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. Rarely is anyone 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 will be required to 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, but if you are not working with one (or cannot afford one at this time) consider a good divorce support group that is professionally facilitated 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 6, FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future. “A successful divorce requires smart steps, taken one at a time.” – SAS for Women 

Divorce Stress

7 Ways to Handle Divorce Stress

Stress comes in all shapes and sizes. What tops the list of most stressful life events for most people is moving, break ups, divorce—the latter of which involves dealing with the first two. So if you’re getting divorced and feeling stressed out about it, go easy on yourself. You’re not alone in this — no matter how isolated everything you’re dealing with is making you feel.

How you react to divorce stress is what matters. People cope with stress in a lot of ways—and not all of them are healthy.

So without further ado, here are some positive ways to handle divorce stress:

1. Learn how to enjoy your own company

Yes, we know we just told you you’re not alone in this. And we meant it. Your friends and family members are there for you. There’s an entire world out there filled with other divorced women who understand exactly what you’re going through. We should know because we work with some of those women every single day.

Even so, we know that a person can understand that she has a support network and still feel utterly alone. And yet, its important to learn how to be alone. Sometimes there’s a reason we don’t enjoy our own company, a reason why we don’t want to be left to our own devices, to mull in our thoughts. Instead of avoiding that, confront it.

2. Exercise

Staying active is about more than simply losing or maintaining your weight. Studies have proven that exercise gives people more energy and improves their focus. You need both of those things if you are deciding or navigating your divorce. You need both of those things afterward, too, on your divorce recovery journey. You don’t have to get a gym membership to stay fit either. You could take up tennis if you prefer to make a game of exercise, or you can go hiking if exploring nature is more your thing.

3. Unclench your muscles

Have you ever been “relaxing” only to suddenly notice your shoulders are all the way up by your ears? When we feel stressed out, our muscles tense up, like our bodies are physically trying to keep it all together when our minds feel too strained to do much of anything. You can help your muscles truly relax with a little self-care—meditate, take a hot bath, try to get more sleep, or if possible, treat yourself to a massage.

4. Spend time in nature

So many of us wake up indoors, drive our cars to the office, and spend our days sitting beneath fluorescent lighting until we rinse and repeat. On a day-to-day basis, how much time are we actually spending outside? And yet, for centuries, humans lived their lives surrounded by the great outdoors, tuning into mother nature’s clock because their very lives depended on it.

Sure, our lifestyles have changed, but the research demonstrates that our minds and bodies still crave nature and greatly benefit from time away from city life. In nature, we can slow down. A 90-minute walk in nature reduces your brain’s efforts to dwell on the negative. And spending multiple days in nature can improve problem-solving skills by 50 percent. That’s proof that sometimes we have to step away from a problem, from ourselves, to see things more clearly.

5. Find a hobby that you can throw yourself into

Don’t be afraid to get creative. You can take up knitting or join a book club. You can reignite your love of reading—audiobooks are especially great to put on while taking care of domestic duties or slogging through your daily commute.

Anything that requires an intense level of focus is perfect because your mind won’t have the opportunity to be sidetracked by whatever’s bothering you at that moment. Try out things like painting, solving puzzles, climbing, cooking, kickboxing, yoga, archery, or even learning a new language. If it doesn’t bring you joy, then stop and pivot to another activity. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to nourishing your divorce recovery.

6. Take a break from activities that trigger you

Social media, for one, puts people in an endless loop of comparing themselves to others. Life looks so much better through a filter. It’s so easy to convince yourself that the version of people you see online matches the reality. But do yourself a favor: don’t judge your insides by other people’s outsides. What’s more, social media is how many of us keep up with breaking news. And let’s face it, most of what’s on the news is triggering these days.

Being an informed citizen is a worthy goal, but the truth is that all this information doesn’t really serve most of us in our daily lives. While it can feel like everybody spends more time interacting with people online than they do in their “real” lives, social media is a choice. And it’s one that you can opt out of for however long you need, along with any other triggering activities in your life.

7. Talk it out

Keeping your feelings bottled up inside is a recipe for disaster. At some point, they’ll come pouring out of you whether you’re ready or not. Instead, find someone who you feel comfortable talking to about whatever’s vexing you openly. That might mean finding a therapist, divorce coach, or joining a smart, facilitated support group, or making a point to meet up regularly with close friends or family members. It’s not so much about leaving these conversations with solutions to all your problems, but the mere act of speaking your truth can work wonders on your mental health.

Ultimately, there isn’t any one way to handle divorce stress. Often times it’s about finding a routine. Find a group of people or activities that make you feel grounded, and then lean into that newfound sense of calm.

Visualize what your next chapter really looks like—what do you need from life, whom are you with, what does a typical day look like? Take a deep breath, then set about making it happen. Good things don’t always happen in one fell swoop. Appreciate the process. You’ll get there, step by step.

This article was authored for SAS for Women by Melanie Figueroa, a writer and content editor who loves discussing women’s issues and creativity. Melanie helps authors and small businesses improve their writing and solve their editorial needs. You can reach her at [email protected]

Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to help them through the emotional and often times complicated experience of divorce. For emotional support and structured guidance now, helping you move forward the healthiest way possible, consider Annie’s Group, our virtual divorce education, support and coaching class for women thinking about divorce or beginning the process

*This piece was written for SAS for Women, an all-women website. At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

badmouthing your children

Why Badmouthing Your Coparent Hurts Your Child

Once we get married, most of us assume that we’ll spend the rest of our life with that person. We’re in love, we have kids and maybe even a house together—everything is perfect. But then something changes, and all our hopes and dreams are shattered. What are we to do? Do we file for divorce? Or, do we stay in a relationship that’s become toxic?

While this decision can be hard to make, you have to think about what is best for you.

Quite often, women decide to stay married for the sake of their kids. But think about it this way—how can your kids be happy if you and your partner are constantly arguing? Getting a divorce and coparenting might sound like a challenge, but the children should be your top priority. If your heart is in the right place, you’ll find it’s a challenge you’re up for.

Of course, you do need to keep in mind that even after the divorce, you will have to keep seeing your Ex if you decide on joint custody. It can often be difficult to maintain a civil relationship if there is still some lingering resentment. Finances, schedules, and lifestyle changes can all make it harder for you to coexist.

Unless your Ex decides to completely abandon you and the children, you should look for a way to include them in your kids’ lives. Maybe your Ex is a terrible husband, but a great father. Because of this, you’ll want to avoid badmouthing the other parent in front of your child as it can be quite harmful to their relationship with your Ex. Here are some more reasons why badmouthing your coparent can hurt your kids.

Your kid will be adjusting to recent changes

When kids find out about their parents’ divorce, they will probably have a hard time understanding what exactly is happening. Depending on their age, they might cry, become isolated, blame themselves, or understand that this is truly the best option.

If you or your Ex move out, your children will have to adjust to constantly moving from one home to another. If one of you gets sole parental responsibility, the child will probably miss seeing you together and spending time as a family. Your children might also have to change schools. The last thing they need is to hear you complain about the other parent. This will make them feel even more confused and helpless, as they will not know how to act in this situation.

Your children aren’t your confidants or therapist

When you’re with your kids, try to find fun topics to talk about. Ask them about their day, what they want to read or watch, what they learned in school, etc. When the topic of their father comes up, try to stay calm and ask about their time together. Do not talk about your issues and tell them bad things about their parent.

You should not turn to your children to complain about your Ex. They do not need to know every single detail that led to your divorce. No matter their age, they are not your therapist, and you should not rely on them to make you feel better about your problems. Oversharing will possibly make them feel overwhelmed. If they have a good relationship with their other parent, you do not want to ruin this. So, if you need help, seek professional advice or talk to your friends.

The truth always comes out

The worst thing you could do is lie to your child about their other parent. If you spread misinformation, the lies will eventually catch up with you. Seeing as how your kid will still communicate with other members on both sides of the family, it’s quite possible that they will ask someone what the truth is. If they find out you lied to them, it can greatly affect your relationship going forward.

Your kids will feel forced to choose sides

Badmouthing your coparent—even when you’re on the receiving end of the complaints—makes your kids feel forced to choose sides. Even worse, they might develop a bad opinion about both of you, internalizing those feelings and becoming secluded.

This is especially true when children get older and become more self aware. It’s entirely possible that all those “bad parts” about your Ex that you list off are traits your children share, and you don’t want to offend or shame your children. Constant pressure and the stress of going back and forth between homes can often results in deteriorating health in the future, which is something you don’t want to contribute to.

There are so many reasons why badmouthing your coparent in front of our children is never a good idea, from making your children feel badly about themselves to ruining relationships within your family. No matter how you feel about your Ex, you should always try to stay civil and think of what is best for your child.

By Tanya Mayer for women. You can reach her at [email protected]

If you are seeking an education on best practices for coparenting as you support your children through one of the toughest moments in your lives, you will want to know about Gaia’s Group, SAS for Women’s virtual group coaching class for coparenting mothers. We all need a thoughtful, committed plan for helping our children weather and move beyond separation and divorce. Doing it the healthiest way is a choice. 

The reality of divorce in New York

The Reality of Divorce in New York

People know New York for its glitz, glamour, and grit. Everything’s loud, over-caffeinated and fast-paced. For some who experience the loneliness of all this, there can be the feeling of being left out, of never being enough, of someone else always lining up to replace you. But despite all of this, or in response, New Yorkers are equally known for being tough and seemingly invulnerable. Even when it comes to romance. Romance, New York style is often over the top or of the quirky variety, the kind of love that sweeps you off your feet. Think Carrie and Mr. Big. Harry and Sally. Jane Fonda and Robert Redford in Barefoot in the Park. It’s the kind of romance they write love songs about. Until it’s not. But divorce in New York? Well, in most of our minds, breakups are equally cinematic. Flash to messy scenes from the Real Housewives of New York, or nuggets of gossip passed privately through whispers, then splashed across Page Six for anyone to see.

Yet, for all those clichés, in reality, divorce in New York State is far more mundane than any image you carry in your mind. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control, the divorce rate in New York in 2011 was 2.9 for every 1,000 residents. That’s a lower rate than most states in the country!

Of course, when the divorce is happening to us it doesn’t have to be the literal end of the world to feel like it’s the end of ours. Your divorce might come as a complete shock, or it may seem like a long time coming. Either way, it can all feel surreal, like you’re having an out of body experience. How you wish it were just a movie! Yet, this is your life. You are getting a divorce. And throughout your divorce, the surprises may keep coming, bringing out the worst and the best of you.

You may not be feeling so much like Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City—young and colorful and ready to take on the world—as you are Sarah Jessica Parker in HBO’s Divorce, a little jaded and angry, feeling dull around the edges but looking for reasons to hope.

If that’s you, if you’re done considering divorce or have had divorce forced upon you, then here’s a primer highlighting what to expect when getting a divorce in New York.

Divorce law in New York

In New York, there are two kinds of divorces, a contested divorce and an uncontested divorce.

In an uncontested divorce, the most trouble-free approach, you and your husband agree about the need for a divorce and you believe you will come to terms on how your property gets divided and how your children are cared for. On your own or with the help of lawyers or a mediator, you and your husband come to an agreement on everything and do not need the court to get involved to divide assets or make decisions about spousal or child support or custody.

Typically, an uncontested divorce moves more quickly through the system. It’s less complicated and less expensive. You will likely never set foot inside a courtroom with an uncontested divorce.

In a contested divorce, you and your husband are not in agreement about any or all of these things. (Hello, your marriage?) If there are disagreements, and often there are, you will likely need the help of a legal professional(s) to resolve them. The more intense the disagreements, the more expensive the process can become and the greater risk you run of having to go to court to have a judge decide.

Many couples will begin the process of a contested divorce and then, before trial, reach an agreement. This is a settlement.

Thanks to the Internet, though, it’s become increasingly popular to consider a Pro Se or DIY divorce and thereby eliminate the costs of lawyers. Couples who do this successfully are couples who are almost always in agreement. (Hmmm.) They are doing an uncontested divorce.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you and your husband really in agreement about everything?
  • What are the critical issues?
  • Do you understand the finances?
  • Do you understand spousal support?
  • What about child support?
  • What are your options for custody arrangements?
  • How are you going to handle your debt? Whose debt is whose?

Our experience is that most women do not know these things, nor do their husbands—but the idea of saving money on legal fees (or being bullied into the DIY process) blinds them from finding out what they are each entitled to by law. There’s a phrase, “You don’t know what you don’t know,” and it couldn’t be more aptly used for this scenario.

How can you split things up if you don’t understand what you’re splitting — like the finances (are you aware of their long-term tax implications?) Or what negotiated variable is going to benefit you more in the long run? You need feedback from someone who’s an expert on your situation.

In short, we recommend you NOT consider a DIY or online approach unless you have no children, there is no debt and little or no assets, and the marriage has not been for very long. And if you do pursue a DIY model, we encourage you to consult with an attorney privately at least once (but preferably throughout your completing the paperwork).

Divorce facts in New York

New York also allows you to get either an at-fault divorce (you must prove your husband is responsible for the need to divorce) or a no-fault divorce.

For most people, it’s easier to seek a no-fault divorce. You don’t have to prove anything other than the relationship is irretrievably broken. “To qualify” in New York, the relationship must be broken for at least six months. Also, New York usually requires that you or your spouse have lived in New York State for at least one year before you can file for divorce.

New York is often associated with all things progressive and liberal, but it was actually the last state in the country to allow no-fault divorce. That means that until 2010, getting a divorce in New York almost always meant that one spouse had to prove the other spouse did something wrong and is to blame. What’s more cinematic than a jilted lover or “cold-heartedly” calculating your actions to create a case where you are the wronged party? It’s a recipe for disaster, for heightening emotions and irrational behavior—for people to lash out and for proceedings to get ugly and expensive and to heighten the risk of going to court.

This said, you can still get an at-fault divorce in New York. To do so, a spouse must have the “legal grounds,” which usually involves adultery, cruel or inhuman treatment, or abandonment. Most divorce lawyers in New York will advise you not to go the at-fault route no matter the dramatic details you may throw their way. It is generally considered a poor use of resources to have a trial on grounds now since the system no longer requires it.

With this in mind, you will want to make sure you understand why your lawyer is pushing for an at-fault divorce, such as “cruel and inhuman treatment,” and how it will benefit your situation as opposed to pursuing a no-fault divorce. We had a client, for example, whose husband had serious mental health issues and refused to seek treatment. Her lawyer filed an at-fault divorce for “cruel and inhuman treatment” as a strategy to protect the children and to impact the custody arrangement, so the children were not left alone with him until he was fully recovered, healthy and functioning.

New York is an equitable distribution state

In New York, assets (the things you own) get divided through “equitable distribution,” meaning, in general, everything you owned prior to getting married is your separate property and everything acquired after your marriage gets divided as fairly as possible.

The separation of property—how you will divide it up—is negotiated between you and your husband, or more likely, by your lawyers after they have consulted with each of you, or with the help of a mediator. But it has to be done well and fairly enough that the court will sign off on the agreement.

These are just a few of the facts that come into play when discussing divorce in New York. There is more you’ll want to know before you proceed further. But we don’t want to contribute to sensory overload.

What matters most is that you are not going to do it all at once, but you will want to be in a position to learn and come to understand what your options are before you make decisions about your property, the debt, child support, custody, spousal support, legal fees, insurance, and more. You might need an order of protection if abuse is a concern, which complicates matters even further.

This is why, whether you pursue a DIY approach, or go to mediation, or use a collaborative attorney, we urge you to get educated on what your choices are first.

Read Divorce in New York: 10 Things to Know Before Seeing a Lawyer

Divorce court

You must know that about five percent of all divorce cases go to full-blown trial. Less than five percent. So turn the television off. The standard way people divorce is still the traditional one, of your hiring an attorney to represent your interests and your husband hiring an attorney to represent his. Your lawyer meets with you individually, as does your husband’s, and then the lawyers negotiate the settlement through phone calls or meetings.

Divorce negotiations are different from negotiations in most other legal matters in that clients usually attend the meetings—known as “four-ways”, with their lawyers. If one side fails to negotiate or settle, then the risk of going to court does increase, and both parties must attend every court appearance with their lawyers. This traditional approach is still the best way for the less-moneyed or less-powerful spouse (the one who lacks money or knowledge about the finances) to get a fair share.

Diversify your insight into how you will divorce

On the plus side of living in New York is that the city and the state can often be frontrunners of change. Just by virtue of your living within New York’s boundaries, there are far more resources available to you than people living in other parts of the country. Take advantage of those resources, like law schools that offer free legal aid, or referral services offered by the New York Legal Bar Association.

You don’t have to rely on visiting a lawyer and learning things the expensive way as most people have done in the past. There are now people like us, the divorce coach, who can help you learn about divorce (and yourself) before you commit to anything. A certified and experienced divorce coach can also connect you to vetted lawyers and other experts — like a certified divorce financial analyst (who can help you answer the money questions). How you choose to divorce matters for your children and your own recovery.

How long does a divorce take in New York?

Okay, we know, you are maxing out. You want to hear how long this is going to take. If we are talking only about the legal aspect to the divorce and not your recovery and healing, than the time it takes to finalize a divorce depends on two things: how motivated you and your spouse are to organize your papers and documents and to push your attorneys to negotiate the agreement and how busy the court that receives and officializes your settlement agreement is.

For some people, it can take as little as six weeks, for others, six months or more for an uncontested divorce. With a contested divorce, there is no way of forecasting it, but certainly, a deciding factor would be when the money runs out.

What’s certain is that divorce anywhere is a (long) process, and while that wait can be frustrating, it also means you won’t be able to jump into anything without thinking it through first (and that might just be a blessing in disguise).

Divorce support groups for women in New York

There are over eight million people living in New York City and more than twice that in New York State. You are not the only one “feeling lost in New York,” or like everything’s falling apart even as you try to put it back together. We say this a lot but only because it’s true: You are not alone. If your couple friends have disappeared and disappointed you, you are lucky to live in a city and state where there are many divorced women and men—and the stigma of divorce is not as pronounced as it may be somewhere else.

Your job is to connect with those people who understand what you are going through and get educated on what your choices are and who you want to be as you make these important decisions. You might consider joining an online education-driven support group with other women who share similar experiences and who seek to find their voice and change their circumstances for the better. Women just like you.

Remember, divorce in New York rarely looks the same as it does on TV, where the drama’s amped to increase ratings and to get you coming back. This is a process none of us wants to experience even once, let alone come back to. Your divorce doesn’t have to be so dramatic. You can choose to let go the theatrics because they don’t serve you, your Ex, or your children, and to focus on what you do control: getting educated fully before you commit to any one path or decision, and to move through the process smartly and with the greatest sense of integrity and compassion for everybody — including you. 

For more steps to help you with divorce join us for your free 45-minute consultation.

Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to help them through the emotional and often times complicated experience of divorce. For emotional support and structured guidance now, consider Annie’s Group, our virtual divorce support and coaching class for women thinking about divorce or beginning the process. Schedule your 15-minute chat to learn if this education is right for you, where you are in your life, and most importantly, where you want to go.

 

This article was authored for SAS for Women by Melanie Figueroa, a writer and content editor who loves discussing women’s issues and creativity. Melanie helps authors and small businesses improve their writing and solve their editorial needs.

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

Online dating after divorce

How to Protect Your Mental Health While Online Dating After Divorce

Divorce is always a very hard process to go through. People feel a lot of stress. On top of that, they face various trust issues, sometimes creating an entirely new circle of people to surround themselves with. When it comes to new romantic relationships, many people turn to online dating. They can easily create a profile, introduce themselves to other people, and try their luck dipping into the dating pool. With so many great websites around today, there are lots of easy ways to filter out the people who don’t share the same interests as you and find the ones who do.

But online dating isn’t for everyone. If not used with care, things can get out of hand. With so many people using online dating apps, there’s a high chance your first few dates might not go as planned. Many men and women have stories of hilarious dates they had while online dating after divorce but just as many have their share of horror stories. Here’s how to manage your expectations and protect yourself while online dating:

1. Don’t have high expectations

Some profiles might seem perfect, but as you venture into the world of online dating, be sure not to have any high expectations. Read all of the profiles fully, and try to picture the person who it represents. In today’s world, plenty of people use filters and layer on makeup, so now more than ever, don’t let looks fool you.

Stay real, and quit looking for Mr. or Mrs. Perfect. That person doesn’t exist. Yes, if you’re reading this, you’re likely living your life after divorce—that marriage that was dragging you down, you’re past that now—and you’ve been given a newfound appreciation of yourself. But even you are not perfect, so if that’s what you’re looking for: stop now.

If you have expectations from the people you meet through online dating websites or applications, you’ll most likely also have presumptions. Having presumptions is bad—it can result in huge disappointments and an extremely (and awkward) bad date. Instead, keep yourself cool, be patient, and do not invest all of yourself into someone you may have just met only a couple of days ago. After a divorce, it will be hard not to expect things from your new life, but that’s dating for you.

2. But don’t lower your standards

You just got divorced. In the future, you’ll want to pick a partner who’s a better fit for you long-term. You only now know your true value, and you finally respect yourself as you deserve it. Do not mess it all up by bringing down your standards. Do not let anyone fool you. Go look for someone who makes you feel like a better person than you already are. You do not need anyone who will make you less good.

Your time, your energy, and your heart are priceless things—do not fool yourself into thinking otherwise. Try to show the best of you only after you are certain that someone is actually worth it.

3. You don’t have to reply to everyone who messages you

You might feel like answering everyone who messages you is the right thing to do. But it isn’t. You should actually avoid replying to everyone. When you get a message and the first feeling you get about this person is negative, just don’t answer at all. There are many shady accounts out there and even bots. Listen to your own intuition, and do not fall for any weird ideas. There are millions of people using online dating websites today. If you tried to reply to all of them, you would likely find that the majority of them would not be a good fit for you as a partner. Online dating is part luck, yes, but it’s also about carefully picking the people you talk to.

4. Sparks don’t always need to fly the first date (and maybe that’s a good thing)

Most of your first dates will not make you feel any fireworks, and if they actually do, you should be extra careful. Both men and women know how to create that firework sensation if they want to. Keep this in mind. After all, you now have enough experience not to be fooled. If your first date is all about fireworks, it might be because your date wants it to be. Consider the possibility that a date that’s all sparks flying and no substance is a warning sign! If you want a real connection, you don’t want someone who is all about sex.

But give your dates a couple of chances before you erase them from your life. Maybe certain dates will not seem all that romantic, but it’s really all about the personality of the person. Not everyone finds romance to be important.

5. Stay real, and be yourself

Did you know that the majority of Americans claim online dating is a good way to meet people? Dating websites are great, but they can make you forget about your own reality. Be mindful, and do not allow yourself to get pulled into the fantasy. Stay connected with your friends and family. Keep your sanity, and make sure you actually have fun with the process.

To make it all more interesting, try asking someone to help you with your profile. According to Pew research, one-in-five online daters actually asked someone else to help them out with their profile creation.

6. Talk to your friends and family

There is no shame in using a dating website today. Many people have tried them, and they often talk about using them openly. If you are unsure about how some things work or you simply want advice, don’t be shy. Open up! Your friends will appreciate the fact that you decided to be so honest with them. They might even be able to offer you some great advice and help you stay real while you look for a new partner. It is usually our friends and our family that help us go through the whole divorce process. Keep loved ones around and appreciate them just as much as they have proved to appreciate you.

Finding a good match on an online dating website is possible, if properly done. You can find the partner who you’re destined to be with. You can feel sparks fly once again, and remind yourself that you are worth it all.

 

Alan Smith is a psychologist by profession, dating coach by choice, contributing writer of “DoULikeBlog.” Alan helps single moms cope with stress, meet new people, and stay fit. He has helped many families from breaking apart and keeps reducing the divorce rate throughout Europe.

This piece was written for SAS for Women, an all-women website. Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional and often times complicated experience of divorce. We invite you to learn what’s possible for you. Schedule you free, 45 minute consultation with SAS. Whether you are coping or already navigating your life afterward, a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do divorce alone.

 

Coparenting through divorce

Coparenting Through Divorce: Drug Use, Drug Testing and Family Court

Divorce isn’t easy, and the process can be even tougher where the case involves minor children. When emotions are heated, each parent may jockey for position in trying to gain an advantage with custody and visitation. In some situations, one may accuse the other of drug use – regardless of the truth of the matter. With trends showing that around 1 in 10 Americans have used drugs within the last thirty days, a court will most definitely take notice.

Once the issue is raised, it could have serious implications for your divorce case. Therefore, an overview on drug use and testing in divorce cases may be useful.Coparenting Through Divorce Infographic

The Relevance of Drug Use in Divorce

In general, courts are concerned with a parent’s drug use in divorce because it affects determinations on child custody and visitation. Most US states require a judge to review the child’s best interests in making these decisions. Substance use and abuse are among the factors a court will consider.

Specifically, drug use impacts a judge’s decision on child custody and visitation in three areas:

1. Ability to Make Responsible Decisions on Child-Rearing

Parents must make decisions regarding important aspects of the child, such as education, extracurricular activities, religion, healthcare and others. It’s a shared responsibility when the family lives under one roof, and many courts will continue the arrangement when ordering joint custody.

However, a parent’s ability to make responsible decisions in these areas is affected by drug use. A judge may be unwilling to allow joint decision-making, and grant authority to the other parent.

2. Responsibilities During Parenting Time

Visitation is also a key consideration in divorce, and a court will usually allow mostly-equal parenting time between the parties. Most judges recognize that the child’s best interests are served by having a relationship with both parents.

—————————————————————————

Wondering if and how your kids will recover? Read Will the Kids Be All Right? The Long-Term Effects of Divorce on Children

—————————————————————————

When a parent is exercising visitation rights, he or she is 100 percent responsible for care, safety, and well-being of the child. Drug use interferes with these duties because it affects the user physically, emotionally, and cognitively. A judge may refuse equal visitation or could require supervised visits only. In extreme situations, the court may even deny parenting time entirely because the parent cannot be trusted to provide proper care.

3. Logistical Concerns

To a lesser degree, drug use may affect a court’s decision on custody and visitation because of logistical issues. A parent who is under the influence of controlled substances cannot legally drive, which could lead to disruptions with the parenting time schedule and the child’s activities. The child could miss out on sports, school, social events, and other opportunities because the parent is too impaired to operate a vehicle – not to mention presenting a serious safety risk.

—————————————————————————

Related: The 10 Most Common Reasons for Divorce

—————————————————————————

Drug Use and Drug Testing in Divorce

There’s no legal requirement that parents automatically be tested for drugs with every divorce case that involves minor children. The issue will only come up when one party introduces allegations of substance abuse as it relates to custody and visitation. Usually, there must be more than a mere accusation. Judges know emotions are heated in divorce, and a party may make extreme, exaggerated statements in an attempt to sway the court.

Still, if there are verifiable facts that one parent uses drugs, a judge is likely to order him or her to submit to drug testing; the judge may even order both parents if there are competing allegations. A positive test could impact decisions on custody and visitation as mentioned above.Even if the court is convinced that the shared parenting is still an appropriate arrangement, that individual may be required to undergo random testing on a continuing basis. Under these circumstances, a positive test could lead to a modification of custody and/or visitation.

Drugs from the Court’s Perspective

Not all drugs are the same in terms of the effect on the user, and judges usually recognize this.

The court will likely look differently upon legal versus illegal drugs, prescriptions versus over-the-counter, and other factors. Plus, as marijuana has been approved for recreational use in some states, pot may be a lesser concern to a judge.

Other controlled substances will no doubt raise red flags in a divorce court, however. Cocaine can trigger addiction after just one use and may cause long-term brain damage. Heroin causes euphoria followed by an extensive period of drowsiness, and impairs mental function. Opioid use has reached crisis and epidemic levels in the US, so you can be sure that it will have an impact on custody and visitation decisions.

Resources for Drug Use and Testing in Divorce Cases

If allegations of drug use have entered the picture in your divorce, there are resources available to help you address the situation. Your divorce lawyer is a valuable asset, but you may also benefit from retaining divorce coaching and support services. It’s important for you to be honest with the professionals who serve you so you ensure your best strategy for moving forward in the healthiest way. These knowledgeable professionals can assist with your case and will have your back when you need it most.

 

As a late teen, Billie Tarascio’s parents divorced. She was very aware of the role that her parents’ attorney was playing in her life. She wanted to do that in a positive way for other people. After graduating from law school, most of the people who needed her help couldn’t afford her service. Her primary goal was to lower the cost of legal services for clients, and reduce accounts receivables for the firm. Her company Access Legal emerged.  Billie is passionate about her career and work and has made a difference in hundreds of clients lives. You can contact Billie through the following channels: Website: https://mymodernlaw.com/ Access Legal: https://accesslegaldocs.com

Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional and often times complicated experience of divorce. If you are seeking an education on best practices for coparenting as you support your children through one of the toughest moments in your lives, you will want to know about Gaia’s Group, SAS for Women’s virtual group coaching class for coparenting mothers. We all need a thoughtful, committed plan for helping our children weather and move beyond separation and divorce. 

Communicating through divorce can be challenging.

Challenges of Communicating Through Divorce When You Have Kids

Problems with communication are often cited as a leading cause of divorce. Yet as a parent, getting divorced doesn’t typically mean that all conversations with your former spouse will cease. While your coparent might be far from your favorite person, finding a way to communicate through your divorce and beyond is non-negotiable when you have kids.

The methods you use to communicate can have an enormous impact on how successful your coparenting interactions are. If face-to-face interactions or phone calls continually prove to be non-starters, perhaps you’ll turn to web- and mobile-based resources like email or texting. The positives of text and email are obvious.

But if you’re struggling with conflict, text and email won’t make a difference if you’re seriously looking to improve your communication.

Some parents realize that text and email aren’t going to cut it so they ask others to get involved as messengers. But when parents choose an inappropriate third-party to serve as their messenger, this strategy can lead to much bigger issues.

For the messenger, the emotional burden of having to carry a message—especially if it’s not a particularly pleasant one—can be huge. This can be true if someone such as a child’s nanny, another family member, or a close friend is being held responsible for sending messages. And asking children to send the messages can create an even more dire situation for your family by putting them in the middle of potential conflict.

As hard as it can be to make communication work in coparenting, finding a healthy way to manage it for the sake of your kids makes it well worth the effort.

Set healthy boundaries as you communicate through divorce (and beyond)

So, what’s a positive first step to take towards lessening the challenges of communicating through divorce?

Instead of trying to communicate the same ways you once did, building a framework of healthy coparenting boundaries can significantly improve your efforts.

Commit to keeping your kids from being middlemen

Though it almost goes without saying, it’s absolutely crucial to protect your children. They should never be made to feel like they are carrying a burden because of your divorce. Even something as simple as asking one of your kids to relay a brief message to your coparent can be a potent source of emotional strain and anxiety. In doing so, your child must bear the responsibility of receiving the first-hand response to that message which, depending on the reaction, can be overwhelming.

As coparents, commit to keeping your kids out of the middle of your conflict and communications. Additionally, prevent others from acting as your messenger, including your child’s nanny. If you need a third-party to assist in your communication, enlist help from your attorneys or a neutral third-party professional such as a mediator or parenting coordinator.


If you are seeking an education on best practices for coparenting as you support your children through one of the toughest moments in your lives, you will want to know about Gaia’s Group, SAS for Women’s virtual group coaching class for coparenting mothers. We all need a thoughtful, committed plan for helping our children weather and move beyond separation and divorce. Doing it the healthiest way is a choice. 


Stick to your parenting agreement

Your parenting agreement should act as a guide for handling different aspects of raising your children as coparents. It will encompass everything from parenting time schedules and shared expenses to how big decisions will be made for your kids.

Sticking to your agreement can act as evidence that backs up different parenting decisions you make. This can curb conflict because parents are more likely to remain on the same page.

On top of details about your children’s daily care, your parenting agreement may lay out specifications for your communication plan. It can be critical to include specific guidelines, especially if conflict has been a recurring issue.

Give parallel parenting a try

If conflict becomes a chronic issue, switching to parallel parenting can be a great option.

In a parallel parenting arrangement, parents can disengage from one another while still playing an active role in raising their children. Backing off from one another—and from the constant disagreements that may have existed when engaged in more traditional coparenting—encourages a new level of calm in each household.

Disengagement in parallel parenting doesn’t mean that parents won’t be communicating at all. Instead, they will significantly limit their interactions to keep them business-like and entirely focused on their children. While some find email or text messages are equal to the task, they still present all the same opportunities for miscommunication that can lead to conflict.

Try a coparenting app

Coparenting apps are often recommended by family law practitioners to help resolve communication issues between parents. At their best, coparenting apps have built-in boundaries that promote efficient and straightforward conversations about shared parenting matters. Information is exchanged on the key aspects of shared parenting.

Apps designed to promote transparent and timely communication in a neutral environment can seriously support your efforts to improve your coparenting communication. Some of these apps include tools like shared parenting time calendars, expense and payments registers, family vital information banks, file storage space, private and shared journals, highly-documented messaging, and more.

Not all coparenting apps are created equal, however. While documented messaging is a crucial feature to have in any coparenting app, this alone won’t do much to help remove you and your coparent from the cycle of conflict in written exchanges. The right coparenting app should help to reduce conflict by providing you with specialized tools designed for every shared parenting situation you may encounter.

One such app, OurFamilyWizard, offers a full suite of tools that help you to focus your communication on the points that matter the most. For instance, instead of sending a message regarding a one-time change to the parenting schedule, parents will create this request directly on their calendar. Using the Trade/Swap function, you only enter the essential details regarding the change including the date and time, and a brief reason. If your co-parent approves the request, the calendar will automatically update to reflect the agreement. This cuts the need for updating the calendar later on, and a complete history of these requests is always maintained, leaving less confusion as to what was agreed upon.

It also cuts down on direct communication with your Ex, or negotiating with him*.

When a conversation must be had, the app’s messaging features provide a space for secure discussions while also offering analytical feedback. Integrated into the message board, ToneMeter™ is a function that will review the content of messages as they are written and flag any emotionally-charged phrases. This lets parents review the analysis and update their tone before sending the message. This function helps to promote mindful communication when messaging.

Many coparenting apps are subscription-based services, yet apps like OurFamilyWizard offer fee waiver programs to help make their tools available even to parents who cannot afford a subscription.

Keep learning 

The experience of your divorce, and what led up to it, is an opportunity for you to learn about yourself, to demonstrate to your children that you can be even better now, as their mom. You can promote honest communication, establish boundaries and fair “rules,” and take responsibility for your world.  Staying open to learning how others successfully coparent, what best practices are, or what new tools have been developed to support divorced parents lessens your burden and, more importantly, shows your children that you are doing your best to support everyone’s move into this next chapter healthily. For a lot of people, becoming a divorced parent and wanting to do right by their kids is a big motivator to getting educated on how to do it successfully and with heart.

Communicating through divorce when you have kids can be a significant challenge, even on a good day. Don’t expect that you’ll fall right into the best communication strategy immediately. The process of finding what works for your situation may take a little time. It’s imperative to keep your kids protected and out of the middle of conflict as you make this transition. Work to build healthy communication boundaries in your coparenting. Your boundaries will help to create a clear framework of how your interactions will take place, leaving less room for conflict and confusion.

Sara Klemp is a content manager and online marketing specialist for OurFamilyWizard. Since 2001, the OurFamilyWizard website and mobile applications have helped countless co-parents to improve communication and reduce conflict. Learn more at OurFamilyWizard.com

*This piece was written for SAS for Women, an all-women website. At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

Divorce decree

Demystifying Your Divorce Decree

What is a Divorce Decree? And who decides what’s in it?

The Divorce Decree, often referred to as the “Judgment of Divorce” or “JOD,” is the document that makes your divorce official under the law. It’s an Order of the Court that formally dissolves a marriage.

As anyone who has been through the process will tell you, the road to that Divorce Decree is long even in a straightforward case, and just when you think the end is in sight, there is often another bend in the path. People are usually relieved to arrive at a Divorce Agreement (the final resolution of all the issues in the divorce by agreement of you and your spouse—with or without the assistance of a court along the way) only to learn that the divorce process is not quite over.

Divorce Decree vs. Divorce Agreement

The Divorce Decree is a completely separate document from your Divorce Agreement, and no one even starts thinking about the Decree until the divorce case is fully settled between you and your spouse and memorialized in the Divorce Agreement, or all the issues have been decided by the Court.

The Divorce Decree is only a handful of pages whereas the Divorce Agreement could be fifty or sixty pages. However, just about every Decree includes a sentence saying that the terms of the Agreement are made a part of the Decree “by reference.” This means that each term of your very, very detailed Agreement is solidly enforceable regardless of whether it is also specifically mentioned in the brief Decree.

The Divorce Decree is prepared by your lawyer and submitted to the Court to be signed by the Judge. Most often you, your spouse and your lawyers agree to the wording of the JOD and sign off on the Decree that is submitted to the Court. But sometimes you won’t be able to agree on the terms of the Decree. When this happens, each party submits a Proposed Judgment to the Court and the Judge chooses which one to sign.

Once the Judge signs the Decree, it needs to be processed by the County Clerk’s Office and entered into the County’s records. Only then is the Judgment finally ready for pickup.The lawyer who filed the Judgment is usually the one who obtains a copy from the Court, and she will serve it on the other party with a cover sheet called the Notice of Entry. Service of the Divorce Decree with Notice of Entry and filing a copy of that Notice of Entry in Court makes your divorce as official and final as can be.

I keep hearing about “Divorce Papers.” What are those?

The Judgment of Divorce is submitted to the Court with about fifteen other documents (give or take depending on the case, but always including your Divorce Agreement if you have one). Some of these need to be signed by you, some need to be signed by your Ex, and some are signed by one or both of your respective attorneys. Together, these documents are referred to as “Divorce Papers.”

One spouse’s lawyer will prepare the Papers, and the other spouse’s lawyer will review and edit them. The back-and-forth over the Divorce Papers usually takes a few weeks, but take heart: this process is generally low stress and a world away from negotiating the Divorce Agreement.

The court system in most places is very strict about the contents of the Papers so the negotiation about the contents primarily centers around technical concerns and formalities rather than substance.

Related: How Long Does It Take to Get Over a Divorce? And 4 Signs You Are On Your Way

So when will I have that final Decree in hand?

In geographic areas with busy court systems, like New York City, it often takes about three months from when your lawyer files your Divorce Papers until the Judgment of Divorce is signed by the Court, entered into County records by the Clerk, and made ready for pickup. In today’s automated world, this long processing time seems shocking, but the Court system is mind-bogglingly old fashioned even in the “greatest city in the world.” In other places in the country it could be must faster—or slower.

Your lawyer needs to send someone to hand deliver the Divorce Papers to the Courthouse where there is sometimes only a single person whose job it is to review and accept the Papers. When this person takes a vacation, no Divorce Papers can be filed. It is as simple (and absurd) as that. Depending on whether your case was ever in litigation or not, your Papers will either go directly to your Judge or be randomly assigned. Reviewing Divorce Papers is tedious grunt work, and all the Judges have stacks of them so they tend to hang out for a while. When the Papers finally make it off the Judge’s desk and are recorded in the Clerk’s Office, your lawyer is not notified by email but instead by postcard.

But I’m ready to work on moving on and putting the divorce process behind me. Am I at the mercy of the County Clerk to start living like I’m divorced?

The good news is that most people will feel emotionally divorced upon the signing of their Divorce Agreement and Divorce Papers.

The “Big Day” in the life cycle of a divorce is the day the you and your soon-to-be Ex sign your Divorce Agreement—or less frequently, the day the Judge hands down a final decision after a trial on the issues in the divorce.

By the time most people receive their signed and entered Divorce Decree in the mail from their attorney they have put much of the upheaval of the divorce process behind them. They’ve been living by the custody and support terms of their Divorce Agreement for a few months and have divided most, if not all, of their property. They’ve begun the important work of individually recovering and rebuilding their lives.

Is there anything that absolutely must wait until I receive my Divorce Decree?

While most of the terms of your divorce go into effect when you sign an Agreement or after a Judge decides the issues in your case, there is one big exception.

You cannot make changes to health insurance coverage until the Divorce Decree is entered in the Clerk’s Office. The law is extremely strict about this—you are entitled to remain on your spouse’s health insurance plan until the Judgment of Divorce is entered into the records of the County Clerk.

My Divorce Decree is finally ready. Where do I get a copy, and what do I need it for?

You can obtain a Certified copy of your Judgment of Divorce at any time for a nominal fee. In New York County the fee is $8.00 plus a few cents per page in copy charges. Some counties allow you to obtain a Certified copy by mail, but others still require you to go to the County Clerk’s Office in person. If you are represented by an attorney, he or she will usually obtain a Certified copy and send it to you for your records as a matter of routine.

The Divorce Decree is an extremely important record akin to a birth certificate or marriage certificate. You will need it if you want to change your name after divorce and again to obtain a marriage license if you want to remarry someday. It is also proof of your divorce that may be relevant to areas like your income taxes, insurance policies, social security benefits, and retirement accounts.

Your Divorce Decree is also a powerful document because it is a Court Order. If you ever need to call the police because there is a custody problem, you will want to have the Decree to show them. Similarly, if you ever need to go to Court to change or enforce the terms of your divorce, you will need to submit a copy of the Decree.

Two or three Certified copies retrieved directly from the Court is probably enough to maintain on hand as a photocopy will suffice for many purposes. You can obtain additional copies at any time no matter how long ago your Divorce was filed.

For more than 20 years, Nina Epstein and law partner Elyse Goldweber have helped individuals and families in the New York City metropolitan area with the full range of legal issues associated with creation and dissolution of personal unions—including divorce, separation, and child custody and support. Ariella Deutsch is a more recent but no less passionate member of their legal team. For more information on how they might assist you please call (212) 355-4149.

Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional and often times complicated experience of divorce. We invite you to learn what’s possible for you. Schedule you free, 45 minute consultation with SAS. Whether you are coping or already navigating your life afterward, a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do divorce alone.

Woman staying safe w online dating

Online Dating: 5 Must Do’s for Staying Safe After Divorce

Online dating makes us feel like we’re being proactive. If you’re “on the market,” you don’t have to wait for a friend to introduce you to so-and-so’s best friend’s brother or throw back one-too-many cocktails as you wait for someone to catch your eye at another bar or party. No, now you can swipe left and right as you wait in line at the grocery store or sit in front of the TV. But there are just so many dating apps out there—Tinder, Bumble, Coffee Meets Bagel, Match.com, eharmony, OkCupid, PlentyOfFish. So many, in fact, that you shouldn’t be surprised if you see some of the same faces on multiple platforms!

The world of online dating is so popular that it’s almost impossible to keep away from, but it’s a world that has a dark side. Using a dating app to “get out there” can feel like learning a whole new language to a newly divorced woman, especially one who married long before the internet was up and running (like me). I’ve had many dates and some relationships through dating apps, and I’ve found most of the men* to be very kind and polite. But that’s not always the case.

I was glad to not have shared my full name with a couple of the men I’ve met online—if I had, I might not have heard the last from them after the date flopped. Some men insisted on knowing personal details early on. Harmless? Maybe. But these men are strangers, and you should always put your safety first.

Although this is a blog for divorced women, men can also benefit from using the online dating safety tips below. So don’t be shy about sharing these suggestions with some of the men in your life. A recent story in Arizona illustrates the importance of staying safe when online dating.

If you are a divorced woman, there are several thing things to keep in mind when gearing up to date online. But for this post, I’m going to focus on keeping you safe when using dating apps and interacting with strangers. These recommendations are in addition to basic safety practices like…

  • Always meeting in a public place
  • Letting a friend know when and where your date is
  • Not revealing personal information, like your full name, too early as this can easily be linked to your home and work addresses

I want you to explore and have fun—you’ve been through a lot, and your divorce recovery has been hard-won. But putting you and your safety first is nonnegotiable, even if it means a bit more work and assertiveness on your part!

So here are 5 Must Do’s for staying safe when online dating.

1. Set up an email account just for people you’re interacting with on dating apps

Don’t set up the account with your full name. For example, create a new Gmail account, and instead of using the name “Jennifer Parker,” use an email address that no one would recognize, like [email protected]

Some dating apps require you to link your account to Facebook. Pay attention to what information is being uploaded to the dating app. You may need to set up another Facebook account with less information (not a “phony” account full of fake information—just less) than your primary one.

2. Do not give out your “real” cell phone number

Instead, set up a Google Voice account (you can do this while you’re setting up your new Gmail account). Many times, a cellphone number can reveal the name of the person who owns the account. If you don’t believe me, type a friend’s cell phone number or your own into Google.

A guy once asked me way too many questions about my cell phone number. Why was it a different area code? (Google Voice can run out of numbers in certain area codes, but you can choose one from anywhere in the country.) Was it a real cell phone number? Why couldn’t I give him my iPhone number? Could I “please, please, please” switch to my real cell phone number so we could FaceTime? This was all prior to even meeting for a date! I politely declined, canceled our date, and blocked him. (Blocking someone on Google Voice is even better than on the iPhone as even voicemails will not come through. They simply get a message that the number was disconnected. Done!)

3. Don’t give out or use your full name on the app

This is especially true if you have an unusual name. For example, if your name is Marietta and you live in Glen Cove, NY, running a search for those two facts alone will likely reveal your full name and address. So, instead, perhaps use Mari and put down a nearby town or large city.


Related:  100 Must Do’s for the Newly Divorced Independent Woman


4. Don’t include pictures of yourself that you’ve posted elsewhere

Thanks to Google reverse image search pictures can be traced back to other sources. If you use your LinkedIn or Twitter profile picture, there’s a good chance anyone looking hard enough could find you there.

But even without Google, posting images you’ve shared elsewhere can be dangerous. I have a friend who used her Facebook profile picture on a dating app. One guy looked through Facebook for people in her town, found her picture, and showed up on her doorstep. So don’t do it. Be safe.

5. Limit what you reveal

If you’re a pediatric dentist and live in Pasadena, that information can help someone find out your full name, address, and more. Be vague about the details of your life and profession. I’m not talking about someone you’ve gone on several dates with but someone who you’ve only just started seeing.

Trust your gut (don’t demand that your gut give you a logical reason). If anything seems off, walk away. If your date reveals his actual name, a simple internet search may tell you some things about him. (Google for yourself to see.) I took this a step further once when a guy I was planning to meet had 12 criminal records, according to my Google search. I told myself, if I couldn’t figure out what that was all about, I was going to cancel the date due to a permanent case of “the flu.” Instead, I bought a one-month membership to Instant Checkmate and found out he’s just a really bad driver (all traffic violations—nothing actually criminal).

There are men out there who will be insulted or annoyed that you won’t reveal what they want to know before you’re comfortable. (I should know—I’ve met a couple of them.) In my experience, when a relationship moves past the first few dates and I develop a sense of trust, telling my date that my name is Elyse and not Ellie isn’t a big deal. Your date will understand and think: Why, what a smart woman she is. Hiding your full name or your phone number is hardly the same as, say, refusing to reveal your real age. Any date who would make a big deal out of you staying safe when online dating is not worth another moment of your time. So don’t take it personally—just move on!

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. Whether you navigating divorce or already rebuilding your life after the overwhelming experience, one thing making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not reinvent alone. We invite you to schedule a free 45-minute consultation with SAS to hear feedback, next steps, resources and best practices for creating the life you deserve.

*This piece was written for SAS for Women, an all-women website. At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.