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Life after divorce

Life After Divorce: Finding My Footing in Year One

I recently handed in my resignation letter for a job I’d had for only three months. It was a good company but the type of work, the hours, and the pay didn’t suit me. My closest friends expressed tentative support. I knew they were wondering: “Are you sure you know what you are doing? It’s the middle of the pandemic; you have obligations and no husband to support you.” I was rebuilding my life after divorce.

I knew what I was doing: I was listening to myself and following my needs. Also, I was trusting my ability to find a job that is worth my effort. I learned from going through a divorce to follow my heart.

Life After Divorce

It’s been a year since I got my final divorce document. I initiated the end of my 17-year-long marriage after I lost hope to repair it. For many years I was unhappy. Things looked fine on the outside: we had two children, a dog, and a beautiful old apartment in the city center. But I lacked the support that I needed, as well as respect and trust. With age, my husband grew more short-tempered, abusive, and jealous of my success and ambitions. I contributed to our growing apart too, fantasizing that some better man would come and save me, or that I would learn some magic trick at a women’s club that would repair my marriage. My divorce decision came as I lost hope of improving things. I also lost hope of being saved.

As I divorced, I continued to fantasize. I imagined an amicable agreement with co-parenting, staying friends, and dividing the assets fairly. Unfortunately, I had to say goodbye to that fantasy as well.

Gaining Perspective and Distance

The further from divorce I get, the more analysis I do, and different things look important. Currently, I would outline three things that I didn’t expect that are particularly hard to digest. Firstly, separating from an abuser didn’t end the abuse in my life after divorce, as that continued through our lingering communication. The Ex was open with his attitude: you decided on the divorce, now you face the consequences. He insisted I was solely responsible for the break-up and he wanted to get back at me.

Secondly, my eldest son decided to stay with his Father. I don’t see as much of him as I would like. I am learning to live with that, accepting my half-empty nest. But it still hurts.

Thirdly, I didn’t get the fair division of assets. My Ex is living in our apartment with our son in the process of attempting to sell at a very high price. I can’t afford to buy him out and he can’t buy out my half. Even a court can’t order us to sell, so this “sale” could go on for years. Doubly annoying is that it is not common knowledge among my circle of friends how unprotected our rights are. Most people assume and say that I am just not trying hard enough to sort the apartment issue out. Some even see my Ex’s resistance to sell the flat as charming, assuming that it is his way of getting back together with me.

When Trouble Comes — Open the Gates

When the Coronavirus outbreak happened, I found myself with no home, a broken family, and no job. In Russia, there is a saying: “When trouble comes — open the gates.” It implies that trouble never comes alone but accompanied by other things. Since divorce is a major shift in life, it rarely constitutes the only change.

Blessings in Disguise

The lockdown turned out to be a blessing in disguise that allowed me to cocoon. I came to stay and isolate myself with my parents in their countryside home. My parents didn’t ask questions and didn’t offer advice, and I was grateful. I realize how fortunate I am to have parents who welcomed me to live with them.

I am an extrovert by nature. I am friendly, sociable, and feel the need to discuss everything that happens to me with girlfriends. I also used to travel a lot for work and go out often. In my life after the divorce, I turned into a recluse. Content in my own company, I relived recent events while inwardly digesting my emotions. When summer came, I found comfort in gardening. Clad in gardening gloves and crouching between shrubs, I let my anger out with the productive physical work of cutting or sowing.

In sadder times, I allowed tears to run free without being noticed and interrogated. I didn’t need to spend energy on a job, I didn’t need to look good for an event to attend, and I didn’t need to explain to my girlfriends the status of my negotiations with the Ex. I painted, watched comforting movies, and started to learn German. I was on a power-saving mode that was crucial. I called it cocooning.

Listen to Others with Shared Experiences

I read and listened a lot about divorce. It was good to learn that I was not alone. One lady in the U.S. shared three tips that helped her survive her divorce: good anti-depressants, a great lawyer, and a job. She was a stay-at-home Mom. Getting a job allowed her to change the scenery and stop wallowing in self-pity. Taking her tips as an example, I formulated my own trio. Here’s what helped me survive and heal: therapy, cocooning, and learning to let go.

I had to let go of the idea of a happy married life with my Ex. I had to let go of the image of our full family. I let go of a plan to stay friends with my children’s Dad. I had to let go of my eldest son as my little boy. As a consolation, I am developing rare closeness with my youngest son. I had to say goodbye to some friends and even therapists when their advice was more hurtful than helpful. I am letting go of the idea that the property would be divided easily. I have to let go of my old self, a more naïve dreamy version of me who placed much emphasis on romantic love and dreamt of being saved to live happily ever after.

Healing through Technology

For me, technology offered an unexpected helping hand in letting go. Around the first anniversary of my divorce, I got a notice from Google demanding that I either delete or buy additional space for e-mails and photos. I preferred to delete it. It was an emotional and lengthy exercise. I started with e-mails, reliving projects that I was previously involved in. Soon, I was amazed and proud of how much I had accomplished in life. And I was sad to see how many people are no longer part of my life or part of my profession.

Then I got to the photos. I revisited many precious moments of family trips, and of kids being small. I cried a lot. It was a hard choice what to delete and what to keep. I deleted the photos of my Ex in swimwear. And I deleted photos from his trips where — as I later learned — he went with other ladies. I kept all his photos with the kids — he is their father after all and nothing will change that. It is our family history. Analysis of old photos made me appreciate the closeness between my eldest son and his Dad.

Is this the same person? Asked Google showing me my ex-husband in 2005 and 2019. I looked close. The younger version looked naïve, timid, and had a full head of hair. He evoked memories and emotions. The later version was bald and had a strange crooked smile. I felt like saying “it is not the same person.” As I looked at myself in 2008 and 2020 I also wanted to say I am not the same person in my life after divorce.

Now with the 7 Gigabytes of free space on Google disk ready for new impressions, what are my next steps?

After Divorce: A new job, a new home, a new life partner?

Yes, maybe, not yet.

I want to find a job where I feel needed and financially secure. Sooner rather than later I would like to be social again, wear nice clothes, make-up, go to an old-fashioned theater production, and have a glass of champagne. I have a semi-secret goal to learn to speak publicly. It pulls and scares me. A well-paid job will allow me to rent an apartment and move out of my parents’ home.

I may start going out and dating if life gets back to normal, but I am in no hurry to get a partner. This is a surprise to me since I’ve been chasing the “in-love feeling” since puberty. Whereas the idea of having a stable partner feels appealing, I have no energy for butterflies in the stomach or late-night texts. Probably, I will need to learn new relationship-building skills to have a new partnership. Meanwhile, I am investing my time in building new relationships with my sons. All in good time.

 

Anna Ivanova-Galitsina is an international expert in communications and storytelling based in Moscow, Russia. She has two teenage sons and a dog and is building a new happier life. You can reach out to her via e-mail for comment or discussion.

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

Custody Battle - How to Avoid Custody Issues During a Divorce

What is a Custody Battle and How Do You Avoid One?

A custody battle occurs when divorcing or divorced parents disagree about who should retain legal or physical custody of their children. Unfortunately, this is a common cause of litigation in family court, second only to litigation over support payments.

Custody battles are costly, both emotionally and financially, and can wreak havoc in the lives of the children involved. It’s important to educate yourself about the common causes of custody battles, how to avoid one, how to defend your child’s best interests, and what to do if you must file one.

How is Child Custody Awarded?

Absent any evidence that a parent is unfit, family law judges in most states will apply some form of a “best interests of the child” analysis. They will also factor in the rights of each parent to maintain a relationship with their children.

In determining the best interests of a child, a judge will consider:

  • The child’s age (younger children need more hands-on care);
  • Any evidence of the parenting ability of each parent;
  • What parenting arrangement will maintain a consistent routine for the child;
  • How any proposed change will impact the child’s current routine or lifestyle;
  • The child’s wishes, if the child is mature enough;
  • What parenting arrangement best protects the child’s physical safety and emotional well-being.

Historically, family law judges automatically awarded custody to mothers, but this is not the case today. Unless there are compelling reasons not to, judges will award parents joint legal custody, and either joint physical custody or physical custody with one parent, the other to have liberal parenting time.

When one parent wants to change the custody arrangement for any reason, they may choose to go to court. If the other parent disagrees, this is what is called a “custody battle.”

What Happens in a Custody Battle?

In a custody battle, also called a “custody dispute,” one parent seeks to change the child custody arrangement by filing a motion in family court and seeking a court order. The reasons parents need to do this may vary and can be any of the following.

One parent is:

  • Unfit
  • Emotionally abusive or absent
  • Physically or sexually abusive
  • A drug or alcohol abuser
  • In a living environment that is unsafe for any reason
  • Suffering from mental health problems
  • Unable to financially support the children
  • Attempting to alienate the children from the other parent

With the help of a good divorce attorney, the plaintiff parent must prove that for whatever reason, the children’s well-being is endangered by the defendant parent. “Well-being” includes physical safety as well as emotional and educational nurturing. Defendant parents often bring a counter-suit alleging that the plaintiff parent is unfit.

It’s important to know that the plaintiff parent faces an uphill battle to persuade the court that the defendant parent should not have custody of the children, because the law favors joint custody and the rights of parents to have relationships with their children.

Custody battles can be drawn-out and expensive. Not only will you pay court fees and ongoing attorney fees, but you will probably pay fees to experts for their evaluation and testimony, and perhaps fees to investigators. Custody battles also take an emotional toll on the entire family, especially if the children themselves have to testify. Pitting children against their parents in court can cause life-long emotional damage.


Wondering how to coparent when you absolutely “hate” your Ex? You’ll want to read our post about coparenting with an ex you hate.


How Can I Avoid a Custody Battle?

A parent having sole or joint custody of their children can try to avoid a custody battle by allowing their coparent the custody or parenting time ordered and by doing their best to cooperate and collaborate with their coparent.

Unfortunately, disputes arise. Your coparent may disagree with your parenting style or decisions you make and may make an allegation of abuse or unfitness, even if untrue. In this case, you will not be able to avoid a custody battle.

Consult with an attorney if your coparent files a custody dispute. Although your coparent must satisfy a high burden of proof of parental unfitness, you will need to assert your rights immediately. In cases where abuse of any kind is alleged, your children can be taken from you before it is proven in order to protect the children from possible harm.

What to Do if Your Coparent Alleges You Are Abusing Drugs or Alcohol

If you have a history of drug or alcohol use, this does not automatically make you unfit to parent your children. You should gather evidence that you have sought treatment and have been successfully treated for drug or alcohol dependency. This evidence can include proof of attending rehabilitation and negative drug or alcohol tests. Agreeing to continued drug or alcohol testing will help you retain custody of your children.

What to Do if Your Coparent Alleges You Suffer From Mental Illness

If you have a history of mental illness, this does not necessarily mean you are unfit to parent your children. You should gather evidence that you have recovered or are being successfully treated. This evidence can include the testimony or affidavits of psychologists or psychiatrists or the testimony or affidavit of the doctor who prescribes your medication.


How do you feel anchored when you are thinking about divorce and also spinning with all the information and unanswered unknowns? Check out “Overthinking When to Leave Your Husband.”


I Want Sole Custody of My Children, What Can I Do?

If you feel that the best interests of your children dictate that you have sole custody, you must file a custody dispute. Be advised that this will be expensive and may take months if your coparent defends.

Gather evidence that shows your coparent is unfit. If the reasons your coparent is unfit include any form of abuse, such as emotional, physical, or sexual abuse of your children, contact your local police and file a report. This can expedite the removal of the children from the coparent’s care and keep them safe while the court decides whether or not to change the custody arrangement.

Although a custody battle can be expensive and ugly, sometimes you cannot avoid one. Put your feelings aside about your partner as a spouse and ask yourself, is s/he generally a good parent? If so, it’s time to come to terms with the fact that your children deserve equal time with him/her. On the other hand, do not hesitate to file a custody dispute if you suspect that your children are unsafe or unattended to while in the care of your coparent.

 

About the Author

Veronica Baxter is a blogger and legal assistant living and working in the great city of Philadelphia, USA. She frequently works with Lee Schwartz, a noted child custody lawyer in Philadelphia.

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

“A healthy divorce requires smart steps through and beyond the divorce document.” Learn what we mean and what it means for you in a FREE 15-minute consultation.

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.

Divorce effects on children by Unsplash

Divorce Effects on Children

When considering the consequences of divorce, effects on children are perhaps the most impactful and far-reaching. Children are the innocent victims—the bystanders who get swept into the aftermath of a decision they had no say in. And, while some children rebound on the merits of inherent resilience, others struggle greatly, even into adulthood.

Divorce is never easy. It comes at a high cost across the board—emotionally, financially, socially, physically. Spouses are so focused on what is driving their own discontent and how to assuage or escape it that children often become collateral damage. Everything, it seems, is about whether, when, and how to divorce. Effects on children are too often an afterthought, dealt with (if at all) after the divorce is all said and done.

The big question often explored more in hindsight than at the moment is whether staying together is better at all costs.

How Parental Conflict Harms Children

The unequivocal consensus among psychological experts is that the single most important factor that harms children of divorce is continual parental conflict. Children become damaged when parents fight in front of them, over them, and through them. It literally changes who they are and how they process the world.

The challenge in deciding whether to divorce comes when the homefront is so contentious that constant conflict is a given. In these cases, children do not fare better for having their parents stay together.

For example, a report by Pew Social Trends explains that, while children of divorce are more inclined to one day divorce, conflict is a huge influencer. It turns out that children have a better chance at marital success if their high-conflict parents divorced.

The point is, the immersion in constant conflict does the most damage.

But, even when choosing the better of two bad choices, there is no denying the divorce effects on children. And “high conflict” can follow and damage children even after the divorce.

It should come as no surprise that the first year or two after a divorce are the toughest on children. Imagine that your world is thrown off its axis. Imagine the constancy of even the simplest, most predictable components of your life being tossed into the darkness of chaos, change, and insecurity.

Now imagine having no say in how you navigate that darkness. You don’t know how you got here. You don’t know how to get out. And you don’t know how to recognize, let alone deal with, all you are feeling.

Young Children and the Effects of Divorce

Another “no surprise” is that children of different ages process divorce differently. And the far-reaching effects of divorce, such as high-risk behaviors, are influenced by a child’s age at the time of his/her parents’ divorce.

Young children, for example, may have difficulty processing the idea of having two homes and having to go between them. They may also wonder if their parents will stop loving them, just as their parents have stopped loving one another. They haven’t yet developed the cognitive ability to separate the two concepts.

In an effort to make sense of their world, grade school children may start looking for a place to lay blame. And too often that blame turns inward to themselves. Was this my fault? Are Mommy and Daddy mad at me for something I did?

Teenagers and the Effects of Divorce

Teenagers, on the other hand, have a lot more cognitive development under their belts. But they still have a lot of flux in their emotional development and expression. They are more inclined to feel stressed, angry, and resentful and to place blame on one or both parents.

The successful transition for children of any age really pivots on the behavior and choices of the parents.

Swearing there is a place in Hell for your Ex is akin to sending the same message to your children. They are, don’t forget, a blend of both of you. And, when you hate the other parent in any capacity, your children will subconsciously assume you hate the same in them.

And that unthinkable, albeit unintended, judgment upon a child is life-altering. It destroys their self-esteem and sets them up for mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and extreme emotional sensitivity.

It also lays the groundwork for loyalty conflict and cognitive dissonance. When parents fight in front of or through their kids, they impose an unspoken demand for the children to take sides. They may even divide the children in their loyalties, as if the children were material assets.

Some children are able to detach from the fighting and declare neutrality. But others internalize it. And the mental state of trying to hold two incompatible, contradictory thoughts at once becomes painful and unsustainable.

In an effort to alleviate the discomfort of cognitive dissonance, children will often “choose” one parent over the other. The parental alienation of the other parent has no justification. But the mind simply can’t survive that kind of mental conflict.

Far better to learn how to co-parent. If you absolutely hate your ex, you can still ensure that your children know you love that part of them that came from the other parent. And, by committing to conflict-free parenting post-divorce, you will give them the greatest chance of exercising their resilience.

Signs that Divorce and Conflict are Affecting Your Child

There are so many divorce effects on children, each worthy of and warranting its own spotlight. But here are some additional effects to keep in mind and look for as you navigate your own (potential) divorce:

  • Increased behavioral problems, especially in homes and divorces with high conflict.
  • Decreased interest in social activity. Children of divorce are more likely to feel insecure and alone in their experience and may therefore isolate.
  • Difficulty adapting to change. Even the most amicable, cooperative divorces involve change for everyone. But most involve a lot of uncomfortable change—residential moves, financial hardship, school changes, remarriages, and step-/blended families, etc.
  • Destructive and risky behavior like alcohol/drug use and sexual activity.
  • Decreased academic performance. Constantly changing family dynamics understandably leave children confused and distracted, making it difficult for them to concentrate on studies.
  • Increased health problems. Mental health issues include anxiety disorder, depressive disorder, anger issues, and feelings of overwhelming stress, pressure, and guilt. The internalization of symptoms can lead to somatic disorder, which may present as sleep problems, headaches, stomachaches, and tension. This somatic symptom disorder may become especially evident if parental conflict is high at the “switching hour” when children go from one parent to the other.
  • Decreased faith in marriage and family, and therefore an increased risk of divorce later in life.

The responsibility of parenthood assumes a prioritization of the child over the parent. But, when high conflict, abuse, or addiction occurs in the home, everyone gets lost in the fight for emotional (and sometimes physical) survival.

Tragically, parents often return to emotional childhood themselves. And, if they don’t learn conflict-free parenting post-divorce, they will set up a history that is destined to repeat itself.

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce or that confusing place of recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice not to do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional, financial, and often complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. SAS offers six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you and your future. Join our tribe now

 

*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.

 

To illustrate if having an affair means divorce

Does Having an Affair Mean You Will Divorce?

Having an affair—or being on the forsaken side of one—changes you. It changes your marriage, your family, your life. It makes you question everything—your marriage vows, your happiness, your ability to trust, even your own trustworthiness. And it certainly makes you question your future.

Even if you regret your choice to have an affair, you know things will never be the same. (And likewise for your husband if he was the one who had the affair.) You know you can’t pretend it didn’t happen.

There is only a handful of choices once a spouse has had an affair:

  • The straying spouse confesses the affair.
  • The other spouse finds out.
  • The affair is kept a secret, but the straying spouse (and his/her affair partner) always knows and remembers.

And, regarding the destiny of the marriage, there are only two choices:

  • Stay married.
  • Divorce.

How those choices play out is another story. But, without question, the very act of having an affair brings all these possibilities to the fore. And, while you may have been the one to choose the affair, you won’t be the only one to choose its consequences.

While there are several ways to know if divorce is the only option, infidelity in and of itself isn’t one of them. Although cheating is behind 20-40% of divorces, that doesn’t mean that cheating necessarily has to lead to divorce.

Statistics on infidelity and divorce are plentiful and complex. And if the range in numbers seems less than tight, there’s good reason. Infidelity is largely self-reported. It also has a spectrum of definitions, ranging from emotional to one-night-stand to all-in.

Straying from one’s marriage vows has long been a vice quickly attributed to men. “Why did you get divorced? Did he have an affair?” Assumptions abound—often to the point where cheated-on-wives would rather stay in troubled marriages and turn a blind eye.

When Children Are Involved

There is also the issue of children. Regardless of how an affair is revealed, children factor into the consequences. Perhaps that is largely why, when men have affairs, their wives are more likely to stick it out than when the opposite is true.

There is another reason that factors into the picture, however, and that’s why each gender is inclined to stray.

While men are, in general, more capable of separating their emotions from sex, women aren’t. A man may betray his wife by having an affair that is “just sex.” And he will, of course, break her heart and harm his marriage.

But scorned wives, at least statistically, are more likely to want to work on and save their marriages.

Scorned husbands, on the other hand, aren’t so tolerant—at least statistically.

Perhaps that’s because a woman having an affair is usually motivated by a yearning for emotional connection. She feels dissatisfied in her marriage and doesn’t receive an equitable effort to make things work.

So, when she strays, she takes more than her body to the tryst. She takes her heart.

And men don’t like it.

While having an affair doesn’t equate to pulling the “go to jail, go directly to jail” card in Monopoly, it is a red flag. And it’s how you and your husband respond to that red flag that will determine the destiny of your marriage. “Go to court, go directly to court”? Or “go to counseling, go directly to counseling”?

When a marriage has been shaken by infidelity, choices have to be made. None are easy. All are painful. And all have lifetime consequences.

When having an affair does lead to divorce, it’s usually because of one or more of the following reasons:

  • The cheated-on-spouse simply isn’t able to trust again.

The process of rebuilding the cornerstone of marriage is a long, humbling, arduous one. And it requires commitment and compassion from both parties.

Transparency from the cheating spouse, a willingness to forgive from the betrayed spouse. The seemingly disparate objectives have to miraculously work in synchronicity. And there needs to be enough love in the foundation, however ironic that may sound.

  • There are underlying issues that made the marriage vulnerable to an affair.

As mentioned above, women who have affairs are usually hungering for an emotional connection. Sex may become part of the infidelity, but usually there is an underlying, unresolved discontent with their marriages.

Men, on the other hand, are usually more dissatisfied with their wives’ dissatisfaction. This makes it easy for them to disregard the need to work on themselves or their marriages.

But one thing is undeniable: An affair will expose the issues and leave both partners standing at a fork in the road of their union. Do we work on this, or do we go our separate ways? Should I or shouldn’t I divorce?

  • One spouse refuses to get help.

Delving into oneself is always a springboard toward personal growth. But there is only so much one can do alone when it comes to repairing a marriage. And never is that more true than when an affair has sounded the Reveille on a troubled marriage.

Whether you are the one who has had the affair or been cheated on, getting professional help is a great step. But your spouse’s willingness to participateindividually and as a couplewill determine the ability of your marriage to survive.

  • One or both of you is just done.

It happens. Sometimes there is just too much water under the bridge, regardless of who did what. There’s too much anger over the infidelity. There’s too much anger over what led to the infidelity. The infidelity was a way to sabotage and exit the marriage.

There are a lot of reasons that can lead to that sense of unequivocal finality.

You may not hear the whispers or feel the nudges leading up to your “aha moment.” But, when you look back, you see it all so clearly.

Sex became a chore. Communication became bitter and stressful. Envisioning your future went by the wayside—or began to include someone other than your spouse. You lost respect for one another. You flat-out stopped enjoying the company of your spouse. And on and on and on.

You may even wonder how you didn’t see it until now. But that voice is always there, telling you that something isn’t right and urging you to address it.

Having an affair can be a slamming of the door or a cry for help.

There are plenty of couples who will tell you that, despite their recommendation against infidelity, it was precisely an infidelity that saved their marriage. They made the choice to get to work on behalf of the vows they had once made. And they brought their marriage up from the ashes.

Likewise, there are plenty of couples who stay together, but with a wound that never fully heals.

And finally, there are those who decide the infidelity was the final straw. Perhaps they can’t bear the thought of living in its shadow. Perhaps they resolve to leave and learn.

But none are ever the same.

 

SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to navigating divorce—on their own terms. If you are considering or dealing with divorce, you are invited to experience SAS for Women firsthand and schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation. Whether you work further with us or not, we’ll help you understand your next, black-and-white steps for walking into your brave unknown—with compassion and integrity.

*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.

Women must know about divorce in texas

6 Things a Woman Must Know About Divorce in Texas

Every state is unique in how it adjudicates divorce, adding to the headache of getting on with life-after-marriage. And the Lone Star state, as you might expect, has its own unique rule book. There are several things a woman must know about divorce in Texas if she is going to avoid painful surprises. We’re going to look at six of them.

From waiting periods to custody to the division of assets, it’s imperative that a woman goes into her divorce with eyes wide open. And, if that woman is you, the time to educate yourself and prepare is now.

Even if you’re still in the not-sure stage, there is a checklist of things to do if you are contemplating divorce. The fact that “the big D” is stirring around in your mind may be the shoulder-tap you need to work on your marriage.

But, if you are past the point of possible resolution, it’s time to bring your A-game. The more informed and prepared you are, the better you (and your children) will be going forward. So embrace the unembraceable with wisdom, dedicated research, and unflappable self-advocacy.

Let’s look at six important things a woman must know about divorce in Texas.

 

  1. Grounds for divorce. 

There are seven grounds (reasons) for divorce in Texas, but only the first one is considered “no-fault.” The remaining grounds can influence judgment regarding things like division of assets and child guardianship. (Obviously these grounds can apply to either or both spouses. And most couples opt for a no-fault divorce.)

    1. You have irreconcilable differences. “No one’s at fault, but we just can’t live together or get along anymore.”
    2. There is emotional and/or physical abuse (“cruel treatment”) that makes staying in the marriage unsafe and/or unbearable.
    3. Your spouse has cheated on you.
    4. Conviction of a felony. During the marriage, your spouse was convicted of a felony and incarcerated for at least a year without pardon.
    5. Your spouse has been gone for more than a year with the intention of leaving you forever.
    6. Living apart. You and your spouse have lived apart, without cohabitating, for at least three years.
    7. Confinement in a mental hospital. At the time of filing, your spouse has been confined to a mental hospital for at least three years without a prognosis of improvement.

2. Mandatory waiting period vs. reality. 

Texas family courts aren’t in a rush to finalize divorces. Expect to wait a minimum of 60 days from the date of filing for your divorce to be final. However, the average wait is six months to a year, depending on the complexity of the divorce and degree of conflict.

The only exception to the 60-day waiting period is one of two specific criteria involving domestic violence.

3. Legal separation? Not in Texas. 

In Texas, you’re either married, or you’re not. Or so says the law. That means that all assets and debts, whether accumulated while together or separated, are considered communal property at the time of divorce.

This is important to keep in mind if you’re thinking that a separation will give you time to think, experiment with singlehood, or side-step divorce.

You could end up liable for expenses your spouse accrues on a separate credit card, for example. You could also have to divide income and benefits you accumulate while “kind of” living on your own.

4. Alimony? Good luck.

One of the most important things you, as a woman, must know about divorce in Texas is that there is no court-ordered alimony. Texas courts call this “judicially imposed allowance,” and they don’t award it. What the courts refer to as “maintenance” comes with specific criteria.

Three examples that don’t involve the specific conditions of domestic violence include:

    1. You will not have enough property to provide for your minimal needs after the divorce. (Note: not “the lifestyle to which you are accustomed.”)
    2. You have been married 10 or more years and are unable to provide for your minimal needs. (This is particularly relevant to women who forfeited careers to care for children or elders.)
    3. You have a child that requires extensive supervision because of a physical or mental illness.

For women seeking structure, guidance, education, and support as they “contemplate” …. or begin the actual divorce/separation process, we invite you to consider Annie’s Group, our powerful, virtual, group coaching program for women only.

Annie’s Group provides support, education and a community of like-minded, resourceful women, so you feel less alone. Read more about Annie’s Group here. 


5. Custody arrangements.

The preferred and usual custodial arrangement in Texas is joint custody. The underlying desire is for children to have an equal relationship with both parents, even if they live primarily with one.

In a coparenting arrangement, both parents make decisions and have responsibility for the children. And the children live with each parent for at least 35% of the year.

While “joint managing conservatorship” is the court’s preference, the best interest of the children trumps all other considerations.

Finally, divorcing parents of minor children are required to complete a parenting class before a divorce is granted. Its intention is to help parents and children through the painful process of divorce. The class is available online.

6. Division of assets (and debts).

Texas is considered a “community property” state, which implies an equal division of both assets and debts.

However, special considerations can be taken into account by the judge. For example, the degree of disparity between income and earning potential can influence an unequal division.

Similarly, the physical capacity of both parties, nature of assets, and fault in the marriage’s breakup may be taken into consideration.

When it comes to the division of debt, it’s important to know that a divorce decree means nothing to creditors.

To assure that you aren’t left paying off mutual debts alone, it may be wise to divide responsibility for debts as part of the divorce.

Finally, it would be in your best interest to have a financial advisor or attorney go over your community assets with you. The timing of the acquisition of retirement benefits, for example, can determine what you are owed in the divorce.

There are a lot of things a woman must know about divorce in Texas before signing off on the next phase of her life.

 

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 reinvention. 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.

 

Stay at home. moms get alimony?

stay-at-home mom

Complications always arise in divorce and money negotiations. If you’re one of the 25% of American mothers staying home to raise a family, the financial implications of a split become more complex. Stay-at-home moms will have to plan their financial futures accordingly.

If you didn’t have an iron-clad prenuptial agreement in place when you married, your divorce might involve a lot of negotiation. Child support, custody, visitation rights, property division, and debt are all going to be on the table.

The questions and answers are different in each case, but one of the key issues is always whether you were a working or stay-at-home mom. That factor can determine how much you know about your household’s finances, the amount of money you have access to, your options for the future, and whether or not you’ll get alimony.

Divorce laws differ in each state, and there’s very little legislation on spousal support. If you’re not careful, lawyers can engage in endless back-and-forth tussles debating the issue, sending legal costs skyrocketing.

If you’re a stay-at-home mom, you need to take action to look after yourself and your children’s day-to-day needs. When that involves securing alimony, there are some practical steps you can take.

Collate All Your Financial Documents

If you haven’t neatly filed your tax returns, investment account statements, details about loans and mortgages, and any other financial documents, make sure you organize them now.

You should also find out if you’re entitled to collect social security benefits from your Ex, and you may have to familiarize yourself with other family-related expenses too. The idea is to get a clear picture of the financial situation in your mind. That may be daunting if your Ex handled all things money, but it’s the first step in negotiating a fair settlement as a stay-at-home-mom.

Find Out the Value of All Property

Get an up-to-date valuation on your primary residence, plus any other houses, apartments, vehicles, or other assets that you’ve acquired together over the marriage. This can get a little messy later on if your Ex withholds information, and you have to resort to forensic accountants to uncover hidden assets. However, for the time being, try to remain as civil as possible.

Get a Good Handle on Credit

Even if everything goes according to plan, divorces cost money. Going forward, two households need to be maintained instead of one. That’s two sets of rent or mortgages, insurance plans, and utilities—just for starters.

The fact is, there’s a good chance that you’ll need to rely on credit somewhere along the way. Find out your credit score using one of the reputable online checking sites and improve your current rating if possible. Settling old debts or long-term loans will give your score a boost.

If you have a good rating, banks will be more willing to extend your line of credit. This could help to cover your monthly expenses when you’re in a pinch.

Consider Plans to Return to Work

If you’ve never worked or left the workforce many years ago, you’ll probably feel uncertain and anxious about joining or rejoining the proverbial rat race. There’s certainly a lot to consider, including what skills you have, those you need to develop, and what you want out of your career.

From an alimony point of view, your future employment plans could affect whether you ask for temporary or permanent spousal support. The type of support you request may determine how a judge rules in a contested divorce, or what your Ex offers if the divorce remains uncontested. Think about this when you’re considering jobs, and when setting a goal for how much you’d like to earn.

Create Possible Budgets

Armed with all the financial and career information you’ve gathered, create budgets that deal with several possible scenarios.

What would happen if you sold some—or all—of your property and split the proceeds? How much do you spend on groceries, and how much can you expect to spend in a month if your Ex is sharing custody?

You should also work out how much all your monthly expenses (insurance, phone plans, et cetera) add up to. And while it can be challenging to work out how your career would have developed if you’d been in the workplace instead of at home, financial analysts and job experts can make it a lot easier. Their services do cost money, but they could result in securing you more funds down the line.

Retain an Attorney

Divorces are undoubtedly difficult, but you can handle them amicably, and that’s what almost everyone wants. That’s why so many people choose divorce mediation, and why it’s something you should at least consider.

Having said that, you should still retain a divorce attorney. If mediation is successful, you’ll be using your lawyer a lot less. However, you’ll still want the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have a legal expert who is helping you vet offers from your spouse, or whose reviewing things from your perspective and how they will impact you long term.  This is critical to making sure you have protected yourself. One of the biggest mistakes women make throughout the divorce process is that they don’t plan adequately FINANCIALLY for their future.


If you are looking for support, education, and a community of like-minded, resourceful women, you’ll be interested in Annie’s Group, our powerful, virtual group coaching program for women thinking about or beginning the process of divorce/separation. Read more here

 


Consider Divorce Mediation

With all the data you’ve collected and your budget scenarios, you’ll be in a great position, potentially, to talk frankly with your Ex. You can discuss the children’s needs, and what you require to continue being the mother your kids know, love, and deserve.

Mediation is a time to negotiate fairly. It’s about people and families rather than lawyers and money.

Be as honest as possible; for example, don’t say you’re not planning on going back to work when you are. As tough as it is, be respectful towards your soon-to-be ex-spouse, regardless of who decided to leave. This creates the best-case scenario for a fair divorce that’s granted quickly, giving both spouses and any children the chance to move forward with their lives.

Caution: If you never had access to the finances in your marriage, your spouse controlled everything regarding money, or your spouse is accustomed to negotiating with lawyers (in work or otherwise), or there was any form of deceit, lying or betrayal in the relationship, you are NOT a good candidate for mediation.  Mediation is about two parties being on an equal playing field and being transparent with each other. If you never had that, don’t expect it to magically appear with the help of a mediator. Use a traditional divorce attorney to advocate on your behalf.

Remember That You’re Worth It!

As a society, we’re still learning how to value stay-at-home moms and caretaking versus breadwinning in a marital or domestic situation.

Often, stay-at-home moms don’t receive long-term alimony. This is because judges are increasingly recognizing that the historical gender disadvantages have lessened. As a result, judges may award short-term alimony, but will require that stay-at-home moms will need to seek employment in the future. However, the time you put into running a household, rearing children, and supporting your spouse’s career is invaluable. As you enter these negotiations, remind yourself—and your Ex—of that fact.

 

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.

 

What are the Covid Divorce Statistics?

What are the COVID Divorce Statistics?

Divorce statistics in the US are nothing to make the marriage industry proud. Despite a significant decrease in recent years (most likely because more couples are waiting to marry), divorce still lurks as a postscript to marriage vows. An iffy chance of success, with even worse odds for successive marriages, casts a dim light on the concept of “forever.”

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, divorce rates hit a historical high in 1979, with 22.6 out of every 1,000 breaking up. Fast forward 38 years to 2017, and that rate had dropped 29% to 16.1 divorces for every 1,000 marriages. That’s a significant drop and a nice boost to the institution of marriage.

The bulk of that success can be attributed to fewer younger couples taking their first trip down the aisle. Apparently they had taken the failed marriages of the younger-marrying Baby Boomer generations before them to heart. Waiting several more years to tie the knot apparently worked.

Unfortunately, those 55 and over who have decided to give connubial bliss another shot haven’t been as successful. As a matter of fact, their divorce rates have skyrocketed.

Against this statistical backdrop heading into 2020, a new player has entered the arena and could very well throw divorce statistics into an upheaval.

I’m talking, of course, about the coronavirus pandemic.

No one saw it coming. And no one could have imagined how life on a global scale would change on a moment’s notice. Suddenly that hypothetical question, “If you were stuck on a remote island with one person, who would you want it to be?” took on new meaning.

How the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 gets written into the history books and statistical data remains to be seen. But hints of what’s to come are already revealing themselves.

Sheltering-in-place has upended the home life of millions of people. Not all the forced adaptations have been negative, but the stresses of the times have definitely taken a negative toll. And marriages are standing right there in the middle of the traffic.

When you consider the top reasons for which couples divorce, it’s not surprising that the COVID pandemic is putting marriages to the test. Three of the biggest reasons — abuse, addiction, and financial problems — have been in a veritable Petri dish since lockdowns started.

Unemployment rates are at an all-time high, and even those willing to work have been forced to wait things out. Families already living paycheck-to-paycheck have been forced to rely on less-than-adequate unemployment benefits. And people have been scrambling to reinvent themselves professionally in anticipation of the long-haul unknown.

Considering that finances fuel a big portion of marital conflict, troubled relationships are now burning at a faster rate. Add to that mix the isolation and secrecy needed for abuse and addiction to thrive, and you have a glimpse of what may influence divorce statistics.

It’s still too early to have a clear picture of divorce rates during this pandemic. And one big reason for that is that courts were included in the shutdowns. Suddenly there was no means to file for or proceed with divorce. Only emergency cases — those involving domestic violence and emergency child custody needs, for example — were being considered.

As businesses and government agencies began reopening, courts had to play catch-up with their pre-pandemic backlog of cases. That meant a further delay for people already in the process of divorce, and definitely a delay for those wanting to file.

For women seeking divorce in the time of coronavirus, their focus has needed to shift to preparation and self-care. Many divorce lawyers and counselors are receiving calls from people intending to divorce as soon as possible. Many expect the uptick in virtual filings to explode after the pandemic has settled. But, until the courts can catch up, those waiting remain stuck.

The financial component of this pandemic can’t be extricated from the analysis of (potential) divorce statistics during this time. Divorce isn’t cheap. And it rarely leaves either party financially better off than when the couple was married.

Lawyers, court fees, financial advisors, and settlement terms are expensive. Pairing job and income loss with the realization that your marriage can’t make it poses a big problem. That scenario is becoming more common, and it’s forcing couples to rethink both their marriages and their approach to ending them.

For couples who can maintain respect and civility, options like mediation and collaborative divorce can save a lot of money. They can also help expedite the divorce process while courts are overwhelmed.

But there are additional financial factors that complicate divorce efforts during this pandemic.

The most complex component of any divorce, aside from custodial arrangements for children, is the division of assets. Divorce proceedings, for good reason, look at more than just “what’s in the account today.” Past, present, and future all come into play.

Any kind of disaster or major crisis influences the values of homes, stocks, and other assets. Stop the world from spinning on its axis, and you’ve got major economic upheaval.

How do you now plan for the sale of your home and the division of profits (or debt)? How do you fairly divide stocks and retirement investments that may have plummeted and haven’t recovered?

How do you determine spousal and/or child support when one or both parties doesn’t have guaranteed employment or income? How are things like life insurance and health insurance affected? How do you separate from your spouse and find a place to rent when there’s no income?

One thing is definite in this time of COVID: This pandemic is holding a mirror up to every marriage and household. And it’s exposing every weakness that could once hide behind careers and individual interests.

It may be a while before we have a clear understanding of the influence of COVID-19 on divorce statistics. But, if you are a woman facing the possible end of your marriage, there is hope…and help.

There are things to do if you are thinking about divorce — many that you can begin doing now. And there are divorce support groups to walk with you on this painful journey, even if you don’t have the convenience of physical separation yet.

COVID may have changed life as we know it. And it may be complicating the processes for making necessary life choices. But you still have the power to make those choices…and the support to help you live them.

 

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce or that confusing place of recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice not to do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional, financial, and often complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and personal support strategies for themselves and their 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.

 

Should I leave my husband?

What Should I Do to Leave My Husband?

“If I know I can’t stay in this marriage, what should I do to leave my husband?”

Leaving a marriage is complicated, scary, painful. And that’s when both of you are in agreement. Leaving your husband when you’re the only one wanting to end the relationship is even more difficult.

Your reasons for wanting, even needing, to leave will determine your course of action. Obviously there’s a difference between leaving because of abuse and safety issues and leaving because of general dissatisfaction with your marriage.

Safety first for you, your children, and your pets. Always. If your question, What should I do to leave my husband?, regards an abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. And, if you are in immediate danger, call 911.

Your local women’s shelter is a rich resource of information and assistance for women and children living in abusive situations. They can guide you through a plan of action to get you safely out of the home and into protection. And they can walk you through important steps like:

  • Filing a restraining order
  • Safely filing for divorce, despite threats from your husband
  • Preparing and protecting your children
  • Filing for and securing custody of your children
  • Planning an exit strategy
  • Getting an escort to help you retrieve your belongings
  • Making sure you have money
  • Securing legal representation for divorce and/or abuse charges
  • Looking for work and a safe place to live
  • Getting counseling for you and your children

If there are guns in the house, try to remove them. If you cannot safely do so, at least remove the ammunition and anything you can that could be used to cause harm.

Whether you are leaving for safety, sanity, or both, it is imperative that you have a plan. Think through what you are doing and why. Cross your t’s and dot your i’s because “leaving” isn’t as simple as walking out the door and not looking back.

You have a footprint — legal, financial, and custodial. You are, in essence, “building your case” for leaving — and possibly for custody — so details matter. You can’t, for example, just pack up the kids and take them with you, let alone across state lines.

Courts are sworn to the law, no matter how much a story tugs at their heartstrings. So be smart, wise, and prepared. And build your village of knowledgeable, credentialed support early.

One of the best gifts you can give yourself is the accompanying guidance of a therapist and a support group. This is especially true if you are overthinking when to leave your husband but know in your heart you need to leave.

For a lot of women, “What should I do to leave my husband?” is primarily a question of financial preparation and sustenance. They know they will need financial help in order to just survive, but they don’t know where to get it. And they will often stay in an unhappy and/or unhealthy situation just to have some semblance of financial security.

As a Stay-at-Home-Mom, you may have forfeited a career to raise children, so your skill sets are outdated and your earning potential is low.

Your husband — thanks in large part to you holding down the homefront — may have enjoyed a rising career. He may never want for income, thanks to his income. He may control the money, both the day-to-day flow and the retirement savings.

That puts you in a very vulnerable position when thinking about how to leave your husband. Suddenly you have to summon your own empowerment, but he seems to have all the power.

According to a study conducted by CDFA Laurie Itkin and Worthy, despite the fact that 55% of married women managed the bill-paying, over 20% left investment decisions to the husband. And almost half, while going through divorce, admitted to unexpected “surprises” that set them back.

So how can you leave and still know that you will be OK after the divorce is over? Here are 7 important steps to help you prepare to leave your husband:

 

1.     Financial preparation.

Become educated about bill paying, investing and stay involved in the family finances. Single and divorced women have to manage all aspects of their finances, so married women should be just as involved.

Knowing your net worth, both as a couple and as individuals, is essential when it comes time to divide assets. Make a list of all assets — “yours, mine, ours.” Too often women leave financial assets in their husbands’ court, only to suffer later when their settlement is depleted.

If things are already too late in the game for that, seek out legal and financial representation early. And don’t underestimate your worth, needs, or contributions made, without pay, so your husband could build his career.

2.     The date.

Have a date in mind and make sure you have affordable housing lined up. Can you stay with a friend or family member for a while? Do you have enough income or savings to rent for the first year while you adjust?

3.     Get Support and feedback for guidance and direction.

Connect with those who understand the journey — strategically and healthily. Find a therapist who has experience supporting women through this crisis, or join Annie’s Group — our virtual group coaching program for women, or on your own, take advantage of our Master Class: How to Know If Divorce is Right for You and What You Must Know to Do It and receive a private coaching session and a consult with a financial person, dedicated to your specific story and needs. If you are planning on moving out, and especially if you have children, check with a lawyer that your move won’t adversely impact your claim to things or how you are viewed by the law.

4.     PINS, passwords, and important documents.

Be sure to change all PINS and passwords to your accounts and have all your important documents (including copies of mutual documents) in one place.

5.     The kids.

Most importantly, have a plan for your children. Assuming you are not in a crisis situation, you and your husband should have conversations about disclosure and co-parenting.

This is a good time to seek the guidance of a family therapist to help both of you through this painful time.

A therapist who specializes in children of divorce can help prepare you to provide your children with an emotionally safe transition. And your child’s school counselor can be one of the best resources and advocates for your child during this time.

6.     The pets.

Make a plan for your pets, as well, especially if you are in a stressful situation and have reason to worry about their safety. They feel and respond to negative energy, and the upheaval of their routine can be very upsetting.

Perhaps a friend can keep your pet in a safe, calm environment until you are settled. But this arrangement should be well thought-out, too, as pets are often pawns for retribution. And you don’t want to put a friend in harm’s way if there is any concern about your husband’s actions.


If you are looking for more, read our popular 36 Things to Do If You are Thinking about Divorce

 


7.     Documentation.

Finally, document everything, even when it seems trivial or unnecessary. Document dates, times, locations, texts, calls, resources, conversations, arguments, financial actions, threats, everything.

You will always be grateful you have the information in writing and not loosely sworn to memory. And a court will take you far more seriously if you have your case well laid out and documented.

“Putting asunder” what was once a forecast of eternal bliss is traumatic, even when necessary. Even having to ask, “What should I do to leave my husband?” is a sad statement about the status of your life. No matter what decisions you make, change is coming with them. And fear, grief, loss, and worry will be in its wake.

You may not be able to walk out the front door with a confident smile and no worries. But having a plan and being prepared can at least help you leave with the assurance that you are going to be OK.

 

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.