stop gaslighting yourself

5 Self-Saving Ways to Stop Gaslighting Yourself

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

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

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

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

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

His endgame?

To steal his wife’s inheritance.


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


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

It’s a power-play.

Gaslighter’s Tactics

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

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

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

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

…even when you are gaslighting yourself.

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

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


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


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

What does this have to do with relationships and divorce?

Possibly everything.

Gaslighting and Divorce

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

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

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

“Maybe I need help.”

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

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

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

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

Wrong.

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

Here are five suggestions for how to stop gaslighting yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Speak to yourself with externalizing affirmations.

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

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

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

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

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

    Your feelings are as worthy as anyone else’s.

    Your reality is as worthy as anyone else’s. 

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


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


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

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

And recognition is the first step in healing.

 

Notes

How to stop gaslighting yourself?

In two words. 

Annie’s Group.

Learn what is possible for your life. 

 

Amicable Divorce

What is an Amicable Divorce? 5 Ways to Ensure One

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

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

What Is an Amicable Divorce?

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

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

Several Approaches to an Amicable Divorce

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

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

Let’s take a closer look at each option.

Uncontested Divorce

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


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


Collaborative Divorce

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

Mediation Divorce

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


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


Do It Yourself (DIY) Divorce

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


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


Therapist Counseling

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

5 Tips on How to Navigate an Amicable Divorce

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

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

#1. Get qualified assistance if you need one

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

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

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

#2. Keep your expectations realistic

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

#4. Focus on your child’s needs

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

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

Surviving an Affair

The Stages of Surviving An Affair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Discovery or disclosure

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

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

  • Emotional overwhelm

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

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


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


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

  • Stopping the affair

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

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

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

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

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

  • Grief

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

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

    Why is that important to know upfront?

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


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


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

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

  • Discussing the affair and your marriage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Acceptance

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

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

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

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

  • Reconnection.

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

    This is the stage of truly living again.

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

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

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

It also isn’t easy. At all.

To the contrary.

And not all couples survive it…or should.

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

…and something worth forgiving.

Notes

Choose not to go it alone.

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

Divorce Checklist for the Modern Woman

The 55 Must Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist

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

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

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

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

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

Your first black and white steps…

1. Begin by getting a free credit report.

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

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

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

3. Open a credit card in your name alone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Track what is happening to marital debt.

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

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

7. Gather the past three years’ tax returns.

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

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

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

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

9. Create or contribute more to your Emergency Fund. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Practical To-Do’s on Your Divorce Checklist

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

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

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

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

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

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

14. Maintain privacy on social media.

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

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

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


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


Clarify Who You Want to Be Through this Crisis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legal Steps

19. Understand the value of a divorce lawyer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider reading:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

25. Then understand the different types of divorce.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Financial Feedback Divorce Checklist

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

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

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

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

30. Ask a Financial Person these 7 Important Questions

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

31. Consult with a Real Estate Professional:

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

32. Resolve your health insurance issue.

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

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

More Smart Moves on Your Divorce Checklist

33. Get a medical exam.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talking to Your Spouse and Telling Others

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

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

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

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

39. Plan the Day and “The Talk”

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

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

Drill down more by reading …

Parenting Considerations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For support and more steps, read:

44. Line up support for your children.

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

Steps Toward Your Next Chapter

45. Take steps to separate your lives.

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

46. Think about your employment.

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

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

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

Post-Divorce Checklist

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then file it, baby!

51. Change your name legally if you choose.

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

52. Change vehicle titles (if appropriate)

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

53. Check your credit report again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing Thoughts

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

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

 

Notes

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

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

 

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

postnuptial agreements

The Top 7 Things to Know About Postnuptial Agreements

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

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

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

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

  1. What is the Purpose of a Postnuptial Agreement?

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

For Example, Spousal Support Can Be Pre-Determined.

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

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

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

Child-Related Issues Should Not Be Included

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

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

Estate Rights Are Often Addressed

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

  1. Full Disclosure is Essential

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

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

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


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


  1. Specialized Clauses

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

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

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

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

  1. Challenging Postnups

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

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

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

 

Notes

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

 

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.

 

Separation and divorce by David Clarke for Unsplash

Choosing Between Separation and Divorce

Perhaps you’re undecided… or just not ready. Perhaps you want to ease your way out the door to avoid the responsibility of making a final decision. Or perhaps you simply need time to think about what you have, what you want, and the power you have to connect the two. Whatever your reasons for trying to decide between separation and divorce, remember that knowledge (and preparation) is power.

Divorce is complicated, to say the least. And every divorce is unique to the couple divorcing.

The same can be said for separation. Often it’s a prelude to divorce. And sometimes it’s even a permanent arrangement. But, whatever its motivation, every separation, like every divorce, is unique to the couple involved.

Before you think that separation has no guidelines or guardrails, however, read on. Both separation and divorce come with important considerations and consequences.

There are three different types of separation: trial, permanent, and legal. 

As we look at the distinctions between them, keep in mind that your legal rights and obligations are always at the mercy of your state’s laws.

  • Trial separation

    Before making a permanent decision to dissolve or resolve your marriage, you and your spouse decide to live apart.

    The distinguishing characteristic of trial separation is that, in the eyes of the law, you are still married. Nothing really changes with regard to your legal status or rights.

    Because you are still married, your assets and debts are still held by both of you.

    You and your spouse may want to write up an informal separation agreement regarding things like finances and time with the kids. Down the road, if you decide to divorce, this informal agreement can be used as a baseline for the formal divorce agreement.

    If you and your spouse decide not to reconcile but still aren’t ready to divorce, your separation becomes permanent.

  • Permanent separation

    You’re not divorced, but you’re also not planning to reconcile.

    In terms of legality, permanent separation can get a little tricky. It can almost seem like pieces of both separation and divorce.

    Every state has its own laws regarding permanent separation, but the date of permanent separation matters.

    Why? Because, similar to divorce, this is when the acquisition of assets and debts becomes separated.

    This is also when things can get messy. It’s important, therefore, to be clear and committed regarding your separation.

    No going out for a casual date night or one-glass-of-wine-too-many hook-up with your ex, for example, as this could blur the line of separation. And that could complicate matters if, say, one of you comes into a large sum of money (or a large debt).

  • Legal separation

    This form of separation is the most similar to divorce. It is unique, however, in that you are no longer married, but you’re also not divorced.

    Just as with the other forms of separation, therefore, you are not free to remarry.

    Legal separation, as with all family court matters, has state-specific guidelines. In some states, one spouse can file a petition with the court. A judge will enter an order regarding matters like division of assets, alimony, custody, and child support.

Does Separation Always Lead to Divorce?

You may wonder if your marital separation will lead to divorce.

In many cases it does. And the court order already in place can be used as a baseline for the final divorce decree.

Why would a couple choose legal separation when it limits what they can do with their lives going forward?

Often, there are financial considerations at the heart of the decision. Perhaps one spouse has a job that provides the family’s health insurance. Perhaps there are religious considerations (think “Irish divorce”) or a desire to keep the family legally intact for the sake of the children.

(For more information on the three types of separation, read Divorce Net’s “A Guide to Different Types of Separation”.)

Keep in mind that some states require a physical separation before beginning the divorce process. 

If you live in a state that requires this vs. just a “cooling-off period,” you will have additional financial considerations to weigh. You and your spouse will have to budget for two places of residence. And you will have to have a tightly held agreement as to the management of spending, expenses, and time with the kids.

Breaking All Connections

The biggest and most obvious difference between separation and divorce is the finality of divorce. Assets and debts are legally divided, custody is decided, and both partners are free to remarry. 

Separation, on the other hand, is a sort of Limbo. This can be a “period of unknowing,” a “transition,” a “cooling off,” or even an “arrangement of convenience.”

But keep in mind that, if you envision living your life in a permanent relationship with someone you love, ongoing separation will be crippling. You will have to weigh more than just the potential financial benefits of keeping your marriage legally intact.

It’s not uncommon, for example, for couples with a lot of wealth and complex investments to refrain from divorce solely on financial grounds. 

Neither wants to part with the assets and lifestyle to which s/he has become accustomed. And money, even more than love or emotions, becomes the guiding force.

Finding Love Again

But what happens when the desire for love and commitment comes out of hiding? Do you start a relationship with someone new while under the guise of being “separated”? Do you just expect that person to “understand” that you “can’t leave because of the money”?

Whether you should seek a separation or a divorce is yet another heavy consideration when you are in an unhappy marriage.

Of course, if you and your spouse haven’t done everything you can to work on your marriage, that should be your starting place.

But, once you are convinced of irreconcilability, it’s important to educate yourself on your options. Information is always your ally.

 

Notes:

Separated? Wondering if you should divorce? It’s helpful to know that it is normal for life to be completely abnormal for a while, for extremes to take over, for us to be unrecognizable to ourselves for periods of time.

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional and oftentimes complicated experience of separation and divorce. Learn what’s possible for you—and your precious life. Schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation with SAS and choose not to go it alone.

Coparenting with a Narcissist by Weheartit.

41 Things to Remember When Coparenting with a Narcissist

Divorcing with children is one of the hardest things you may ever do. But doing so with an ex-spouse who is also a narcissist, well, this presents its own ring of hell. For it’s likely that your Ex’s narcissism is a large part of why you’re divorcing at all, so the thought of having to continue to “work with your Ex” long-term to parent can feel daunting, intimidating, depressing, infuriating—as if you’ve not escaped him at all. Luckily, coparenting with a narcissist can be possible—you can do this. It simply requires a shift in your mindset and a change in your communication.

In fact, learning how to deal with a narcissist at arm’s length as your coparent is a critical piece to your recovery from having married one—and certainly critical to your children who are impacted by the actions of both of you. 

Before we jump into sharing suggested practices, rules, and tips for coparenting with a narcissist, we want to address the obvious elephant on the page. You deserve credit here for what you are setting out to do, modeling the healthiest thing you can to your kids. Because the healthiest thing for you would be to have no contact with this person at all. If you had your choice you’d be done with him*. But he’s your children’s other parent. Here you are.

Let’s show your kids something different than what he is showing them. 

First, though, we’ll get clear on what a narcissist is.

What is a Narcissist?

You may have heard the term thrown around, but it’s important to clarify the details and discuss some common misconceptions about what a narcissist is. 

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is defined by the American Psychological Association as a disturbance characterized by a lack of empathy towards others, a sense of grandiosity or exaggerated self-importance, entitlement, and a fantastical sense of one’s power. 

Narcissists also experience difficulty with any forms of indifference, defeat, or criticism, and often refuse to accept these common experiences as valid. They may go into a rage when their “power” is challenged, or they may attempt to discredit the individual sharing the information they feel challenged by. 

They may depend on the admiration of others to validate their feelings that they are more important than others. 

This can get tricky when children are involved, as children are an easy audience for validating a narcissist’s self-absorbed need for admiration. Coparenting with a narcissist can therefore provide some unique challenges.

Note that some narcissists may commandeer this phrasing to call others narcissists as a deflection mechanism. They are adept at manipulating whatever tools they have at their disposal to serve their own self-image fantasy.

After divorce, how do you move forward while coparenting with a narcissist?

It may not happen overnight, but once you become familiar with the frame of mind most helpful in working with a narcissist, knowing how to respond will become second nature. 

Recognizing how narcissism works will also help you detach emotionally from whatever attempts a narcissist makes to manipulate you, the court systems, your family and friends, or your children. 

To get started, keep reading now for our 41 tips for coparenting with a narcissist. And know that going forward, we will refer to your narcissistic Ex-Spouse as your N. Ex. or your children’s other parent or father.

Where Your Children Are Involved

  1. Always keep your children top of mind and model healthy behavior to them. 

If you cannot take in the full gamut of this list, at the minimum, remember this first rule and you won’t go wrong.

In reality, you may have escaped your former spouse, to some degree, but your kids have little choice in who their father is. If you think of your children first before responding to your N. Ex, you will be teaching your kids behavior and skills that will nurture them and their understanding of how to deal with a narcissist who happens to be a parent. (See #6)

  1. Understand the difference between coparenting and parallel parenting and be honest with yourself.

Parallel parenting may afford some distance and reduced contact between you and your N. Ex., because, unfortunately, you will likely never attain the standards of a healthy coparenting relationship with the father of your children. Coparenting with a narcissist is typically not compatible with standard coparenting routines. Appreciating this will help you manage your expectations about the future by staying realistic and accepting the things you cannot change.  

For this article, we will use the word “parenting” when guiding you, but—between us—you are probably not coparenting but parallel parenting. 

  1. Avoid talking about your Ex negatively or passive-aggressively (even if you hate him) as your children will internalize that you also feel this way about a part of them.

    You are striving to help your kids cope with their other parent. If they express their frustrations with him, it’s important to listen and validate while also letting them know you’re available to help with whatever it is they feel they need.

  2. Find professionals and put in place a support system for your children.

    This is so they have a neutral place to go and vent; so they don’t feel like they are burdening you or their father. They may feel isolated from the outside world. Giving them space to normalize their feelings outside of their immediate family can be incredibly healing.

Tip: Check with your kids’ schools or their doctors for referrals to professionals who work with children your kids’ age.

  1. Try to do everything to keep your kids out of conflict. 

    Your N. Ex may look for manipulative moments to use your children as pawns for leverage, or as a way to “recruit” them to serve him or his needs or his ideas of what they should be doing. Your N. Ex will not know how important it is to leave the kids out of conflict, tense moments, stressed scenes, because his ego and needs reign supreme. But if your kids are around try to stay calm and neutral in front of them and him. This is a key skill in coparenting with a narcissist.

  2. It is not your job to educate your children about narcissists per se.

    Instead, you can educate them subtly by modeling healthy responses to your N. Ex. Let them come to their own conclusions about your and his personality types. Throwing your N. Ex under the bus and labeling the summation of his existence as one word, “narcissist” only makes you look troubled too.

  3. Don’t feel sorry for your kids.

It’s no picnic having a narcissistic parent, but there could be worse problems. Showing your children that they should be pitied is teaching them they are disempowered. Au contraire: as a result of having a narcissistic parent, they will learn coping mechanisms for surviving and growing and hopefully, avoiding a spouse like this down the road. 

  1. Be prepared. 

    Your children may even act like their father. Observe your children — who have learned how to survive in this family, just like you did. Even if they are adult, their behaviors may reinforce the old, toxic norms they grew up with. Be patient and don’t expect your children to always understand you or the new normal. Therapy can help them (and you) get a more grounded sense of healthy behaviors. Coparenting with a narcissist can be exhausting, and you’ll need the steady reset of therapy to maintain your own mental health.

  2. What’s more, expect your kids to act out.

    It’s likely that your kids feel safer with you, which is why they may act out with you more so than their other parent. They’ve probably learned that their other parent’s approval is conditional, and they want to be loved by him (if even unconsciously). They may be more guarded with him because they don’t want the backlash of not pleasing him. Allow them the freedom to express their full range of emotions with you and without judgment, and make sure they know their feelings are valid. 

  3. Do not allow your children to replicate their father’s behavior.

    While it’s important to validate your child’s acting out (this is a stressful time for them), you must make sure that you don’t sacrifice the boundaries of healthy engagement. Like their dad, your children may need retraining. Don’t give in to toxic behavior toward you. Calmly discussing the new rules of engagement without being reactive may be an important turning point in your relationship with them. 

Tip: At your house, there are New Rules.

  1. Model to your children what it looks like to trust your instincts.

     This is a powerful lesson for any child. You don’t have to make it about their dad, but show them every day how important it is to listen to their inner wisdom and to not ignore red flags in life. Confidently show them what it looks like to know what you do and do not want.

  2. Try to fill the void that your N. Ex leaves and nurture the unseen.

    Observe how you think your N. Ex treats your kids and close the gap. By definition, narcissists put themselves first, so be the parent who puts your kids first and shows them your unconditional love. They need you more than ever.

  3. Pay close attention to your child’s interests and cultivate their passions.

    Your N. Ex is likely not doing that but pushing activities or commitments that he finds important (to him).  Be the parent who sees your child’s individual, special talents and nurtures their unique interests. See them.

  4. Be grateful and stay prepared for things to take a turn.

In the back of your head always remember, your N. Ex could complicate matters. Be grateful for the times when there is peace in your house and your kids can experience a kinder, stabler atmosphere. Seeing this difference between the homes will help your children realize they do have the power to create boundaries and to cultivate the life they deserve.

  1. Be savvy about the research on kids and divorce.

    Studies show that children whose parents broke up and coparented as civilly as possible were children who tended to weather the divorce best long term. Conversely, those kids whose parents split amidst high conflict and whose parents continued to generate conflict were kids who suffered the worst and had the hardest time resuming normalcy in their lives. Appreciate this and understand it’s going to take extra work on your part to demonstrate what healthy is because your N. Ex probably doesn’t have it in him.

  2. Never give up on your children.

    Your spouse may dominate, inconvenience, or manipulate them, but as their healthier parent, you can never give up on your kids. Show them you are always there for whatever (and whenever) they need you.  

How to Interact with Your Narcissistic Ex 

  1. Do not openly criticize (or negotiate with) your N. Ex in front of your children.

    Do you want him to do this to you? (We know, he probably already does!) But modeling healthy behavior is important for everyone involved and sets a precedent for future interactions. Also, if you’re thinking about a narcissist’s need to be adored unconditionally, having an audience of his “followers” (kids) may trigger his uglier behaviors. In other words, you’ll need to be much more tactful to get your message heard.

  1. Calmly state your new rules to your N. Ex.

    It is not like the old days when you were married. There are hard-line boundaries now. You are blocking him. You are not listening to him. You are not doing his bidding. You won’t argue in front of the kids. If he wants to let you know something (unless it is an emergency) there are clear protocols and boundaries for connecting to the mother of his children. The following are a few ideas you may want to consider.

  1. Follow a parenting plan that is as comprehensive as possible.

    Hammering things out in advance, and having rules to point to will help enforce boundaries with your N. Ex and make coparenting with a narcissist easier. You want to avoid making things up as you go along at all costs.

  2. Commit to a parenting app that will enable your communication but also, critically, act as a buffer between you two.

    The app will allow you to share school calendars, doctor’s appointments, and important meetings, without having to remind your N. Ex or having to connect with him to remind him. It will also document your having shared this information and when and if he reads it. It’s an excellent accountability tool to use when coparenting with a narcissist.We like Family Wizard because it’s among the oldest apps supporting parents and the one most often suggested by family courts.

  1. Set up regular call times for your kids with each parent when they are at the other parent’s house.

    This is important so it’s a rule and everybody can plan on it. (However, be prepared to hold the space for your kids if dad fails to take their call because he’s got something more “important” going on.)

  2. Take a cool 24 hours before you respond to any of his communications (preferably through your parenting app).

This will give you time to consider how you want to respond in the interest of your kids. Of course, you cannot do this with everything. There will be times of urgency, and you will have to respond. But in general, putting a time barrier between your communications will serve the dual purpose of allowing you to emotionally cool off and will also send the message that you are a busy person and he is not your first priority. This sets a real precedent for responsiveness that will be easier to maintain long term.

  1. Stay black & white. Do not emotionally engage with your N. Ex.

    Limit your emotional vulnerability to him. Be careful of your heart and its pain, and your possible sense of anger or unfairness. Showing “how you feel” or exposing your vulnerability makes it possible for him to use it against you in the future. Remember: narcissists are not above using manipulation to get their needs met. Seeking “to reason with him” or “to explain your feelings” never worked before. Cut it, move on. And think about your kids. They need you to get the facts out to their dad. Keep it black and white.

  1. Keep reminding yourself that the leopard doesn’t change his spots.

    Just because you’ve been working on yourself and have had some epiphanies about your former marriage does not mean your N. Ex is doing any of that kind of work. Don’t expect him to change. You might want to remain skeptical of any claims he may make—how he has changed! or that he seems to be doing “even better now!” Remember, manipulation and showboating are in your N. Ex’s nature.

  2. Do not bother sharing your truth that you find him to be a narcissist.

    It’s not going to advance your relations, serve your kids or magically transform him into a philanthropist! Calling him a narcissist (even a suggestion that he needs help, therapy, counseling, etc.) will only backfire. As with your emotional vulnerabilities, you’ll need to resist the urge to show your cards with this revelation. A narcissist will never see themselves as one.

  3. Practice your own rules and firm boundaries for dealing with him.

    For example, when communicating, remind yourself of the BIFF ruleKeep your communication:

      • Brief.
      • Informative
      • Friendly 
      • Firm
  1. Be prepared for face-to-face meetings and public interactions.

    Don’t wing it, prepare. If you don’t, you are likely to resort to the behavior you used to do (and how well did that serve you in the past?) Instead, visualize scenarios, practicing whom you want to be when you see your N. Ex and how you want to respond using BIFF. (See tip #24). You are retraining your body’s response system.

Tip: It helps if you visualize that your kids are watching you.

  1. Stop apologizing.

    You can never apologize enough to a narcissist, and in their book, you will always be wrong. Stop trying to find a resolution by taking the hit or expecting his apology. He will never apologize genuinely for his wrongdoing, and your apologies won’t stop him from constantly blaming you. 

  2. Save your power.

    This means not going head-to-head with your N. Ex. This will always trigger the worst of his narcissism.  It will never work without greatly exhausting you and getting you emotionally fired up or feeling depleted. You can only outwit the narcissist by not engaging directly with him on an issue. BIFF, baby (See #24). You may also want to educate yourself on the “gray rocking” tactic of showing no emotion to a narcissist as a form of self-protection.

  3. Do the Right Thing: don’t let his behavior affect yours.

It’s safe to say that your N. Ex will often not do the right thing when it comes to parenting, because narcissists think of themselves first and foremost, and they believe they can do no wrong—the opposite of a good parent. But if you endeavor to do the right thing for your kids, your children will see the difference one day. They may not understand you right now, but they will look back and remember how you showed character in difficult times.

Even if your kids aren’t around, do the right thing to remind yourself of the type of person you are, no matter who’s watching. 

  1. Model to your N. Ex the way you want to be treated.

Let’s face it, selfless behavior does not come naturally to your children’s father. He needs to learn how things should be done. Instead of telling him or yelling at him, or begging him, show him how by being that person. While there’s little guarantee that he’ll catch the drift, it may at least be easier for him to play along with the healthy routines you set than to disrupt them. If he does attempt to get a reaction from you, showing him that he has no more power over your emotions may ultimately cause him to become disinterested in trying. 

  1. Let go.

You have no control over him or how he does things inside or outside his house. Be selective with what you learn about and what gets you upset. Choose your battles wisely. And don’t let your children think you are quizzing them about how things are done in dad’s house. 

Part of showing that your N. Ex no longer has emotional power over you is to ultimately make that true. Whether it’s the right women’s divorce group, meditation, a new activity, hobby, or therapy (or all of the above), you’ll need to find your way to avert your eyes and take back your life. In doing so, you are accepting the only control you have is over yourself and how you show up for your kids.

  1. This means letting go of the fantasy (no matter how dim it is) that your N. Ex is there for you in any way.

Sometimes with distance, one forgets certain things about our N. Ex. The distance can cause us to soften, or to even romanticize who he is. ‘Oh, he’s not that bad.” (We, women, have an incredible ability to forget pain, otherwise, we would never give birth a second time.) 

Do not delude yourself into thinking he will be there for you if you need him. Never expect anything from him, and you will never be disappointed again. Coparenting with a narcissist can be lonely, but as long as you know you’re doing it alone from the start, you won’t set yourself up for disappointment.

  1. Be prepared to repeat and remind your N. Ex of your boundaries.

    Your N. Ex probably benefited from your lack of boundaries before, so he may continue to try to exploit you even post-divorce. Be prepared to repeat and stand by your boundaries. This is also a way for you to remind yourself by putting it into your muscle memory: you are breaking with your past and forging a new chapter as a single mom. 

Repairing Your Relationship with Yourself 

  1. Keep a log.

    Document your ongoing experiences with your N. Ex. Date it and keep it simple with each account being one or two lines. Make sure you indicate how his behavior impacted your children (first) and you (second) at the time. A simple log will be helpful if you ever need to go to court or prove what’s been or not been happening. And the court system will be more interested in how the children were impacted in any of these interactions.

Keeping a detailed log can be helpful to validate your feelings and experiences with factual details, too. You may have been at the receiving end of your N. Ex’s gaslighting behavior, which eroded your trust in yourself and your memories. Rereading your log and seeing what’s black and white can help you metabolize what you’ve been and are going through.

  1. Stay committed to your divorce recovery.

    You’ve been damaged, but you’ve shown yourself that you can do incredible things, like survive divorcing and coparenting with a narcissist. Keep taking steps forward not backward. Also, a strong mama who keeps evolving is the best mama for her kids

  2. Keep track of all bills and receipts paid.

    Your N. Ex loves to argue, blame or distort the facts. So, expect more down the road and be prepared to respond with black and white facts and figures. Knowing that you’re retaining this tangible proof can help you feel safe and build confidence in your ability to troubleshoot any issues that arise.

  3. Understand the difference between parental estrangement and parental alienation.

Narcissists often consciously or unwittingly perpetrate harmful attachments onto their children. When coparenting with a narcissist, strive to see this behavior developing and do everything to stop it in its tracks.

  1. Forgive yourself.

Realize that if you’ve been in a long-term marriage, partnered with a narcissist, you’ve been trained to think a certain way: always putting your former narcissist first. Forgive yourself, because that’s how you survived. 

  1. Break old patterns and continue your transformation.

You are learning how to break with your former behaviors and discover who you are. For those women who are older, and rebuilding after gray divorce, these patterns are especially difficult to break and can be reinforced by the way your older children treat you. You don’t have to do it alone: get support.      

  1. Find your tribe.

Appreciate that you N. Ex may think he’s special and the only one of his kind. But a lot of women have divorced partners just like him, and once you realize this, you realize too how genuinely good it feels to be with other women who understand what you have been through. Coparenting with a narcissist is unfortunately a common situation.

Consider joining a group of women who are committed to reinventing after divorce, women who are seeking to do right by their kids and live another story. 

 

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

Notes

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce, or that challenging 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 oftentimes complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. 

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

Community Property States

Divorce Property Division: Community Property States vs. Equitable Distribution States

It’s no surprise that things get split in a divorce, but how? What does the law say? Most states in the U.S. use the “equitable distribution” system to determine each spouse’s property share in a divorce. However, nine U.S. states use the “community property asset-allocation” principle. These are community property states.

In order to understand your circumstances, it’s important to understand the difference between community property distribution and equitable distribution. In this article we will discuss the differences and as well, how community property states can protect women in particular, and why courts may view some marriage agreements as invalid.

What is the Community Property Distribution?

Community property is a method of dividing marital property at the time of divorce used by the following nine U.S. states: Arizona, Nevada, California, Louisiana, Idaho, New Mexico, Washington, Texas, and Wisconsin.

The laws in these community property states mainly originated from Spanish jurisdiction. The exception is Louisiana, where France enacted their property laws. The main difference between these two influences is that in Louisiana, spouses who have assets and debts characterized as community property can withdraw or modify the community property profile only after jointly filing a petition approved by the court to assist their best interests.

In the Community Property States, property acquired during the marriage is classified as jointly owned by both spouses. However, in these states, the court also recognizes separate property.

Separate property cannot be split 50-50 in divorce. It includes assets that partners acquired before the official marriage registration and after its end (after a divorce). It also covers gifts and inheritance received by one of the spouses at any time.

What is Equitable Distribution in Divorce?

Equitable distribution is the second method for dividing marital assets. The list of equitable distribution states includes 41 states. Exceptions are Alaska, South Dakota, and Tennessee, where spouses can choose community property options. As a result, residents and non-residents can transfer assets into a valid community property trust.

As practice shows, the number of such hybrid states is increasing over the years. For example, on July 15, 2020, Kentucky also adopted an optional community property system. Following the Bluegrass State, Florida, on July 1, 2021, set a Community Property Trust Act that allows partners to “opt-in” to community property treatment for assets kept in a trust that meets civil law requirements.

In non-community property states, the assets and debts are divided equally during a divorce. However, “equally” does not mean a 50-50 split. It means “fairly.”

When separating assets, the judge may grant each spouse a percentage of the total value of the property and debts, depending on each partner’s contribution to the marriage and other factors considered.

The judge could also order one side to use separate property to make decisions fair for both parties. The court applies this rule quite often when one of the spouses illegally hides assets from separation. For example, in California, for hiding assets, the court can punish the spouse with 100% payment of the value of this asset to the other partner.

Equitable Distribution vs. Community Property

As discussed, in states with community property, the law declares that spouses have equal control of all money and property earned during the marriage. Therefore, it can be beneficial for women or the unemployed.

For example, if a woman cares for a child or is a homemaker, her financial contribution to the marriage will likely be minimal. So, even if only one spouse receives income from employment, and the other is unemployed, the court will divide the property 50-50.

In addition, since all community property acquired by spouses is considered joint, regardless of whose name it is registered, debts are also considered shared. Obligations include car loans, mortgages, credit cards, and other marital debts.

However, the system of dividing property has “disadvantages” that can lead to higher alimony (spousal support) payments. For example, a court may decide that a spouse paying half of a family’s debt may need a higher amount of spousal support to maintain the standard of living during the marriage.

States with an equitable distribution of property have a more complex system, as the court takes many factors into account. For example, the property that partners acquire in marriage transfers to the spouse who made the purchase.

In addition, the judge can consider the financial contribution of each party to the marriage. This factor, on the contrary, may reduce the family property received by unemployed spouses or homemakers.

Related articles: Do Stay-At-Home Moms Get Alimony?

Breadwinning Women Face an Uphill Battle When Married and When Divorcing

What Affects Property Division During Divorce

There are general factors that affect asset division during divorce. The court considers primarily the following:

  • The marriage duration
  • The marital standard of living
  • Age of both spouses
  • Right to alimony/spousal support
  • Earning potential of each spouse (education, job prospects, etc.)
  • Both spouses’ contribution to the marriage (childcare, work, etc.)
  • Health status

Depending on the case specifics (the presence of children, where the child lives, etc.), the judge may consider additional factors when making decisions in states that follow the equitable distribution principle.

Correcting the Past

Many women live in strict patriarchal or “traditional” families, where the husband/father controls the family finances. Property may even be transferred through the male descent line. This causes some women to worry that they will face the same issue during a divorce: that they may not receive any assets if they divorce.

It’s important to know that regardless of your family culture, men and women living in the USA have equal rights today.

According to The Married Women’s Property Act, which was passed in New York in 1848, women have the full right to receive and freely dispose of the spouse’s property acquired during the marriage. The document also includes the status of a woman’s separate property, which remains hers even during marriage.

Following New York, in 1849, the California Constitutional Convention adopted the Married Woman’s Property Act into the state constitution. And over the following decades, other US states passed this act one by one.

Nowadays, women have the same property rights in divorce as men. They can inherit or receive assets with full discretionary authority.

Are Gifts from Spouse Separate Property?

This may sound surprising but in states with community property and equitable distribution laws, the court considers one spouse’s gifts to the other spouse as family property in a divorce. In contrast, if a third party gives a gift to one of the spouses, it is a separate asset.

So if your husband gives you a pearl necklace for your birthday, that necklace is considered family property and not automatically yours if you divorce.

Do Prenuptial Agreements Affect the Property Division?

Marriage contracts as with prenuptial agreements are an excellent tool for eliminating future, controversial issues during a divorce because they can bypass some 50-50 assets division matters. To create a prenup, spouses enter into the agreement mutually before the wedding.

And the court usually accepts the prenuptial agreement. However, before creating a prenup, partners should take into account the specifics of their state. For example, California has specific requirements that spouses should follow to ensure that the court does not decline their prenup.

Further, in California, there are specific issues the spouses cannot “pre-agree” on in the prenup. These include the issue of custody, support payments, and parental visitations. This is because the court tries to make decisions in the best interest of the child.

Spouses can negotiate the following terms in a prenuptial agreement:

  • debts division
  • how their property will be divided upon separation
  • the duration and size of spousal support.

What Happens to Community Property and Equitable Distribution When One Spouse Dies?

If a spouse dies before getting the final divorce in a community state, the other spouse has absolute rights to half of the community property. And, if one of the spouses dies without a will, their half of the family property automatically goes to the surviving spouse. However, if the deceased partner had a will, they could only distribute their 50% of the community property. If more than 50% of the community property is indicated in the will, the court can cancel the will until justice for the surviving spouse is restored.

In the equitable distribution states, similar rules apply in the case of the spouse’s death. If there is a valid will, the distribution of property will go under it. In the absence of a will or if the will is invalid, the children and the surviving spouse have the right to receive the whole property.

Is it Possible to Divide Property without a Court?

In both equitable distribution and community property states, spouses can independently agree on the division of family property. Many couples prefer this method as they know best what property they want to acquire.

To do this, both spouses have to agree to the terms. Lawyers can help negotiate this on behalf of each spouse. Mediation or a DIY approach to divorce can also accomplish this. But both spouses must agree to the terms.

When spouses come to terms, settling all marriage and divorce-related issues without relying on the court, this is called an uncontested divorce. In an uncontested or amicable divorce, your divorce agreement is submitted to the court after you and your spouse sign it. The court in turns reviews it, making sure that both spouses have no objection to their chosen division of property, and grants their request.

To best optimize your divorce for an uncontested or amicable divorce, you’ll want to read this article Top 6 Tips for an Amicable Divorce.

Final Words

If a couple cannot come to an agreement in an uncontested divorce, then their case becomes “contested” and the court will settle the breakup terms under the specific laws of each state and the couple’s circumstances.

However, it’s important to know as well, that new amendments and divorce laws are always appearing in legislation. It is wise therefore to consult with a divorce attorney in your state before you make any moves (including negotiating “casually” with your spouse). You will want to know specifically how a court would rule regarding your divorce issues and in particular, your claim to assets.

Though the research says women are happier than men after divorce, the research also suggests it is more challenging for women economically. This is a solid reason for you to get educated before you agree and sign anything.

Notes

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

Since 2012, SAS for Women has helped women face the unexpected challenges that women endure while 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.

How long does it take to get a divorce by weheartit

How Long Does It Take to Get Divorced?

When you want a divorce, it can’t happen fast enough. But, when you don’t want it or aren’t prepared, it can pull the rug out from under your life. The time it takes to get a divorce depends on a lot of factors — some within your control and some not. One thing that is always within your control? How wisely you use the time you have to prepare once divorce is inevitable.

Regardless of your initiative, mere compliance, or opposition concerning your divorce, your desire and need to know a timeline are understandable. Everything about the divorce process and its aftermath is time-sensitive.

Your first instinct is going to be to consult with “Google & Google, LLP.” Starting your research at the most obvious place makes sense.

But be careful and discerning as you collect information. Google can be a veritable rabbit hole, leading you from a general search with reputable sources to a downslope of information, advice, and questionable links. And it can quickly become overwhelming.

Anyone who has had to do academic research knows the cardinal rule of using primary sources. The reasoning is obvious: to avoid the dilution, changing, or skewing of information.

Educate Yourself with Up-To-Date Information

Online research is no different, but has the added considerations of fast-paced change and, unfortunately, a maddening dose of questionable integrity.

Just be careful and always consider the source. (Besides, the detailed, specific information you ultimately need will come from your team of experts – your divorce coach, attorney, financial planner, etc.)

Also, take note of dates on articles and be cautious about giving any information. You are getting educated and collecting information. Nothing more.

Google is a great place to get your compass pointing in the direction of familiarization and the reliable resources that will guide your journey.

You may have even found this site SAS for Women through a general search. But, as you click through our website, you see that it is thoughtfully, thoroughly, and securely developed. And the information shared here is consistent, reliable, and based on trustworthy sources.

This is the kind of confidence you need and deserve to have in your resources when the difficult time comes to get a divorce.

Again, always consider the source.

Your approach to getting educated about the divorce process can make a huge difference in the smoothness and outcome of your divorce.

It will directly influence your confidence and ability to deal with the inevitable stress of this life-changing process.

It will potentially help you save money and time and avoid making mistakes.

And it will lay the groundwork for how you move forward – and the people who become part of your life – after your divorce is final.

How Your State Affects Your Divorce Timeline

Your first online search should be for your state’s divorce process – and specifically its residency and waiting-period requirements. 

Every state will have its own laws regarding how long you have to live in the state before you can get a divorce. It will also have its own requirement (or lack thereof) regarding how long you have to wait before your divorce can proceed and be finalized.

State-by-State Comparisons

In Texas, for example, the petitioner has to have lived in the state for at least six months prior to filing. Texas is one of the states that also have county residency rules.

Texas also has a “cooling off period” of 60 days from the date of filing. Why? To make sure one spouse or both spouses aren’t rushing into a “forever” decision because of a temporary and/or reparable period of discord. (This is especially understandable when children are involved.)

What this means is that, if you live in Texas, and choose an uncontested divorce vs. a contested divorce, you could be divorced in as little as 61 days.

However, if you and your spouse have points of contention regarding custody, assets, fault vs. no-fault, etc., you will add on both time and expenses.

California, as notorious as it is for the “Hollywood” marriage-divorce-remarriage-divorce cycle, has a six-month waiting period for divorce – one of the longest.

New Jersey, on the other hand, has no “cooling off period.” While a typical divorce involving children and assets takes about a year, a simple, no-fault divorce could be complete in weeks.

State-by-State Residency and Waiting Periods

Getting familiar with your state’s laws for the divorce process is one of the best and easiest ways you can help yourself. (Paul Simon wasn’t kidding when he sang 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover!)

Some states, for example, have long residency and waiting periods and may even have required separation periods and parenting classes. Have a momentary lapse in confidence and come back together for a let’s-make-sure weekend of cohabitating? The clock will start again.

If you’re looking to get a divorce quickly, living in states like Vermont, South Carolina, and Arkansas could test your patience.

Read more about the fastest and slowest states for getting a divorce to get a sense of where you stand.

Avoiding Litigation

Divorce is no stranger to the DIY approach. While you can find all the necessary forms online if you and your spouse decide to go that route, please be careful! If there is anything that could be a point of contention or complication, you are better off with legal representation.

Even if you choose a non-litigated path like mediation, you would do yourself good service by getting a legal consultation. And, whether you are simply “consulting” or hiring an attorney for the entire process, avoid hiring cheap divorce lawyers.

Even couples without years of accrued investments and complicated finances will have financial considerations, usually outside their areas of expertise.

Protecting Yourself Against DIY Divorce Mistakes

The disparity in income levels, years in or away from the workplace, years spent as a stay-at-home-parent, retirement funds, health/life insurance, mortgage – it all matters. And it all has relevance far into the future.

Women especially tend to take a hard hit financially after divorce, and they don’t always regain their financial footing. Their loss can be almost twice that of men and is often accompanied by a number of post-divorce surprises.

As you can probably see by now, that innocent question, How long does it take to get a divorce? doesn’t have a simple answer.

Some things you can control. Some things your spouse controls. And some (many) things your state’s laws control.

Remember that knowledge is power – or at least an analgesic to the inherent stress of getting a divorce

Remember also that the time it takes to jump through all the hoops of the divorce process says nothing about the time it takes to recover from a divorce.

But how you educate yourself, and the integrity and composure with which you navigate your divorce can influence everything, including your divorce recovery, the new chapter you deserve.

 

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 dealing with divorce or are already navigating your life afterward, choose to acknowledge your vulnerability and learn from others. Choose not to go it alone.