divorce after 30 years of marriage

Your “Surprising” Divorce After 30 Years of Marriage

There was a time when every year of marriage was faithfully attached to a specific kind of gift: paper, silver, gold, emerald, or diamond. The tradition not only kept a long list of industries dropping rose petals down the aisle to the bank. It also made metaphorical references to the various stages – and challenges – of marriage. Thirty years, for example, has traditionally been the “pearl” anniversary, representing divinity and wisdom. How ironic, then, that so many couples see it as an endpoint and divorce after 30 years of marriage.

If you are in this position – three decades into marriage and raising a family – are you surprised to be here? Did you quietly see it coming? Did you want it? Or did you do everything in your power to hang on?

What we do know is that the rate of divorce as a whole has been declining, especially among Millennials and younger generations. But for those over 50, the rate of divorce is actually on the rise.

So, what’s going on? What’s happening (or not happening) that’s causing couples who have stuck it out for so long to divorce after 30 years of marriage?

Just as importantly, who is initiating these divorces? And what are the dissatisfactions and unmet expectations that finally reach a breaking point?

When you consider the statistics for gender-based post-divorce life, it really is remarkable that women continue to be the initiators of most divorces. Post-divorce life, after all, statistically doesn’t favor women, especially financially. Why, then, are women initiating divorce more often than men? 

The truth is, if both you and your husband or Soon-to-Be-Ex take a fearless look at your marriage, you will most likely come face-to-face with signs that really aren’t so surprising.

It’s easy to slip into believing that, if you have made it this far, you’ll cross the finish line together.

But women aren’t so resigning.

They tend to come to married life educated and informed. 

They often have careers before and during their marriages. 

They know what women are accomplishing in the world. And they know what they are capable of accomplishing.

They dream, create, invent.

And yet, they continue to be the primary homemakers and caretakers in their families, as if the Betty Crocker era never skipped a beat. 

So, should either spouse be surprised that the woman expects more from marriage than just a home and financial security? That she wants emotional connection, communication, balance in caretaking, and equality that actually feels like equality?

She may have done everything in her power to keep her commitment against divorce. 

After 30 years of marriage, however, she has had a lot of time to think, ponder…deflate.

She has also had a lot of time to imagine the life she’s not living.

And, given longer life expectancies, she may see a long prison sentence ahead if things don’t change soon.

Add in the predictable way that aging makes people less tolerant of others’ habits and tempers, and it’s understandable how a spouse can seem like a stranger.

Does any of this sound familiar?

The day-to-day responsibilities of raising children can drop a curtain of distraction on the marital relationship. 

It’s so easy to see the world through their eyes – to immerse yourself in their needs, their activities, their dreams…

…and to forget your own.

But what happens when their dreams demand to be lived, as they should? (Check out “Divorce and One Woman’s Journey” and see if you identify with this divorce tale.)

One by one the children leave to find life and love – just as their parents once did. And you are left to cheer them on from what has become a lonely, forgotten place.

It happens. It doesn’t have to. But it does.

And that 30 years that once seemed a lifetime away has suddenly marked itself on your calendar.

It also presents itself as a moment of reckoning: What do you have to show for your marriage?

Do you share the same values? The same life vision?

Do you still hold one another in respect, affection, awe?

Do you even recognize one another anymore – enough to say, “Oh, there you are! Let’s get back to the business of us?

The realization that your relationship has been on the back burner while taking care of “life” and others doesn’t have to mean the end of your marriage.

But sometimes the chasm is too great to bridge with any memory of intimacy or common vision.

In that case, it’s important to go into divorce with your eyes open. Acknowledge the signs you have been living with for years so you let go of what never was and manifest what can be.

And be prepared for the changes likely to come with getting a divorce after 30 years of marriage.

Divorcing in your 50’s and 60’s comes with its own unique experiences and consequences. Do you know what a gray divorce means for you?

If you stayed in your marriage for financial security, for example, you will likely see a decline in your finances and lifestyle

You may lose access to a growing retirement fund, forcing you to seek financial guidance and closely examine how you spend and save.

You may have to enter or reenter the job market in order to pay your bills. And that can be a daunting experience if you haven’t worked outside the home or in more than a part-time capacity for years.

All these “notes from a cautionary tale” may make the gray in “gray divorce” seem a little grayer. But there is actually a very bright, hopeful chapter at the end of the tale.

In many ways, this time in your life can be the most freeing, despite the circumstances.

Unlike younger divorcées, you don’t have the pressure to remarry and have children (or more children).

You are probably much more comfortable in your own skin and know yourself better than you did 20-30 years ago. So, you are now able to be a better, more accepting friend to yourself than you were then.

You may still have a sex drive that longs for partnership. But chances are it’s not turbo-charged by the same fury of your younger days, meaning that you can make decisions with wisdom and (relative) calmness. Consider this SAS article, “Finding Your Sexy Again After Divorce.”

You are also likely to find much more contentment and satisfaction in the companionship of friends and social connections. And that’s regardless of whether or not romance and/or remarriage are on the horizon.

Yes, there is a lot to think about and learn about life after gray divorce.

But there is also a lot to look forward to in this next chapter that you get to write and illustrate…hopefully with a giant box of crayons. Let loose and listen to yourself. Color outside the lines.  

NOTES

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

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

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

Spousal Support - Divorce and Alimony

Spousal Support, Alimony and Maintenance: Who Gets It?

Spousal support goes by a lot of different names in the world of divorce law: maintenance, alimony, and spousal support can all be used interchangeably. Maintenance is the more modern, most common term that courts use today, though the concept of maintenance has been around for quite some time. In fact, the idea of alimony dates back to the Middle Ages. But modern maintenance has changed a lot since then. Here’s a breakdown of what you should know about maintenance and how it works today. 

What is “Maintenance” Spousal Support and Who Pays It? 

Maintenance is when one spouse provides financial spousal support to his or her Ex. Maintenance helps ensure that the spouse with lower income can still support themselves after the divorce. Courts want to make sure that after a divorce, each spouse lives the same type of lifestyle they had during their marriage, which can sometimes lead to legal issues in the alimony agreement negotiation. To do this, courts approximate the “marital standard of living” and make sure the maintenance payment provides you and your Ex the proper funds to maintain that standard of living on your own.  

Historically, the wife received maintenance because the husband had a duty to support his wife financially. Maintenance used to also account for whose “fault” the divorce was and would make that spouse pay the other. Today, the more modern rationale for maintenance is rooted in “economic partnership”. Courts now look less at the traditional male and female roles within a marriage, and instead, look at the amount of money each person makes. So yes, if you are a woman, the breadwinner, and the primary caretaker of your children, you may have to pay your Ex maintenance. 

If you are a Stay-At-Home-Mom, discover more must-knows by reading “How to Prepare for Divorce if You are a Stay-At-Home-Mom.”

If you make more money than your spouse, check out “Breadwinning Women Face an Uphill Battle When Marrying and Divorcing.”

Is This Related to Child Support?

Maintenance is completely separate from child support and parental responsibilities. You can receive child support but have to pay your Ex maintenance. This would be most likely if you were the both primary caretaker of your children and the breadwinner of the family. This may seem like a shock, but as more mothers become the primary income earner, paying spousal support maintenance to their husband is becoming more and more common. If you are the breadwinner of your family, it is important to have your financials organized and in check. Your attorney will ask for your financial documents almost immediately at the beginning of your divorce journey. 

Maintenance statutes are present in every state, but the way courts go about them in each state can differ. Maintenance is typically a factor test. Courts look at the length of the marriage, the ages of the couple, the job skills they have, the income gap between the couples, and much more. Not every couple going through a divorce are “eligible” for maintenance payments. For example, if a couple married for 15 years has one partner who makes $300,000.00 a year and the other who did not go to college and stayed home to raise the kids, this would definitely be a maintenance case.

This means that the higher-earning spouse would have to pay maintenance to the other. But, if a couple was married for 2 years and had pretty equal levels of income, the likelihood of this being a maintenance case is much lower. These are just a few details that contribute to the legal issues of determining alimony and spousal support.

Changing Your Maintenance

Maintenance can also change over time. Originally, maintenance was a lifetime commitment, meaning that once someone was on the hook for maintenance, they were on the hook for the rest of their life. Now, it’s harder to obtain permanent maintenance, but not impossible. Instead, courts usually award temporary maintenance. Maintenance can change based on the circumstances you and your Ex fall into after your divorce becomes final. These circumstances can range from you or your Ex marrying someone else to a change in financial earnings, both of which can affect spousal support.

How to Modify Maintenance

The key to modifying maintenance is to prove that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred. Whoever wants to modify the maintenance has to prove that a substantial change in circumstances has in fact occurred. Either spouse can ask the court to modify maintenance. For example, if you are paying your Ex maintenance and your Ex gets a huge promotion at work and their salary increases, this would be a substantial change in circumstances. You could argue they do not need as much spousal support anymore, and that your maintenance payment should be modified to a smaller amount. On the flip side, if your Ex in that same situation got laid off, they can argue that there was a substantial change in circumstances and that they need more maintenance from you because now they have no income. 

Nobody likes paying maintenance. You can contract out of maintenance during your divorce journey if you want. Within your divorce settlement agreement in Illinois, for example, you can “waive” your right to maintenance, and your Ex can too. If you choose to do this, in your marital settlement agreement, you would have a section that states you do not want maintenance, and you will not ask for it in the future. This is a great option if you and your Ex earn about the same income, or for whatever reason you agree that there is no need to pay spousal support. You may want to consider getting a financial consultation to look at your options with the help of an expert and to better understand the details involved in these legal issues.

Maintenance and Taxes

One thing of note is that maintenance is taxed to the recipient, so keep that in mind if you are awarded maintenance. It’s important to ensure you have your finances in check during and after your divorce. Because things like maintenance can change, it’s a good idea to have your finances organized in case anything comes up later down the line.  

Conclusion: Spousal Support Varies

Spousal support maintenance is not something to be afraid of or embarrassed by whether you receive it, or pay it to your Ex. Maintenance is something that comes up in any divorce in some way, shape, or form. The modern approach to maintenance is to ensure that you and your Ex can maintain the same standard of living you two had during your marriage. Maintenance is a huge part of the financial elements of your divorce journey, so you and your attorney will definitely discuss this issue early on in your conversations so you adequately negotiate what is right for you. 

NOTES

Alexa Valenzisi is a rising 3L student in Chicago committed to the legal issues that arise in child law and education law. She aims to work in education law or family law after graduation. 

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

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

Frequently Asked Questions about Divorce

The Top 5 Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce

One of the most daunting parts of a divorce is not knowing – not knowing the answers to questions, not knowing the steps to take, not knowing what to do first, and surely, not knowing the big and small outcomes of your every move. This article will review five common or frequently asked questions about divorce. And in response to those questions, we’ll give you a quick answer that helps manage your expectations and also, lets you hit the ground running. 

1. How long will it take for me to get a divorce? 

Frequently asked questions about timelines are often at the forefront for those eager to get out of their marriage. From a legal perspective – and from a bird’s eye view – the divorce process goes like this: 

  • Filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage 
  • Financial disclosure and discovery 
  • Dispute any issues you and your Soon-to-Be-Ex may have 
  • Drafting Divorce Agreement Papers 
  • Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage gets granted 

Those are the primary steps in any divorce case. If you and your spouse* are in agreement with everything (splitting up marital assets, debt, custody, maintenance, etc.), you can pretty much skip steps 2 and 3 and go straight to drafting the divorce agreement with your lawyer. 

SAS Tip: Even if you think you and your spouse are in agreement with the splitting of assets and debt, and how the children will be cared for, it is ALWAYS a good idea to get a private legal consultation to hear what your rights are and what you are entitled to before you commit. Another level of due diligence is to meet with a certified divorce financial analyst for a financial consultation to divorce and to drill down on what would be the best way for you to split things. Economically, it is harder for women after divorce.

What affects the duration of the divorce process?

Because frequently asked questions about the divorce process duration have so many different answers, here’s a run-down. If you and your spouse do not agree on everything, your attorneys will attempt to negotiate a deal and ask you for some financial documents so that they can figure out what is an equitable distribution or resolution. After this, documents signed by both parties will be presented to the judge. The judge will then enter a divorce judgment that states you and your Ex are divorced. 

You will always have the option to get a judge involved if you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement about a part of your divorce agreement. This could be a trial but more likely, you will have a hearing, which is much shorter and only focused on a specific issue. Involving a judge is a longer and more expensive process, but also know that less than 10 percent of divorce cases in the United States go to a full-blown trial. A trial is useful if the settlement proposal you receive is not something you would agree with. 

So overall, how long your divorce takes really is dependent on the situation. You may be in total agreement with your spouse and can get in and out of the process in a month. Sometimes, however, with more complicated situations, the process can be lengthier. Your attorney can probably give you an estimate.

If you are actually asking, how long does it take to get over a divorce? Ah, that is a different question entirely.

2. How will our property be divided?

Most states equitably divide the marital assets you and your spouse acquired during your marriage. (To know for sure about your state, check out “Divorce Property Division: Community Property States vs. Equitable Distribution States.

The first step in dividing property is figuring out what you have, and the value of everything. Then, your attorney figures out what you and your spouse jointly own. Anything jointly owned goes into the “marital estate” and everything in that marital estate is divided equitably. Of course, you can make agreements with your Ex about how you want to divide your assets, and the court will usually honor such settlement agreements. A common example of this is if you and your spouse own a house, and one of you wants to buy out the other. You and your attorney will put language in your divorce agreement about that, and the judge will most likely find this to be a sufficient agreement. 

Keep in mind that debt acts the same way as assets – and is dependent on whether you live in an equitable distribution state or a community property state.  For example, if you live in an equitable distribution state, and you have a student loan or debt on a credit card that is in your name, then that debt is considered personal property and is not divided between you and your spouse. If you live in a community property state, the debt is considered marital debt.  So where you live matters.

3. Will I receive child support and/or spousal support? 

Again, it depends! First and foremost, child support and maintenance are two separate areas of financial support and are determined separately. Spousal support or maintenance, previously known as alimony, is support so that you and your Soon-to-Be-Spouse can maintain the standard of living you had during the marriage. Child support covers the everyday costs of children.

You can receive maintenance, child support, or both depending on the circumstances. If you are the custodial parent (your children reside primarily with you), you will most likely receive monthly child support. Child support is supposed to cover the basic necessities of the children – like food, clothing, and shelter. You can modify child support at any time after your divorce is finalized too. 

SAS Tip: Try to forecast what you will need in the future for yourself and your children so you negotiate for it in the divorce document rather than later. It costs money in legal fees and time to go back and revisit a divorce document!

Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce and Maintenance

If you make less money than your Ex, you will most likely receive maintenance. Keep in mind, however, that maintenance is a factor test, and not every divorce warrants maintenance. Maintenance can also be modified after your divorce proceeding. You can also waive maintenance, meaning that you do not even want to ask your Ex for spousal support at any time now or in the future – but you may ask for something else as part of your divorce negotiation.

SAS TIP: Be prepared. If you are a Stay-At-Home-Mom, discover more must-knows by reading “How to Prepare for Divorce if You are a Stay-At-Home-Mom.” If you make more money than your spouse, check out “Breadwinning Women Face an Uphill Battle When Marrying and Divorcing.”

4. What about our kids?   

Depending on the state you live in, child support and college tuition can be ordered until a child reaches the age of 21. With issues concerning custody and visitation, however, the young person is considered an adult when they turn 18. 

So, when it comes to custody or visitation, courts only deal with minor children (children who are not emancipated and/or under 18) during a divorce. If you and the father of your children cannot agree on a fair custody or visitation schedule, the Courts will determine the time each parent spends with the child, and who gets to make decisions on the child’s behalf. 

Custody Considerations

For custody, the first issue, you and your spouse will come up with a parenting schedule. This can be a complete 50/50 split of parenting time, or you can have most of the parenting time with your Ex having strict visitation limits. If you and your spouse can negotiate this directly or with the help of your lawyers, all the better. Left to the Courts, the Courts will determine the custody schedule based on the best interest of the child. It’s important to know that in most states, the Courts will lean on you and your spouse having equal time/custody of your children, so 50/50.

The decision-making portion goes primarily the same way. You and your spouse can have joint decision-making, meaning that you two have to agree on big decisions in the child’s life, or you can have sole-decision making. The courts again focus on what is in the best interest of the child.

If you wonder how the children will survive the divorce, please read this piece to help guide your behavior and promote your best decisions.  “Will the Kids Be All Right? Long Term Effects of Divorce on Children.”

5. What does a judge consider during my divorce? 

These are frequently asked questions for a reason: the answers really matter. Your judge affects the outcome of your divorce! Most states have a “no-fault” divorce rule. This means the judge or the state does not care whose fault it was that the divorce is happening. Make sure you understand the difference between No-Fault and Fault Divorce.

If you go to court, a judge will look at the facts of your case, and try to make sure that there is a fair division of property (per your state’s divorce laws) and that the children’s best interests are followed. 

Your judge will take all of the facts presented into account, and figure out, based on your specific situation, what is a fair divorce agreement to come to. Make sure that if you are going to trial, or have to argue any part of your divorce in front of a judge, that your attorney knows exactly what you want and what you would and would not agree to. Transparency is the best tactic with your lawyer so that they can properly advocate for your wants and needs in front of the judge. 

Conclusion

Be kind to yourself. It’s natural that you may have some of these frequently asked questions when it comes to the topic of divorce. In fact, even as your progress through the divorce process, the questions never stop coming. 

If you are like a lot of people, chances are you just want to “get it done,” but we urge you: please be mindful of your future and the future of your children. Do not simply get things done, rush, or push through without doing due diligence in finding out what would be the best step for you personally, legally, and financially as a woman.  Read our “55 Must-Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist,” so you take control, smartly and healthily. Remember: even if we answered your frequently asked questions, you’ll still want expert advice customized to your situation.

We wish you good luck and are always here for you.

About the Author

Alexa Valenzisi is a rising 3L student in Chicago who is committed to child law and education law. She aims to work in education law or family law after graduation. 

Notes

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

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

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

Bad Marriage

Bad Marriage: The Real Impact and What to Do About It

Good, bad, fantastic, toxic, perfect, insufferable. We are all guilty of tossing around descriptors as if our personal interpretations are facts. Descriptions of relationships are no different. New partners are somehow always “perfect” in the beginning. But then, fast forward years past “I do,” and those same can-do-no-wrong destiny-makers are suddenly bad marriage antagonists.

As subjective as personal perceptions are, criteria for the health and “goodness” of a relationship are surprisingly objective and often measurable.

Likewise for a bad relationship or bad marriage.

It’s natural to go through periods of disappointment, boredom, frustration, and even questioning in a marriage. 

Love, after all, has its predictable stages that come with growing pains and stretch marks. You know to expect them, but they still register with disquieting surprise.

Despite the evolution of love over time, even a good marriage can become a bad marriage. Lack of attention, poor communication skills, and unresolved childhood trauma carried forward. The list of underlying causes can be long, complex, and insidious.

And yet, there are cautionary signs of a toxic marriage – signs uniquely scripted to any relevant marriage while telling a common story.

By the time a marriage becomes toxic, it has probably passed through “unhappy” and even “bad.”

Some of the signs of a bad marriage include, usually in combination: 

  • Lack of interest in spending time together
  • Lack of physical intimacy
  • Fantasizing about life without your partner, perhaps with a different partner
  • Thinking about divorce
  • Making someone other than your partner your primary confidante
  • Infidelity, whether emotional or sexual
  • Constant arguing, usually about the same thing(s)
  • Not arguing at all
  • Constant criticism
  • Keeping secrets
  • Not feeling heard
  • Not listening
  • Wanting different things out of your relationship and life
  • Depression
  • Unexplained health issues
  • Lack of self-care
  • Changes in sleep, eating, weight, exercise
  • Wondering if you made the “wrong” decision when you married

Interestingly, the health of you and/or your spouse can be a barometer of the health of your marriage.

One of the bragging rights of ‘til-death-do-us-part is that it helps postpone the “death” part. 

Marriage, in general, comes with health benefits that surpass those of single people. Longer life spans, better mental health, better immune function, lower cortisol levels, and greater adherence to medical direction are just a few of the notable benefits.

The Caveat(s)?

First, there currently is no evidence to causally link these health benefits to marriage. That is, marriage isn’t, in and of itself, a safeguard against heart attacks, cancer, depression, and early death.

Second, the health and happiness of the marriage are also a predictor of those benefits. 

People in stressful, unhappy marriages may be worse off than single people surrounded by loving support systems.

Cortisol levels, for example, have a fascinating connection not only to stress but to the predictability of marital happiness and stability years into the future.

At least for women.

So what are some of the long-term health impacts of a bad marriage?

  • Delayed healing of simple wounds
  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Increased risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Increased risk of arthritis
  • Increased risk of depression
  • Changes in appetite regulation
  • Decreased immune function
  • Increased release of stress hormones
  • Increased inflammation

 

So much for all the health benefits of marriage!

The point to be made here, though, isn’t about how marriage by itself can benefit the health of those in it. It’s about how the quality of the relationship and what the partners do for one another can benefit – or harm – the health of those in the marriage.

So, what are your choices if you find yourself in an unhappy marriage? A bad marriage? A toxic marriage?

You can choose to get your needs met outside your marriage. 

But how does being a cheating wife make you any better than a cheating husband? Cheating is still cheating – an avoidance of accountability to and within your marriage, regardless of who has done what.

And cheating as a way of dealing with a bad marriage does nothing to make your marriage better.

On the contrary, it will make it more difficult to repair your marriage if the two of you decide to stay together. 

And it could put your settlement and future at risk if you end up divorcing. (Not because the law will hold it against you in the divorce process, but your husband may.)

You could choose to end your marriage to get away from the negativity and/or toxicity.

But remember that divorce is a demanding process with lifelong consequences. And there are a lot of things you will need to do if you are thinking about divorce.

If your marriage has reached a level of toxicity, however, divorce may be the wisest and healthiest solution for your future. 

Living with abuse, addiction, contempt, and/or power and control disparity, for example, doesn’t lend itself to a DIY solution. 

And, if you have children, their welfare may be at risk, as well.

Leaving your marriage, however – regardless of your reasons – won’t save you the work of self-reflection, grief, forgiveness, and starting over.

Finally, you have the choice of working on your marriage.

Only you know what makes your marriage “bad.” It’s not the word that should decide your course of action, but your experience, perception, and intuition about any lingering hope.

If you and your spouse still have a foundation of love and respect for one another, divorce may be a hasty resignation.

You may not feel love or know how to express it in a healthy, healing way. But there is always help available for those who ask for it.

Remember that divorce doesn’t “fix” any underlying issues that lead to it. 

It may free you of a toxic or hostile environment that is prohibitive to your growth and well-being. But it doesn’t, in and of itself, provide the healing, clarity, or self-awareness necessary to prepare for a new life… and even new love.

Before making a decision about how to resolve a bad marriage, spend the time – ideally with professional guidance – evaluating why your marriage is bad. Getting a professional perspective from someone who is trained and understands your circumstances is key. This professional will help you understand what is normal, what is not and what steps you could be taking to look at your circumstances in a different way, other than the well-practiced version you may be telling yourself. This professional could be a marriage therapist or discernment counselor for you as a couple, or a therapist or divorce coach to support you individually.

If you and your spouse haven’t made every effort to work through your issues with respect, equality, and willingness to seek help, perhaps your work isn’t done.

There’s no denying the impact of a bad marriage. But knowing how to recognize its salvageability or finality is the beginning of prudence.

And prudence is always a wise choice when something as important as marriage is at stake.

Notes

Even if you are “just thinking” about divorce, choose not to go it alone.

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

divorce laws

Divorce Laws in the United States: Then and Now

While divorce today has become rather common, it was once considered a taboo practice—prohibited by law in much of recorded history. And while there were some exceptions to this ancient rule, divorces were very rare and difficult to obtain—especially for women. Let’s take a look at divorce laws in the United States in particular, and how these laws have changed over time.

Colonial Divorce Law 

One of the first documents of divorce law in North America originates in the Colony of Massachusetts Bay. Here, the colonists established a judicial tribunal to rule on divorce proceedings. As mentioned earlier, divorces during this time period were rare, and for the most part, illegal; however, the judicial tribunal allowed for some exceptions and granted divorces in cases of adultery, desertion, bigamy, and impotence.

In fact, Annie’s Group®, SAS for Women’s signature group coaching program for women thinking about or beginning a divorce, is named after Anne Clarke, a resident of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who, on January 5, 1643, was granted the first recorded legal divorce in the American colonies by the Quarter Court of Boston. In Anne’s case, she was granted a divorce on the grounds of adultery—committed by her ex-husband, Dennis Clarke. He even admitted to the adultery in a signed affidavit, stating that he abandoned his wife and two children, for another woman (whom he also had two children with). Accordingly, one might say that the betrayal of infidelity is rooted in American history. 

The women of colonial times endured even further hardships in the case of divorce. Before the Married Women’s Property Acts were passed in 1848, married women had virtually no legal rights—to own property, acquire financial assets, or even form binding contracts. Such severe consequences made the practice of divorce utterly unfeasible for women. While the Married Women’s Property Acts went to correct some of these adversities, women remained notoriously disadvantaged in divorce proceedings for quite some time.

The Rise of Divorce

At the end of the 18th century, “divorce mill” states began to surface around the nation. These were states that allowed divorces—including for out-of-state couples. This in turn led to such increases in divorce cases that Congress compiled the first set of divorce statistics in 1887, while elsewhere, there were additional, social reactions. 

In 1903, the Inter-Church Conference on Marriage and Divorce was held due to a concern about the growing number of divorce cases in the U.S. However, the Conference’s efforts were unsuccessful as the sentiment toward divorce began to shift in favor of the practice. The concept of “trial marriages” also emerged in the 1920s, which allowed couples to try their marriage—without the legal implications of actually being married. Ultimately, trial marriages signified another failed attempt in history to reduce the number of divorces in the U.S.

Surprisingly, up until the 1950s, all divorces were tried through the traditional court system. However, as divorce rates in the U.S. began to rise, this began to burden the efficiency of the court system. In response, the Family Court system was created to specifically handle divorces and other family law-related matters.  

The Rise of No-Fault Divorces

However, possibly the most notable change in divorce law occurred in the 1970s—with the enactment of no-fault divorce laws. 

Before this, a spouse had to be at fault in order for a divorce to be granted. By this, I mean that the filing spouse needed a legitimate reason—and evidence of it—to effectively end the marriage (and, being unhappy didn’t count for one). Luckily though, that all began to change when California signed the first no-fault divorce bill in 1969, and finally, spouses no longer needed to show cause to file for divorce. One by one, each state followed California’s lead and no-fault divorces became the new legal standard in America.  

Divorce Laws Today

All these historic changes in divorce law, often reflecting the growing rights of women in the U.S., have led us to the divorce system we know today. 

Divorce laws vary from state to state in the United States, but all states have adopted some form of no-fault divorce legislation—with the stigma surrounding divorce ceasing to exist—at least legally. While there are no longer any legal restraints to filing for divorce in the United States, this is not to say that the process has gotten substantially easier. The decision alone remains a difficult one—especially in cases with children involved, while the cost of getting a divorce (and rebuilding afterward) has also increased. For more on this, consider reading “How Much Will My Divorce Cost Me – Emotionally and Legally?” and/or watch “Should You or Shouldn’t You Divorce?”

Clearly, divorce laws in the U.S. have come a long way since the colonial era, but only time will tell how divorce laws will evolve in the years to come. We hope to see advancements with the rights of women and not more setbacks; and with more advancement of women’s rights, more advancements with divorce laws that will address the current flaws in our divorce system—while continuing to support a fair and equal process for both parties.

Notes

Jayne Cleary is a second-year law student in New York committed to helping educate and improve the lives of families in her community. 

Since 2012, SAS for Women has been entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its 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.

Losing your in laws in divorce

Losing Your In-Laws in Divorce

The downsides of divorce can seem endless. Every gain has a counter-loss, often in ways you didn’t anticipate. Losing your in-laws in divorce can be one of those unexpected surprises.

When you’re consumed with the must-do checklist of divorce, it’s natural to be focused on “just getting through it.” There will be collateral damage, to be sure, but you can deal with (and anticipate) only so much at once.

You know you’re about to lose what will always be one of the most important relationships in your life. 

But you may not be ready for the divorce and its loss of other relationships that have been a natural — and assumed — part of your married life. They become part of the grief you didn’t count on.

Mention “in-laws,” and visions of Marie and Deborah snarking it out on Everybody Loves Raymond may fill your brain space.

Then again, you may have had a beautiful, “bonus family” kind of relationship with your husband’s family. And the thought of losing your in-laws in the divorce may be heavier than you had anticipated.

Grief and The Family Dynamic

Readers may remember the late psychologist John Bradshaw. His work on “The Inner Child,” shame, and family-of-origin influences helped define a notable period of self-help and trauma recovery.

He used to do a family-of-origin exercise on the opening day of his Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child workshops.

Then, he would invite several attendees, one at a time, to come join him at the front of the room. He would then instruct each person to “attach” himself/herself to him in specific ways. 

“Lie on the floor and wrap your arms around my ankle. You’re my mother.” “Hold onto my arm. You’re my brother.” “Stand behind me and pull on my shirt. You’re my father.”

After building this clumsy pyramid to the laughter of an unsuspecting audience, he would deliver the indelible punchline: “THIS is what you marry when you get married.”

He was a genius at driving home messages that desperately need to be understood if people are going to heal and make healthy relationship choices.

Fast forward to you, your in-laws, and your divorce.

One of the realities of divorce is that it mobilizes everything. It’s like a game of musical chairs — the music stops, everyone scrambles for a seat, someone is ousted, and it all starts again. Everything is in flux, and much of it is unpredictable.

And so it goes with in-laws.

They’re the family you agree to adopt when you marry. 

They’re the new dynamic you have to learn and navigate.

Lastly, they’re the “other half” of extended family to your children — grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins.

And they’re a goldmine of insight into your spouse… and now STBEX.

So what do you do with these in-law relationships now that you and your husband are going your separate ways?

Consider some of the countless ways your in-law relationships can go:

  • You’re glad to be done with them, and the feeling is mutual.
  • You both want to remain friends, and your STBEX is fine with that.
  • You both want to remain friends, but your STBEX isn’t fine with that.
  • You’re close with some of your in-laws but not all, and you want to stay close with them.
  • Some of your in-laws have a “loyalty” gene that stands to ruin any chance of friendship with the family.
  • Your in-laws would choose you over their own relative any day. They know he had a great thing, and they are sad to see you go.

And then there are the dynamics you know you will have to navigate, regardless of everyone’s affections (or lack thereof):

  • You have children, and you know they need to have an ongoing relationship with that side of the family. How do you make that work if the breakup isn’t amicable?
  • You have children, and you know you will be in the same room with your ex and ex-in-laws for years to come — birthdays, sporting events, recitals, graduations, weddings. How will you make it work so your children know they are safe and loved? (Check out “Coparenting Through Children’s Birthdays After Divorce.”)
  • You’re suspecting that your husband is filling your in-laws’ ears with a one-sided story against you. What do you do now?
  • You and/or your STBEX may bring a new love interest into your life. Will that make an ongoing friendship uncomfortable? (Consider reading “Playing Nice When Your Ex Has a New Girlfriend.”

If you fear losing your in-laws in the divorce, you do have choices. But those choices will be influenced by more than just your own desire and vision for working things out.


Keep taking steps toward your healing. Read “46 Steps to Ensure Your Divorce Recovery: A Definition and a Guide.”


Negotiating Future Contact

Ideally, both you and your spouse will handle your divorce amicably and respectfully. 

If you have that kind of relationship, despite your pending divorce, this is the time to talk about in-law relationships. After all, your husband may have the same feelings about your family.

“I love your family, and I would love to remain friends with them. But I want to be respectful of your wishes and comfort. I also want the kids to be able to talk freely about all their relatives, with no fear of animosity from either of us.”

Even if you are on the other end of the spectrum with your feelings, it’s still wise to have these discussions with your STBEX, especially if you have children.

It’s also wise to have these discussions with your in-laws. Call a spade a spade. Tell them you know how uncomfortable this is for them, too.


If you are looking for a community of like-minded women, women who are also committed to healing and making meaning of this newfound place you are all in, consider our powerful Paloma’s Group for women recreating after divorce.


Let them know that you intend to play a positive, supportive role in their ongoing relationship with your children. Even if they want nothing to do with you, you know they play a defining role in your children’s lives.

How much you disclose about your divorce to your in-laws really depends on you and the relationship you have with them. 

It may be tempting to lay out your side of things with your in-laws, especially if you suspect your STBEX hasn’t been truthful with them. 

But you would do well to err on the side of diplomacy. You can always share more later, but you can’t take back words spoken.

For further tips on how not to divorce your spouse’s family, read here.

Losing your in-laws in the divorce can be a great loss or a blessing in disguise.

And sometimes the loss or expulsion you fear is tempered by time, maturity, acceptance…and forgiveness.

Notes

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.

Child Support and Divorce

Child Support: 5 Things Mothers Must Know

Divorce involves a lot of financial questions – will I get maintenance? How will we split up our assets? What about my children’s expenses? Child support answers that final question.

Child support is the financial aspect of divorce that focuses on which spouse will pay a monthly amount to the other spouse to help raise the children. This form of financial support is typically awarded to the custodial parent. The custodial parent is the parent who the child lives with most of the time. The non-custodial parent usually owes the custodial parent financial support. This support varies from state to state, but there are still certain facts about child support that run true no matter what state your divorce proceedings are in.

As a mother, here are the top 5 things you need to know about child support. 

  1. Steps to Receive Child Support 

First things first, anything regarding children in a prenup, including child support, is not enforceable. So, if your Ex tells you that something in your prenup stops you from receiving any financial support for children, ignore them! You are entitled to financial support for the sake of your children, regardless of any prenuptial agreements you made with your Ex.

It may sound obvious, but to qualify for child support, you need to have a child with your Ex. That does not, however, mean you need to be married to receive child support; you just need proof of who the biological parents are. There is an assumption that the married couple are the biological parents, and a simple signature on a birth certificate can usually alleviate any issues that may come up with this. Either biological parent can be on the hook for child support. After determining the biological parents (aka who can legally pay child support), there are a couple of different ways to go about determining the specific amount your Ex would have to pay you in financial support.

SAS TIP: When interviewing divorce lawyers as a means to getting educated on what your rights are as an individual woman, wife, and mother, consult this article for the best questions to ask a divorce lawyer and how to prepare for that meeting.  You’ll want to ask the lawyer to give you a best-case and worst-case scenario for your claim to child support, or what you might be on the hook for paying to your spouse. This will help prepare you for what must be negotiated with your spouse.

Negotiation and Mediation

If you and your Ex are involved in any mediation, negotiation, or settlement proceedings, you can negotiate and figure out child support between the two of you. The benefit to this method is that negotiating or mediating this issue costs less than litigation (or going to court), and that the two of you can figure something out between each other without getting a judge involved. Negotiating or mediating this allows the parties to have a little more wiggle room when it comes to financial support determinations. If your divorce is amicable, this is a great option for you and your Ex. That being said, the court is very predictable in awarding child support, which makes it another tool you can use during your divorce if there is no settlement agreement between you and your Ex.

If a couple wants to take up the issue of child support with the court, any financial information and parenting schedule is crucial information that your attorney will ask for. After the court receives that information, the judge will plug your information into a formula and figure out the monthly support amount.

In Illinois, for example, the judge will sign a Uniform Support Order. This order states how much, and how long someone needs to pay support. The Uniform Support Order is sent to the obligor’s (this is just a fancy way of saying the person who needs to pay) place of work, and the child support payments can be taken out of their paycheck automatically. The Uniform Support order will be included in your final divorce judgment from the court stating that you are in fact divorced.

  1. What Child Support Covers

Child support is interpreted pretty broadly. Essentially, it is designed to take care of a child’s everyday necessities. This includes shelter, food, clothes, etc. There are some things, however, that it does not cover.

For example, in Illinois, there is a completely separate provision in divorce law that talks about paying for college. Child support does not cover higher education costs. Families have to either negotiate this financial aspect, or are ordered by the court to pay these fees separately from any financial support obligations entered.

SAS TIP: It is important to ask your attorney what is and is not covered under child support so there are no future financial arguments over the children’s future expenses. This may have you choosing or trying to negotiate things elsewhere in the legal document as a way of bridging any gaps.

  1. How Child Support is Calculated 

As divorce laws vary from state to state, different states have different methods for determining financial support for the child. There are three main ways states will determine child support: the income sharing formula; percentage of obligor approach; and the Melson formula.

  • The majority of states follow the income sharing formula approach. The great news about this is it’s a formula, so the outcome for what your child support amount will be is a pretty predictable aspect of your divorce. The income sharing formula is pretty simple. First, the court must figure out you and your Ex’s combined income: (gross monthly income of parent 1) + (gross monthly income of parent 2) = the parents’ combined income.

What is an Obligor?

Courts take this combined income and multiply it by a child support percentage, which is the percentage of income spent on the kids. Then, the court will look at the relative income of the parents and figure out who has to pay what. This is just one reason why your financial affidavit and other financial documents that your attorney asks for are important during your divorce proceedings.

  • The obligor income approach is also straightforward.  Obligor is just a fancy way of saying the parent who owes the other parent money. The oblige is the parent who will receive the child support payment. The court first decides who has to pay financial support for children. From there, the court determines the percentage that parent spends on the children pre-divorce, and then orders the non-custodial parent to pay that.
  • The final approach, the Melson approach, is specifically designed for parents with low income. This approach allocates a small portion of income to the parent for their own basic needs. Once that basic needs number is met, the next chunk of change goes to the children. Once discharged, the formula approach applies to the money left over.

What else do you need to know about or start checking off regarding your divorce? 

Read our “55 Must-Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist” to make sure you are not neglecting yourself or your future.


  1. How to Change Child Support Obligations 

Child support, as the name entails, ends when the youngest child turns 18, as they are no longer children in the eyes of the law. That being said, child support can change throughout its lifetime.

The magic word to change child support before a child turns 18 is a substantial change in circumstances. If something substantial happens – for example, one parent loses their source of income – a parent can go to the court and ask the judge to modify the child support order. The most common example of this is the parent paying support loses their job. This parent would go to the court, prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstance, and the judge will decide from there if, and how, financial support should be modified.


It’s not just about the laws in a divorce, it’s also about what will make the most sense for you financially.  Check out this important piece, “Smart Moves for Women: A Financial Consultation for a Divorce.”


  1. National Child Support Facts  

Child support should be nothing you should be ashamed of. Most women who go through divorce receive some sort of support from their Ex, and child support is no exception. In fact, in the year 2015, the aggregate amount for child support for the United States was around 33.7 billion dollars. It is something that you are entitled to, and it is something that helps you be the absolute best parent you can be. Child support is designed to allow children to maintain their lifestyle as it was before the divorce.

Conclusion

Overall, child support is something that a lot of divorced couples need to maneuver through. Courts are very reliable and predictable in awarding child support. The judicial system is there to make sure that if you have the majority of parenting time with the children, your spouse is entitled to partake in financial obligations as they relate to your children.

NOTES

Alexa Valenzisi is a rising 3L student in Chicago who is committed to child law and education law. She aims to work in education law or family law after graduation. 

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

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

 Join our tribe and stay connected.

how to talk to a narcissist without going crazy by unsplash

How to Talk to a Narcissist Without Going Crazy

Narcissists function on a core frequency of mental dysfunction and psychological avoidance. They don’t want to heal, and they don’t want to change. They don’t want to grow. Therefore, they use a number of tactics to twist and distort reality, which almost always results in you being misperceived (that is, if you give them the power to do so). Because of this, there are some important things to remember about how to talk to a narcissist. 

How do you not give them the power? 

Here are the best three things to do when talking to a narcissist, so you don´t go crazy. You might also want to read this article first, to train your brain to choose happiness as a preparation. 

Remember That Nothing is Personal!

Firstly, you must remember that nothing is personal. From a holistic or even spiritual perspective, we may be “all one,” all mirrors of one another, but with a narcissist, this is not true. A narcissist is ruled by a whole new set of rules and behaviors deemed unacceptable by the rest of us. 

As much as we don’t like to demonize people on this site (even people as diabolical as narcissists), they do have mental disorders, i.e. they sincerely believe it’s ok to project, be nasty, and emotionally blackmail or manipulate their victims. They are under the impression that projection is normal. 

Projection is essentially a form of negative or harmful mirroring; it is putting stories, labels, and more often than not, false identities and characteristics onto another. In the narcissist’s case, they project their mean-spirited, deceptive, controlling, abusive, and somewhat crazy ways onto you. Understanding this is the first step to being able to speak to them without going crazy. Don’t take it personally!

Know from the start that they are not well, they are actually quite ill, therefore any attempt at destroying your self-esteem, self-worth, etc. should not be taken personally – they were like this before they met you. Either take it lightly, see the light-heartedness in life and communication, or walk away entirely. 

The key is to not engage. How do you deal or talk with a narcissist? The short answer is try to avoid it at all costs. 

Play Small

Please know I would never, ever, give you this advice in any other circumstance. However, the only way you can deal with a narcissist without going crazy – or without being bullied and belittled – is to play small. Make them feel that you are giving them what they want, let them think they are the bigger, better, more intelligent, and overall, more talented person. 

A narcissist’s entire identity is wrapped into their social facade. This is their mask, and remember that any attempt at uncovering their mask and revealing their true colors puts them in instant “gaslight” or “attack” mode. It is a small price to play, playing small to save yourself abuse and the hassle of having to get dragged into their chaos and slander. 

By staying centered and telling yourself you don’t need to engage or explain yourself, you are free to smile inside and in silence

Silence is extremely powerful. People who are also intuitive and experienced with BS and manipulation will sense this about you. Others can see and sense when someone is being modest, playing humble, appeasing someone because of some hidden manipulation, or trying to protect themselves from a destructive person’s anger and subtle abuse. Subtlety is the keyword here. 

Be subtle and hold the vision of your higher self in the background. You don’t need to show off your amazing abilities and qualities. Doing so will only act as fuel for the narcissist!

Also, be mindful of the fact that gaslighting, a narcissist’s main tactic, relies on emotional involvement. If you don’t give them any emotional attachment or debate, they can’t possibly start a fight or argument with you. Again, narcissism is defined by a need for energy and exchange; if there´s no exchange, there´s no bond, so they cannot harm you. 

Patience, Patience, Patience…

The importance of patience cannot be emphasized enough. It is like interacting with a child. Narcissists throw temper tantrums, lash out, and can be totally irrational. They’re ruled by a need for constant attention and admiration and have very weak emotional strength and empathy. You need to be patient with them or you’ll be at risk of getting pulled into their out-of-control and fiery current.

Imagine speaking to a toddler or young child, who is still learning and growing in the world. It’s difficult, right? It must be hard to communicate and live around so many adults who have years and years of experience more than you… This is basically a narcissist, so they require patience, dignity, and humility. How to talk to a narcissist? If you must do so, stay connected to your light with the utmost integrity. 

If you are divorcing this personality type, you must read “7 Must Knows When Divorcing a Narcissist.

If they begin to project, shout, or become truly abusive, then you can walk away; you do not have to tolerate emotional, psychological, or any other abuse. Yet, until then, give them the intention they need, with boundaries, and stay focused on your inner light and the qualities that are expanding. 

Talking to a narcissist is like a self-evaluation test in itself because you have to remain strong and channel energy into your strengths. These strengths may include kindness, tolerance, compassion, wisdom, silence, passivity combined with strength (never, ever lose your boundaries), intuition, and the ability to listen, and respect.

Have respect for the human condition; we’re all flawed even though narcissists may just be a little farther gone than the rest of us. Just don’t fall into the trap of losing your boundaries. The moment you do this, you’ve lost! It is a chance for them to do all the horrible things mentioned above. 

If the father of your children is a narcissist, check out this piece: “41 Things to Remember When Coparenting with a Narcissist.”

To Conclude

One of the narcissist’s major tricks is the art of gaslighting, which is making you feel crazy or delusional through their lies and manipulation. Assuming you are an empathic, sensitive, emotionally intelligent, and open person (as this is who narcissists tend to choose as their mates/victims), you will naturally be vulnerable and authentic with them, at least to begin with.

You may take pride in your emotional strength and wisdom, and rightfully so, however with the narcissist, don’t let them know you’ve sussed them out, as this will be hell for you! Do be subtle and self-protective while appeasing them, until the interaction has reached the point of no return (they really don’t want to stop their games) and you have no choice but to walk away. Simply don’t give them any emotional involvement or opportunity for attachment. 

Remember: the narcissist is on some spectrum of crazy, deranged, and delusional, yet s/he will make you out to be these things. All of their schemes and antics rely on projection, a lack of patience on your behalf, and the hope that you will take their manipulations personally, and therefore attach to them. 

Notes:

Grace Gabriella Puskas is a passionate Reiki Master, Astrologer, Dream therapist/interpreter, Holistic Healer, and Herbalist. She is also a visionary poet and published author, who enjoys gardening, caring for others, healing the earth, and creating educational & spiritual videos (free) on Youtube. You can connect with Grace by visiting her website here.

 

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

How to Find a Good Divorce Lawyer

Getting a divorce can be a lonely, overwhelming process. Navigating it alone can make it even more frightening. If you, like a lot of women, experienced a power challenge in your marriage (perhaps your spouse handled all the finances, or was a bully, or hid things, or lied), these are still more reasons why you might choose to hire a divorce lawyer to help you navigate the legal process. A good divorce attorney, advocating just for you, can make you feel less alone and even change the outcome of your divorce.

This article will provide you with suggestions and advice on how to find a good divorce lawyer to fit your story and your unique needs.

1. Identify Your Needs

Your ultimate goal is to get divorced. However, while you begin your search for a divorce attorney, you must know precisely what you want out of your divorce. Different family law attorneys might specialize in various family law subject areas. Is child custody the most crucial issue to you? Do you and your spouse own a house together? Or is it a new marriage with little to no property to divide? Perhaps you are looking to pursue a legal separation or a postnup? These are all areas that an attorney might specialize in, and knowing what is most important to you will allow you to hire the right attorney for your situation and choose the right type of divorce model.

For your information, in general, there are four types of divorces: DIY (or Do-It-Yourself, for Uncontested Divorces), the Traditional Model (for Uncontested or Contested divorces), Mediation (for Uncontested Divorces), and the Collaborative Model (for Uncontested Divorces).

To understand more we encourage you to read “The 4 Types of Divorce and How to Know Which One’s Right for You.”

And make sure you understand the difference between a Contested and Uncontested Divorce.

Divorce Complexity

Another factor to consider is the complexity of your divorce. The nature of the relationship between you and your spouse can lead to what kind of attorney you might want.

Like subject areas, different lawyers can specialize in various types of representation. You might consider a lawyer who does mediation if the power is equally shared between you and your spouses (i.e. both of you understand your finances, and there is no abuse or hiding of information or deception in your relationship.) If you have children and want to focus on coparenting, you might want a lawyer focused on an amicable divorce, or a collaborative divorce. If you know your divorce will be highly contentious and likely go to trial, you might select a lawyer who is both a good negotiator (so you settle out of court) but who also has lots of courtroom experience in case you need to go there.

Knowing what you need in your situation and what type of personality your spouse is, will ensure you go into your lawyer search in a more defined way.

SAS Tip: We suggest that all women, no matter their circumstances, consult with a Traditional Divorce attorney first. Hearing what your rights are, what you are entitled to as an individual woman/wife/mother, and discussing the biggest issues in your story will help you decide which type of divorce would be right for you. This will better advance your understanding of your particular needs before you elect for mediation or a collaborative divorce (a particular type of divorce model). 

2. Gather Referrals

One way to research potential lawyers is by seeking out referrals. There are two popular types of referrals: social and professional.

Social referrals come from friends and family members who might have gone through the divorce process. Having someone you know and respect vouch for a particular lawyer can be comforting. Plus, they might have some insight on how to find a good divorce lawyer. However, with social referrals, be mindful of your situation versus the referring friend’s situation. This is your divorce, and you may have different goals from a friend or family member who just went through the process. Additionally, you should be mindful of a friend or acquaintance who might not be in the headspace to share her thoughts on her attorney objectively but instead uses your query as an avenue to rehash her grievances.

The other way a referral might work is through a professional referral. This is when a professional you trust refers you to a family law attorney they might know and respect. Professionals often work together closely and appreciate other professionals, so a trusted doctor, accountant, or therapist might be able to assist you in finding a good divorce lawyer.

SAS TIP: Always ask your referral source if they know the name and number of at least three potential divorce lawyers because one lawyer might be retired, not taking new clients, out of your price range, etc.; if so, you still have other options.

Other professionals might also refer you to professional lawyer organizations. Organizations like the American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys, the American Bar Association, your state’s and city’s bar association, and local legal aid centers can refer you to individual attorneys. This may give you a starting point for the search process.

If you are just getting your ducks in a row as you contemplate divorce, learn what other healthy steps you could be taking and read 36 Things to Do If You Are Thinking About Divorce.

3. Do Your Research

Divorce laws vary from state to state. When looking for a divorce lawyer, you’ll want to talk to one in your state of residence. What’s more, search for one in your general vicinity so it’s easier to connect with them ongoing if you need. You can do this by searching by city, county, and state. A regional search will allow you to view qualified attorneys in the area before deciding on a few to contact. Searching for attorneys, or vetting the names you’ve been given online also allows for the possibility of reading reviews and testimonies by previous clients.

SAS Tip: If you are really interested in a lawyer, you might consider asking the attorney for peer or client referrals if you cannot easily find reviews. You want to ensure that your lawyer is known for professionalism and experience in the field – and hearing from those who’ve had firsthand experience with them can give you vital insight. 

4. Set Up Interviews

After you have set your goals, researched potential attorneys, and talked to the safe and appropriate people in your life, it is time to set up a meeting with potential attorneys. Make sure you prepare for each meeting. Read our “Questions to Ask a Divorce Attorney at a Consultation” to know what to bring into that meeting, what questions to ask, and how to make the most of your time, getting critical information and the education you need, and deserve.

SAS TIP: Some attorneys offer free consultations before hiring them. So, make sure to check out their websites to see if free consultations exist and for how long the consultation is. If it’s only 30 minutes, you’ll need more time. And by the way, free consultations are not always the norm, so consider consultation costs when considering legal expenses.

As a result of the pandemic, many lawyers these days will conduct your consultation via Zoom if you wish. While that is possible, and very convenient, we find it’s better to meet with one face to face, so you can read their responses and body language better and get a view of their office and its professional atmosphere.

Shop Around

Don’t just jump to hire the first lawyer you meet either. You should aim to talk with at least three lawyers – if you have the resources. This way you have a higher chance of hearing different perspectives on your situation and finding the one that is right for you. Meeting multiple people will help you steer clear of lawyers who attempt to sweet talk you to get you in the door of their practice by claiming they handle divorces when in reality, that is not their practice. (Some lawyers practice several different types of law.

Go for one that is strictly matrimonial or a family law attorney who handles divorce.) Interviewing lawyers in advance can ensure they know how to navigate the family law sphere and that they will not over-complicate the divorce process. Having confidence and trust that your attorney knows the law is crucial to a successful divorce process.

We hear a lot of talk and fear about lawyers’ costs, which is natural, too. But a word to the wise, make sure you understand why it’s not in your interest to look for cheap divorce lawyers.

5. Listen to Red Flags

Attorneys work in the field of business. Sometimes some attorneys only want to make a sale and do not have your interests at heart. Other times you’ll be interviewed by a founding partner of the law firm who does the “intake” but you’ll end up working with another lawyer in the firm. Make sure you ask about that. As well, be careful of lawyers who are willing to tell you anything you want to hear to close the deal. A good attorney can realistically walk you through the divorce process and your best and worst-case scenarios. You’ll want to work with an attorney who is respectful, understanding, a good negotiator, and professional in their work. If they are dismissing your questions, talking down to you, or about other divorce attorneys or clients, there is a high chance they will do the same to you later on.

If you are beginning a divorce, you’ll want to check out this complete collection of “55 Must Do’s On Your Modern Divorce Checklist.”

Additionally, think about your attorney’s ability to communicate. Are they constantly on their phone or email during their consultation in a way that makes you feel devalued? Are they unresponsive to your texts, calls, or emails? They may have too many clients, or not enough administrative help to service their clients well. Or worse, they may not value you or your time and won’t be able to give your case the attention it deserves. You also want to read their disposition in your initial meeting. You don’t want someone condescending or lacking compassion to walk you through one of the most challenging times of your life.

SAS TIP: When women ask us how to find a good divorce lawyer, we say everything we are saying here, and as well, we say trust your gut. If it is telling you there is something off with a lawyer you have just met, it’s likely true.

6. Make Your Choice

Finally, after all your diligent research and vetting, it’s time to choose your lawyer. This decision represents who you are and who will support and fight for you in the divorce. This attorney is a professional and an expert in their field. They make you feel like “they’ve got your back.” Knowing that your lawyer is by your side, fighting for your best interest is important. The right lawyer will walk you through the process and prioritize you and your wellbeing. Choosing the right divorce attorney is an important decision. It is likely a choice that will dictate much of your future life. However, with diligent research, goal setting, vetting, and listening to your gut, you will find someone who is better equipped at supporting you than simply grabbing someone off the internet.

NOTES

Elizabeth Newland is a third-year law student in Chicago who is committed to children and family rights. She aims to work in a family-related non-profit firm after graduation. 

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. (more below)

*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.”