Woman walking on beach thinking about divorce

36 Things to Do If You Are Thinking About Divorce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

6 Ways to Be Debt Free After Divorce

6 Ways to Be Debt-Free After Divorce

Going through a divorce can feel incredibly draining: emotionally, psychologically, and—of course—financially. While emotional healing can be a long, winding road, one objective way to start fresh is to work towards eliminating your financial debts as soon as possible. Clearing your debts can serve as a powerful method of beginning a new chapter of your life, signaling to your subconscious and the world that you are capable of making positive, impactful changes in your own life. In order to tackle your debt, you must have a proper plan and thorough knowledge about the best ways to get rid of your divorce debt. To help, we are sharing the top 6 ways to be debt-free after divorce.

Reducing Your Debt

As per the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC), the divorce rate is around 2.7 per 1,000 people in 45 reporting states, including the DC. The majority of the couples going through a divorce can find it challenging to deal with the debt situation. Nevertheless, you can use these methods to reduce your debt and soon eliminate it.

1. Consolidate your Debt 

The first thing you need to do is consolidate your debt to bring down your interest payments. For example, women often put the fees involving their divorce process on their credit cards because they don’t have direct access to funds. As a result, they end up paying high interest on those cards. Therefore, the first thing that you need to do is clear all those high-interest loans.

Read more about smart hacks for debt consolidation,

2. Negotiate with Creditors 

The next thing you need to do is negotiate to bring down your debt or interest rate. If you have a good payment history and a good reputation among the creditors, they will be more than willing to facilitate you in your hard times.

You can always negotiate with your lenders to bring down the interest rates if you have a good credit score and history. As a result, you can save the money you pay in interest and bring down your debt.

Let’s say you owe back tax taxes to the IRS. Contact the IRS and ask to be put on a payment plan which will reduce the interest you would normally pay had you not asked to be put on a payment plan.

3. Divide your Loan

Once you end your marriage, (even before it’s officially recognized by the divorce document) it is imperative to take responsibility for the monies or loans you are liable for.

If your spouse or Soon-to-be-Ex spouse does not make the payments on time, you will be held responsible. You will share the blame for it even if you share no responsibility in your divorce contract. This can significantly impact your credit score and history.

As an independent woman, you need to develop your credit history for the future. Therefore, if you have any joint loans with your Ex, you should refinance them. This alone is a good reason to consult with a financial person once you know you will divorce.

Paying Off Your Debt

Now that you are able to bring down your debt, it is time to pay it off. To avoid hassles, the right strategy is vital. If you throw all your savings into clearing out the loans, it could result in other financial problems. So instead, here are a few ways you can plan to fully eliminate your loans.

4. Increase your Sources of Income 

When it comes to debt elimination, increasing your income is imperative. You can use the extra money in hand to chip away at your debt and get rid of the financial burden. Although it won’t be easy, it is best to eliminate your debt.

You can look for part-time opportunities that you can take up after your job. These part-time opportunities are often called side-hustles. Maybe you have a particular talent or passion that could complement your full-time job—like tutoring others in a foreign language, or designing flower arrangements for parties, or creating website designs? You could also ask your current employer to increase your salary or look for a job with a higher salary.

In a nutshell, your strategy needs to be about increasing your income. And the good news is that divorce is often a catalyst for getting creative and practical with your life. It can inspire your ambition to find more challenging things to do and to be compensated for it.

Related: Divorce Recovery: 10 Things to Do If You are Suddenly in Charge of Your Finances

5. Look for Ways to Get More Cash 

Apart from getting another job, you can also look for ways to increase the cash in hand. For instance, you can always throw a garage sale and sell items that you do not need. What about your luxury items that may be sitting on your shelf… or parked in that same garage? Anything from watches and jewelry (wedding rings?) to handbags or vehicles. There’s often a market for your unused items and a consignment or specialty platform like eBay or Poshmark that specializes in selling these things. Investigate your options and purge your possessions wherever possible.

6. Cash in your Life Insurance 

Another way to pay off your debt is by cashing your life insurance. It can help you get the number of funds you need to clear off your debt. The best part is, even if you have beneficiaries, you can take a small amount out of the policy and leave the rest of the proceeds for the people you care about.

Before you cash out your life insurance policy, however, make sure you investigate the fees you may pay for doing so. There will be charges.

The Most Important Takeaway…

Going through a divorce and dealing with your debt situation can be difficult, and even terrifying. The massive transition from your old life to your new one will likely take some time to get used to. But the goal of getting rid of all your debt needs to be on the top of your list.

Freeing yourself from debt means no longer having to pay a huge interest fee each month. With that monkey off your back, you will feel not only financially relieved but emotionally liberated.

To summarize, remember: you should plan to consolidate your debt to get a lower interest rate and then increase your income to pay off the debt quickly.

Notes

To learn how your debt might be consolidated and what steps you can take to move forward feeling more financially free, you are invited to schedule a free consultation with Lyle Solomon, the author of this article and a principal attorney for the Oak View Law Group in California. Lyle graduated from the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento and is a specialist helping people rid themselves of debt.

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

How 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.

 

Top reasons for divorce

Gender Nuances for the Top Reasons for Divorce in The U.S.

For all the statistical data that makes it seem textbook and predictable, divorce really is an organic reflection of many factors. Everything that influences social norms, economy, and current events, for example, ultimately influences marriage and divorce. That means both the rate and top reasons for divorce have contextual relevance.

Add in individual factors like age, gender, education, and socioeconomic status, and both marriage and divorce become dream topics for statisticians and psychologists alike.

Even social stigma sticks its nose into a very personal matter and influences things like the decision and timing of divorce. It can even influence the top reasons for divorce and how parting spouses heal and move on into other relationships.

How Age Affects Reasons for Divorce

It’s worth noting that millennials are both trend-breakers and trend-makers when it comes to marriage and divorce. Thanks in large part to this age group, both marriage and divorce rates are on the decline.

The reason?

Millennials are waiting a lot longer to get married, and they’re staying married longer.

Move up the age ladder to couples over 50, and the rate of divorce is twice that of couples in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. And many of their top reasons for divorce are unique to the circumstances of this life-transitioning age group.

Just when you think a couple is in the home stretch of their lifetime vows, factors like an empty nest, retirement, and emerging health issues take their toll.

If you’re so absorbed in the needs and wants of children and bosses that your marriage takes a back seat, retirement can be a daunting new reality.

(For more info about divorce for this special age group, read about gray divorce here.)

Spoiler alert: Every successive marriage after the first has a significantly higher risk of divorce.

What Vague Reasons for Divorce Might Actually Mean

When reading about the top reasons for divorce, a few things are worth keeping in mind.

Commonly listed reasons for divorce have a certain amount of interpretation embedded in them.

“Irreconcilable differences,” “lack of commitment,” “one partner not carrying his/her weight”—these are all pretty blanketing reasons (especially the first two).

Also, not every survey uses the same terminology.

Finally, especially in a no-fault or uncontested divorce, some couples may amicably sweep their issues under a closing statement of “irreconcilable differences.” “Drifting apart,” “incompatibility,” “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage”—there are various ways to not zero in on a specific fault.

The top reasons for divorce probably won’t surprise you. Here are 6 of the biggies:

  • infidelity
  • financial problems
  • chronic arguing/fighting
  • lack of intimacy
  • physical and/or emotional abuse
  • addiction or substance abuse

The top reasons for divorce become more interesting and relevant when considered in the context of gender, for example.

When you consider that women initiate divorce 69% of the time compared to men, surely you’ll be curious as to why. (You may actually not be surprised at all.)

Remember what we said about divorce being contextually relevant? Well, this is a perfect example of why.

Gender Roles in Marriage and Divorce

There was a time when women weren’t even “women” when they married. They were “girls” or, at best, just-out-of-high school teens. They went from their families of origin to creating families of their own.

And they donned their aprons, stayed home with the children, and had dinner on the table when their husbands came home.

Not all, of course. But women-in-the-workforce wasn’t always the norm.

Women-in-higher-education wasn’t always the norm, either.

But what happens when women get educated and earn their own money? They start expecting more for their lives and knowing they can have it, with or without a husband.

So, when it comes to initiating the divorce, women are often far down the road with their discontent compared to men. Their idea of “intolerable” often registers to their husbands as “What do you mean, you’re not happy?”

Women expect emotional connection, not just financial provision for a home and family. They have individual ambitions in addition to their family ambitions.

So it makes sense that women’s top reasons for divorce include:

  • lack of love, affection, and emotional availability
  • immaturity/marrying too young
  • different sexual needs
  • infidelity
  • inequality
  • control issues
  • lack of communication
  • emotional and/or physical abuse
  • substance abuse

Men’s needs and top reasons for divorce aren’t completely different, but their priority and “weight” are unique.

  • not feeling appreciated or respected
  • financial disagreements and differences in spending
  • infidelity
  • different sexual needs
  • no shared interests
  • feeling inadequate

Some issues have obvious overlap.

Infidelity, for example, is a tough issue for couples to overcome. (And yet, more than half survive it.)

But, in the same way that a heart attack is usually the culmination of several risk factors, infidelity rarely happens in a vacuum. There are other issues — many listed above—that motivate (but never justify) the straying. Check out our surprising article on the Cheating Wife Phenomenon.

Notice that feeling appreciated and respected is a top priority for men, while love and emotional connection are priorities for women.

For an interesting perspective on a very generalized theory about love, respect, and genders, read here.

Inequality in Marriage

Men also rank financial and spending differences as a major reason for divorce, especially if they are the primary breadwinners.

Today’s woman is far less willing to accept inequality between partners. On the contrary, she has very evolved ideas and high expectations of equality.

Unfortunately, men, in general, haven’t caught up to what that looks like, especially in terms of their responsibilities at home. Women are still assuming the majority of childrearing and housekeeping responsibilities, and they are quick to recognize the disparity.

Finally, differences in sexual needs are a top reason for divorce for both men and women. If couples don’t constantly work to communicate their needs and create a mutually satisfying approach to sex, the result can be erosive. Physical intimacy, after all, is what distinguishes marriage from a platonic relationship.

The top reasons for divorce in the USA reflect a host of variables. Some are unique to the individuals and couples themselves. And some are influenced by societal trends and shifting priorities and accepted ways of life.

What matters, in the long run, is that, if divorce is the only viable and just solution to your differences, you embark on the journey with eyes wide open.

 

Notes

SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to rebuilding their lives on their own, healthiest terms. 

If you are thinking about … dealing with … or recreating after divorce, you have specific needs you must attend to in order to advance your recovery. We invite you to learn more about supporting yourself and schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation with SAS for Women. Whether or not you work further with us, we’ll help you understand your next, black-and-white steps for walking into your brave unknown—with compassion and integrity.

The Holidays After Divorce

The Holidays After Divorce: Their Surprising Gifts

“Have myself a merry little Christmas … “

‘Tis the season for Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa celebrations: those festive holidays of light strategically devised to arrive in the middle of the dark season to give us all hope for brighter days ahead. The sparkle, the decorations, the songs, the festive food, and not to mention, the well-deserved days off, all conspire to tell us this is a “most wonderful time of the year.”

I live in Russia, and here we celebrate Christmas and New Year’s in the same fashion. We put on our finest winter wear and get together with our beloved family and friends we may not have seen in a long while (thank you, COVID). We sit down to enjoy savory foods like duck, goose, or pork, the celebrated Russian salad we call “Olivier,” and of course, salmon caviar, which we wash down with a glass of sparkling wine or a shot of vodka.

But just like in the rest of the world, here in Russia, the holidays (especially after divorce) can also remind us our lives may not be the most wonderful. We may smile or laugh but we can see the fractured light coming through the glasses of raised crystal, the dysfunction that cracks the surface. It’s in this space of forced light that certain things become abundantly clear: it hurts to see our spouse make no effort with the festivities or to overindulge with drink. It’s embarrassing to be disrespected in front of others or to see our loving efforts dismissed. And it can be a struggle to be nice to the in-laws when we are counting the days for something to change.

The Surprising Fact About Christmas

As in the transformative stories of childhood, Christmas can actually be a time for a positive change.

As Psychology Today has written, the commonly held belief that suicide rates rise during or after holidays is a myth. Instead, those who are depressed and contemplating suicide are often offered some degree of protection by the proximity of their relatives and the prospect, at least, of “things getting better from here.”

Obviously, the expectation that things will be getting better is our basis for the New Year’s tradition of creating resolutions. These commitments to ourselves help reassure us that we can and will become a better version of ourselves.

There’s a reason why divorce lawyers inboxes get flooded after Christmas or why employment experts call the first weekday after the holidays “Massive Monday” as masses of people start looking for new jobs.

I know, because for the past two years, I’ve contributed to both statistics.

Two years ago, just before Christmas 2019, my then-husband and I filed for divorce. In January 2021, I quit a job I didn’t like.

Holidays After Divorce: Adapting to Change

Two years later, I approach my second Christmas as a divorced mother of two with calm and (dare I say) a certain levity. I am involved in several work projects that inspire far more joy than my old job. And I am supervising a renovation in my new apartment, the one I bought after my Ex and I sold our marital home. And this year, most importantly, I know for sure that both my sons will be joining me for Christmas and New Year’s dinners.

After the divorce, I was devastated my elder son decided what he did, and I used to be nervous when I met him while living apart. Without realizing it then, I wanted to be my best self for him, hoping that he’d recognize his error and would prefer me and move in with me. I definitely overcompensated with attention and presents. It didn’t work.

Two years after the divorce and my separation from my elder son, I don’t feel like I have to woo him anymore. We have a new connection now, and understanding and empathy are enough for me. I don’t think that it’s essential to have him back living under my roof.

What I am conscious of is that I have developed a new closeness with my younger son during these past two years and that’s been a blessing. So, when the three of us meet this Christmas, joining my parents who love my boys very much, I believe we will all be in a different place. Divorce recovery is something we all needed and deserve. As much as we’re coming to terms that we are still a family, the family has taken on a different shape. Holidays after divorce can still be joyful.

What’s Different This Christmas?

For me, the biggest change this Christmas is my new attitude as an independent woman. I am doing more of what I want this year. It’s far less about pleasing others. I say no to invites that are too much for me. I decorate my home as early as I want and in the style I choose. Also, I no longer pretend I am decorating the tree or doing this “for the kids”. I am doing it for me, which makes it better. I am a happier, brighter Mom, feeling less trapped or belittled, all of which I know my boys see. This year I turned on fairy lights because I like fairy lights. And candles. Lots and lots of candles.

And this year in the glow of our light, coming together, I will make myself emotionally ready to be a positive presence for my boys who may not be in the same exact place as me, recovering from the divorce and feeling grateful. I will make myself available for any questions they may have, answering them as straightly as possible but not overwhelming them with all my truths. My truths are mine and meant for me.

Happy holidays to you all, around the world. Spread the light.

 

Notes

Anna Ivanova-Galitsina is an international expert in communications and storytelling based in Moscow, Russia. She has two teenage sons and a dog, and she is building a new happier life. You can reach out to her via e-mail for comments or discussion.

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

Divorce decree and Divorce certificate

What’s the Difference Between a Divorce Decree and a Divorce Certificate?

Legal terms and documentation concerning divorce can often be confusing, especially for people going through the emotional charges of a divorce and its trying legal process. Understanding the difference between a divorce decree and divorce certificate is just one of the many important details you may find yourself sorting through.

In 2019, there were more than 750,000 divorces and annulments in the United States. That means a lot of people changed their marital status, and to do so, they had to undergo various marriage dissolutions or disbanding complications.

Today, we will focus on two often mistakenly interchangeable terms—a divorce decree (also called “final decree/judgment”) and a divorce certificate.

And yes, these are two entirely different documents. So, without further ado, let’s find out how to distinguish one from the other.

What is a Divorce Decree?

Here’s a simple divorce decree definition: it is a document that officially ends a marriage and has provisions concerning the duties and responsibilities of each party after divorce. In addition, a decree can incorporate a settlement agreement if the couple agrees on all terms between themselves.

These terms include financial obligations (e.g., alimony and child support), custodial rights, property division, etc. The spouses and the judge must sign this decree.

Several states have a mandatory waiting period before the issuing of a final judgment. For example, in New York, divorces are granted no sooner than 60 days after the petition is filed. However, the waiting period can also be waived in certain circumstances.

The signed decree should be filed with the clerk’s office when both spouses, often in the presence of their lawyers, have agreed on and signed the settlement agreement. It can also happen after the final hearing is over—if there was a hearing. The signed decree is essential because the case is not finalized until the clerk at the court receives, records and stamps this signed document.

Is a Divorce Decree the Same as a Judgment of Divorce?

Yes, the divorce decree, the final decree of divorce, and the final judgment of divorce are different names for the same document. So, for example, in California, the spouses will receive the “Judgment,” in New York State, it will be called “Judgment of Divorce,” and “Final Decree of Divorce” in Texas.

On rare occasions, you can stumble onto the name “divorce sentence document,” which has become obsolete and is rarely used in connection to divorce in the U.S. As you see, there can be several alterations of the same title.

What Does a Divorce Decree Look Like?

A divorce decree is a several-page long document. The title page begins with the case (or cause) number, the name and address of the court that handles the case, and the full names of both spouses.

Below goes the name of the document, usually in large bold letters. The title will most likely have the words “decree” or “judgment.”

Although the form of this document is different in each state, the content is more or less the same.

Essential Parts of a Divorce Decree

  1. Information about the plaintiff and the defendant: full name, address, phone number, social security number, employer’s address, etc.
  2. Jurisdiction. Basically, the court states that it has the power to enter judgment concerning the marriage dissolution based on the residency of the parties.
  3. Information about children. The names, social security numbers, ages, and addresses of all children (natural or adopted) under 18 years old or those older than 18 attending high school at the moment of filing for divorce.
  4. Conservatorship matters. This section is especially long. It addresses the issues of the conservatorship type (sole or joint), the visitation schedule, each parent’s essential duties, and responsibilities, etc.
  5. Child support: who will pay child support and who will receive it, how much it will be, who will pay for medical and dental costs and insurance, etc.
  6. Property Division. This chapter determines each party’s separate property (belonging to only one spouse) and marital property. For example, it can be anything from real estate and vehicles to furniture and wedding bands. The decree also includes the orders on how to split the assets and debts between the parties. (See What is a Divorce Financial Settlement?)
  7. Spousal support. This section determines who will pay it, in what amount, and for how long.
  8. Name change. The spouses can ask to change their names back to their maiden names in this section.
  9. Court costs. This part states that the party that incurred the costs is responsible for paying them unless they requested a waiver and the court approved it.

How Many Pages is a Divorce Decree?

The more complex the situation between the spouses, the more pages and information a divorce decree will have. For example, judgments concerning simple marriage dissolutions may consist of 3-8 pages. But some cases require a decree of up to 25 pages.

An average divorce decree form has 8-15 parts (sometimes even more) that the spouses fill out (with or without the help of their lawyers or a mediator) if their case is uncontested.

And that is one of the tell-tale differences between the decree and the certificate. The former has more pages and content, while the latter typically comes printed on one page.

What is a Certified Divorce Decree Copy?

The marriage dissolution process ends with the court’s review of the signed divorce decree, or when the court hearings are over, all the documents are signed, and the divorce decree is filed with the court clerk. Once it is entered into the system, the clerk’s office where the initial papers were filed can provide the ex-spouses with a certified copy of the final judgment.

Basically, a certified copy of a divorce decree is a paper copy of the original document signed by the notary or person holding it. The clerk will probably charge a specific fee for the verified copy (approximately $10-$15).

In some states, a copy of the decree can be ordered online. Yet, most of them require that it be collected in person.

SAS Tip: Once divorced, we recommend you contact your courthouse or via online arrange to receive 3-5 copies of your notarized divorce decree. You may need a notarized version for official dealings in your future (like reverting to your maiden name) and you will not want to lose control of your original notarized version.

Sometimes, a person needs to present a copy of the decree to another court, e.g., for resolving child-related matters. In this case, they would need an exemplified copy of their judgment.

Exemplification of a divorce decree is a similar procedure to the certification. The difference is that a certified copy is signed by the clerk only, while the exemplified one is signed by both the clerk and the judge.

What is a Divorce Certificate?

A certificate of divorce is a document providing basic information about the divorced couple that states the fact the marriage ended.

What does a divorce certificate look like? It usually consists of one page and has the full names of the parties, date, time, and place of divorce. Sometimes, it also includes the place and date of where the now-dissolved marriage was entered.

The court does not issue a divorce certificate. Instead, it comes from the State Department of Health or similar institutions, such as the Vital Records Department. These institutions often allow ordering the certificate online after the case is final. Either spouse can access this document upon providing a driver’s license, ID card, or other photo-ID forms.

When Would You Need a Divorce Certificate?

A divorce certificate serves as proof of the divorce. It serves the following purposes:

  • Name change;
  • Remarriage;
  • Obtaining a visa or passport;
  • Insurance and retirement matters;
  • Getting driver’s licenses, etc.

Usually, there are no confidential details of a divorce order in this certificate. For this reason, many people choose to show this document instead of the decree as proof of their marital status.

Let’s sum up the above information.

1. Divorce Decree vs. Divorce Certificate

There’s no such thing as a divorce decree certificate. A divorce decree and a certificate are two separate documents. A divorce decree usually consists of several pages. It contains all the marriage dissolution terms, such as property division and child custody arrangements.

Conversely, the primary purpose of a divorce certificate is to prove the fact the marriage ended. It is printed on a single page and only contains the names of the parties and the date and place of divorce.

2. Judgment of Divorce vs. Divorce Decree

The divorce decree has the same meaning as the judgment of divorce. In essence, these are different names for the same document. Legally speaking, a judgment (decree) is a written court order stating that the spouses are divorced.

After the spouses and the judge signs this order, it must be filed with the clerk, who will enter it into the system. Until then, the marriage dissolution is not final.

 

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 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional and oftentimes 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 thinking about it or actively dealing with divorce, choose to acknowledge your vulnerability and learn from others. Choose to not go it alone.

Pre-divorce checklist

A Pre-Divorce Checklist? Consider Composing One During the Holidays

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

Should you be making your own (pre-divorce) checklist … and checking it twice? As an experienced divorce attorney in Utah, I find the second phrase to the jingle, “gonna find out who’s naughty and nice” an inspired idea, and one that is not coincidental. The day after Christmas, Dec. 26, marks the beginning of what is officially considered “Divorce Day”: what those of us in the divorce industry call divorce season.

After the holidays have subsided and divorce season begun, our phones are ringing off the hook, with plenty of revelations suggesting who is naughty and who is nice.

Taking the time now to create your own pre-divorce checklist is positive and it’s constructive — unlike racing to a lawyer’s office or venting on social media about the sorry state of your marriage. The slow, deliberate movement of checklist making adds perspective, grounds you, and informs your ultimate decision on whether or not to add to the divorce rate across the United States or Canada, or wherever you may be (besides purgatory).

In fact, making a pre-divorce checklist is, perhaps, the best free divorce advice I give my clients during the holidays. And so, in the spirit of giving, I’d like to share more with SAS readers. Let’s use this post as your go-to guide for creating that checklist.

The Legal Point of View

There are so many different ways to look at a divorce and what you may or may not need to navigate that beginning with the legal perspective is often the best first step. And this begins, if you are a US citizen, by talking to a lawyer in your specific state, because divorce law varies from state to state.

To prepare for that meeting, think about your questions and get the necessary documents organized in advance. This will give the lawyer something to look at, evaluate and base their answers on, when you meet.

If you wonder what documents to gather and organize, check out this post Thinking About Divorce? Be Prepared.

If you wonder what questions to ask, SAS for Women has you covered there, too. Consult this blog post Questions to Ask a Divorce Attorney.  Of course you may have other questions you will not find on that blog post, like should you open a post-office box for personal or divorce-related mail? Would it be a good idea to take money out from an account in advance of the divorce? Can you leave the marital home before officially separating or divorcing? What happens to the money you are due to inherit if you divorce? Should you file for divorce before you get your bonus?

All of your questions (and fears) need to be explored and answered, but be careful about making any radical moves. It’s critical you vet your big actions with a lawyer before you act so nothing is held against you in the divorce.

This is why organizing your documents and meeting with a lawyer is such an important step on your pre-divorce checklist. You must get grounded on reality, what is and what is not possible.  

The Financial Point of View

Next, you cannot underestimate the power of getting educated on what your best business transaction would be if you were to divorce. Which is why gathering your financials and getting feedback on them is critical.

Here you can listen to Certified Divorce Financial Analyst and advisor, Stacy Francis discuss The Financial Do’s and Don’ts Before, During, and After Divorce.  Listening to Stacy will help you further formulate your financial questions. Don’t worry if your money questions overlap with your legal questions, that’s normal.

So, your pre-divorce checklist includes organizing documents, gathering your questions, meeting with a lawyer, and then going deeper with the money and getting feedback on your financial choices. This is best done with a financial person who is familiar with how divorce impacts the money. And now there’s a new professional who does just that kind of work.

Keep in mind to really forecast what you may have for money in the future, you’ll need to gather current Social Security calculations, details on debts, personal and marital property information, and monthly budget figures. Do you keep safety deposit boxes? What’s in them? Have you or your spouse already received an inheritance? All of these details need to be gathered and included on your pre-divorce checklist.


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

A new cohort (with you?) is starting soon.

 


Consider Your Home Property

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

Take Care of Your Heart

Don’t forget to factor into your list your need for emotional support (besides all this legal, financial and practical info).

Chances are your heart and your feelings are not going to be in synch with learning about your legal and financial choices. This means you need a safe place to vent what you are genuinely feeling and to learn from the messages your emotions are trying to tell you.

So, add to your pre-divorce list “Emotional Support” and consider how you will find it. Have you got a therapist or do you need to work on finding one?  Or, do you have a coach who understands the divorce journey and can help you feel anchored as you begin to take steps?  Be careful in whom you confide during this vulnerable moment in your life. Sometimes our family or friends are not the best people to share our challenges with, because their opinion, reaction, prejudices may not be in alignment with who we really are.

You absolutely need a safe, neutral, judgement-free place to go and you deserve that place.

As you make your pre-divorce checklist, realize that action with these different steps deepens your awareness and possible commitment to divorce. As your sense of empowerment grows, you may move from flirtation to surety. 

Here are some other pre-divorce checklists I recommend

You might want to check the following to see if there are any other crucial items or steps you want to add to your list:

  • SAS for Women’s “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.”
  • Donna Fulscado, Investopedia, Oct. 28, 2019 “Divorce Planning Checklist: What You Need To Know”
  • Shawn Leamon, CDFA, Divorce and Your Money: How To Avoid Costly Divorce Mistakes, March 1, 2017  “The Ultimate Divorce Checklist: What You Need To Prepare”
  • Communication planning is a unique aspect of Rebecca Jones’s list. Jones is a London-based family lawyer. Her divorce checklist includes letting everyone from family dentists and opticians to utility companies know about a divorce, if enacted. That’s something you can consider to do later on — if you indeed go through with the divorce.

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

Yes, it may be the holidays, but if you are in a troubled marriage, the holidays may be anything but merry.

Breathe deeply, think clearly, and get anchored. Using a pre-divorce checklist will help minimize the overwhelm of everything seemingly coming toward you at once. And checking things off will give you a sense of “doing something” at the same time it keeps you moving in a sequenced, goal-oriented way.

To all, we wish you the Season’s Best, a better 2022, and to all a good night.

Notes

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

 

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

Starting Over After Divorce

The Truth About Starting Over After Divorce at 45

Starting over after divorce at 45 is something I never planned for. Like many women, I dreamt of being married to a loving partner and raising our children, and then playing with our grandchildren. When I thought about divorce in my 30’s, I still didn’t want to be divorced. The plan then was to remarry immediately and create an even more successful family. A newer, kinder, and richer man would share my burdens, handle the nasty divorce-related negotiations and shield me from shame and guilt. He would be a great stepdad and a father to more of my kids. That was my idea of a successful life for a woman starting over after divorce at 45.

The reality was different. I initiated my divorce without the prospect of a better husband at 43 and finalized it at 44 almost 2 years ago.

I think that my age gave me courage and motivation. In a way, I realized that “the rest of my life” was getting shorter with every year and this motivated me towards change. If I didn’t change my life, it would stay the same, if not worse. I realized that my Ex’s abusive tactics would never stop. And I was right. To illustrate, my Ex is already remarried and is verbally abusive to his new wife. I felt unsafe growing old with an abuser. My children turned into teenagers. I reckoned they needed a sane and hopefully happy mother to support them in their critical years.

Divorce as Part of a Midlife Crisis

For me, like for many other women, divorce came as part of a midlife crisis. It’s the time when we are forced to reassess our bodies, careers, relationships, let kids grow up. We let go of old patterns and look for new meanings. Divorce helps us transform in its brutal way. In my case, I got divorced, lost my job, lost my home, went into COVID lockdown, and saw my eldest son choose to stay with his father — all in a space of 6 months.

From a home-owner, a wife and a mother of two, a career-minded professional, I turned into a jobless divorced half-empty nester living with my parents.

There are lots of things to face in your life after divorce. At 45, I am looking for a job and even considering a new career. I haven’t rebuilt my finances and haven’t yet moved into my new apartment. I’ve had to reassess my relationship with my Ex. I am still working on healing my relationship with my children, looking to rebuild my connections with my friends, and when it comes to my parents, I am looking at them in a new light.

Maybe most importantly: I am looking at myself. Who am I after all? What do I like doing, eating, watching? Whom do I like being with?

These questions and practical issues invariably bring up feelings within me, and so I think it’s important to discuss what it’s like emotionally, now that I am starting over after divorce at 45.


If you’re recreating after divorce and looking for insights and traction, check out our “How to Overcome the 6 Hardest Things About Life After Divorce


Divorce and Grief

The honest truth is that divorce at any age makes us feel grief and disappointment. Divorce takes everything we envisioned —like hearth and home, love and children, and long-term goals of golden years —and throws that dream out the window. As if that wasn’t enough, many of us have deeper-seeded emotions that come to the surface once we’re looking out that window, assessing the damage. It’s better to recognize these feelings and handle them with care. They are different for every woman and very much depend on core beliefs, culture, or religion. I live in Moscow, and certainly here in Russia, women who have been married for a long time especially with children likely did it out of fundamental faith in the institution of marriage. Some see God’s intention for us to live married. Others consider marriage as the only safe and respectable way to raise children.

I found myself deeply grieving and needing a longer, kinder adjustment time to my new reality. The transformation from a wife in a nuclear family to a single mom with just one of the kids choosing to live with me caused deep guilt, shame, and an escapable feeling of being a failure.

Motherhood In Midlife Divorce

Despite my journey, I am now finding that starting over after divorce at 45 as a mother is not as bad as I thought. I may not be a mom who provides her children with a classic family experience —but who does anymore? I may have put some of my interests ahead of theirs when I divorced. However, I am still concentrating on other motherly jobs like taking care of their education, their health, coordinating logistics, teaching them values and healthy habits, and demonstrating responsibility. I am doing my best to respect my sons’ choices and their need for a relationship with their father. I am learning how to continue their education with less money than we planned.

It seems like my motherhood style is working. My elder son recently gave me an unexpected hug and a kiss and said: “Thank you for being the way you are. You are such a great mom.” It brought tears to my eyes.

Whereas I planned for coparenting with a lot of coordinated decisions, I admit that I am happy with the parallel parenting with almost no contact and no arguing. Now, if I want my son to go to yoga, I just talk to my son. Previously I had to get approval from my Ex and argue for yoga versus boxing or football. Now, it’s the business of the kids to discuss with their father whatever they need to discuss. My current model saves me time and energy.

Responsibility: The one who decides and drinks all the wine

In my experience of starting over after divorce at 45, I want to single out a newfound responsibility. I am still getting used to being the sole decision-maker in many things. Now it’s me who has responsibility for the bills, the gadgets, the car maintenance, vacation destination, vaccine choices. Not only do I need to decide what to watch on TV but I also have to work out how to turn the damn thing on!

All this new responsibility and decision-making is stressful. The longer the marriage, the more stressful the new tasks. Many of us need to learn updated technology and computer skills, for example, if we hope to go out into the workforce. This means allocating resources and time for the new learning. The result, however, can be empowering!

I continue to make discoveries about my old way of life and my new one. For example, I am learning that while my Ex-husband pretended to share responsibility when we were married, he was in fact controlling my activities and my hobbies, and my beauty-related spending. He also pushed me to get jobs I didn’t want just so we would have more money. Realizing that I was controlled for a long time was sad but now I feel even more liberated.

Facing responsibility is empowering. I’ve learned about my own usage of resources and consumption. And, being the only adult in my family, I can no longer blame a husband for the empty wine bottle or the undone bed.

Financially Speaking

Divorce is a tough time financially. Moreover, high legal fees and multiple therapy sessions are only part of the problem. The bigger part of the problem is that divorce takes away the confidence and energy necessary for work. I still have days when all I can manage physically is to walk the dog and thank God for food delivery services. A recently divorced friend in a high-power job confessed that she is only staying employed because of her ability to delegate to subordinates.

Rebuilding finances can take even longer if you decide to change your career as part of the midlife crisis. Many women who were stay-at-home Moms are starting from scratch.

It can take a few years to rebuild your life financially and professionally after a divorce, and it takes longer to rebuild ourselves emotionally and personally. We need to recognize that, manage our ambitions, and maybe watch fewer films where women are left better off after a successful divorce from a millionaire!

On the positive side, I don’t feel financially insecure like I did in my marriage. I may not have a stable income now but I use it the way I see fit. And no one is forcing me into a job that I don’t like.

Recovering Socially and Romantically

I haven’t dated yet after my divorce. That’s 2 years. I never imagined it would be possible to not date for such a long time, but it is easy. There wasn’t much socializing due to COVID, no vacations where a holiday romance could have happened. At the moment I am horrified by Tinder and other dating apps. I might consider apps later, but at the moment I am embracing singlehood. Right now, I like the idea of self-partnering, taking myself out for lunch or a walk. I have made myself available for girly events and organized some myself like a trip to a gallery or museum or a live music event. And I am loving it.

While I am enjoying my new single status, some friends seem to have a problem with it. When I tell friends about embracing my singlehood, three different women replied with the same message: “Don’t despair, you may still meet a nice man.” I think culturally in Russia we still think that it’s safer and more respectable to be with a man than on your own.

A “single person” has a negative connotation in the Russian language and translates as “lonely” or “solitary”, one to be pitied. Another possibility is that my friends are just jealous that I have my freedom and the whole bed to myself!

Other Cultural Details About Midlife Divorce in Russia

The divorce experience and life after divorce can differ anywhere and within any country due to the difference between people, values, class specifics, or religious ideas. Getting divorced in Russia meant that I had to go beyond the information provided in Russia, and rely instead on English-language resources about divorce, abuse, narcissistic abuse, coparenting, and how to rebuild myself. Many such concepts and terms just don’t exist in my language. I am so grateful to have the skill of speaking different languages because it means I am not locked into one world.

Yet, while psychological or emotional advice in English was useful, I had to be careful with legal or financial information because of the differences with Russian law. I am sad to say that the Russian legal system does not protect women enough either through a welfare system or by recognizing the impact of abuse. As a single mother out of a job for ten months, I got next to nothing from the state in financial support. I have learned that in many countries, it can be similar; a woman needs to have sufficient savings and support of a family to live onward after divorce.

I have also noticed that men in Russia in my social circles remarry quickly or enter into a new long-term relationship almost immediately after their divorces. Conversely, women take time to rediscover who they really are and what it is they want. That discovery is precious and long overdue.

So, as I ask myself again: “What is starting over after divorce at 45 really like?” I must say, it’s not bad. Not bad at all. I am definitely happy I’ve done it. And as I look back at how much I have been through, I feel proud of myself. “Good for me, brave girl!”

Notes

Anna Ivanova-Galitsina is an international expert in communications and storytelling based in Moscow, Russia. She has two teenage sons and a dog, and she is building a new happier life. You can reach out to her via e-mail for comments or discussion.

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

File for Divorce - What it Takes

What Does It Take to File for Divorce?

Perhaps you want it, but he doesn’t. Perhaps he wants it, but you don’t. Perhaps you both want it. No matter who comes to the conclusion that divorce is the unfortunate destiny for your marriage, one of you has to file for divorce.

It’s understandable that the process of initiating the legal end to your marriage would be an emotional step. And no one wants to voluntarily take on that negativity, especially if the other person isn’t aware of or in agreement with the divorce.

This initial step, however, must be taken if the process is going to move forward.

There may be no badge of honor, favoritism, or disproportionate rights granted to the petitioner. But there may be advantages to being the one to file for divorce.

Filing is the official notification to the courts to begin the divorce process.

The person who files, called the “petitioner,” files a petition (or “complaint” in some states) with the court.

(Note that “the court” isn’t just “any court.” Like most family law matters, divorce is handled at the state government level. Petitions for divorce are therefore filed with the state superior or circuit court, usually a county or district branch.)

If you plan to file for divorce, there are things you should do beforehand.

How to Prepare to File for Divorce

You have the advantage during this time of getting educated about your strategy for going through the divorce and assembling your team for support.

Researching and seeking legal counsel, for example, is one of the most important initial steps you should take. And “going first” means you get “first pick” of the best local representation if you choose to use a lawyer to represent you.

Also, the time to understand your rights and get your concerns answered is before you start the clock.

A divorce coach can help you navigate both the practical and emotional ins-and-outs of divorce. And s/he can also give you access to perspective, what is normal, what is not, and a wealth of essential, well-vetted resources like good lawyers, good financial people, recommended mediators, etc.

If you know you are going to be the one to initiate divorce, you also have the advantage of beginning your due diligence early.

We can’t stress this enough: Documentation is everything. Prepare, prepare, prepare! 

Even your petition for divorce will require documentation related to your marriage and finances:

  • Names and addresses of both spouses
  • Date and location of the marriage
  • Identification of children of the marriage
  • Acknowledgment of residency

Every state has its own residency requirements (state and/or county) for one or both spouses prior to filing.

  • Grounds for divorce

You may have at-fault grounds like adultery, abandonment, addiction, criminal conviction, impotence, infertility, mental illness, or physical or emotional abuse.

Or you may have no-fault grounds like irreconcilable differences or incompatibility.

Your grounds for divorce may influence whether your divorce is uncontested or contested. (At-fault and no-fault grounds are decided by each state.)

  • Declaration or request as to how you would like to settle finances, property division, child custody, and other relevant issues.

Once you file for divorce with the court, the petition for divorce must be served to your spouse.

This step is called “service of process.” And it can be as simple as a compliant spouse signing acknowledgment of receipt.

It can also be as difficult as your spouse refusing to sign or being difficult to locate. You would then most likely need to hire a professional process server.

Upon completion of service of process, the clock starts running on your state’s waiting period. This is also the point at which the court will basically “freeze” activity that could affect your settlement and/or custody.

Important Details About The Service of Process

There are some important things to know about what happens after completing your service of process. Neither you nor your spouse will be allowed to take your children out of state, for example. You also won’t be allowed to buy or sell property or sell off insurance related to the other person.

Knowing that these restraining orders will be in place, you may be advised to request temporary orders in your petition.

Perhaps you are a stay-at-home mom with young children, and you rely on your spouse’s income.

Even an uncontested divorce can take a year to finalize. And you can’t live without the means to provide for yourself and your children.

Temporary orders would provide for things like temporary custody, child support, spousal support, residential arrangements, and payment of bills.

By now you’re probably catching on to how being the first to file for divorce can be advantageous.

No, we’re not suggesting in any way that you rush into a life-altering decision just so you can “be first.”

What we are suggesting is that the outcome of your divorce will be largely predicated on your preparation.

Best-case scenario? Both you and your spouse know that your lives are best lived apart. You might work cooperatively to make your divorce as smooth and painless as possible.

Honesty, disclosure, respect, and fairness will guide your dealings.

Worst-case scenario? You file for divorce, and your spouse does everything in his power to fight it.

He doesn’t want the divorce, but he’s not happy with your marriage, either. He is hell-bent on making you pay for initiating the divorce. And he’s not above breaking the rules to do it.

Hiding assets, contesting everything, and trying to leave you with nothing will guide his dealings.

Misery will guide yours.

Preparation is Key

When you have time before filing for divorce, you can prepare your questions, collect your advisors, and do your due diligence. And that due diligence will empower you with much more control in the proceedings, especially if your spouse is uncooperative.

Finding, copying, and organizing everything is essential. Your stuff, your husband’s stuff, your mutual stuff, your kids’ stuff.

When it comes to financial matters, these are the documents you should have and the way you should organize them.

Finally, while being the first to file for divorce won’t give you an edge on your settlement, it can make some things easier.

If you and your husband reside in different states part of the time, initiating the divorce will allow you to decide the location of adjudication. And where a divorce takes place has everything to do with how it proceeds…and turns out.

Waiting periods, residency requirements, fault/no-fault grounds, and even certain financial considerations will be at the mercy of location.

In the short run, all it takes to file for divorce is the decision to go forward with ending a marriage that isn’t working.

Do the paperwork, serve your spouse, and provide proof that he was served.

As the respondent, he is free to send a response of agreement or contest. But the clock starts nonetheless.

In the long run, however, approaching the first official step of your divorce process with forethought and preparation can dramatically influence the outcome.

The road to an empowered life, after all, begins with the first step.

Notes

SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to rebuilding their lives on their own, healthiest terms. 

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce, or that confusing place of recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and often times complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. “A healthy divorce requires smart steps through and beyond the divorce document.” Learn what we mean and what it means for you in a FREE 15-minute consultation.