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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. 

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.

Understanding the Difference Between Coparenting and Parallel Parenting

Understanding the Difference Between Coparenting and Parallel Parenting

Of all the complexities, strategies, and obligations involved in a divorce, none are as important as those involving children. The ability (or inability) of the parting couple to put their children above their own grievances is critical to the final arrangement. It’s also the essential difference between coparenting and parallel parenting.

Custody arrangements script more than just guardianship and a visitation calendar. They reflect the tone of the divorce and the maturity of the parents. And they lay the foundation for the children’s adaptability and happiness.

It has been almost half a century since joint custody became a custodial option, let alone the norm. 

Anyone who was a child of divorce before this major shift will remember a very different arrangement. The custodial parent, usually the mother, had legal and physical guardianship of the children. And the non-custodial parent had visitation, usually bi-weekly for a weekend.

You can probably imagine the emotional upending for parents and children alike. Anyone who has seen the 1979 Oscar-winning movie Kramer vs. Kramer can attest to the palpable agony of everyone involved.

For the non-custodial parent, being reduced to seeing your child only four days a month, while paying child support, could be emotionally eviscerating.

For the custodial parent, having full responsibility for your child, without the daily help from a spouse, could be overwhelming.

And for the child? Well, the effects of being raised by one parent, perhaps missing the other, and fielding alliance persuasions from both could be harrowing.

Important Terms to Learn

Before exploring the difference between coparenting and parallel parenting, let’s clarify a few terms that you will frequently hear.

Custody refers to the rights and responsibilities between parents for their children. It is divided into legal custody and physical custody. 

  • Legal custody refers to the right and responsibility to make important decisions for the child. Where will he go to school and church? Who will his doctors be? Can he travel out of state? 

One or both parents can have legal custody, contingent upon the amiability and communication between them.

  • Physical custody refers to where the child will live. Again, physical custody can be granted to one (sole) or both (joint) parents. 

It’s possible for parents to share legal custody but not physical custody. In this case, both would be involved in important decision-making. The child, however, would live with the primary custodian and have visitation with the other.

Visitation, while sounding like “physical custody,” refers to the actual arrangement for time spent with each parent. 

Having joint physical custody, for example, doesn’t mean the child has to split time 50/50 between parents. Because of school, friends, and other ties, a child will usually spend more time with one parent. 

You can probably get a sense of how these terms are going to play out in the different parenting arrangements.

The difference between coparenting and parallel parenting isn’t rooted in legal or physical custody. It’s rooted in the ability and commitment of the parents to behave and communicate in a responsible and amicable manner. 

A judge’s decision to establish one or the other will always come down to the best interests of the child(ren). 

To put it bluntly, if the two of you can’t be in the same room without snarling, arguing, or embarrassing your child, don’t plan on coparenting.

You may receive joint legal custody and even joint physical custody. But, if you can’t rise above who you are as exes to be exemplary parents, your child shouldn’t suffer the consequences.

So let’s start on a positive, best-case-scenario note: coparenting. 

The underlying premise of coparenting is that children of divorce benefit from having strong, healthy relationships with both parents. And both parents commit themselves to making that possible for the children.

While co-parenting may sound like the obvious choice, it relies on a special relationship between exes. It requires the kind of respect and healthy communication that you would naturally think could have saved your marriage in the first place.

What Does Coparenting Look Like?

  • You and your coparent are separated, divorced, or otherwise not romantically involved or cohabitating with one another.
  • You are both involved in important decisions involving your child, and you communicate openly and respectfully about them.
  • Communicationg occurs comfortably in various forms—in-person, by phone, by text, and by email.
  • You can be in the same room or at the same events for your child and be cordial. You actually make a point of both being present at important events like birthdays and school productions.
  • Both of you are flexible in matters of childrearing, accommodating things like changes in schedules, vacations, and transportation.
  • You allow your child to have a voice in the visitation arrangements. You understand that younger children don’t do well shuffling between homes. Older children, however, want more say in where they spend their time, and you both allow for that.
  • Your goodwill toward one another doesn’t preclude healthy boundaries. You don’t give false hope that you will be getting back together.
  • You are respectful and cordial toward your ex’s new spouse (if relevant). And you include him/her in communication when necessary for the good of your child.
  • Neither parent ever, ever bad-mouths the other in front of your child. You handle disagreements between adults only. And you share your frustrations (they will definitely happen) with adult friends, a counselor, a coach, or a support group.
  • You have a forum in place for conflict resolution to avoid problems.
  • Both of you want your child to witness his parents working together for his well-being.

The critical difference between coparenting and parallel parenting lies in the ability for and commitment to healthy communication with your ex. Sometimes, for possibly a laundry list of reasons, coparenting simply isn’t an option, and parallel parenting is the only viable solution.

What Does Parallel Parenting Look Like?

  • You and your ex may or may not share physical custody.
  • Your relationship with your ex is contentious, high-conflict, and you still harbor too much anger and negativity to communicate directly in a healthy way, even for your child.
  • You and your ex disengage. This may mean you limit direct contact in matters where you cannot communicate respectfully.
  • You and your ex, while sharing in major decisions, conduct your day-to-day parenting completely separately. Except for emergencies, you don’t check in with one another or impose your individual styles or expectations on one another. 
  • Your communication is “all business.” Nothing personal is exchanged—only necessary information about your child.
  • You avoid personal contact and talking by phone. This may mean you hand off your child without seeing or interacting with one another.
  • You use emails and calendars as your primary means of communication.
  • Neither one of you changes the schedule without a written agreement.
  • You never, ever use your child as a messenger or seek him as an ally against your ex.

The communication difference between coparenting and parallel parenting may make your arrangement seem carved in stone. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

Hopefully, if you begin with a coparenting relationship, you will not only be able to maintain it, but even improve upon it.

If the initial period after your divorce necessitates parallel parenting, however, there is still hope for evolution. 

Releasing Your Anger

Keep in mind that one of the most prohibitive things to coparenting is unresolved, unrelinquished anger. The belief that your life will never be good again can keep you in a state of seething resentment toward your ex.

But, once you start to discover and live the good things about life post-divorce, the anger will begin to fall away. Dedicate yourself to your own growth and accountability, and you will eventually step into a non-blaming ownership of your life. 

With a renewed focus on what can (and should) be, it will become easier to see beyond yourself. And you will become able to shift your focus to the priority and lifelong well-being of your child.

If both you and your ex can bring this kind of self-development to the table, co-parenting can become your new normal.

Notes

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional and often complicated experience of divorce. We invite you to learn what’s possible for you. Schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation with SAS. Whether you are coping with divorce or are already navigating your life afterward, choose to acknowledge your vulnerability and learn from others. Choose not to go it alone.

Divorce Financial Settlement

What is a Divorce Financial Settlement?

A divorce financial settlement is the agreement or order directing how assets and debts are to be divided between the parties in a divorce. As such, it is part of the larger divorce settlement agreement. Most divorce financial settlements will involve dividing the entire estate equally 50/50; however, there are certain times when it is more equitable to have one spouse receive more assets or less debt depending on childcare, current salaries, and other factors. Generally, being informed and having open communication with your soon to be Ex will lessen the tension and hopefully lead to an amicable settlement across the board.

However, reaching an agreement can be complicated, with hundreds of questions about attorneys, consultation, and the tornado of paperwork that separating brings. How do you ensure that your financial settlement benefits you? How do you know that your lawyer is really working in your best interests? With all of these concerns, it’s no wonder why Psychology Today links divorce stress to physical health problems.

As a woman, your primary focus should be ensuring that you achieve the best business transaction for you–that you and your children are set up for healthy living after the split. To that end, here are some answers and general advice about how best to go about a divorce financial settlement.

Should You Settle Before or After the Parenting Agreement?

Ideally, it is best to figure out your budget first, parenting time second, and then settle the financial agreement third. To do this, sit down with a financial advisor and outline your monthly budget to determine what you need to make sure you can live as comfortably as possible. Understand that you will have to compromise. Most likely, you will not have the same standard of living you experienced while married. At the very least, you’ll need to make sure you have enough to cover your bills and essentials.

From there, calculate how much it would cost to clothe, feed, and house each of your children. You will need to factor in how much you will be receiving or paying in child support.

When determining your budget, remember to factor in hidden costs. Ask your financial advisor about inflation and taxes to make sure every expense is accounted for.

Answering these questions first will make it much easier when discussing the parenting agreement or the financial agreement. By having all your answers ready ahead of time, you will be prepared for every question thrown at you. It will also ensure you are not agreeing to things that may cost you more down the road.

How to Make Sure Your Divorce Financial Settlement is in Your Interest

It can be hard to divide finances evenly when there is an obvious bias between you and your Ex. Maybe you’re a Stay-at-Home-Mom or the primary breadwinner in your marriage. Hiring an attorney to negotiate helps ensure you get what is rightfully owed to you, or that you are not overpaying.

You need to be honest about everything financial. Armed with the budget you outlined before, be prepared to express your needs and be open about what you can compromise on. Sharing this with your lawyer will help you and your lawyer to come to the table with all the facts laid out; this is the best way to ensure you have financial security after the separation.

If you are concerned your partner is not telling the truth about their finances (he* wouldn’t be the first!) then a divorce lawyer can help. Leave the investigating to them. You need to focus on yourself and your needs right now.

When offered a document, it’s important to remember this rule of thumb as your creed: you will have to compromise. If it sounds like you are not compromising, then it is too good to be true.

Whom to Consult Before Submitting A Settlement to the Other Side

After consulting with the financial advisor to determine your budget, you need to sit down with a divorce lawyer to figure out your best course of action. Make sure to bring your budget calculations, tax returns, pay stubs, any prenuptial or separation agreements.

If you have any other legal documentation involving your children or Ex, such as a court case, bring that paperwork too. Your lawyer needs all the information they can get.

Once you bring everything to your lawyer, you need to see what exactly your lawyer can do for you. Their job is not to punish your Ex or go for revenge: they are advocating for you. You want a lawyer who is competent and experienced at their job, and you can ensure this by how they answer the following questions:

  • How many divorce cases have you handled?
  • How did you handle those divorce cases?
  • What is your fee structure?
  • What is the best method of communicating in the future?

If your lawyer stumbles, stutters, or does not have an answer to these questions, you may want to consult other legal counsel. (For more savvy questions to ask a divorce attorney, visit here.)

Divorce Financial Settlement Must-Knows

Just like how you have questions you need to ask your lawyer, you also have questions you need to ask yourself.

  • What do you own? See if you are listed as the owner of your car, home, and other assets. Noting what you brought into the marriage could keep your Ex from claiming it.
  • What do they own? If your spouse is eligible for social security benefits, insurance payouts, or a pension plan, you may have a claim to them.
  • What do you both own? You need to factor any jointly owned assets into the final agreement. Dividing 50/50 does not always mean fair.
  • What about taxes? If you have to choose one government agency not to mess with, choose the IRS. Consulting a tax accountant will save you lots of money.

Above all, try to be as objective as possible. This is an emotional time, but money does not cry. Finding a safe space for your emotional outlet (a therapist, a coach) will honor your heart and feelings while your brain must focus on the best business transaction for you. Encouraging your brain to stick to the facts will ensure that you come out the other side prepared for the single life.

Notes

Jeanette Soltys is a Partner and Divorce Attorney at Atlanta Divorce Law Group in Alpharetta, Georgia. A passion for wanting to help children and families seeking their happily ever after led her to pursue her Juris Doctorate from Wake Forest University School of Law. Visit Jeanette Soltys’ website to learn more about her, her law firm, and the services her team offers to families.

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

*At SAS, we support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity, however, we may refer to your spouse as “he” or “husband.”

Tips for Amicable Divorce

Top 6 Tips for an Amicable Divorce

In the minds of many people, divorce and court trials are inseparable like smoke and fire. A few decades ago, this was the case. Fortunately, there are other options nowadays, namely an amicable divorce, where married couples don’t have to wage war against each other in court.

After the adoption of the no-fault divorce law in 1970, the divorce rate skyrocketed. A 2019 University of Virginia research report revealed approximately 3 divorces per 1,000 married women in the 1960s. In the 70s, this figure rose to 4.5, and 5.5 in the 80s.

These results suggest that divorce was increasingly viewed as a viable option for women; they were feeling more empowered, making more money, and feeling like they had more choices.  In the latter scenario, these divorces can likely be uncontested or amicable.

What is an amicable divorce?

An amicable divorce is not about being best friends with your (soon-to-be) Ex and liking each other. You wouldn’t consider divorce in the first place if your relationship was a loving one.

In the context of ending your marriage, “amicable” means “civilized.” It’s about resolving disputes in a nurturing and productive environment.

A peaceful divorce is actually not that hard to get to if both sides are willing to make an effort. You’ve probably heard of Conscious Uncoupling, for example, or divorce mediation, or Pro Se (DIY) divorces. To learn if one of these alternative processes is right for you, consider these six key steps to ensure a smooth and amicable process–and don’t forget to ask yourself: are you and your spouse capable of them?

1. Have an open mind for negotiation

Honesty and openness are the foundation of a successful negotiation. If one of the parties starts hiding valuable information, assets, income, etc., it’s not going to work. Agree from the very beginning to be truthful about all the aspects of your divorce. Otherwise, all your efforts will be pointless.

SAS note to women: It’s one thing to say you both will be honest, it’s another to know that you both will be. If your spouse has a record of deceiving, betraying or hiding things from you, go for a more traditional approach to divorce. Hire a lawyer who is a good negotiator on your behalf.

Naturally, in any divorce, neither of you will get precisely what you desire. Don’t expect your spouse to agree with everything you suggest just because you think it’s reasonable. Sometimes their point of view may differ from yours, and you’ll have to accept that.

During negotiations, the most vital thing is to stay focused on the key points that hold the most significant interest to both of you. How much money would you need to meet your needs after divorce adequately? Could your spouse (or you) afford to pay alimony (spousal support) and child support? You and your partner need to carefully approach all the details together and make a joint decision. That’s the essence of peaceful negotiations, right?

2. Focus on the desirable result.

Can you remember why you got married in the first place? You were in love and full of hope to walk hand in hand through life until death separates you. Unfortunately, not all of us can reach that distant goal.

Nothing has changed since then except that your goals are now different. Have you already determined what you really want from this divorce? If not, it’s high time to start figuring it out. But if you know where you’re heading, don’t let negative emotions lead you astray.

An amicable divorce is all about attitude. Reduce the tension to a minimum, and keep your eyes on your goal.

Take time to ponder over your life post-divorce. Do you see your Ex in it? After an amicable divorce, many couples remain friends and even sometimes spend time with their children as a family unit. You must agree that such a scenario is more pleasant than fighting endlessly over all sorts of things.

Act based on what is paramount to you and ignore everything else. Work through any disputes peacefully and make sure your communication is positive.

3. Treat each other with respect.

An uncontested divorce is only possible with mutual respect and politeness. Both you and your spouse are adults and can behave accordingly. It’s not as challenging as you might expect.

Start with getting into a positive state of mind and remain focused on keeping calm. Also, listen attentively to your spouse and contemplate their suggestions. Don’t let your emotions take over.

Whenever you feel like losing it to anger, take a deep breath and pause before saying or doing anything. Consider the consequences in the long run–will your current action improve the situation in any way? If not, give it up. Neither you nor your spouse will win if you keep insulting each other instead of resolving disputes.

Show civilized behavior. Don’t badmouth your partner in front of your children and relatives. And especially, don’t gossip about them on social media. You’ll only entertain the public and receive even more negative feelings back. Such actions also won’t help you to maintain an amicable divorce.

4. Think about your children’s needs.

Divorce affects everyone in your family, and especially children. They are very sensitive to any changes in mood and attitude between their parents. Remember yourself in childhood and what acute sensations of the surrounding world you had.

Now imagine how terrifying it is for a child to go through a family breakup. You don’t want to aggravate the situation even more by fighting with the other parent, do you? On the contrary, you want to protect your children and make them feel loved by both you and your ex.

Learn to trust yourself to be a good parent. The same goes for your partner. It’s time to loosen your grip and stop controlling everything and everyone around. Every good parent brings up their children with a position of love and a wish to make their lives happy. You will never be able to communicate well with your ex if you do not trust them with raising children.

And since we have touched on the issue of healthy communication, children need to see their parents find common ground and behave in a civilized manner whenever they meet. It can make a huge difference in a child’s emotional health.

5. Get an educational consultation with an attorney: don’t rush to hire one.

You cannot become your own divorce lawyer fast enough, despite what Google makes you believe. If you are thinking about divorce, and especially if you have children, assets, and/or debt, we encourage you to draw up your questions and consult with an attorney to hear what the law says about your circumstances. Do this before you commit to “how” you will divorce, or even, “if” you will divorce.

After you are informed about the law, you can decide if you will pursue DIY divorce, mediation, an online divorce, or a more traditional approach of you hiring an attorney and your spouse doing likewise.

Consulting with an attorney does not mean you are necessarily getting divorced. It also does not mean you are seeking to be adversarial or un-“amicable.” It means you as a woman are getting educated on your rights and what you are entitled to before you act.

It’s good practice to consult with other experts, too. For example, you may want to keep the house but need to learn if it’s really in your best financial interest. Consult with a financial advisor to learn the optimal longterm play for you (and don’t rely on an attorney for this.) You might consult with a parenting expert if you have concerns on what the best custody arrangement will be or how to support your kids through the divorce. Throughout the process, you might recognize that you are feeling overwhelmed and need to get strategic and healthy in your approach to all things “divorce”, in which case your best move is to schedule a free consult with a divorce coach.

The Legal Takeaway

Keep in mind that in divorce, you won’t always get what you want. The ability to find compromises is what makes a divorce amicable. On the bright side, you will be able to control the outcome by at least 50%. If you go to court, you will have to surrender to the will of the judge.

Do you trust absolute strangers to decide your fate, or do you prefer to do it yourself? Get informed, double check information, and choose wisely. It’s you and your children who will have to live with the consequences, not the lawyers and judges.

6. Forgive and forget.

You probably think, “How can I forget all those times when I was wronged during my marriage? And why should I? Now, I want justice.” Well, guess what? Such an attitude will bring you nothing but more suffering.

There are no winners in divorce. And you won’t feel any better if you keep blaming your marriage breakdown on your partner. Be wiser than that. Does a butterfly think about the time it was a caterpillar? No, it spreads its wings and flies. So, instead of focusing on your past and arguing over it, choose to take action to help yourself recover and move forward. 

Learn how to help yourself grieve the losses you experience, choose to live in the present, and plan for the upcoming future.

Is it worth the try?

An amicable divorce is a conscious choice. It can’t be involuntary, and it doesn’t work for everybody. You have to decide for yourself what type of separation you want and stick to it. Just keep in mind that no matter what method you choose, going down the hateful path only brings more negative feelings into your life. There is always a way to go about any situation productively. You can choose less stress and fewer expenses with a more positive experience by opting for an amicable process.

Jamie Kurtz is a divorce attorney and a member of the State Bar of California. She’s a co-founder of a law company helping people with uncontested divorces and a contributing writer for OnlineDivorce.com, a web-based service for divorce papers preparation.

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.