Custody Battle - How to Avoid Custody Issues During a Divorce

What is a Custody Battle and How Do You Avoid One?

A custody battle occurs when divorcing or divorced parents disagree about who should retain legal or physical custody of their children. Unfortunately, this is a common cause of litigation in family court, second only to litigation over support payments.

Custody battles are costly, both emotionally and financially, and can wreak havoc in the lives of the children involved. It’s important to educate yourself about the common causes of custody battles, how to avoid one, how to defend your child’s best interests, and what to do if you must file one.

How is Child Custody Awarded?

Absent any evidence that a parent is unfit, family law judges in most states will apply some form of a “best interests of the child” analysis. They will also factor in the rights of each parent to maintain a relationship with their children.

In determining the best interests of a child, a judge will consider:

  • The child’s age (younger children need more hands-on care);
  • Any evidence of the parenting ability of each parent;
  • What parenting arrangement will maintain a consistent routine for the child;
  • How any proposed change will impact the child’s current routine or lifestyle;
  • The child’s wishes, if the child is mature enough;
  • What parenting arrangement best protects the child’s physical safety and emotional well-being.

Historically, family law judges automatically awarded custody to mothers, but this is not the case today. Unless there are compelling reasons not to, judges will award parents joint legal custody, and either joint physical custody or physical custody with one parent, the other to have liberal parenting time.

When one parent wants to change the custody arrangement for any reason, they may choose to go to court. If the other parent disagrees, this is what is called a “custody battle.”

What Happens in a Custody Battle?

In a custody battle, also called a “custody dispute,” one parent seeks to change the child custody arrangement by filing a motion in family court and seeking a court order. The reasons parents need to do this may vary and can be any of the following.

One parent is:

  • Unfit
  • Emotionally abusive or absent
  • Physically or sexually abusive
  • A drug or alcohol abuser
  • In a living environment that is unsafe for any reason
  • Suffering from mental health problems
  • Unable to financially support the children
  • Attempting to alienate the children from the other parent

With the help of a good divorce attorney, the plaintiff parent must prove that for whatever reason, the children’s well-being is endangered by the defendant parent. “Well-being” includes physical safety as well as emotional and educational nurturing. Defendant parents often bring a counter-suit alleging that the plaintiff parent is unfit.

It’s important to know that the plaintiff parent faces an uphill battle to persuade the court that the defendant parent should not have custody of the children, because the law favors joint custody and the rights of parents to have relationships with their children.

Custody battles can be drawn-out and expensive. Not only will you pay court fees and ongoing attorney fees, but you will probably pay fees to experts for their evaluation and testimony, and perhaps fees to investigators. Custody battles also take an emotional toll on the entire family, especially if the children themselves have to testify. Pitting children against their parents in court can cause life-long emotional damage.


Wondering how to coparent when you absolutely “hate” your Ex? You’ll want to read our post about coparenting with an ex you hate.


How Can I Avoid a Custody Battle?

A parent having sole or joint custody of their children can try to avoid a custody battle by allowing their coparent the custody or parenting time ordered and by doing their best to cooperate and collaborate with their coparent.

Unfortunately, disputes arise. Your coparent may disagree with your parenting style or decisions you make and may make an allegation of abuse or unfitness, even if untrue. In this case, you will not be able to avoid a custody battle.

Consult with an attorney if your coparent files a custody dispute. Although your coparent must satisfy a high burden of proof of parental unfitness, you will need to assert your rights immediately. In cases where abuse of any kind is alleged, your children can be taken from you before it is proven in order to protect the children from possible harm.

What to Do if Your Coparent Alleges You Are Abusing Drugs or Alcohol

If you have a history of drug or alcohol use, this does not automatically make you unfit to parent your children. You should gather evidence that you have sought treatment and have been successfully treated for drug or alcohol dependency. This evidence can include proof of attending rehabilitation and negative drug or alcohol tests. Agreeing to continued drug or alcohol testing will help you retain custody of your children.

What to Do if Your Coparent Alleges You Suffer From Mental Illness

If you have a history of mental illness, this does not necessarily mean you are unfit to parent your children. You should gather evidence that you have recovered or are being successfully treated. This evidence can include the testimony or affidavits of psychologists or psychiatrists or the testimony or affidavit of the doctor who prescribes your medication.


How do you feel anchored when you are thinking about divorce and also spinning with all the information and unanswered unknowns? Check out “Overthinking When to Leave Your Husband.”


I Want Sole Custody of My Children, What Can I Do?

If you feel that the best interests of your children dictate that you have sole custody, you must file a custody dispute. Be advised that this will be expensive and may take months if your coparent defends.

Gather evidence that shows your coparent is unfit. If the reasons your coparent is unfit include any form of abuse, such as emotional, physical, or sexual abuse of your children, contact your local police and file a report. This can expedite the removal of the children from the coparent’s care and keep them safe while the court decides whether or not to change the custody arrangement.

Although a custody battle can be expensive and ugly, sometimes you cannot avoid one. Put your feelings aside about your partner as a spouse and ask yourself, is s/he generally a good parent? If so, it’s time to come to terms with the fact that your children deserve equal time with him/her. On the other hand, do not hesitate to file a custody dispute if you suspect that your children are unsafe or unattended to while in the care of your coparent.

 

About the Author

Veronica Baxter is a blogger and legal assistant living and working in the great city of Philadelphia, USA. She frequently works with Lee Schwartz, a noted child custody lawyer in Philadelphia.

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce, or that confusing place of 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 oft times complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. 

“A healthy divorce requires smart steps through and beyond the divorce document.” Learn what we mean and what it means for you in a FREE 15-minute consultation.

How long does it take to get a divorce?

How Long Does it Take to Get a Divorce?

Divorce is a process, not simply a stamp of finality. How long does it take to get a divorce? Well, that depends… on factors both within and outside your control.

You may want a divorce yesterday, but even the speediest dissolutions are at the mercy of your state’s divorce laws.

And, even if the court is ready to give you back your maiden name, you and your future ex could drag out the process.

When factoring in the time quotient for getting a divorce, it’s important to recognize and embrace the entire process.

Divorce isn’t a fast-food drive-thru window. There are stages leading up to it and stages coming out of it.

When asking “How long does it take to get a divorce?” you may have only the pragmatic, legal, sign-on-the-dotted line timeline in mind.

But the bigger picture of going through a divorce involves questions like “How long does it take to get OVER a divorce?

That may sound irrelevant when all you want to do is have lawyers and courts—and your future Ex—out of your life. But recognizing the totality of the divorce process will help you make wiser choices in what you do and how you do it.

For example, even if the legal part of your divorce is relatively quick, you may feel as if your divorce takes years. From contemplation to grieving to making lifestyle adjustments, recovering, and healing, the entire process may take three to five years.

And what if you flounder in the contemplation stage, living in marital limbo without taking action?

Even if you find yourself paralyzed in your marriage, unable to move it forward and unwilling to leave, the clock still ticks. And not educating yourself on the process and truths of divorce can keep you in denial and prolong the inevitable.

When You’ve Decided to Proceed with Divorce

But let’s say your mind is made up and you’re determined to follow through with your divorce. Now you need to know how long those flaming hoops are going to take to jump through.

The primary determinants are your state or jurisdiction, your ability to come to agreeable terms with your spouse, and the judge’s schedule.

An uncontested divorce will always be facilitated more quickly than a contested divorce. So, even if you and your spouse could never agree during your marriage, divorce could be a good time to start.

The first thing you should do is familiarize yourself with your state’s divorce laws. Several factors may affect the timing and ease of your divorce, including:

If you have hired a lawyer to help you through the process, s/he will usually need a couple weeks to draw up the petition. And then your spouse will have anywhere from 20 to 60 days to respond after being served.

That means five to 10 weeks just to get the ball rolling, assuming you have met the time requirements mentioned above.

For Help, Turn to Mediators

So, how long does it take to get a divorce once you have filed and your spouse has responded?

Again, that depends.

If you have no children and relatively few (or at least uncomplicated) assets and little debt, you can potentially DIY it. Get the papers online, fill everything out, file, endure your state’s waiting period, and you’re done.

But, if you can’t agree on certain issues, you will need the help of professionals.

If your goal is to stay out of court, mediation can bridge the gap between the DIY divorce and a contested divorce. And it can be especially helpful if you have children or more complexity to your assets.

A mediator can be an attorney or even a therapist well-versed in the applicable laws. What’s important is his/her ability to help the two of you reach an agreeable solution to difficult areas such as custody.

Arbitration involves a third party who weighs both sides of the argument and decides on the settlement. While this approach keeps you out of court and waiting for a court date, it’s still a longer process than an uncontested or mediated divorce.

Finally, if your divorce is turning out to be too contentious for the above choices, there’s always court. And court means waiting for an available date in what may already be a backlogged schedule for the judge.

It also means attorney fees, court fees, and potentially drawn-out negotiations.

There’s the pre-trial. There’s the trial. There are the judge’s rulings that have to be written into court orders.

Then, if there is any disagreement with the rulings, there are appeals.

And, even after everything is agreed to and the judge signs off on your divorce, those rulings have to be carried out. Perhaps the house has to be sold or accounts have to be split or documents have to be changed.

And yes, that can mean months or even years.

You may want to do some research on the details of what happens if your divorce goes to court.

The Takeaway

If you’re starting to squirm and feel a little overwhelmed by all the possibilities, you’re not alone. Millions of women have been where you are, and each has her own story.

Leaning on women who have “been there” can be the best support for navigating this painful, unfamiliar process.

What’s the takeaway from this long answer to your question, “How long does it take to get a divorce”?

The most important realization is that you have more power than you may think you do.

You may feel challenged in exercising that power if your spouse chooses to make things difficult. But you always have the choice and the power to educate yourself and surround yourself with outstanding resources.

Ultimately, the time it takes for your divorce to be finalized will depend on you and your future Ex.

Can you bring the best, most composed, informed, prepared versions of yourselves to the table to advocate for everyone’s well-being and future?

If you can, your divorce will have to answer only to the timeline set forth by your state or jurisdiction.

And that means money and heartache spared… and a head start on your new life.

 

Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional and often times complicated experience of divorce. We invite you to learn what’s possible for you. Schedule you FREE 15-minute consultation with SAS. Whether you are coping with divorce or already navigating your life afterward, choose to acknowledge your vulnerability and choose to not go it alone.

 

Healing a broken heart

Healing a Broken Heart and Moving On

In a poignant twist of synchronicity, I was tasked last week to write a piece on healing a broken heart – not realizing at the time that it would echo a much larger collective voice – that of American leaders describing the heart of a nation that broke — hopefully open — on January 6.

This follows in the wake of Wednesday’s riots on Capitol Hill, the scaling of the Rotunda, the breaching of the Chamber of Congress and even individual leaders’ offices by American citizens – a violent desecration and display of disrespect and hatred designed to overthrow our democratic process. These actions were inspired by the words of Donald Trump, who will continue to serve as United States President for two more weeks unless he’s impeached.

Or, as Republican Senator Mitt Romney described him, “a selfish man who cannot accept defeat”.

Americans also witnessed an undeniable, stark contrast in the forces called (or not) to manage the armed, and mostly white January 6th rioters, referred to by many congressional leaders and journalists as seditionists, versus the preemptive National Guard presence, the rubber bullets and beatings meted out during the largely non-violent Black Lives Matters protests earlier in the year.

Author Parker Palmer describes that contrast of white privilege vs. Black targeting as “the politics of the broken hearted,” and the term “heart-broken” was repeated over and over again during the news coverage of the riots — almost unanimously by congress and journalists alike — as they described what they were witnessing to a public glued to their screens.

Healing a broken heart begins on an individual level, and in the instance of this piece, it begins after a divorce. But it expands ever outward, into our families, our communities, our cities, states, the nation and the globe.

Many Americans saw something on January 6th that horrified us, cementing a truth about ourselves we wished did not exist. It was a profane and shameful exhibition of something that most of us do not want to be. The hope, though, is that the worm of truth has turned and that we as a nation recognize we must begin partnering ourselves and our neighbors and our communities differently.

The hope is that, finally, we are divorcing from a mindset that denies humanity and inclusion, decency and respect. We are leaving an abusive relationship with ourselves – leaving behind a self-serving, entitled, cruel and exclusionary way of thinking that should have died long ago, or indeed, should never have existed in the first place.

But healing a broken heart occurs in stages and the more we speak to the process of healing, the more familiar that terrain of recovery becomes.

So…

We Grieve

Grief is the beginning. And know that no one does grief quite the same as another, so it’s important to not judge ourselves (or our friends and neighbors) for too much or too little emotion or for taking “too long” to heal. Grief is an emotional stealth bomber, it’s quicksand, a tightrope, a whip, a hydra: cut one head off and another one sprouts. It’s often best to just accept that it will bite you, and hope that, often, you’ll be able to bite back. Eventually, it does die a natural death.

We Take Responsibility for Our Own Behavior

Forget the occasional loss of temper or sharpness that occurs in the course of a healthy marriage; that’s normal. We can offer an apology. But other behaviors we need to do more than apologize for; we need to own them and address them. It’s often difficult to see ourselves and our own behaviors clearly. Complicity is insidious. So is being ruled by our fear of loss or change, our insecurities, to the point that we manipulate or become sneaky, passive aggressive or blatantly aggressive (as in the case of the riots), or abusive – either as a spouse, a national leader responding dismissively or punitively to racial protests, or neighbor against neighbor. Facing that in ourselves, in our families, owning how we negatively impact others, how we communicate, the power plays we engage in, how we handle stress or conflict – all of that can be a sticky pill to swallow. An even bigger one is active abuse, not just the domestic abuse we find in marriages, but the abuse we’ve seen for centuries in this country against huge and dark-skinned swaths of the population.

On an individual level, we must embrace the idea that we co-create everything in our lives, even if it appears to only come at us from the outside. With every choice, conscious or unconscious, we create our reality.

Here in this lifetime, we are born, we are raised. For the sake of this subject, we choose to marry and we choose to divorce. We can choose to believe that events “happen to us,” or we can choose to believe that we created the experience unconsciously in order to find the freedom of becoming fully self-defined, to claim our own territory, to seek adventure, to pursue creative expression in our work, or to become fully independent and answerable only to ourselves (and of course, any children we choose to have). Caroline Myss teaches that every moment, exchange, relationship we have is meant to “empower, not disempower us.” The idea of choice can be difficult because it means we have to stop relying on that nice, bracing, pain-numbing anger at everybody else — anger that feels more powerful than sadness and also lets us off the hook of self-development. It also means we can step out of the investment we tend to have in outside opinions of us. It’s lovely, and it’s liberating.

Forgive — and Let It All Go

For some, visualizing a cleansing out of all of the old “stuff” – the attachments to status or material possessions, to a patriarchal, “daddy knows best” idea of security, anger, shame or feelings of failure, the biting sense of unfairness or betrayal, the breaks and bruises of physical abuse, memories being taken for granted, dismissed, or patronized — whatever it is: let it go. Of course, like everything else, it’s easier said than done; sometimes it feels like you have to catch a negative belief and toss it away every 5 seconds. Get elemental with it. Picture it all washing out with the tide, burning off in a comforting hearth fire, gently blowing the dust of it out of your hair or sinking into the earth to fertilize your new growth. This may be too New Agey for some, so another approach is to treat your Ex (or your beliefs, for that matter) like a habit you’re breaking; those are long-established patterns, but the love and happiness you created with this person is far from your only source of those delicious endorphin bubbles. Like any other habit, these patterns can be broken, but it takes repetition and vigilance. It’s easy to become frustrated with how often we have to do this, how frequently it’s necessary to stop a thought from taking full flight.

In any habit-breaking regimen, cultivating patience and compassion for ourselves is necessary, along with a profound recognition of how corrosive perfectionism is for the spirit.

As Elizabeth Gilbert put it, “perfectionism is just a high-end, haute couture version of fear… just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat.”

No one goes into a marriage with a “How to Do a Great Divorce Later” manual, which is, of course, why hiring a divorce coach and a therapist are such incredibly smart gifts to ourselves – a therapist to help work through the root causes of why we made the choices we did, and a divorce coach to teach you all the ways to make savvy and sustainable new ones and the steps to fufill them.

In healing our broken hearts and letting go, ladies, we might do well to take a page out of the Book of Men — keeping in mind that both genders bear traits of the other. Generally, men are great at compartmentalizing, and I think this is a skill that women would do well to emulate a little more often. Acknowledging that this is leaning on a stereotype – with an eye on the fact that gender concepts are shifting more and more as women become highly successful bread-winners for their families and men become more full-time parents and house spouses — I think this ability comes from that basic biological male imperative of the hunter, vs. the stereotypical female role of the gardener/gatherer. One chases things down, the other watches and encourages things to grow. Which is more likely to be able to leave something behind? Exactly. You compartmentalize by putting your knapsack of stuff under a rock and take off after that gazelle. Or that distant horizon of self-transformation.

And speaking of self-transformation…

Find Your Joy

For some, this may be the challenge of finding happiness and fulfillment in their work, getting past the fear of starting their own business or freelancing, trusting themselves to thrive and maintain independence without the safety net of a regular paycheck and company-sponsored health insurance. For some it may be more of a reaching for something larger than the self and the family unit to be of service to – volunteering, starting a Facebook group to support a small business, joining a church or a dojo.

The more we heed the quiet, persistent inner voice, we recognize that perhaps we are afraid, but we are also awake. And as you get more adept at telling your fears to ‘have a seat and get their crayons out’, you get better at taking a deep breath and seeing that you’ve got this well in hand.

Do what makes you happy. Choose happiness. Accept that healing a broken heart is always a process, that perfection is never the goal, but learning from each moment and returning again and again to the exercise of choosing to love and respect ourselves and be happy no matter what that looks like – that is the goal. Launch it like a precious stone into the water, and leap in after it, watching rings of your own little pond purl outward toward the shore. Make big waves. And hope that they spiral ever outward, to encompass and embrace the world around us.

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer and former journalist living on the West Coast. Nicknamed Verbose at a young age, she loves word craft but has to keep a short leash on her fondness for the profane. Jennifer enjoys her cat’s input on her rough drafts (talk about snark) and the freedom of being her own partner. Connect with Jennifer at verbosej@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 divorce your husband and get everything by Weheartit

How to Divorce Your Husband and Get Everything

Emotions are tough to excise from a divorce. After all, being unhappy is how you got here in the first place. So, it’s not inconceivable that you would seek to learn how to divorce your husband and get everything.

Feelings, however, don’t write divorce laws or sway judges. And fuming into your divorce proceedings with a “get everything” attitude could be costly, both financially and emotionally.

It’s a natural byproduct of living in emotional warfare to want to get revenge. The hunger for validation and some kind of compensating vindication is understandable.

And nowhere is that more true than in a marriage with a narcissist.

Getting Your Fair Share When Divorcing a Narcissist

The emotional manipulation is constant. The mental twisting of gaslighting is maddening and exhausting.

And the narcissist’s mastery of playing his manipulation of you against his charming of others is isolating and even dangerous.

One of the must-knows when divorcing a narcissist is that you will not be receiving any thanks or compassion for your years of tortured commitment.

If anything, he will up his game to prey on your emotions and leave you with nothing.

All the more reason to study up on how to divorce your husband and get everything, right?

Well, not exactly.

Going into the mud with a narcissist is never going to end well for you.

He’s not going to see the error of his ways. And a court isn’t going to weigh its decision on your attempt to expose him for what he is.

Your safest and ultimately most advantageous approach is also the one that will not come naturally.

Emotional detachment.

Go ahead and scream. I know you want to. And God knows that man deserves it.

But once you enter into negotiating your divorce, you have got to put on your all-business face and put emotions aside.

“But he has ruined my life!”

“He was emotionally abusive.”

“He’s lying about everything.”

“He doesn’t deserve to get anything!”

Maybe so. But divorce court isn’t marriage counseling.

Knowing how to survive a nasty divorce is less about your relationship and more about the laws governing divorce in your state.

Sounds kind of heartless, doesn’t it?

In some ways it is.

And that’s not to say that the circumstances of your marriage will have no bearing on the final terms of your divorce.

It’s really just to say that the best tip for how to divorce your husband and get everything is to keep things transactional.

That means focusing on the business side of the contract, surrounding yourself with the right experts, and being prepared.

Develop a Level-Headed Plan for Your Divorce

You should even carefully plan out the timing of declaring your desire for a divorce (assuming you are the one initiating it).

Preparation also includes collecting hard copies of all your and your husband’s financial records and assets. Everything.

It means researching the divorce laws for your state and specific area. You need to know what you are entitled to before you can fight for it.

For example, some states have communal property laws. Not only will the assets acquired during your marriage be considered mutual property, but so will your debts.

Also, alimony isn’t a given in every state, even if you have been a stay-at-home mom.

Build Your Divorce Support Team Wisely

Probably the most important part of your preparation is the assembly of your divorce team.

If you’re looking for a way to divorce your husband and get everything, you may be tempted to find the most cut-throat attorney you can.

But be forewarned. This approach could end up costing you the money you want and the peace of mind you need.

Remember that divorce attorneys aren’t working out of a spirit of philanthropy. They’re expensive, and they round up, not down.

Going in with an attitude of “I want it all!” may get you a high-five and “Let’s get the bastard!” There are plenty of attorneys who will happily match your mindset if the money is there to support it.

But organizing a solid team isn’t necessarily about hearing what you want to hear, let alone an echo of your own thoughts.

Building a solid support team is about getting sound advice and guidance in areas where you’re not an expert.

It’s about hiring people intelligent, experienced, and ethical enough to look out for your best interest.

It’s about being courageous enough to trust experts to tell you what you need to hear, not necessarily what you want to hear.

For example, a tax expert should give you not only a current view of your liabilities, but your long-term ones, as well.

Adjust Your Ideas About “Getting Everything”

You may think in the moment that it would be sweet revenge to rip your 10,000-square-foot mansion out from under your ex-to-be.

But what is that asset going to mean for you down the road? Without access to your husband’s full ongoing income, will you be able to maintain it?

Or will you be weighed under by the mortgage, property taxes, and maintenance?

Investments and retirement are other considerations. You may “want it all” today, but you may not want the future liabilities.

That’s why you want to have outstanding financial, tax, and legal representation.

And that means representation that doesn’t delude you into believing that “getting everything” is likely, let alone prudent.

Dealing with Emotions During (and After) Divorce

Now, back to those emotions I told you to disregard in the interest of treating your divorce as a transaction…

It would be unrealistic to expect you to ignore your emotions during your divorce. This is one of the most emotionally traumatizing events you can experience in life.

It’s important that you understand what divorce does to a woman. And you’re not going to get the complete picture of that in one place.

The wisdom and preparation of this time simply calls for prudence in choosing who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Use the experts on your team for their chosen expertise. And use your therapist, divorce coach and an  educational divorce support group to hold you up emotionally and provide camaraderie.

Difficult as it may be to hear, planning how to divorce your husband and get everything warrants a shift in perspective.

“Everything” acquired in a state of anger or revenge will not be the “everything” that sustains you and builds a happy future.

You don’t have to forfeit anything.

And you should never forfeit your peace of mind.

 

Notes

SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to navigating divorce — on their own terms. If you are considering or dealing with divorce, you are invited to experience SAS for Women firsthand and schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation. Whether you work further with us or not, we’ll help you understand your next, black-and-white steps for walking into your brave unknown — with compassion and integrity.

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

 

Woman walking on beach thinking about divorce

36 Things to Do If You Are Thinking About Divorce

If you are thinking about divorce, your thoughts can fluctuate, ranging from the mere, fleeting imaginings of what life might be like if you were single, to the repetitive, torturous thought process of “Should I or shouldn’t I divorce?” While one end of the spectrum is entirely normal for many people, the other end can signal serious problems in and for a marriage.

Based on our background in education and experience working with clients in our divorce practice, we’ve identified the following 36 things that can help you understand where you are on the spectrum of contemplating divorce and what steps you can take to gain greater clarity and stop the recurring thought process.

As you complete each step you will be doing more than merely thinking about divorce. You will begin to better understand which direction your marriage and life might go.

  1. As you first contemplate divorce, you may or may not know if you want to divorce. Accept that this is entirely normal. What you “want” may be entirely different from what you ultimately decide you “must” do. Your job right now is to study and learn what is possible for you and your family.
  2. Educate yourself. It’s likely that you feel you’ve reached an impasse in your marriage and your emotions may be all over the place. You might be incredibly angry and lashing out. Or perhaps you have retreated, feeling despondent, probably depressed. This is to be expected, but you should not be making long-term decisions from this emotional place. Start educating yourself by looking for credible divorce resources. Visit your nearby bookstore or search online. There is a wealth of information available to you for free.
  3. Understand that getting educated about the choices you have for your life does not mean you are necessarily getting divorced. You are learning about your options and what your rights are so you can ultimately make a good decision from an informed place.
  4. Establish a new (secret) email account dedicated to this subject. Take care to use a “private” or “incognito” window so that the computer does not create a history of where you’ve been when you go to log on. And take time to create a new email address. Use this email to sign up for divorce information and newsletters that might advance your thinking and understanding.
  5. Save cash. Should you decide to pursue divorce, you will need access to money. If all your money is in joint accounts with your spouse, check with a lawyer as to when you can open your own account, or start stashing cash in a safe, secret place. Maybe you’ll never need it, but if you do, you’ll be glad you started saving now.
  6. If you feel you may be a victim of abuse, take action immediately.  There are many signs and forms of abuse, and sometimes it’s difficult to know if you are a victim. A clear sign is this: If you find yourself constantly watching what you are saying and doing, or walking on eggshells around your spouse–lest you trigger him/her and “cause” a blow up, you are likely in an unhealthy and abusive relationship.  Focus your attention there.  Read more about this and take action to protect yourself and your children. You may feel you can handle it, but things will not improve unless you do something to change the way things are now.
  7. Make a list of your most critical financial questions.  If you divorce, will you have to get a job if you’ve been a stay-at-home-mom? If you have debt, do you understand half the marital debt is yours? Should you use your IRA to help pay for your divorce? Keep a running list of questions as they occur to you.
  8. Be careful in whom you confide – this includes family.  Few people can be truly objective, and fewer still are marriage or divorce experts. Yet, there are plenty of opinions and judgements. Just because your neighbor got burned by his ex, does not mean that’s what’s in store for you if you choose to divorce.
  9. Do your best to conduct your research from a healthy mindset. It’s easy to vilify and blame your spouse for the problems that exist, but deep down, you know no one is totally faultless. As you learn about the issues in your marriage and what is possible for your lives, try to avoid the adversarial, vindictive, blame-gaming, and often, gender-bashing attitudes some books, some social media posts, or some people propagate.
  10. Evaluate your biggest fears. Do you fear you cannot “afford a divorce?” Are you afraid what divorce would do to your kids and thus, staying in a marriage “for the kids”?  Writing down your fears may help you examine their validity.  You may recognize you cannot not afford a divorce because you need your sanity…or that you are really hiding behind the kids so that you don’t have to be a single parent or face being alone.
  11. Think of how your kids are being impacted now and will be impacted long term. If you are a parent, and you and your spouse are fighting, look at yourselves as your kids might view you. You may think they don’t know what’s going on, but on some level they do, and it’s anxiety inducing for them. Your lack of clarity and unresolved difficulties or the warzone you have created is playing out in their lives, too.
  12. Avoid venting on social media. Watch out for where you vent and be wary of social media. If you say something online, it’s there forever and can be used against you. Same for emails. Before posting or hitting SEND, review what you are saying as if you were a courtroom judge. Be very careful.
  13. Recognize that marriage does not come with an owner’s manual. In our culture, most of us are poorly prepared for making a marriage work. Often it is something we learn — or fail to learn — behind the marital door. At this point in your relationship, it’s not worth beating yourself up…that energy is better spent figuring out what to do about your situation today and how you will move forward tomorrow.
  14. Ask yourself, is there is any love left? Do you still love your spouse? Love is sometimes hard to find when you are consumed by anger, resentment, or are stressed out from overworking, parenting, or a million, everyday struggles. If there’s even a hint of love left, however, it’s worth asking the question, “Can we re-ignite it?”
  15. If you decide to stay in the marriage, set your intention and begin work together. Discuss with your spouse how you are going to work on your marriage so you begin to do things differently and not repeat the same old story. It’s unlikely that you will be able to do this without the support of a professional, so we suggest that you seek a trained marriage counselor.
  16. Evaluate what you have done as a couple to repair your relationship. Have you sought good quality help? Not all couples therapy is created equal. If you’re working with a therapist and you’re not making progress, it does not mean you should necessarily divorce. Investigate which types of marital therapy have the best success rates and find a trained practitioner who will teach you how to communicate with each other and help you both understand that growth and change require a deep commitment from both of you.
  17. Consider Discernment Counseling. Particularly helpful to couples where one partner wants to divorce and the other wishes to repair the relationship, discernment counseling helps couples understand if their problems are solvable. An added benefit is that the counseling is designed to be short term and to help you answer the important question, “Should we get a divorce?”
  18. Think about your role in the difficulties of the marriage and do not isolate yourself. If you are convinced that marital therapy is not working or that your spouse is not participating, or that your efforts to try to do things differently are failing, do not isolate yourself. Seek to move beyond wondering if you should divorce. Being alone darkens your sense of possibility and hope. It keeps you in a spin cycle of overthinking.
  19. Begin assembling a list of your most critical legal questions. Do you separate or do you divorce? If you were to divorce, how do you go about it? Do you know the different ways? Is Mediation an option for you? How do you find a good attorney? What are your rights? What do you not know?
  20. Read about the divorce laws in your state. Laws vary and what is possible in one state may not be possible in yours.  Most states have a section on the court website to help you understand the divorce process where you live. Start there.
  21. Consider a Time Out. Often when there’s a physical shift between a couple, it’s easier to think straight and reflect on what is really important. Consider taking a long vacation away from the other, or a house-sitting job. If you wish to live separately make sure you consult with an attorney in your state before doing anything — especially if you have children.
  22. Organize and prioritize your most critical practical questions. If you’ve never paid the bills before, how would you begin?  If you work overtime most days, who would be home for the children after school — if your spouse is no longer there? Keep a running list and add to it as you think of things.
  23. Move beyond the cyclical thought process of thinking about divorce by consulting compassionate, professional support. We recommend your first step be a consultation with a divorce coach. A divorce coach can help you understand the legal and emotional process you may be facing and the issues that are holding you back from making a decision. A good divorce coach will help you evaluate what’s real and not, and help you take steps to face your fears. A divorce coach can also explain the different legal processes that may be available to you. Learning about your choices will allow you to go deeper and be more educated if you choose to then consult with the next level of experts (lawyers, financial advisors, mediators) whose hourly rate is often more expensive.
  24. Ask your divorce coach, therapist, and friends for vetted referrals to other experts, including lawyers. You are seeking perspective and feedback on your situation, and if you think you are ready to hire someone, you are looking for chemistry and someone you can trust.
  25. Schedule consultations with several attorneys and/or a mediator.  We recommend that you interview several. Bring your legal questions from step #19, or for more information, read here for additional questions. Don’t forget your notebook for taking notes and your last 3 years’ tax returns (if possible.)
  26. Consider having your friend or divorce coach accompany you to some or all of these professional meetings. There is a lot to learn and keep track of at the same time you are feeling stressed. Having an ally to help you take notes and bounce ideas off after meetings will lessen your strain on trying to be on top of everything.
  27. Strategize about how you might pay for a divorce. Will you use joint money, a loan, a credit card, your secret stash (#5), or borrow money from a friend or relative or from a saving account or your IRA? Learn the laws about “counsel fees” in your state and ask the attorneys you are interviewing how you might pay their retainer and ongoing fees.
  28. Branch out and talk to more experts who can help you answer your other questions. Often a financial advisor experienced in divorce will think of things a lawyer will not mention. S/he can possibly help you strategize how you might pay for a divorce or what might be in your interest to ask for in the settlement. A child therapist who has counseled other parents through divorce may do much to help you support your child. A real estate broker might advise you on your practical housing questions, such as the pros and cons of renting vs. buying if you divorce, or what your house might be appraised for. When a question comes to mind, think about who is out there and who might have the answer for you.
  29. Understand there will come a tipping point and you will make a decision about divorce. Despite your best efforts to get educated beyond just thinking about divorce, rarely will you know 100 percent if you should or should not follow through. Usually there remains some portion of ambivalence, but know that at some moment in time, you will reach a saturation point of information and either you’ll be ready to make the decision to stay or go — or the decision will be forced upon you.
  30. You are not ready for divorce If you cannot accept changes. If you cannot accept there will be a change to your finances, lifestyle, friendship groups, or traditions, you are not ready for divorce. If you cannot accept uncertainty … that at times there will be fear and unknowns, then you are not ready for divorce. On the other hand, you may have no choice. In which case, you must face your greatest fears. Seek support.
  31. If you decide to move ahead with the divorce, set your intention. Determine how you want to conduct yourself throughout this difficult passage and beyond. Remind yourself you will have no control over your spouse, but you will try your best to control how you act and react. If you have children, ask yourself what is the model you want to show them? Write down the image of yourself as the parent you want to be. Establishing a clear image of who you want to be and what you want to demonstrate for your kids will help you in this next often-difficult stage.
  32. Understand that you want to avoid divorce court if you can help it. Divorcees are often not completely happy with the terms of his/her divorce, but to avoid getting a judge involved, you will have to be flexible, negotiate in good faith, and compromise on tough issues. Being stubborn or vindictive is what drives people to litigation. That means court. (The truth is that less than 10% of cases end up in a full blown trial; but those that do, end up with massive legal bills and a destroyed relationship.)
  33. Start collecting your financial information.  If you choose to begin divorce proceedings, you must disclose your finances early in the process. Most states have a required financial statement form (though different states have different names for it — check your state court website). Begin filling it out or hunting down the information to get a head start.
  34. Learn what your next steps are and what the process will look like. A divorce coach will act as your guide throughout the process. If you are not working with one (or cannot afford one at this time) consider a good divorce support group with a professional facilitator and where you will learn from the experiences of other women.  Read this article to learn meaningful criteria for a good divorce support group, and find one on-line or near you. Feeling supported and heard, will lessen your anxiety and stress.
  35. Be kind to yourself. Understand that there will be times you feel crazy, like you’ve returned to your old loop of contemplating divorce and wondering if you are doing the right thing. But because you followed many of these steps, you are not embarking on this path lightly. You have taken every opportunity to be thoughtful about facing this major life-change, divorce, and though you many not desire this outcome, you have done your homework.
  36. Know that there is life after divorce. What stands directly in front of you is moving through the divorce process and ensuring your divorce recovery. It will be challenging. But for you and your family to stand the best shot at a healthy life afterwards, you must continue to step forward mindfully and with intention. There is life after divorce. You probably cannot see it yet. You certainly cannot feel it. But it’s there, bigger and better than you can imagine, waiting for you.

Whether you are considering a divorce or already navigating the confusing experience, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do divorce alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce.

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

Is Cheap Divorce worth it?

Is Exploring a Cheap Divorce in Your Best Interest?

With divorce fees averaging a whopping $13,000 in the U.S., many couples tend to postpone their divorce until they are ready to fork up the cash for a good lawyer, or they stay trapped in a marriage, believing there is no way out. The truth is that the perfect time may never come. However, remaining in a failing marriage because you cannot afford to end it will only ensure your misery forever.

Luckily, more affordable divorce assistance from an online divorce company or other cheaper, divorce services may work for you. When should you use an online divorce service, and how do you make sure its safe and trustworthy? Every divorce is different and deserves careful consideration. Let’s take a look at some legitimate options suitable for your unique situation.

Would an online divorce company work for me?

There are 4 questions to consider:

  • Can I reach an agreement with my spouse on the division of property and debt?
  • Can I reach common ground on custody, child support, and alimony arrangements?
  • Are we ready to resolve all potential disputes amicably?
  • Do I know what I am entitled to by law as a woman in this marriage before I start signing anything?

If the answer to ANY of the first three questions is ‘no,’ an online service isn’t for you and it would be in your best interest to hire a lawyer. With #4, it’s SAS for Women’s (strongly urged) suggestion that regardless of how you think you might divorce (DIY, mediation, collaborative approach, or a more traditional approach) that you always have at least one private consultation with a lawyer (without your spouse in the room) to understand what the law would say you are entitled to and what your rights are, FIRST. If after learning this important information, you think you can advocate for yourself in conversation with your husband while using an online divorce company, then keep reading.

If the answer to all of these questions is ‘yes,’ your situation is more flexible:

  • Your marriage dissolution is uncontested, and hiring a lawyer is optional.
  • You can look into working with an online divorce company.

When you and your spouse are in full agreement on the details of the divorce, you can present your arrangement to a judge who will begin the process of the divorce judgement. The judge will likely approve your draft settlement as long as you are both satisfied with the agreement and it’s deemed fair. The judge will also ensure that it’s in compliance with divorce law in your state, and that you have considered the best interest of your children, if any.

When You Aren’t Able to Agree…

However, if you and your husband do not see eye to eye (you’re divorcing, after all), or you’re easily bullied because of the nature of your marital relationship, SAS for Women counsels you to schedule a consult with an attorney. Divorce lawyers do not just fill out the paperwork on your behalf: their job is to make sure you are protected and your rights and entitlements are ensured.

Another strategy is to consult with an attorney on the side as you attempt to do a DIY divorce. This could be an affordable and SMART way of doing a cheap divorce. See more about this below, or consider scheduling a free consultation with SAS for Women so we can hear more about your unique situation.

How to find the right divorce company for you

Before settling on a specific company, do the following:

  • Talk to people you know. If you feel comfortable asking your friends or colleagues who’ve been through a divorce if they have experience with online divorce services, see what insights they can offer. They might even be able to recommend a trusted company.
  • Read the reviews. Find a few companies by doing a simple search and see what their clients have to say. Be sure to check customer feedback on independent websites like Sitejabber, Trustpilot, or Yelp to find genuine reviews.
  • Prioritize the websites you trust. A good design and intuitive navigation mean that the company wants to make sure that customers will have a transparent process and ultimately a positive experience.
  • See what they offer. The services divorce companies offer vary, and some can help you if your case is contested. The key is to choose the one that has a good price-value ratio and will provide you with the required service package.
  • Review the guarantees. Knowing what deliverables to expect, how long the processes will take, and what the company’s plan of action is if they fail to meet your expectations will help you decide if the service is worth your time.

How to play it safe when using an online divorce company

Being skeptical about using online services to resolve legal issues, such as divorce, is natural. More so, questioning the reliability of any company you plan on using is a great way to protect yourself from potential losses. Here are a few things you can do to play it safe when ordering from a divorce company:

  • Talk to customer support. If there is none, that’s a bad sign. Ideally, someone should be able to assist you 24/7 and address any of your questions or concerns. Moreover, it is best when there are a few ways to contact the support team.
  • Check the privacy policy. In order to prepare your documents, a company will ask you to provide a lot of your personal information. Your SSN, driver’s license number, and other data are extremely sensitive and need to be treated as such. Therefore, make sure a company has decent protective measures in place to secure your private information.
  • Review the refund policy. It is crucial to understand when and how you can get your money back if something goes wrong. If a refund policy is vague, it leaves a lot of room for interpretation, which is code for “we try our hardest not to refund our customers.”
  • Look for hidden fees. While having extras to offer to the clients is absolutely fine, charging extra for services that were initially advertised as a part of a standard package is unacceptable.
  • Find out if they offer legal advice. If they do not have a legal license, that is a huge red flag. Make sure you verify their credentials first. Understand that divorce laws vary from state, and that again, best practice is for you to have a private consultation with a lawyer in your specific state before you start signing things.

Why use an online divorce service instead of other cheap alternatives?

If you want to save money, and you are the right candidate, a cheap divorce service is an option that trumps the alternatives. Other options include preparing your legal forms yourself or trying to find an inexpensive lawyer, or free or reduced fee legal services available in your town or state.

Searching for divorce forms on your own is obviously free. However, understanding how to find up-to-date and court-approved ones, picking those that suit your specific case, and filling them out correctly without having any legal knowledge takes a lot of time and patience.

Working with an online company, you are free to manage your time as you wish as you can access the website at any time. You will likely have to complete a simple questionnaire for the company to fill out your divorce paperwork and expect to pay a relatively minor flat fee. Depending on a service, you might get free filing instructions or request that a company representative files the forms for you for an extra charge.

Can I get help from a legal professional if I’m using an online service?

Of course! If you want to get professional legal assistance or advice and can afford it, it is a good idea. Some online services offer their own lawyers, but you can always choose to hire one on the side to avoid potential bias.

Overall, the more divorce-related aspects you and your Ex need to settle on, specifically those concerning joint finances, the better idea it is to get an attorney involved, even if you are willing to come to an agreement. Getting a lawyer would benefit you the most if:

  • You and your Ex jointly own real estate and other valuable property.
  • You have a share in the same business(es).
  • There are joint accounts (savings, checking, retirement, etc.).
  • You have underage children.
  • You and your spouse share debt.

While getting an attorney in an amicable divorce is optional, when you and your Ex are not in full agreement, it is a must. You may try mediation first though, as a mediator might help you resolve your disputes and simplify the divorce process for you. Making your case uncontested will not only give you a chance to opt out of lawyer’s services if you cannot afford them but also allow you to choose from a wider variety of cheap divorce services to get professional assistance from.

How much will I save by exploring cheap divorce options?

Getting help online rather than from an attorney will make a difference between paying “a thousand” and “thousands” of dollars. Considering the industry average, you may expect to save anywhere from $3,000 to $12,000. If you aren’t sure that exploring cheap divorce options is worth your time, think about your priorities. Note that you are not choosing between “simple yet expensive” (lawyers) and “complicated but affordable” (online companies). While the latter obviously takes a bit more effort, it is by no means hard to find a trustworthy service that will help you get a divorce. Therefore, it all comes down to how much money you want to save and how savvy you are in protecting your interests.

Surely enough, when you and your Ex are not in agreement, hiring an attorney is the best course of action. If you can reach agreement through mediation, you have a huge pool of cheap divorce options to choose from. Marriage dissolution shouldn’t be a luxury. While finding an online divorce company that suits your needs might take a little searching, it is in your best interests if you want to start the next chapter of your life without a huge burden of divorce fees hanging over your head.

 

Notes

Greg Semmit is a legal writer with years of experience working on Family Law topics. After winning a 2020 Law Scholarship from OnlineDivorcer, he joined the company’s writing and editing team to help spread knowledge about the best ways to approach the divorce process. In his free time, Greg assists his father with pro bono cases and roams the streets of New York with his Olympus making photos of the best spots in the city.

Since 2012, SAS for Women helps women face the considerable challenges involved in considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

 

“Divorce can be on your terms.” ~ SAS for Women.

 

Pre-divorce checklist

A Pre-Divorce Checklist? Consider Composing Your Own During the Holidays

“He’s making a list and checking it twice. Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice.”

Make your own (pre-divorce) checklist, and check it twice. As a seasoned divorce and family-law attorney in Utah, I find the second quip a valuable, holiday-inspired idea, and one that is not coincidental. The day after Christmas, Dec. 26, marks the beginning of what is officially considered “Divorce Day.” Divorce Day, 2021 is actually Jan. 4th—the first business day after the holidays.

Spending the energy to create a pre-divorce checklist is positive and constructive, unlike speeding to a lawyer’s office or venting on social media. The slow, deliberate movement of checklist making adds perspective and informs your ultimate decision of whether or not to add to the divorce rate across the United States or Canada, or wherever you may be.

Making a pre-divorce checklist is, perhaps, the best free divorce advice I give my Utah clients during this season. In the spirit of giving, I’d like to share some additional insight to SAS readers. Consider this your go-to guide for “meta pre-divorce checklist” information.

The Financial Point of View

In his “Survive Divorce” writings, Jason Crowley, CFA, CFP, CDFA offers what seems like a frustratingly detailed list. While the checklist process is indeed intense, it gives a hint of how the process for divorce may be, depending on your circumstances.

Crowley is a financial expert. His list, though, goes way beyond the typical financial considerations.

He advises taking the time to compile your personal information. The “your” here is plural—both your own information and that of your spouse. In the mix: everything from social security numbers to information about previous marriages and where to serve papers to a spouse.

Did you and your spouse see a therapist? Has either party in the relationship encountered marital problems like infidelity, sexual incompatibility, or legal or illegal drug addiction? Log these details, Crowley advises.

If children are part of your family, assemble birth certificates and costs for everything from lessons to school tuition.

You’ll need to gather current Social Security calculations, details on debts, personal and marital property information, and monthly budget figures. Do you keep safety deposit boxes? Has either party received inheritances? All of these details need to be part of a divorce checklist.

If you are looking for a less stressful, pre-divorce checklist, check out this list suggested by the good women at SAS: Thinking About Divorce? Be Prepared.

The Legal Point of View

From a legal perspective, the law firm Rosen Law suggests including action steps that will result in making you more independent. For example, plan to get a post-office box for personal or divorce-related mail. Confirming login details for joint bank accounts is another tick point. Updating a will is another item to add to the checklist. The firm also emphasizes getting copies of agreements, trusts, wills, and certificates and licenses. (Some of these steps you cannot complete without getting a divorce first, however.)

The firm recommends not just setting up a new bank account or accounts, but depositing funds to cover a few months’ living expenses. Securing one or more credit cards in your name alone (if you do not have such) is another to-do item.

As you make your own pre-divorce checklist, realize that action with these different steps deepens your awareness and possible commitment to divorce from flirtation to surety. Knowledge and being prepared = power.


If you are thinking about or beginning the divorce process, consider Annie’s Group. This is SAS for Women’s virtual group coaching program for women looking for support, structure, and a safe community. A new cohort (with you as a welcomed participant) is starting soon!


Consider Your Home Property

Ready to go deeper? Beyond the bank account, you’ll also have to consider your home. If you have not previously done so for your home insurance, take pictures of each room. Make sure each room’s contents are displayed as part of a more thorough listing of assets. With the home, your own accounting is not all that counts. Getting an appraisal can be beneficial as well, so add that to your list. Renting mother-in-law apartments in a home is common these days (all the more so in a Covid climate). Make sure to get copies of leases for in-home or other rental properties. Your to-do list grows!

Legal Pre-Divorce Checklist Tips from across the Pond

Communication planning is a unique aspect of Rebecca Jones’s list. Jones is a London-based family lawyer. Her divorce checklist includes letting everyone from family dentists and opticians to utility companies know about a divorce, if enacted. That’s something you can consider to do, if you go through with the divorce.

Here are some other pre-divorce checklists I recommend: 

  • SAS for Women’s “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.”
  • Donna Fulscado, Investopedia, Oct. 28, 2019 “Divorce Planning Checklist: What You Need To Know”
  • Shawn Leamon, CDFA, Divorce and Your Money: How To Avoid Costly Divorce Mistakes, March 1, 2017  “The Ultimate Divorce Checklist: What You Need To Prepare”

‘Tis the Season for Making a List and Checking it Twice!

Yes, it may be the holidays, but if you are in a troubled marriage, the holidays may be anything but merry. Breathe deeply, think clearly, and be informed on the next steps in your divorce action plan. Coil Law wishes Seasons Best to all, and to all a good night.

Notes

Jill L. Coil is Utah’s leading female family law and divorce attorney and invites you to hire her before your spouse does. She is admitted to the Utah and Texas bars and has contributed to case law by successfully arguing a landmark case before the Utah Supreme Court. Coil is a 2019 Super Lawyer and an author featured on Amazon, contributes actively within her community, and is the proud mother of four children.

SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to rebuilding their lives on their own, healthiest terms. If you are recreating after divorce or separation, you are invited to experience SAS for Women firsthand. Schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation. Whether you work further with us or not, we’ll help you understand your next, black-and-white steps for walking into your brave unknown—with compassion, integrity and excitement.

Uncontested Divorce a by Weheartit

What’s the Difference Between an Uncontested and Contested Divorce?

When most people think of divorce, they think of conflict. After all, that is the image of divorce that we see time and time again. According to pop culture, it seems like the only way to call it quits is to engage in an expensive, lengthy, and stressful fight in which nobody really wins.

According to the CDC, America’s divorce rate has declined (in general) by 27.5% between 2000 and 2018, but it’s still a common enough experience, especially if you are a woman of a certain age. So, shouldn’t we find a better way to break up?

There are lots of great ways to skip the epic court battle in favor of a more peaceful approach. No matter the method, they all come down to one important key term: uncontested divorce.

What is a Contested Divorce?

Before we get into the details of uncontested divorce, let’s learn a little bit about contested divorce. This is the model of divorce which the uncontested ethic seeks to avoid.

Before your divorce is finalized, you and your Ex will need to figure out what to do about issues like property division, alimony, child support, and child custody. Sometimes couples begin the divorce process with a spirit of compromise, but often divorcing couples face major disagreements.

A contested divorce is when a divorcing couple is unable to reach a mutual agreement and therefore relies on a judge or arbitrator to develop divorce terms that are fair in the eyes of the law.

In general, contested divorce should be a last resort. It tends to be a more expensive, lengthier, and more stressful process than developing your own settlement agreement.

However, if your relationship with your Ex remains extremely adversarial despite your best efforts, then contested divorce is the best and only way to dissolve your marriage and begin the next phase of your life, a phase that may be more exciting than you can possibly imagine right now.

What is an Uncontested Divorce?

When a divorcing couple manages to reach their own settlement agreement, either by themselves or with the support of legal counsel or a divorce coach, they avoid needing a judge to make the important decisions. We call this an uncontested divorce. This means your and your spouse (or team) successfully negotiate divorce terms like child custody, child and spousal support, and the division of shared debts and assets.

There are a lot of reasons why an uncontested divorce is often the better option. For starters, it’s usually a lot less stressful than ending up in court.

It also tends to be faster than contested divorce, because you aren’t at the mercy of an overloaded court system. Because less time means fewer billable hours, uncontested divorces are also usually a lot less expensive than their contested counterparts.

Finally, when you opt for an uncontested divorce, you and your soon-to-be Ex retain a lot more control. The two of you have the final say in the terms of your divorce, and nothing can happen without both of you signing off on it. This can be especially important for parents, because it can be really hard to accept a stranger making decisions about your child.

This probably sounds really appealing, but is it really this easy?

As it turns out, you don’t actually have to like your Ex in order to cooperate with them.

How Uncontested Divorce Works

Uncontested divorce doesn’t mean that you and your spouse have to agree on everything right off the bat. Initially, the two of you only have to agree that you both want to make uncontested divorce work. Once that’s established, you’ll work together to choose the best method for your family.

Some lucky couples have pretty good communication to begin with, they just don’t want to stay married. These folks might be good candidates for DIY divorce. This means they fill out paperwork, draft their settlement agreement, and submit to their local court for the final approval.

If you and your spouse know what terms you want but are a bit intimidated by the process, we don’t blame you! If this sounds like you, then you might be better off ending your marriage through an online divorce platform.

These services handle the paperwork for you at an affordable flat rate. Some more comprehensive divorce packages will even manage your divorce case from start to finish. This means you won’t have to give it another thought after you finish answering their questionnaire.

Uncontested Divorce Support

You can also work with a mediator if you’d like. Mediators usually have a background in either law, psychology or finance, and they are trained to help you and your spouse negotiate more effectively. They cost more than an online divorce platform, but usually much less than a full-on court case.

Finally, you may rely on traditional divorce attorneys who have proven themselves as good negotiators. Hiring an attorney does not mean you are necessarily going to court. What is means is that you are relying on this traditional model to change the status of your marriage. Using a divorce attorney to advocate for you may wise if you have children, assets, or considerable debt.

Regardless of what model you decide upon as you seek your uncontested divorce, at SAS for Women, we recommend that every woman secure a private legal consultation with a divorce attorney (not a mediator, nor a collaborative divorce attorney first) to hear what your rights are and what you are entitled to BEFORE you and your spouse start splitting things up.

Is Uncontested Divorce Right for You?

For some divorcing couples, uncontested divorce is a no-brainer. They can agree on divorce terms immediately, they get along well enough, and they’re ready to take on this new project with gusto or determination.

For others, uncontested divorce is a goal to work towards, but they’re not sure if they’ll be able to manage it. Well, I’m here to tell you that when both parties have the right attitude, this goal is utterly attainable.

When it comes down to it, the key to a successful uncontested divorce is not sweating the small stuff. You shouldn’t let yourselves get riled up over every last piece of silverware, or you won’t maintain the calm necessary to stay out of court.

Instead, focus on the big things like your home, car(s), and, most importantly, your kids. If you can sort out these complex issues, the rest will fall into place.


If you are thinking about or beginning the divorce process, consider Annie’s Group, our virtual group coaching program for women looking for support, structure, and a safe community.


It can also be really helpful to take a deep breath and remind each other why you want to keep your divorce uncontested whenever you feel tensions starting to rise. It benefits everyone involved when you take a more peaceful approach to divorce.

When in doubt, re-focus on what matters.

If you and your Ex are parents, it might even help to keep a physical copy of your child’s photo on the negotiating table. It’s nice to constantly have that implicit reminder of why you’re doing this. The more time and money you spend on your divorce, the less you have left over for your kid.

Breaking up is almost always a difficult prospect. When you said “I do,” you expected it to last forever, and it can be really hard to give up on that dream. It can be hard managing a household alone, or sleeping by yourself, or not seeing your spouse across the dinner table.

However, just because breaking up is hard doesn’t mean that the divorce process has to be. If you’ve been searching for a way to approach your divorce with a greater degree of mutual respect, consider this the sign you’ve been waiting for.

 

Notes

Moriel Berger is a Los Angeles native with a background in writing and marketing, primarily in the startup world. She is a J.D. Candidate at Loyola Law School and holds B.A. in Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence College. After watching her parents go through a prolonged and painful divorce when she was in her early twenties, Moriel became inspired to learn about more positive alternatives, which eventually led her to join the team at It’s Over Easy.

SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to rebuilding their lives on their own, healthiest terms. If you are recreating after divorce or separation, you are invited to experience SAS for Women firsthand. Schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation. Whether you work further with us or not, we’ll help you understand your next, black-and-white steps for walking into your brave unknown — with compassion, integrity and excitement.
Divorce mistakes women make

The 9 Biggest Divorce Mistakes Women Make

Simply hear the word “divorce” and chances are you feel a wave of emotion. Even the most amicably, equitably handled dissolutions are imbued with sadness, disappointment, and loss. But there are divorce mistakes women make that can lead to greater loss than marriage alone.

Divorce has a lot of parallels to the death of a loved one.

It marks a permanent end to an important relationship. It drags the predictable stages of grief in its wake.

And, as if adding insult to injury, it demands a resolute pragmatism against a backdrop of painful emotions.

Decisions have to be made—immediate, short-term, and far-reaching decisions. And many of those decisions will be complicated and will tempt your emotional resolve.

Most of the divorce mistakes women make are born out of this conflict. And they can be costly and regretful after there is clarity and it’s too late to make changes.

Here are the 9 biggest divorce mistakes women make. While you’re trying to figure out what to do, take time to also learn what not to do.

 

1.) Leading with your emotions.

Perhaps you and your soon-to-be-ex donned traditional stereotypes when it came to “emotional stuff.” You shed the tears and led with your heart; he was all business and quick to “fix.”

Perhaps there were incendiary topics that consistently led to heated conflicts and one person giving in to avoid more hurt.

Perhaps there are areas that always go for the jugular and cause you to react before thinking.

But now isn’t the time to let your emotions cloud your thinking. It’s not the time to cave in order to avoid conflict.

And it’s also not the time to drag things out to inflict punitive damage.

It’s time to be a wise, informed, level-headed advocate for your (and your children’s) future.

2.) Thinking there is an “ideal” time to divorce.

One of the biggest divorce mistakes women make is convincing themselves there will be an ideal or “better” time to divorce.

At any point in time, there are going to be challenges that make you question your timing.

You may not know how to file for divorce during uncertainty, as with the COVID-19 pandemic.

You may suddenly have a medical emergency with a family member.

If you have children in high school, perhaps you think it’s better to wait until they graduate.

The point is, there is never going to be a perfect, pragmatic time to divorce once you have made the decision that that’s your destiny.

3.) Not understanding the family finances.

This mistake can be the most costly to a woman. And it is only made worse by letting fear and/or emotional fatigue take the reins.

If you have deferred control of the family finances to your husband, it’s imperative that you get informed now.

Get copies of everything relating to your family finances—accounts, investments, debts.

And get a financial adviser to help you understand the picture that will ultimately determine your settlement.


For more steps to take if you are thinking about divorce or beginning the challenging process, read our “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.”


4.) Not understanding the future value and liability of the settlement.

Even if you have been involved in the finances, you probably don’t understand them with a future projection.

Different kinds of investments, for example, will have different tax liabilities. This area alone warrants having a financial advisor.

Just because something looks like “apples to apples” doesn’t mean it is.

5.) Settling too soon and for too little.

I get it. You’re tired and angry. You’re afraid. You just want to get it over with.

But settling too soon—and ultimately for too little—is one of the biggest divorce mistakes women make.

You may be overwhelmed by the realization that you have been completely in the dark about your finances.

It’s possible you feel guilt over your role in your marriage.

You may think a “decent sum” of money now will make walking away without a fight worthwhile.

But this is the time to suit up and show up for yourself and your future.

Put a little extra protein in your morning shake and get to work learning what you need to learn to advocate for yourself.

6.) Not using an attorney.

You and your ex-to-be may feel comfortable and amicable enough to work out most of the details of your divorce on your own.

No matter what you agree to, however, having your own attorney is just prudent. You need someone to cut through all that makes your divorce so “personal” and provide you with facts and figures.

Your divorce doesn’t have to be The War of the Roses in order for you to have what you’re entitled to.

But this isn’t the time to let your spouse be in charge of your future.

Hiring a good attorney, even if your divorce doesn’t go to trial, is your first step in building a circle of reliable support and resources. (Read more about questions to ask a divorce attorney.)

Your ex isn’t going to be directing your future after your divorce. Don’t give him that power now.

7.) Confusing justice with divorce law.

If you have been wronged in some way—infidelity, abandonment—this may be a tough pill to swallow. It’s only natural that you would want some kind of justice to make up for your suffering.

While no amount of money can make up for what you may have endured, a little legal justice would be gratifying.

Unfortunately, divorce law doesn’t work that way.

Part of your self-education should be learning the specifics of divorce law in your state. Some states are community property states. Some allow alimony and some don’t.

The point is, assuming there is no abuse or physical endangerment, divorce law isn’t punitive.

A good attorney will drive this point home so you can step outside your emotional thinking and into your pragmatic thinking.

8.) Keeping the family home.

It’s understandable that you would instinctively cling to the nest that you largely created on your own.

If you have children, you may not want them to be uprooted from their last vestige of familiarity. And “the house” may feel like your only anchor to not being demoted in your lifestyle.

But think about what it has taken to afford and maintain the house up to this point. Are you still paying a mortgage? What about property tax, utilities, and repairs?

Are you in a position to take on that responsibility by yourself?

While selling your house may seem like the final straw of loss, it can actually be a liberation. Starting over in your own place, downsized to what is essential and affordably comfortable, can reduce your burden going forward.

9.) Overspending

If you’re accustomed to a certain lifestyle, putting the brakes on spending money may feel unnatural and unfairly restrictive.

As you and your ex-to-be negotiate your settlement, non-essential spending will need to stop. Otherwise, you will be trying to pin a decision on a moving target.

Spending habits after your divorce will most likely also need modification.

Women usually come out of a divorce with less of a financial advantage. They struggle, in general, more than men post-divorce, living on restricted budgets and a lower income.

Of all the divorce mistakes women make, the most crippling and unnecessary is believing they have to go through a divorce alone.

Whether you’re contemplating or embarking on a divorce, there is plenty of support to help educate, guide, and encourage you.

One of the most empowering outcomes of going through a divorce is emerging with the realization that you can take care of yourself…

…because you already did.

 

SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to navigating divorce — on their own terms. If you are considering or dealing with divorce, you are invited to experience SAS for Women firsthand and schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation. Whether you work further with us or not, we’ll help you understand your next, black-and-white steps for walking into your brave unknown — with compassion and integrity.

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