at this stage.  It’s a huge decision and not one you should take lightly.  Rather than waiting until it comes bubbling up at the most inopportune time, we recommend you talk with a trusted friend or a divorce coach first, to help you process and think through a few things before you approach your mate.

Episode 3: The “you need to destroy him before he destroys you” friend

As a divorced woman herself, Frances’s friend Dallas advises her to destroy Robert because he’s a “monster.”  Often, once you make the decision to divorce public, you’ll have a friend who will tell you to prepare for battle and to “lawyer up.”  This is because it’s likely she went through her own ugly divorce and is still a little bitter and resentful. It’s tempting to listen to her advice too, after all she’s been through it, right?  She knows more than you …

Stop right there. Do not listen to her. Well, listen politely but then do not take on her seek and destroy attitude. This will not serve you, it will only escalate the situation and make things worse, not to mention a heck of a lot more expensive. Instead, get informed about the different ways to divorce (there are several) and understand the benefits and limitations to each.  After you evaluate them, choose the process that is right for you and then consult with an attorney who specializes in that method. If you go right for the litigator, that’s the path they’ll lead you down. Litigation often means court.

Episode 4: “Nothing to it but to do it,” otherwise known as telling the kids

Frances and Robert (especially Frances) are struggling in episode 4 with how to tell the kids about the divorce.  They rehearse and make a plan, clearly agonized (especially Frances) about how this will go. After a painful failed first attempt, they finally sit down at a family meeting to break the news, to which their son says, “We kinda knew already.”

This is typical because we never give kids the credit they deserve, no matter their age. They always know more than you think. We recommend that you bring the kids into a family discussion on the earlier side of things, not only so they feel included, but so they don’t spend time worrying and imagining horrible scenarios, like the divorce itself is all their fault. Taking the time to have an age appropriate yet honest conversation will go a long way with your children (and help you avoid the anticipation and dread that precedes that conversation).

As I said in my first post about the show, I maintain that Frances needs a divorce coach, now more than ever.  The kernels of truth that I’m describing are also TRAPS that can be avoided with some guidance. Talking with a trained and certified coach who is experienced with the pitfalls of divorce will save you money, time, and most importantly, your sanity! If you’d like to talk with me or my partner Liza, schedule a free session and we’ll help you gain some insight to your situation.

Stay tuned for my next post and the truisms in episodes 5-7 of #DivorceonHBO.

Sarah Jessica Parker and Thomas Haden Church walking on railroad tracks with train coming

#DivorceonHBO Episode 1: Why Frances Will Need a Divorce Coach

I must admit, as a divorce coach, when I learned that HBO was coming out with a new series called “Divorce” I was pretty geekily excited. I was eager to see how television would capture what I see on a daily basis: The strange, messy, sad and frustrating thing it can be to unravel a marriage and the hard work it takes to put your life back together again.  However, it wasn’t only for selfish reasons I was happy to see this show premiere.  For me it was proof that divorce is coming out of the shadows…that the stigma of failure and doom is lifting and that it’s not only okay to talk about it, it’s okay to laugh about it, too! Divorce used to be the thing no one talked about, the shameful little secret couples were forced to hide behind attorney doors until they emerged from battle and slunk off their separate ways. Finally, it’s out in the open as a fact of life. Divorce happens.

In the pilot episode, we meet Frances, wife, mom, and career woman, like so many of us.  After a shocking display by friends who are awkwardly and painfully clearly unhappy in their marriages, she breaks it to her husband that she wants a divorce, or as she put it, “I want to save my life while I still care about it!” (Love that line by the way.)

I see it all the time ( — and lived with it myself for years) that vague sense of unhappiness, the dissatisfaction, the feeling of “there has to be more than this.” It’s like a tiny toothache that gradually worsens until your entire jaw is swollen and throbbing and you are forced to recognize that it’s there, and now you have to do something about it.

Cut to the scene where Frances is telling her girlfriend Dallas that she broke the news to her husband last night.

“Oh there it is,” I thought. “Classic mistakes of divorce. Don’t do it, Frances, don’t do it!”  Frances says, “Well, I won’t be on my own anyway.  He is the only thing that has kept me sane this last year. I love him, I think.”

(Oy.) Too late…she’s bet the farm on a new relationship.

Frances goes on to admit (grinning like a schoolgirl the whole time) that there is someone else. While her friend Dallas just laughs along, she knows as well as I do this is a mistake.

Any good divorce coach will tell you that (a) we see people make this mistake all the time and (b) it’s bigger than you think.  Why, what’s the big deal?

1. Hormones, hormones, hormones

When we meet someone new, our bloodstream is flooded with powerful hormones like adrenaline, dopamine, and oxytocin, all of which dictate your love-drunken behavior. In fact, cultural anthropologist Helen Fisher studied couples in “lust” and found that dopamine has a similar effect on the brain as cocaine.  You are literally high when you are in this early stage of love. Do you really want to be making life- changing decisions while you are high as a kite?

2. Clouded decision-making

When you are raging with hormones and sneaking off to have hot sex at your every opportunity, trust me, you are not able to think clearly.  Your judgment is clouded and yet this is a time where you have such big decisions to make.  Where you will live, how the kids will manage the transition, how your finances will be handled…these are not small things! Now more than ever you need to have your wits about you.

3. You don’t live in a bubble

Yes, the feeling of being adored is completely addictive and the sex is beyond excellent with someone new and exciting (hormones remember?) but you must realize, this is not just about you. Are you really ready to introduce this person to your kids? Your parents? Your oldest friends, the ones who were in your first wedding?  In our oxytocin-induced haze we tend to gloss over questions like these.

4. You can’t possibly have had time to mourn the end of the marriage

And mourn it you must, because it’s not just about the relationship with your spouse that ends here. In fact, you may not be all that sad about that. But what about your family as you know it? And the hopes and dreams you had for the marriage?  It takes time to find closure and meaning in what caused the marriage to end. If you run to the next relationship too soon, when will you stop to reflect on the last one?

5. Wrapping your happiness up in someone else is the biggest mistake of all

Isn’t this what got you there in the first place? You thought that your husband wasn’t making you happy, so you went searching for someone who would? Hear this: It isn’t the man’s job to make you happy. It never was. That’s always been your job. If you aren’t happy, you aren’t doing something for yourself and that’s what you have to figure out.  No one else has that power.

As the episode end draws near, Frances realizes it’s not as easy as telling her husband she wants a divorce and now she can cozy up to her lover as the details sort themselves out. As she realizes this, she backpedals, scrambling to shut her Pandora’s box.  Too late of course, and this is why Frances is going to need a divorce coach.

Stay tuned.

As divorce coaches at SAS, Liza and Kim work with women from all over the world who are either exploring the idea or facing the practical realities of divorce. Will #divorceonhbo accurately portray divorce as we see it unfold in real life? We’ll report back and let you know if it’s just entertainment or pointing to something honest. In the meantime, if you want to explore what divorce may or may not mean for you, in your real life, we’d welcome a chance to talk with you. Schedule your free consultation and we’ll figure it out together.