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Contemplating divorce and coronavirus

Divorce in the Time of Coronavirus: 30 Ways to Be Prepared and Stay Committed to You

There is a lot of uncertainty right now due to the coronavirus. Things seem to be changing by the hour. But here are 30+ ways women considering or affected by divorce can use extended time at home to take care of themselves — and their families. When the coronavirus (COVID-19) is at last behind us, and as humanity heals, adapts and grows, we want women everywhere to remain on track and committed to their healthiest selves.

If you’ve been thinking about divorce, dealing with it, or recovering from it, anxiety and fear are nothing new to you. But now with COVID-19, anxiety and fear are a different punch altogether, causing our mechanism for survival to shift gears. For some, the response will trigger a desire to lean away from divorce and all that they’ve been contemplating. Now is no time to do it, some women will tell themselves. The kids are suddenly home and need tending to. Both parents might also be home, in fact, and working overtime to compensate for the drastic disruptions and time out of the workplace. Private time and space are compromised, if they exist at all. We are in survival mode or burying a crisis inside a crisis. For others, this increased time “trapped” inside our homes with a spouse we’re already at odds with may push us to a breaking point, as suggested in China with the recent spike in divorce rates being linked to the coronavirus.

Understand the temperature in your house.

This post is about centering you and to remind you that wherever you are — in your marriage, divorce, or life-after-divorce — your circumstances are real, they are valid, and they will not simply disappear because the coronavirus is here.

In fact, your circumstances may grow more agitated unless you are mindful of taking steps to acknowledge your emotions and your commitment to how you want to be as you go through this health crisis. Below are important must-knows and suggestions for coping depending on where you are in your journey of dealing with the idea, or the fact of divorce and the coronavirus. Included as well are special mentions to mothers.

Must-knows when dealing with divorce and coronavirus

When stress and anxiety are in the air—when our families, health, and jobs are on the line—things will get ramped up.

For women, especially, it’s important to know that during such circumstances, mental health issues surge and domestic violence goes up. Your safety may become a real concern.

If you are a survivor of abuse and currently forced to live with your abuser in this extended time at home, read this page now for safety suggestions.

If you experience or are a survivor of abuse or would like to talk to someone to understand what abuse is, we urge you to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224.

For all of us, expect things to get stressful. Understand what you are doing and teaching your family about social distancing and what to do if you become sick or are suddenly caring for someone who is sick. To keep yourself together, make plans for how you will handle your stress. We believe the following will help you. Keep reading …

Thinking about divorce

  1. When you can, make a plan on how you will learn more about your rights and what you are entitled to, and what an independent life might look like—whether you divorce or not. You may not be able to schedule a legal or divorce coach consultation right away, for lack of privacy, but you can research on the internet whom you might speak to once you are free to make calls and hear feedback. If possible as well, you might prepare for these meetings by getting financial documents together or your questions organized.
  2. Set up a secret email address dedicated to this subject, and keep this subject segregated to that email address only. If you are a woman, join our tribe and receive our free, weekly coaching letter that will keep you, discretely, honoring yourself for the next six months.
  3. For now, the internet remains intact, and we are grateful for that! But be careful about turning to your computer to answer your life questions. In this new phase of social isolation, it will be easy to fall down the Google Rabbit Hole and overanalyze the news and, in particular, options for your life—legally, financially, and every which way. Turning to Google to research your divorce options risks making you more anxious because you will never obtain the direct answers or exact numbers you so critically need to make informed decisions. You require specific feedback on your direct circumstances and issues.
  4. Which is why having direct, private consultations are so important to your future. But you may not be able to pull it off just yet. Be kind to yourself—reading this post alone is helping you manage your expectations of what is and is not possible right now. Take baby steps if you can, but be flexible.
  5. Some women derive great comfort from an ongoing connection with other women during times of stress. Whom are you turning to? In Annie’s Group—for women thinking about divorce, and for women who are beginning the divorce or separation process—the virtual live coaching program is consistently running, providing a safe, structured outlet for participants to get educated on their genuine life choices. Women feel personally supported through the Sister Partnerships and through the private, virtual consultations and coaching they receive. They are also reassured that no one is on camera and if they are unable to attend all classes, that each class is recorded.

For mothers contemplating or dealing with divorce

  1. Staying committed to you means making sure your children are as stabilized as possible during these uncertain times. This is not taking you off track. It’s reminding you of what’s important—the healthiest environment for everybody.
  2. When we’re dealing with divorce, there’s a lot of gray area when it comes to decision-making, which is why it’s important to …

    Stay focused on your goals. You will rarely go wrong if you think about what you want for your children. Really think about it. Realize as well that your children are dependent on you for securing the healthiest environment possible—in times of stress and uncertainty due to external forces, like coronavirus and schools closing, and the ongoing temperature of what they are experiencing in your house, unique to your marriage and family dynamic.

  3. The CDC has good information on preparing you, your children and your house. Share this with your spouse or coparent and talk about plans of actions for your shared house or your house and his*.
  4. Don’t take any unnecessary risks right now. You and your children may not be showing any signs of the virus, but you could still be carriers. Think about your elderly neighbors or your older family members. Stay safe and keep them safe.

Dealing with divorce

  1. If you are still living under the same roof with your spouse, these “uncertain times” are reinforcing more of what you know, and chances are, the reasons you are getting divorced. So, caution. It was always going to be hard living together during these negotiations, but now with seeing each other all the time (if practicing social distancing and working from home), it could be the recipe for toxic overload.
  2. Consider broaching the subject now with your spouse. You might share that you realize this is hard for both of you, living together and trying to figure out how you are going to part, but that you are committed to trying to stay as healthy as possible.And part of staying as healthy as possible is staying home and out of contact with others and not triggering each other.

  3. What boundaries can you put in place to honor each other’s needs or requests during these times? Can you put it in writing so it’s more thoughtful and psychologically binding? Perhaps neither one of you can do it for the other, but if you have children, express your commitment to trying to keep the atmosphere as healthy as possible for them.
  4. And if it’s just you and him, accept that you have no control over his actions but how you act could encourage him. Knowing the risks in advance will help you get centered and anchored for yourself. Find outlets away from him to vent. (See below.)

Legal and financial considerations…

  1. If you are working with a lawyer or mediator or talking with a financial person, email/call them to learn how your legal process may be affected by what is going on. You might use phone or video conferencing to keep your negotiation process moving.
  2. If you become sick in advance of your court date, you could contact your lawyer or spouse to ask for a continuance. If he agrees, you can submit a form requesting that the court change the hearing date. If your spouse is not amenable, contact the court’s clerk and share that you are sick. Ask next steps.
  3. If you or your spouse become ill and you are due to go to court, contact your doctor first and then your lawyer or the court clerk. You should not appear in court if you are sick. Often local courts have their own specific instructions. So, call the court’s family law clerk to learn what you must do. This is to say nothing about the distinct possibility that very soon the courts near you may be closed for a spell anyhow.

Coparenting through coronavirus

  1. Coparenting is often challenging in the best of times, let alone now. But more than ever, communication is key. One of the best ways to deal with the parent of your children is to “stick to the facts” style of communication. Lose the technicolor or salty language and try to present your information in a black and white, neutral way.

  2. Begin by sharing the CDC website for your state, and print out the latest recommendations to discuss with your coparent.
  3. Or you could contact your pediatrician and ask for their suggestions right now and share those with your coparent.
  4. Talk with your coparent, with each of you agreeing to share if someone you know has been exposed to COVID-19 and to keep your child away from that person.
  5. Teach your child good hygiene and proper hand-washing techniques. Teach them not to touch their face and to practice hand washing wherever they are—at school, at their other parent’s house, at your home.
  6. Teach them as well about the importance of protecting others. Again, think about how you would feel if an elderly person near you became ill.
  7. Consult the CDC website for up to date information and with your coparent, try to develop a longer-range family plan that is activated if your community faces a severe outbreak For example, if your child resides between two homes, decide where the child will primarily reside if the health crisis is growing in your community and people must stay indoors.

Rebuilding after divorce

  1. This can be a particularly tough time for a lot of us as we look around and see that we are now truly alone. As the dust keeps settling, it can be sobering to realize where we are in our life journey, starting again or feeling like it’s all ending. But make no mistake, this leveling is also a beginning—the beginning of building ourselves anew, coronavirus notwithstanding. It is the beginning of aligning ourselves with the people we want in our life and, especially, the people we want to be.
  2. More than ever, it’s important to find community—this means other like-minded souls who have reinvented or are actively seeking to grow. Take this opportunity to download Zoom for free so you can connect with old friends and family and video chat live. With Zoom, you can see each other! (Even when dealing with divorce and coronavirus.)
  3. Or download Zoom to join Paloma’s Group, our live, ongoing virtual coaching class for women recreating after divorce. Together, we build a bond of sisterly support and accountability as we take steps to rebuild our most meaningful lives.
  4. Learning who we want to be in this new phase of our lives and rebuilding after divorce and coronavirus is going to require some internal work. Social isolation could be your invitation to connect with your internal self and work on the real things that are still unresolved—the grief for the losses or the loneliness or the anger or the fears. Consider connecting with a divorce coach or therapist for telephone support and guidance. And if you’ve been working on those emotions, brava! Then you’ve been learning that this work leads to discoveries about yourself. This learning feeds more discovery, and so keep forging …

Even more things you could be doing as you spend time inside

  1. Educate yourself or reacquaint yourself with reading a good book. We’ve got suggestions for you here.
  2. If you are looking to go back to work, read this wonderful list of things you could be doing right now from experts who understand how hard it is for women of a certain age to get a job.
  3. Journal. Write down what you are experiencing right now in this moment in time and how different it is from one year ago? What have you learned?
  4. Step outside … your needs and story. Be hypervigilant about not spreading germs, but determine the best way for checking-in and supporting your elderly neighbors and aging family members. (If you are alone, you get it, and boy, will this give you perspective and gratitude.)
  5. Look for specific, regular ways to decompress and recharge so you are of service to yourself and others. Check out these free virtual meditation apps for connecting to positive, inspiring energy.
  6. If you are up for it, consider creating a dating profile on a few apps, but don’t meet people right now—you have the perfect excuse to take it slow. You must practice social-distancing, but you would love to consider meeting in the future. In the interim, let’s talk!
  7. Or take coronavirus as a sign from the universe, you are definitely not supposed to be dating right now!
  8. Be a messenger of hope and light. As you deal with life post divorce and coronavirus, you are a poster child for having already faced tough times and surviving. Remind others who may not be so brave that so far, 80 percent of the coronavirus cases are mild and most infected people are cured. There are 13 times more cured cases than deaths and that proportion is increasing.
  9. Go outside when and if you can. Sunlight is not only the enemy of germs; it is incredibly healing, builds our immune systems, and helps shift our emotions. Emotions are motion. As such, they ebb and flow. Help your emotions, like fear and anxiety, move, and as they move, check-in with them. What are they trying to tell you? When you listen to them, what other emotions do they make room for?

Above all, stay committed to you

Women are hardwired to be caregivers. In challenging times, we know that women are often the ones who take care of sick loved-ones, keep a family running, figure out child-care issues, and everything in between. It is often women taking the leadership roles in their households and communities to understand what is coming and to prepare for it. We also know it’s times like these when women throw themselves under the bus and forget themselves. We are encouraging you to stay committed to you as you lead others through.

Let’s be kind to others and ourselves. Stay connected to your source of strength and positivity. Stay connected to other powerful women!

And talk to us! In the comments below, tell us what you are doing to practice self-care and cope with divorce and coronavirus during these challenging times. We thank you on behalf of so many. Your ideas inspire and support other women who are finding that now more than ever, their hours are especially tough and isolating. We are all in this together.

 

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. We invite you to schedule your free consultation with SAS. You’ll share privately what’s going on and we’ll give you black & white feedback, resources, and next steps for moving forward in the healthiest, smartest way.

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

Woman thinking about how to prepare for divorce if you are stay at home mom

How to Prepare for Divorce If You Are a Stay-At-Home-Mom

When you have built your life around your relationship and family—even considering leaving that life behind can make you feel like a complete fraud. So how do you prepare for divorce if you are a stay at home mom? (Or STAHM.) When, sometimes, it seems like the real question you’re asking yourself is less should I get a divorce and more can I get a divorce?

Because it’s true, money does seem to make the world go round. Researchers at Boston University have learned that marriages in which both partners have their own careers and incomes are less likely to end in divorce. The stress of being the sole provider for your household can feel insurmountable. It’s not just about how much money you bring in—it’s about stability and how prepared you might be for the future. If you’re your family’s sole provider, then what happens if you lose your job? What happens if you pass away? If you get hit with an unexpected and large expense? How many more opportunities would you and your family have if you had two incomes to live on?

If you’re struggling to figure out how to prepare for divorce if you are a stay at home mom, the unknown—what, exactly, comes after divorce—might seem more precarious than it does for other women because suddenly it feels like there is no safety net. Even if the decision to stay at home and take care of your home and family or let your partner handle the family finances was mutual, there’s a resounding sense of shame that comes when you decide it’s a life you no longer want.

But you are allowed to want something different for yourself. You’re allowed to look toward the future and shape the life you want. We’re here to remind you that it’s all possible and you are allowed.

Start a dialogue, first with yourself and then with others

If you’re wondering how to prepare for divorce if you are a stay at home mom, start by giving yourself permission to have a conversation with yourself (your true self, that voice you’ve been ignoring). Take your time. Thinking about divorce doesn’t mean the same thing as getting a divorce. You might feel isolated and alone during this time, but the reality is that you’re far from it. There are so many women out there in the same place as you—or women who have already made it through their own divorce journey, realizing that there is life on the other side.

Once you open up to others, that feeling will begin to dissipate. In our virtual divorce support group and class, Annie’s Group, we hear the relief women feel once connected to the other women in the group—a deep sense of relief that comes with listening to other women’s situations, sharing our own, and understanding that the path we’re on is well-trodden.

For perspective and holistic feedback on your situation, you might have a conversation with a divorce coach.  A coach will often provide you with a free consultation, because no one understands exactly what they do. They have to explain and demonstrate how they help. A coach can anchor you, give you an idea of the lay of the land and help you understand what decision making looks like. If appropriate they might point you to which questions to ask your lawyer and help you prioritize and sequence the steps you need to take to address — not only your legal situation — but also your emotional, financial, maternal and practical needs. Get organized, one step at a time

When we do nothing, we get stuck in a cycle filled with habit and routine. We feel simultaneously like our lives are happening far too quickly and also like we’re standing still, watching it all pass us by in a blur. We feel overwhelmed and anxious. Take your future into your own hands by getting your ducks in a row, preparing yourself for the legal, financial, and emotional aspects of divorce.

Study the divorce laws in your state. (Don’t do a deep dive, but research enough to understand what your state’s divorce laws say about alimony and child support. Then stop.) Collect your financial records so you save time and money later on. But be sure to keep these documents in a safe place, away from the prying eyes of your husband* (a safety deposit box, a friend or family member—someone you can trust). Monitor your credit score to ensure that your husband has not negatively impacted it unbeknownst to you and that you’ll have more financial leverage when you’re on your own. Open up a post office box so that your soon-to-be Ex doesn’t have access to mail that may be confidential, like correspondence from your attorney or new credit and bank accounts.

Which brings us to…

Figure out your finances

If you have children, finances can be the thing that repeatedly holds you back from moving forward with a divorce. Statistically, both married and single STAHMs are less educated than their working counterparts—for the former, 42% have at most a high school diploma compared to 64% for the latter. Not having a college degree can make finding a job later in life more difficult, particularly a well-paying job with benefits like health care or retirement plans. Married STAHMs are nearly twice as likely to be foreign born as married and working mothers, too. Barriers based on both culture and language become more reasons to stay in an unhappy marriage.

But think about what your children witness everyday they live under your roof—how can you create a healthier and happier life for all of you? Can you really afford to do nothing? For women, one of the first steps we can take when thinking about divorce is becoming more financially independent. If your husband controls your funds, then how can you access the money you’ll need to hire a lawyer or pay for everyday expenses? As soon as possible, start setting aside money for the fees that come along with a divorce and your future living expenses.

Embrace the unknown

There’s such a thing as the sunk cost fallacy—we continue a path that is no longer serving us or our best interests because we’ve already invested so much time, energy, and resources into the journey. If you’re a STAHM, this might be something you struggle with when it comes to thinking about divorce: I’ve invested too much of myself in this relationship. I have to make it work. If I simply do more of X, Y, or Z, then maybe things will finally get better. What will people think? You keep waiting for something to change, only it never does.

We prefer to live the life we know, so afraid of what we might find after divorce because it represents the vast unknown. Our identities are wrapped up inside our relationship, deeply connected to our partner—who are we if we let go?

Life doesn’t stop—the beauty and the pain, they aren’t going anywhere. But sometimes we are moving through life on autopilot, so worried about hitting certain milestones or reaching the goal faster than everyone else that we forget to pause and ask ourselves: what do I actually want? Not the version of me that made vows and plans for my future, but the version of me that exists now.

You can still prepare for divorce if you are a stay at home mom. You had a plan, yes. Now you have to throw the plan out and start from scratch. Grab a blank sheet of paper, sharpen your pencil, and allow yourself to dream again. Thinking about divorce and exploring your options is the first step toward a life that is truly your own.

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

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

Woman in the snow contempltaing managing conflict in divorce

How to Stay Calm Managing Conflict in Divorce

Divorce is a stressful process. There are battles—custody, among many others—which take negative emotions to new heights. Managing conflict in divorce is tricky. One wrong turn and you’re headed down resentment road. It’s natural to get frustrated even while trying to be calm and cool.

When a marriage ends, you have to make so many adjustments to your life, big and small. Both you and your Ex will find yourselves feeling both confused and angry. With children involved, it becomes vital that you keep conflicts at a minimum. But when they do happen, the way you deal with these conflicts with your Ex is one of the biggest things that can impact your child’s wellbeing and it’s one thing about your divorce that’s fully in your control.

When you and your Ex work together as a team to resolve your problems, it’s reassuring for your children, particularly when you do so with a positive attitude.

Below are some ways you can manage your emotions and avoid conflicts during your divorce.

Get rid of all the negative emotions

Before you and your Ex sit down to discuss the logistics of how and when you’ll end your marriage, you have to let go of negative thoughts and emotions. Let go of all your past grievances and issues, including feelings of sadness, guilt, fear, or anything else that might make it harder to discuss things at hand effectively.

If you are feeling angry, write it down. But don’t get into a shouting match. It won’t get you anywhere. Find ways to release your pent-up emotions. Try going for a run or working out at the gym. This will help you get through tough talks and makes it easier to get your point across.

Be flexible

It’s wise that you take a flexible approach if your Ex wants to change how you coparent your children. This is the only way you’ll be able to cope with the arrangements. Chances are that you might have to make changes to your schedule or ask for a favor if you have a busy day at work. If your new partner wants to spend time with you and your children, those are boundaries you might also want to talk to your Ex about.

Look at the big picture

When you are in the middle of negotiating your divorce settlement, it’s easy to lose perspective and get caught up in a whirlwind of emotions. There is going to be a sense of urgency in everything. You must relax, though, and try to look at the big picture.

The best way to do so is to envision your future. How would you want it to look like 10 to 20 years from now? Would you still want to be stuck in this emotional turmoil and feel resentful toward your Ex? Or would you rather want to be at peace and have moved on with your life? If you’re a parent, think about how you would want your children’s future to look like too. These are the questions you should ask yourself, and then do your best to get through the stress of managing conflict in divorce.

Work on your listening skills

Learning how to listen is something that will help you tremendously in the long run. After a few years, when you look back, you won’t feel resentment because both of you took the time to listen to what the other person has to say. If you constantly interrupt each other and are adamant about having the last word, you can never truly end your conflict.

You need to be patient and listen to what others have to say. Rather than thinking about the perfect come back, listen to your Ex’s words and try to understand what they want. Consider the possibility that you might have failed to listen to him* in the past. By being a good listener, you are going to boost your communication skills and develop an understanding of someone else’s perspective.

Mediate

Although a short-term and structured process, mediation could assist you and your Ex with any financial and coparenting issues you may have. You’d bring someone along—a professional, a close friend, or a family member—who could sit with you both and help you reach an agreement. Later on, your attorneys would review that agreement.

In some states, when the parents are unable to agree on parenting time or custody, mediation becomes a requirement. The agreements are filed with the court and later on translated into court orders. There are different forms of mediation. The most common one being the facilitative mediation. In this method, a neutral third person helps the couple arrive at an agreement by exploring common interests and then generating options. The mediator is not responsible for making the decisions. Rather, they facilitate the couple, leaving the decision up to both partners.

Get coparent counseling

When parents separate or get divorced, issues regarding parenting are bound to arise. A mental health professional or coach who specializes in this area could assist parents in improving their communication skills. They can help you find ways to reduce and eventually eliminate conflicts, including how to handle after-school activities, changing the parenting plan, taking a child to the doctor, or tackling the entry of a stepparent. This helps parents in resolving some of the pain, guilt, or grief of ending a relationship. You are not the first ones dealing with conflict as coparents. Find out best practices and get support for both of you and your children.

Use “I” messages frequently

Normally when your Ex is venting, be it in a normal conversation or an angry argument, your first instinct would be to shout at them. Rather, take a moment to assess and understand. When you are ready to answer, respond with an “I” message to communicate your emotions and needs.

No matter what your conflict is, there are many ways you can use the “I” messages. You can say:

I feel heartbroken when you blame me for everything that went wrong with our marriage.

I feel sad when you tell the children I am not a good mother.

When you communicate how you feel to your Ex and provide them with a solution while using the word “we,” you can play a key role in improving communication and reducing the feelings of resentment.

Talk with facts

One of the common reasons divorced couples argue so much and struggle with managing conflict in divorce is that rather than talking with facts, they allow their anger and emotions to get the better of them. When you allow your emotions to rule your rational thinking, it could go on forever. You and your Ex could end up in a constant loop of anger and resentment.

To resolve emotional conflicts, start talking with facts. Even if you are talking about something as serious and potentially heated as your children’s visitation rights, stick to the facts so you can have a civilized and rational discussion.

Resolving conflicts is a two-person job. Once both you and your Ex realize that you must work together, talk, and listen, only then can you be successful at being civil with each other and coparenting effectively.

 

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

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

A woman in a bathtub contemplating what divorce does to a woman

What Divorce Does to a Woman: You and Your Money

The chances are fairly good that if you are a woman with school-age children and you are looking at getting divorced, you are facing a drain on your financial resources with no fast recovery in sight.

While marriage generally has a positive effect on financial health—due in part to tax incentives and thousands of laws that favor married couples—divorce is like trying to maintain a house that’s falling apart, money going out faster than it can come in. While sociological studies show that the net worth of each person in a marriage increases 77 percent over the years, that net worth starts to drop four years before divorce. Divorcees experience an average wealth decline of 77 percent.

And what divorce does to a woman is generally worse, because far more than not, women end up as the primary caregivers for a couple’s children, and children—while fulfilling and precious to women and men alike—are also expensive. Since this is a website for women, it would be easy to dismiss that statement as biased, but of the 13.6 million single parents in the United States, only 16 percent of those are single dads.

Divorce takes women with children’s financial resources and chops them in half and then adds expenses like a reduction sauce to the leftovers. For women without paid work of their own and full-time custody of their children, it is often a low-income existence, with approximately one in five women becoming impoverished as a result of divorce. Add to that the fact that, while they’re still married, women are more likely than men to leave paying jobs outside the home to care for the children, thereby siphoning off their financial independence and their workplace skills. And if they needed to file for disability, their lack of “points” in the workforce can later lead to a denial of such claims, leaving them hamstringed by health issues as well as poverty and the lack of mobility that comes with daily childcare.

“While the downturn and the weak economy of recent years have eliminated many of the jobs women held, a lack of family-friendly policies also appears to have contributed to the lower rate. In a (poll) of nonworking adults aged 25 to 54 in the United States, conducted recently, 61 percent of women said family responsibilities were a reason they weren’t working, compared with 37 percent of men,” write Claire Cain Miller and Liz Alderman of the New York Times. “Of women who identify as homemakers and have not looked for a job in the last year, nearly three-quarters said they would consider going back if a job offered flexible hours or allowed them to work from home.”

Pair that inclination to choose child-rearing over career and cost-crippling daycare (or at least the decision to postpone careers until the children are older) with the changing requirements of the work force, and then, add in the tendency in the U.S. toward employment policies that do not favor families or flexible schedules. According to Miller and Alderman, 1993 was the last time the U.S. Congress passed legislation that was family-forward, providing certain workers with 12 unpaid weeks with their newborn babies. All combined, and you have divorced American mothers with a stunted ability to make money.

“Women who worked before, during, or after their marriages see a 20 percent decline in income when their marriages end, according to Stephen Jenkins, a professor at the London School of Economics. His research found that men, meanwhile, tend to see their incomes rise more than 30 percent post-divorce. Meanwhile, the poverty rate for separated women is 27 percent, nearly triple the figure for separated men,” writes Darlena Cunha for The Atlantic in April 2016.

“The main reason women suffer the brunt of divorce’s financial burdens, according to Jenkins, is that during marriage, they are more likely than men to stop working in order to raise kids. ‘The key differences are not between men and women, but between fathers and mothers.’”

But here’s what’s interesting: the research also indicates that women will ask for that divorce anyway, despite the financial strain of it.

In 2015, one Psychology Today source cites a study of more than 2,000 heterosexual couples, stating that women initiated nearly 70 percent of divorces. Another source claims 80 percent. And if newer research is to be trusted, women may have less money and more limited ways to make it after divorce (which does change and can continue to improve, if slowly), but they are also discovering happiness is the surprise that awaits them.

The Huffington Post published a July 2013 article featuring research from London’s Kingston University—research that spanned 20 years and drew feedback from more than 10,000 United Kingdom residents between the ages of 16 and 60. Researchers asked subjects about their happiness before and after certain life events, including divorce. Women generally reported being more content than usual for several years after their divorces, leading the study authors to theorize that:

Women who leave unhappy marriages may end up feeling more unshackled by the break-up than men.

Another survey of 1,060 divorcees discovered that 53 percent of women said they are “much happier” after divorce—using words like “glad,” “celebration,” and “excitement”—while only 32 percent of the men interviewed made the same claim. Other writers have noted that 35 percent of U.K. women surveyed in 2018 said that they felt “less stressed” following the termination of their marriages, and while only 15 percent of men felt higher self-esteem post-divorce, 30 percent of women felt a boost in that regard.

So, what divorce often does to a woman is leave her struggling financially but coming through a divorce also seems to have the effect of making women feel stronger, more alive, and more authentically themselves.

For myself, neither my Ex of 13 years nor I have children of our own, though he is now a stepparent. (I never wanted to be a mother, so this is a happy circumstance for me, though I understand the profound pull to motherhood and respect it—especially if it’s done with thoughtfulness, self-knowledge, and preparation.) He and I had always kept separate bank accounts, yet shared the mortgage and bills equally, and we ended our partnership well, with our friendship intact and financial benefits on both sides. I’m very, very fortunate in this. We ended our partnership because we wanted to be happy and knew we’d taken that path as far as we could with each other. It’s difficult to speak legitimately to what children need when you don’t have any, but I do think that children benefit from having parents who are whole and authentically happy, not just making do, or, far worse, hiding the bruises or crumbling under the insults.

But whether you have children or not, it’s important to understand how divorce can affect your finances. In a 2017 article in The Guardian, a woman named Tracey McVeigh said that, “If I had any advice for women now thinking of getting married, I’d say never, never, never give up your financial independence. No matter how difficult it may seem, keep one toe in the water: it may make the difference between sinking and swimming.” We want you to swim, always. No matter where you are on your divorce journey, keep your head above water.

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer and former journalist living on the West Coast. Nicknamed Verbose at a young age, she loves word craft but has to keep a short leash on her fondness for the profane. Jennifer enjoys her cat’s input on her rough drafts (talk about snark) and the freedom of being her own partner. Connect with Jennifer here.

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

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.