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divorced women share survive holidays

Divorced Women Share 14 Secrets to Surviving the Holidays

The holidays can feel anything but “holy” or “holly-filled” this time of year if you are reverberating from divorce. If you are thinking about divorce, for example, you could be feeling schizophrenic right now, or like a fraud, trying to honor the hallowed rituals at the same time you are feeling fragmented and splintered about your future. If you are dealing with divorce, you are coping with some of the cruel realities of what change genuinely means now for your life (and your children’s). And if you are recovering from divorce, well, let’s face it. It’s a whole new game and you are probably looking at some time alone. All alone.

To help lessen the impact of the season and its expectations, we’ve turned to thoughtful, divorced women who are survivors. We’ve asked them, what suggestions and ideas might they share with you for coping with the holidays? What we’ve learned is that these other women who have come before you — those who have experienced the pain and isolation of living outside the conventional norms — want you to not suffer as deeply. What follows are 14 secrets divorced women want you to know about surviving and indeed, repurposing the holidays.

The reality is, we could all use a little help.

1. Don’t deny reality

“The holidays are a construct! They are celebrated by what seems to be EVERYONE. But don’t beat yourself up if you’re not feeling it because of your divorce or something else. Don’t participate if you’re not into them this year. Give yourself a pass to hang out and do anything you want if you’re alone. Ignore the holidays if you wish. Or go all out if you want. Don’t stop with the tree, hang a holiday light from every inch of your house. Inside and out! The point is, you have a choice and don’t go along with something that’s not comfortable. The holidays will come again. And you may want to lead the Macy’s Day Parade next year.”

June B., Minneapolis, Minnesota

2. Give yourself permission to do it your way—or not at all

“If this is your first (or second or whatever number) solo holiday, my best advice is to be gentle with yourself. Be grateful for what remains and then seek out others. Accept invitations that you historically would have turned down for whatever reason. Try to cultivate a new tradition for yourself and your children that is uniquely your own. Reach out, it gets better…I’m told.”

Susan, Boston, Massachusetts

“If you are in the throes of divorce, instead of trying to figure out how to do the holiday cards like you always have—with you, your spouse, and your children—give yourself permission to skip the holiday cards altogether this year. Or if that’s just not possible (you are too committed to the tradition), create a card that focuses on your children. That’s right—nix you and Mr. X from the photo!”

Molly K., Geneva, New York

3. Make a plan well in advance

“If you don’t have children or they’re not with you this upcoming holiday, make a plan right now on how you will spend that day. Brainstorm ideas. Maybe you are going to connect with long lost friends and have a meal, or go away on a trip or a retreat, or spend the day hiking, or go to a movie marathon. That’s what I did ten years ago, on December 25. That was my first Christmas alone, I mean utterly alone. And somehow sitting in a warm, dark movie theater with strangers — the theater was packed! — and getting caught up in a 4-hour epic drama transported me. It transported me out of my own drama, giving me a sense of warmth and community on a day that could have gone done as one of the worst in my life.”

Liza Caldwell, SAS for Women Cofounder

4. Love yourself this holiday season

“I bought myself a new bed with a good quality mattress and some new bed linens that cater only to my taste. The linens are a very feminine design and are superb to the touch. This new bed gives me good quality sleep and a better mood in the morning as a result. Instead of being upset that I sleep alone, I feel like a queen in a queen-sized bed on my own. This has worked so well that I’ve asked myself what else can I do to love myself. So I’ve changed my diet a little. First, I realized that I get more pleasure cooking for myself than I do eating out. I try to really listen to what I would like to eat and not compromise. I buy ingredients that I didn’t used to buy. They are ones that give me pleasure, like very fresh fish or a mango for breakfast.”

Eva, Moscow, Russia

“At 2:30 am, I admitted it was insomnia and I opened up a free app on my phone called Insight Timer for a guided yoga nidra session. The app offers lots of approaches to stress, insomnia, and more. I don’t know if I was conscious for the whole thing or not but I had an awesome sleep in the time I had left. I plan to listen to it again while awake in the daytime to learn about relaxing while awake and to think about regular breaks from constant focus on how much I have to do in too little time. I would like to reduce the mental energy I spend on problems and share my time with increased experience of what’s good and right.”

Susan W., Bethesda, Maryland


Looking for more suggestions from smart, divorced women? Check out this post on how to cope with divorce like a modern woman.


5. Let your boundaries be known

“By you and others. If you expect to see family, your Ex, or friends (the ones you are still in contact with), share your preferences. Let them know if there are gatherings you will not be attending this year or topics you’d rather not get involved with. If you worry you’ll see your Ex at a gathering, find out for sure and ask for understanding if you are going to beg out of attending this year. This helps manage your friends’ and family’s expectations and may also help ensure their good time lest they be worried about you.”

Alice, San Diego, California

6. Practice your script

“The holidays are a time when you are bumping into well meaning and not so well meaning acquaintances, friends, and family. Practice your lines so you are not taken unawares when people ask you about your divorce—the elephant in the room. I used to get caught off guard and didn’t know when to shut up, always regretting that I said too much when people asked me how was I doing. Now I know it doesn’t help anyone to talk about my feelings indiscriminately. In fact, few people are deserving of knowing what I’m really feeling, especially this time of year. So I keep it neutral. Why ruin their rum punch?

‘Thank you for asking about me. I am doing okay and doing what I must to take care of myself and work on my healing. How’s your puppy?’”

Bernadette, Athens, Georgia

7. Be careful with the rum punch

“Holiday parties and alcohol could be the perfect opportunity to forget your misery. But not really. As tempting as it is to numb your feeling with the spiked eggnog or oddly available drug, remember your emotions are just under your skin and you are still healing, if not hurting. It won’t take much for your emotions to be triggered and for your wounds or anger or hollowness to come bubbling out. Spare yourself and others any unpleasant outbursts or regrettable performances, and save the over indulging for a getaway with your best friends. Ask a friend to accompany you to a party and to take you home if you start acting a little vulnerable. Protect yourself.”

Janet, Boca Raton, Florida

8. Volunteer

“If you don’t have children or you don’t have your children for the holiday, maybe you’re feeling lonely? A good way to get out there and enjoy the holidays is to volunteer. Do it early because places book up! You may also meet some really great people.”

Alina, New York City, New York

“Perhaps volunteer time at a food shelter or church to pass out holiday meals or anything else they need your services for. I have found it to be very humbling and rewarding, and it helps to put the holidays in true perspective. One time I did this with a girlfriend, and after the event, we came home for a glass of wine—okay, bottles, wink, wink. We had goodies prepared for ourselves and had a lovely time reflecting on how blessed we really are.”

Lori, California

9. Focus on your children

“If you have children, you can’t simply write off the holidays. That would be tough on them. But be mindful that you may not have the capacity or resources to do everything you’ve done in the past. Nor should you try to compensate for the divorce by spoiling them with presents. Instead, give your children genuine time with you! Pick the most important rituals you want to focus on—cookie making or holiday decorating or caroling or visiting family and friends. Don’t try to do everything. By striving to stay present with your children, you may find you’ll experience the magic through their eyes, and you will savor some of the joy that is there for you too.”

Pam, Galveston, Texas

10. Get rid of old traditions

“I always hated how we had to get dressed up in fancy party dress every year to attend my in-laws New Year’s dinner. My children were too young to really participate and behave well. And there was always so much pressure and so many eyes on me it seemed, as their mother, to make sure the kids kept it together. Well, guess what? That’s on my Ex now. This year, for Thanksgiving, I am inviting my family, friends, and children to join me in wearing their ugliest Thanksgiving Sweaters, and we’re going to watch football. I am going to show my kids there are many ways of being together. The important thing is being together.”

Kendall, Cleveland, Ohio

11. Create new rituals

“I make an event of watching films that I always liked for the holidays and any day for that matter. These films are ones I couldn’t indulge in before as my husband didn’t like them. In my case, these are French comedies or Woody Allen films. And these are just for me!”

Eva, Moscow, Russia

“The holidays can become redundant, boring, and stiff. I think they are supposed to serve as a comfort, a ritual for celebrating, but I know the holidays can draw attention to what is missing or who is missing. To me that’s one of the biggest reasons for trying to do things differently. To be really conscious of what we love most about the holidays. I try to involve those aspects into plans. For me, as a single person, it’s all about who I will be with. I call those people up a month before a certain holiday, and I say, ‘What are we going to do to remind ourselves we are alive?” I’d rather eat Stouffer’s frozen lasagna from a microwave then spend a holiday faking it anymore.”

Maria, Portland, Oregon

“… For me, as a single person, it’s all about who I will be with. I call those people up a month before a certain holiday, and I say, ‘What are we going to do to remind ourselves we are alive?” I’d rather eat Stouffer’s frozen lasagna from a microwave then spend a holiday faking it anymore.”

Maria, Portland, Oregon

“Organize a ‘SisStar-Giving’ amongst other ladies who may be recently divorced or may not have children, friends, or family locally. To remove the stress of over-planning and being overwhelmed with meal preparation, you can provide one main dish (you can’t go wrong with wings) and ask each guest to bring the dish that people always ask them to make. To guide the menu, you can suggest some categories like appetizers or desserts. There’s bound to be a ‘mixologist’ in the crew. That one may opt to bring wine or other beverages. You could theme it as Jeans & Tee regarding dress code to make it as casual as possible, and look up party games to play. Crank up a mobile device with some good tunes, and you have a night to remember. Keep it simple by not going over the top, but one must have a ‘Thankful Circle’ in which everyone shares at least one thing SHE IS absolutely thankful for.”

Queen V, South Carolina

12. Be present and open

“I always hear advice for divorced women with kids. Sometimes it’s a little lonely and scary for someone who is in their mid/late 30s with no children. We may have expected to have children by this point in our lives and we don’t. To women like me, I say, ‘Give yourself permission to smile and enjoy the people who love you in your life. You are worth it.’”

Alina, New York City, New York

“I was getting concerned about my birthday on Dec 30th. This will be my first birthday after being separated. I was wavering between ‘doing something unusual’ or ‘sulking and doing nothing.’ By accident or by will of the Universe, ladies from work suggested we all go to the ballet on Dec 30th and have a dinner afterwards. I feel so happy and am so much looking forward to my birthday now.”

Eva, Moscow, Russia

13. Have a Plan B and a Plan C

“One of my biggest coping mechanisms, now that I am my own team, is to always have a plan, but if that plan doesn’t work, to be able to resort to a Plan B or a Plan C. Life is always shifting. I know I can dream about my ideal scenario and do everything to make it happen, but if something goes wrong, it’s a great comfort to have a Plan B and C so I am not left out in the cold.

For example, a friend of mine who can be a little whifty said I could bring my kids over to her house on Christmas afternoon, that her brother was coming over to give the kids a pony ride. I thought this sounded amazing and so different from what my kids have done in the past, but I worry. I’m not in control of the event so it might fizzle out and not happen. I’m not going to mention it to my kids until the day of and make it a surprise if it comes about, and if not, I’ve already looked online and found that there will be caroling in the town square at 5pm. We’ll go there. And if not, then we’ll go ice skating (Plan C) at the civic center which I’ve already confirmed is open on Christmas Day.”

Mary Beth, Addison, Wisconsin

“Plan ahead for the time when your children will not be with you. Having a fun plan for myself, such as time with friends, helped me feel loved during the holidays in a new way and helped with the intense feelings of missing my children.”

Laura, Middlebury, Vermont

14. As with everything, we promise it will get easier

“Getting divorced has been MAJOR! It’s meant losing friends who I thought were my besties. Losing possessions. Losing a way of being—not just losing my Ex. There are so many new and good things that have happened as a result of this ‘loss vacuum,’ but I’ve also learned something about me. I’ve been adapting. I’ve been learning and adapting and that makes this major change easier bit by bit.”

Jenny, Kansas City, Missouri

“The first time you do something new, like experience a holiday as a single person, it can summon up all the grief you’ve ever felt about the changes you’ve lived through. It’s okay to feel sorry for yourself. Be kind to yourself, too, though and remember, it will get easier. Your past is there, yes, but so is your future, a future for you to shape. Consciously. And that includes holidays you can and will experience the way you choose. You are not on autopilot anymore. And there’s something about that that is THRILLING!”

Mel, Garden City, New York

Thank you to all the divorced women in our community who cared enough about other women to share their ideas and secrets for surviving and repurposing the holidays.

If you needed this, know that every single one of the women above have experienced the gamut of feelings you’re going through, even if the geographic location or specifics of each of their stories are uniquely her own. And know as well that these women offering counsel are still here, they are still surviving and, yes, sometimes, more than they ever thought possible, they are thriving. We hope you find comfort in this, too. For this holiday season, and all days in your new chapter, find your old and new people who understand you. But above all, follow your own path as you continue onward in your divorce recovery. And as always, always, be kind to yourself. With all you’ve been through, you deserve it.

 

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

“Divorce can be on your terms.” ~ SAS for Women.

Changing name after divorce

Changing Your Name After Divorce

Changing your name after divorce can feel freeing—or it can feel like pouring salt on an open wound. And it’s possible, certainly, that it might even feel like both. Where you stand depends on the circumstances of your divorce and your particular mindset.

In either case, it’s the attachment to our spouse and the way that a name change seems to cut right through it in a way that’s more tangible (and sometimes more visible to the outside world) than simply saying “I’m done” that makes it feel so weighted with importance.

But there’s the mental leaps and bounds we must go through while ending a marriage, and then there’s the legal realities, like figuring out custody or changing your name after divorce. We know that it’s all just paper and words and so much ado about nothing, maybe, but it’s still our lives. Paper and words can mean everything.

Even if you’re not a sentimental person—even if you and your spouse got creative and chose to combine and hyphenate your last names—you chose your married name in the same way that you chose your spouse. Going back to your birth name may feel, in a way, like breaking a promise to yourself. It could feel like failing, an emotion divorce brings out in us over and over again, even when we know we’re the only ones keeping score.

So why do some women choose to keep their Ex’s last name while others go back to their birth names? And how does one go about changing her name anyway? Read on below to learn more.

How to go about changing your name after divorce

Divorce laws vary depending on where you live, but most states allow a spouse to change their name during a divorce by requesting the judge enter a formal order to change your last name back to your birth name. If your divorce is already final, you may be able to request an amended divorce decree. The more common way is to wait until the legal process is over. Once you have your divorce decree, you can use a notarized copy of this document to change your name everywhere else. For legal changes, you’ll often need to submit a notarized version of the document to …the social security office, the DMV, your bank and credit card companies, and the entities holding your retirement accounts, etc.)

There are, however, some states that don’t require any paperwork at all, allowing you to go back to your birth name right away as long as you are using it consistently, and others that treat changing your name after divorce the same as any other name change petition, so be sure to speak to your lawyer about which option is best for and which laws apply to you.

Whatever you do, get educated and do your research. There are plenty of women who still use their Ex’s last name not by choice but because their lawyer simply never informed them of their options. Getting an amendment to your divorce decree or changing your name via petition in the future could come with additional financial costs.

How women feel

Women keep their Ex’s last name for many reasons, some that are emotional, others that are practical, and some that fall in-between. It’s easier, for one. (There’s far less paperwork to fill out if you just sit back and do nothing, especially if your divorce is already final.) If you use your name professionally, then it’s less confusing and more consistent. If you have children, it might make transitioning to life after divorce a little smoother for them. You may not be living with their father anymore, but you’re still a family with a shared name.

Let’s just add, that even if you change your last name, in regard to your children, you are still a family but your family has shifted in look — like so many modern families.

Some women genuinely like their married name better than their old one, so they keep it. Maybe it’s just easier to pronounce than their birth name or they didn’t have the best relationship with their father. And for other women, it comes down to a sense of who they want to be.  Going back to a maiden name may feel like returning home, to one’s most authentic self.

If you change your name, people who may have only guessed or heard rumors about your personal life before will now know without a doubt that you are divorced. For you, that might be a good thing. You might be ready for your newly-single life, for a sense of independence you’ve been craving. Or, it might feel like yet another chink in your armor.

How experts feel

But there’s something to be said for taking back what’s yours, no matter the circumstances. Some experts say that going back to your birth name can be a way of “restoring your prior identity.” The exception, of course, would be if you’re one of those women mentioned above who uses her name professionally. Otherwise, using your birth name could be one way to start feeling whole again as you continue on your divorce recovery journey.

So many of us lose ourselves to relationships, wrapping our identity up with another’s so closely that we can’t remember what we actually want or need or even like by the end of it all. Because changing your name after divorce is yet another thing that affects our identities, it can feel even more final than the actual end of our marriage.

And keeping your Ex’s name? Well, there’s nothing wrong with that either, but it can give the impression to both your children and potential romantic partners that there’s a deeper connection between you and your Ex than there actually is. For your children, this connection is likely comforting, but for a potential love interest, it may be threatening or, at the very least, uncomfortable.

What really matters

Marriage felt like the tying together of your identity to your husband’s, and now you’re slowly undoing all that work. It’s terrifying and exciting, but so are most of the best things in life.

At the end of the day, it’s really about how you feel. It is, after all, your name, and you have to live with it. Do you have children? Do they have strong feelings about you changing your name after divorce? For that matter, how does your Ex feel about it? How does your married name feel on your tongue? What’s your relationship with it? Was it a name you chose? Was it forced on you by your spouse or your family’s expectations?

There are so many factors to consider when changing your name after divorce, but don’t forget that what you want and need should be front and center in your mind.

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

SAS offers women 6, FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you and your future. Join our tribe now.

Dealing with joint custody

Joint Custody: What Is It, and How Does It Work?

I spoke with divorce attorney Kathy Wagner about joint custody recently. She shared some critical insights from her 30-plus years of experience practicing family law in Somerset County, New Jersey. While there will be similarities in family law state-to-state, there are also important differences, so be sure to Google custody law in your state before taking action on any of this.

The difference between physical and legal custody

In New Jersey, the person who has physical custody has actual possession of the child, meaning the child lives primarily with that person. Having legal custody means having the right to make decisions for the child in the areas of health, education, and general welfare.

When the parents are married, both of these powers are vested in both parents. This means the child lives with both parents, and both parents can and do make legal decisions for the child.

After the parents live separately, the physical and legal custody arrangements must be settled with a custody decision either amongst themselves, memorialized by the court in the final judgment of divorce, or by a family law judge if the parents cannot agree.


Remind yourself of what your children deserve. Read How to Help Your Child Cope with Divorce.


The best interests of the child dictate the custody arrangement

In New Jersey, family law judges determine what custody arrangement is in the “best interests of the child.” The judge begins by presuming that children benefit from maintaining “frequent and continuing contact with both parents” and from having both parents “share the rights and responsibilities of child-rearing.” N.J.S.A. 9:2-4. Then the judge weighs the following factors, among others, in determining what custody arrangement is in the best interest of the child:

  • The parents’ ability to agree, communicate, and cooperate regarding the child
  • The parents’ willingness to accept custody and any history of unjustified withholding
  • The interaction and relationship of the child with the parents and other siblings
  • History of domestic violence
  • Safety of the child and/or either parent from physical abuse by other parent
  • Preference of the child of sufficient age and capacity
  • Needs of the child
  • Stability of home environment
  • Quality and continuity of child’s education
  • Fitness of parents
  • Geographical proximity of parents’ homes
  • Extent and quality of time spent with child both before and after separation
  • Parents’ employment responsibilities
  • Age and number of children

Contrary to popular belief, a judge will never exclusively use one factor—like a parent’s income level—as the sole deciding factor in who gets custody of a child.

There are three types of custody in New Jersey

In New Jersey, custody can be summarized by these three possible arrangements: Joint, Split, and Sole custody. Sole and Joint custody is defined specifically by New Jersey law.

Joint custody

This is what married parents have by default. Both people can make decisions about the child’s welfare, and the child lives in the same home as both parents. After a divorce, parents can often retain joint legal custody, even if the child lives mostly with one parent or the other.

According to state law, any joint custody arrangements must include specific instructions for consultation between parents on important decisions and residency of the minor child.

Split custody

If parents have more than one child, the court could split the children between the two parents. This is rarely done—in most cases the courts won’t split siblings apart so long as there is another option. In exceptional cases, such as there being a child from a previous marriage or a large age gap between siblings, the court might be more willing to split custody between parents.

Sole custody

Sadly, some people just aren’t fit to be parents. It could be due to alcoholism, criminal behavior, or abuse, but in any case, the case courts will not leave a child in the care of a parent who seems abusive or negligent. In these cases, one parent takes legal and physical custody of the child, while the other parent loses those rights.

Unless the other parent is found to be abusive or negligent, the parent with sole custody must still make arrangements for the child to have time with the other parent. The statues provide no guidance for what constitutes “appropriate parenting time,” and this is a frequent cause of custody battles.


Learn about the relevance of drug use in divorce in Coparenting Through Divorce: Drug Use, Drug Testing & Family Court.


How does joint custody work?

Again, parents can share joint physical custody, joint legal custody, or both. If parents share both, then it is common for their child to live with one parent during the school week and with the other the remainder of the time. The parents consult with one another regarding major decisions and collaborate to parent their child as best they can despite the divorce.

Joint custody obviously requires a great deal of civil and constructive communication between parents, and not every divorced couple is capable of this.

Can we make the joint custody arrangement without a lawyer?

It’s highly recommended that you speak to an attorney and file a motion with the court if you want to change the child custody arrangement set by the court. Of course, you have the right to represent yourself pro se if you wish, but be forewarned: the courts won’t make special accommodations for you as a layperson, and you will be expected to follow the same procedures as a lawyer.

If you and your Ex try to change the custody arrangement without going to court, this can be problematic in that if either of you decide not to follow your new arrangement, the new arrangement cannot be enforced by the court. In fact, it is the person insisting on the new arrangement that will be found in the wrong by the family law judge, who knows only about the original arrangement.

Find the best lawyer for your joint custody case

Family law is a highly specialized area of practice, and laws vary state-to-state. In New Jersey, custody disputes are settled in separate courts from other legal matters by dedicated family court judges. Even if you and your Ex seem to agree on most things and believe that you can make joint custody work, you need to find an experienced family law attorney in your area who can help you craft an arrangement that works for your family and get that arrangement approved by the court.

Veronica Baxter is a blogger and legal assistant to Katherine K. Wagner, Esq. Katherine practices divorce and family law in Somerset County, NJ.

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

SAS offers women 6, FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future.

“A successful divorce requires smart steps, taken one at a time.”

~ SAS for Women 

Divorced women on a boat

11 Truths Divorced Women Want You to Know

If you are thinking about or dealing with divorce, it’s human nature to want to hear things from other women who have survived it. We want to compare our experiences of hell, and we want to know how they did it, ultimately, how they, women like us, championed through it. Hearing their story creates a bond that pulls us in and lessens the magnitude of our own story and the depth of feeling so very alone.

As women who work with women dealing with divorce, we know this to be especially TRUE, and so whenever possible, we like to share some of the insightful gems we hear when women open up and talk about their experiences. There’s nothing like a smart woman for calling the issues out.

Here are eleven truths divorced women want you to know about and to be on the lookout for.

You can’t Google-solve your divorce

“When my marriage was breaking up and I was trying to survive,” says Kelly, an accomplished professional in her forties, “I tried to figure out everything using Google. But it became a rabbit hole! What helped me more was accepting that everything was in flux and not so easily solve-able. That divorce wasn’t just a document, or a financial readjustment, or things I could learn on the internet. It was a life shocker involving me to get really clear on who I wanted to be now that everything in my life had been chucked. Once I got that it helped me realize the journey, what divorce recovery is. I realized I would not be put together for a long time.”

It’s normal to be afraid

“Once I accepted it was normal to be afraid,” laughs Jessie, “it was freeing. Like it allowed me to relax a little. Being afraid doesn’t mean you can’t do it.”

Lonely is not the same as alone

“All my life—even probably causing me to marry,” admits Susan, a woman in her sixties, “I was afraid to be alone. And later it was definitely one of the things that kept me in a dysfunctional place—just being scared to be by myself. I was afraid I could not survive. But now I wake up by myself. I am alone, I realize being lonely is very different than being alone. Lonely means missing, feeling incomplete, wanting or feeling a lack of someone or something. Alone! Alone, I like being alone now and doing things I want to do. I don’t find myself or my life lacking.”

It’ll be normal for your kids to hate and judge you

“One of the hardest things for me was hearing my kids say what they said,” says Karen, a mother of three teens. “They really knew how to hurt me. Despite my efforts to do things healthily, I was human and at times I failed. And it’s clear I failed BIG TIME sometimes! But what I tell my friends now who are facing divorce is that your children will not always understand what’s going on—and neither will you all the time. But your kids don’t have the life span on this earth to understand. Until they do, they need your sympathy and support, not their shoulder to cry on.”

There’s a big difference between signing an agreement and healing your heart

“To help you stay organized,’ says Penny, a woman married for more than twenty-two years, “It can help if you think of the emotional journey through divorce like a roller coaster. And then outside the game park, your legal process. There’s a really big difference between the two, and it’s important to keep them separate. This means doing something for your emotions when you are triggered or upset or falling down. You got to find a safe place to go. Like my therapist was my godsend. And separately, you’ve got to look at the business transaction of the divorce and use a completely different part of your brain when you are making smart decisions there. Don’t lead with your emotions in the business transaction!”

Let go of “right” or “wrong”

“Stop trying to view your choices as right or wrong,” counsels Marcie. “The best decision making in divorce, is often not a question of what is right or wrong but what makes the most sense, what seems like the healthiest approach. Once you realize this, you become much more comfortable with the gray in life and a better problem-solver!”

There are great people waiting for you

An exciting, whole, new community of people are waiting for you. They understand what you’ve been through (they’ve got quite a few good stories of their own), but they don’t want you to stay wallowing there. They want you to step into your new chapter like them, and to keep learning, to keep living. Let’s start creating that life right now.

Stop listening to people who don’t know

There’s nothing wrong with you if you don’t want to date after divorce. Don’t listen to your well-meaning friends, family, or annoying neighbors who urge you to “get back out there” if it doesn’t appeal to you now or ever. You’ve got a million other things to think about, feel and enjoy.

Your best days are coming

“I am convinced the biggest most expansive moments, happen post-divorce,” says Jennifer who has moved to a new country. “I had no idea how finding out about me on a soulful level would automatically translate into my finding more and more situations that inspire me. I am not sure if it’s because one is more grateful or aware, but listening to who we are, becomes self-fulfilling!”

You will learn much more

You know how you feel tired these days? How you feel like an old dog who could not stand to learn anymore tricks? “Well, I’ve got news for you,” says Deshum. “As tired and baked as you might feel now, you can and you will still learn new things! It’s called adaption, and Charles Darwin knew it’s important for you to learn, change and adapt so you can stick around. So get excited because you’re going to learn to Tango!”

Love is there

“Some of us are hurt. We’re wounded,” shared Maria quietly. “We don’t know what to think of love, or if we will ever want a part of love again. I know I never thought I’d be in a relationship again. I just wasn’t interested. After my divorce, I was building my business, and working so hard. I honestly wasn’t interested even in dating…But then, love suddenly happened. Out of the blue! As if to remind me that love existed before my marriage, and during my marriage. And yes, it exists still…after divorce. Watch out, because love can find us.”

Change the course of your life — AFTER DIVORCE!

Paloma’s Group™: Learning the Art of Reinvention.

For newly independent women, post-divorce. Over the course of (only) 3 months, each live-coaching, online class ​builds on a core theme required to ​design a life you deserve. Schedule a free 45-minute coaching session to explore (and experience) how this remarkable group of post-divorce women will plan and act on creating a life they love.

We promise — whether you join us for Paloma or not  — you’ll walk away from your complimentary coaching-session discovering a next step in your unique After Divorce journey. 

“We choose not to do it alone.” ~ SAS for Women

 

*At SAS for Women, we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

family learning how to coparent

20 Spot On Steps for How to Coparent Pre- and Post-Divorce

Whether you are divorced, thinking about getting divorced, or somewhere in-between, it’s hard to maintain a strong coparenting relationship with an Ex. It’s important to remember, no matter how old you or your children are, it’s likely their father* will always be a part of your life (though one can hope that role gets smaller over time). Learning how to get coparenting right is crucial.

While it may not always be clear what “good coparenting” looks like, we know that bad coparenting often leaves you feeling exhausted. Many divorced parents feel like they are doing everything on their own. And that’s another kind of soul crushing—you’ve already lost your partner in love, but you hoped that your partner in parenting would always be by your side.

If you have gone through an especially bitter divorce, one where heated words were exchanged or an affair was involved, keeping coparenting in mind at all can be especially difficult. But your role as a parent doesn’t end at your Ex’s front door. If you simply don’t want to know what goes on in your Ex’s home besides that your children’s basic needs are met, you’re cutting off a part of your children’s lives that is important to them—the part of their life that involves their father. Yes, your relationship with him has changed, but their relationship with him hasn’t. Or, at least, it shouldn’t have to.

There is a big difference between parenting on your own and coparenting with your Ex to make decisions about your children together—decisions that will help them grow into happy and healthy adults who have a strong bond with both parents.

Because we understand that divorce is never black and white, that it has a way of bringing out the worst in us, we have some tips on how to coparent pre- and post- divorce that will support you during your journey.

Coparenting pre-divorce

1. No matter what the terms of your divorce are or how you feel about your Ex, it’s important to maintain your composure and lead discussions about your divorce with dignity and integrity. Keep your children in mind always.

2. When you tell your kids about your divorce for the first time, try to make sure your husband is there with you and that you both agree on the boundaries of what can and cannot be said. You want your children to be informed of how the divorce will affect them and your family as a whole, but you don’t need to give personal details that can damage their view of their other parent. Hearing the news from both parents reinforces that neither of you is abandoning your children. For support on how to break the news or keep speaking to your children about this tough subject, check out books for smart suggestions.

3. If the above is not possible because your husband cannot control himself, then you might have to come up with a script to start a dialogue with your children about your reasons for divorce without your husband. We’ve had clients in the past tell us how poorly this first divorce talk went—husbands who make the talk all about their own feelings, their pain, and who leave little room for the kids to talk.

You know your family and you know why you are divorcing your soon-to-be Ex. Trust your instincts, measure your unique situation, and figure out what needs to be done.

4. Try to have regular check-ins with your kids and see how they are doing throughout your divorce journey. Let them know that you are open to hearing whatever their thoughts and feelings are, without resentment or judgement And that you will try to explain as best you can without putting the burden of personal information (like an affair or a list of their father’s flaws) on them.

5. Remind your children that they are loved by both you and their father throughout the divorce process and continue to do so after—when settling down into your new life. This might seem cliché, but depending on the age of your children and the state of your marriage prior to your divorce, this whole experience may be quite surprising for them and shake the foundation of love and support they thought they had.

Remind your children that your divorce has nothing to do with your love for them nor your Ex’s love for them. This can help your children get over their initial shock.


If figuring out how to break it to your children is just the tip of the iceberg as you consider or begin divorce, learn about Annie’s Group and how you can get the support you need for your next smartest and healthiest steps.


6. Make sure your kids have a strong support network during the divorce—outside of you and your Ex. Have the kids visit with family members. Make sure they feel comfortable talking to their friends and knowing they can have a life independent of your divorce and your needs. You want your kids to have safe spaces and safe people they can turn to during this stressful time in their life.

7. Keep in mind that, whether you initiated your divorce or not, you still have more power and more control over the situation than your children do, which makes things easier for you to process than your children. Even if you don’t really fully understand the reasons for your divorce, you have a better sense of what happened because you lived it.

Sometimes your kids will resent you—sometimes it may even feel like they hate you. But that’s okay. It has to be. Just like you, your children are in pain and stressed, but they may lack the maturity to get through this period of their lives without lashing out or shutting down. It’s your job to suck it up and take one for the team. It’s your job to support your kids, to reinforce that they are loved, and to remind them that you are still a family.

Coparenting post-divorce

8. You might be excited—elated, even, to leave your old life behind—to move on or still grieving, but your kids are likely to be stressed, shocked, or even resist a possible relocation. Not only do your kids have to get used to two different households, they have to get used to two entirely new places filled with new people and, possibly, new rules. This, combined with the stress of the divorce, is a lot for children to handle.

Be sure to let your children know that you understand why a new move is difficult for them and try to reassure them that they can still participate in the same activities and keep in touch with their old friends as well as make new ones. Encourage your kids to share their anxieties and concerns about the move, and reassure them that you and their father will be there to support them through it.

9. While you want your kids to be open and feel comfortable telling you what happens at their father’s house, don’t force your kids to be messengers or to spy on your Ex. Some kids will want to tell you everything, and some don’t.

After your kids visit with their father, make basic conversation starters like “did you have a good time?” If your kids want to talk, they’ll talk. If they don’t want to talk, don’t push them. Sometimes kids want to be left alone. If you have a strong coparenting relationship, hopefully your Ex will let you know if there’s anything noteworthy going on when he has the kids.

10. Sometimes, however, kids do have behavioral issues after returning from their other parent’s house, because or despite of the coparenting relationship you have with your Ex. Children take time to adjust between two different households. Kids can compartmentalize their world but only so much, and sometimes the stress of moving between households causes a temporary state of aggravation that will pass as they readjust to being home with you.

One of our clients shared that “the first 24-48 hours were the roughest…it was like they were carrying the aggression from their other household into mine. It took more time than I would have liked, but the children did eventually calm down and readjust to the atmosphere in our home. I came to expect this buffer period as normal.”

11. To be a rock for your kids pre-, post-, or mid-divorce know that you will need someone on your side to help support you as well. This help can come from a close friend group, your family members, or a divorce coach who has helped women like you navigate this challenge. While your friends and family might want to help you through the divorce process, they might not have the experience nor expertise to guide you along the right path.The more confused you are throughout your divorce, the more confused your children will be.

12. Seek outside support for your kids. You can ask their school or public librarians for books specifically to help children through a divorce, or you can ask their guidance counselor at school if there are any activities or special groups to help children with divorced parents. You can also talk to the school or even an outside psychologist to work with your kids or to work with you on a recovery strategy for your kids.

13. Make sure to look for books on divorce that are age-appropriate for your kids, with or without the help of a librarian. It’s important to sit down with your kids, read these books, and be there to help them process their feelings and to clarify anything they might want to ask. Divorce books can’t heal your kids on their own—most of these books work best when you are there to help guide the healing process along.

14. As tempting as it may be—as much as you may want to call your Ex out on ditching the kids for yet another weekend visit, or curse him under your breath for some new low he’s stooped to on social media—do not disparage your children’s other parent. Even, and this is a really hard even, if he has disparaged you in front of your kids. Teach your children it’s inappropriate to talk about other people in that way, and that you’ll talk to their other parent about the matter. Do not sink to his level.

15. Try to actually use the word coparenting, as awkward as that might feel at first. Going from a parent to a coparent is a major step in recognizing your divorce from the person you thought was your lifetime partner. Using the word coparenting signals that you are looking to work with your Ex to make sure your kids have the love and support they need from both households.

Sometimes your Ex will have needs that push up against yours, but that’s what compromise is for. For instance, say your Ex’s friend gave him tickets and a timeshare so that he and the kids can go to Disneyworld for the first time ever, only that family vacation would fall on your birthday. This might hurt you, but in the long run, it’s likely it wasn’t an intentional slight. The experience would help your children bond with your Ex post-divorce, and, quite frankly, give you a break from parenting and time to yourself.

What is right for your kids might sometimes come at the expense of your own feelings, but that territory comes with the job of coparenting after divorce.

16. Speaking of weekends, a great way to coparent is to communicate through a neutral platform that also shares a calendar with your Ex, one that not only notes who has the kids at what time but also special school events, activities, doctor’s appointments, and so on. If you have a specific schedule your kids follow that you find helpful, include that to show your Ex what you do when you’re with the kids that seems to work really well. You never know—your Ex might surprise you and adopt your schedule as a model for their own.

17. You cannot control your Ex’s behavior, even when it comes to your kids. You can talk to your Ex about it, shout about it, text about it, send long emails about it, and so on, but unless a court has deemed his behavior dangerous or declared your Ex an unfit parent, his actions are out of your hands. What you can do is talk to your children about how their other parent’s behavior is affecting them and see if there’s anything you can do to help.

18. If your coparenting relationship is difficult or is going through a rough patch, repeat this as your morning mantra: “I cannot do anything about what happened, but I can have a major impact on now, tomorrow, this month, and next year.” Research into parenting and divorce shows that how you react to things that effect your children (such as your Ex missing visitation) can help your kids process what is happening and teach them either healthy or unhealthy coping mechanisms. If your reaction in the moment, even to bad or shocking news, is calm, cool, logical, compassionate, and collected, your kids will learn the same behaviors from you.

19. Once you and your Ex are living in separate households, make sure you have a trusted family member, friend, or a neighbor close by who has a spare set of keys to your house and can check in on your kids from time to time if you get held up at work, stuck in traffic, or delayed on a trip. This helps reinforce that the kids have multiple people in their lives who love and support them and gives you someone to fall back on.

20. Be flexible with holidays and special occasions. While it’s good to keep up past traditions, it’s also not a bad thing to put your own spin on a holiday after divorce and to make the experience unique for you and your kids in this new stage of their life. You and your Ex will create new traditions with your kids. Sometimes these changes can come out of necessity—you might have less time and money to spend—but that doesn’t mean you can’t create something during the holidays that makes your kids feel loved and valued.

Above all, know that it’s okay to make mistakes

You are not Super Mom, and you shouldn’t expect yourself to be a perfect parent all of the time. Don’t hold it against yourself. One of our clients shared that, soon after her divorce, she ordered special monogramed bags for her kids that they could bring with them from house to house. She thought it’d be a nice gesture, but her kids looked at the monogram and just saw a reminder of their broken family. Even our best intentions can backfire. Forgive yourself, talk to your children, and find a way to move forward together.

Know that, no matter how your coparenting relationship turns out, your kids with your support will one day grow up into the happy and healthy adults you knew they could be. That those adults will see the efforts you’ve put forth throughout their life. Most of the time, insight takes age. Even if you’re parenting a teen through a divorce and they seem mature, a teen is not an adult and may not yet recognize the pitfalls and traps of navigating a coparenting relationship—or what you as their mother have really survived and triumphed through. Stay committed to them and you Mama Bear. Stay strong.

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce and divorce recovery. Experience SAS firsthand. Schedule your free, 45-minute consultation to hear perspective, next steps and the best resources that will honor your life and who you are meant to be.

*At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

Woman contemplating getting divorce

10 Critical Things I Wish I’d Known Before Getting Divorced

When you go through a catastrophe like a life-crisis alone, the ground shakes. You lose your bearings as the tectonic plates of your routine and What’s Always Been crack and shift. As you struggle to gain footing, you realize you don’t know what else is coming, what else you’ll be faced with.

You simply don’t know what else you don’t know.

Getting divorced is like that, one full-blown life crisis where your “normal” breaks and collides with splintering parts—not only with what’s happening outside you with your partner, family, friends and work—but inside too, with your mind, body, and heart in spiraling conflict. Sometimes it seems like stress alone is the only rope keeping these disparate pieces together—stress is the one constant as you try with all your might to get through and beyond.

But once things begin to settle and you start to emerge from the heat and protracted legal process, and you arrive on the other side, starting to live on your own, you often find yourself looking back, instead of forward. For time gives you a chance to search for reasons now, lessons that explain how you got here, and what’s more, what’s good about this new place, if anything.

Sometimes you’ll wish, “Ah, if only I’d known this before while going through my divorce.”

Hard-won lessons, below are a few that resonate with me, a divorced woman and divorce coach. Between my personal story and professional experiences hearing from other women, I’ve learned of many such epiphanies, Eureka moments that only reveal themselves farther down the divorce road. So, for those of you struggling — thinking about or navigating divorce — I share a few as a way of giving you perspective on what else you don’t know and can’t know based on your today.

Here are 10 essential lessons WE divorced women want you to know … not after the fact … but right now!

1. Eventually “New Rules” will rule

When you live one way for a long period of time—as in a marriage—you forget there are other ways of living. It’s a feeling not unlike traveling to a new country or immersing yourself in a foreign culture—you don’t realize how trapped you’ve become by familiar patterns and behaviors, things you can do and things you cannot, until you’ve stepped off the plane. As I stepped out of a former life, I discovered I’d be letting go of an entire worldview that, consciously or not, had been dictated by my Ex. That worldview (even my rebellion to or acceptance of it) had dominated my life. Until it didn’t.

After getting divorced, I could begin again. I could create and make something else, a world ruled by my values. A place of peace, laughter, and the occasional shrimp cocktail (my Ex was allergic to shell fish). A place where I wanted to live. A place that genuinely existed. A place where there were New Rules.

2 . Don’t strictly rely on a lawyer

Diversify your insights. Get feedback from various strategic people as you go through your divorce. It’s too easy to get caught up in your own emotions and to keep telling your story the way you always have. The story can become like cinder blocks tied to your feet, dragging you down and preventing you from moving forward. Make sure you speak to multiple someones—who can help you understand the process (the legal, the financial, AND the emotional journey)—so you protect and take care of yourself. People who understand divorce can make the burden you’re carrying feel lighter and make you feel less alone. They can help you see what you are unable to see, or even know what to look for.

Even more importantly, take steps to do this in the healthiest possible way so you and your family will heal. This means knowing whom it’s okay to unload on and how much they can realistically handle before you overstep. Your friends, family members, and colleagues might be great shoulders to lean on, yes, but they are not therapists or divorce coaches. As well-intentioned as they may be, they often give you advice based on their own or someone else’s story. Not yours.

3. You will lose

I thought I’d be losing a mate as a result of getting divorced. I had no idea I’d be losing so much more—friends, people who I thought were friends, extended family members, and acquaintances who stopped “seeing” me. Beyond people, I’d also lose a way of living. A lifestyle. I’d lose a way of being.

I also discovered the flip side. This long list of loss would usher in a cleansing. And in the wake of loss, there opened up a new space for all the incoming positive people and things my soul genuinely desired and especially needed.

4. It’s how you leave your marriage that will hurt your kids the most

Even if you have a history of high emotions and conflict in the house, understand it’s all about how you and your husband* behave now that will impact your kids the most. This is the reason to try to keep it civil, or restore civility and respect, as you struggle through divorce and do everything possible to recover from it.

You’ll want to learn about “good coparenting,” best suggestions and tools for boundaries, all directed to keep you and your children (and your soon-to-be Ex) sane and healthy. The fact is that if you are a mother, the father of your children will never entirely disappear. (So, you’ll edit that “loss” from your list above.) Chances are, your Ex will always be in your life to some extent. How you reframe this relationship is key for your children and their divorce recovery.

5. Now’s the time to learn about your financials

In particular, you want to find out what you own and what you owe—but don’t let NOT knowing these answers keep you from getting divorced. You can still find out or identify the people who can help you read statements and documents so you understand what you have and what your choices in life really are. Get fully informed before you start making decisions. And commit to the idea that once you are independent you will begin learning more about protecting and growing your money.

6. Figure out ways to generate income for yourself

Some women leave their marriages with full-time careers while others find themselves reentering the workforce or fearing that they will have to. If you find yourself lumped into the latter groups, step one is to stop telling yourself you are unemployable because it’s simply not true.

There are too many jobs out there to count, and every one of them requires something different of each of us. Take baby steps, if need be, but volunteer, hire a job coach, learn about iRelaunch, go back to school, start your own freelance business with a partner. Make a plan to support yourself and, in turn, seek the support you need to make it happen.

7. You can’t figure everything out in advance of getting divorced

Nor do you need to have everything figured out to move forward. It is a blessing to have search engines like Google in our lives, but it’s also a curse. Google makes us believe we can solve everything if only we research it well enough, if only we type in the magic keywords!

Phooey—at some point you have to get specific feedback about your personal circumstances from experts who deal with divorce and not just whatever articles, Facebook groups, and mind-numbing blog posts and forums you stumble across.

I get it—you’re scrappy. You can teach yourself nearly anything. But you are not a divorce attorney and you can’t become one fast enough.

8. What’s waiting for you is probably bigger and better than anything you can imagine right now

I can’t tell you what’s in store for you after getting divorced, and even if I could, women like me living on the other side of divorce know our words could never do it justice. What we can say is that when women like you face your fears and move through them, you are capable of nearly anything! We know women who after getting divorced recreated careers based on buried dreams, and women who have found happiness in their new freedom and sense of peace. We’ve met women who were scared to death about being alone only to find their figurative dance cards full and that their friends, some of them long lost, were waiting with open arms.

Remember why ending your marriage happened. And know that your future is better than you can even think possible. Trust us.

9. You must learn what being “healed” from divorce will look like

There will come a time when you must evaluate the role you played in getting divorced so you can truly heal yourself and stop blaming your Ex for everything that went wrong and for the hellish journey you’ve been through. The earlier on in your divorce that you confront this the better—it’s a necessary step for moving forward, for growing. It’s what true healing looks like.

10. You can let it go now

That Little Voice in your head? The one keeping you in a dark corner, feeling especially stupid and unloved? You can let it go. Because you’ll discover that divorce has a way of breaking you open, and as you watch all your messy insides spill out, you’ll eventually get to choose which parts of yourself you’ll keep and which you’ll toss into the heap. Your shame? Your guilt? Your regrets? Let it all go. None of it has ever served you anyway, except for now, as a marker symbolizing your critical turning point.

Going forward, take heart and practice intention. We know you don’t want to just divorce your husband—you want to end your marriage in the healthiest way. But that takes more than simply wanting something. It takes preparation and action. This is your life. This is your children’s future. Get a map, yes, but then take the wheel and steer.

 

Change the course of your life — AFTER DIVORCE!

Paloma’s Group™: Learning the Art of Reinvention.

For newly independent women, post-divorce. Over the course of (only) 3 months, each group-class ​builds on a core theme required to ​design a life you deserve. Schedule a free 45-minute coaching session to explore (and experience) how this remarkable group of post-divorce women will plan and act on creating a life they love.  

We promise — whether you join us for Paloma or not  — you’ll walk away from your complimentary coaching-session discovering a next step in your unique After Divorce journey. 

“We choose not to do it alone.” ~ SAS for Women

 

*At SAS for Women, we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

Parenting while divorcing with children

Divorcing with Children: A Step by Step Process

Divorcing with children means having to deal with the consequences of ending your marriage as well as ensuring the wellbeing of your kids. During this time, your life might start to feel like one long game of whack-a-mole, each item on your to-do list and each problem you have to solve popping its head above ground just long enough for it to be a nuisance.

Many moms simply don’t know how to make things right when their family has changed so irrevocably. And can you blame them? They are changing too.

When it comes to your children, however, it’s important to stay aware of the fact that they need structure and support to be both emotionally and physically healthy. Seventy-two percent of divorces occur within the first fourteen years of marriage. Put in context, these numbers mean that young children are often affected by divorce the most.

And yet, divorcing with children is never easy for parents or children, no matter their age.

While you struggle to pick up the pieces and move forward as you rebuild your life, you’ll also have to be there every step of the way supporting and encouraging your kids. Your adult children will certainly manifest their own reactions (just like younger children), but you are no longer responsible for their day-to-day survival in this world.

Is their such a thing as a good divorce? The general answer is not really. Sure, there are divorces you are grateful for and divorces you wish you’d had sooner—but divorce is rarely a decision you come to without careful consideration and a little heartbreak. Still, there are things you can do to make the transition easier for yourself, your soon-to-be Ex, and your kids. Here are some of the most important steps to take when you are divorcing with children.

Handle reactions in a healthy way

Prepare for your children to have an avalanche of angry and sad reactions to your divorce. These are inevitable regardless of how old your children are or the reasons for your divorce. As a parent, you have to make sure these reactions are handled in a loving, healthy way.

Acknowledge the emotional responses they are having. Denying the fact that they’re hurt or angry will only make matters worse. Reassure your children that it’s perfectly okay to feel upset, betrayed, sad, or lonely. Help them let these emotions out so that the healing can begin.

It’s best to have the conversation (and we do mean the conversation—you should figure out how to break the news of your divorce to your children before you sit down with them) as a family and to get your soon-to-be Ex involved early on. Regardless of the status of your relationship, assure your children that they’re still and will always be loved. Ask questions, like “is there anything we can do to make you feel better?” They might ignore you at first, but eventually they may feel like opening up and start talking about their needs.

Answer the important questions

Once the dust has settled and you’ve addressed your children’s immediate reaction to your divorce in a healthy and safe environment, the real questions will start.

We all know that children can be brutally honest. That’s why you need to prepare your answers for some of the most candid and difficult questions you’re going to face.

Some of the questions your children are likely to have during your divorce include:

  • Who am I going to live with?
  • Will I still get to see my mom or dad?
  • Where will I spend the holidays?
  • Where will I go to school?
  • Will I still get to see grandma and grandpa?
  • Does mom or dad still love me?
  • Will we have to move, and will I see my friends again?

Chances are that you don’t have all the answers to those questions yet. Honesty is still the best policy in these situations. Tell your children that you don’t know quite yet, but that you’re working hard on a plan that ensures everyone’s happiness moving forward. You can also give your children books on divorce to help normalize the situation.

Build a strong support network

Like I said, having a “good” divorce isn’t always easy or even possible. After all, you cannot control other people—your children and your soon-to-be Ex or the way they handle negative emotions.

The only thing you own and can control is your behavior.

You should work toward building a strong support network when divorcing with children. You know your kids will need all the comfort they can get during and in the aftermath of your divorce (even if it happens to be a civil and good one).

Loving, extended family members can be a tremendous resource, both for you and your kids. During a divorce, you might be pressed for time, dealing with appointments and work and meetings with your lawyer while still managing all the mundane everyday things that need to happen for you life to keep running smoothly. Aunts, uncles, and grandparents can deliver a lot of practical caregiving assistance or help with the daily logistics of it all.

The warm and familiar presence of a family member is comforting and reassuring when everything else in your children’s lives seems to be changing rapidly.

Think about the practical aspects of divorce

Healing emotionally is obviously important (especially when divorcing with children) but so is ensuring the best future for your kids. You will have to face the fact that divorce means having a series of difficult conversation with your Ex—accept it and move forward.

Those conversations will have to focus on things like custody, child support, and spousal maintenance. Sorting these issues out of court will be the most painless way to determine what’s best for everyone involved and move on faster. Occasionally, though, a peaceful agreement just isn’t going to be possible.

You know your Ex well, and you know what reaction to anticipate from him*. It’s highly recommended you speak to a divorce attorney before approaching potential challenging issues you foresee coming up. Knowing what your options are will give you a bit of leverage during the negotiations, and an attorney can educate you on what you don’t know. Do not commit to custody or parenting plans without this legal knowledge.

Remember that you’re not always on mom duty

When divorcing with children, creating and activating your support network will give you the much-needed chance to fall apart and grieve while you step away from parenting. Remember the fact that you’re a human being and that your marriage just ended.

A grieving process is necessary, and it’s healthy. Understanding what grief is and allowing it to wash over you for as long as it takes will actually help you close this chapter of your life and move on to the next one.

Can you fall apart during and after divorce? Absolutely! And you should, of course, when the time is right.

There will be days when you’ll feel like staying in bed and not even brushing your teeth. If grandma and grandpa could help with dropping the kids off at school during such moments, you’ll get the opportunity you need to feel what you must—to be angry, overwhelmed, lost, sad, betrayed, or abandoned. (Possibly all at the same time.) Let those emotions out. They need to come out in order for you to metabolize what you’ve been through.

Don’t be afraid to look vulnerable in front of friends or your parents. No one is expecting you to be strong and tough during your divorce (except maybe your kids). If you give yourself an opportunity to mourn what you must—maybe what you’re mourning isn’t even him, really, so much as it is the fantasy that kept you hoping your marriage would turn around—you’ll be better positioned to reclaim yourself and who you want to be as you move forward with your life. You’ll be a better mom if you understand your healing process.

There is no doubt a divorce makes you face your fears. It delivers challenges and changes you never thought would cross your path. At times it will feel like you have to learn fast and have all the answers to every crucial decision. Empower yourself to slow down and seek the information you need to learn about your choices BEFORE making any decisions.

Get informed. Knowing what your options are before you decide anything will allow you to make healthier choices and create a plan. This will anchor you as you endeavor to be honest with your children. Keep the lines of communication open with them and your husband or Ex (if possible). While the divorce process is painful, the way you go about it will determine your and your children’s emotional outcome.

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to support them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce. SAS offers women 6 FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future.

“When a woman comes through divorce with the proper guidance and her questions answered, her life stands before her like something she could never imagine while she was is in the dark.” ~ SAS for Women

Elizabeth S. Coyle is the current Director of Client Services for JacksonWhite Attorneys at Law based in Mesa, Arizona. She serves as a paralegal for the Family Law Department of the firm.

A family dealing with parental estrangement walking on a dark path alongside a building

When is it Parental Estrangement and When is it Parental Alienation?

Divorce is full of big words—the ones the lawyers and courts toss around, the ones your friends and family are scared of, and the ones your divorce coach and therapist use to label processes and behaviors that seem almost incapable of being contained so easily. When it comes to divorce and children, two common terms parents become aware of are parental alienation and parental estrangement.

Even the smoothest divorces can impact your relationship with your children. But it’s not always easy to pin down the source of your specific issues. Your mind starts racing. Is it something I said during the divorce? Are my children angry with me? Or disappointed? And which is worse? And when the answers to these questions don’t come quickly, you begin slipping down that slippery slope. Have I broken them somehow? Maybe it’s not anything I’ve done at all—maybe it’s him*. What has he been saying to them?

Two different things could be happening here, and you have more control over one than the other.

But what exactly is the difference between parental estrangement and parental alienation?

Parental estrangement

The source of parental estrangement can be murky. Your children have cut off contact with you or, at the very least, there is a growing distance between you. You get a sense that your children are blaming your for something but what that blame is for is less clear, especially if your children aren’t the type of people to freely share their feelings and opinions. But with estrangement, your children’s feelings are their own. They have not been influenced by their other parent (even if that other parent, coincidentally, shares many of the same feelings).

If you feel estranged from your children and they’ve communicated to you why that is, you might feel defensive, but as hard as it may be, we recommend you keep those feelings from your kids. Children often see things as black or white and right or wrong. Little moments or impulsive actions take on vast meaning. Your children are experiencing so much for the first time, and divorce has a way of dredging up all of it—the good and the bad. Even if you can’t understand where your children are coming from, you must respect their point of view and work with them from that perspective.

Know that it’s okay to accept each other’s differences, but as the parent in this situation, you should defer to your children’s point of view to repair your relationship. Whether the reasons your children are distancing themselves from you are real or perceived, they are still their reasons.

Are you experiencing parental estrangement?

Think through your divorce: Were there times where you let your stress levels get the best of you? Did you get depressed and disappear? Did you get angry and lash out? Did you turn to substances to numb your pain? In what ways did your divorce disrupt your children’s lives? A new home? A new city?

Did someone hit pause on your lives? Have you remembered to press play again?

Have you been giving your children space? Maybe it’s actually too much space. Maybe what they really need is a more hands-on form of support. Sometimes if you wait for your children to “come around on their own” they just, well, never do. They learn, instead, to get by on their own. They take your space as a hint: You’re alone now. Time to suck it up, and grow up. Make sure your children understand that you are still their parent even if the dynamics of your family have changed. Play an active role in repairing and creating a new relationship with your children.

Sometimes parental estrangement feels a lot like parental alienation (more on the latter below) because “the symptoms” of both situations overlap in some cases. Both situations are isolating, for the parent and the children. And both situations can have long-term effects on your relationship with your children. The key difference? With estrangement, there isn’t another parent behind-the-scenes working against you.

Parental alienation

With parental alienation, you know exactly who the perpetrator is: your Ex or, perhaps, even yourself. In this situation, one parent is actively campaigning against the other parent, both manipulating their children and monopolizing their time to foster negative feelings toward that other parent.

It’s a subtle difference, but it’s one that matters. While this is nothing short of devious, it’s hard to repair the rift without causing more mental harm to your children in the process.

You can’t, for instance, outright call their other parent a liar because that plays into the same mental games of alienating your children from their other parent. You can’t get the courts to cut off or reduce visitation without proof that your Ex is actively working against you, and to gain said proof would mean pressing your kids to testify against their other parent. Perhaps worst of all, even if you do “fix” your relationship with your children, those achievements are likely to be temporary—your Ex, after all, is still out there waiting for his next moment to strike.

Are you experiencing parental alienation?

Parental alienation can be hard to distinguish from parental estrangement. You can’t know what your Ex is saying to your kids, and for obvious reasons, you shouldn’t ask your children to divulge private conversations—it can be hard on them to repeat the negative (and perhaps genuinely horrible) things that your Ex may have said.

But there are some telltale signs of alienation: One parent constructs a negative narrative around their children’s other parent. They list off reasons for the divorce, for instance, and always put the blame on the other parent. Or they suggest that the other parent doesn’t care about their kids because they don’t spend as much time with them. Or maybe it’s less deliberate—one parent consistently vents to friends and family members about their Ex and the children overhear, or post-divorce, one parent is depressed or otherwise in a bad spot while the other parent is seemingly thriving.

Regardless of the specific ways in which you’ve become alienated from your children, the rift will grow worse over time. Your Ex is, in effect, poisoning your relationship with your children, and like most poisons, they grow stronger the more a person is exposed to them.

Parental estrangement vs. parental alienation

Parental estrangement, then, is when you can look back at your actions throughout your divorce and recognize that you’ve made choices that have left your children feeling unsupported in a time of need. Even if you can’t recognize this yourself, your children have likely accused you of doing so.

Parental alienation is when your children’s other parent is actively poisoning your relationship with your children. It’s an ongoing psychological battle that isn’t about your children’s best interests or yours or even your Ex’s, really. It has more to do with power than anything. But here’s the other thing we haven’t mentioned yet about parental alienation—over time, it becomes an actual syndrome. By that, we mean that parental alienation syndrome is habitual. A pattern develops, routines settle in, and your children may no longer play passive roles in the damage that’s being done to your relationship. Instead, they begin to see the world through the eyes of the parent who’s targeting their other parent.

What you can do in the case of parental estrangement

If your life involves parental estrangement or you’re hoping to avoid it, there are some things you can do to start to repair your relationship with your children. (Depending on the specifics of your situation, some of these may help in cases involving parental alienation as well.)

  • Has your child spoken up about the growing distance between you? Don’t wait for them to “get over it” or “come around.” Address your children’s concerns directly by listening to them, trying to understand, validating their feelings, and telling them that you want to work on their concerns with them so you two can repair your relationship.
  • Don’t wait for your children to contact you to repair your relationship with them—you are the parent. Even if your children have hurled insults your way, ignored your messages, or placed an unfair amount of blame on your shoulders, you need to take the first step and reach out. Even if your children have crow’s feet and their fair share of grey, this particular dynamic will never really change. Your children may eventually come around on their own, to be sure, but you may lose more time than any of us is comfortable with if you wait too long.
  • If you’re struggling to get through to your children, know that persistence is key here as are the words you use—let your children know you love them, that you want to repair your relationship, and that you’ll keep checking-in with them so that they know you’re there when they’re ready to talk to you. We’re not suggesting that you harass or stalk your children, to be clear. There are ways to reach out that feel less invasive than a text or call, like a letter, for instance.
  • Don’t violate your children’s boundaries. Don’t show up unexpectedly at their school or other parent’s house to talk or force your company on them. This can backfire and cause your children to feel even more distant from you.
  • Do not give up on communicating with your children—no matter how long they ignore you. You might feel abandoned, and that’s a bitter pill to swallow. But, again, you are the parent in this relationship, and your children were never here to emotionally support you. Call your children on their birthdays and holidays even if they don’t answer. Set an example of the type of relationship you want to have with your children, and in time, they may grow to appreciate that you never gave up.
  • If your children do come around and feel ready to speak with you, they might want to talk about the aspects of your relationship that made them distance themselves from you in the first place. Whether you agree with their side of your story or not, you must do your best to react neutrally and find a way to work together to overcome your past. An unwillingness to see your shared history from your children’s perspective is just one reason you may have been cut off from them in the first place—and while that may seem harsh, it has more to do with your children feeling as though they are living in one reality while you exist in another. There is no greater distance than that.
  • Be ready to admit your shortcomings to your children. Of course, we know that we’re simply humans—we’re far from perfect. But your divorce and how you handled the aftermath may have been the first time in your children’s lives where they really came to understand this firsthand. Don’t sweep your mistakes under the rug. Own your flaws, and let your children see you work through them.
  • You might be ready to move on, but your children might need more time to be angry or sad or confused. To just feel and experience whatever emotions are flooding through them. If you children are acting out, don’t punish them or push them to get over their feelings. Instead, make sure they know that their emotions are valid and that you are there for them whether they are ready to move forward or not.

Understand that a “repaired” relationship with your children may look different than you thought it would. If there’s one thing we all know, it’s that you can’t change the past and you can’t return to it. Before divorce, you didn’t have to deal with things like a custody agreement, a different home, or your Ex’s new partner. Your relationship with your children—indeed your entire lives—have changed in fundamental ways that you simply can’t ignore.

What you can do in the case of parental alienation

There are a few additional things you can do to try to repair your relationship with your children when your Ex is actively working to poison it.

  • Let your children know that their mental state comes first. Explain that they might feel upset or pressured or mad at you but that’s okay—they don’t need to tell you why, but if they ever want to talk, you are there for them and will always love them unconditionally.
  • See if your Ex will agree to therapy for your children. This way there’s a third party there to help your children navigate their relationship with both parents and work through any negative feelings they may have in a safe environment.
  • Don’t worry about being right or about proving your Ex wrong—instead, model healthy parent-child behavior by not crossing that boundary and focus on things that are within your control. Focus on strengthening your relationship with your children and not tearing apart their relationship with their other parent. Forcing your children to be the middlemen between you and your Ex will only isolate them further.
  • Work on good coparenting skills with your Ex. This is especially true if the alienation is accidental more than purposeful (though in either case, we realize this isn’t always easy, especially if some sort of betrayal was responsible for your divorce). If your Ex is in a bad place mentally and is using your children as a therapist, talking to them about what’s going on and appropriate places for help might work wonders in repairing your relationship with your children.

In general, you want to be clear with your Ex about the fact that, post-divorce, you two have every right to be upset and vent about one another, but that, for the sake of your children, that should be done privately. And because children have a way of overhearing things they shouldn’t, it’s best to vent your feelings when they’re not at home.

Why is the difference between parental estrangement and parental alienation important?

Name your demons, and maybe then you can face them. Divorce is different for everyone. It’s the naming of each part of the process—contemplation, finding a lawyer, awaiting your divorce decree, to list a few—that makes us feel like we’ve arrived somewhere and are now standing on firmer ground. The more information we have, the more prepared we feel to face whatever comes next.

But naming your demons isn’t enough. You have to take ownership of them or you will never feel like you are truly in control of them. And that’s why knowing the difference between estrangement and alienation is so important.

With parental estrangement, feeling in control means being honest with yourself: Do you want a relationship with your children? Then stop making excuses for yourself. You know now that you and your children can live without one another, but is that what you really want? Whatever attempts you’ve made in the past? They didn’t work. Think long and hard about why, and next time, approach things differently.

With alienation, feeling in control means exercising an extreme amount of patience and accepting that, ultimately, you’re not actually in control. It means learning when to let go and focus on you for your best divorce recovery. Understand that you simply can’t change other people or push the clock forward so that time heals everyone all at once—it’s simply not an option. So let it go.

We choose to focus on what we can control, and we recommend you do the same. Even though it may feel like it, you’re not the first person to weather this storm. Meet up with other divorced women. Use this time to travel. Lose yourself in nature so that you might find yourself again. Reach out to a divorce coach who can help you understand your choices and the actions leading to the results you really want—so you, your children, and your relationship with them make it safely through this time in your life.

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unique challenges women face when dealing with divorce or navigating its afterward. Discover the smartest, and most educated, next step for you and your family. Schedule your free, 45-minute coaching session with SAS now.

*At SAS for Women, we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

A woman thinking about asking for financial help with a divorce

How a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst Can Help with a Divorce

Dividing a house, retirement accounts, alimony, child support—all the financial issues that come up in a divorce can leave your head spinning. The process of going through a divorce is incredibly stressful, regardless, but if you’re not comfortable talking about money, facing the topic of splitting up your finances can be downright miserable. You may be wondering how to plan for your financial life after the divorce, how to divide your assets, who gets the primary residence, and how to negotiate spousal support. Having a financial professional on your team to help with a divorce can reduce your stress while allowing you to achieve the best possible financial outcome.

Getting financial help with a divorce is critical as studies have shown that women experience disproportionate losses in income as a result of divorce, increasing their risk of poverty.

When facing a divorce, a person’s first instinct is often to get an attorney involved. While there’s no substitute for sound legal advice, many of the decisions made in a divorce are financial in nature. Having support from someone well-versed in divorce financial planning and analysis (such as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst) can save you a lot of frustration—it can also save you money on legal fees.

What is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst?

A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) has extensive training in the financial issues of divorce. The credential is awarded by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts and requires extensive work experience and education. These professionals are trained to help you navigate any and all money issues that come up before, during, and after divorce. A CDFA can serve as a financial advocate for just you or as a neutral person who works with both you and your Ex. However, it’s important to remember a CDFA is a financial professional who can’t replace sound legal advice.

What does a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst do?

A CDFA is responsible for looking at your finances, considering the best way to divide assets, and helping you determine the short- and long-term implications of your divorce settlement. By doing so, a CDFA can help alleviate the fear of the unknown. She’ll prepare a financial plan for you based on various scenarios. Having that plan in place will offer you a great sense of confidence (or a reality check, if needed) as you face your financial future.

While every situation is different, the responsibilities of your CDFA may include some or all of the following.

Division of assets

The division of assets during a divorce is more than just a simple split down the middle. Many times, there’s no easy way to split an asset that both you and your Ex want. Your home, furniture, vehicles, among others, come with memories and security that neither of you may want to let go of.

In addition to those physical assets you have, there are financial assets that need to be divided, such as bank accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies. Pensions are commonly the largest asset dealt with in a divorce. Any and all of the pension earned during the marriage is considered marital property and is considered divisible as part of the divorce settlement either by dividing the pension itself or offsetting the value with other assets.

A CDFA will sort out all the details and help you and your Ex determine the best ways to maximize your assets while minimizing the tax impact of your division.

Marital property

If you live in an equitable division state (41 of 50 states are), a couples’ marital assets (those accumulated during the marriage) will need to be divided equitably or fairly. In community property states, marital property is split 50/50. A CDFA can support you and your attorney by determining which items are marital assets and which ones are separate.


If you are wondering about your home and who gets it, you’ll want to read Should You Keep the House During the Divorce?


For example, any money contributed to a 401(k) during the marriage is considered marital property. However, if the account was started before the marriage, a portion of the account may be regarded as separate. The actual definition of what is considered separate property varies somewhat from state to state. Money and things you had before your marriage, gifts you’ve received over the years, and more can complicate an already stressful situation if you don’t have someone to help with a divorce and provide clear guidance on these issues.

Alimony (aka Spousal Support/Spousal Maintenance)

If your Ex provided the primary income, suddenly concerns of how to pay for the house, cover your bills, or whether you’ll have to get another job are at the forefront of your mind. While some states do provide a calculator to determine alimony that will be awarded to the lower income spouse, many do not. In fact, in many states, the issue of alimony is pretty gray.

Some of the factors that contribute to spousal support (depending on the state) include:

  • Your income
  • Health (emotional, physical, and mental)
  • Retirement benefits
  • Length of marriage
  • Childcare status
  • Education
  • Assets and liabilities

When you have a CDFA on your team to help with a divorce, she can do the calculations and give you confidence with projections for how much spousal support is needed compared to how much is available to be paid.

Tax implications of the divorce settlement

Any change in income or accumulation of significant assets can have tax implications as well. In the case of divorce, that’s definitely true. Going from two incomes to one, eliminating an income, or taking on the primary residence all have tax implications. A CDFA will walk you through those challenges so that there’s no guesswork when it comes to that first tax season on your own.

Additional tasks

Additionally, your CDFA will help with a divorce by providing analysis of the settlement, identifying if any information has not been disclosed, and pointing out areas of financial risk in the agreement. A CDFA can also guide you to make decisions that will help your credit score and not hurt it. By hiring a CDFA, you know that your entire financial situation has been evaluated, and you’ll walk away with a clear picture of what your financial future holds.

How is a CDFA paid?

In terms of cost, the fees for CDFA vary widely. Some offer services on an hourly basis, while others offer flat-fee packages. Hourly rates generally range from $150 to $500 per hour depending on the CDFA’s level of experience and the region of the country they work in. Flat fees are typically based on the financial complexity of the case and the extent of the work involved.

To find a CDFA near you, visit the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts (IDFA) website. At the top of the screen, you’ll see a link to “Find a CDFA.” You can then search either by name or by zip code. Many CDFAs also offer virtual services if there is not one in your area.

Your Certified Divorce Analyst can make financial decisions easier

While CDFA professionals can help with a divorce at any point in the process, choosing to work with a CDFA before deciding how you will proceed makes good financial sense. Not only will it save you both time and money throughout the divorce process, but your CDFA will help you and your soon-to-be Ex work out a divorce settlement that is amicable and fair for both of you. Additionally, she will make the process easier to deal with so that you can focus on the things that matter most to you, whether that’s your kids, your family, or your well-being.

 

Leah Hadley is an experienced mediator, Accredited Financial Counselor, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, and a Master Analyst in Financial Forensics. After going through her own divorce after ten years of marriage, her goal is to ease the stress of divorce by making the process as painless as possible for couples and individuals alike. When she’s not working, Leah loves spending time with her family, taking her kids on road trips, and volunteering with various organizations like the PTA, NAWBO and Girl Scouts. You can find out more about Leah and her services by visiting her website, Great Lakes Divorce Financial Services.