Divorce papers by Graham for Unsplash

Divorce Papers: What the Heck Are They?

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

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

Paper #1: Starting the Divorce Petition

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Paper #3: Responding – The Answer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Official Decision by the Court

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

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

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

Paper #5: Other Common Papers

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

Conclusion

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

Notes

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


Choose not to go it alone.

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

starting over after divorce at 50

Starting Over After Divorce at 50: Five Stories on Finding Yourself

Our relationships are powerful elements in our lives, which is a major reason why starting over after divorce at 50 (or any age!) can be such a pivotal moment. Realizing your marriage is no longer viable can make you feel that your entire life is over and that there is nothing to look forward to. But never fear—your life is still yours. There are chapters of your life yet to be written and new people you haven’t met yet waiting to adore you, whether platonically or romantically. You might also find yourself just truly enjoying being on your own after the compromise of a sub-par relationship.

But don’t take our word for it.

The women you are about to meet are living proof that you can still find yourself, even when divorcing in your 50s and beyond. Life after a gray divorce can actually help you recover your vital energy and wisdom, ensuring that you are restored to your true intended path. Let these women inspire you to take confident steps in your life and not waste a precious moment.

Lisa’s Story

One day, quite by accident, Lisa (64) found an email to her husband with a lease document for an apartment. They had been married for 32 years, but it seemed he was planning to leave. Soon after, she uncovered the proof of multiple affairs and infidelity. “I think he was a narcissist,” says Lisa, and she attributes the downfall of their marriage being a result of their combined focus on their son and their very busy career months after their divorce.

I asked Lisa, a retired Navy Jag living in Texas, what advice she has for other women facing divorce. “Get help,” Lisa said. “Divorce Care, a Christian organization, helped me heal. And I also saw a therapist.” She also adds that it’s important to “Get yourself a financial education and be firm about what you expect out of the divorce. Keep going—you can handle more than you expect.”

Lisa’s energy and good humor are clear as she admits that she is happier than she has been for many years. To hear her tell it, Lisa has found herself in starting over after divorce at 50+ and feels alive to the possibilities in her new life. Recently, she laughs, confidingly, she has met another man on an online dating site Zoosk—and they are in their six month together.


If you are looking for support as a mother, having been married to a narcissist, you will benefit from reading, “41 Things to Remember If You are Coparenting with a Narcissist.”


CJ’s Story

CJ is an emergency trauma nurse who married at the age of 21 and went on to have two daughters. Her marriage lasted 34 years until her divorce was finalized in 2019. CJ’s husband physically and psychologically abused their daughter, who finally disclosed the truth to her mother. The circumstances were difficult as her Ex was a police officer and she had to counter his angry threats by appealing to the Sheriff’s Office. Their friendship circle included police officers who all stuck by her husband.

CJ is now 61 and happily living alone. She kept working throughout the marriage breakdown and divorce. CJ relied on her close friends and a cousin who supported her through the trauma. She continues to live in the same small community in the upper Midwest, Wisconsin, where she resides in the house where her daughters grew up.

CJ says, “If we had divorced earlier and he had shared custody of my girls, he would have been alone with them,” she said. Her daughters have no contact with their father now, who retired from the police six years ago and so no longer wields such community influence.

CJ says she would consider another committed relationship if she could still have her own place and keep her autonomy. Like Lisa, however, trust is an issue for CJ after what happened. She too benefited from counseling and advises women to: “Be sure you have someone not directly involved (with the family) who you trust to talk with, someone who has your best interest in mind. A lawyer, therapist, advocate, or divorce coach, and take the time to work through all the decisions with them. They will have a perspective that will be invaluable.” CJ, an incredibly resilient woman, had to be so strong to stand her ground against immense pressure. Not only do her girls have a wonderful role model, CJ has found herself on her own terms. CJ’s story is proof that starting over after divorce at 50 can be transformative in many  ways.

Jill’s Story 

Jill’s story follows a different dynamic, with another set of circumstances and difficulties. Her divorce came when she was 47, after a year in a foreign country, with the pressures of work and increasing awareness that she and her husband were working abroad “together but alone.”

Jill and her husband had met at university and were married for 19 years. They were parents, colleagues, and best friends, but had “fallen out of love” and were “no longer compatible,” missing intimacy and the hobbies and activities they once had in common. Jill did some difficult soul searching and they discussed amicably what the future held for them. She leaned on friends and family and sought therapy.


Maybe you still love him as a friend. Perhaps he is your best friend. You trust him, you respect him… you just don’t want to be his wife anymore. Consider reading “How to Divorce a Nice Guy.”


She describes her “Aha!” moment when the therapist asked her: “Describe for me the place where you and your husband are happy together?” Jill’s mind went blank. She could not come up with an example. When she asked her Ex the same question, his reaction was similar. They both knew their time to part had come. She had six months of feeling the heavy loss of her partner and best friend after they separated amicably but found it gave her the possibility for a new lease of life at age 50. She has embraced this chapter as a time of recovery and discovery. She is now happier and more in control of her life—her role as a parent, her work in Europe, her friendships, and her love life—and feels better than she has in years. She stepped into the online dating world, and Jill now feels her “true bliss” with a new lover—they are several years into their relationship, and she celebrates her second love story. Jill’s story is a great example of how starting over after divorce at 50 can open new possibilities.

Jill is keen to say to women that the “Hollywood” version of divorce as a shameful, frightening, horrible event is unhelpful. Instead, divorce can be like pruning in winter, hard but necessary, leading to new growth for both of you, and a positive step in your life.

Ultimately, Jill listened to her inner voice, got help and stayed friends with her Ex. She is grateful and has perspective: she feels connected with her youthful self again in a new culture with a new partner. ¡Qué regalos!

Debby’s Story

The first person in her family to receive an education, Debby is a clinical social worker, teacher and ordained interfaith minister, living in New York City. She met her ex-husband as a 16-year-old and married at 19. Their marriage lasted 50 years. Debby is now 71 with two children and four grandsons.

She describes the main issues leading up to their divorce as relating to different parenting styles, his lifelong workaholic nature, and his diagnosis as being on the autism spectrum, which meant his emotional range was limited. Debby said they have a friendly relationship, live near each other in Manhattan, and get together with family but the marriage was always more a practical arrangement rather than a romantic union. If they were friends, she says, they would have remained married, but they were more like roommates. Debby feels they were never really suited to each other, and if she has one regret it is that she didn’t divorce earlier.

After their two-year legal separation, the couple converted their document into a no-fault divorce (they used a mediator). Debby is grateful that she is comfortable. She lives alone with her two dogs. Her independence was instilled in her throughout the marriage, as her ex-husband would spend long hours at work or away on business, so much that Debby felt she was a single parent. There was no infidelity nor abuse in Debby’s marriage, but she outgrew the relationship largely due to his real marriage being with his career in finance.

Debbie says “I did a lot of work on myself and I’m a lifelong learner,” and would say to other women contemplating divorce or going through one that it is never too late to start again,”there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Debby never pictured herself as a woman starting over after divorce at age 50+, but knows for sure that she is much happier to be on her own, answering to no one. There are, of course, moments of loneliness. But she reminds herself that she felt lonelier in the marriage without intimacy. She acknowledges that ultimately, her divorce was the “death of a fantasy,” and with this comes some sadness that she and her Ex could not grow old together.


For action steps, solid suggestions, and inspirational encouragement rebuilding your life, check out “100 Must Do’s for the Newly-Divorced, Independent Woman.”


Val’s Story

I’d like to share my personal family experience to further illustrate the point of this article: you can start over later in life. My mother, Val, separated from my Dad when she was 46 after almost 20 years of marriage. He was 66 at the time of divorce. Alcohol played its part as much as the age difference affecting their respective careers. She told me later she cried in the shower every morning for two years while gearing up to make the decision to leave.

She took me (14) and my brother (13) to Sydney, which was about 100kms away from where we were born. She left the government psychologist job she had held for years and stepped into private practice.

Over the years, moving through and beyond her own divorce recovery, Mum built a thriving business, had a Good Housekeeping magazine advice column, and appeared on television as resident psychologist. Mum was a family therapist and marriage therapist. She dealt with many divorces and separations.

As her daughter, I observed how Mum took the bull by the horns after her divorce.  She did meet another man, John, a jazz musician, who moved in to live with us. They traveled together, went to concerts, and generally had an amazing time for five years until he sadly died of cancer. Mum remained single until her death in 2017 at age 83.

Whenever I asked her if she fancied anyone, she said to me, over the years, she’d loved our father and John, and no other man would ever live up to those relationships. On her deathbed, she whispered to me that she loved my father. He had remarried in his late 60s and moved to Sydney to be nearer to us kids. Mum and Dad remained friends over the years until Dad passed at age 78. Mum visited him in his last days.

Starting Over After Divorce at Age 50: Endless Possibilities

If you need to end a marriage, don’t be afraid. You will likely have tried everything. Give it your best shot; that is all that you can do. Your life, God willing, will take a new path (spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically) and your experience will matter down the line. Starting over after divorce at 50 is not only possible, but can be highly transformative.

Here are four important things I want to remind you of:

  • It is never too late to start again.
  • Trust yourself. You can handle anything, as Lisa says.
  • Your work and a good support group can be constants amongst the big changes.
  • Love never completely dies.

Notes

Sarah Newton-John is a copy editor and proofreader by trade and someone who also enjoys writing. She is an Australian living in Spain since 2018 with her partner, two dogs, three chooks, and a cat. You can connect with Sarah here: sarahnewtonjohn@hotmail.com.

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

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

How to Separate from Your Spouse While Living Together

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

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

Even not choosing is choosing.

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

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

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


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


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

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

And everyone needs to follow them.

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

The irony?

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

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

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

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


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


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

The Benefits of Separation

Let’s talk about legality for a moment.

Separation can serve a variety of purposes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


  • Be clear about the purpose of this separation.

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

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

    Will you be attending marriage counseling together? Individual therapy?

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

  • Set a starting and ending date.

    Dates are important for a couple of reasons.

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

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

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

  • Separate your sleeping spaces.

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

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

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

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

  • Separate your finances.

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

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

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

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

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


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


  • Establish clear boundaries around everything.

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

    Who will be responsible for what chores and what expenses?

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

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

    How are we going to handle the kids’ functions?

    Who can know about our separation?

  • Establish custodial guidelines for caring for children.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


It’s natural to wonder.

“Will Your Marital Separation Lead to a Divorce?”

Read more to understand where you’re at.


  • Respect the rules.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    You can always come back together to change them.

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

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

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


Join us for Annie’s Group. 

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

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

Discover more about Annie here.

New names for your Ex

What’s a New Name for Your Ex? A Cathartic Comedy

They say it’s hard to know what to buy for someone who has everything. By the same token, it’s hard to know what to call a spouse whose exit from our daily lives and those of our children seems to shatter everything. Sometimes, though, it’s gleefully easy to call your Ex any number of names.

But few are terms we want kids to repeat. 

Ah, “The Ex”—surely this single term couldn’t do justice. 

And “Was-band” falls rather flat—was he merely a preppy hairband that went out of style?

The “Ex-Man” may once have been our superhero, but he sure isn’t now. The ending of a marriage often throws a live grenade into our homes, dreams for the future, financial reality, emotional equilibrium, and even our sense of self. For a while, when the myriad of emotions we feel after divorce turns to grief and sadness, it can be painful just to say his name. 


If you can only generate curse words about your Ex, another part of you may be wondering, “How Long Does it Take to Get Over a Divorce?”


Sometimes we have to make a heroic effort to drive through that pain and rage, and laughter is one of the best ways to step on the gas. We’re not suggesting that every new name you might want to give the Ex should bubble with laughter or even have the angry stink of brimstone about it. 

Expletives of the Sh**head, D***head, and As*hole variety may let off steam but most of us realize that these don’t land well on younger psyches or in many professional settings. 

Aside from that, even a good cursing can get a little stale. Overuse of ugly words muffles the punch of the best potty-mouthing. Similarly, the same old words for the Ex lack some imagination.


If you need to hit pause here because you are thinking about how you’ll heal, consider reading: “46 Steps to Your Divorce Recovery: A Definition and a Guide.”


So, allow us to offer some suggestions for your Ex’s new name.

“Ex of a Lower Caliber”

Excalibur was the magical sword King Arthur pulled from the stone, proving his right to rule England. (Yeah… the entitlement and phallic compensation issues here are jaw-dropping). We’ll just let the macho ramifications of ye olde tale lie for now. For our purposes, the point of that sword is to cut the Ex down to size so the pieces of a life that divorce leaves us with are a little easier to digest. But do we really need a sword-like tongue to do that? Of course not.

He’s just not that glorious, and we don’t need to give away that much of our power. But there are the Exes who have been abusive, condescending, controlling, who have lied or cheated or hurt our children. Sometimes there are Exes who are just run-of-the-mill selfish jerks. Ex of a Lower Caliber is an elegant new name for that kind of Ex that puts the point right where it belongs and skewers an over-weaning ego.

(Perhaps we’ll just call him Pen-knife.)

“Dirty Dish Distributor” (“DDD”, a.k.a. “Triple D”)

Another dirty little secret from my store of personal memories involves my Ex Man’s near-pathological aversion to doing dishes—whether it was washing, rinsing, or putting them into the dishwasher. It didn’t matter who cooked; he just resisted any tidying process. So, one day, I was deep-cleaning the kitchen and I got up on a stepladder so I could scrub the top of the fridge.

Lo and behold, there were three dirty plates up there, absolutely fossilized with old food and sporting some very interesting mold growth. Knowing the top of the fridge was well out of my 5’2” line of sight, Triple D just slid his plates up there so I wouldn’t see them and then ask him to rinse and put them in the dishwasher. Out of sight, out of mind, off the to-do list. It was such five-year-old behavior that I actually got a kick out of it and laughed instead of losing my mind, but the cumulative effect of his slobbiness was difficult to be Zen about all the time.


Appreciate that you are not alone. There are legions of women like you. Consider reading our “Life After Gray Divorce: What Women Must Know.”


“Gametes Guy”

Gamey for short, this is a higher-browed twist on the Baby Daddy term. A little less crude than Sperm Donor and a little more tart than Father of My Children, Gametes Guy (or Gamey) is for those occasions when you feel more like a lemon-tongued shrew than a sugar bowl.

“Cicerone of the Cerebral-Rectal Inversion”

To put it bluntly, this Ex has his head so far up his own ass he could teach seminars on how to walk that way.

“Ever-Right”

It may take a while to realize it, but eventually, it becomes clear that the Ever-Rights of the Ex variety are nearly impossible to work or grow with. Relationships by nature require a give-and-take of responsibility for our myriad behaviors that can be hurtful or unfair to the people in our lives.

Beyond the control freaky power play of never being wrong, the more serious result of this type of Ex is that they often only take responsibility for their behavior if it’s their idea to do so, which also means they are in a chronic state of condescension. Additionally, whatever your observations are of them will only be seen as defensiveness or an egregious wounding. Gaslighters, whether they are conscious of it or not, are often Ever-Right.


If you are coparenting with this type of an Ex, or a version like him, you may well benefit from reading “41 Things to Remember if You are Coparenting with a Narcissist.”


“De-Manifestation”

This one is pretty self-explanatory. If we can manifest anything with what we believe in and visualize, then we can de-Manifest the Ex.

Not the Silver Fox, “The Silverback”

The male silverback gorilla marks his jungle territory one mangled banana tree at a time, swaggering through the foliage, ripping off leaves and branches and flinging them aside as he goes. The male human, of the subspecies Slobbus Gigantica, marks his territory by entering the family dwelling, shedding clothing, coins and shoes as he goes and leaving them wherever they fall—tabletops, counters, the middle of the living room floor, the back of the toilet or the back of the dog. 

The silverback gorilla’s activity probably helps cut a path through the brush for the smaller members of his troop and other jungle-dwelling animals and facilitates biological diversity by allowing sunlight down to the plants and organisms of the forest floor.

The human male Silverback? His behavior is just a bother.

“Massengil Man”

No Marlboro Man, this Ex is the intimate vinegar rinse of Exes, the douche (yes, I said it) who throws off all kinds of balances, not just one’s pH.  

“The Void Droid”

A humorous name for a sad and exhausting relationship dynamic, the Ex who is a Void Droid is someone who you poured cheerleading, positive feedback, patience, communication skills, and encouragement into.

You listened for longer than you had the energy for and listened some more. And none of it healed them, made them happy, or came back to you in a balanced exchange of love. The Void Droid is an emotional drain, a vacuum. 

We can also become a Void Droid ourselves if we begin obsessively counting our love pennies, chronically seeking a return on every gift of our attention. If we seek validation, gratitude, and “in-kind” giving and measure every loving exchange against what we think it “should be,” then we go a long way to taking back the gifts we give.

It doesn’t mean we don’t all deserve to be appreciated, seen, and validated, but if we take a transactional view of every relationship and seek an emotional return from every effort, we, too, become the Void Droid.

“Chappaquick-d**k”

Yes, I’ve gone ahead and gone there. This name for the Ex is only allowed if he was a premature ejaculator, a selfish lover, AND a horrible person (that’s the rule for saying something this personally revealing about an Ex; he has to be an Ex of a Lower Caliber, a Massengil Man of Epic Proportions). After all, it’s pretty malicious.

Chappaquick-d*%k is a horrifyingly mean yet fun name to toss out over several glasses of wine with your girlfriends. And when it comes to an abusive Ex, finding ways to laugh about him diffuses his power and helps to shrink the lingering fear of him down to a manageable size.


If your spouse is very much in your rear-view mirror (or at least, getting there), keep moving and check out “100 Must Do’s for the Newly Independent Woman!”


“The Previous Chapter” (“Chap”, or “Chappy”):

We shall end with The Previous Chapter, a.k.a. Chap or Chappy, because we need a new name for the Ex that is short, kind, or at least neutral, and also illustrative of the fact that though this marriage is over, our own story continues.

And the next chapter is EXCELLENT.

 

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

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

 



We want to hear from you! 

SAS Invites YOU to coin a new, honorable name for your Ex

We are inviting our readers to suggest healthy, creative name(s) for one’s former spouse, and/or father of one’s children. 

This name must imply that YOU are beyond the name-calling of your last chapter. You are taking the high road and this title/name for your EX has no sting to it. It’s a title that suggests you have healed from your story and that you are now in a place to reframe what you call this former partner.

Send your suggestions to liza@sasforwomen or comment below.

We will award the winning contributor whose name for her Ex we like with a complimentary, 1-hour scholarship, coaching session on the topic/issue of her choice!

 

 

 

stop gaslighting yourself

5 Self-Saving Ways to Stop Gaslighting Yourself

Ahh, the gaslighters of the world! They brighten or dampen the flame according to their own agenda and leave their targets rubbing their eyes and wondering… what just happened? It’s subtle at times, egregiously blatant at others. But it’s always a twisted manipulation that makes you second-guess yourself. And, once you’ve become accustomed to doubting yourself, courtesy of others, you start gaslighting yourself.

Gaslighting is an emotionally abusive, insidious tactic used to make another person question their feelings, memory, reality, and sanity.

The name comes from a 1938 play and then a 1940 movie called Gas Light

In a devious plot to have his wife committed to a mental institution, a husband plays with his wife’s mind. Every night he dims the gas lights a little more, then questions his wife’s sanity when she notices the subtle changes.

This kind of manipulation continues—all intended to make his wife think she is going crazy. He brings other people into the manipulation, as well, so his wife becomes surrounded by skeptics and critics.

His endgame?

To steal his wife’s inheritance.


If you are thinking about divorce, and don’t know what steps to take, fearing you may take wrong ones, feel anchored and read our popular “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.”


Today the term gaslighting is used to describe the creepy, narcissistic, sociopathic, conscienceless, entitled, lying method of making another person self-doubt.

It’s a power-play.

Gaslighter’s Tactics

The gaslighter will use any number of tactics in a passive-aggressive way to plant the seed of insanity in a target. Common phrases a victim will become accustomed to hearing include:

  • “I never said that!”
  • “That’s not what happened at all!”
  • “Your ‘proof’ is fabricated.”
  • “What are you talking about?”
  • “It’s all your fault! This wouldn’t have happened if you had/hadn’t….”
  • “You’re too sensitive!”
  • “No, you’re overreacting.”
  • “You’re obviously tired.”
  • “Have you been drinking?”
  • “Even your friends are starting to ask questions.”
  • “How could you possibly forget that?”

The gaslighter may even go so far as to change the victim’s environment to instill doubt about her memory.

And lying, whether directly or indirectly, is always at the heart of gaslighting…

…even when you are gaslighting yourself.

But why would you do something so awful to yourself? And how can you even do something like that when you “know” the truth?

The key to understanding gaslighting is its insidious pervasiveness. It’s not a one-and-out occurrence that would otherwise lead you to simply “block” someone from ever having contact with you again.


Understand more about the many shades of abuse. Read “Leaving an Abusive Marriage? There are Steps to Take First.”


Gaslighting works drop by drop, one oddity and one questioning head tilt at a time.

What does this have to do with relationships and divorce?

Possibly everything.

Gaslighting and Divorce

We have all witnessed more than a tolerable amount of gaslighting in politics, and most recently in war and divorce, which can be its own kind of war, can have more than its share.

If your husband routinely ignores or even criticizes your feelings, you may have started doing the same to yourself.

“Hmm. Maybe I am too sensitive. Maybe I did overreact and he’s right – I expect too much, complain too much, ‘feel’ too much. Yes, maybe my memory is starting to go.”

“Maybe I need help.”

And voilá! Suddenly you—the one who would never talk to your spouse or a friend that way—are gaslighting yourself.

Suddenly you are questioning your own feelings and responses, suppressing your thoughts, becoming self-critical, or doubting your own reality.

If you have been living in an unhappy or even abusive marriage, you may now be overthinking when to leave your husband

You may not trust yourself to make that kind of decision. After all, you’re the one who’s at fault, right?

Wrong.

And nothing is more important than getting real… about what is real.

Here are five suggestions for how to stop gaslighting yourself.

  • Ask yourself, “What would I say to a friend if I heard her talking to herself this way?”

    Why is it that we give ourselves license to be unkind to ourselves in ways we would never be with anyone else?

    Would you ever speak to a loved one in a way that made her doubt herself, not like herself, not trust her own experiences?

    So why do you think it’s OK to run those negative tapes in your own mind?

    The fact that you’re “speaking” them internally doesn’t make them any less damning. On the contrary, it’s the internalized, subconscious tapes that do the most damage.

  • Dig deep and ask whose opinion this really belongs to.

    If you have unknowingly eased into the practice of gaslighting yourself, take the time to do some personal-history sleuthing.

    Who has instilled in you the notion that you can’t trust your own perceptions, opinions, preferences, experiences, and memories?

    Did it start in childhood and therefore feel “natural” in your married life?

    Did a parent disapprove of who you were and what you did, and steer you away from self-confidence?

    Did your husband berate your feelings, responses, needs, and complaints? Or did he chisel away at your sense of self and gradually subordinate you to his own wants?

    The objective here is to stop owning what doesn’t belong to you!

  • Step away from your thoughts and see them as their own entities.

    Thoughts, after all, are “things.” They are not your identity or the source of your worth.

    They carry great power to influence your feelings and shape your behavior. But they are also under your authority.

    When you recognize a negative thought creeping up or silencing an otherwise natural, healthy expression, pause.

    Acknowledge this thought as a visitor knocking on your door. “There it is again!”

    Do you let it in or shoo it away? (You don’t, after all, have an open-door policy…do you?)

  • Give yourself the grace of a balanced point of view.

    The difference between gaslighting and not gaslighting yourself doesn’t lie in perfection.

    The abusers in your life may have taught you differently (despite their own glaring imperfections) but being human doesn’t forfeit your reality.

    It’s healthy to examine your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

    It’s healthy to recognize when and how you can do better.

    It’s also healthy to be able to laugh at your mistakes and to know and accept your strengths and weaknesses.

  • Speak to yourself with externalizing affirmations.

    In order to stop gaslighting yourself, you have to recognize when the gaslighting is happening – both externally and internally.

    Slow down. Hit pause. Don’t “open the door” to your uninvited thoughts.

    When someone says, “You’re too sensitive,” for example, you have a choice.

    You can automatically fold and tell yourself, “Gosh, y’know, you really are too sensitive. Get a backbone. And next time, don’t say anything.”

    Or you can tell yourself, “I know what I heard. And I know what I felt when I heard it. I’m entitled to my feelings. If this person doesn’t want to discuss how we can better communicate in the future, that’s not my problem.”

    Your feelings are as worthy as anyone else’s.

    Your reality is as worthy as anyone else’s. 

Relationships can (and should be) a safe haven – physically, emotionally, spiritually. They provide, ideally, a reflective context for honest expression, growth, and healing.


Consider reading, “27 Cautionary Signs You are in a Toxic Marriage.”


Unfortunately, abusive tactics like gaslighting undermine that potential. Instead of healing, they destroy. They create a war zone within intimate, isolated spaces.

Knowing the signs of gaslighting from others is the first step toward recognizing when you are gaslighting yourself.

And recognition is the first step in healing.

 

Notes

How to stop gaslighting yourself?

In two words. 

Annie’s Group.

Learn what is possible for your life. 

 

Amicable Divorce

What is an Amicable Divorce? 5 Ways to Ensure One

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

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

What Is an Amicable Divorce?

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

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

Several Approaches to an Amicable Divorce

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

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

Let’s take a closer look at each option.

Uncontested Divorce

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


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


Collaborative Divorce

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

Mediation Divorce

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


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


Do It Yourself (DIY) Divorce

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


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


Therapist Counseling

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

5 Tips on How to Navigate an Amicable Divorce

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

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

#1. Get qualified assistance if you need one

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

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

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

#2. Keep your expectations realistic

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

#4. Focus on your child’s needs

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

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

Surviving an Affair

The Stages of Surviving An Affair

Relationships can be complicated. At the very least, they’re complex because people are complex. And at no time is that more evident than when a married couple is in the throes of surviving an affair. This includes opposing sides of the betrayal, and a possible re-negotiation of commitment to the marriage.

Infidelity used to be largely a man’s game. And wives were often tolerant while suffering in silence, mainly because they had to be. Wives of yesteryear often relied financially on their husbands, keeping them trapped in these types of unhealthy marriages.

But the surge of women entering the workforce from the 1960s on, coupled with the feminist movement, changed things.

Gradually, the dynamics of relationships, marriage, and even infidelity began to shift. Women were now on the same playing field as men, at least physically, and they were exposed to the same “opportunities.”

Statistics on affairs vary, in part because research relies largely on self-disclosure. But they all huddle close enough to drive home an important trend: Infidelity is no longer just a man’s game. (Check out, “The Cheating Wife Phenomenon”.)

One study found that 15% of women and 25% of men had cheated on their spouses. And that number doesn’t include “emotional affairs” that don’t involve physical cheating.

So what are your chances of surviving an affair if you fall into these statistics? 

Whether you are the betrayed or the betrayer, can you put the pieces of your marriage back together? And, if so, how?

First of all, the short answer is yes. Infidelity is survivable. Couples prove that every day.

But how they survive it—and how their marriages look on the other side—well, that’s really why you’re here, right?

If you are the betrayed, you will undoubtedly spend a lot of time lamenting “should you stay or should you go?”

Even if you are the cheating spouse, you may anguish over the same question, but for different reasons.

After the initial shock of discovery or disclosure calms, there is the opportunity for clarity. And no good decision is ever made without clarity.

If you have hopes of your marriage surviving an affair, be prepared to go through a series of stages—difficult, painful, excavating, exhausting stages.

  • Discovery or disclosure

    There is always that unforgettable moment. A cheater gets lazy with the lies, a spouse gets suspicious or accidentally stumbles upon evidence, or there’s a confession.

    Whether you’re the one left in shock or the one left in shame, this moment is the beginning of a long road ahead.

  • Emotional overwhelm

    If you’re the betrayed spouse, and even if you’ve been giving a cold shoulder to your suspicions, learning the truth is emotional.

    You will feel to a degree that may seem unforgivable. Shock, devastation, sadness, hurt, anger, loss—they will all flood in and jockey for position.


Consider reading, “How to Survive Divorce. Especially if It’s Not What You Want.”


The important takeaway of this stage, at least for the sake of surviving an affair, is that now is not the time to make any major decisions.

  • Stopping the affair

    One thing absolutely must happen if your marriage is going to survive this infidelity: The affair has to stop. Completely. No “kind-of,” “just friends,” or “sneaking around.” The ultimatum must happen.

    As logical as this may sound, it’s not necessarily a no-brainer for the cheating spouse.

    Depending on the degree of involvement with the affair partner, a “one-night stand” cut-off may not be so simple.

    After all, the affair partner is a person, too, despite the indiscretion. And the cheating spouse may be vested in that relationship beyond just the sex.

    But your marriage can’t proceed with healing unless there is the confidence of no other relationship existing in the background.

  • Grief

    It’s an inevitable passage through any loss, and it doesn’t ask permission. Grief will happen, whether or not you welcome it.

    As difficult as it is to believe, your grief and all that you are experiencing in terms of emotions will be easier to survive if you recognize, acknowledge, and embrace them.

    Why is that important to know upfront?

    Because grief isn’t linear. It gives the stage to whatever needs the spotlight at the moment: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.


Grief may not be what you think it is. Learn more. Read “Divorce Grief and 3 Myths.”   


Some theories include pain and guilt before anger and depression, loneliness, and reflection after.

The relevance of grief to surviving an affair? You are saying goodbye to your marriage as you remembered it and hoped it would be.

  • Discussing the affair and your marriage

    This is the long, drawn-out, painful, exhausting stage of surviving an affair, and it’s best done with professional guidance.

    There will be the obvious need for the cheater to answer slews of questions.

    There will also be the need for the betrayed spouse to balance what is necessary to know and what is really about wanting to know.

    The importance of this stage isn’t limited to discussion of the affair, however. This is the time when you will be dissecting your marriage, too.

    While there is never a good excuse that gives license to cheating, affairs don’t exist in a vacuum.

    If you are going to go forward with and safeguard your marriage, you will both have to be fearless in examining your marriage.

    How and where was it vulnerable? What negatives have you brought to it? What positives have you withheld?

    Both of you are going to have to step up and take responsibility for your marriage – past, present, and future.

    A therapist, husband-wife therapist team, or a coach that specializes in marriage and infidelity can be a lifeline throughout your post-affair process. You really shouldn’t DIY such a critical journey.

  • Acceptance

    After the shock has worn off and you are entrenched in the work of repair, you will move into acceptance.

    This isn’t about accepting infidelity as “OK.”

    It’s simply about accepting the fact that your marriage, like millions of others, has experienced it.

    And the relationship you are working on now will be “new,” as it will reflect the choices, lessons, and pain of this experience.

  • Reconnection.

    When you reach this point in surviving an affair, you may look back and marvel at what your relationship has accomplished.

    This is the stage of truly living again.

    You have already accepted that your marriage will never be the same as it was before the affair.

    But you have done the work and earned the right to say, “That’s a good thing.”

Surviving an affair isn’t simple or formulaic, despite the stages presented to help you through it.

It also isn’t easy. At all.

To the contrary.

And not all couples survive it…or should.

Only you and your spouse truly know if there is something worth fighting for…

…and something worth forgiving.

Notes

Choose not to go it alone.

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

Divorce Checklist for the Modern Woman

The 55 Must Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist

Once you’ve reached an internal decision to divorce, you probably wonder what the external steps to the process will entail. The truth is that your journey is just beginning, and in order to determine the best possible outcomes, you’ll want to be educated and prepared. You may find yourself exhausted searching the internet for answers, only to feel more confused than when you began. We understand this, which is why, drawing from our decade-long, divorce coaching practice, we’ve compiled our most thorough divorce checklist to help you stay focused on what’s important.

A few critical reminders before we get started: Never threaten divorce unless you are ready and organized to file. While you may be anxious to get started with your new life, it’s important that you hold off on filing until after you’ve worked through some of the important frameworks we outline below.

Also, if you have had a divorce thrown at you, do not agree to anything until you are legally informed of your rights and entitlements. Chances are your spouse has been planning this for a long time and you deserve time too to catch up with how things will be split and what is fair for you.  Do not be pressured into agreeing to anything. This is most often a tactic on your spouse’s part to ensure the process takes place fast and before you can advocate for your rights.

Most importantly, do not begin with the list below if you are dealing with abuse. Instead, read our safety guidelines for leaving an abusive marriage. There are other, critical steps to take first.

For those ready to begin the work of getting educated and putting their plan into action, here is a holistic approach to supporting you — and the smart steps to take. Here are your 52 Must-Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist.

Your first black and white steps…

1. Begin by getting a free credit report.

You’ll want to check it for any errors or open accounts that you may not know about. This will also prompt you to start paying attention to your credit score. You’ll want a good credit score, or work on nurturing one, so you can rent an apartment, qualify for a mortgage, or begin the process of establishing your personal financial identity. You can get a copy of your free, current credit report from Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion.

2. Open a checking and savings account in your name at a new bank. 

Go to a bank that you and your spouse don’t currently use (—think fresh starts, so there’s no risk of any confusion between names and accounts). We also recommend you use a large institutional bank so you take advantage of the bank’s various complimentary services and professionals who can help you establish your independence, like mortgage specialists or certified divorce financial analysts and planners.

3. Open a credit card in your name alone.

This is another step toward building your personal credit. Research the best credit card for your lifestyle. Consider one that pays you back with cash toward your statement or cash to your savings.

4. Make a list of all your assets: everything you OWN individually and as a couple.

Don’t forget less obvious things like airline miles, perks, or reward points, and make sure you include any inheritances from before and during the marriage.

  • You will want to collect the latest statement for each asset and record account numbers.
  • Photocopy or use your phone’s camera to record documents that are not in your possession.

5. Make a list of your debt: everything you OWE individually and as a couple.

Don’t forget school loans and personal loans, and a list of anyone who owes you money, how much they owe you, and when they’re supposed to pay you back.

  • Gather a current statement on the debt and a statement from the time of the separation (if it’s already happened.)
  • Photocopy or use your phone’s camera to record documents that are not in your possession.

6. Track what is happening to marital debt.

According to divorce law in most states, you and your spouse are responsible for one another’s debt. You’ll want to lessen this potential burden.

  • Be on the alert if your spouse is spending recklessly. (You can put notifications on your accounts for any high spends or withdrawals.)
  • If this happens, talk to a lawyer right away about legal steps you can take to limit your responsibility. (See step #19.)

7. Gather the past three years’ tax returns.

If you can’t get your hands on yours, contact the IRS for your transcripts or report (the latter costs but it’s what a lawyer would rather evaluate). And be careful with the IRS mailing the reports to your legal home address. Will your spouse get the mail first?

If you cannot access the financial documents, it’s not unusual. When you meet with the lawyer to discuss your circumstances (see below), you will share what you do know and ask the lawyer what happens when one spouse does not know anything about the finances in a divorce. (It’s more common than you think!)

8. Collect passwords to all financial accounts if you can access them.

You may need to access information in your financial accounts, so you’ll want to be sure you have passwords on hand.

9. Create or contribute more to your Emergency Fund. 

An emergency fund is something you need throughout your life, but as you stand at this crossroads now, save cash by putting it to the side. You never know if you may have to reach for it in a hurry.

10. If You are a Stay-at-Home Mom (SAHM) Make Sure Your Emergency Fund Has 3 Months of Financial Reserves.

If you are the spouse with limited access to resources, make sure you have sufficient money saved to pay for three months of expenses. It’s not uncommon that the monied spouse will cut off the non-monied spouse financially during a divorce. (When you talk to a lawyer one of the questions you will ask about is temporary spousal support. (See #19.)

11. Write down your financial and non-financial contributions to the marriage.

Some contributions may be legally relevant and especially helpful to you.

Are there more documents you could organize as you head into divorce? Probably yes, but there’s no need to get ahead of yourself and do potentially needless work. So, wait. Unless a lawyer tells you otherwise, there are other things to tend to.

Practical To-Do’s on Your Divorce Checklist

12. Create a new dedicated email address for the divorce subject. 

Make sure all your communications on the subject go to this email address alone. This makes things easier to keep organized and lessens your chance of being compromised by your spouse.

13. Consider the technology set up in your home and exercise caution.

While using a secret email address is recommended, it is not a full-proof method of keeping your communications safe. If, for example, your cell phone and computer system are backed up to a “family cloud” account, whoever controls the account may be able to read phone numbers you call or any text you send.

We suggest that you contact your computer company (like Apple, Dell, etc.) and mobile carrier service (Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, etc.) and talk to a representative to learn if your computer or cell phone could be compromised. We also recommend you ask the representative if there are other measures you could take to digitally protect yourself.

Secure any passwords to shared accounts (especially financial if possible) and your private ones (such as social media accounts). Change all passwords to your private accounts.

14. Maintain privacy on social media.

Do not post anything about your divorce on social media. It could be used against you. Plus, it’s no one’s business but your own.

15. Get a Post Office Box so you can receive important mail to a private safe address.

Give the address to your lawyer. If you can’t afford a PO Box ask a friend or family member if you can have your lawyer send information to their home.


If you’re not ready to act but really, only in the “contemplating” divorce stage, you’ll want to understand what you could be doing instead of just pondering and pondering. For healthy and smart steps to take,  read our “36 Things to Do If You Are Thinking About Divorce.”


Clarify Who You Want to Be Through this Crisis

16. Early on, choose who you want to be as you go through the divorce. 

This will help you remain civil and treat your spouse with respect. If your spouse is the father of your children, remember you still have many important moments and milestones in your future together—birthdays, graduations, weddings, reunions, and funerals. Trying to do the right thing now and throughout the process may not change your spouse’s behavior, but it will set a powerful example to your children who are watching and wondering how it will shake out.

17. If you have kids, keep them in your focus

The best person you can be will also be in alignment with keeping your kids (if you have them) front and center. If you are committed to going through the divorce in the healthiest way for them, it will mean doing what is also healthiest for youbecause they need a mama who is healthy and strong and thriving. (Are you now? No, we know.)

For you to discover what the healthiest way is, it will require your getting educated and putting your ducks in a row (and not just cracking and announcing you want a divorce!). This is why you are here reading this list, and are ready for more. You’ve organized documents and started taking black and white steps, and now, you’ve checked in with who you want to be. 

Remind yourself, that person may be scared, but that person is strong.

Now you’ll learn about the law, your financial choices, how to talk to your spouse, and how to decide on parenting issues. You want to do all this if possible before you talk with your children. (Do not involve the children in your decisions making or encourage them to take sides. That is not fair. Your kids are not adults (even if they act it) and should not be burdened with your adult decisions.) 

What’s most important to know about your kids today, and moving forward, is that the way you and your spouse break up (the degree of or lack of acrimony), and the long-term relationship you and your coparent have is what will determine the long term effect of the divorce on your kids. You’ll want to do your best to negotiate everything fairly with him* so you lessen the risk of emotional problems for them down the road. To know what’s fair it’s going to require your doing the work on this page. 

And if you are divorcing a narcissist, this blog post in particular may help you stand straight as you face oncoming days: 41 Things to Remember If You are Coparenting with a Narcissist.

18. Identify who is going to help you through your divorce. Whom can you trust?

Certainly, you’ll consult with a divorce lawyer to learn your rights (see #19), but beyond the legal or financial decisions, you’ll want someone who can give you perspective, help you problem-solve, hold space for you to be emotional or however you need to be – in confidentiality. Do you have a good friend who has both survived and healed from their divorce? Be careful of friends and family who mean well, but who can’t help sometimes leading with judgment.

Many find the objective and professional support of a therapist or coach to be the best, and in particular, a professional who is experienced with supporting people going through and recovering from divorce. If you are looking for a community with holistic support (that is guidance with the practical, legal, financial and emotional things you must navigate), consider an all-female educational and coaching program like Annie’s Group.

Legal Steps

19. Understand the value of a divorce lawyer.

No state requires you to use a lawyer for your divorce but it makes sense to protect your rights and interests. Chances are that neither you nor your spouse is a divorce attorney and when it comes to the many things that must be legally handled in a divorce, you don’t know what you don’t know.

For instance, you probably don’t realize that many divorce laws are designed to protect women and children. Which is why, this is not a time to be cheap with your life, nor trust what your spouse is telling you. While hiring an attorney will cost money, it may very well save you money and stress down the road. According to the research, recovering economically from divorce is usually harder for women than it is for men. This further reinforces what we know in our divorce coaching practice: if you are a woman, and especially a mother, you cannot afford to make mistakes with this financial negotiation.

20. Identify a local divorce attorney in your state (because divorce law varies from state to state), and schedule a consultation to hear what your rights are.

In this meeting you’ll learn what you are entitled to, and what the law would say about your specific circumstances and questions. Do not rely on what your spouse says. Do not rely on what your neighbor says. Do not rely on what the gang says in your Facebook Group. And be especially careful if your spouse tells you not to contact a lawyer or that you and he can “do this on your own.”

No. Talk to a divorce lawyer, also called a family law or matrimonial attorney. And many of them give free consultations todayso do some research to save yourself. You are worth it.

You can find a lawyer by consulting legal directories such as Avvo.com or Martindale-Hubbel.

21. Before the meeting, organize and prioritize your legal questions about the divorce, and gather 3 years of tax returns.

Your primary agenda for this first meeting with a lawyer is to get answers to your questions and to understand what type of divorce you might be facing. You will want to know what the divorce laws in your state say about how you and your spouse will split assets and debt (which depends on whether you are in a community property state or equitable distribution state); and how the custody of your children will be determined (if you have them). You will also ask specific questions that are weighing on you.

22. We recommend you ask a lawyer about these issues as well

  • Ask the lawyer to explain alimony or spousal support to you, and then if it’s appropriate for your story, your best and worst-case scenarios for this support (especially if you’ve been out of the workforce).

Consider reading:

  • Discuss “temporary spousal support” and how it works, if you have special circumstances that prevent you from working, like your health or caring for a young or special needs child. You may need access to money while the divorce is pending and if your spouse is not willing, the court may have to order your spouse to provide it.
  • Leaving the house: can you leave the marital home with the children or ask him to leave once you announce the divorce? What are important things to know so your actions are not used against you in the divorce?
  • If you are the one who is initiating the divorce, talk to a lawyer about finding a place to live BEFORE you file. How can you afford a place? Or, what are the steps you must put in place to minimize the time you must continue to live together as a couple?

For other questions to ask a lawyer, visit our “Questions to Ask a Divorce Attorney“.


23. When you meet with the attorney, bring these things, so you get specific answers to your questions and fears:

1) Your legal questions, 2) three years of tax returns and 3) the list of your assets and debt. 4) You can also bring a friend or family member for support, but let the lawyer know beforehand so they can discuss confidentiality with you.

In the meeting with the lawyer, try to get your most important questions answered (that’s why you’ve prioritized them). But don’t despair if you don’t get ALL your questions answers. And do expect to walk out with new questions.

24. After meeting with a lawyer, evaluate the lawyer.

Was it someone who made you feel heard and protected? Could you work with them? Record your impressions and what you learned.

Try to meet with a total of three lawyers, if within your budget. Each lawyer will have different perspectives to your situation and the more you talk, the more you’ll learn about your options and how’ll you want to do this.

25. Then understand the different types of divorce.

Among them are DIY, traditional litigation, mediation, or collaborative approach, and think about which method is best for your story. Is it likely you can resolve matters without court? (You’ll want to understand the difference between an uncontested and contested divorce.) Will your spouse ultimately comply? Decide on which method you’d like to use to divorce and if any lawyer you met with, can help you.

26. If you use a lawyer, know that the lawyer works for younot your spouse.

If you do decide to hire a lawyer, to help you with your Statement of Net Worth or to review your Marital Separation Agreement (MSA) or to represent you in the divorce, you will have to use your own attorney. You and your spouse cannot share one, no matter what your spouse says. Divorce attorneys cannot represent both spouses. That would be a conflict of interest.

27. Let your lawyer know if you will want to change your name (back to your maiden name or something else?) after the divorce.

This will not be done officially until after the divorce is completed (see #51), but it’s good if the lawyer knows this is what you will want.

28. If you need perspective on how to find a lawyer or the right legal process for you, what to ask, what to do next, connect with a divorce coach who does this kind of work routinely.

An extra boon is that most divorce coaches give free consultations because they need to demonstrate what they do and how they can help.  Find one.

Before you move forward with speaking with your spouse about the divorce, we urge you to complete the important, additional steps below.

Financial Feedback Divorce Checklist

29. Determine who your Go-To Financial Person is for the Divorce.

We recommend you not rely simply on a lawyer to determine how things will be split, but to also learn what would be in your best financial interest long term. This requires a financial person skilled with understanding how divorce works.

Ideally, you’ll want to get this financial feedback AFTER you’ve heard the big legal issues in your divorce and BEFORE you announce a divorce or before you respond to your spouse’s request that you get divorced.

You can find this financial advisor at your bank or consult a CDFA. If you cannot afford to consult with one privately you might connect with SAVVY Ladies, a financial nonprofit dedicated to assisting women.

30. Ask a Financial Person these 7 Important Questions

  • What are the best things to optimize in the divorce given your age, skillset, and career options?
  • What is the best financial move for you regarding the marital home? (Should you try to keep it, give it to your spouse, sell it, hold onto it for a certain time, etc.)
  • What do you do with living together while divorcing? What can you afford? Many divorcing couples can’t afford to pay two mortgages or double rent and instead decide to stay in the same home throughout the divorce. For tips on surviving this particular purgatory, read “Women Share How to Survive Living Together During Divorce.
  • If you are leaving the family home, what is your expected budget for renting, or home-owning in the future? Consider your current living expenses and ask for help budgeting what you will need in the future.
  • What are specific financial needs regarding your children and how do you best ensure they be met? You may want to make sure 529 College Savings Plans are created or continue to be contributed to by both spouses? Or do you have a child with special needs who will need long-term financial attention?
  • What do you need to make as income in your future chapter? Consider reading “What Divorce Does to a Woman: You and Your Money.”
  • What is the financial advisor’s perspective on your securing health insurance?

31. Consult with a Real Estate Professional:

Learn the value of your house, what it would sell for in this market, what your options are for housing if you need to move. You can begin by consulting Zillow. But it’s usually in your interest to move beyond the internet with all things divorce and hear specific feedback about your story, your house, its issues, and its pluses.

32. Resolve your health insurance issue.

You’ve talked to the financial person about health insurance. Continue to explore what you will do, if you depend on your spouse’s insurance or he relies on you. There is COBRA to investigate, which is a federal law about health insurance. There is also the Affordable Healthcare Act, sometimes known as ACA, PPACA, or “Obamacare”.

By using its exchange, no matter what state you live in, you can enroll in affordable, quality health coverage. Visit Healthcare.gov to find the link to your state and to evaluate your options. You can also speak to a representative who can advise you. And know, that though the platform or the “Exchange” as it’s called, has a specific enrollment period, you qualify to join at any time of the year if you suddenly divorce or lose your job.

More Smart Moves on Your Divorce Checklist

33. Get a medical exam.

Be sure to take care of any medical issues before you divorce. If there are any hiccups in transferring medical insurance, you’ll want to be sure you’ve already taken care of any regular visits or concerns.

34. Identify and itemize your special possessions: these could be gifts or family heirlooms.

If you need to protect them, hide them, store them, or ask a friend or family member to hold them but make sure you disclose them in any legal documents so your actions cannot be used against you in the divorce.

35. Evaluate what you will need to do with The Move.

Will you be moving or your spouse? Will both of you? You may not want to, or be able to afford to stay in the family home. So this might mean starting to look for apartments ( — consult rentals nearby or AirBnB if you see the solution as temporary), or family and friends you might stay with for a while. This will depend on your financial situation.

If possible, talk to a lawyer about finding a place to live BEFORE you file. It will lessen the pain and stress of living together while getting divorced.

To learn more about moving out and how to go about it, read:

36. Keep a running list of all the documents you need to update once you complete the divorce.

Most legal documents cannot be updated until you have a divorce decree proving a change to your status. These things may include: filing a change of name, changing your will or creating one, or changing beneficiaries on insurance policies.

You can check with your attorney on when you can file changes to these documents.

Talking to Your Spouse and Telling Others

37. Identify your “D Day” and talk to your spouse before telling your kids.

There is never a good time to divorce, but there are better times than others. Look at your family calendar. Consider what’s happening in your children’s lives (are they applying to college? Maybe wait a little bit.) Or perhaps your spouse is up for a promotion, or you are? Evaluate your options and talk to a lawyer (see next step) and financial person about strategy, but after becoming informed and prepared, target a day to speak to your spouse. It could be a soft date, but it’s important to have an end date for ending the pain.

38. Check in with the lawyer you are going to use for the divorce (if you will use one) and discuss when you will file for divorce. 

Consider having “The Talk” with your husband before you tell the lawyer to go ahead “and file” and before your husband is served papers.

39. Plan the Day and “The Talk”

Consider where you will be (we recommend outside, away from home triggers), who will be around (can you arrange for the children to be elsewhere? ), what you will say (keep it simple), how you will do it (state it as simply as possible, be firm and clear but kind. “John, I just can’t keep living like this anymore. I want a divorce.”) Think about how he will respond and all the things he will say, but it doesn’t matter, your truth is your truth. Repeat your line: “John, I just can’t keep living like this anymore. I want a divorce.”

Give your spouse time to process what you’ve said, then discuss with him when and how you will tell the children. Make sure to share with him how it would be good if you both had a plan of how things will go before the children are told. Agree on a date for that and what you will say. This may take some time to allow for your spouse to catch up.

Drill down more by reading …

Parenting Considerations

40. Evaluate the best custody schedules for your family if you have children.

Many people don’t realize they can choose or create the schedules that they think would work best for their familythey don’t have to automatically do what the lawyers suggest.

Research your options and consider your and your spouse’s work routines and your kids’ needs. (Ideally, you are doing this with your spouse.) In general, the family court system will want your children to spend equal time with each parent, which means 50 percent of the time with you and 50 percent of the time with their dad. So, be honest with yourself and know it’s likely your kids will be away from you half the time. Do your best to make it easy on them.

If you don’t think your children should live with their father, make sure you talk to a lawyer about this. Be sure to also ask: “How much will it cost for me to try to get sole physical custody?”

Read this piece for important information: Best Advice on Custody for Divorcing Moms.

41. Make a parenting plan for the interim period until you divorce and for afterward.

This should include not only the parenting schedule but also involve details regarding holidays, important religious celebrations, medical, and educational needs.

42. Use a parenting app and create a detailed list of your children’s needs related to activities, health, schooling, and well-being.

To lessen confusion, stress, and direct contact, consider using a parenting app to keep everything organized and easily shared. A neutral tool will streamline your communication and information sharing. We suggest Family Wizard because it’s most often recommended by family courts. It is also the most well-known parenting app.

43. Prepare for what you will say, and tell your children together that you are divorcing or separating.

This is one of the hardest moments if not the hardest moment of the challenge, facing your kids and telling them how their reality is going to change. Discuss with their father what you will say to them in advance, and impress on him how important it is to have a plan to show your kids that there will be structure.

And know you may not be able to rely on their dad to team up with you for this talk.

For support and more steps, read:

44. Line up support for your children.

Tell your children’s schools as soon as you know there will be a divorce and ask for any resources the school may have or recommend. Evaluate therapists who may support your kids individually.  Children deserve a safe space to vent without worrying how it will affect you or your spouse.

Steps Toward Your Next Chapter

45. Take steps to separate your lives.

Begin separating how you do things and how you live.  Turn to others instead of turning to your spouse.  Are there other accounts you should be opening as you consider moving apart? And where will you live after the divorce? Did you ask the financial advisor what the best play is for you regarding your house or future living arrangements?

46. Think about your employment.

Whether this means going back to work, looking for a side hustle to increase your income, or transitioning to another kind of job, divorce can be a catalyst for our ambition. Yes, divorce can be a good thing. Ask the financial advisor what your expected reality will be for money after the divorce, what you will need to make for income going forward, and what you should be shooting for to contribute to your retirement fund.

47. If you are unemployed and have skills to find a job, your next critical step is to start your job search.

You might consider a career coach who can help you evaluate your strengths, strategize your resume, and organize your search, especially if you’ve been out of the workforce for a long time. Check out iRelaunch for helpful resources, advice and guidance.

Post-Divorce Checklist

It didn’t happen overnight but now you are on the Other Side of divorce. Having arrived here, there are still things to take care of and new things to (excitedly) consider.

48. Make sure all retirement accounts, investment accounts, and monies got transferred over as stipulated by your divorce judgment.

Make sure you’re checking that everything was completed correctly in accordance with your judgment. Prepare to make whatever calls you need to.

49. Change beneficiaries on all your accounts and policies (unless you negotiated otherwise in your divorce).

You may not even remember all of the places you listed your Ex as a beneficiary or emergency contact. Make sure to change or check on these designations.

50. Get a few copies of your divorce decree notarized so you can submit it for official things in the future.

Then file it, baby!

51. Change your name legally if you choose.

Don’t forget your driver’s license, social security card, passport, credit card, and bank account to update. For many accounts, you will need to submit a copy of your signed divorce decree.

52. Change vehicle titles (if appropriate)

Again, what matters is what’s on paper. Even if you physically have the car, you’ll want to make sure it is legally yours and registered to you.

53. Check your credit report again.

Make sure nothing new has happened and you know what your current credit score is.

54. Create a new Will, Power of Attorney, and Healthcare Directive.

So much has changed in your life, and that means your end-of-life plans may be very different as well. Make sure to update these documents with your new preferences to avoid any mistakes once you’re no longer around to advocate for yourself.

55. Make a plan for how you will care for yourself and continue to create your best independent life.

You are not fully healed or completed just because you’ve signed a legal document. But you are in a very different stage than the beginning. You are now working on your divorce recovery. Critical to this recovery plan is identifying the right people you will surround yourself with going forward.

Read 100 Must Do’s for the Newly Divorced, Independent Woman.

For many, finding other women who understand what they are going through and what they have been through as with a divorce recovery group for women, can have a huge impact on one’s individual healing. Surrounded by others who “get it” can help you feel saner, provide calm and give you a much-needed perspective on your own story. With the right people, you’ll be able to speak honestly and authentically. You’ll even be able to share some much-needed laughs that others who haven’t been down this road (—sorry, Ozzie and Harriet) simply will never understand.

Closing Thoughts

Divorce is challenging. It’s a life crisis. But by compiling this divorce checklist and putting the items in one place with suggested sequencing, our goal is to slow things down and guide you as you get informed logically and healthily. In doing this we hope to lessen the overwhelm that naturally accompanies this crisis. Even so, this checklist may require multiple read-throughs depending on where you are in your process. If it’s too much to nail down all of these moving parts in one fell swoop or two (very likely) then simply save or bookmark our checklist somewhere safe for you to return to throughout your journey.

You will get through this. Breathe, and stay committed to you.

 

Notes

Whether you are thinking about divorce, dealing with it, or recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oftentimes complicated experience of breaking up and reinventing. 

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

 

* At SAS, we support same-sex marriages. For the sake of ease, we may refer to the Ex as “he/him” but we understand that exes come with many gender identities. 

postnuptial agreements

The Top 7 Things to Know About Postnuptial Agreements

While television, music, movies, and tabloids have brought prenuptial agreements into the spotlight, few people are familiar with postnuptial agreements. This refers to nuptial agreements made after a couple is married. The surprising fact is postnuptial agreements can offer significant benefits to the right couple. Look no further than this Forbes article discussing Jeff Bezos’ divorce from his now ex-wife, MacKenzie. Bezos’ divorce could have taken a much different turn had the parties signed a postnuptial agreement after Amazon become one of the most valuable companies in the world.

In an effort to demystify the postnuptial agreement and explain its value, the following is a discussion of the top 7 things to know about these types of agreements.

  1. What is the Difference Between a Prenuptial Agreement and Postnuptial Agreement?

The more commonly known prenuptial agreement (“prenup”) is negotiated and signed by a couple prior to walking down the aisle and getting married. A postnuptial agreement (“postnup”) is signed by the couple after they have already been married. It can be signed days, weeks, months, or even years after the couple has said their vows.

  1. What is the Purpose of a Postnuptial Agreement?

The main purpose is to let married couples set the terms for divorce or death ahead of time. A postnup can help a couple eliminate uncertainty and increase predictability in the event they divorce, or upon the death of a spouse.

This is because the parties have dictated the outcomes that will occur upon divorce or death and have put the proper mechanisms in place to ensure their plan is legally actualized.

  1. What are Common Situations in Which a Postnup is Used?

One of the common challenges to a prenup occurs when the spouse who is receiving less under the agreement claims that it was signed under duress (think: one party presenting the other with a prenup on the night before the wedding). In order to avoid this situation, some couples will wait until after they are married to sign an agreement. The agreement they sign would therefore be a postnup and not a prenup.

Another instance in which a postnup is used is where marital issues arise that were unpredicted. If there has been infidelity, the spouse who got cheated on may want a postnup in order to stay in the marriage. This would provide that spouse with some financial protection or gain (and reassurance) in the event his or her spouse cheats again.


If you are thinking about divorce, you’ll want to be smart and healthy. Read our 36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.


Additionally, postnups can be used when one spouse is starting a business and wants to establish how much of the business’ value (if anything) their spouse will receive upon divorce. Couples can also create postnups for estate planning purposes, or because they want to revise their prenup. If a prenup is being revised, there must be language that either states what the postnup controls or that the prenup is void altogether.

  1. Certain Topics Can be Discussed in Postnups, While Others Cannot

For Example, Spousal Support Can Be Pre-Determined.

In a postnup, the parties can discuss the spousal support obligation of the “monied spouse” upon divorce. The couple can set out a specific amount of support in the event of a divorce, remain silent on the issue, or waive support completely. Many couples decide to determine spousal support in the postnup because leaving it in the hands of the law (or court) down the road can be unsettling. Others, however, prefer to have their financial situation at the time of divorce, as opposed to earlier, during the marriage, dictate their obligations.

It is important to know that spousal support clauses in a postnup can be vulnerable to challenge. This is because the parties’ income at the time of the divorce is unknown at the time the parties sign a postnup. If a spousal support clause in a postnup is very stingy and strays far from the statutory formula set out by the law, the spousal support clause runs the risk of being struck down as unconscionable (a term that will be discussed in detail below).

For example, if the postnup entitles the non-monied spouse to only $1,000 per month for spousal support, but the monied spouse makes $5 million per year, this spousal support clause may not be upheld.

Child-Related Issues Should Not Be Included

Divorce laws vary from state to state. In New York State, the courts decide child-related issues using the “best interests of the child(ren)” standard. If a postnup includes child-related language, the court would be deprived of its supreme jurisdiction in the area. As such, any child-related clauses in a postnup open the door for the agreement to be struck down.

However, one provision that is often included in postnups states that if one spouse owns the marital residence by himself or herself, the other spouse will not be required to vacate until there is a parenting plan in place (either by agreement or court order). This serves to encourage the parties to work quickly to come up with a plan as it relates to parental access with the children.

Estate Rights Are Often Addressed

In New York, without an agreement, a party cannot fully disinherit his or her spouse. Under the law, the non-deceased spouse would still be free to take what is called his or her “elective share,” which is defined as the larger of $50,000 or one-third (1/3) of the deceased spouse’s estate. In a postnup, the parties can give up their elective share rights, or determine that the elective share applies only to marital property. In exchange, a party who waives their elective share can ask that their future spouse take out a life insurance policy in his or her name.

  1. Full Disclosure is Essential

When preparing a postnup, each spouse provides a complete list of his or her assets and liabilities.

While courts usually will not overturn a postnup because disclosure was not absolute, they can overturn an agreement if a party can prove that their spouse willfully concealed assets. It is often recommended that, if the value of an asset is uncertain, the parties overvalue that asset. Doing so would negate the argument that a party would have made a different deal if they knew the higher value of the asset in question.

In addition, financial disclosure allows each party to obtain insight into each other’s financial situation. This is especially important in a marriage in which one spouse is in charge of the finances, and the other spouse is in the dark.


Check out “How to Prepare for Divorce If You are a Stay-At-Home-Mom”


  1. Specialized Clauses

There are numerous different “specialized clauses” that can be included in postnups.

A “ladder provision” can be inserted, which says that the non-monied spouse would receive additional spousal support or a lump sum payment at different anniversary milestones. For example, if the parties are married for 5 years, the monied spouse would make a $200k payment to his or her spouse upon divorce, and after 10 years that increases to $500k.

There also are “sunset provisions”, which state that the postnup will no longer be in effect if the parties are married for a certain period of time. For example, if the parties are married for 20 years, the postnup would then be void. These sunset provisions can also be used on individual clauses, such as the estate waivers no longer being effective if the parties are married for a certain number of years.

Oftentimes, parties ask about adultery provisions in which the cheating spouse would lose out on funds or spousal support in the event of a divorce. These are difficult provisions to include and maybe kicked back by the court because of the ambiguity of what “cheating” may mean.

  1. Challenging Postnups

In general, New York courts often uphold postnups that are entered into by two consenting parties. If a party is challenging a postnup, he or she will have the burden to show why it should not be upheld. The standard of review, under the law, is whether the agreement is “fair and reasonable” at the time the parties entered into the agreement and must be “not unconscionable” at the time one party seeks to enforce them.

The arguments that a party can make as to why a postnup, or any provision of it, should not be upheld are (1) fraud, (2) duress, or (3) unconscionability. As discussed, if there is full financial disclosure, a fraud claim would most likely fail. Avoiding a duress argument is, as stated above, a reason why couples may sign a postnup instead of a prenup. The biggest threat to a postnup is unconscionability at the time of enforcement. However, unconscionability is a very high standard to attain, and so more often than not, the spouse claims it will not be successful. The circumstances would have to change so significantly over time that what was once an equitable agreement ends up becoming unconscionable by the end of the marriage.

The postnuptial agreement is a useful tool in many situations of a marriage. In order to take advantage of its benefits, it’s important to be well informed about how to structure it as they are not easy to enforce in every state. If you are thinking about divorce or wanting to change the terms of a divorce should one occur in your future, you may wish to consider a postnup. Speak to a matrimonial attorney (divorce attorney) about your story to understand your options and what would be the best move for you.

 

Notes

Ian Steinberg is a Matrimonial Attorney at Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein, LLP, where he focuses on the litigation, mediation, negotiation, and settlement of matrimonial and family law cases. In addition, he specializes in the drafting of prenuptial and postnuptial agreements. Prior to his current role, he practiced real estate law representing property owners in courts throughout New York City. This real estate background gives Ian important insights into the division of the marital home when couples are separating and divorcing. Connect with Ian to discuss your situation and needs.

 

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