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How to Find a Good Divorce Lawyer

How to Find a Good Divorce Lawyer

Getting a divorce can be a lonely, overwhelming process. Navigating it alone can make it even more frightening. If you, like a lot of women, experienced a power challenge in your marriage (perhaps your spouse handled all the finances, or was a bully, or hid things, or lied), these are still more reasons why you might choose to hire a divorce lawyer to help you navigate the legal process. A good divorce attorney, advocating just for you, can make you feel less alone and even change the outcome of your divorce. This article will provide you with suggestions and advice on how to find a good divorce lawyer to fit your story and your unique needs.

1. Identify Your Needs

Your ultimate goal is to get divorced. However, while you begin your search for a divorce attorney, you must know precisely what you want out of your divorce. Different family law attorneys might specialize in various family law subject areas. Is child custody the most crucial issue to you? Do you and your spouse own a house together? Or is it a new marriage with little to no property to divide? Perhaps you are looking to pursue a legal separation or a post-nup? These are all areas that an attorney might specialize in, and knowing what is most important to you will allow you to hire the right attorney for your situation and choose the right type of divorce model.

For your information, in general, there are four types of divorces: DIY (or Do-It-Yourself, for Uncontested Divorces), the Traditional Model (for Uncontested or Contested divorces), Mediation (for Uncontested Divorces), and the Collaborative Model (for Uncontested Divorces).

To understand more we encourage you to read “The 4 Types of Divorce and How to Know Which One’s Right for You.”

And make sure you understand the difference between a Contested and Uncontested Divorce.

Divorce Complexity

Another factor to consider is the complexity of your divorce. The nature of the relationship between you and your spouse can lead to what kind of attorney you might want. Like subject areas, different lawyers can specialize in various types of representation. You might consider a lawyer who does mediation if the power is equally shared between you and your spouses (i.e. both of you understand your finances, and there is no abuse or hiding of information or deception in your relationship.) If you have children and want to focus on coparenting, you might want a lawyer focused on an amicable divorce, or a collaborative divorce. If you know your divorce will be highly contentious and likely go to trial, you might select a lawyer who is both a good negotiator (so you settle out of court) but who also has lots of courtroom experience in case you need to go there. Knowing what you need in your situation and what type of personality your spouse is, will ensure you go into your lawyer search in a more defined way.

SAS Tip: We suggest that all women, no matter their circumstances, consult with a Traditional Divorce attorney first. Hearing what your rights are, what you are entitled to as an individual woman/wife/mother, and discussing the biggest issues in your story will help you decide which type of divorce would be right for you. This will better advance your understanding of your particular needs before you elect for mediation or a collaborative divorce (a particular type of divorce model). 

2. Gather Referrals

One way to research potential lawyers is by seeking out referrals. There are two popular types of referrals: social and professional.

Social referrals come from friends and family members who might have gone through the divorce process. Having someone you know and respect vouch for a particular lawyer can be comforting. Plus, they might have some insight on how to find a good divorce lawyer. However, with social referrals, be mindful of your situation versus the referring friend’s situation. This is your divorce, and you may have different goals from a friend or family member who just went through the process. Additionally, you should be mindful of a friend or acquaintance who might not be in the headspace to share her thoughts on her attorney objectively but instead uses your query as an avenue to rehash her grievances.

The other way a referral might work is through a professional referral. This is when a professional you trust refers you to a family law attorney they might know and respect. Professionals often work together closely and appreciate other professionals, so a trusted doctor, accountant, or therapist might be able to assist you in finding a good divorce lawyer.

SAS TIP: Always ask your referral source if they know the name and number of at least three potential divorce lawyers because one lawyer might be retired, not taking new clients, out of your price range, etc.; if so, you still have other options.

Other professionals might also refer you to professional lawyer organizations. Organizations like the American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys, the American Bar Association, your state’s and city’s bar association, and local legal aid centers can refer you to individual attorneys. This may give you a starting point for the search process.

If you are just getting your ducks in a row as you contemplate divorce, learn what other healthy steps you could be taking and read 36 Things to Do If You Are Thinking About Divorce.

3. Do Your Research

Divorce laws vary from state to state. When looking for a divorce lawyer, you’ll want to talk to one in your state of residence. What’s more, search for one in your general vicinity so it’s easier to connect with them ongoing if you need. You can do this by searching by city, county, and state. A regional search will allow you to view qualified attorneys in the area before deciding on a few to contact. Searching for attorneys, or vetting the names you’ve been given online also allows for the possibility of reading reviews and testimonies by previous clients.

SAS Tip: If you are really interested in a lawyer, you might consider asking the attorney for peer or client referrals if you cannot easily find reviews. You want to ensure that your lawyer is known for professionalism and experience in the field – and hearing from those who’ve had firsthand experience with them can give you vital insight. 

4. Set Up Interviews

After you have set your goals, researched potential attorneys, and talked to the safe and appropriate people in your life, it is time to set up a meeting with potential attorneys. Make sure you prepare for each meeting. Read our “Questions to Ask a Divorce Attorney at a Consultation” to know what to bring into that meeting, what questions to ask, and how to make the most of your time, getting critical information and the education you need, and deserve.

SAS TIP: Some attorneys offer free consultations before hiring them. So, make sure to check out their websites to see if free consultations exist and for how long the consultation is. If it’s only 30 minutes, you’ll need more time. And by the way, free consultations are not always the norm, so consider consultation costs when considering legal expenses.

As a result of the pandemic, many lawyers these days will conduct your consultation via Zoom if you wish. While that is possible, and very convenient, we find it’s better to meet with one face to face, so you can read their responses and body language better and get a view of their office and its professional atmosphere.

Shop Around

Don’t just jump to hire the first lawyer you meet either. You should aim to talk with at least three lawyers – if you have the resources. This way you have a higher chance of hearing different perspectives on your situation and finding the one that is right for you. Meeting multiple people will help you steer clear of lawyers who attempt to sweet talk you to get you in the door of their practice by claiming they handle divorces when in reality, that is not their practice. (Some lawyers practice several different types of law.

Go for one that is strictly matrimonial or a family law attorney who handles divorce.) Interviewing lawyers in advance can ensure they know how to navigate the family law sphere and that they will not over-complicate the divorce process. Having confidence and trust that your attorney knows the law is crucial to a successful divorce process.

We hear a lot of talk and fear about lawyers’ costs, which is natural, too. But a word to the wise, make sure you understand why it’s not in your interest to look for cheap divorce lawyers.

5. Listen to Red Flags

Attorneys work in the field of business. Sometimes some attorneys only want to make a sale and do not have your interests at heart. Other times you’ll be interviewed by a founding partner of the law firm who does the “intake” but you’ll end up working with another lawyer in the firm. Make sure you ask about that. As well, be careful of lawyers who are willing to tell you anything you want to hear to close the deal. A good attorney can realistically walk you through the divorce process and your best and worst-case scenarios. You’ll want to work with an attorney who is respectful, understanding, a good negotiator, and professional in their work. If they are dismissing your questions, talking down to you, or about other divorce attorneys or clients, there is a high chance they will do the same to you later on.

If you are beginning a divorce, you’ll want to check out this complete collection of “55 Must Do’s On Your Modern Divorce Checklist.”

Additionally, think about your attorney’s ability to communicate. Are they constantly on their phone or email during their consultation in a way that makes you feel devalued? Are they unresponsive to your texts, calls, or emails? They may have too many clients, or not enough administrative help to service their clients well. Or worse, they may not value you or your time and won’t be able to give your case the attention it deserves. You also want to read their disposition in your initial meeting. You don’t want someone condescending or lacking compassion to walk you through one of the most challenging times of your life.

SAS TIP: Trust your gut. If it is telling you there is something off with a lawyer you have just met, it’s likely true.

6. Make Your Choice

Finally, after all your diligent research and vetting, it’s time to choose your lawyer. This decision represents who you are and who will support and fight for you in the divorce. This attorney is a professional and an expert in their field. They make you feel like “they’ve got your back.” Knowing that your lawyer is by your side, fighting for your best interest is important. The right lawyer will walk you through the process and prioritize you and your wellbeing. Choosing the right divorce attorney is an important decision. It is likely a choice that will dictate much of your future life. However, with diligent research, goal setting, vetting, and listening to your gut, you will find someone who is better equipped at supporting you then simply grabbing someone off the internet.

NOTES

Elizabeth Newland is a third-year law student in Chicago who is committed to children and family rights. She aims to work in a family-related non-profit firm after graduation. 

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. (more below)

*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.”

Top reasons for divorce

Top Reasons for Divorce. Are You Living This?

Suspicious of getting trapped in a marriage that might erode, my friend and I used to joke that we could get our peers to leave a perfectly good relationship. In remaining single, we weren’t necessarily afraid of the infamous “Top Five Reasons” for divorce. It was more of a disinclination to trade freedom for emotional comfort, if that comfort came with a loss of agency and intrusion of the state by way of the church.

We were also in our free-range 20s, perhaps a little cocky about what we felt entitled to vs. what we could reasonably predict would be best for us down the road.

Thankfully, we never did convince anyone to leave a happy marriage but we did talk a friend through her separation, fearing the change of divorce, and eventually into a happy departure from a husband she felt devalued her.

Long-Term Perspective

Now, at 50, we’ve won some wisdom, self-knowledge and more importantly, some much-needed humility. With all that and the perspective of age, we wouldn’t recommend being that cavalier about leaving a good partnership with a good man – all joking aside. They’re precious, these unions, even with the inevitable dusting of routine, occasional boredom, little resentments, stress, change, family demands, compromises and the sheer effort that intimate partnerships require of us even when they are excellent.

If we can remain honest about addressing our own issues and not project our unhappiness about ourselves onto our mates, and remain hand-in-hand with a someone who loves, supports and understands us, a lot of us would recommend it. Someone who we fell in love with so much it was worth the gamble of believing we could still be happy with them decades later is someone worthy of cherishing even in the midst of day-to-day exhaustion and conflict. If you can breathe life into your own individuality and be yourself in your marriage and your mate can do that as well, keep each other.

In this instant gratification, single-use, image-driven epoch, withstanding years and decades together and reveling in how time marks our lovers’ faces, bodies and souls may be a critical balancing point in returning a measure of wholeness to the planet.

How Culture Affects Marriage

Women are worth being valued both in an older physicality and beyond the physical; men are worth being valued beyond the bread-winning. If you made that promise, said “I do,” and you can be in the marriage organically, authentically and still see a glimmer living flame in each other’s hearts, protect and keep that union and that person with everything you’ve got.

Marriage is not disposable. It’s not a meme. It’s not about the dress or the wedding pictures or what we can post on Facebook. A healthy marriage is a gift that is worth the tending; it can yield years of joy with committed teamwork. It’s the art of creating an emotional ecosystem; it takes time for all the elements to evolve together.

This being a divorce site, there is a lot of attention given to getting out of marriages but it’s always worth reminding ourselves of why staying in them is glorious magic if we can make it.

That said, we all know that not all marriages or partnerships are excellent or even good, fine or functional. Some husbands, wives and relationship dynamics reveal their toxicity after the exchange of rings and promises. Sometimes even when they are good, it’s still necessary to leave. And when it comes to the undeniable top reasons for divorce, it can feel acutely imperative to do so. Take your time. (Consider reading, “#36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.”)

When we’ve reached that point, it’s critical to give ourselves the gifts of acceptance, gentleness and patience. It is normal to grieve, not only what was but what was once possible. It’s normal to be afraid, to talk ourselves out of it many times, to be angry, elated, rebellious and frequently, a thousand other emotions a minute. Each of us has our own process through this but that doesn’t mean we’re alone. We not only give each other permission to move through it in our own way, but offer each other a context for what can be a strange yet empowering journey.

The Biggies

Infidelity, money problems, communication break-down, lack of intimacy and addiction: these are the Big 5 top reasons for divorce, which are indicative of issues not always but often beyond repair.

Infidelity:

Perhaps the most visceral and painful of the top reasons for divorce, infidelity is the first thing that comes to mind when we think of what would cause us to say unequivocally, “Absolutely not.” There’s a lot of it, too. Among Baby Boomers in the 57-75 age range, 25 percent of men and 10 percent of women have cheated. Just two generations later, among Millennials aged 25-40, females outnumber their male counterparts for infidelity with 11 percent of women cheating versus 10 percent of males.

And cheating packs a huge emotional punch. Money issues and communication break-downs are probably far more common, but sex with someone other than your wife or husband is a headliner because it hits our mates at such a vulnerable, primal level. Cheating takes all kinds of different forms, from a surprise encounter to long-term affairs (consider reading, “The Cheating Wife Phenomenon.”) but any of it cracks the foundation of trust between two partners and is difficult to forgive. It takes a lot of work and sincere re-commitment to do that, whether we stay with a cheating partner or not. Understandably, many choose not to. Even with that, it is not just possible to come back from it with the union intact, but with the right kind of professional help, the re-commitment in infidelity’s aftermath can make for an even stronger bond.

Lack of Intimacy:

Another face of a marriage’s sexual dynamic and one of the primary causes of infidelity, lack of intimacy is the emotional desert of the Top 5 reasons for divorce.

It’s starvation mode, denied fulfillment, a girdle and chastity belt on sexual expression and joy.  There are so many different reasons for a lack of desire, from unexpressed trauma or hormonal imbalance, to changing attraction, insecurity, simple preference or physiological discomfort. Communication breakdowns between partners may create a lack of emotional intimacy that form the root of the physical intimacy issues.

It’s our right to say no, always, and yet, it is also everyone’s right to their sexuality, provided it is based on informed consent and a lack of harm to others. If denial of a partner is something that can’t be resolved, does it seem fair to expect that our partner live without fulfillment of this primal human experience for the duration of a marriage?

It may be that lack of intimacy and/or cheating provide an opportunity to get creative with the relationship dynamic. Sexual expression is a foundational part of being alive. If two people love each other and want to remain in an otherwise successful and happy marriage, perhaps bringing in outside, professional help to come up with an alternative to divorce is the answer.

Money Problems:

Money issues are both the drudge and the task master of the Big 5 top reasons for divorce. They require all of the communication skills of sex or parenting and yet have few of the glimmering, laughing highlights. They’re draining, complicated and possibly generate more nagging, nitpicking resentment than any other issue. They are as fraught with the power dynamic as sex and communication and are tied most directly to simple survival.

So, if spouses can’t find common ground in their spending priorities, they create a great deal of conflict. And unless both spouses are earning a living and there’s an even spread of financial responsibility and say-so, there is a lot of room for a power deficit for the spouse who doesn’t have the clout of the dollar behind them.

When women are considering a divorce, it’s comforting to know that they shouldn’t expect themselves to understand all of the financial nuances. (Check out “Smart Moves for Women: A Financial Consultation for a Divorce.”) There are a lot of them and it often takes a specialist like a CDFA (Certified Divorce Financial Analyst) to pinpoint all the loopholes and leveraging points. Additionally, divorce coaches and other professionals spend a great deal of time and expertise directing women toward financial self-education and strategy.


If you are looking for clear steps to take and thoughtful advice on the divorce process if you are woman, read our “55 Must Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist.”


Communication Issues:

Woven throughout the other top reasons for divorce is communication. It’s the common thread running through all human relationships and interactions. Without it, nothing else happens and nothing else is fixed.

The Gottman Institute calls criticism, contempt, stonewalling and defensiveness “the four horsemen of the apocalypse” for a marriage. When it comes to communication, there’s actually a whole herd of horses that can step on this subtle, essential and often complicated part of human interaction.

Know that you are in very good company if communication is a challenge for you and your spouse. Most people, most couples, have trouble with it in one way or another. And sometimes it is not possible to communicate effectively with someone, particularly if they refuse to take responsibility for themselves. Each of us impacts everyone else around us and no one is right all the time.

We shouldn’t continually stifle our own authentic selves to satisfy someone else’s needs or make them comfortable, but we do need to take an honest look at ourselves and change if necessary. Get a good therapist; having an objective third party play referee and help us identify patterns and underlying unconscious beliefs that impact how we speak to each other (or don’t) can be invaluable.


Learn more. Read “27 Cautionary Signs You May Be in a Toxic Marriage.”


Addiction:

As the most tragic of the Big 5 top reasons for divorce, addiction eventually poisons our relationship with ourselves and causes us to choose a substance, a thing, an attitude, a simple activity over our own self-worth or our loved ones. It begins with a single choice and turns it into a habit and eventually a compulsion so that despite its initial insignificance, it spreads like kudzu over the structure of marriage. A drink, a hand of cards, an unnecessary purchase, an addiction to the computer (or what you find on it), a religion or even a belief in one’s own rightness over another, it is something that may seem small at first, that begins as an isolated event, but eventually morphs from snowball to avalanche.

Addiction drains motivation, joy, vitality and monetary resources. It’s an agent of lies and mistrust. Like all the other major issues, it often requires outside help. All of us have an attachment or dependence on something, whether or not we realize it. Some addictions are more corrosive than others. It’s always possible to stop it; sometimes will power is enough, but more often than not, like the other big root causes of divorce, it takes outside intervention.

A marriage is worth fighting for but so are we. Sometimes it is not possible to stay with someone in order to love them or to love ourselves.

Notes

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer, former print journalist and feature writer living on the West Coast. Connect with Jennifer at verbosej@hotmail.com 

Choose not to go it alone.

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional and oftentimes complicated experience of divorce. SAS offers all women six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you — and your precious future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

postnuptial agreements

The Top 7 Things to Know About Postnuptial Agreements

While television, music, movies, and tabloids have brought prenuptial agreements into the spotlight, few people are familiar with postnuptial agreements. This refers to nuptial agreements made after a couple is married. The surprising fact is postnuptial agreements can offer significant benefits to the right couple. Look no further than this Forbes article discussing Jeff Bezos’ divorce from his now ex-wife, MacKenzie. Bezos’ divorce could have taken a much different turn had the parties signed a postnuptial agreement after Amazon become one of the most valuable companies in the world.

In an effort to demystify the postnuptial agreement and explain its value, the following is a discussion of the top 7 things to know about these types of agreements.

  1. What is the Difference Between a Prenuptial Agreement and Postnuptial Agreement?

The more commonly known prenuptial agreement (“prenup”) is negotiated and signed by a couple prior to walking down the aisle and getting married. A postnuptial agreement (“postnup”) is signed by the couple after they have already been married. It can be signed days, weeks, months, or even years after the couple has said their vows.

  1. What is the Purpose of a Postnuptial Agreement?

The main purpose is to let married couples set the terms for divorce or death ahead of time. A postnup can help a couple eliminate uncertainty and increase predictability in the event they divorce, or upon the death of a spouse.

This is because the parties have dictated the outcomes that will occur upon divorce or death and have put the proper mechanisms in place to ensure their plan is legally actualized.

  1. What are Common Situations in Which a Postnup is Used?

One of the common challenges to a prenup occurs when the spouse who is receiving less under the agreement claims that it was signed under duress (think: one party presenting the other with a prenup on the night before the wedding). In order to avoid this situation, some couples will wait until after they are married to sign an agreement. The agreement they sign would therefore be a postnup and not a prenup.

Another instance in which a postnup is used is where marital issues arise that were unpredicted. If there has been infidelity, the spouse who got cheated on may want a postnup in order to stay in the marriage. This would provide that spouse with some financial protection or gain (and reassurance) in the event his or her spouse cheats again.


If you are thinking about divorce, you’ll want to be smart and healthy. Read our 36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.


Additionally, postnups can be used when one spouse is starting a business and wants to establish how much of the business’ value (if anything) their spouse will receive upon divorce. Couples can also create postnups for estate planning purposes, or because they want to revise their prenup. If a prenup is being revised, there must be language that either states what the postnup controls or that the prenup is void altogether.

  1. Certain Topics Can be Discussed in Postnups, While Others Cannot

For Example, Spousal Support Can Be Pre-Determined.

In a postnup, the parties can discuss the spousal support obligation of the “monied spouse” upon divorce. The couple can set out a specific amount of support in the event of a divorce, remain silent on the issue, or waive support completely. Many couples decide to determine spousal support in the postnup because leaving it in the hands of the law (or court) down the road can be unsettling. Others, however, prefer to have their financial situation at the time of divorce, as opposed to earlier, during the marriage, dictate their obligations.

It is important to know that spousal support clauses in a postnup can be vulnerable to challenge. This is because the parties’ income at the time of the divorce is unknown at the time the parties sign a postnup. If a spousal support clause in a postnup is very stingy and strays far from the statutory formula set out by the law, the spousal support clause runs the risk of being struck down as unconscionable (a term that will be discussed in detail below).

For example, if the postnup entitles the non-monied spouse to only $1,000 per month for spousal support, but the monied spouse makes $5 million per year, this spousal support clause may not be upheld.

Child-Related Issues Should Not Be Included

Divorce laws vary from state to state. In New York State, the courts decide child-related issues using the “best interests of the child(ren)” standard. If a postnup includes child-related language, the court would be deprived of its supreme jurisdiction in the area. As such, any child-related clauses in a postnup open the door for the agreement to be struck down.

However, one provision that is often included in postnups states that if one spouse owns the marital residence by himself or herself, the other spouse will not be required to vacate until there is a parenting plan in place (either by agreement or court order). This serves to encourage the parties to work quickly to come up with a plan as it relates to parental access with the children.

Estate Rights Are Often Addressed

In New York, without an agreement, a party cannot fully disinherit his or her spouse. Under the law, the non-deceased spouse would still be free to take what is called his or her “elective share,” which is defined as the larger of $50,000 or one-third (1/3) of the deceased spouse’s estate. In a postnup, the parties can give up their elective share rights, or determine that the elective share applies only to marital property. In exchange, a party who waives their elective share can ask that their future spouse take out a life insurance policy in his or her name.

  1. Full Disclosure is Essential

When preparing a postnup, each spouse provides a complete list of his or her assets and liabilities.

While courts usually will not overturn a postnup because disclosure was not absolute, they can overturn an agreement if a party can prove that their spouse willfully concealed assets. It is often recommended that, if the value of an asset is uncertain, the parties overvalue that asset. Doing so would negate the argument that a party would have made a different deal if they knew the higher value of the asset in question.

In addition, financial disclosure allows each party to obtain insight into each other’s financial situation. This is especially important in a marriage in which one spouse is in charge of the finances, and the other spouse is in the dark.


Check out “How to Prepare for Divorce If You are a Stay-At-Home-Mom”


  1. Specialized Clauses

There are numerous different “specialized clauses” that can be included in postnups.

A “ladder provision” can be inserted, which says that the non-monied spouse would receive additional spousal support or a lump sum payment at different anniversary milestones. For example, if the parties are married for 5 years, the monied spouse would make a $200k payment to his or her spouse upon divorce, and after 10 years that increases to $500k.

There also are “sunset provisions”, which state that the postnup will no longer be in effect if the parties are married for a certain period of time. For example, if the parties are married for 20 years, the postnup would then be void. These sunset provisions can also be used on individual clauses, such as the estate waivers no longer being effective if the parties are married for a certain number of years.

Oftentimes, parties ask about adultery provisions in which the cheating spouse would lose out on funds or spousal support in the event of a divorce. These are difficult provisions to include and maybe kicked back by the court because of the ambiguity of what “cheating” may mean.

  1. Challenging Postnups

In general, New York courts often uphold postnups that are entered into by two consenting parties. If a party is challenging a postnup, he or she will have the burden to show why it should not be upheld. The standard of review, under the law, is whether the agreement is “fair and reasonable” at the time the parties entered into the agreement and must be “not unconscionable” at the time one party seeks to enforce them.

The arguments that a party can make as to why a postnup, or any provision of it, should not be upheld are (1) fraud, (2) duress, or (3) unconscionability. As discussed, if there is full financial disclosure, a fraud claim would most likely fail. Avoiding a duress argument is, as stated above, a reason why couples may sign a postnup instead of a prenup. The biggest threat to a postnup is unconscionability at the time of enforcement. However, unconscionability is a very high standard to attain, and so more often than not, the spouse claims it will not be successful. The circumstances would have to change so significantly over time that what was once an equitable agreement ends up becoming unconscionable by the end of the marriage.

The postnuptial agreement is a useful tool in many situations of a marriage. In order to take advantage of its benefits, it’s important to be well informed about how to structure it as they are not easy to enforce in every state. If you are thinking about divorce or wanting to change the terms of a divorce should one occur in your future, you may wish to consider a postnup. Speak to a matrimonial attorney (divorce attorney) about your story to understand your options and what would be the best move for you.

 

Notes

Ian Steinberg is a Matrimonial Attorney at Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein, LLP, where he focuses on the litigation, mediation, negotiation, and settlement of matrimonial and family law cases. In addition, he specializes in the drafting of prenuptial and postnuptial agreements. Prior to his current role, he practiced real estate law representing property owners in courts throughout New York City. This real estate background gives Ian important insights into the division of the marital home when couples are separating and divorcing. Connect with Ian to discuss your situation and needs.

 

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.

 

How long does it take to get a divorce by weheartit

How Long Does It Take to Get Divorced?

When you want a divorce, it can’t happen fast enough. But, when you don’t want it or aren’t prepared, it can pull the rug out from under your life. The time it takes to get a divorce depends on a lot of factors — some within your control and some not. One thing that is always within your control? How wisely you use the time you have to prepare once divorce is inevitable.

Regardless of your initiative, mere compliance, or opposition concerning your divorce, your desire and need to know a timeline are understandable. Everything about the divorce process and its aftermath is time-sensitive.

Your first instinct is going to be to consult with “Google & Google, LLP.” Starting your research at the most obvious place makes sense.

But be careful and discerning as you collect information. Google can be a veritable rabbit hole, leading you from a general search with reputable sources to a downslope of information, advice, and questionable links. And it can quickly become overwhelming.

Anyone who has had to do academic research knows the cardinal rule of using primary sources. The reasoning is obvious: to avoid the dilution, changing, or skewing of information.

Educate Yourself with Up-To-Date Information

Online research is no different, but has the added considerations of fast-paced change and, unfortunately, a maddening dose of questionable integrity.

Just be careful and always consider the source. (Besides, the detailed, specific information you ultimately need will come from your team of experts – your divorce coach, attorney, financial planner, etc.)

Also, take note of dates on articles and be cautious about giving any information. You are getting educated and collecting information. Nothing more.

Google is a great place to get your compass pointing in the direction of familiarization and the reliable resources that will guide your journey.

You may have even found this site SAS for Women through a general search. But, as you click through our website, you see that it is thoughtfully, thoroughly, and securely developed. And the information shared here is consistent, reliable, and based on trustworthy sources.

This is the kind of confidence you need and deserve to have in your resources when the difficult time comes to get a divorce.

Again, always consider the source.

Your approach to getting educated about the divorce process can make a huge difference in the smoothness and outcome of your divorce.

It will directly influence your confidence and ability to deal with the inevitable stress of this life-changing process.

It will potentially help you save money and time and avoid making mistakes.

And it will lay the groundwork for how you move forward – and the people who become part of your life – after your divorce is final.

How Your State Affects Your Divorce Timeline

Your first online search should be for your state’s divorce process – and specifically its residency and waiting-period requirements. 

Every state will have its own laws regarding how long you have to live in the state before you can get a divorce. It will also have its own requirement (or lack thereof) regarding how long you have to wait before your divorce can proceed and be finalized.

State-by-State Comparisons

In Texas, for example, the petitioner has to have lived in the state for at least six months prior to filing. Texas is one of the states that also have county residency rules.

Texas also has a “cooling off period” of 60 days from the date of filing. Why? To make sure one spouse or both spouses aren’t rushing into a “forever” decision because of a temporary and/or reparable period of discord. (This is especially understandable when children are involved.)

What this means is that, if you live in Texas, and choose an uncontested divorce vs. a contested divorce, you could be divorced in as little as 61 days.

However, if you and your spouse have points of contention regarding custody, assets, fault vs. no-fault, etc., you will add on both time and expenses.

California, as notorious as it is for the “Hollywood” marriage-divorce-remarriage-divorce cycle, has a six-month waiting period for divorce – one of the longest.

New Jersey, on the other hand, has no “cooling off period.” While a typical divorce involving children and assets takes about a year, a simple, no-fault divorce could be complete in weeks.

State-by-State Residency and Waiting Periods

Getting familiar with your state’s laws for the divorce process is one of the best and easiest ways you can help yourself. (Paul Simon wasn’t kidding when he sang 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover!)

Some states, for example, have long residency and waiting periods and may even have required separation periods and parenting classes. Have a momentary lapse in confidence and come back together for a let’s-make-sure weekend of cohabitating? The clock will start again.

If you’re looking to get a divorce quickly, living in states like Vermont, South Carolina, and Arkansas could test your patience.

Read more about the fastest and slowest states for getting a divorce to get a sense of where you stand.

Avoiding Litigation

Divorce is no stranger to the DIY approach. While you can find all the necessary forms online if you and your spouse decide to go that route, please be careful! If there is anything that could be a point of contention or complication, you are better off with legal representation.

Even if you choose a non-litigated path like mediation, you would do yourself good service by getting a legal consultation. And, whether you are simply “consulting” or hiring an attorney for the entire process, avoid hiring cheap divorce lawyers.

Even couples without years of accrued investments and complicated finances will have financial considerations, usually outside their areas of expertise.

Protecting Yourself Against DIY Divorce Mistakes

The disparity in income levels, years in or away from the workplace, years spent as a stay-at-home-parent, retirement funds, health/life insurance, mortgage – it all matters. And it all has relevance far into the future.

Women especially tend to take a hard hit financially after divorce, and they don’t always regain their financial footing. Their loss can be almost twice that of men and is often accompanied by a number of post-divorce surprises.

As you can probably see by now, that innocent question, How long does it take to get a divorce? doesn’t have a simple answer.

Some things you can control. Some things your spouse controls. And some (many) things your state’s laws control.

Remember that knowledge is power – or at least an analgesic to the inherent stress of getting a divorce

Remember also that the time it takes to jump through all the hoops of the divorce process says nothing about the time it takes to recover from a divorce.

But how you educate yourself, and the integrity and composure with which you navigate your divorce can influence everything, including your divorce recovery, the new chapter you deserve.

 

Notes

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

 

Pre-divorce checklist

A Pre-Divorce Checklist? Consider Composing One During the Holidays

“He’s making a list and checking it twice. Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice.”

Should you be making your own (pre-divorce) checklist … and checking it twice? As an experienced divorce attorney in Utah, I find the second phrase to the jingle, “gonna find out who’s naughty and nice” an inspired idea, and one that is not coincidental. The day after Christmas, Dec. 26, marks the beginning of what is officially considered “Divorce Day”: what those of us in the divorce industry call divorce season.

After the holidays have subsided and divorce season begun, our phones are ringing off the hook, with plenty of revelations suggesting who is naughty and who is nice.

Taking the time now to create your own pre-divorce checklist is positive and it’s constructive — unlike racing to a lawyer’s office or venting on social media about the sorry state of your marriage. The slow, deliberate movement of checklist making adds perspective, grounds you, and informs your ultimate decision on whether or not to add to the divorce rate across the United States or Canada, or wherever you may be (besides purgatory).

In fact, making a pre-divorce checklist is, perhaps, the best free divorce advice I give my clients during the holidays. And so, in the spirit of giving, I’d like to share more with SAS readers. Let’s use this post as your go-to guide for creating that checklist.

The Legal Point of View

There are so many different ways to look at a divorce and what you may or may not need to navigate that beginning with the legal perspective is often the best first step. And this begins, if you are a US citizen, by talking to a lawyer in your specific state, because divorce law varies from state to state.

To prepare for that meeting, think about your questions and get the necessary documents organized in advance. This will give the lawyer something to look at, evaluate and base their answers on, when you meet.

If you wonder what documents to gather and organize, check out this post Thinking About Divorce? Be Prepared.

If you wonder what questions to ask, SAS for Women has you covered there, too. Consult this blog post Questions to Ask a Divorce Attorney.  Of course you may have other questions you will not find on that blog post, like should you open a post-office box for personal or divorce-related mail? Would it be a good idea to take money out from an account in advance of the divorce? Can you leave the marital home before officially separating or divorcing? What happens to the money you are due to inherit if you divorce? Should you file for divorce before you get your bonus?

All of your questions (and fears) need to be explored and answered, but be careful about making any radical moves. It’s critical you vet your big actions with a lawyer before you act so nothing is held against you in the divorce.

This is why organizing your documents and meeting with a lawyer is such an important step on your pre-divorce checklist. You must get grounded on reality, what is and what is not possible.  

The Financial Point of View

Next, you cannot underestimate the power of getting educated on what your best business transaction would be if you were to divorce. Which is why gathering your financials and getting feedback on them is critical.

Here you can listen to Certified Divorce Financial Analyst and advisor, Stacy Francis discuss The Financial Do’s and Don’ts Before, During, and After Divorce.  Listening to Stacy will help you further formulate your financial questions. Don’t worry if your money questions overlap with your legal questions, that’s normal.

So, your pre-divorce checklist includes organizing documents, gathering your questions, meeting with a lawyer, and then going deeper with the money and getting feedback on your financial choices. This is best done with a financial person who is familiar with how divorce impacts the money. And now there’s a new professional who does just that kind of work.

Keep in mind to really forecast what you may have for money in the future, you’ll need to gather current Social Security calculations, details on debts, personal and marital property information, and monthly budget figures. Do you keep safety deposit boxes? What’s in them? Have you or your spouse already received an inheritance? All of these details need to be gathered and included on your pre-divorce checklist.


If you are thinking about … or beginning the divorce process, consider Annie’s Group SAS for Women’s virtual group coaching program for women looking for an education, support, structure, and a safe community.

A new cohort (with you?) is starting soon.

 


Consider Your Home Property

Ready to go deeper? You’ll also have to consider your home. If you have not previously done so for your home insurance, take pictures of each room of your house. Make sure each room’s contents are displayed as part of a more thorough listing of assets. With the home, your own accounting is not all that counts. Getting an appraisal can be beneficial as well, so add that to your list. Renting mother-in-law apartments in a home is common these days (all the more so in a COVID climate). Make sure to get copies of leases for in-home or other rental properties. Your To-Do list grows!

Take Care of Your Heart

Don’t forget to factor into your list your need for emotional support (besides all this legal, financial and practical info).

Chances are your heart and your feelings are not going to be in synch with learning about your legal and financial choices. This means you need a safe place to vent what you are genuinely feeling and to learn from the messages your emotions are trying to tell you.

So, add to your pre-divorce list “Emotional Support” and consider how you will find it. Have you got a therapist or do you need to work on finding one?  Or, do you have a coach who understands the divorce journey and can help you feel anchored as you begin to take steps?  Be careful in whom you confide during this vulnerable moment in your life. Sometimes our family or friends are not the best people to share our challenges with, because their opinion, reaction, prejudices may not be in alignment with who we really are.

You absolutely need a safe, neutral, judgement-free place to go and you deserve that place.

As you make your pre-divorce checklist, realize that action with these different steps deepens your awareness and possible commitment to divorce. As your sense of empowerment grows, you may move from flirtation to surety. 

Here are some other pre-divorce checklists I recommend

You might want to check the following to see if there are any other crucial items or steps you want to add to your list:

  • SAS for Women’s “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.”
  • Donna Fulscado, Investopedia, Oct. 28, 2019 “Divorce Planning Checklist: What You Need To Know”
  • Shawn Leamon, CDFA, Divorce and Your Money: How To Avoid Costly Divorce Mistakes, March 1, 2017  “The Ultimate Divorce Checklist: What You Need To Prepare”
  • Communication planning is a unique aspect of Rebecca Jones’s list. Jones is a London-based family lawyer. Her divorce checklist includes letting everyone from family dentists and opticians to utility companies know about a divorce, if enacted. That’s something you can consider to do later on — if you indeed go through with the divorce.

‘Tis the Season for Making a List and Checking it Twice!

Yes, it may be the holidays, but if you are in a troubled marriage, the holidays may be anything but merry.

Breathe deeply, think clearly, and get anchored. Using a pre-divorce checklist will help minimize the overwhelm of everything seemingly coming toward you at once. And checking things off will give you a sense of “doing something” at the same time it keeps you moving in a sequenced, goal-oriented way.

To all, we wish you the Season’s Best, a better 2022, and to all a good night.

Notes

Jill L. Coil is Utah’s leading female family law and divorce attorney and invites you to hire her before your spouse does. She is admitted to the Utah and Texas bars and has contributed to case law by successfully arguing a landmark case before the Utah Supreme Court. Coil is a 2019 Super Lawyer and an author featured on Amazon, contributes actively within her community, and is the proud mother of four children.

 

SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to rebuilding their lives on their own, healthiest terms. If you are recreating after divorce or separation, you are invited to experience SAS for Women firsthand. 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, integrity and excitement.

I am too afraid to divorce

Help! I Am Too Afraid to Divorce!

“Dear Divorce Coach, I don’t know where else to turn. I’m so unhappy in my marriage, but I am too afraid to divorce. I don’t even know if I can trust my own feelings or myself. And, if I can’t even do that, how can I make a life-altering decision like ending my marriage? How can I wreck everyone’s world?

The truth is that I have been unhappy, even numb, for years. But our kids were still in school, and I didn’t want to throw their lives into chaos. Growing up is hard enough.

My husband and I are civil. There’s no abuse of any kind, and, to the best of my knowledge, there’s been no infidelity, no cheating. 

He has always been a good father to the kids, although I know they always wanted him home more. And God knows I could have used more help taking care of the kids and the house.

But I long for so much more than just being ‘civil.’ I’ve longed for an emotional connection for most of my marriage, but my husband doesn’t relate to “feelings” or these needs of mine. We talk about his work and the kids, but he closes off when I initiate any personal conversation. 

It’s as if we live in the same house but don’t know one another anymore. We might as well just be roommates.

We haven’t had sex in almost eight months. I feel ashamed saying this, but I really don’t want to have sex with him. If I don’t feel valued and loved on an emotional level, so how can sex possibly feel natural, let alone good?

I find myself daydreaming about life without him—doing what I want to do, picking up hobbies I used to love, not having to clean up after him, or even meeting new men.

I admit to having started communicating with an old classmate on Facebook. We liked each other years ago, and it’s clear, he’s not happy in his marriage either. He’s like a breath of fresh air. We can talk about anything, and I feel heard and seen. My ideas, my feelings, my dreams, they all matter… just not to my husband.

So yes, I even catch myself envisioning life with this person instead of with my husband. And I know that has to be a signal that something isn’t right.

I have no one to talk to about things relating to our relationship, and I feel completely alone. Sometimes I wonder if I’m crazy or just plain selfish. Shouldn’t I just suck it up?

I have asked my husband to go to couple’s counseling with me, but he refuses to go. And how much good can I do for “us” by going to therapy alone?

When I think about it, there are several reasons that I am too afraid to divorce. 

First, I was a stay-at-home mom until five years ago. But even then I worked only part-time at a low-wage job. My husband was the major breadwinner. How will I ever support myself now? And how much of my lifestyle would I have to give up?

Second, I am so worried that my children will hate me and never understand why I left their dad.

Third, I don’t have a clue where to begin. How do I start a divorce right under my husband’s nose? And how on earth would I afford it?

Finally, I’m afraid that I will be alone for the rest of my life. I’m not young anymore. Is it possible to start again in middle-age?

I am well aware that marriage isn’t all sunshine, flowers, and romance. But is reasonably happily ever after an unrealistic expectation?

I would be grateful for any advice you can give me.

Sincerely, 

Too Afraid To Divorce


 

Dear Too Afraid To Divorce,

Before I respond to your questions, I want to assure you of two very important things:

You are not crazy. And you are not alone. 

Divorce, and what leads up to it, can be very isolating. Because everyone’s situation is unique, it’s easy to fall into believing that you are alone. And problems-on-the-homefront isn’t the usual topic of choice in social settings.

But I assure you, you are not alone.

Perhaps it would be a bit of consolation to know that nearly 70% of divorces are initiated by women. Like you, women are more likely to assume the emotional burden of marriage. They are also more likely to feel held back by it.

At the same time, overthinking when to leave your husbandespecially when there is no abuse, addiction, or infidelity—is easy to do. You get inundated with all the whys and what-ifs. And there’s nothing like “a good day” to throw your whole thought process into confusion and self-doubt. A lot of women tell us how confusing it is, how guilty they feel when their spouse is not a horrible person, but a “good guy.”

My advice is always predicated on taking orderly, strategic baby steps in the right direction. 

Your first task is to decide if your marriage is salvageable. 

If it is, then you and your husband will have to get onto the same page and get the help necessary to save your marriage.

If it’s not, then starting the process of divorce will make sense to you.

Are you in a bad marriage? Only you and your husband can make that final evaluation. But you mentioned a few things that are red flags for me. 

First, you said you’re not having or even desiring sex with your husband.

Second, you said you are fantasizing about life without him. 

Sometimes mentally extracting yourself from your marriage can give you a temporary reprieve from your unhappiness and anxiety. But it’s not indicative of or conducive to a healthy marriage.

And finally, you mentioned befriending someone from your past and feeling the emotional intimacy you don’t have with your husband. 

The danger in developing even an emotional closeness to someone outside your marriage is complex. Not only will you confuse your own decision process, but you could risk the final terms of your divorce settlement. Stay focused on your marriage (or the process of ending it) without seeking another relationship.

Right now you are still in decision mode. You’re contemplating divorce, not actively pursuing it. And that can leave you feeling ungrounded, spinning, and overwhelmed. It’s understandable that your battle cry is stuck on “I am too afraid to divorce!”

Let’s go back to that feeling of being alone. All the advice I can give you is rooted in this imperative: 

Don’t let yourself believe you’re alone. And don’t attempt to do this alone.

Those baby steps I mentioned? The first one is to collect information. Learn about the divorce process, the laws in your state, the timeline for divorce, and even what to expect when you tell your kids.

I have your first reading assignment: “8 Things Divorced Moms Want Divorcing Moms to Know”. You will never get better insight into the divorce process than you will from women who have gone through it.

While you’re learning from and leaning on other I’ve-been-where-you-are women, you’re going to notice a comforting and awakening constancy. Help is always available for those who ask. 

In the course of asking and receiving, you will build your own support system.  And it will be there for you long after your divorce is final.

If you decide to go forward with a divorce, you will need to establish the right people around you, your team of experts—legal, financial, emotional, practical, custodial, etc. A divorce coach can walk you through the checklist of must-do’s and their timelines and even help you assemble the right people, because she’s seen other women like you and has learned what is normal, what is not. And a word to the wise? A lot is normal, so take heart.

Your concern about affordability is a common concern. Believe it or not, there are options for women who believe they can’t afford a divorce, including ways to make divorce cheaper. Your life’s well-being and happiness should never come down to the ability to pay for the help you need.

Divorce comes with costs, both financial and emotional. But it also heralds in unfathomed possibilities and positive changes.

The time after your divorce is your time. It’s a critical time for reflection, learning, adapting, dreaming, and rediscovering yourself.

It’s also the time to become your own best friend and advocate, remembering that you have the support that has been with you all along. Before you know it, “I am too afraid to divorce” will become “I’m going to be just fine.”

If you can embrace this period with fearlessness, trust, and curiosity, you may surprise yourself when you emerge ready to love—and be loved—again.

Stay committed to yourself and the life you deserve,

Susan

(Divorce Coach at SAS for Women)

Notes

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.

The Truth About Divorce for Women

The Truth About Divorce for Women

It’s unique for every couple and every individual going through it. You know that— with your head, if not with your heart. But the truth about divorce for women (and men) is painted with both broad and fine brushes. And seeing the big picture is as important as seeing the details.

Being lost in the microcosm of an unhappy marriage can be all-consuming. Little things are “everything,” and the thought of going through a divorce can seem as insurmountable as the thought of staying married.

You have friends and acquaintances—and perhaps family members—who have gone through a divorce. You see it played out on screen and in the tabloids of daily life.

And no doubt you have witnessed the full temperature spectrum of divorce, from amicable to contemptuous.

Even under the best circumstances, divorce isn’t for the faint of heart.

Nor is it for the unprepared.

Because SAS for Women is just that—for women—we will be discussing the truth about divorce for women specifically. The good. The difficult. The possible.

What Statistics Say About Women and Divorce

It’s important to revisit what you may find to be a surprising statistic: Women initiate divorce almost 70% of the time compared to men.

Add a college degree and that statistic skyrockets to 90%.

Why do women take the initiative to divorce their husbands more than the other way around? And why are the scales almost equally balanced when it comes to break-ups of non-marital relationships?

Obviously, there is something remarkable about the institution of marriage when it comes to uncovering the truth about divorce—for women, specifically.

In general, women are more vested in the expectations of marriage. Once-traditional roles are no longer applicable, especially as most women are pulling their weight both inside and outside the home.

They invest more. And they want more. The connection, the communication, the fidelity, all of it.

And education only makes them more astutely aware of what they can do and have in life and relationships.

It also makes them unwilling to tolerate less.

Education, after all, is as much about learning how to think and access resources as it is about stockpiling knowledge: a big advantage in today’s marriages.

Education is also a big advantage for women going through a divorce.

The Impacts of Divorce

When it comes to the truth about divorce for women, knowing how to create solutions and where to find help can be lifesaving.

And nowhere is that more true than in the areas of finances and single-parenting.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest shocks of divorce is what it does to women financially. All the upfront preparation often can’t prepare women for the long-term financial struggle they statistically face.

Countless factors influence this possibility, of course.

Women are far more inclined than men to sacrifice professionally in order to prepare for or raise children.

By the time they divorce, they have often lost critical years in the workforce. And they can’t make up for lost time on the earning-front—both in income and benefits.

This is why it’s essential that women have expert financial guidance and heed the most important financial steps after divorce. They have to think ahead to the unknown future in order to make wise decisions in the present.

Difficult as it is to face, the truth about divorce for women means they need to be savvy, both upfront and for the long haul. What may sound like a great settlement at divorce time may not be enough to secure even a comfortable lifestyle down the road without a struggle.

Single-parenthood can be another difficult reality check for women, especially if they’re already dealing with diminished financial status.

On top of doing everything alone, there is also the emotional component of not being part of their children’s daily lives.

And then there is the likelihood that their exes will find someone new to love and marry. And that means a new maternal influence in their children’s lives.

But the reality of divorce isn’t all bad. There is plenty of good on the other side of divorce.

Hidden Benefits of Divorce

If you’ve been trapped in a marriage that has suppressed your dreams and gifts, divorce can open the door to self-rediscovery. It can expand your consciousness of who you are and what you want in life.

Divorce can also offer exhilarating freedom. Not because marriage in and of itself is imprisoning, but because one or both partners can lose perspective of marriage’s liberating, elevating potential.

Perhaps the most positive truth about divorce for women is the sense of empowerment and independence it engenders.

Yes, you can come out of divorce struggling with your sense of self-worth, especially if your spouse was unfaithful, abusive, or neglectful.

But there is power—and potential—in knowing how long to stay and when to go. And being a steadfast advocate for your own dignity, even when it has suffered a blow, is a statement of promise for your future.

As you start to rely upon your own strength, ideas, and resources, in the context of your deepest values, your power magnifies. You realize there is more you can accomplish and dream about.

And in that reaching, stretching, and holding your own, you build resilience. You become an example, not only to your aspiring self but to your children and those who bear witness to your journey.

Divorce, even in the best circumstances, isn’t a do-over with a blank slate. What presents itself as new, free, and self-directed is still seasoned by marriage loss.

What you needn’t lose, however, are its lessons. And, out of its lessons, your resolve to rise, just as a tree adds to its rings while rising toward the sun.

The truth about divorce, for women on their way and women already there, is ultimately seeded in one unbreakable vow: to live into their highest selves for their highest good.

Notes

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

Infidelity and Divorce

The Betrayal of Infidelity

It is possible to think rationally in the face of divorce… sometimes. The crumbling of a marriage is painful, of course. However, we can be logical about things like financial disputes, changing priorities, long-distance hardships, or child rearing. Infidelity, though? Not so much.

Hitting Us Where It Hurts the Most

The betrayal of infidelity is one of the top catalysts of divorce. In a recent SAS survey, we asked 100 women dealing with divorce to name the primary reason for their separation. Between 7-10% said adultery was the cause of their divorce, though it’s unclear from the survey who cheated on whom. That means cheating ranked as the number four reason for divorce, with lack of good communication, domestic abuse, and constant arguing ranking ahead of it.

When we discover that our husband* is unfaithful, sensible analysis and calm discernment take headers right out the window. There are other ways to break trust in a relationship, such as choosing an addiction over the relationship or hiding credit card debt. However, even these don’t hit as viscerally as cheating does. No other divorce catalyst is such an emotional hot button as the particular sting of disloyalty.

Most likely, it doesn’t matter how grounded we are or how well developed our self esteem may be. The betrayal of infidelity goes far beyond an emotional slap in the face.

The pain of adultery makes it difficult to hold on to a levelheaded frame of mind in the middle of that onslaught of pain, rage, bewilderment, and devastation. No matter what we read or who we talk to, there seems to be universal agreement that being untrue to the marriage vow of “forsaking all others” hurts the worst. It is also the most challenging bridge-burning from which to rebuild the trust that once existed between two people.

The Mortal Wounding of Infidelity

An affair: the term is a misnomer, really. Something that breaks trust so deeply and wounds on such an intimate, personal level shouldn’t also be a term for a lovely party. And the term “extramarital sex” sounds like a gynecological exam. It’s clinical and somewhat unpleasant, but it doesn’t conjure up the rage and bleeding-out-on-the-floor emotional havoc that the betrayal of infidelity wreaks. Finding out that your husband is two-timing you may sound like a country line dance but in actuality, it’s psychologically leveling for a period of time. Cheating is a spouse taking a hard look at the most vulnerable part of us and saying, in essence, “You’re not enough. You’re not good enough to merit my effort to stay true to you and to my word. You’re not worthy of the vow I said I would keep.”

The betrayal of infidelity shatters the commitment that the two of you made and throws a Molotov cocktail on your self-worth, the softest underbelly of who we are.

Cheating takes that vulnerable part of us, that part that we keep down in the depths that is the truest part of us, tosses it aside and says, “This can be replaced.” In North Carolina’s well-publicized case Clark vs. Clark case, one woman had to sit in the courtroom and listen to her Ex and his new wife testify that he never loved her in the first place.

Monogamous fidelity is one of the cornerstones of traditional unions, so the effect of an extramarital affair destroys an essential part of a married couple’s foundation. It takes a lot of work and support, and most likely, good professional help to rebuild that trust.

We May Not Forget but We Must Forgive

I was on the sidelines of an affair that involved a woman I know well, and so I witnessed the corrosion that a lack of active forgiveness can etch onto a marriage. The betrayal of his infidelity itself was gut-wrenching, but beyond that, it was frightening for her as a Stay-at-Home-Mom to be left with two young children and the prospect of raising them by herself. The two of them decided to remain married and work it out.

If that is our choice, we may not forget, but forgiving and consciously choosing to not punish him for the rest of the marriage is necessary for it to be a healthy one. It’s also necessary to take a hard look at ourselves and asking, “If cheating is a symptom of unhappiness, how did I contribute to the unhappy dynamic? And how do I address that now?”

That doesn’t mean taking all the blame. In fact, if you’re married to a narcissist or an abuser, you must be even more careful to not engage in the constant apology. Generally, though, looking honestly at ourselves does mean that we have to own our own behavior and how it affects the people around us.

The Metamorphosis of Marriage

It may be helpful to keep in mind that we are far from alone in this enormous challenge. Infidelity claims 25-40% of marriages, and the reasons for affairs range from resentment to stress to differences in sexual appetite, et cetera. In the younger generations, the percentage of women cheating on their husbands is now equaling men. Women in their 50s and 60s are also beginning to catch up with their male counterparts in the extramarital sex arena.

COVID-19 has also made it even more difficult for couples to sustain their togetherness. The National Institute of Health evaluated the effects of the pandemic on marriage in September 2020. The NIH found that the pressure cooker of sheltering in place may have made it harder to actually conduct a physical affair, but increased the numbers of people seeking them.

It may also be helpful to note that as “the done thing,” traditional marriage is beginning to take a backseat to new relationship paradigms. There is a growing recognition that the institution of marriage needs an infusion of flexibility and dynamism if it’s going to survive.

Couples are choosing to reevaluate their vows a few years into the union to see if they are still on the same page or if they need to make incremental changes. (Incrementally speaking, think screwdriver approach instead of a hammer).

Non-Traditional Approaches to Fidelity and Marriage

Married people are choosing to live in separate homes, a practice of “living apart together” in LAT relationships that honor the individual and help people in long-term unions maintain a “still-dating” romantic edge. And two weeks ago, the MSN home page featured a story on monogamy being “out of date” with a list of high-profile celebrities who include a little extracurricular activity into their happy marriages on purpose. They all had slightly different ways of handling it, but the message here is that some open relationships can lead to happier and more unified marriages.

The Metamorphosis of Self

It also takes support and, often, professional help if you decide that you don’t want to rebuild and choose instead take divorce by the horns. Leaving a marriage, especially on the heels of infidelity, requires a lot of us. It is just as much work as rebuilding a marriage. We enter a phase of partnering ourselves more effectively, and this means facing some uncomfortable truths about who we were in the marriage. We also must face who we are currently and who we are becoming. If we are going to truly evolve, we have to embrace the galvanizing effects of the pain and then move past it into self-honesty and forgiveness. If we can do this and truly let go, we find a whole new kind of freedom and self-commitment to celebrate.

Notes

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer, former print journalist and feature writer living on the West Coast. Nicknamed Verbose at a young age, she loves wordcraft but has to keep a short leash on her fondness for the profane. Jennifer enjoys compelling content and the liberty to write about interesting contributors and innovative ideas. Connect with Jennifer at verbosej@hotmail.com 

 

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.

* At SAS, we support same-sex marriage. However, for the sake of simplicity, we may refer to the spouse as “he” or “husband.”

Why Women Initiate Divorce More Than Men

7 Reasons Why Women Initiate Divorce More Than Men

The wedding-day fantasy seems to be infused into almost every girl’s DNA. Fairy tales nurture it, movies exaggerate it, and shows like Say Yes to the Dress and Four Weddings flat-out exploit it. So it may come as a surprise that women initiate divorce more than men.

Perhaps you’re thinking it’s the hype of the wedding and not the marriage that makes women initiate divorce 69% of the time compared to men. They have a lifetime of dreaming and planning, then boom, babies, bills, and boredom.

But interestingly, the initiative is pretty equally split in non-marital relationships. This suggests that there is “something” about marriage that contributes to the statistical imbalance.

So what is it about tying the knot that pushes women to make a decision that often doesn’t fare in their favor? Women, after all, statistically struggle more than men with finances and lifestyle maintenance after divorce.

And, if they have spent years out of the workforce in order to raise children, they leave their marriages at a disadvantage.

Moreover, they rarely recover fully.

The reasons for which women initiate divorce are not formulaic or limited to those discussed here. But they do tend to fall under some broad categories of dissatisfaction.

Here are 7 reasons why women initiate divorce more often than men. See if any of them hit home for you.

 

  1. Women have high and complex expectations about marriage, and those get dashed.

    Today’s bride-to-be isn’t registering for aprons and cookbooks. She expects an egalitarian relationship with shared responsibilities and benefits not predicated on colonial gender roles. Chances are that she is employed or on a focused career path. So, she is making a contribution to the family that was once the sole responsibility of the husband.

    Women today expect more. They want emotional intimacy, communication, personal growth, and shared responsibility.

    When marriage starts to feel more like wash-rinse-repeat than the promised pursuit of dreams, disenchantment can creep in and take over. Once this tension sets in, women are more likely to feel its effects. Thus, women initiate divorce more often when this contradiction arises.

  2. Equality isn’t all that “equal.”

    Change may be the only thing constant in life. But that doesn’t mean it happens cleanly or logically. In the span of a handful of decades, the role of women in society has changed exponentially. Women are equally in the workforce, earning degrees, and taking on roles of tremendous power and influence. Women are notorious for braving the front lines of initiative and necessary change. Society and entities content with the status quo, however, aren’t always so quick to follow suit.

    Technology, media, education, and a shrinking world continue to expose the always-present powers and potential of women. And yet, acceptance of those traits doesn’t seem to have caught up with married and family life.

    Despite working outside the home just like their husbands, married women still do the majority of childcare and housework. So, while blazing new trails in the world at large, they are finding themselves stuck in traditional expectations at home.

    And many women are finding that this dynamic is holding them back in life. They are capable of and yearning to do so much more. But something has to give.

    Unfortunately, divorce in transformational times is another barrier that women are having to overcome. Equality, it seems, is ahead of its time.

  3. Women are still the emotional caregivers.

    Some things, like a woman’s proclivity for emotional expression and intuition, are a reflection of natural traits. But neither gender has a corner on the market of any natural leaning, especially when choice and effort can enrich it. And yet, when it comes to being sensitive, and responsive to the emotional needs of a family, the expectation still usually falls to the wife or mother. Men may have an inclination to be less emotive and communicative, but they can and often do exploit the stereotype. The weight left on the woman’s shoulders, then, becomes extremely heavy and draining over time. This weight may cause women to initiate divorce long before their spouses.

    It also contributes to women being held back by marriage, as there is often so little energy left for themselves.

  4. Women are more inclined to reach out for support.

    Perhaps it’s because they have so much on their plate (and always have) that women have a knack for building community. Compared to men, they are far more likely to reach out for support. While the voices of wisdom and support may advise a woman to live her best life, men are more likely to stay stuck. Conservatism and emotional closure contribute to their choice to stay in a marriage, regardless of its dysfunction.

  5. Women are getting more educated.

    In the based-on-a-true-story movie Dangerous Beauty, the Venetian courtesan Veronica Franco proves to be more than just beautiful. She learns that courtesans are the only women given access to libraries and education, and she devours the opportunity. In one simple statement to the wives of Venice, she makes the power of that distinction clear: “A woman’s greatest and most hard-won asset is an education.” Five-hundred years later, there is still truth in her words. Women are now leading the graduation rates for both undergraduate and graduate degrees. And college-educated women initiate divorce 90% of the time, compared to 69% for women overall. Yet another testament to the role education and exposure to “what’s out there” have on women stepping into their full potential.

  6. Women have more opportunities today.

    It’s almost surreal to look back on the roles of women in history. Misguided theories, restrictive laws, and male-dominated societies have all conspired to build walls that women are still breaking down. And yet, for all the opportunities and glimpses of equality that women in America have, women in many nations are still living in a dark history. We have only to look at the patriarchal systems of the Middle East to know that one woman’s journey may be world’s away from another woman’s journey.

  7. Women often have nothing more to lose.

    Sometimes being the underdog has its advantages. If a woman is being repressed, mistreated, abused, or neglected in a marriage, she may see no risk in leaving. The greater risk may come from staying. This “nothing left to lose” mindset can be energizing and may literally propel a woman upward.

When you consider all that women have had to overcome throughout history, it’s natural to marvel at their strength and tenacity.

The fact that, in our modern era, women initiate divorce more than men comes with and because of conflicting messages.

On the one hand, women are taking the blinders off and shielding themselves with their own power instead of fear.

On the other hand, sometimes the rest of the world isn’t ready for what can be… and should be.

Notes

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