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Bad divorce advice

8 Terrible (But Common) Pieces of Divorce Advice You Should Definitely Ignore

It’s a rare skill to listen to someone without offering up your two cents, and divorce advice is no different. Each and everyone one of us does this. For women, especially, it’s only natural to want to help our loved ones. So we dole out our well-meaning advice. We try to fix whatever’s broken. But we don’t know what we don’t know, and when it comes to someone else’s marriage, there’s just so damn much we don’t know. Will never know.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of this “well-intentioned” divorce advice, just know that you’re not alone in this. Most of it comes from a good place, though much of it is terrible. Here are some of the more common pieces of divorce advice we’ve come across and why they often miss the mark.

Wait until the children are out of the house, for their sake

One of the most common pieces of divorce advice is simply to not get divorced at all. At least, not until the children are old enough to live on their own. This, the advice giver says, is what’s best for your children. But the research shows that’s not the case. Getting divorced and removing your children from an environment filled with tension and uncertainty can be better for you children in the long run.

In this case, the advice giver skirts around everything left unsaid: teach your children that it’s more important to be miserable than happy, to do what’s easy rather than what feels right, to pretend that everything is okay rather than bare your mistakes to the world, to make fear-based decisions instead of taking risks and being brave.

Get it together already

Harsh. But it’s tough love, right? The problem with telling someone to get it together is that it implies there’s a time limit on how long each of us has to wallow in our emotions. To just be. To process the end of a relationship. But sometimes all we feel up to on a given day is planting ourselves in front of the TV and watching When Harry Met Sally on repeat. Yes, Netflix, we are still here.

We get it, no one likes to see someone they love in pain, so when someone tells you to shut off your feelings, to “X or get off the pot” just to make them more comfortable around you simply explain to them that that is exactly what they are doing. You are sad, and that’s okay. If they don’t like what they see, they can leave you to it. Your divorce recovery journey is your journey, and no one but you gets to dictate what that journey looks like.

You just need to try harder

Divorce advice about you needing to “put in the work” almost always includes phrases like “to get that spark back.” Most of these people mean well, but being that they are on the outside of your marriage looking in, they can’t possibly know just how much effort you’ve already put into reconnecting with your partner and “fixing” whatever’s wrong in your marriage.

Working on your marriage is a complicated thing. It might be that all of this burden is being placed on your shoulders—or maybe it’s the opposite. On the advice of your loved ones, you’re constantly having talks with your husband* about trying more, making more time, changing his behavior, and now, he feels as though he’s walking on eggshells. That everything he does is wrong. This isn’t good either.

You and your partner should not feel pressured to perform a role that no longer fits, to be what someone expects of you rather than be yourself. Sometimes we try so hard to make our marriages work that we fail to see that we’ve become two mismatched puzzle pieces being forced together.

And then there’s the flip side.

It’s time to find someone better

It’s hard not to cringe when someone tells you this. Are they implying that you chose the wrong partner? That your Ex isn’t a good person? The truth is there are often a myriad of, and not just one, reasons that cause a marriage to come to an end. There is no winning or losing side. And in the months or even years leading up to your divorce, it’s quite possible that you painted a pretty one-sided picture of your Ex. It’s possible that your loved ones don’t have the full story.

After divorce, we each have our own lessons to learn. Could we communicate better? Be more patient and understanding? Are we being honest with ourselves about what we want out of life? Maybe your Ex was exactly who you needed in your life at a given moment, and now, for whatever reason, things have changed.

And if you have children who overhear talk of finding someone better, it’s possible that they’ll develop a negative view of themselves. After all, half of their identity has been formed by their father. If he’s not “good enough,” then maybe you feel the same way about them, too.

Next time, you’ll get it right

Here’s another cringeworthy piece of divorce advice. Marriage, children, the house—for so many, these are the markers of someone who has “made it.” Someone who’s successful and has it all. But now, your marriage is over. If you were once a winner, then logic says you’re now a loser. They (meaning all the people who are still winning, all the “happily-married” couples whose lives you are envious of) have gotten it and are still getting it right.

By now, surely you can see the problem with this kind of thinking. The logic is flawed. For one, there might not be a next time, and you might be perfectly okay with that. But more than that, marriage, and life by extension, is not a game. And you are not a failure for deciding to stop playing one way.

You need a rebound

You need to move on! You need to get “out there” and have some fun. You need to get under someone to get over someone. No matter how they phrase their words, anyone who gives you this advice is telling you the same thing: jump into bed with someone else—it’s the only way to let go of your feelings for your Ex.


Read: How to Avoid Rebound Relationships After Divorce


And hey, if this has helped you, then more power to you, but each of us is cut from a different cloth. There’s a time and place for casual sex, and while you’re recovering from divorce may not be one of them. Instead of helping you feel more alive and in control, it can make you feel even more alone and empty. At the end of the day, there’s that word “casual” attached to the sex. Casual as in no attachments, no feelings, and no promises. When you’re at your most vulnerable, sometimes you need to surround yourself by people who offer more stability than that.

You better dive back into that dating pool—you’re not getting any younger

It seems that for women our biological clocks never quite stop ticking. Our days are numbered in large, bold font with a neon arrow pointing to our expiration date for all to see. After divorce, we feel pressured to quickly find another of those plentiful fish in the sea. To snap one up and lock it down before the wrinkles settle in for good and we grow tired of covering up the grey.

And all this pressure? It puts you at risk of settling for someone who’s not really right for you and ignoring someone who might surprise you. It makes the whole dating experience more of a frantic frenzy than a journey that teaches you just as much about yourself as it does about any man. Give yourself the time you deserve to properly recover from your divorce before you start dating again. You can find happiness at any age, and anyone who tells you otherwise should be ignored. They’re projecting their own fears, but you know better than that.

Squeeze every penny out of that [insert insult here]

During and after your divorce, you’ll likely be experiencing many emotions, with one in particular often rising to the surface: anger. And your loved ones, who are also feeling angry on your behalf, might be stoking those fires rather than helping you put them out. But deciding to go after your Ex “for all that the’s worth” almost never makes those feelings go away. Instead, it prolongs your divorce proceedings. It creates resentment on both sides. It makes successfully coparenting nearly impossible.

In the moment, being angry might feel good, but in the long run, you’re giving both you and your Ex less resources to live your lives and raise your children with.

If you’ve gone through or are currently in the midst of divorce, we’d love to hear from you. What’s the worst piece of divorce advice you received? What “words of wisdom” do you wish you had ignored?

Whether you are considering a divorce, already navigating it, or are recovering from its upheaval, 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 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.

This article was authored for the all-women website SAS for Women by Melanie Figueroa, a writer and content editor who loves discussing women’s issues and creativity. Melanie helps authors and small businesses improve their writing and solve their editorial needs.

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

what to do after divorce

What to Do After Divorce: Your Top 16 Best Moves

There is no “after divorce” checklist because what helps one person move forward with her life doesn’t always work for the next. We enter and leave our marriages with our own unique sets of personal baggage. Even so, we find thinking carefully about what to do after divorce can help you feel more in control of your future. If you have children, what kind of parent do you want to be? What kind of relationship do you want to have with your Ex? How will your lifestyle change, and how can you rediscover who you are as a newly-single woman? Are you even ready to move on?

But more than simply thinking about what to do after divorce, you must take action. It’s the best way to start the next chapter of your life, to feel less like a victim of your choices (or your Ex’s) and more like an independent, strong woman whose life can be anything she wants it to be.

From the practical to the unexpected, here are 16 things to do after divorce. You may find that some of these ideas overlap.

1. Find a therapist or a support group

Find someone impartial to talk to, someone who will force you to ask yourself the questions you need to move on and better understand what “went wrong” in your marriage. There are several ways to go about this. You can get one-on-one help by finding a therapist, or you can join a local or virtual online divorce recovery support group. If you have children and are coparenting, finding an objective third-party to speak with—and potentially learn from, is even more important. It’s so easy to lean on your children and overshare, but doing so is never a good idea.

2. Find your support system

A therapist or support group might be a part of your support system, but it’s just one spoke on the wheel. Friends, family members, close colleagues—find your people. These are the people who you turn to on good and bad days, the ones who see “the real you” in a way a therapist or coach might never be able to. Your support system should be filled with the people you trust. People who might actually be able to get you out of the house or who can look at you and say “that sucks” when that’s really all you need to hear. Above all, these are the people who make you laugh. They remind you of who you are!

3. Develop a financial plan

Putting together a financial plan may not be the sexiest thing you can do after divorce, but it’s plain smart. Finances affect divorced women in different ways. A few find themselves with more money than they know what to do with, while most find themselves challenged or even strained to make ends meet. Some women were heavily involved with finances during their marriage, while others feel like they are learning an entirely new language, suddenly forced to grapple with decisions they once left to their husband. Some women were stay-at-home moms while others held down jobs.

If you don’t understand a thing about your finances, or you are kinda shaky about them, figure out how you are going to take steps to learn. We love this financial class designed for women because the lessons are digestible videos you can take in easily. It also helps that the financial advisor teaching the class is a woman and understands our (emotional) relationship with money and what we spend money on!

No matter how your financial reality compares to other divorced women you know, you need to put together a plan and a budget, either on your own or with a financial advisor, to ensure you are taken care of.

4. Visit a social security office

Find out what your social security benefits will be in black and white figures so you can plan on what you’ll need for your later years. If your spouse earned more money than you, and as long as you do not remarry (up to age 60), you are entitled to up to 50 percent of his* benefits (regardless of his marrying again or not). Your entitlement to the benefits does not take anything away from him and his benefits, nor anyone else who may have married him after you.

Google the nearest social security office to your location and schedule an appointment, or go to the office (take a number and wait to meet with a social security rep), and get an estimate of the benefits you will receive starting at 62 as well as the optimal date for you to claim the benefits (70 or 67 years?).

You will need to take your ID and your hard-won divorce decree to show you are officially divorced. You will also need to provide your social security number and your spouses. (Look on the divorce decree!)

5. Put yourself first

Yes, we know this is a little vague, but everyone’s concept of putting themselves first differs. And if you have kids, then of course, you’ll come second until they turn 18 (and let’s be real—maybe even after). One of the perks of not having a spouse is that all of your needs and wants are suddenly the only priority. You don’t have to compromise or carefully balance your time to ensure your spouse feels supported. You now have time for self-care, and we want you to indulge yourself.

Do whatever makes you feel content—garden, take up yoga or pilates, go on a retreat or get a massage or a facial, develop a workout routine, set a weekly bubble bath date with yourself, go on a long walk. Practice (yes, “practice”) self-care. Be kind to yourself, and think of this period of your life as one of rediscovery.

6. Step outside of your comfort zone

Speaking of rediscovery, what about reinvention? Were there activities and interests you stopped making time for during your marriage? Or things you always wanted to do but never got around to? Volunteer in a program that turns you on! Or, maybe there’s a trip you always wanted to take, but you knew your Ex would never be up for it? Find your bliss. Take up rock climbing, start painting, pull a Mrs. Maisel and start a career in stand-up comedy. Create a new bucket list for a future without your husband.

7. Take a vacation

This is about more than stepping outside of your comfort zone. Take a vacation, and travel somewhere you have never been to before. Experience a different culture, a different setting, and maybe you’ll find yourself with a different perspective. Take a friend, maybe even travel with another divorced woman, and allow yourself to be spontaneous.

8. Read books

Books are great for so many things—they make you more empathetic, they teach you things, and they help you grow. You can read digitally, in-print, or listen to audiobooks so that reading becomes a routine habit, part of your daily commute or something you do while exercising. Try reading books by authors like Brene Brown or Ekhart Tolle, who can help you expand your mindset. But you can also turn to fiction like the writings of Elizabeth Gilbert, letting yourself escape into someone else’s world for a bit. Getting out of your own head is exactly what you need right now. Here are specific titles we suggest.

9. Take yourself out to dinner

Go to dinner alone and just let yourself experience the sounds, tastes, and sights. If the idea of being on your own terrifies you but you’re still feeling brave, then bring a book (see above) with you on your dinner date. That way you can still enjoy a night out while giving yourself a portable escape hatch for any potential awkward feelings on your part.

10. Dance—you guessed it—like no one else is watching

Clichéd? Maybe. But dancing is good for your soul. You can go out with friends, or simply turn on some music at home and start shaking your hips and getting lost in the beats. Dancing isn’t just about exercise. Sure, that rush of endorphins feels amazing, but it’s about reconnecting with your body. It’s about letting yourself get silly and letting your limbs loosen. It’s about reminding yourself that you’re still in control—you can flip on a switch and let music pour into your life, or you can shut yourself off.

11. Ask your kids what they want to do for the day

And then, as long as it’s within your ability, go do it. Throw out your schedules and plans. Allow yourself to be surprised by where the day might take you. Not only is this is a fun way to bond with your children, it’s a fun way to shake up your routine and make memories. Coparenting can be rough, especially at first as you and your Ex navigate your new lives, so it’s important to take pleasure in the moments you share with your kids.

12. Stop sleeping on “your side” of the bed

First, if possible, buy a new mattress, sheets and pillows. Then, spread out across your bed. Get a running start, and dive under the covers. Sleep sideways or diagonally. Use those two, or five or more plush pillows you’ve treated yourself to, and surround yourself with them on all sides. Your bed is truly yours now. You don’t have to sleep on one side anymore. Or be any one way anymore. You don’t have to stress out about waking someone up or “trespassing” on “his” territory. So get comfortable.

13. Have a girls sleepover

Remember those? Break out the popcorn, wine, and girly movies. Honestly, your friends will enjoy this as much as you—sometimes we all need an excuse to let ourselves act like our carefree selves and enjoy each other’s company. Take this time to catch up on each other’s lives and to strengthen your friendships.

14. Dress up for no reason

Throw on your favorite lipstick and those jeans that hug your curves in all the right places. You know the ones. Whether you’re staying in for the night or going out on the town, sometimes it’s nice to dress up for no real reason other than that it makes you feel good. Other times, a bit of dress up can help you achieve a new and improved look, and that kind of change might be nice at a time like this.

15. Try out new recipes

When you’re in a relationship, planning meals can be a chore even if you’re not the one cooking them. It can be hard to find common ground if your partner is a picky eater. So when you’re thinking about what to do after divorce, consider pulling out that list of foods you knew your Ex would never try and crossing them off one by one. It’s nice to treat yourself and develop some new skills at the same time.

16. Start a DIY project

This could really be anything—rehabbing a piece of furniture or planting a garden, for instance. Working with your hands allows you to fully immerse yourself in an activity and shut off your brain. Pinterest is a great place to find your next DIY project. Start small, with something you can easily achieve in a single day. You’ll feel accomplished and remind yourself what you’re capable of.

Remember, there are so many ways to help yourself move on after divorce. If your divorce recovery journey doesn’t look the same as other divorced women, don’t concern yourself. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of scenario. It’s okay if the ideas on this list don’t resonate with you. Don’t hesitate to do what feels right for you. And if there’s something that especially helped you, we’re sure our readers would love to know! Comment below, and share your favorite tips for what to do after divorce.

 

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS to partner them through the challenging experience of divorce and recreation. Now you can learn the Art of Reinvention post-divorce. Secure female-centered support, information, and smart next steps coparenting and rebuilding your life with Paloma’s Group, our virtual, post-divorce group coaching class, for women only. To promote sisterhood and protect confidentiality, space is limited.

* 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.

what to do when your child acts like your Ex-husband

What to Do When Your Child Acts Like Your Ex-husband

At last, you are finally on the other side of the longest, hardest life change you have ever experienced: your divorce. Your emotions are stabilizing and the coparenting arrangement seems to be working (for the most part). You are free from him* and ready to move forward. You are taking steps to advance your independence. You are beginning to rebuild.

Suddenly, BAMM! Your Ex’s expressions are plastered on your children’s face! Your daughter has the audacity to use a phrase your Ex may as well have coined himself. Your son grimaces and suddenly your reliving the past, remembering the sneers and the way your husband used to dismiss or disrespect you. You are blindsided, triggered, and instantly repulsed. You are so offended—how can your children be so insensitive? Doesn’t she know you used to HATE it when her father said those words? Doesn’t your son understand that you left your Ex because you decided to no longer tolerate any form of disrespect?

One client told me that every time her daughter responded to her with “gotcha,” it felt like a razor’s edge. For my client, “gotcha” was not an innocent word but a word that sounded like a parroting of her Ex when he was “pretending” to listen. And many women feel much the same. It’s not easy figuring out what to do when your child acts like your Ex-husband.

You’re divorced but still haunted by your Ex

What now? You can’t divorce your children. Should you react by yelling at them to stop their behavior? The fact is, none of this—not your divorce and not the ways that your children remind you of their father—is your children’s fault. Your children didn’t choose their father, you did. Besides, have you ever been on the receiving end of a derogatory comment like, “You are just like your mother”? How did that make you feel?

In my experience as a family and teen coach, lashing out at your children and blaming them for your triggers could have lasting damage on your relationship. It could put your kids on the defensive, wanting to protect their father. It could impact their self-esteem because you are attacking your children’s character. And it could compound guilt your children may already be feeling about the divorce.

Yes, that’s right. Kids of divorce sometimes carry guilt because they often think it’s their fault their parent’s relationship didn’t work out. They might conclude this based on what they heard and felt during the events leading up to the divorce, which later manifests as guilt.

Figuring out what to do when your child acts like your Ex-husband is a part of coparenting you weren’t prepared for. While it may feel nearly impossible to contain your reaction in the moment, doing so will leave space to build an amazing relationship with your children in the long run and will help you heal and build immunity to these inevitable triggers in the process.

Manage your response when you feel triggered

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” is a well-known quote by Jim Rohn, motivational speaker and self-help guru.

Not only are your children genetically 50 percent of you and their father, but they are spending time with each of you, so it is only natural that they will pick up some tendencies and expressions from both of you.

Therefore, when your children do or say something to trigger you, the first step is to do a quick analysis. What about this bothers me? Is this my pet peeve or an actual behavioral problem that will affect my children’s personal relationships?

If it’s a pet peeve, use your emotional intelligence to guide your response: “My children are not my Ex. This is not personal. I choose to let it go.” Tony Robbins always says, “What you focus on expands.” Hence, if you don’t like it, don’t focus on it!

Confront behavioral issues

If it’s a behavioral problem, keep your relationship with your children in mind as you parent the behavior from a place of compassion and empathy, in an age-appropriate way. Remember, your children learned this behavior and can successfully unlearn it with proper parenting from you.

If you wonder what “proper parenting” looks like now that you’ve survived divorce and are on your own, consider joining a professionally-facilitated parenting support group for women to get the support you need as a mother to stand strong.

Make time for self-reflection

Finally, if the hurt and emotion you are experience is defeating you, it’s a glaring sign that you haven’t healed yourself. Maybe it’s time to lean in and clear the burden once and for all, for the sake of your relationship with your children and any other relationship you hope to have in the future. Take time to heal through self-help alternatives, or speak to a professional coach who can help you face, explore, and abolish those feelings once and for all.

The topic of this article was inspired by a beautiful client of mine who endured a horrific divorce and custody battle. She was still putting the pieces of herself back together when she noticed that sometimes, if her 9-year-old son was hurting or feeling bad, he would say hurtful or vindictive things to her, such as “You’re fat,” or “You have no friends.” Ouch! The pain went right to her core.

As her coach, I had so much compassion for her as she realized the pain her Ex inflicted could still reach her through her children. Through the power of transformational coaching, she discovered the solutions resided within her.

Today she realizes right away that those comments are not coming from her son but are behaviors that his father often models. As a mother, she can respond with compassion and empathy to disarm him and then let him know that while she understands his frustration, taking it out on her or others is not appropriate or acceptable. She is earning her son’s respect while teaching him an effective way to navigate his emotions and have a healthy, loving relationship, without once mentioning his father.

In closing, the next time your children act like your Ex, bite your tongue and remember that they are not their father. Your loving connection with them matters so much more than your past relationship with him.

Cindy Thackston is a compassionate, certified professional coach and founder of Rate Life a 10!, Youth and Family Success Coaching. She works with families with tweens and teens who are facing various challenges that are causing disconnection and a breakdown of the family unit. To learn how Cindy helps families reconnect and create a thriving family culture, visit her website at www.ratelifea10.com to schedule a free consultation.

*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.

badmouthing your children

Why Badmouthing Your Coparent Hurts Your Child

Once we get married, most of us assume that we’ll spend the rest of our life with that person. We’re in love, we have kids and maybe even a house together—everything is perfect. But then something changes, and all our hopes and dreams are shattered. What are we to do? Do we file for divorce? Or, do we stay in a relationship that’s become toxic?

While this decision can be hard to make, you have to think about what is best for you.

Quite often, women decide to stay married for the sake of their kids. But think about it this way—how can your kids be happy if you and your partner are constantly arguing? Getting a divorce and coparenting might sound like a challenge, but the children should be your top priority. If your heart is in the right place, you’ll find it’s a challenge you’re up for.

Of course, you do need to keep in mind that even after the divorce, you will have to keep seeing your Ex if you decide on joint custody. It can often be difficult to maintain a civil relationship if there is still some lingering resentment. Finances, schedules, and lifestyle changes can all make it harder for you to coexist.

Unless your Ex decides to completely abandon you and the children, you should look for a way to include them in your kids’ lives. Maybe your Ex is a terrible husband, but a great father. Because of this, you’ll want to avoid badmouthing the other parent in front of your child as it can be quite harmful to their relationship with your Ex. Here are some more reasons why badmouthing your coparent can hurt your kids.

Your kid will be adjusting to recent changes

When kids find out about their parents’ divorce, they will probably have a hard time understanding what exactly is happening. Depending on their age, they might cry, become isolated, blame themselves, or understand that this is truly the best option.

If you or your Ex move out, your children will have to adjust to constantly moving from one home to another. If one of you gets sole parental responsibility, the child will probably miss seeing you together and spending time as a family. Your children might also have to change schools. The last thing they need is to hear you complain about the other parent. This will make them feel even more confused and helpless, as they will not know how to act in this situation.

Your children aren’t your confidants or therapist

When you’re with your kids, try to find fun topics to talk about. Ask them about their day, what they want to read or watch, what they learned in school, etc. When the topic of their father comes up, try to stay calm and ask about their time together. Do not talk about your issues and tell them bad things about their parent.

You should not turn to your children to complain about your Ex. They do not need to know every single detail that led to your divorce. No matter their age, they are not your therapist, and you should not rely on them to make you feel better about your problems. Oversharing will possibly make them feel overwhelmed. If they have a good relationship with their other parent, you do not want to ruin this. So, if you need help, seek professional advice or talk to your friends.

The truth always comes out

The worst thing you could do is lie to your child about their other parent. If you spread misinformation, the lies will eventually catch up with you. Seeing as how your kid will still communicate with other members on both sides of the family, it’s quite possible that they will ask someone what the truth is. If they find out you lied to them, it can greatly affect your relationship going forward.

Your kids will feel forced to choose sides

Badmouthing your coparent—even when you’re on the receiving end of the complaints—makes your kids feel forced to choose sides. Even worse, they might develop a bad opinion about both of you, internalizing those feelings and becoming secluded.

This is especially true when children get older and become more self aware. It’s entirely possible that all those “bad parts” about your Ex that you list off are traits your children share, and you don’t want to offend or shame your children. Constant pressure and the stress of going back and forth between homes can often results in deteriorating health in the future, which is something you don’t want to contribute to.

There are so many reasons why badmouthing your coparent in front of our children is never a good idea, from making your children feel badly about themselves to ruining relationships within your family. No matter how you feel about your Ex, you should always try to stay civil and think of what is best for your child.

By Tanya Mayer for women. You can reach her at [email protected]

If you are seeking an education on best practices for coparenting as you support your children through one of the toughest moments in your lives, you will want to know about Gaia’s Group, SAS for Women’s virtual group coaching class for coparenting mothers. We all need a thoughtful, committed plan for helping our children weather and move beyond separation and divorce. Doing it the healthiest way is a choice. 

Coparenting through divorce

Coparenting Through Divorce: Drug Use, Drug Testing, and Family Court

Divorce isn’t easy, and the process can be even tougher where the case involves minor children. When emotions are heated, each parent may jockey for position in trying to gain an advantage with custody and visitation. In some situations, one may accuse the other of drug use – regardless of the truth of the matter. With trends showing that around 1 in 10 Americans have used drugs within the last thirty days, a court will most definitely take notice.

Once the issue is raised, it could have serious implications for your divorce case. Therefore, an overview on drug use and testing in divorce cases may be useful.

The Relevance of Drug Use in Divorce

Coparenting Through Divorce Infographic

In general, courts are concerned with a parent’s drug use in divorce because it affects determinations on child custody and visitation. Most US states require a judge to review the child’s best interests in making these decisions. Substance use and abuse are among the factors a court will consider.

Specifically, drug use impacts a judge’s decision on child custody and visitation in three areas:

1. Ability to Make Responsible Decisions on Child-Rearing

Parents must make decisions regarding important aspects of the child, such as education, extracurricular activities, religion, healthcare and others. It’s a shared responsibility when the family lives under one roof, and many courts will continue the arrangement when ordering joint custody.

However, a parent’s ability to make responsible decisions in these areas is affected by drug use. A judge may be unwilling to allow joint decision-making, and grant authority to the other parent.

2. Responsibilities During Parenting Time

Visitation is also a key consideration in divorce, and a court will usually allow mostly-equal parenting time between the parties. Most judges recognize that the child’s best interests are served by having a relationship with both parents.

When a parent is exercising visitation rights, he or she is 100 percent responsible for care, safety, and well-being of the child. Drug use interferes with these duties because it affects the user physically, emotionally, and cognitively. A judge may refuse equal visitation or could require supervised visits only. In extreme situations, the court may even deny parenting time entirely because the parent cannot be trusted to provide proper care.

3. Logistical Concerns

To a lesser degree, drug use may affect a court’s decision on custody and visitation because of logistical issues. A parent who is under the influence of controlled substances cannot legally drive, which could lead to disruptions with the parenting time schedule and the child’s activities. The child could miss out on sports, school, social events, and other opportunities because the parent is too impaired to operate a vehicle – not to mention presenting a serious safety risk.

Drug Use and Drug Testing in Divorce

There’s no legal requirement that parents automatically be tested for drugs with every divorce case that involves minor children. The issue will only come up when one party introduces allegations of substance abuse as it relates to custody and visitation. Usually, there must be more than a mere accusation. Judges know emotions are heated in divorce, and a party may make extreme, exaggerated statements in an attempt to sway the court.

Still, if there are verifiable facts that one parent uses drugs, a judge is likely to order him or her to submit to drug testing; the judge may even order both parents if there are competing allegations. A positive test could impact decisions on custody and visitation as mentioned above.Even if the court is convinced that the shared parenting is still an appropriate arrangement, that individual may be required to undergo random testing on a continuing basis. Under these circumstances, a positive test could lead to a modification of custody and/or visitation.


Related: The 10 Most Common Reasons for Divorce.


Drugs from the Court’s Perspective

Not all drugs are the same in terms of the effect on the user, and judges usually recognize this.

The court will likely look differently upon legal versus illegal drugs, prescriptions versus over-the-counter, and other factors. Plus, as marijuana has been approved for recreational use in some states, pot may be a lesser concern to a judge.

Other controlled substances will no doubt raise red flags in a divorce court, however. Cocaine can trigger addiction after just one use and may cause long-term brain damage. Heroin causes euphoria followed by an extensive period of drowsiness, and impairs mental function. Opioid use has reached crisis and epidemic levels in the US, so you can be sure that it will have an impact on custody and visitation decisions.


Wondering if and how your kids will recover? Read Will the Kids Be All Right? The Long-Term Effects of Divorce on Children.


Resources for Drug Use and Testing in Divorce Cases

If allegations of drug use have entered the picture in your divorce, there are resources available to help you address the situation. Your divorce lawyer is a valuable asset, but you may also benefit from retaining divorce coaching and support services. It’s important for you to be honest with the professionals who serve you so you ensure your best strategy for moving forward in the healthiest way. These knowledgeable professionals can assist with your case and will have your back when you need it most.

As a late teen, Billie Tarascio’s parents divorced. She was very aware of the role that her parents’ attorney was playing in her life. She wanted to do that in a positive way for other people. After graduating from law school, most of the people who needed her help couldn’t afford her service. Her primary goal was to lower the cost of legal services for clients, and reduce accounts receivables for the firm. Her company Access Legal emerged.  Billie is passionate about her career and work and has made a difference in hundreds of clients lives. You can contact Billie through the following channels: Website: https://mymodernlaw.com/ 

Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional and often times complicated experience of divorce. If you are seeking an education on best practices for coparenting as you support your children through one of the toughest moments in your lives, you will want to know about Gaia’s Group, SAS for Women’s virtual group coaching class for coparenting mothers. We all need a thoughtful, committed plan for helping our children weather and move beyond separation and divorce. 

Communicating through divorce can be challenging.

Challenges of Communicating Through Divorce When You Have Kids

Problems with communication are often cited as a leading cause of divorce. Yet as a parent, getting divorced doesn’t typically mean that all conversations with your former spouse will cease. While your coparent might be far from your favorite person, finding a way to communicate through your divorce and beyond is non-negotiable when you have kids.

The methods you use to communicate can have an enormous impact on how successful your coparenting interactions are. If face-to-face interactions or phone calls continually prove to be non-starters, perhaps you’ll turn to web- and mobile-based resources like email or texting. The positives of text and email are obvious.

But if you’re struggling with conflict, text and email won’t make a difference if you’re seriously looking to improve your communication.

Some parents realize that text and email aren’t going to cut it so they ask others to get involved as messengers. But when parents choose an inappropriate third-party to serve as their messenger, this strategy can lead to much bigger issues.

For the messenger, the emotional burden of having to carry a message—especially if it’s not a particularly pleasant one—can be huge. This can be true if someone such as a child’s nanny, another family member, or a close friend is being held responsible for sending messages. And asking children to send the messages can create an even more dire situation for your family by putting them in the middle of potential conflict.

As hard as it can be to make communication work in coparenting, finding a healthy way to manage it for the sake of your kids makes it well worth the effort.

Set healthy boundaries as you communicate through divorce (and beyond)

So, what’s a positive first step to take towards lessening the challenges of communicating through divorce?

Instead of trying to communicate the same ways you once did, building a framework of healthy coparenting boundaries can significantly improve your efforts.

Commit to keeping your kids from being middlemen

Though it almost goes without saying, it’s absolutely crucial to protect your children. They should never be made to feel like they are carrying a burden because of your divorce. Even something as simple as asking one of your kids to relay a brief message to your coparent can be a potent source of emotional strain and anxiety. In doing so, your child must bear the responsibility of receiving the first-hand response to that message which, depending on the reaction, can be overwhelming.

As coparents, commit to keeping your kids out of the middle of your conflict and communications. Additionally, prevent others from acting as your messenger, including your child’s nanny. If you need a third-party to assist in your communication, enlist help from your attorneys or a neutral third-party professional such as a mediator or parenting coordinator.


If you are seeking an education on best practices for coparenting as you support your children through one of the toughest moments in your lives, you will want to know about Gaia’s Group, SAS for Women’s virtual group coaching class for coparenting mothers. We all need a thoughtful, committed plan for helping our children weather and move beyond separation and divorce. Doing it the healthiest way is a choice. 


Stick to your parenting agreement

Your parenting agreement should act as a guide for handling different aspects of raising your children as coparents. It will encompass everything from parenting time schedules and shared expenses to how big decisions will be made for your kids.

Sticking to your agreement can act as evidence that backs up different parenting decisions you make. This can curb conflict because parents are more likely to remain on the same page.

On top of details about your children’s daily care, your parenting agreement may lay out specifications for your communication plan. It can be critical to include specific guidelines, especially if conflict has been a recurring issue.

Give parallel parenting a try

If conflict becomes a chronic issue, switching to parallel parenting can be a great option.

In a parallel parenting arrangement, parents can disengage from one another while still playing an active role in raising their children. Backing off from one another—and from the constant disagreements that may have existed when engaged in more traditional coparenting—encourages a new level of calm in each household.

Disengagement in parallel parenting doesn’t mean that parents won’t be communicating at all. Instead, they will significantly limit their interactions to keep them business-like and entirely focused on their children. While some find email or text messages are equal to the task, they still present all the same opportunities for miscommunication that can lead to conflict.

Try a coparenting app

Coparenting apps are often recommended by family law practitioners to help resolve communication issues between parents. At their best, coparenting apps have built-in boundaries that promote efficient and straightforward conversations about shared parenting matters. Information is exchanged on the key aspects of shared parenting.

Apps designed to promote transparent and timely communication in a neutral environment can seriously support your efforts to improve your coparenting communication. Some of these apps include tools like shared parenting time calendars, expense and payments registers, family vital information banks, file storage space, private and shared journals, highly-documented messaging, and more.

Not all coparenting apps are created equal, however. While documented messaging is a crucial feature to have in any coparenting app, this alone won’t do much to help remove you and your coparent from the cycle of conflict in written exchanges. The right coparenting app should help to reduce conflict by providing you with specialized tools designed for every shared parenting situation you may encounter.

One such app, OurFamilyWizard, offers a full suite of tools that help you to focus your communication on the points that matter the most. For instance, instead of sending a message regarding a one-time change to the parenting schedule, parents will create this request directly on their calendar. Using the Trade/Swap function, you only enter the essential details regarding the change including the date and time, and a brief reason. If your co-parent approves the request, the calendar will automatically update to reflect the agreement. This cuts the need for updating the calendar later on, and a complete history of these requests is always maintained, leaving less confusion as to what was agreed upon.

It also cuts down on direct communication with your Ex, or negotiating with him*.

When a conversation must be had, the app’s messaging features provide a space for secure discussions while also offering analytical feedback. Integrated into the message board, ToneMeter™ is a function that will review the content of messages as they are written and flag any emotionally-charged phrases. This lets parents review the analysis and update their tone before sending the message. This function helps to promote mindful communication when messaging.

Many coparenting apps are subscription-based services, yet apps like OurFamilyWizard offer fee waiver programs to help make their tools available even to parents who cannot afford a subscription.

Keep learning 

The experience of your divorce, and what led up to it, is an opportunity for you to learn about yourself, to demonstrate to your children that you can be even better now, as their mom. You can promote honest communication, establish boundaries and fair “rules,” and take responsibility for your world.  Staying open to learning how others successfully coparent, what best practices are, or what new tools have been developed to support divorced parents lessens your burden and, more importantly, shows your children that you are doing your best to support everyone’s move into this next chapter healthily. For a lot of people, becoming a divorced parent and wanting to do right by their kids is a big motivator to getting educated on how to do it successfully and with heart.

Communicating through divorce when you have kids can be a significant challenge, even on a good day. Don’t expect that you’ll fall right into the best communication strategy immediately. The process of finding what works for your situation may take a little time. It’s imperative to keep your kids protected and out of the middle of conflict as you make this transition. Work to build healthy communication boundaries in your coparenting. Your boundaries will help to create a clear framework of how your interactions will take place, leaving less room for conflict and confusion.

Sara Klemp is a content manager and online marketing specialist for OurFamilyWizard. Since 2001, the OurFamilyWizard website and mobile applications have helped countless co-parents to improve communication and reduce conflict. Learn more at OurFamilyWizard.com

*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.

Divorcing mother and daughter

How to Tell Your Grown-Up Children You Are Divorcing

Telling your children that you and their father are splitting up is never an easy thing to do. Luckily, there are an increasing number of good resources to help parents speak to young children about divorce—but what about children who’ve already grown up? While some things remain the same no matter how old your children are, approaching the topic of divorce with adult children comes with its own set of factors to consider.

The fact that your children are adults doesn’t mean that they won’t be upset. You are still their parents, after all, and they have only ever known the two of you as one unit, making your way through this world together—they will have questions. Make sure you’re ready to answer them.

Carefully consider how you’ll bring up divorce with your children

Don’t let the fact that your marriage is over slip out while you idly chat on the phone about the weather or your feelings about your boss. Don’t spring the big D-word on your children as they make wishes for their future over birthday candles or while your family sits around the table, digesting their Thanksgiving dinner.

Instead, with your spouse, figure out what you are going to say and then find a way to break the news about your divorce delicately. Your children may be angry, but by bringing up your divorce in a calm and considerate way, you’ll be able to move forward with less resistance and more kindness.

Don’t expect your children to respond maturely

On the other hand, it’s important to know that even if your children are older, people have a way of reverting to their Inner Child when they’re around their family, especially when bad news is being delivered. Their first reaction is likely to be self-involved—why are you doing this to me?—no matter how much conflict or dysfunction they may have witnessed over the years between you and your spouse.

If your own children respond to your divorce this way, it’s even more important that you let them. A no-fault divorce may mean that no one is to blame in the eye’s of the court, but to your children, you and your husband (or probably, one of you in particular according to them …. ) is 100% responsible for the end of your marriage. If you attempt to brush aside your children’s pain rather than confront it, you’re making it harder for them to heal and move forward. Your children want to know that your divorce isn’t their fault, that you and your Ex will learn to get along, and that they won’t lose one or both of their parents.

For books on how to healthily navigate difficult conversations, or for personal support for you, consider our post, The 35 Best Books on Divorce.

Keep your children’s involvement in your divorce to a minimum

Do not drag your children into discussions, negotiations, or arguments about the divorce process and what life after divorce will look like for you and your soon-to-be Ex. Leave the advice-giving to the professionals if you need guidance, like a family law specialist or divorce coach. Involving your children in negotiations can lead to resentment and the impulse to pick sides. The repercussions of this may have a long-term, detrimental impact on familial relationships.

Of course, if you have adult children, you may also have grandchildren. Grandchildren feel divorce keenly, so it’s important that you explain things to them. You and your spouse must remind them how important they are to you and that your divorce does not change that.

Answer your children’s questions as honestly and openly as you can

In our experience, trying to shield family members by hiding things from them or waiting “for the right moment” doesn’t help anyone. But remember that there is a line between honesty and therapy—don’t overshare or vent your frustrations about your husband to your children.

Your adult children will likely have different questions about your divorce than younger children would. “Who will I live with?” could well be replaced with “Where will we go for the holidays?” or “Will this affect my inheritance?” Your children might want to know a little about how finances will be split to give them peace of mind that both of you will be stable and secure, that you or your spouse are not left to a life of frugality while the other enjoys a cushy lifestyle.

If appropriate, perhaps after the initial conversation sharing the news that you are divorcing, explain how any pensions and inheritance may be affected by the divorce and the fact that a new will (or wills) may need to be drawn up to reflect the change in your circumstances. Make sure you have expert advice for divorcing parents in black and white before you discuss these details.

Work together and not against your spouse throughout your divorce

There are some basic guidelines for good coparenting, but the best examples of helping children through a divorce at any age come from couples who manage the process as amicably as possible. They don’t express negativity about their Ex, they don’t force their children to take sides, and they aren’t unreasonable during negotiations — or conversations concerning the children. They prioritize the healthy approach to all things as they face their decision-making. In doing so, they avoid the slash and burn approach. They help their family move forward.

Visit the Woolley & Co website or call 0800 321 3832 if you are in the UK and seek advice on any aspect of divorce and family law. This article was written for SAS for Women by family law solicitors Woolley & Co. Woolley & Co, who have offices throughout the UK and also advise British expats.

Whether you are thinking about divorce or navigating the experience and its aftermath, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of “After Divorce.” Learn what this would mean for you in a free 45-minute consultation.

Life after divorce

How to Overcome the 6 Hardest Things About Life After Divorce

People talk a lot about what it’s like to get a divorce, but those conversations don’t often extend to what life after divorce is like. Because, unless you’ve been divorced, you don’t quite get what this next phase is really all about.

During divorce, there’s a certain process: you have items to research, things to get educated about, decisions to make, meetings to attend, paperwork to file, and on and on—all of which are black and white steps you had to take to complete the business transaction of “dissolving” your marriage. And while those steps felt overwhelming, frightening, and generally all over the place (you may be or have been sad, in shock, mad as hell, disappointed, betrayed, in denial, or numb), the process, nevertheless, had a way of keeping you grounded. You had a goal. To get through a “negotiated” document, sign it, and obtain a divorce.

Now, as you look around in your new life after divorce, your sense of time — and what to do with it — is different. Even if you are struggling and fighting for survival, your mind and heart may be ruminating on the past and on “the who” you will become.

Yes, your life after divorce will be your juiciest stage if you are open to it

This is the “finding yourself” stage, and we urge you to have no shame about it.

Discovering and taking care of yourself will include preparing for what’s coming in your life where possible (implementing best practices that give you structure) and also learning to let go. This stage involves taking time to consider deeply your story so far, what brought you to the end of your marriage/relationship, and the good and bad roles you played.

Discovering who you are can get messy in a different way than where you’ve been. You can’t blame your husband for everything anymore. It’s time to pick up your baggage.

Based on our work coaching women, here are six of the hardest things about life after divorce—and more importantly, what you can do about them to make room for the good stuff. Okay, now deep breath…

1. It’s gone. Your life as you knew it

Sounds obvious, but a few of us are Resistors to Reality, women who spend months (years?) in denial about the fundamental impact divorce will have (or has had) on our lives.

A Resistor to Reality might strive to or blindly maintain the lifestyle she had when married—going on similar vacations, eating out at trendy, higher end restaurants, or placing groceries inside her cart without checking the price or quantity (so accustomed is she to buying “for everybody”). She might be paying the mortgage on an oversized and overpriced home because she either feels she is owed it, can’t face the prospect of change, or doesn’t want a move to “affect the kids.” She might be worried about downscaling for fear she’ll lose her friends or her social standing.

But now we all know, no matter how “amicable” the end of our marriages were, divorce has a way of turning our lives upside down. Divorce will take you outside your comfort zone. Divorce is about change.

Ideally, you started to metabolize these changes during the divorce process, and if you haven’t, your life after divorce is going to be harder—not just materially but psychologically and emotionally. The sooner you come to terms with your new reality the sooner you can adjust, redirect, and start shaping the future you want. Working with a divorce coach –during the divorce process, or as you rebuild your life — will help you understand what you can and cannot do as you actualize your best next chapter.

You may not feel it yet, but inside this vast unknown of Life After Divorce — there is a great, big beautiful life waiting for you.

2. Even when you do your best, your children will feel the effects of divorce

You’re a woman, not a robot. During and after divorce, your emotions may remain scattered, frayed, or short-wired. Everyday decisions may seem insurmountable. You try to be strong, to let it all roll off your back, because you want to be the best mother possible. You want your children to see you stand tall instead of falling apart. But you will have bad days, just like we all do. You slip. You might vent about your Ex to your children. Or they’ll overhear (eavesdrop?) you badmouthing him to a friend or family member in a moment of frustration or desperation.

No matter how old your children are—even if they are adults or not living at home anymore—divorce will impact them. It may affect their outlook and their ability to connect with others, including you and your Ex. Your splitting up will alter holidays and family functions. And although you may feel some closure with your Ex after the divorce document is signed or he’s no longer living in the same house, if you have children, he* will always be in your life.

Divorce may mean communicating with your ex-partner whom you never communicated well with before. You may be dealing with things like support orders and visitations, drop-offs and pick-ups. Your children’s lives will be disrupted, and afterward, each of you will have to figure out how to move forward and create a new life together.

According to the research, you can best support your children (and thus, yourself) through divorce, and life afterward, by being mindful of the ongoing conflict between you and your Ex. Children who suffer the most are those whose parents keep the hostility alive, who don’t aim to try to do things as amicably as possible. It is not, as you might guess, the history of your marriage when you all lived together in the same house, but how you two (you and your spouse) navigate the divorce.

When dealing with your children directly, among the best things you can do is to acknowledge their pain and perspective and not badmouth their father. Listen to them. Understand that while the reasons for your divorce might be obvious to you, they are less so to your children. You can help them feel less confused by being straight and honest and keeping the lines of communication open instead of shutting yourself off from the world. This does not mean treating your kids as an equal (even if they are “old souls” or “smart” or so-called “adults”) but being open about issues surrounding the divorce in an age-appropriate way.

Should you tell your kids you are leaving their dad because he cheated? Because he embezzled money? Because he’s an addict? We urge you not to share the gorier details until you and your children are out of the heat, down the road, when your kids are grown up.

If you wonder how to break the news to your kids, need support parenting as a single woman or coparenting with a challenging Ex, or would even like books that you could read aloud to your children, consider our post on the 35 best books on divorce.

3. Certain friends and family have “disappeared”

Divorce means change and you’re probably feeling this, socially and family-wise. It’s a huge awakening for many of us that friends we thought were so tried and true have disappeared or become mute. It’s as if they fear your divorce might be contagious.

Though we’ve come a long way culturally, lessening the stigma of divorce, meaningful people in our lives might still pick sides—whether they are forced to by your Ex, feel compelled to out of a sense of fierce loyalty, or have a preference to be with the “more fun” or more moneyed-spouse. This hurts. And it not only shocks, but it cuts to the bone, especially if you have little or no friendships outside of those you formed with your Ex during your marriage. You may be feeling bereft as you start off your new life.

When it comes to family, it’s clichéd but true: blood is often thicker than water. You may have had a great relationship with your Ex’s family, for instance. Maybe they’re a big clan and fun and tightknit—and you always had a particular connection with some of them. Getting a divorce, though, can cause them to draw a line and side with their blood relative. The wonderful relationship you had with them is no mas.

In the wake of the space left vacant by others, it’s important for you to touch in with yourself and find new hobbies and interests—this will help you discover new people. Push yourself to get outside so you shift your mindset, to take up an activity you’ve always wanted to but never “had the time” for before, to volunteer or travel. You can even join a support group with other divorced women who understand what you’re going through and who are committed to recreating their lives healthily — with intention — too.

4. An empty house

Coming home after work, making dinner for yourself, eating it alone, and not having someone to share your day with (if you’ve always had that) has a way of making you feel like you have no purpose. This is even the case with divorced women who didn’t have a lot to say to their Ex in the evening hours while married. But somehow watching Jeopardy in silence or a movie you both enjoyed now seems particularly enviable. At least you could hear another person breathing.

If you have children, the silence in your home when they are staying with their dad can be deafening at first. All the sounds children make means lives are being lived, and the emptiness left in their place can leave you feeling lonely and unanchored. Who are you if your children don’t need you?

But know that this is just a phase, new pains that you will overcome. There is a big difference between being alone and being lonely. You may not be able to change the former, but you can change your mindset and decide that you never have to be the latter.

Use this time to reflect, to read, or to enjoy a quiet activity. Maybe you’ll become vegan (ha! Your Ex was such a carnivore!). Or you’ll adopt a dog from the humane society. Or you’ll use this time in the evening to meditate, do yoga, or go to the gym.

This alone time is important to your divorce recovery. You must come to terms with yourself and rediscover who you are before you can rebuild your life in a meaningful way or even show up whole and healed in your next meaningful relationship.

5. The shock of being “replaced”

Your Ex might start dating right after the divorce. He may even begin to date during your divorce proceedings. In either case, this can feel like a punch to the gut. Did he ever really love you? How could he date so quickly? What does she have that you don’t? Even if you wanted the divorce, it’s not easy to keep the green-eyed monster of jealousy at bay when you see or hear that the man you’d thought you’d spend the rest of your life with is hooking up (or more) with someone else. It can feel like torture.

Take heart, it’s not uncommon for many spouses to appear like they are “moving on” immediately after divorce, and some begin to date and sometimes remarry fairly soon. Those who do are often responding to the feelings of loneliness and/or the conventional understanding of what happiness is (to be married). If this is your Ex, he may not be pausing to reflect and heal from what you and he have been through.

The odds that his next relationship will be any happier than yours with him are very low. Very low indeed. He is simply not doing the work you know you must do in the early phases of your life after divorce.

To help lessen your pain, make sure you avoid contact with your Ex when possible, or places that remind you of him for a healthy period of time. Tell your friends (the good ones you still have) that you do not want to be kept au courante to what he is doing socially. It will hurt you. You are trying to look in another direction, with a goal of caring for yourself and nourishing you.

Develop a new daily routine that cultivates you, strengthen bonds with your family and friends, and makes space for you to metabolize all you’ve been through. Which brings us to our critical number 6 on the list. Keep reading.

6. Learning to let go and adapting to the Unknown

When you were married, you had a certain vision of your future. You probably had dreams of how you would retire, where it might be, who your social circles would be, what you would do, and maybe how often your grandchildren would visit. Divorce has changed all that. In your life after divorce, one of the hardest things is accepting that you must let go … let go all the dreams that involved him and, yes, others.

You must grieve and take stock of all the losses you have lived through. And recognize that you may not be grieving your husband so much as you are grieving a way of being and the fantasy that was your marriage.

Letting go means letting go of the idea that we can control everything

Life after divorce can be a painful time—it can also be a crazy time—but it is not a static time. The journey is not over. It’s just reached a particular place where it’s time for you to process your grief and reconnect with you and who you want to be. This is your work now.

After divorce, your canvas is blank. The slate is wiped clean. And as you stare at it, wondering, you might not have a clue what you want to fill it with. But let us assure you, you have no clue the marvelous things awaiting you. The hardest part is just getting started. Dare to discover. Pick up the paintbrush and begin.

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS to partner them through the challenging experience of divorce and recreation. Now you can learn the Art of Reinvention post-divorce. Secure female-centered support and wise next steps as you rebuild your life — practically, financially, romantically, smartly — with  Palomas Group, our virtual, post-divorce group coaching class, for women only. To promote sisterhood and protect confidentiality, space is limited.

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

how to bring up divorce

How to Bring Up Divorce

Divorce is not—no matter the circumstance—going to be an easy subject to bring up with your soon-to-be Ex. While you might be fed up with your husband* and, without a doubt, want a divorce, you’re afraid that using the dreaded D-word is going to hurt or shock your partner. You want to bring up divorce, but walking down that path seems as terrifying as Snow White running through the woods, all your fears clinging at your skirts. Once you mention divorce, as soon as your partner hears that word, you know you’ll have to stop running and confront those fears one by one.

This post is for you, the woman who’s ready to stop running. Because maybe you’ve tried counseling. You’ve used your words. You’ve turned the other cheek (or not). You’ve looked past his faults and have worked on your own. But you still aren’t happy. “Happy” is a long way off.

It’s time to stop dwelling on exactly how to bring up divorce because there is no one right way, and instead, reach within yourself for the strength you’ll need to have a frank and open conversation with your partner about what is real and the decision you have come to.

We have some general tips on where, when, and how to have this conversation, but remember, divorce isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. You understand your situation and your soon-to-be Ex best. The tips below are merely suggestions—it’s up to you to decide how to best adapt them to your specific situation.

The setting

This is a tricky thing to think about, but it is one of the best places to start: where are you going to bring up divorce? Going out might seem like a good idea—a way to minimize your partner’s ability to have a big, possibly dramatic reaction—but that can often backfire. You can make your husband feel as though you’ve tricked him by bringing him out on a date only to drop the D-bomb on him.

As divorce coaches, we do recommend going out to have this conversation but to a neutral place so you are not reminded of domestic triggers or distracted by routine interruptions. A neutral place is not a restaurant where you can be interrupted by waiters or even friends who might see you. Instead, we like the idea of sitting on a park bench or taking a walk on a quiet path. Breathing fresh air and moving around helps you gain perspective and lowers stress levels.

If you are in counseling or have a couple’s therapist you can speak to, a session would also be a safe and appropriate place to bring up the D-word. Your counselor’s office is both a public and private place where you’ll have someone available to help you along during the conversation.

If you choose to bring up divorce at home, make sure your kids are in bed or—better yet—out of the house with a trusted loved one or at another activity. If there is yelling or crying, you don’t want your children to witness your fight. You might want to have a meal prepared and a space you feel comfortable in before you speak to your partner. Your talk with your spouse might be long and involved, or it might be short and simpler than you think—either way, choosing a space where you feel safe is crucial.

The timing

While you can argue that there really isn’t ever a great time to bring up divorce, there are plenty of very not good times that you should probably avoid, like an anniversary, a major holiday, a child’s birthday, or while your kids are applying to college. (“Thanks, Mom, I didn’t get into Harvard because you — and your springing divorce on Dad!”)

With all of that said, sometimes the conversation needs to happen sooner than later—sometimes ending a relationship feels especially time-sensitive, rightfully so, if your soon-to-be Ex has had an affair or brought an STI into the bedroom. Is there domestic abuse? The timing of the divorce really depends on the urgency and necessity of divorce.

Even the time of day should be taken into consideration. If your partner is leaving for work in 15 minutes, for instance, it’s not the right time to bring up divorce because you won’t have time to thoroughly talk it through and, instead, he’ll be at work all day ruminating on divorce. He’ll come home upset and in a state of mind that isn’t helpful when having a serious conversation like getting a divorce. Similarly, bringing up divorce right before bed can lead to a night of restless sleep in which you and your future Ex spend the night discussing the same issues over and over again rather than actually sleeping.

One of the best times for bringing up divorce might be over dinner on a Friday, or really any day when you and your partner don’t have to get up and go to work the next morning. This way, you can talk, rest, or think without worrying about putting on a good face for others.

The script

When the setting and timing is right, it’s time bring up divorce. Your tone, overall, should be empathetic—you know this isn’t going to be an easy conversation, and you aren’t asking to get a divorce out of anger or malice, so let your tone convey that.

Try to remove any accusatory language from the conversation. Don’t try to assign blame to your Ex, either, even if the divorce was brought on by something that he did or maybe even many things that he’s done. Instead, use “I” language, like “I feel like we’ve tried various way of getting our relationship back, and it’s not working. I don’t want to live like this anymore. It’s time we talk about divorce.” This makes the conversation about moving on and not about assigning guilt or blame for the end of your marriage.

While you want to have an empathetic tone and you want to use “I” language to avoid assigning blame, you also want to stand firm on what you want and follow through with your plan to pursue a divorce. Your husband might be upset and plead with you to give him another chance. He might promise you that he’ll change—but hold firm and let him know the time for change has passed. While you might be sure he can work on himself and improve in the future, it will have to be for himself or his next partner, not you.

More on tone

As divorce coaches, we like to recommend to clients that they also reassure their partner, because the word “divorce” induces all kinds of nightmare scenarios. While we believe you do not have to have all the answers on how you will divorce (what you will ask for, how you will split the 401(k), etc.) to have this difficult conversation, it is wise to endeavor to set a certain tone for the conversation and your interactions going forward.

Reassure your partner you don’t want to end your marriage as their adversary. You might say, “I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know how we’re going to do this exactly. But let me reassure you for the sake of both our lives (and our children’s), I want to do this the healthiest way possible.”

This may bring the temperature down between you and your partner, who may worry you will try to keep the children from him or you will try to be vindictive or cruel, resulting in a divorce that costs a lot—both financially and emotionally.

When you feel that you’ve said what you must say (keep it simple) and that your soon-to-be Ex understands your feelings and what this means for your relationship, it’s time to end the conversation. This can be a really difficult spot to feel out, but once you do, it’s time to set a future meeting date to talk about how you might separate or divorce — traditional approach, mediation, using the “collaborative divorce model” or DIY.

Caution

This conversation—the one in which you bring up divorce—shouldn’t be the lets-get-it-all-done-now conversation. That’s far too much to talk over at first. You and your soon-to-be Ex need time to process what just happened before you take the next steps in getting a divorce.

It’s an important thing to remember that it’s taken a lot of time, pain, and thought to arrive at this place of discussing divorce with your partner. On some level, you’ve been preparing for this day for a long time. But your partner has not.

Chances are things have not been good, but if you are saying divorce first, it’s important to give your partner time to really take in the fact that you are serious. If you’ve said “divorce” before but then caved, remember that he’s been conditioned to believe you don’t really mean it. If you do mean it (and we do not encourage you to use it as a threat unless you really mean to follow through) expect your partner to have an emotional reaction to your truth. He will need time to metabolize what you’ve said and what it really means.

The aftermath

After all is said and done, you have just taken a big step toward making your divorce real. It’s not an easy journey, even if your conversation with your Ex goes well. Even if you and your Ex seem to be on the same page during the start of your divorce, you will likely need ongoing support discovering and staying focused on your most meaningful goals—and not getting caught up in the emotional drama.

At SAS for Women, we like for a woman to be educated on what her rights are and what getting a divorce might look like BEFORE she decides fully decides to divorce or has this momentous conversation with her partner. A good divorce coach can help you not only figure out if you want to end your marriage, but what your choices genuinely are, and how to bring up divorce with your partner. A certified, seasoned divorce coach can help you figure out all the little and big decisions throughout the divorce process, too. You’ll want the right support shepherding you through these challenges to the new place you’re headed to, the place where you actively pursue your happiness and rebuild your independence.

Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to help them through the emotional and often times complicated experience of divorce. For emotional support and structured guidance now, helping you move forward the healthiest way possible, consider Annies Group, our virtual divorce education, support and coaching class for women thinking about divorce or beginning the process. Learn what your choices and goals really are. Schedule your 15-minute chat to find out if this education is right for you, where you are in your life, and most importantly, where you want to go.

*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.