Should You Seek a Separation — or a Divorce?

You are probably spinning right now . . . asking yourself, or even beginning to ask others, how do you do it? What is the best way out of your marriage? To better understand the finality or possible nuances between divorce and separation, SAS interviewed NYC Matrimonial Attorney Leigh Baseheart Kahn of Mayerson Abramowitz & Kahn, LLP.

SAS: Leigh, many women facing issues in their relationship, wonder if they should pursue separation or divorce. What do you tell your clients?  Is there a benefit to separating first?

Leigh Baseheart Kahn: I get this question a lot. There tends to be a good deal of confusion as to what is meant by “separation”. There is a distinction between a legal separation and a divorce. However, there is also a distinction between a legal separation and entering into a written separation agreement, which is important for women to understand. Many laypeople speak about a legal separation and a written separation agreement as if they are the same thing. They are not.

A legal separation occurs when a spouse files a legal action in court seeking a judicial declaration that the spouses are legally separated. Such an action does not terminate the marriage, and does not result in a division of the parties’ property. An action for divorce accomplishes both of those things.

If a client asks my advice about seeking a legal separation, what I generally recommend is that if you know that you want to end the marriage, it does not make sense to simply file an action seeking a legal separation.

A legal separation is also different from a situation in which the spouses enter into a duly executed* written separation agreement. There is no legal action that needs to be filed in order for spouses to enter into a written separation agreement. It can be done completely outside of the context of court action. A written separation agreement can (and generally does) address, and resolve, all issues arising out of the marriage—custody and child support (if there are children), spousal support, division of property, payment of professional fees, and so forth. The one thing that a written separation agreement does not do is to terminate the marriage itself. Court action is required to accomplish that goal.

In the past, prior to the passage of no-fault divorce legislation in New York in 2010, entering into a written separation agreement, and then waiting for a period of a year prior to filing a divorce action, was the only basis for obtaining a divorce in New York State without claiming fault grounds (such as cruelty, adultery, or abandonment). Now, it is not necessary to first enter into a written separation agreement in order to obtain a divorce on no-fault grounds.

That being said, various couples may have reasons why they do not yet want to end their marriage, but still want to resolve all of the other issues arising out of their marriage so that there is a clear understanding and agreement as to their respective rights, entitlements, and obligations. Entering into a written separation agreement accomplishes that goal.

SAS: I am glad I asked you to write these answers down after we talk. It’s hard to take in, just hearing these details. I know if I were considering divorce or just trying to get away, I would have to reread and reread the differences between terms . . .What is the difference between the date of separation and the date of the commencement of the divorce action, for example?

LBK: The date of separation is the date of the physical separation, when one side moves out. What really matters more, in a legal sense, is the date of commencement of the divorce action. It’s important to understand that when a divorce occurs, it is about more than simply terminating the spouses’ marital status. It is also about the division of property that has accumulated during the marriage. In general terms, property accumulated by the parties from the date of the marriage until the spouses enter into a written separation agreement or one spouse starts an action for divorce (except for inheritance, gifts to one party, and certain other limited exceptions) is marital property, subject to division in the event of a divorce.

For example if a couple physically separates and there is no written agreement in place, executed with the formalities required by law, which fixes the date of that physical separation as the cut-off date for the accumulation of marital property, any money made (and any assets acquired with money made) between the date of the physical separation and the date on which one party or the other starts an action for divorce (or the date on which the parties enter into a written separation agreement) would be technically considered marital property subject to potential division between the spouses. However, since they were physically separated and not contributing to the happiness or wellbeing of each other—or, more importantly, to the ability of the other to continue to create marital property by, for example, caring for the house to permit the other to spend more time on work, providing advice or insight, or engaging in business-related entertaining—the manner in which these post-physical separation earnings is divided is usually considered differently, not necessarily the same as it was when they were living together.

SAS: Since we’re talking about money . . . let’s say you want a divorce, what’s a good strategy if you are the breadwinner? Or if you are the Stay-at-Home-Mom?

LBK: If I am representing the moneyed spouse, as a strategy to protect his or her interests, I would advise filing an action for divorce to stop the marital accumulation of property — so that his or her spouse cannot make a claim to it. If I am representing the non-moneyed spouse, while he or she may want to physically separate, I may not want to recommend filing a divorce action in the hope of permitting my client to potentially gain some portion of the earnings still being accumulated.

The ultimate decision as to whether or not to file is, of course, up to the client. Some people make the decisions on a financial basis and some don’t. If a spouse simply isn’t emotionally ready to take that step, that needs to be respected. My job is simply to ensure that he or she understands the consequences of the decision being made.

SAS: Do you have a lot of women coming into your office and asking about separation as a step toward divorce?

LBK: A lot of people ask about a physical separation, and the distinction between simply physically separating and taking legal steps toward a separation or a divorce. There is nothing from a legal standpoint that prevents people from physically separating at any point, whether simply for a trial period or more permanently.

What I advise my clients, however, is that while a physical separation does not have immediate legal effect on the marriage itself, there are consequences which could flow from a physical separation which need to be considered in advance.

For example, if a spouse wants to leave and there are children involved, I would not advise moving out before addressing how both parents will have access to the children. Moving out without an access schedule in place can make it hard to establish an access schedule later. Once you move out, you might have to fight every time to see your child, particularly if bad feelings are running high.

If you have children, I recommend having a written access schedule in place prior to a move from the marital residence so that this is not a fight which must be had later.

There is also the risk, if custody is likely to be a contested issue in a particular case, that the parent who moves out could be deemed to have conceded that the children are better off living primarily with the spouse who remains in the marital residence with them. However, most courts understand, particularly if there is tension or outright hostility in the marital residence with both spouses remaining, that it is actually to the children’s benefit for two separate households to be established.

SAS: It sounds like if a woman is thinking of moving out — with or without her children — it’s very important she protect herself by seeking legal counsel in advance. This is to review the particulars of her case and circumstances, and the laws in her state.

LBK: This is certainly true. In addition to the above concerns where children are involved, there may also be concerns regarding financial issues. For example, if one spouse is very unhappy that the physical separation is taking place, or there is significant anger or hostility flowing from the decision—will it impact the financial status quo? Is there a concern that there may be a change in the manner in which financial support is provided to a dependent spouse? The logistics of financially managing two separate households may be somewhat complicated even where the split is entirely friendly. There may also be concerns about leaving financial records, or even certain valuable assets, in the marital home if one is the spouse moving out.

I would therefore recommend that a woman considering a physical separation seek advice in order to address these or any other concerns, or simply to educate herself on what rights (or obligations) she may have under these circumstances. This is especially important if there is the possibility that a divorce will actually occur.

SAS: Just out of curiosity, do both spouses have to agree to be separated?

LBK: For a physical separation, no. One spouse can simply decide that he or she wants to move out, and do so. There is no need to reach an agreement or obtain court permission. To be clear, however, this does not mean that the moving spouse, by leaving the marital residence, also sheds all of the responsibilities that flow from the marital relationship. Those responsibilities exist until the marriage is terminated (at which point they are replaced by whatever rights and responsibilities are embodied in any agreement reached by the parties, or, if the matter gets decided in court, by the terms of the judgment of divorce). In terms of a written separation agreement, yes, the parties both have to agree upon the terms set forth in the agreement.

SAS: Why do you think people are still asking about legal separation today?

LBK:My experience is, if people come for consultations to my office they might talk about separation. If they retain us, though, it’s for divorce, particularly when I explain what cannot be accomplished through a legal separation. I think that perhaps coming in and asking about a divorce may seem so final, jarring, and emotionally wrought for people that it is easier to seek advice about a lesser step in the first instance.

SAS: I suspect we at SAS hear more questions about separation than you do, because often our clients come to us for advice and divorce coaching before meeting a lawyer. They are in that contemplative and often very emotional stage. They are looking for ways out, to problem solve, for relief. Divorce sounds so scary.

LBK: Yes, by the time they come to me in my office, while it is still an emotional decision for many, it has also become an intellectual and practical one they’ve come to terms with — or one they have been forced to accept.

SAS: What words of support do you offer women who are facing the fact they must divorce?

LBK: It is often difficult taking that first step, and the process can seem overwhelming at first.

After doing this for over nineteen years now, however, I have seen many clients who have come into their own as their matters progressed, whether it is by starting to stand up for themselves and become more assertive, taking charge of their own financial lives, or simply realizing that they are entitled to find happiness after a difficult marriage.

While divorce is not easy, I have found that as they move through it, many clients realize that they are looking forward to “what comes next” and to moving on with their lives, and that is often invaluable.

SAS: Many thanks, Leigh, for taking the time to further our understanding about the differences between separation and divorce.

Leigh Baseheart Kahn is a partner at the firm of Mayerson Abramowitz & Kahn, LLP, which concentrates its practice on divorce and matrimonial law, as well as related family law issues. In addition to bringing extensive experience to the negotiation and litigation through trial of contested matrimonial cases, the firm provides representation and counseling to clients seeking marital settlement and separation agreements, as well as prenuptial and post-nuptial agreements. The firm assists clients with issues of child custody and visitation, equitable distribution of property, valuation of businesses and professional practices, spousal maintenance and alimony, child support, paternity and a myriad of other matters arising out of marital and cohabitation relationships. They also represent individuals who wish to utilize alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, such as mediation, arbitration and collaborative law.

*Duly executed means that all of the necessary legal requirements (such as signing, witnesses, notarization, notice published in a paper, service on required parties, etc.) have been fulfilled. The document is valid, enforceable, and legal.

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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.

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Please understand that marital law varies from state to state in the United States. So, as with all aspects of your situation, it’s important to discuss your circumstances with an attorney who specializes in marital law in your specific state.

9 Reasons to Hire a Divorce Coach

9 Reasons You Should Hire a Divorce Coach

Maybe you’ve debated for years if you should stay or go, until finally you were so miserable you couldn’t breathe. Or maybe HE announced out of the blue that he was unhappy and he wanted out. He wasn’t interested in “working on things” and you? You never saw it coming. Or was it that your relationship just slowed down over the years until it came to a grinding (aching?) halt? No matter how your marriage ended, it probably feels like someone took your entire life as you knew it — and blew it to pieces.

Now you are facing divorce. You know you have to put yourself back together … but how? The questions running through your head won’t stop …“Can we even afford a divorce?” “What about the kids, will they be ok?” “Will I have to go back to work?” “What will my friends think — who are my friends?” “Why is this happening to me?” “How am I supposed to start over at my age?”

Your list of unknowns keep growing. This is to say nothing about your heart, your pain. You have zero energy to tackle any of the tasks in front of you. You probably don’t know where to start. What comes first? How do you know how to divorce? Whom to trust? Every little and big thing seems interconnected — like a precarious house of cards, if you misstep, you worry, too, about bringing down the whole house.

Recognize that this is not the time to try and “go it alone”

You aren’t your best self right now. Your stress level is through the roof. You are forgetful, exhausted, and clumsy. You aren’t sleeping (or you are sleeping too much), you aren’t eating or exercising, you may be drinking too much, and the household chores are piling up. And you know what? You really don’t care. Yet the decisions you are facing have real and long lasting impact, so you really can’t afford to screw up. What are you supposed to do?

In times of old, women walked into a lawyer’s office, and often, quite literally fell apart. They knew there was a legal aspect they had to address, but the emotional story got mixed up in the sharing and taking in of information. The fact is lawyers were never trained to be your therapist, and that has not changed.  Mis-using your lawyer except for what you absolutely need her/him for is a waste of your time and your money.

What’s a divorce coach?

Understand that this is real: divorce is a major life transition — as is getting married or having a baby; although divorce sure feels like the other end of the spectrum, doesn’t it?  Something akin to death. You are fearful of the loss of everything you’ve ever known, everything you’ve ever worked for. Life transitions or life crises, are moments in our life when everything changes and life takes on a very different look. Today, with the times evolving, there is a professional skilled in your transition (not only the preparing for it, but the dealing with it, and especially, your recovery.) To understand more, you might consider the role of a midwife, an expert who is seasoned in the delivery process and also the emotional caring involved in helping women adapt to major change — giving birth. Midwives assist us in the weeks and months leading up to a birth, and if you follow the show “Call the Midwife,” they are there afterward, making sure that the mother and baby, being well cared for and supported, are optimizing every chance to thrive.

Divorce coaches (the experienced and certified ones) are the holistic (emotional and practical) professionals trained to help you with the monumental shift of divorce or separation in your life. They are expert in helping you understand what you can and cannot do at any given stage, as they help you keep front and center the need to navigate this transition smartly and healthily. For ultimately, your goal is not to merely survive the divorce — but to make the best decisions that will ensure your (and your children’s if you have them …) healing.

Ask for help

Accept that divorce is bigger than you, right now. Accept that you did not study divorce law in college. Accept above all that THIS IS HARD and you cannot rely on your intuition (although it will help) or problem-solving through the night with Google.  At some point you must find the right people to talk to.  The right people — not your scarred and emotionally-embattled neighbor who got divorced years ago and never healed. (Be careful of her.)

The reality is, you want to lessen the cost of mistakes fueled by stress and a syndrome of not knowing what you don’t know. You can do preliminary work, of course, by searching info on divorce laws in your state, or getting your papers/docs organized,

but there comes a critical point when you must have specific feedback on your specific circumstances.

Start with your best friend and your family — only if you think they may help. Tell them you could really use a shoulder to cry on and help with the kids. Then move onto lining up the best professionals to support you. The fact is your friends and family mean well, but they aren’t trained to help you with a divorce.

Everyone thinks the first thing to do is get an attorney. It is not. Before you hire a lawyer, you have to decide what the right divorce process is for you. Is it mediation, collaborative, litigation, DIY? What are the pros and cons of each? What circumstances in your life make you a good candidate or not for each one? Once you know which model of divorce you might follow, then you can look for an attorney who practices that type of law. However, you’ll immediately face this next question, “How do I know if s/he is right?” “Do I just hire the most expensive one because that means she’s good?”

Hire a divorce coach first

A coach will help you bring down the stress! S/he will help you understand the divorce process, what kind of lawyer you might use, and the different options available to you. She will also have a list of excellent professionals to recommend (vetted experts who have helped her clients well in the past); and your coach may even accompany you to meetings with an attorney to keep you on track, to back you up, to make sure you are getting what you need from the meeting. Finding an attorney is just one part of your strategy for taking control of your life, however. Do you understand your finances? Your divorce coach may connect you with an outstanding certified divorce financial planner who can begin to teach you what you must know about your financial decisions. For example, does it makes sense financially to sell or keep the house? As for the other questions brewing in your head, where will you live? How will you tell the kids? A divorce coach is there to guide you to the answers and to many, many more in a process considerably more humane than booking an hour with an attorney.

Which brings up a good point, why would you pay for yet another “professional” when you are dealing with the cost of divorce?  The short answer is if you are interested in actually saving money, time, and emotional anguish, the question is really, can you afford not to use a divorce coach? A divorce coach saves you money by acting as your guide (at a much lower price point than an attorney); empowers you to use an attorney for only what you absolutely must; connects you with other professionals, who along with the divorce coach, can give you “diversified” insight to the questions at hand; and elsewhere cultivates your confidence and creativity with solving other issues that arise with giving birth to a new you.

How do you know if you need a divorce coach? Ask yourself, do any of these 9 dilemmas ring true? If so, hiring a coach could be the best investment for you if you want to stay strategic, money-aware, and healthy:

  1. You aren’t thinking clearly
  2. You are unfamiliar with the divorce legal process or don’t know what comes next
  3. You can’t get past your anger
  4. You are paralyzed by fear
  5. You either aren’t making good decisions or you aren’t making any decisions (You wonder what a good decision is when you can’t know the outcome for certain)
  6. You don’t understand much about your finances
  7. You don’t know what being the best parent now “looks like”
  8. Your confidence is at an all time low
  9. You have no idea what you are going to do after the divorce is over and you face yourself

Certainly, it is possible to get through a divorce on your own. Many people have done it alone. However, if you find a divorce coach who guides and empowers you and leads you to others who support and protect you, you will be much better positioned to make smart and sound decisions about the future, for you and your children.

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.

Photos of Divorce Coaches Kimberly Mishkin and Liza Caldwell

SAS & Divorce Coaching in the Financial Times

Gone are the days of muddling through divorce alone, stringing together information, crossing your fingers and hoping it’s going to turn out okay. More and more people are seeking a guided and thoughtful approach to the dissolution of their relationships.

We’ve been shouting it from the rooftops . . . we’ve been whispering it in peoples’ ears:

No one has to go through divorce alone and ashamed when resources exist that provide support and education for rebuilding your life.

Thank you, Financial Times, for talking about us and  “divorce coaching,” and to your two million readers.

As an institution and legal proceeding, divorce has a complicated history, and changes to the process have been notoriously slow.  In the United States alone, it’s taken 41 years for all fifty states to offer a “no-fault” divorce option. California led the movement in 1969 but it wasn’t until 2010 that the last state, New York, followed suit. Prior to this, couples were forced to sue one another for wrongdoing – for very specific and awful reasons in order to exit a marriage.  Today, we are finally in a more liberalized place where we can all agree that it’s often not just one person’s fault, and that no one should be forced to stay in an unhappy union.

Thanks to increasing attention in the media (The New York Times and Porter Magazine) newer divorce resources are coming to the forefront, and the public is learning that the traditional method — meeting with just one lawyer to navigate the entire divorce process — is increasingly dated and not necessarily the best approach. In her piece, “Ready to Shake Up the Break Up Blues,” FT reporter Emma Jacobs discusses divorce coaching in particular as a means to selecting the right kind of legal counsel and for coping with the myriad of issues that come along with this major life change.

Dubbing divorce coaching “a new industry dedicated to helping husbands or wives navigate their way out of marriage,” Jacobs highlights some of the unique challenges that face those divorcing. There is the need for enormous decision making, and yet people are often “paralyzed by the immensity of the task ahead, coming as it does at an emotional time;” while there are those who “feel concerned that they will not cope without a spouse.” There are the financial questions and long-term implications of decisions that many people don’t understand.  There is the family unit at question.  How will they tell their kids things are going to change?

It’s true, divorce is complicated.  Too much is happening at once. There is the complex legal process to navigate, practical and logistical problems to be solved, financial information to be sorted out  – not to mention the whole picture is saturated with painfully mixed emotions, heartache, and loss.

Having struggled with our own divorces as isolated women, we at SAS think this process is more than one person should try to handle.  For this reason we created services that center on coaching and a Partnered Divorce.  When you are in crisis and emotionally charged, we know it’s critical to have someone who can act as a mentor, an advisor, a resource, and as a safety net during this tumultuous time. This is a process that requires very important decisions with serious long-term consequences.  Yet, if you ask someone who is going through a divorce right now if he/she feels able to make sound decisions, you will hear a decided “no” in response.  A Partnered Divorce approach ensures that a client has someone by her side to bring perspective, clarity, cost awareness, and objectivity to the situation.  So anchored, she can begin to make informed decisions that will help her take control and rebuild her life.

To read the full article, “Ready to Shake Up the Break Up Blues,” you may visit the Financial Times here.  Please note a subscription may be required.

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.

We Created SAS to Provide Divorce Support for Women

Recently, Christopher Cameron of Luxury Listings Magazine asked SAS why divorce might be different for women living on Manhattan’s Upper East- Side. We welcomed the opportunity to respond briefly to his question. But the nature of the question left us wanting to share more.

Divorce is horrible, and divorce for women, no matter the income or geographical locale, has its unique gender, racial and cultural trials and stigmas.  But for SAS Co-Founder Kimberly Mishkin, who was working at a prestigious UES School while trying to leave an abusive marriage, the discovery of the darker side of privilege came as a surprise.

It started the night she walked into the police station, not far from her school, to file a report against her husband. After completing a full day’s work, Kim was dressed appropriately for her job as an administrator in education: she was in a suit and wearing heels. However, “I felt like they didn’t know what to do with me,” says Kim, when she describes that evening. “They acted like I was coming to complain about a silly tiff with my husband. They mimicked faces of sympathy. I had to convince them that this was a real complaint.  That I really needed help. I walked out of the station that night with a brochure on domestic violence and not much more.”

Kim’s experience, as she faced the reality that she must save herself, was that there was no divorce support for women like her.

Coming to terms with the fact that she must divorce, Kim was facing a multitude of decisions, from “Where am I going to live?” to “Where am I going to get the money to pay for my divorce?” Because she was leaving an abusive marriage, Kim needed answers related to her immediate survival as well: “How can I be safe from my ex?” “How do I get a restraining order?” Yet, what she  discovered as she began the painful process of learning, was that for someone perceived as having income, there were very few places for her to turn. She had to rely heavily on friends, who eventually tired of her endless story, until ultimately, she came to rely on herself to navigate all that was before her.

Kim’s story

There came that day when I had to leave in a hurry.  Things had taken a turn for the worse, and it became clear I was no longer safe.  I had to do two things immediately: pack some clothes before he came home, and get a restraining order. 

A good friend came with me to the apartment, and she brought contractor bags.  We quickly tossed some clothes and shoes into the black trash bags and carried them to her car.  I remember going back in to grab a sauce pan . . . why I don’t know, I just wasn’t thinking clearly. From there we went straight to the courthouse.  I had no idea what to do then, or next.  When I asked the officer at the desk in the courthouse, he suggested I visit a nearby organization that worked with abused women.

I went there, and the organization offered me food vouchers . . . but I didn’t really need food vouchers. I had a good job.  They offered to put me up in a shelter. . . but I had many wonderful friends who were happy to give me their couch for the night. While I will always be grateful to the women I met that day for their warmth and empathy, it soon became clear they were unable to help me.   

What I needed was information and help understanding the entire, crazy divorce process: I needed to secure an order of protection first, and then to figure out how to press criminal charges. I needed an introduction to a good divorce attorney.  I needed someone to help me figure out my finances . . . I had let him handle our money, and ugh, big mistake! This is to say nothing about the obvious fact that throughout all of this I was breaking down. I was an emotional train wreck. Who could help me? Who would want to?

Alone in that space, I was in tears for months. 

We knew there had to be a better way. This is why SAS exists today.

We’ve put a lot of thought into what divorce support for women should look like. As women who have survived our own divorce stories, and as educators and coaches who have gone on to work with many wise women since, we feel an urgency to share our message with everybody:

There is no sugar coating it. Divorce is unbelievably hard and many people you meet will not understand what you are going through.  But we want you to know that you can get through this, that there is a process, and that by taking the right steps, you can and will feel in greater control of your life.

Why should you muddle through it alone, we ask, when women, who have come before you, have their hard-won wisdom to share?

 

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. Schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation with SAS. Tell us confidentially what’s going on, and regardless of your working further with us or not, we’ll give you black & white feedback, resources and suggestions for your next steps.

 

Woman on the couch ignoring divorce advice for women

Divorce Advice for Women: Get Off the Couch

Despite the never-ending amount of divorce advice out there, the end of a marriage is hard.  Divorce is scary, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to getting through it. Divorce means the start of a new phase of your life—one that you never planned for.

When understanding takes on a new meaning

My parents were divorced, and I was a second-wife and stepmother for 14 years. On top of that, I have been a family law attorney for 21 years. But even so, none of that prepared me for the roller coaster of emotions that came along with my own divorce. I thought I knew what to expect, and I thought I was prepared. Hadn’t I been dishing out divorce advice to clients for years? Surely if there was an expert, I was it. I was so wrong.

When your marriage splits up, you need to redefine your future, your path, and yourself.  In a marriage, you sacrifice so much of yourself, especially toward the end when all your efforts seem to be failing and you do everything you can to desperately try to save your relationship. In the midst of all that, it’s possible to lose sight of who you are—who you truly are, deep inside.

What makes you happy? What are the things you used to do just for yourself—not for your kids, your husband, or your job but just for you? Is it easy to come up with this list? Can you even remember?

My best divorce advice

My best divorce advice for women is to tell you it is time to focus on you now—to get back to your authentic self. Figure out what makes you happy and where you want your life to go. You have unlimited opportunities now. You have choices. Sure, the path you are on now is not the path that you were on before and it is not the one you expected, but you can redefine your future and you can make it better than before.

Yes, the changes to your finances are scary.  Yes, getting back into the dating world can also another kind of terrifying.  But you can do it.  You are strong, you are fabulous, and you need to get out there and show the world if you ever expect to get anywhere or meet anyone new (friends or lovers).

So, as simple as it sounds: Put away the tissues, and get off the couch. You are amazing, and you have a beautiful, bright future ahead, if only you are brave enough to stop listening to and reading divorce advice and go out there and act on it.

Daryl Weinman is a family law attorney, practicing in the Austin, Texas, area for twenty-one years. A child of divorce, a stepmother for fourteen years, a mother of two teenage boys, and divorced now herself for the past four years, Daryl has seen divorce from most every angle and can truly relate to the emotional struggles of her clients and divorced friends. To leverage her insights and smart, savvy takeaways, read her new book, Post Divorce Journey Back to Yourself available at Barnes & Noble or Amazon.com. Or if you are in the Austin area, or a resident of Texas and would like to consult with Daryl for legal divorce advice, visit here for details.

Although SAS periodically features links to and writing by other professionals on the SAS website, SAS for Women™ is not responsible for the accuracy or content of that information. As for what is best for you and your future, SAS always recommends you speak to a professional to discuss the particulars of your situation.

Divorce on the upper east side

What’s Different About Divorce on the Upper East Side?

Wealth, luxury, affluence . . . these are words that often come to mind when thinking about Manhattan’s UES.  A unique neighborhood with a culture all it’s own, everything is different — or so some people think — when you reside here.  Christopher Cameron of Luxury Listings Magazine asks SAS if divorce on the Upper East Side is different for women, too. And while we think divorce is hard no matter where you call home, for a peek into how things can go particularly “imperfectly” in 10028, read our interview.

For more information on SAS for Women™ and our divorce coaching program, or how to divorce and lesson the pain for you and your children, visit our divorce coaching page or schedule your free consultation.

How I Faked It Through My Divorce

“You have such a beautiful life,” a friend once said to me.

I almost congratulated myself.  She didn’t know. I had done such a good job of faking, this friend did not know how dark and deep down desperate I was.

For I had all the tchotchkes, the frequent flyer miles, the beautiful homes, but for years, I had only been going through the motions: role playing the part of a certain type of wife, a particular kind of mother, all the while wondering, when was this going to flip? When was life going to become real, so when I wake up, I like myself?

I’d been embattled in my marriage, over thinking, pondering, and seeing no way out.  My life appeared enviable, gilded, but I was actually living in a tiny gray space with a grim view of life and what was possible.  Living within this tiny space with me, making it all the more suffocating, was this desperate need to Break Free, to be relieved of the hurt and confusion of everyday; and also, this incredible sense of Shame. I couldn’t get over myself. How dare I think I deserved more?  Break Free and Shame dialogued but mostly fought inside my head.

Colliding feelings coupled with conflicting thoughts . . . it’s what happens to us sometimes, especially in relationships. We see no way out. The emotional pits against the intellectual, the psychological against the practical, and you talk yourself out of a decision, only to repeat, reverse, and over think issues that are rarely ever resolved. Break Free and Shame fought until these conversations erupted and I could no longer delude myself that no one else saw.  A storm that had only been on the horizon, brewing I thought, was suddenly rocking the babies in the treetop. My daughters were in this squall and it wasn’t their fault.

Whatever I had been telling myself, self-justifying for years was one thing, I realized, a separate thing, something I would, or at least should investigate deeply at some point; but right now, on a different front . . .  I had to slap myself in the face! I had to put on battle gear, make up. I had to pretend. I wasn’t crazy about who I was. I wasn’t loving what I had done to my children, or the implications that maybe I had failed with my life, failed as a wife, failed at the labels I abhorred but wore. I had to fake it in an entirely different way. I had to pretend I could create something different . . . .

Divorce coaching

Often in divorce coaching, a client arrives at a place where she has grown acutely aware — not only of her weaknesses, her fears, her wrenching limitations — but also paradoxically, she is beginning to uncover her strengths. These strengths might be behaviors or attitudes that have critically served or even saved her in the past; but they are always a result of something deeper and more profound: her most deep-seated values. Her strengths make sense with something that is fundamentally true to her and how she envisions her life should be. When our client arrives here we are excited to be with her for we can literally see feelings clicking with ideas and her body changing. She shifts. She is starting to self-connect. She is learning:

1) She would not be alive and kicking today were it not for these intrinsic strengths — these skills, attitudes or behaviors —  that have allowed her to pick things up and breathe . . . to survive until now.

2) She is discovering that if these strengths have truly served her, then by some measure she has ALREADY faced and overcome obstacles in her past.

3) She realizes that if this is true, then she is not as helpless as she fears. She has a track record of overcoming adversity and harnessing these strengths now can help her do it again.

But make no mistake about it; doing it again can give you vertigo! Taking that brave step requires confidence. And almost in a vicious circle again, it becomes clear that projecting confidence when you feel your worst, as when you are getting divorced, sounds impossible. And truthfully it is. For a long time, a lot of us have to fake it.

How to fake it

The way I chose to start over with my life was to rely on a strength I knew worked. It was to take my apparent, incredible ability to fake and play act, and to turn it on its head. I had to pretend I was confident when I started visiting lawyers. I had to pretend I could speak about the “unspeakable” — divorce.  Later, when it seemed the theater would never end, I had to pretend I was confident in learning to . . . pay my bills, parallel park a car, and apply for my first job since I was a kid. I reminded myself that hadn’t I faked everybody out before? And as I began to move forward, inch by inch,“Hey, I got this,” is what I literally said to myself.

Based on her 30 years of research studying human evolution, mating, and psychology, Cultural Anthropologist Helen Fisher recommends that people “project confidence” when they are going out into the world.  In particular, Fisher is counseling us about dating. But her words make sense for anyone starting over.  “Positive attracts positive,” Fisher says. But she acknowledges that confidence is hard, especially if you can’t find anything about yourself that’s likable:

“And if you don’t like yourself, suggests Fisher, “act as if” you do. “Better yet, create a phrase that you can repeat to yourself in the shower, in the car or anywhere else, something like “I love being myself because I am ____________. Find something you honestly like about yourself and repeat it. Make sure this recitation puts a smile on your face, a lilt in your voice and confidence in your step (Why Him, Why Her, page 207)

We like Fisher’s suggestion, not only because it’s grounded in science and how humans have learned to adapt to change, survive and grow, but because it syncs with what we know happens in successful coaching. Once a client has grown self aware and can identify a core strength in herself, we can explore and test it with her, and then help her develop a mantra, a code, or a phrase to help remind her of it.

“Hey, YOU got this.”

Reminding yourself of your power and strength by uttering a phrase and pushing your way through, even if you are faking it, helps your brain to develop a mindset of positivity and “can-doism.” It’s like pulling out a crib sheet or flash card to remind yourself: you have vanquished dragons in the past, and behold!  You will slay again!

For our client Millie, a forty-something mother to three and CEO of her own company, reminding her of her “leather pants” as she faces various bumps and twists along her divorce road is the subtle cue that suddenly shifts her into a different gear, a different mindset where she can access her brilliant, problem-solving capabilities. Millie starts tearing apart an issue differently when she feels in control. “Leather pants,” stops her car so to speak, and leaves her “Wavering Self” by the side of the road.

For you to try

Read Fisher’s words again and remind yourself of something you like about yourself, a strength. Think about where you last displayed this strength and what the outcome was. Now frame this story and give the strength or story a name so when you are next challenged and your stress starts climbing, you can pull this strength out and raise it in the air. Just mentally touching this sword without removing it from your sheath might be enough for you to say, “En garde!”

We’re unblushing fans of Dr. Helen Fisher for all that she can teach you about yourself and how — going forward — you can connect more meaningfully with others who are, or who are not like you. Catch my business partner, SAS Co-founder, Kimberly Mishkin in this recent video with Dr. Helen Fisher and Your Tango Relationship Experts, as they discuss another angle, if opposites can really attract? And if they can, what things must you be mindful of to not only maintain but also nurture these quirky relationships.

For more divorce support, connect with SAS for 6 free months of coaching via your inbox.

Woman in tunnel looking at light

4 Steps That Actually TRAIN Your Brain to Choose Happiness

Stop psyching yourself out of happiness. Can you “decide” to feel truly happy? According to research from the Mayo clinic, the answer is a resounding yes! Great, right?

According to the study, the key to happiness is to focus your attention on the positive. Simple, got it.  But wait … it’s not that easy, is it? (Or we’d already be doing it.)

Well, yes and no. The concept is that simple and straightforward, but consistently applying the concept takes tremendous control and practice. Lots and lots of practice.

But it is possible.

According to experts, the human mind is constantly scanning, resulting in a constant stream of thoughts: happy, sad, scared, angry and so on. You have to harness those thoughts and decide which ones to focus on. Yes, you really can choose (even though it’s difficult to do so).

It helps if you understand why it’s so difficult

Our brains default to negative thoughts naturally. When you have a thought, your brain experiences an electrical and chemical reaction. Good thoughts and bad thoughts don’t elicit the same reaction … negative thoughts invoke a greater response in the brain.
This makes complete sense if you think about it — early humans depended on this default to help protect them from harm — it’s a survival instinct. But as you probably know, survival instincts are a pretty powerful force and by no means easy to override.

Dr. Theodore George, author of Untangling the Mind: Why We Behave The Way We Do, has studied our ability to override survival instincts. What he found is that it is possible, over time, to gain control over what our brain perceives as a negative thought or a “threat message.”

With practice, you can re-train your brain to label that message ‘harmless,’ so that your brain no longer has to pay attention to it.

In our practice as divorce coaches, we encounter this struggle with negative thinking all of the time.

Clients come to us in all stages of divorce — but regardless of where they are in the divorce process (just starting it or years down the road), they still feel bitter, angry, and deeply unhappy. They’ve gotten stuck. In other words, they’ve permanently defaulted to negative thoughts.

We help them exercise their “muscle” of positive thinking

Over time, we shift their thinking so that they are able to default to the positive, rather than the negative.

Think about this: If you believe your ex is a vindictive monster seeking revenge, this belief will lead to feelings of hate, rage, fear, and defensiveness. You will act on these feelings and you may even take actions, that you will regret or be embarrassed about later. All of these repetitive thoughts and actions further reinforce this negative belief in your brain’s wiring.

However, by deciding to believe that your ex is just as hurt and disappointed as you are, this invites feelings of empathy, understanding, and forgiveness. Those feelings lead to more positive behaviors that you are unlikely to regret later.

We call this “taking the high road”

We like that cliché, because as clichéd as it is, everyone understands it, but oh, is it hard to do.

Let’s say your ex is undeniably making things more difficult than necessary — lying, tossing out accusations, refusing to resolve things, trying to hurt you financially — you still have a choice. You can choose to believe that your ex is making poor choices and that’s his problem, not yours. Yes, you’ll still have to deal with the fallout, there is no escaping that. But, if you work to see the positive side whenever you can, you’ll feel better and stronger and therefore be able to handle whatever comes your way.

Will you fall down along the way? Most certainly

This doesn’t come naturally to anyone.

Replacing an old thinking pattern with a new one takes repetition, persistence, and determination. Perhaps you can begin, not by trying to change how you think about anything and everything at once, but choose one thing for now. Think about something in your life that is troublesome or making you miserable, and walk through these steps:

1. Think about your thinking. What do you believe about this person or this situation? What else could be true here? What would an outsider to the situation say? How could you think about it in a neutral or positive way?

2. Choose a different path. Choose how you can think about this in a positive light. Consciously decide to think that way. How does that make you feel? As a result, how might you feel and act differently from now on?

3. Check in often. Stop regularly to take stock. This is a slow process. If you catch yourself thinking negatively, hit “reset” in your brain. Think the thought again, with a positive spin. Check in with yourself at the end of the day … was today a little better?

4. Practice (practice, practice). In addition to catching yourself, as often as you can, try journaling. Once a week, stop to write down three good things about your life. Psychologists Stephen Schueller and Acacia Parks completed a study in 2012 that found, the simple exercise of writing down three things you are grateful for “has been shown to provide, both, an immediate and lasting effect on happiness” for up to six months. Why not give it a try?

I’m guessing that if this article caught your eye, you would like to have more happiness in your life. Taking the time to focus on the positive will be worth your effort. Letting go of negativity will allow you to move forward, living a happier, fuller life — now or eventually. To get started by going deeper, connect with us for your free consultation.

-Originally published on YourTango.com

Finding light in your divorce story

New York Times: “How to Divorce” is Changing for Women

The “newspaper of record,” the New York Times is shedding light on how to divorce and how it’s changing. Women are no longer navigating it alone in a desperate, anxiety-ridden journey. Allying themselves with a partner, a team, a tribe, women are moving through this major life-challenge differently.

Read about SAS — but what’s more — our friend Elise Pettus, founder of UNtied (— the women’s divorce-support community you should definitely join if you live in the NYC area) in Penelope Green’s NYTimes piece, A New Cadre of Experts Helps Women Navigate Their Divorces.

For more information on SAS for Women™ and our divorce coaching program, or how to divorce and mitigate the pain for you and your children, visit our divorce coaching page or schedule your free consultation.