Divorce Mediation

6 Essentials for Preparing for Divorce Mediation

Deciding to divorce is hard, and there are many big and little choices behind the ultimate decision. But there’s one question that many don’t grapple with: how do I want to divorce? This question is often left unaddressed because many believe that they’re doomed to have a litigious divorce. When most people think about divorce, they imagine the war-like scenario so often portrayed in popular culture. In this, one party is victorious, and the other is the loser. This image often involves mudslinging and scandal. While this route is one path to divorce, it’s not the only one. Moreover, it’s often not the best way to navigate an already difficult process. Divorce mediation offers an alternative solution.

What is Mediation?

One approach that’s continuing to grow in popularity—and is typically more cost-efficient—is mediation. In mediation, the parties meet with a neutral third party who guides them through the decisions that form their separation agreement. Mediation is an interest-based approach where the parties, together with the mediator, work to understand each other’s underlying motivations. Together, they generate creative resolutions to resolve any impasse. For that reason, mediation is not focused on retribution for marital grievances; instead, it’s a future-focused process intended to set the parties up for the next chapter of their lives. And most importantly for many of my clients, mediation provides absolute control over the outcome to the parties. This is because they—not the mediator—make all final decisions.

Who Should Mediate?

I truly believe that everyone (with limited exceptions) should attempt mediation before engaging in a traditional divorce model. Mediation is intended for (and should be used by) all who desire a less combative divorce process. Mediation also allows for more control over the timeline, cost, and outcome of the process.

Ideally, parties should attempt mediation before asking for court intervention. However, mediation is flexible and can be implemented at any stage of the process.

Mediation also can be used to resolve any issues relating to the divorce or a limited set of disputes. It can also be used for one issue, like custody. Thus, even if you’ve already begun a different process, you can still mediate—it’s not too late.

It’s especially important for parties who have children to attempt mediation. As I always tell my clients, children bind you for life, and the coparenting relationship is one of the most important relationships you will have—it does not end when your child turns eighteen. You and your Ex will forever have celebrations and life events that require you both to be present (graduations, weddings, and the birth of grandchildren, to name a few) so it’s best for all involved to try to learn how to move forward and get along.

The Benefits of Divorce Mediation

In fact, even if you don’t succeed at resolving your disputes in mediation, the mere act of engaging in the process produces positive results in the long run. A 12-year study conducted by Dr. Robert Emery shows that just five hours of mediation prompted parents to settle their divorce outside of court—and had positive effects on the coparenting and parent-child relationships. In fact, after just 5 hours of mediation, non-residential parents were more likely to speak with their children on a weekly basis and see their children more frequently. Moreover, the primary residential parent “graded” the other parent more highly in every area of parenting, including discussions related to coparenting problems.

Who Should Not Mediate?

There are three factors that make mediation an unsuitable process for some people to divorce. Since you are probably a woman reading this blog post on SAS for Women, you’ll want to understand them.

First, mediation should not be used if there is a history of domestic abuse (including physical, emotional, verbal, cyber, or financial abuse). A truly voluntary (and thus, enforceable) agreement cannot be made under threat or fear of abuse.

Second, parties who are not willing to be open about their finances are not suited for mediation. Since mediation does not include a formal discovery process, each party must be willing to produce documents necessary to illustrate the full financial landscape. Again, this is because a truly voluntary agreement cannot be reached if one party is not privy to all relevant facts.

Finally, mediation will be unsuccessful if a party is unable or disinclined to express themselves without an advocate present.

SAS Note: So, if you feel bullied in your marriage, if you’ve not had access to the money, don’t understand how the finances worked in your marriage, and/or your husband will not/would not share financial information with you, mediation may not be right for you. This is because you are not coming to the table at the same level of power as your husband. You may need an advocate, like a lawyer.

You’ve Made the Decision to Mediate, Now What?

1. Interview Several Mediators

Do your research and speak with several divorce mediators, either independently or together with your Ex. If you are speaking with the mediator separately from your husband, understand that the mediator will not be able to discuss content with you, but can discuss the structure of mediation and answer general questions. How to choose? Remember, you will share some of the most intimate details of your life with your mediator so it’s important that you feel comfortable with them. Moreover, not all mediators are attorneys, so make sure you understand the mediator’s background and whether they’re the right fit.

SAS Note: We recommend that the mediator you hire be a licensed divorce attorney. The truth is you want someone who really understands divorce law to help you complete this document. If your mediator is not a licensed attorney, you will pay extra to have it edited by a lawyer to make sure the document is legally tight before it gets sent off to court.

2. Gather Necessary Information

Create a file of your most recent financial statements (including statements related to bank accounts, credit cards, investment accounts, and mortgages). Your mediator may request documents dating further back, but having your most recent statements will be sufficient for your first session. If you are unable to gather all of your documents, a list of assets and liabilities will often give your mediator enough background to get started.

3. Make a List of Monthly Income and Expenses

Recreate your marital monthly income and expenses based on historical data. At a minimum, these amounts should be based on an average of three months’ worth of data. Being knowledgeable about the family income and expenses will help you and your Ex have realistic conversations and expectations relating to spousal maintenance and child support.

4. Meet with a Financial Advisor or Certified Divorce Financial Analyst

If you feel unprepared to speak about finances, you should speak privately with a financial expert. This person should be experienced with understanding how your money will be impacted by the divorce. This is the case no matter what model of divorce you and your spouse choose. A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (“CDFA”) will help you understand the marital finances and prepare you for the finance-related conversations that will occur during mediation.

5. Consult with an Attorney

At any point in the mediation process, you can consult with OR retain independent counsel. This helps ensure that any tentative agreements you’ve made or are considering make financial and practical sense for you long term.

This attorney will help you understand your rights and obligations under the law, before or during mediation. The attorney can even review the proposed separation agreement on your behalf. You should note, though, that not all attorneys favor the mediation process; it’s important to retain an attorney who is committed to your goal of succeeding in mediation. On the upside, more and more attorneys are willing to frame their mediation services as “unbundled services,” which are different than the traditional divorce retainer.

6. Adapt the Healthy Frame of Mind

There is no winning when it comes to divorce–even if you go to court. The sooner everyone comes to understand this, the better. When coming to mediation, be prepared to compromise and to come to an agreement. To help you do this, you’ll need to set aside your personal feelings. You’ll need to prepare to go to the “mind side of the wall” and prepare to work rationally. Your spouse may need to be reminded of this too.

Because making the decision to pursue a divorce is so challenging, it’s easy to forget that you have choices. For an increasing number of people, mediation offers a better path forward than traditional divorce models. As such, mediation has helped many families begin the next stage of their lives.

Notes:

Bryana founded Turner Divorce Mediation, P.C. after seeing firsthand the detrimental effects that litigation can have on a divorcing couple and their children. Through her mediation practice, she provides clients with a friendlier approach to divorce so that they are better equipped for a positive future. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about mediation, you are invited to email Bryana or you can visit her website.

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 a Nice Guy

How to Divorce a Nice Guy

Divorce may often be a painful and complicated process. When we’re leaving a lousy guy, the choice can be easier. We tend not to doubt what we want when all we want is Out.  But what if we need to divorce a nice guy? 

What if we’re wed to a good man, one who does marriage so much better than all the Horror Story Husbands we hear about?

He’s not a drunk or a cheater. Instead of condescension, infidelity, or abusiveness, he’s kind, loving, and devoted. He hasn’t lost three jobs in one year; he’s stable and good with money. Far from being indifferent to the children or annoyed by them, he adores them and raises them well. He’s fit, handsome and he thinks we’re gorgeous. 

The required fields are checked off. Everything about him tips the scales into the “good egg” box, and you know you never have to worry about him.

But you also know you’re unfulfilled. So, how do you divorce a nice guy?

This is where the concept of divorce becomes so much murkier. You are married to a stand-up guy. Maybe you even 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. 

The attraction, the connection, the pull to him has fled the bedroom. Something is calling you out of the marriage and you can’t continue to rationalize it away. But you can’t bring the ax of divorce down on your vows, either.

The Gamble of Marital Security vs. Personal Fulfillment

This inner conflict is normal and far more common than we realize. It’s also trickier to get out of because there’s no bad guy to rally against. But some women who take this gamble become the bad guy. They become the brunt of criticism by friends and family, particularly those who are highly pro-marriage.

People ask them why they’re throwing their marriage away. These people might strongly suggest therapy, or they might tell the “Bad Guy” woman she’s being fickle or selfish. According to this “conventional” view, staying married is the ultimate goal. For them, happiness can be sacrificed. And it takes an authentic, courageous woman to leave a perfectly good marriage and a perfectly good man.

It takes knowing ourselves well, and it requires the understanding that our soul’s most foundational nourishment lies within us. Perhaps it means deciding what we want, not what we think we should want.

How History Has Affected Divorce

It also helps to recognize that many of the practical reasons for sticking with a passionless marriage no longer exist. Few options existed for women in the past. In the early 1900s, American women were still legally designated as property. By the 1950s, the Betty Crocker generation still tended hearth, home, and children almost exclusively, with only a small percentage of women working outside the family dwelling.

That is not the case anymore. Relatively speaking, there are fewer barriers between American women and their careers. These careers often bring them excitement, social identity, and value beyond the picket fence, as well as the ability to make their own money–and plenty of it, in many cases.

That means that if they are unhappy in their marriage, they are not financially stuck in it. They can divorce even when their husband is otherwise a “nice” and financially supportive guy.

Women now do not have to settle for a good provider who can keep a roof over their head simply because he’s willing and able to do that. They have the power to leverage themselves out. They may feel awful about divorcing that really nice guy, but feeling guilty about something doesn’t mean we are actually at fault. 

Comparison Kills: Her Story is Not Your Story

“Women confide in me all the time that once they start researching divorce and hearing others’ horror stories about being abused, or mistreated, or how they’ve endured years living with a ‘narcissist,’ women in less dramatic situations feel their power dwindle and their guilt mount. How can they divorce a nice guy? Shouldn’t they just suck it up?” said divorce coach and SAS founder Liza Caldwell.

Guilt-stricken women describe their situation as platonic. They like their husbands but just aren’t sexually compatible with them. Instead of a union, the marriage feels like living with a roommate. And, in the midst of all this stifled uncertainty, guilt, and dissatisfaction, women may become passive-aggressive with their very nice guys. By staying in the marriage because they feel they should, they run the risk of becoming not-so-nice themselves. And in doing so, render an emotional disservice to their mate. This is how many come to divorce the typical “nice guy” husband.

Yearning for a Balanced Marriage

In some cases, women even feel sorry for their husbands. Perhaps he doesn’t make as much money as she does, or he is more in love with her than she is with him. 

Women can often empathize… almost to their detriment.  Pity is not love, and it is even less an aphrodisiac. A sense of emotional obligation is a strong tether to break, though.

“The ability of a woman to empathize with others, to stay in that place of constant caregiving to others, can be the death of her individual progress,” said Caldwell. “And while a part of her might be okay with sacrificing herself, what she doesn’t see is that she’s not showing up whole for the ones she is caregiving for.”

Women feel guilty, not justified, undeserving to act in any way that prioritizes their own needs or well-being. If they are mothers, I will often ask them: if their children were in this same situation, what would they tell their kids to do?”

“Then, women have absolute clarity,” she said. “They say, ‘I’d tell my daughter she deserves to be happy.’ So then, it’s really a question of us honoring ourselves, and valuing ourselves and our own lives as dearly as we tell our daughters and sons to do.” 

Leaving Your Best Friend

My partner of 13 years was a very good friend and an amazing man in many ways. He was intelligent, deep, forward-thinking, well-employed, good with money, MacGyver-smart about fixing things, honorable, very funny, talented, athletic, attractive, great in bed, and the best listener I’ve ever met. By all standards, I divorced a nice guy.

I know. Most of you are probably wondering if you can get his number.

Of course, he had his faults. He could be a U.S. Grade A Prime *%#hole. But overall? My Ex was a very good guy whom I loved.

Regret

A mate may fit well with one phase of our personal growth but not another. I don’t regret the decision to end our partnership, but I do regret some of my decisions leading up to it. By the time I made the choice to leave, it was the best one and has put a high dive under my self-development. But there were times before that–critically important choice points–where I could have made more effort. I could have been much more self-examining, more fearlessly committed to my own evolution. This could have made our commitment to each other stronger, our partnership richer. We also might have come to the same end result, but now I will never know. 

And having done some good Man Training for his new wife was, for a while, cold comfort.

It’s important to make sure we know what is really driving the choice to leave a good man. We need to honestly evaluate if we are the source of our own unhappiness. What are our real Primary Motivators, our true Deal Breakers? If our ego’s neediness is pushing this decision, it’s more likely we may regret the decision later. Refusing to deal with ourselves first, before looking at our husband’s effect on us, is a mistake. If we don’t confront the ways that we make ourselves unhappy, they will come back to bite us down the road.

How many women are blasé about their marriage and cope with it by stepping out and having an affair?  Is that fair to your Nice Guy? Does staying in a marriage and being unhappy, passive-aggressive or a grudge-holder serve your Nice Guy?  If you are not fully in the marriage and he is, is that fair? Does he deserve it? Or does he deserve the chance to meet someone who will meet him fully and lovingly, as he deserves to be loved? For many, the answers to these questions tell them that it’s time to divorce their nice-guy husband.

What about what you are modeling to your children?  How can you advise them to follow their own authentic selves and seek happiness compassionately with the world if you are not living that, too?

No one outside ourselves can “make us” happy, at least not for long. Lasting happiness only comes from within, and only from being fully and authentically present with ourselves. 

“Forever Love” or an Ever-Evolving Love?

Modern marriage takes a lot more flexibility than the original “institution” it was built for. People are beginning to shift the idea of marriage into one that allows for renegotiation. We are recreating it with a sense of dynamic yet committed impermanence. Instead of thinking in terms of “forever,” we are thinking in terms of ever-evolving.

This is what we are seeing develop from a mixed bath of infidelity numbers, the Living Apart Together trend, ethical non-monogamy, or not marrying at all but still engaging in loving, monogamous companionship.

We are pioneering a new marriage paradigm and recognizing that even “nice” and “good” may not last. What and who works now may not work later if each spouse is not growing into their potential and fully authenticated selves. And hopefully, we are learning to allow for that and accept it with grace.

Notes

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer, former print journalist, and feature writer living on the West Coast. Nicknamed Verbose at a young age, she loves wordcraft but has to keep a short leash on her fondness for the profane. Jennifer enjoys compelling content and the liberty to write about interesting contributors and innovative ideas. Connect with Jennifer at verbosej@hotmail.com.

Since 2012, SAS for Women has helped women face unexpected challenges that arise while considering, navigating, and rebuilding after 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.

The Truth About Divorce for Women

The Truth About Divorce for Women

It’s unique for every couple and every individual going through it. You know that— with your head, if not with your heart. But the truth about divorce for women (and men) is painted with both broad and fine brushes. And seeing the big picture is as important as seeing the details.

Being lost in the microcosm of an unhappy marriage can be all-consuming. Little things are “everything,” and the thought of going through a divorce can seem as insurmountable as the thought of staying married.

You have friends and acquaintances—and perhaps family members—who have gone through a divorce. You see it played out on screen and in the tabloids of daily life.

And no doubt you have witnessed the full temperature spectrum of divorce, from amicable to contemptuous.

Even under the best circumstances, divorce isn’t for the faint of heart.

Nor is it for the unprepared.

Because SAS for Women is just that—for women—we will be discussing the truth about divorce for women specifically. The good. The difficult. The possible.

What Statistics Say About Women and Divorce

It’s important to revisit what you may find to be a surprising statistic: Women initiate divorce almost 70% of the time compared to men.

Add a college degree and that statistic skyrockets to 90%.

Why do women take the initiative to divorce their husbands more than the other way around? And why are the scales almost equally balanced when it comes to break-ups of non-marital relationships?

Obviously, there is something remarkable about the institution of marriage when it comes to uncovering the truth about divorce—for women, specifically.

In general, women are more vested in the expectations of marriage. Once-traditional roles are no longer applicable, especially as most women are pulling their weight both inside and outside the home.

They invest more. And they want more. The connection, the communication, the fidelity, all of it.

And education only makes them more astutely aware of what they can do and have in life and relationships.

It also makes them unwilling to tolerate less.

Education, after all, is as much about learning how to think and access resources as it is about stockpiling knowledge: a big advantage in today’s marriages.

Education is also a big advantage for women going through a divorce.

The Impacts of Divorce

When it comes to the truth about divorce for women, knowing how to create solutions and where to find help can be lifesaving.

And nowhere is that more true than in the areas of finances and single-parenting.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest shocks of divorce is what it does to women financially. All the upfront preparation often can’t prepare women for the long-term financial struggle they statistically face.

Countless factors influence this possibility, of course.

Women are far more inclined than men to sacrifice professionally in order to prepare for or raise children.

By the time they divorce, they have often lost critical years in the workforce. And they can’t make up for lost time on the earning-front—both in income and benefits.

This is why it’s essential that women have expert financial guidance and heed the most important financial steps after divorce. They have to think ahead to the unknown future in order to make wise decisions in the present.

Difficult as it is to face, the truth about divorce for women means they need to be savvy, both upfront and for the long haul. What may sound like a great settlement at divorce time may not be enough to secure even a comfortable lifestyle down the road without a struggle.

Single-parenthood can be another difficult reality check for women, especially if they’re already dealing with diminished financial status.

On top of doing everything alone, there is also the emotional component of not being part of their children’s daily lives.

And then there is the likelihood that their exes will find someone new to love and marry. And that means a new maternal influence in their children’s lives.

But the reality of divorce isn’t all bad. There is plenty of good on the other side of divorce.

Hidden Benefits of Divorce

If you’ve been trapped in a marriage that has suppressed your dreams and gifts, divorce can open the door to self-rediscovery. It can expand your consciousness of who you are and what you want in life.

Divorce can also offer exhilarating freedom. Not because marriage in and of itself is imprisoning, but because one or both partners can lose perspective of marriage’s liberating, elevating potential.

Perhaps the most positive truth about divorce for women is the sense of empowerment and independence it engenders.

Yes, you can come out of divorce struggling with your sense of self-worth, especially if your spouse was unfaithful, abusive, or neglectful.

But there is power—and potential—in knowing how long to stay and when to go. And being a steadfast advocate for your own dignity, even when it has suffered a blow, is a statement of promise for your future.

As you start to rely upon your own strength, ideas, and resources, in the context of your deepest values, your power magnifies. You realize there is more you can accomplish and dream about.

And in that reaching, stretching, and holding your own, you build resilience. You become an example, not only to your aspiring self but to your children and those who bear witness to your journey.

Divorce, even in the best circumstances, isn’t a do-over with a blank slate. What presents itself as new, free, and self-directed is still seasoned by marriage loss.

What you needn’t lose, however, are its lessons. And, out of its lessons, your resolve to rise, just as a tree adds to its rings while rising toward the sun.

The truth about divorce, for women on their way and women already there, is ultimately seeded in one unbreakable vow: to live into their highest selves for their highest good.

Notes

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

Financial consultation for a divorce

Smart Moves for Women: A Financial Consultation for a Divorce

When considering divorce, or before responding to a spouse’s request for divorce, most women know it is smart to consult with a divorce attorney to learn about their rights and entitlements. But few women realize it is equally important to pursue a financial consultation for divorce with an experienced financial advisor. Who is a good financial advisor? It’s not the one you and your spouse have been using (unless s/he is more in your pocket than your spouse’s.) This new advisor should be someone who really listens to you and your concerns as a woman, has at least 10 years of experience, and (most importantly) understands how divorce impacts your money. For this reason, you may wish to cut to the chase and consult with an advisor who holds the certified divorce financial analyst® (CDFA®) designation.

Marital finances are often complicated. If any of the following situations apply to you, you may want to consult with a CDFA even before you consult with an attorney:

  • You wonder if the income that supported one household could stretch to support two;
  • You or your spouse purchased the family home before marriage;
  • The marital estate includes multiple assets such as real estate, stocks/bonds/funds, retirement accounts, pensions, cryptocurrency or private equity;
  • You or your spouse receives equity compensation such as restricted stock units (RSUs) or stock options; or
  • You or your spouse is self-employed or owns a business.

Women Not Confident in Their Financial Knowledge Often Pay More in Legal Fees

We don’t need Sherlock Holmes to discover for us that many experienced divorce attorneys charge high hourly rates. Martindale-Nolo surveyed attorneys and consumers in both 2015 and 2019 and concluded that the cost of divorce was influenced primarily by the attorney’s hourly rate and the number of hours the attorney spent on the divorce case. According to the survey, on average, divorce attorneys charge between $300 and $365 per hour in California and $305 and $380 in New York. 

I work with women across the country, especially with clients in California, and many of them choose attorneys who are certified as family law specialists. These specialists charge between $350 and $575 per hour. Top family law litigators charge even more. 

Your lawyer serves a critical role, whether he or she is advising you as a consulting attorney during mediation with a neutral third party, or representing you from start to finish with respect to your case. But paying a lawyer by the hour to increase your knowledge on the financial aspects of divorce will result in unnecessarily high bills. This is not the best use of your money.

It makes a lot of sense to choose the right tool for the task, especially when that tool is less expensive. Most CDFAs charge rates that are 30% to 50% lower than the rates attorneys charge in their markets. So, if you want to learn how retirement accounts and pensions are divided, whether or not you can afford to stay in your house (or qualify to refinance the mortgage in your own name), how to negotiate a fair division of assets, and what you need to do to ensure long-term finances, then I recommend you arrange a consultation with a smart money person or a certified divorce financial planner.  

A CDFA Helps You Avoid Costly Mistakes

CDFAs are financial professionals who understand your budget. We look for ways to ensure we add value so your investment in time and money pays off. We help you evaluate settlement proposals before you get to the final, divorce financial settlement. Putting in the work in advance will help you avoid mistakes that could prove costly down the road. 

One of the most common mistakes women make is agreeing to a division of assets that might look fair today—but results in a less-than-equal division in the future because they did not consider after-tax values.

If child support and/or alimony (sometimes referred to as “spousal support” or “maintenance” depending on your state) occurs in your case, it is critical to work with a financial professional who can project your after-tax cash flow and assist you with preparing both a pre- and post-divorce budget. You do not want to commit to a lifestyle for you and your children that you cannot afford. And, conversely, you don’t want to pinch pennies and live in a state of anxiety if your CDFA concludes that running out of money later is unlikely.

How to Find a Good CDFA

You can find a CDFA in your area by entering your zip code on the Institute for Divorce Financial Analyst’s website. There you will find newly-minted CDFAs as well as experienced practitioners.  

Many CDFAs have Yelp or Google reviews so be sure to check those sites as well as ask for referrals. 

Ask your divorced friends for the names of attorneys, mediators, and CDFAs. I recently attended a birthday party for a former client and was pleasantly surprised to see two other former clients in attendance. I had only met with one of them via Zoom during the pandemic and it was wonderful to be able to give her an in-person hug. 

Everyone is using Zoom these days so you do not need to limit yourself to a CDFA in your local area. And, in my experience, Zoom is even better than in-person meetings when reviewing and commenting on documents and spreadsheets. As long as the CDFA is familiar with your state’s laws and has experience working with attorneys or mediators in your state, he or she should be able to provide value, but never legal advice (that is what your attorney does).

For example, since one of my specialties is determining the marital and separate property portions of equity compensation for employees of both publicly–traded and start-up companies, it is no surprise that many of my clients live in the San Francisco Bay Area when I’m physically located in San Diego. 

How to Prepare for a Financial Consultation for Divorce

Most financial advisors and CDFAs offer complimentary financial consultations for divorce. I offer consultations by phone and last between 15 and 30 minutes. I also provide 30-minute financial consultations for divorce to participants in SAS for Women’s Annie’s Group. Before your consultation, check out the advisor or CDFA’s website and read their resources. This is your opportunity to have a professional answer your basic questions before you ask specific questions relevant to your unique situation.

To make your consultation call most productive, it’s best to have…

  • a list of you and your spouse’s assets and debts and estimated values 
  • your last two years of tax returns. 

Some women handle the finances in their marriage, so this information is not hard for them to organize. But in reality, only some women have access to all that information so just do the best you can. Any information you can provide is helpful. You will also want to tell the CDFA how long you have been married, whether you are currently living with your spouse, and the ages of any minor children.

While the CDFA may be able to answer some of your questions, don’t expect him or her to answer all of them during a brief consultation. If you are the primary breadwinner in your family, and increasingly many women are, you’ll want to make sure you do everything to protect yourself and support your family. You’ll want to ask the advisor/CDFA how he or she works. Specifically, you’ll want to know whether the fee is hourly or flat-rate, and what you can expect to accomplish by working together. For example, I charge an hourly rate but also offer flat-fee packages for divorce financial planning and analysis before and during divorce like the “It Could Happen” and “Mediation Money Mentor” packages. 

Conclusion

No matter how you choose to divorce (mediation using a neutral third-party, traditional approach of you each hiring a lawyer, litigation, or DIY via an online platform), connecting with a financial advisor is just plain smart to ensure your best future. A CDFA can add value by reducing legal expenses and/or the time it takes to divorce. Once you become educated on your financial options and what is possible, you can more effectively and healthily advocate for yourself during the divorce process. You’ll avoid the possibility of making financial mistakes that will be detrimental to your future. I cannot tell you how many times I have introduced myself at a networking event where the woman will say to me, “I wish I had known about you when I was going through my divorce.”  

Notes

Laurie Itkin, “The Options Lady,” is a financial advisor and certified divorce financial analyst® and has worked on more than 250 divorce cases, primarily in California, either as a financial neutral or advocate to one spouse. Laurie has been quoted in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, San Diego Union Tribune, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, U.S. News and World Reports, Parade, Redbook, and Forbes. She is a member of the Association of Divorce Financial Planners, the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts and the National Association of Women Business Owners and provides pro-bono financial advice to clients of the San Diego Financial Literacy Center and Savvy Ladies. You can request a consultation or sign up for Laurie’s monthly newsletter here

 

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women. We partner with you through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce and rebuilding your life afterward. Schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation with SAS. Tell us confidentially what’s going on, and we’ll give you clear feedback, resources, and suggestions for your next steps.

Infidelity and Divorce

The Betrayal of Infidelity

It is possible to think rationally in the face of divorce… sometimes. The crumbling of a marriage is painful, of course. However, we can be logical about things like financial disputes, changing priorities, long-distance hardships, or child rearing. Infidelity, though? Not so much.

Hitting Us Where It Hurts the Most

The betrayal of infidelity is one of the top catalysts of divorce. In a recent SAS survey, we asked 100 women dealing with divorce to name the primary reason for their separation. Between 7-10% said adultery was the cause of their divorce, though it’s unclear from the survey who cheated on whom. That means cheating ranked as the number four reason for divorce, with lack of good communication, domestic abuse, and constant arguing ranking ahead of it.

When we discover that our husband* is unfaithful, sensible analysis and calm discernment take headers right out the window. There are other ways to break trust in a relationship, such as choosing an addiction over the relationship or hiding credit card debt. However, even these don’t hit as viscerally as cheating does. No other divorce catalyst is such an emotional hot button as the particular sting of disloyalty.

Most likely, it doesn’t matter how grounded we are or how well developed our self esteem may be. The betrayal of infidelity goes far beyond an emotional slap in the face.

The pain of adultery makes it difficult to hold on to a levelheaded frame of mind in the middle of that onslaught of pain, rage, bewilderment, and devastation. No matter what we read or who we talk to, there seems to be universal agreement that being untrue to the marriage vow of “forsaking all others” hurts the worst. It is also the most challenging bridge-burning from which to rebuild the trust that once existed between two people.

The Mortal Wounding of Infidelity

An affair: the term is a misnomer, really. Something that breaks trust so deeply and wounds on such an intimate, personal level shouldn’t also be a term for a lovely party. And the term “extramarital sex” sounds like a gynecological exam. It’s clinical and somewhat unpleasant, but it doesn’t conjure up the rage and bleeding-out-on-the-floor emotional havoc that the betrayal of infidelity wreaks. Finding out that your husband is two-timing you may sound like a country line dance but in actuality, it’s psychologically leveling for a period of time. Cheating is a spouse taking a hard look at the most vulnerable part of us and saying, in essence, “You’re not enough. You’re not good enough to merit my effort to stay true to you and to my word. You’re not worthy of the vow I said I would keep.”

The betrayal of infidelity shatters the commitment that the two of you made and throws a Molotov cocktail on your self-worth, the softest underbelly of who we are.

Cheating takes that vulnerable part of us, that part that we keep down in the depths that is the truest part of us, tosses it aside and says, “This can be replaced.” In North Carolina’s well-publicized case Clark vs. Clark case, one woman had to sit in the courtroom and listen to her Ex and his new wife testify that he never loved her in the first place.

Monogamous fidelity is one of the cornerstones of traditional unions, so the effect of an extramarital affair destroys an essential part of a married couple’s foundation. It takes a lot of work and support, and most likely, good professional help to rebuild that trust.

We May Not Forget but We Must Forgive

I was on the sidelines of an affair that involved a woman I know well, and so I witnessed the corrosion that a lack of active forgiveness can etch onto a marriage. The betrayal of his infidelity itself was gut-wrenching, but beyond that, it was frightening for her as a Stay-at-Home-Mom to be left with two young children and the prospect of raising them by herself. The two of them decided to remain married and work it out.

If that is our choice, we may not forget, but forgiving and consciously choosing to not punish him for the rest of the marriage is necessary for it to be a healthy one. It’s also necessary to take a hard look at ourselves and asking, “If cheating is a symptom of unhappiness, how did I contribute to the unhappy dynamic? And how do I address that now?”

That doesn’t mean taking all the blame. In fact, if you’re married to a narcissist or an abuser, you must be even more careful to not engage in the constant apology. Generally, though, looking honestly at ourselves does mean that we have to own our own behavior and how it affects the people around us.

The Metamorphosis of Marriage

It may be helpful to keep in mind that we are far from alone in this enormous challenge. Infidelity claims 25-40% of marriages, and the reasons for affairs range from resentment to stress to differences in sexual appetite, et cetera. In the younger generations, the percentage of women cheating on their husbands is now equaling men. Women in their 50s and 60s are also beginning to catch up with their male counterparts in the extramarital sex arena.

COVID-19 has also made it even more difficult for couples to sustain their togetherness. The National Institute of Health evaluated the effects of the pandemic on marriage in September 2020. The NIH found that the pressure cooker of sheltering in place may have made it harder to actually conduct a physical affair, but increased the numbers of people seeking them.

It may also be helpful to note that as “the done thing,” traditional marriage is beginning to take a backseat to new relationship paradigms. There is a growing recognition that the institution of marriage needs an infusion of flexibility and dynamism if it’s going to survive.

Couples are choosing to reevaluate their vows a few years into the union to see if they are still on the same page or if they need to make incremental changes. (Incrementally speaking, think screwdriver approach instead of a hammer).

Non-Traditional Approaches to Fidelity and Marriage

Married people are choosing to live in separate homes, a practice of “living apart together” in LAT relationships that honor the individual and help people in long-term unions maintain a “still-dating” romantic edge. And two weeks ago, the MSN home page featured a story on monogamy being “out of date” with a list of high-profile celebrities who include a little extracurricular activity into their happy marriages on purpose. They all had slightly different ways of handling it, but the message here is that some open relationships can lead to happier and more unified marriages.

The Metamorphosis of Self

It also takes support and, often, professional help if you decide that you don’t want to rebuild and choose instead take divorce by the horns. Leaving a marriage, especially on the heels of infidelity, requires a lot of us. It is just as much work as rebuilding a marriage. We enter a phase of partnering ourselves more effectively, and this means facing some uncomfortable truths about who we were in the marriage. We also must face who we are currently and who we are becoming. If we are going to truly evolve, we have to embrace the galvanizing effects of the pain and then move past it into self-honesty and forgiveness. If we can do this and truly let go, we find a whole new kind of freedom and self-commitment to celebrate.

Notes

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer, former print journalist and feature writer living on the West Coast. Nicknamed Verbose at a young age, she loves wordcraft but has to keep a short leash on her fondness for the profane. Jennifer enjoys compelling content and the liberty to write about interesting contributors and innovative ideas. 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.

* At SAS, we support same-sex marriage. However, for the sake of simplicity, we may refer to the spouse as “he” or “husband.”

Why Women Initiate Divorce More Than Men

7 Reasons Why Women Initiate Divorce More Than Men

The wedding-day fantasy seems to be infused into almost every girl’s DNA. Fairy tales nurture it, movies exaggerate it, and shows like Say Yes to the Dress and Four Weddings flat-out exploit it. So it may come as a surprise that women initiate divorce more than men.

Perhaps you’re thinking it’s the hype of the wedding and not the marriage that makes women initiate divorce 69% of the time compared to men. They have a lifetime of dreaming and planning, then boom, babies, bills, and boredom.

But interestingly, the initiative is pretty equally split in non-marital relationships. This suggests that there is “something” about marriage that contributes to the statistical imbalance.

So what is it about tying the knot that pushes women to make a decision that often doesn’t fare in their favor? Women, after all, statistically struggle more than men with finances and lifestyle maintenance after divorce.

And, if they have spent years out of the workforce in order to raise children, they leave their marriages at a disadvantage.

Moreover, they rarely recover fully.

The reasons for which women initiate divorce are not formulaic or limited to those discussed here. But they do tend to fall under some broad categories of dissatisfaction.

Here are 7 reasons why women initiate divorce more often than men. See if any of them hit home for you.

 

  1. Women have high and complex expectations about marriage, and those get dashed.

    Today’s bride-to-be isn’t registering for aprons and cookbooks. She expects an egalitarian relationship with shared responsibilities and benefits not predicated on colonial gender roles. Chances are that she is employed or on a focused career path. So, she is making a contribution to the family that was once the sole responsibility of the husband.

    Women today expect more. They want emotional intimacy, communication, personal growth, and shared responsibility.

    When marriage starts to feel more like wash-rinse-repeat than the promised pursuit of dreams, disenchantment can creep in and take over. Once this tension sets in, women are more likely to feel its effects. Thus, women initiate divorce more often when this contradiction arises.

  2. Equality isn’t all that “equal.”

    Change may be the only thing constant in life. But that doesn’t mean it happens cleanly or logically. In the span of a handful of decades, the role of women in society has changed exponentially. Women are equally in the workforce, earning degrees, and taking on roles of tremendous power and influence. Women are notorious for braving the front lines of initiative and necessary change. Society and entities content with the status quo, however, aren’t always so quick to follow suit.

    Technology, media, education, and a shrinking world continue to expose the always-present powers and potential of women. And yet, acceptance of those traits doesn’t seem to have caught up with married and family life.

    Despite working outside the home just like their husbands, married women still do the majority of childcare and housework. So, while blazing new trails in the world at large, they are finding themselves stuck in traditional expectations at home.

    And many women are finding that this dynamic is holding them back in life. They are capable of and yearning to do so much more. But something has to give.

    Unfortunately, divorce in transformational times is another barrier that women are having to overcome. Equality, it seems, is ahead of its time.

  3. Women are still the emotional caregivers.

    Some things, like a woman’s proclivity for emotional expression and intuition, are a reflection of natural traits. But neither gender has a corner on the market of any natural leaning, especially when choice and effort can enrich it. And yet, when it comes to being sensitive, and responsive to the emotional needs of a family, the expectation still usually falls to the wife or mother. Men may have an inclination to be less emotive and communicative, but they can and often do exploit the stereotype. The weight left on the woman’s shoulders, then, becomes extremely heavy and draining over time. This weight may cause women to initiate divorce long before their spouses.

    It also contributes to women being held back by marriage, as there is often so little energy left for themselves.

  4. Women are more inclined to reach out for support.

    Perhaps it’s because they have so much on their plate (and always have) that women have a knack for building community. Compared to men, they are far more likely to reach out for support. While the voices of wisdom and support may advise a woman to live her best life, men are more likely to stay stuck. Conservatism and emotional closure contribute to their choice to stay in a marriage, regardless of its dysfunction.

  5. Women are getting more educated.

    In the based-on-a-true-story movie Dangerous Beauty, the Venetian courtesan Veronica Franco proves to be more than just beautiful. She learns that courtesans are the only women given access to libraries and education, and she devours the opportunity. In one simple statement to the wives of Venice, she makes the power of that distinction clear: “A woman’s greatest and most hard-won asset is an education.” Five-hundred years later, there is still truth in her words. Women are now leading the graduation rates for both undergraduate and graduate degrees. And college-educated women initiate divorce 90% of the time, compared to 69% for women overall. Yet another testament to the role education and exposure to “what’s out there” have on women stepping into their full potential.

  6. Women have more opportunities today.

    It’s almost surreal to look back on the roles of women in history. Misguided theories, restrictive laws, and male-dominated societies have all conspired to build walls that women are still breaking down. And yet, for all the opportunities and glimpses of equality that women in America have, women in many nations are still living in a dark history. We have only to look at the patriarchal systems of the Middle East to know that one woman’s journey may be world’s away from another woman’s journey.

  7. Women often have nothing more to lose.

    Sometimes being the underdog has its advantages. If a woman is being repressed, mistreated, abused, or neglected in a marriage, she may see no risk in leaving. The greater risk may come from staying. This “nothing left to lose” mindset can be energizing and may literally propel a woman upward.

When you consider all that women have had to overcome throughout history, it’s natural to marvel at their strength and tenacity.

The fact that, in our modern era, women initiate divorce more than men comes with and because of conflicting messages.

On the one hand, women are taking the blinders off and shielding themselves with their own power instead of fear.

On the other hand, sometimes the rest of the world isn’t ready for what can be… and should be.

Notes

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

Causes of Divorce

The Most Insidious Causes of Divorce: 107 Women Tell Their Truths

Whether you’re considering divorce or working through its aftereffects, it’s normal to fixate on why. What caused this and where did the problems begin? Who or what is to blame? In an effort to uncover the most common causes of divorce, SAS surveyed 107 women about why they are divorcing their husbands*, and some of their responses may actually surprise you.

Infidelity, as one of the most viscerally painful causes of divorce, gets a lot of press as a catalyst for ruining a marriage. What the SAS survey uncovered as the biggest trigger for divorce, however, was something seemingly less explosive and certainly teachable.

Top Causes of Divorce: You’re Not Listening

The leading cause for divorce was “bad communication,” or just a lack of it. Not feeling heard or understood was what 18 percent of women said led them to dissolve their marriages. Add that to the 12 percent who said “constant fighting” was the biggest cause of divorce and the one percent who simply named “silence,” and that means that faulty communication made up 31 percent of women’s reasons for divorce.

That’s a huge portion of divorces: almost one third of the 107 women we surveyed.

In fact, when this writer asked a small group of five people (three women and two men) who describe themselves as “happily married” what their the secrets were, “good communication” was among the top two most important building blocks to their success.

The first answer that two of the “happily married” women gave was simply “Therapy!”

The same two followed that up by saying that they went to therapy in large part to learn how to communicate better, and that good communication was hugely important in keeping their partnerships functional and strong.

One of the “happily marrieds”, a woman in her early 50s, has been married for 17 years. She owns and runs a successful business with her husband and was previously married. The other, in her early 30s, was also married once before and has been with her current husband for 11 years. Both of them have children from both marriages and work in and outside the home.

“If I say to him, ‘you’re this’ or ‘you did that,’ he shuts down, but if I say ‘It’s hurtful when this happens,’ he’ll listen,” said Makenzi.

Darby said therapy taught her to process first and come back to the conversation later, to pick her battles, and to breathe through her own reactions before speaking.

Dancing in the Sheets and Dating Your Husband

“Someone asked me why we’re so happy together if we fight so often,” said Darby, laughing. “I said ‘Well, the sex is phenomenal.’”

The SAS survey rooted out 7 percent of women naming a “lack of intimacy or connection” and another 7 percent identifying “infidelity” as the leading causes of divorce. They did not disclose whether the extramarital affairs were their own or their husband’s. On that note, though, women of the millennial and baby boomer generations are upending the old stereotype of the hubby coming home with lipstick on his collar. In fact, millennial women are running neck and neck with men for cheating on their respective spouses.

Sexual expression is a foundational part of connection, trust, joy and loving actively. It is an important indicator of good mental and emotional health for a lot of people. Happier couples identify sexual compatibility and having sex at least once a week as one of their important indicators of happiness.

Child-Free Life

Ironically, while regular and enthusiastic sex is part of a happy marriage, the product that can come of this activity is not. Despite how fulfilling it is to raise children, they are a significant stress factor. It may not be a popular perspective, but remaining sexually active yet child-free is often a mark of a vibrant, less taxed marriage.

Of the five people I interviewed, three named sexual compatibility among their top three priorities. Both Darby and Makenzi said that having regular date nights and staying sexually connected are critical to their own happiness and the health of their marriages.

After all, if a marriage is more of a family business or a merger, then it leaves out a foundational, biologically inscribed part of what it means to be human.

If you’re both not interested in sex, fantastic. But if only one of you is uninterested, perhaps it’s time to let the one who is still sexually percolating have a boyfriend or a girlfriend. Because, otherwise, isn’t it a little selfish and withholding?

Paul, a 49-year-old father of two who has been married for more than 20 years to the same woman, put it most succinctly.

“Sex I don’t have to fight for,” was his off-the-cuff description of what makes a good marriage.

Working Together

If marriage is a bicycle, the wheels do need to roll in the same direction. When one partner spins off on a new life path, as often happens with dynamic, self-actualized human beings, the other partner can’t carry the whole thing forward alone. If both people can’t work in tandem, one of them inevitably breaks off. Understandably, this inability to work together is one of the top causes of divorce.

A good marriage takes into account not only the journey of the couple, but the individual experience of each person.

“You have to have time to yourself and with each other,” said Sherry, who has been happily married to her husband for 53 years. They married when he was 18 and she was a pregnant 16-year-old. They have two daughters, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. They’ve also made it through her husband’s personality-changing stroke.

Hallmarks of a True Partnership

She and her husband play Mr. and Mrs. Claus together every Christmas, but Sherry’s individual activity is a lot less fluffy: she’s been doing cardio kickboxing classes for years. And incidentally, working together was her first rule of thumb for a good marriage, but good communication was the second. After all, how would you work together if you’re not talking and listening to each other about what and how well you’re doing it?


Thinking about divorce? But too scared to take a step, because any step could be one you’d regret?

Breathe. Then read “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.

 


Sherry’s comments touched on a few other catalysts for divorce that the SAS survey unearthed. Among them? Growing apart or evolving in different directions. Women also cited “Empty Nesting,” as one of the main causes of divorce because it makes a couple realize their kids kept them together as their only common ground.

Additionally, sometimes a union suffers too many traumas. Sherry and her husband climbed some steep hills right out of the gates, which primed them for challenges. But had they both sustained a life-altering illness, for example, or a career change turned the partnership into a long-distance one, it may have taxed the elasticity of their marriage too much.

“Sometimes when illness happens, you have to re-learn each other, and that can be challenging, but all of us change every five years or so,” she said.

“You have to know who you are so you can grow together, and so—when the kids leave the house and all the dust settles–you’re not staring at each other across the table, thinking, ‘I don’t know you… and I’m not sure I like you.’”

We Don’t Want the Same Things

A lot of factors identified in the SAS survey break down a couple’s ability to function as a team. Eight percent of respondents said a “disconnect in the value system” was their cause of divorce. That term covers a lot of ground. It could be just another way to describe sexual incompatibility.

“I still think monogamy is the answer to most people’s need for physical and emotional connection,” said Sam, a 49-year-old therapist and a divorced father of a teen.

“But it’s still a hard expectation for one person to meet all those needs.”

Needs don’t just refer to sexual ones. Value system changes also incorporate midlife crises in women and men; giving too much weight to the opinions of extended family members; addictions that one or both partners refuse to surrender; not seeing eye to eye on how to raise the children, and money problems. These causes of divorce can run the gamut from shopping or gambling addiction, hiding credit card debt, underemployment, or not telling your spouse about an investment or business venture that fails. Or, perhaps one spouse supports the other during advanced college courses but never sees the financial reward because the newly degreed trades them in for a new model.

Value Imbalance in the Household

Value imbalances are some of the top causes of divorce. One type of this imbalance involves the “second shift,” the housework that women almost always shoulder when they finish their day job.

Housekeeping is essentially a second, part-time, unpaid job and it is often ignored by male spouses. Women often feel like the maid or hired help. Men may prefer having clean clothes in the closet, not tripping over Legos in the living room, or being able to see the bottom of the kitchen sink, but not enough to actually contribute to the labor. They will even feign ignorance of how to perform a household chore (such as “I didn’t know which part of the dishwasher this went in.”) Right.

Couples who communicate about their housekeeping expectations, define their jobs clearly and then do them without their spouse having to ask or remind them are the ones creating marriages defined as “happy.”

Abuse

It’s frightening how many women who SAS surveyed named domestic abuse as the reason for their divorces: 15 percent. Abuse can be physical, emotional, or psychological. Women are more likely to encounter physical abuse, but men are coming forward with stories of psychological abuse by their wives, such as lying, verbal abuse, and manipulation.

Abuse often stems from a loss of control or a need for power. Sometimes abuse stems from physical illnesses that affect the brain, such as MS or stroke, but in other cases, personality disorders and other mental illnesses are a factor.

ADHD and anger management issues can be managed very well, but only if the individual is willing to unlearn behaviors. Abusers must take responsibility for the damage they’re doing to the people around them. Abuse is frequently exacerbated by drinking, drugs and other addictions.

Four percent of SAS surveyed-women identified narcissism as the final straw for divorcing their husbands. Narcissism is defined by an inflated sense of importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a total lack of empathy for others. Narcissistic traits such as gaslighting, lying, redirection, taking no responsibility for self, having no empathy or regard for other people’s feelings are subtle and hard to spot at first. If your gut is telling you something is wrong, don’t discount it. Talk to a professional and get help getting out.

Loveless Marriage

He may even just come right out and say it: I don’t love you anymore. There are few things that will hurt as badly. At the end of the day, there is no way to salvage a marriage where love doesn’t live in both people. Sometimes, he won’t say it but you know anyway. We can tell when we’ve become invisible to our spouse or when we are no longer cherished.

Monogamy and marriage take tenacity, imagination and an ability to see each other as the new beings we become over the years. Comfort is one thing but too much laziness in a marriage will starve it.

As Sherry said, “You have to remember why you first fell in love.”

 

Notes

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer, former print journalist, and feature writer 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 compelling content and the liberty to write about interesting contributors and innovative ideas. Connect with Jennifer at verbosej@hotmail.com.

 

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce or rebuilding your life post-divorce, the most important decision you can make is 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 complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. SAS offers all women six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you. Join our tribe and stay connected.

*At SAS, we support same sex marriage. We may refer to your Ex as “he” or “husband” for the sake of ease.

Divorce Financial Settlement

What is a Divorce Financial Settlement?

A divorce financial settlement is the agreement or order directing how assets and debts are to be divided between the parties in a divorce. As such, it is part of the larger divorce settlement agreement. Most divorce financial settlements will involve dividing the entire estate equally 50/50; however, there are certain times when it is more equitable to have one spouse receive more assets or less debt depending on childcare, current salaries, and other factors. Generally, being informed and having open communication with your soon to be Ex will lessen the tension and hopefully lead to an amicable settlement across the board.

However, reaching an agreement can be complicated, with hundreds of questions about attorneys, consultation, and the tornado of paperwork that separating brings. How do you ensure that your financial settlement benefits you? How do you know that your lawyer is really working in your best interests? With all of these concerns, it’s no wonder why Psychology Today links divorce stress to physical health problems.

As a woman, your primary focus should be ensuring that you achieve the best business transaction for you–that you and your children are set up for healthy living after the split. To that end, here are some answers and general advice about how best to go about a divorce financial settlement.

Should You Settle Before or After the Parenting Agreement?

Ideally, it is best to figure out your budget first, parenting time second, and then settle the financial agreement third. To do this, sit down with a financial advisor and outline your monthly budget to determine what you need to make sure you can live as comfortably as possible. Understand that you will have to compromise. Most likely, you will not have the same standard of living you experienced while married. At the very least, you’ll need to make sure you have enough to cover your bills and essentials.

From there, calculate how much it would cost to clothe, feed, and house each of your children. You will need to factor in how much you will be receiving or paying in child support.

When determining your budget, remember to factor in hidden costs. Ask your financial advisor about inflation and taxes to make sure every expense is accounted for.

Answering these questions first will make it much easier when discussing the parenting agreement or the financial agreement. By having all your answers ready ahead of time, you will be prepared for every question thrown at you. It will also ensure you are not agreeing to things that may cost you more down the road.

How to Make Sure Your Divorce Financial Settlement is in Your Interest

It can be hard to divide finances evenly when there is an obvious bias between you and your Ex. Maybe you’re a Stay-at-Home-Mom or the primary breadwinner in your marriage. Hiring an attorney to negotiate helps ensure you get what is rightfully owed to you, or that you are not overpaying.

You need to be honest about everything financial. Armed with the budget you outlined before, be prepared to express your needs and be open about what you can compromise on. Sharing this with your lawyer will help you and your lawyer to come to the table with all the facts laid out; this is the best way to ensure you have financial security after the separation.

If you are concerned your partner is not telling the truth about their finances (he* wouldn’t be the first!) then a divorce lawyer can help. Leave the investigating to them. You need to focus on yourself and your needs right now.

When offered a document, it’s important to remember this rule of thumb as your creed: you will have to compromise. If it sounds like you are not compromising, then it is too good to be true.

Whom to Consult Before Submitting A Settlement to the Other Side

After consulting with the financial advisor to determine your budget, you need to sit down with a divorce lawyer to figure out your best course of action. Make sure to bring your budget calculations, tax returns, pay stubs, any prenuptial or separation agreements.

If you have any other legal documentation involving your children or Ex, such as a court case, bring that paperwork too. Your lawyer needs all the information they can get.

Once you bring everything to your lawyer, you need to see what exactly your lawyer can do for you. Their job is not to punish your Ex or go for revenge: they are advocating for you. You want a lawyer who is competent and experienced at their job, and you can ensure this by how they answer the following questions:

  • How many divorce cases have you handled?
  • How did you handle those divorce cases?
  • What is your fee structure?
  • What is the best method of communicating in the future?

If your lawyer stumbles, stutters, or does not have an answer to these questions, you may want to consult other legal counsel. (For more savvy questions to ask a divorce attorney, visit here.)

Divorce Financial Settlement Must-Knows

Just like how you have questions you need to ask your lawyer, you also have questions you need to ask yourself.

  • What do you own? See if you are listed as the owner of your car, home, and other assets. Noting what you brought into the marriage could keep your Ex from claiming it.
  • What do they own? If your spouse is eligible for social security benefits, insurance payouts, or a pension plan, you may have a claim to them.
  • What do you both own? You need to factor any jointly owned assets into the final agreement. Dividing 50/50 does not always mean fair.
  • What about taxes? If you have to choose one government agency not to mess with, choose the IRS. Consulting a tax accountant will save you lots of money.

Above all, try to be as objective as possible. This is an emotional time, but money does not cry. Finding a safe space for your emotional outlet (a therapist, a coach) will honor your heart and feelings while your brain must focus on the best business transaction for you. Encouraging your brain to stick to the facts will ensure that you come out the other side prepared for the single life.

Notes

Jeanette Soltys is a Partner and Divorce Attorney at Atlanta Divorce Law Group in Alpharetta, Georgia. A passion for wanting to help children and families seeking their happily ever after led her to pursue her Juris Doctorate from Wake Forest University School of Law. Visit Jeanette Soltys’ website to learn more about her, her law firm, and the services her team offers to families.

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 aftermath. 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.

*At SAS, we support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity, however, we may refer to your spouse as “he” or “husband.”

Support kids through divorce

7 Ways to Lovingly Support Your Kids Through Divorce

Whether you’re contemplating, planning, or coparenting after divorce, if you’re a parent it’s vitally important that your children are your top priority. Before making any decisions regarding divorce issues, put yourself in their shoes in order to best support your kids. Think about the consequences for them. See the outcome through the eyes of your five, ten, or fifteen-year-old. Ask yourself, what will they say about this when they are grown adults? Will they thank me for the way I handled the divorce, or be angry and resentful about my attitude and behavior?

The choices you make will affect your children for years and, yes, decades to come. For their sake, try to take the high road and be the role model they will come to respect and later want to emulate.

Here are some helpful tips for mindfully supporting the children you love before, during, and long after your divorce.

Before Divorce: Avoid Showing Conflict Around the Kids!

  1. Studies show time and again that conflict and tension around children creates the most difficulties for them related to divorce. It’s not the divorce itself! Parents can ease the process for their kids by eliminating battles, disrespectful behavior, and emotional outburst anywhere near the kids. That means no fighting on the phone, in another room, during pick-ups and drop-offs, or when talking with friends within earshot of your child.
  2. When you belittle, put down, or in any way disrespect your child’s other parent, regardless of how justified it may feel, it hurts your children in deep and long-lasting ways.

    Kids innately love and feel connected to both their parents. When you insult their other parent, it creates confusion, guilt, sadness, anger, insecurity, and low self-esteem.

    Instead, support your kids by reminding them that you will always be their parents and will always love them. Reassure them that no one will replace their parents either. “We will both always love you and be there for you, no matter where we live or how things should change.” Then make it your business to do the right thing on their behalf.

  3. Don’t wait for emotional or behavioral problems to appear. It is often wise to talk to a coparenting coach or family therapist in advance about issues worth your attention when assisting your children through divorce. Or schedule a few sessions with your children so they can express their anxiety, fear, anger, etc., and feel heard by an objective, third party. Ask friends, pediatricians, clergy, divorce coaches, or school professionals for referrals to professionals experienced with helping children through divorce.

During Divorce: Separate without Blaming or Shaming Your Kids

  1. It is common for children to blame themselves for the divorce no matter how bad their parents’ relationship has been. The younger the child, the more likely it is for this to occur. Sit down together and talk to your kids, emphasizing that they are in no way at fault. You can say something like:“Sadly, Mom and Dad* don’t agree about certain key issues and that has created conflict. Even when some of the things are about you, it does not mean you are to blame. You are an innocent child we both love. We disagree about some things—but not about our love for you. You are not to blame for our divorce.”
  2. Divorce always results in change within the family. Some of those changes can be challenging. Others will be beneficial and create a more peaceful environment for your children. It is important to address these issues. Remind the kids that the family is changing in some ways, but change is an inevitable part of life and not necessarily bad. Let your children see that everything around us keeps changing. “You grow bigger every year. Seasons change, clothing styles change, your school classes change. Sometimes it takes a while to get used to changes, like when you get a new teacher or try a new sport. In time you may come to like these new changes. Let’s give it a try.”

When is it Parental Estrangement and when is it Parental Alienation?

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As challenging as it may be, always keep from pointing fingers or blaming their other parent when talking to the kids about the divorce. It bears repeating: they love both parents and shouldn’t be judged nor shamed for this. Remember, it’s your divorce, not theirs!

After Divorce: Coparent with Mindful Love and Attention to Support Your Kids!

  1. Prioritize spending time and attention with your children. With all the stress in your life, it’s easy to overlook your kid’s need for stability and security. The best source for that support is you. It’s easy to take solace with friends or bury yourself in work, but keep in mind that your children need your support more than ever right now. Your love and attention are the most valuable resources you can share with them. Make sure you are generous with both!
  2. Let your kids still be kids. That means never burdening them with adult responsibilities beyond their age level. Your children should not become your messengers. Use texts or online scheduling tools for that! They are not your confidants either. Contact coparenting coaches and counselors for vital support you need. Never share adult content with them, as tempting as it may be, even with your teens. It halts their childhood innocence and throws them into your parental drama. Their brains aren’t developed enough to digest it. And they certainly can’t fix your damaged relationship. So, it’s not only foolish, it’s selfish.

Remember, divorce imposes changes within the family that your children never asked for. With these suggestions in mind, support your kids in ways that deepen your relationship at a time when they need it most. They’ll thank you when they are grown!

Notes

Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach. She’s the author of How Do I Tell the Kids About The Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide To Preparing Your Children – With Love! To get her coaching services, programs, e-courses, and other valuable resources along with her free ebook on co-parenting success strategies, visit her website here.

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.

*At SAS, we support same-sex marriage. For simplicity, we may refer to the spouse as “he” or “husband.”