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Divorce Checklist for the Modern Woman

The 55 Must Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist

Once you’ve reached an internal decision to divorce, you probably wonder what the external steps to the process will entail. The truth is that your journey is just beginning, and in order to determine the best possible outcomes, you’ll want to be educated and prepared. You may find yourself exhausted searching the internet for answers, only to feel more confused than when you began. We understand this, which is why, drawing from our decade-long, divorce coaching practice, we’ve compiled our most thorough divorce checklist to help you stay focused on what’s important.

A few critical reminders before we get started: Never threaten divorce unless you are ready and organized to file. While you may be anxious to get started with your new life, it’s important that you hold off on filing until after you’ve worked through some of the important frameworks we outline below.

Also, if you have had a divorce thrown at you, do not agree to anything until you are legally informed of your rights and entitlements. Chances are your spouse has been planning this for a long time and you deserve time too to catch up with how things will be split and what is fair for you.  Do not be pressured into agreeing to anything. This is most often a tactic on your spouse’s part to ensure the process takes place fast and before you can advocate for your rights.

Most importantly, do not begin with the list below if you are dealing with abuse. Instead, read our safety guidelines for leaving an abusive marriage. There are other, critical steps to take first.

For those ready to begin the work of getting educated and putting their plan into action, here is a holistic approach to supporting you — and the smart steps to take. Here are your 52 Must-Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist.

Your first black and white steps…

1. Begin by getting a free credit report.

You’ll want to check it for any errors or open accounts that you may not know about. This will also prompt you to start paying attention to your credit score. You’ll want a good credit score, or work on nurturing one, so you can rent an apartment, qualify for a mortgage, or begin the process of establishing your personal financial identity. You can get a copy of your free, current credit report from Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion.

2. Open a checking and savings account in your name at a new bank. 

Go to a bank that you and your spouse don’t currently use (—think fresh starts, so there’s no risk of any confusion between names and accounts). We also recommend you use a large institutional bank so you take advantage of the bank’s various complimentary services and professionals who can help you establish your independence, like mortgage specialists or certified divorce financial analysts and planners.

3. Open a credit card in your name alone.

This is another step toward building your personal credit. Research the best credit card for your lifestyle. Consider one that pays you back with cash toward your statement or cash to your savings.

4. Make a list of all your assets: everything you OWN individually and as a couple.

Don’t forget less obvious things like airline miles, perks, or reward points, and make sure you include any inheritances from before and during the marriage.

  • You will want to collect the latest statement for each asset and record account numbers.
  • Photocopy or use your phone’s camera to record documents that are not in your possession.

5. Make a list of your debt: everything you OWE individually and as a couple.

Don’t forget school loans and personal loans, and a list of anyone who owes you money, how much they owe you, and when they’re supposed to pay you back.

  • Gather a current statement on the debt and a statement from the time of the separation (if it’s already happened.)
  • Photocopy or use your phone’s camera to record documents that are not in your possession.

6. Track what is happening to marital debt.

According to divorce law in most states, you and your spouse are responsible for one another’s debt. You’ll want to lessen this potential burden.

  • Be on the alert if your spouse is spending recklessly. (You can put notifications on your accounts for any high spends or withdrawals.)
  • If this happens, talk to a lawyer right away about legal steps you can take to limit your responsibility. (See step #19.)

7. Gather the past three years’ tax returns.

If you can’t get your hands on yours, contact the IRS for your transcripts or report (the latter costs but it’s what a lawyer would rather evaluate). And be careful with the IRS mailing the reports to your legal home address. Will your spouse get the mail first?

If you cannot access the financial documents, it’s not unusual. When you meet with the lawyer to discuss your circumstances (see below), you will share what you do know and ask the lawyer what happens when one spouse does not know anything about the finances in a divorce. (It’s more common than you think!)

8. Collect passwords to all financial accounts if you can access them.

You may need to access information in your financial accounts, so you’ll want to be sure you have passwords on hand.

9. Create or contribute more to your Emergency Fund. 

An emergency fund is something you need throughout your life, but as you stand at this crossroads now, save cash by putting it to the side. You never know if you may have to reach for it in a hurry.

10. If You are a Stay-at-Home Mom (SAHM) Make Sure Your Emergency Fund Has 3 Months of Financial Reserves.

If you are the spouse with limited access to resources, make sure you have sufficient money saved to pay for three months of expenses. It’s not uncommon that the monied spouse will cut off the non-monied spouse financially during a divorce. (When you talk to a lawyer one of the questions you will ask about is temporary spousal support. (See #19.)

11. Write down your financial and non-financial contributions to the marriage.

Some contributions may be legally relevant and especially helpful to you.

Are there more documents you could organize as you head into divorce? Probably yes, but there’s no need to get ahead of yourself and do potentially needless work. So, wait. Unless a lawyer tells you otherwise, there are other things to tend to.

Practical To-Do’s on Your Divorce Checklist

12. Create a new dedicated email address for the divorce subject. 

Make sure all your communications on the subject go to this email address alone. This makes things easier to keep organized and lessens your chance of being compromised by your spouse.

13. Consider the technology set up in your home and exercise caution.

While using a secret email address is recommended, it is not a full-proof method of keeping your communications safe. If, for example, your cell phone and computer system are backed up to a “family cloud” account, whoever controls the account may be able to read phone numbers you call or any text you send.

We suggest that you contact your computer company (like Apple, Dell, etc.) and mobile carrier service (Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, etc.) and talk to a representative to learn if your computer or cell phone could be compromised. We also recommend you ask the representative if there are other measures you could take to digitally protect yourself.

Secure any passwords to shared accounts (especially financial if possible) and your private ones (such as social media accounts). Change all passwords to your private accounts.

14. Maintain privacy on social media.

Do not post anything about your divorce on social media. It could be used against you. Plus, it’s no one’s business but your own.

15. Get a Post Office Box so you can receive important mail to a private safe address.

Give the address to your lawyer. If you can’t afford a PO Box ask a friend or family member if you can have your lawyer send information to their home.


If you’re not ready to act but really, only in the “contemplating” divorce stage, you’ll want to understand what you could be doing instead of just pondering and pondering. For healthy and smart steps to take,  read our “36 Things to Do If You Are Thinking About Divorce.”


Clarify Who You Want to Be Through this Crisis

16. Early on, choose who you want to be as you go through the divorce. 

This will help you remain civil and treat your spouse with respect. If your spouse is the father of your children, remember you still have many important moments and milestones in your future together—birthdays, graduations, weddings, reunions, and funerals. Trying to do the right thing now and throughout the process may not change your spouse’s behavior, but it will set a powerful example to your children who are watching and wondering how it will shake out.

17. If you have kids, keep them in your focus

The best person you can be will also be in alignment with keeping your kids (if you have them) front and center. If you are committed to going through the divorce in the healthiest way for them, it will mean doing what is also healthiest for youbecause they need a mama who is healthy and strong and thriving. (Are you now? No, we know.)

For you to discover what the healthiest way is, it will require your getting educated and putting your ducks in a row (and not just cracking and announcing you want a divorce!). This is why you are here reading this list, and are ready for more. You’ve organized documents and started taking black and white steps, and now, you’ve checked in with who you want to be. 

Remind yourself, that person may be scared, but that person is strong.

Now you’ll learn about the law, your financial choices, how to talk to your spouse, and how to decide on parenting issues. You want to do all this if possible before you talk with your children. (Do not involve the children in your decisions making or encourage them to take sides. That is not fair. Your kids are not adults (even if they act it) and should not be burdened with your adult decisions.) 

What’s most important to know about your kids today, and moving forward, is that the way you and your spouse break up (the degree of or lack of acrimony), and the long-term relationship you and your coparent have is what will determine the long term effect of the divorce on your kids. You’ll want to do your best to negotiate everything fairly with him* so you lessen the risk of emotional problems for them down the road. To know what’s fair it’s going to require your doing the work on this page. 

And if you are divorcing a narcissist, this blog post in particular may help you stand straight as you face oncoming days: 41 Things to Remember If You are Coparenting with a Narcissist.

18. Identify who is going to help you through your divorce. Whom can you trust?

Certainly, you’ll consult with a divorce lawyer to learn your rights (see #19), but beyond the legal or financial decisions, you’ll want someone who can give you perspective, help you problem-solve, hold space for you to be emotional or however you need to be – in confidentiality. Do you have a good friend who has both survived and healed from their divorce? Be careful of friends and family who mean well, but who can’t help sometimes leading with judgment.

Many find the objective and professional support of a therapist or coach to be the best, and in particular, a professional who is experienced with supporting people going through and recovering from divorce. If you are looking for a community with holistic support (that is guidance with the practical, legal, financial and emotional things you must navigate), consider an all-female educational and coaching program like Annie’s Group.

Legal Steps

19. Understand the value of a divorce lawyer.

No state requires you to use a lawyer for your divorce but it makes sense to protect your rights and interests. Chances are that neither you nor your spouse is a divorce attorney and when it comes to the many things that must be legally handled in a divorce, you don’t know what you don’t know.

For instance, you probably don’t realize that many divorce laws are designed to protect women and children. Which is why, this is not a time to be cheap with your life, nor trust what your spouse is telling you. While hiring an attorney will cost money, it may very well save you money and stress down the road. According to the research, recovering economically from divorce is usually harder for women than it is for men. This further reinforces what we know in our divorce coaching practice: if you are a woman, and especially a mother, you cannot afford to make mistakes with this financial negotiation.

20. Identify a local divorce attorney in your state (because divorce law varies from state to state), and schedule a consultation to hear what your rights are.

In this meeting you’ll learn what you are entitled to, and what the law would say about your specific circumstances and questions. Do not rely on what your spouse says. Do not rely on what your neighbor says. Do not rely on what the gang says in your Facebook Group. And be especially careful if your spouse tells you not to contact a lawyer or that you and he can “do this on your own.”

No. Talk to a divorce lawyer, also called a family law or matrimonial attorney. And many of them give free consultations todayso do some research to save yourself. You are worth it.

You can find a lawyer by consulting legal directories such as Avvo.com or Martindale-Hubbel.

21. Before the meeting, organize and prioritize your legal questions about the divorce, and gather 3 years of tax returns.

Your primary agenda for this first meeting with a lawyer is to get answers to your questions and to understand what type of divorce you might be facing. You will want to know what the divorce laws in your state say about how you and your spouse will split assets and debt (which depends on whether you are in a community property state or equitable distribution state); and how the custody of your children will be determined (if you have them). You will also ask specific questions that are weighing on you.

22. We recommend you ask a lawyer about these issues as well

  • Ask the lawyer to explain alimony or spousal support to you, and then if it’s appropriate for your story, your best and worst-case scenarios for this support (especially if you’ve been out of the workforce).

Consider reading:

  • Discuss “temporary spousal support” and how it works, if you have special circumstances that prevent you from working, like your health or caring for a young or special needs child. You may need access to money while the divorce is pending and if your spouse is not willing, the court may have to order your spouse to provide it.
  • Leaving the house: can you leave the marital home with the children or ask him to leave once you announce the divorce? What are important things to know so your actions are not used against you in the divorce?
  • If you are the one who is initiating the divorce, talk to a lawyer about finding a place to live BEFORE you file. How can you afford a place? Or, what are the steps you must put in place to minimize the time you must continue to live together as a couple?

For other questions to ask a lawyer, visit our “Questions to Ask a Divorce Attorney“.


23. When you meet with the attorney, bring these things, so you get specific answers to your questions and fears:

1) Your legal questions, 2) three years of tax returns and 3) the list of your assets and debt. 4) You can also bring a friend or family member for support, but let the lawyer know beforehand so they can discuss confidentiality with you.

In the meeting with the lawyer, try to get your most important questions answered (that’s why you’ve prioritized them). But don’t despair if you don’t get ALL your questions answers. And do expect to walk out with new questions.

24. After meeting with a lawyer, evaluate the lawyer.

Was it someone who made you feel heard and protected? Could you work with them? Record your impressions and what you learned.

Try to meet with a total of three lawyers, if within your budget. Each lawyer will have different perspectives to your situation and the more you talk, the more you’ll learn about your options and how’ll you want to do this.

25. Then understand the different types of divorce.

Among them are DIY, traditional litigation, mediation, or collaborative approach, and think about which method is best for your story. Is it likely you can resolve matters without court? (You’ll want to understand the difference between an uncontested and contested divorce.) Will your spouse ultimately comply? Decide on which method you’d like to use to divorce and if any lawyer you met with, can help you.

26. If you use a lawyer, know that the lawyer works for younot your spouse.

If you do decide to hire a lawyer, to help you with your Statement of Net Worth or to review your Marital Separation Agreement (MSA) or to represent you in the divorce, you will have to use your own attorney. You and your spouse cannot share one, no matter what your spouse says. Divorce attorneys cannot represent both spouses. That would be a conflict of interest.

27. Let your lawyer know if you will want to change your name (back to your maiden name or something else?) after the divorce.

This will not be done officially until after the divorce is completed (see #51), but it’s good if the lawyer knows this is what you will want.

28. If you need perspective on how to find a lawyer or the right legal process for you, what to ask, what to do next, connect with a divorce coach who does this kind of work routinely.

An extra boon is that most divorce coaches give free consultations because they need to demonstrate what they do and how they can help.  Find one.

Before you move forward with speaking with your spouse about the divorce, we urge you to complete the important, additional steps below.

Financial Feedback Divorce Checklist

29. Determine who your Go-To Financial Person is for the Divorce.

We recommend you not rely simply on a lawyer to determine how things will be split, but to also learn what would be in your best financial interest long term. This requires a financial person skilled with understanding how divorce works.

Ideally, you’ll want to get this financial feedback AFTER you’ve heard the big legal issues in your divorce and BEFORE you announce a divorce or before you respond to your spouse’s request that you get divorced.

You can find this financial advisor at your bank or consult a CDFA. If you cannot afford to consult with one privately you might connect with SAVVY Ladies, a financial nonprofit dedicated to assisting women.

30. Ask a Financial Person these 7 Important Questions

  • What are the best things to optimize in the divorce given your age, skillset, and career options?
  • What is the best financial move for you regarding the marital home? (Should you try to keep it, give it to your spouse, sell it, hold onto it for a certain time, etc.)
  • What do you do with living together while divorcing? What can you afford? Many divorcing couples can’t afford to pay two mortgages or double rent and instead decide to stay in the same home throughout the divorce. For tips on surviving this particular purgatory, read “Women Share How to Survive Living Together During Divorce.
  • If you are leaving the family home, what is your expected budget for renting, or home-owning in the future? Consider your current living expenses and ask for help budgeting what you will need in the future.
  • What are specific financial needs regarding your children and how do you best ensure they be met? You may want to make sure 529 College Savings Plans are created or continue to be contributed to by both spouses? Or do you have a child with special needs who will need long-term financial attention?
  • What do you need to make as income in your future chapter? Consider reading “What Divorce Does to a Woman: You and Your Money.”
  • What is the financial advisor’s perspective on your securing health insurance?

31. Consult with a Real Estate Professional:

Learn the value of your house, what it would sell for in this market, what your options are for housing if you need to move. You can begin by consulting Zillow. But it’s usually in your interest to move beyond the internet with all things divorce and hear specific feedback about your story, your house, its issues, and its pluses.

32. Resolve your health insurance issue.

You’ve talked to the financial person about health insurance. Continue to explore what you will do, if you depend on your spouse’s insurance or he relies on you. There is COBRA to investigate, which is a federal law about health insurance. There is also the Affordable Healthcare Act, sometimes known as ACA, PPACA, or “Obamacare”.

By using its exchange, no matter what state you live in, you can enroll in affordable, quality health coverage. Visit Healthcare.gov to find the link to your state and to evaluate your options. You can also speak to a representative who can advise you. And know, that though the platform or the “Exchange” as it’s called, has a specific enrollment period, you qualify to join at any time of the year if you suddenly divorce or lose your job.

More Smart Moves on Your Divorce Checklist

33. Get a medical exam.

Be sure to take care of any medical issues before you divorce. If there are any hiccups in transferring medical insurance, you’ll want to be sure you’ve already taken care of any regular visits or concerns.

34. Identify and itemize your special possessions: these could be gifts or family heirlooms.

If you need to protect them, hide them, store them, or ask a friend or family member to hold them but make sure you disclose them in any legal documents so your actions cannot be used against you in the divorce.

35. Evaluate what you will need to do with The Move.

Will you be moving or your spouse? Will both of you? You may not want to, or be able to afford to stay in the family home. So this might mean starting to look for apartments ( — consult rentals nearby or AirBnB if you see the solution as temporary), or family and friends you might stay with for a while. This will depend on your financial situation.

If possible, talk to a lawyer about finding a place to live BEFORE you file. It will lessen the pain and stress of living together while getting divorced.

To learn more about moving out and how to go about it, read:

36. Keep a running list of all the documents you need to update once you complete the divorce.

Most legal documents cannot be updated until you have a divorce decree proving a change to your status. These things may include: filing a change of name, changing your will or creating one, or changing beneficiaries on insurance policies.

You can check with your attorney on when you can file changes to these documents.

Talking to Your Spouse and Telling Others

37. Identify your “D Day” and talk to your spouse before telling your kids.

There is never a good time to divorce, but there are better times than others. Look at your family calendar. Consider what’s happening in your children’s lives (are they applying to college? Maybe wait a little bit.) Or perhaps your spouse is up for a promotion, or you are? Evaluate your options and talk to a lawyer (see next step) and financial person about strategy, but after becoming informed and prepared, target a day to speak to your spouse. It could be a soft date, but it’s important to have an end date for ending the pain.

38. Check in with the lawyer you are going to use for the divorce (if you will use one) and discuss when you will file for divorce. 

Consider having “The Talk” with your husband before you tell the lawyer to go ahead “and file” and before your husband is served papers.

39. Plan the Day and “The Talk”

Consider where you will be (we recommend outside, away from home triggers), who will be around (can you arrange for the children to be elsewhere? ), what you will say (keep it simple), how you will do it (state it as simply as possible, be firm and clear but kind. “John, I just can’t keep living like this anymore. I want a divorce.”) Think about how he will respond and all the things he will say, but it doesn’t matter, your truth is your truth. Repeat your line: “John, I just can’t keep living like this anymore. I want a divorce.”

Give your spouse time to process what you’ve said, then discuss with him when and how you will tell the children. Make sure to share with him how it would be good if you both had a plan of how things will go before the children are told. Agree on a date for that and what you will say. This may take some time to allow for your spouse to catch up.

Drill down more by reading …

Parenting Considerations

40. Evaluate the best custody schedules for your family if you have children.

Many people don’t realize they can choose or create the schedules that they think would work best for their familythey don’t have to automatically do what the lawyers suggest.

Research your options and consider your and your spouse’s work routines and your kids’ needs. (Ideally, you are doing this with your spouse.) In general, the family court system will want your children to spend equal time with each parent, which means 50 percent of the time with you and 50 percent of the time with their dad. So, be honest with yourself and know it’s likely your kids will be away from you half the time. Do your best to make it easy on them.

If you don’t think your children should live with their father, make sure you talk to a lawyer about this. Be sure to also ask: “How much will it cost for me to try to get sole physical custody?”

Read this piece for important information: Best Advice on Custody for Divorcing Moms.

41. Make a parenting plan for the interim period until you divorce and for afterward.

This should include not only the parenting schedule but also involve details regarding holidays, important religious celebrations, medical, and educational needs.

42. Use a parenting app and create a detailed list of your children’s needs related to activities, health, schooling, and well-being.

To lessen confusion, stress, and direct contact, consider using a parenting app to keep everything organized and easily shared. A neutral tool will streamline your communication and information sharing. We suggest Family Wizard because it’s most often recommended by family courts. It is also the most well-known parenting app.

43. Prepare for what you will say, and tell your children together that you are divorcing or separating.

This is one of the hardest moments if not the hardest moment of the challenge, facing your kids and telling them how their reality is going to change. Discuss with their father what you will say to them in advance, and impress on him how important it is to have a plan to show your kids that there will be structure.

And know you may not be able to rely on their dad to team up with you for this talk.

For support and more steps, read:

44. Line up support for your children.

Tell your children’s schools as soon as you know there will be a divorce and ask for any resources the school may have or recommend. Evaluate therapists who may support your kids individually.  Children deserve a safe space to vent without worrying how it will affect you or your spouse.

Steps Toward Your Next Chapter

45. Take steps to separate your lives.

Begin separating how you do things and how you live.  Turn to others instead of turning to your spouse.  Are there other accounts you should be opening as you consider moving apart? And where will you live after the divorce? Did you ask the financial advisor what the best play is for you regarding your house or future living arrangements?

46. Think about your employment.

Whether this means going back to work, looking for a side hustle to increase your income, or transitioning to another kind of job, divorce can be a catalyst for our ambition. Yes, divorce can be a good thing. Ask the financial advisor what your expected reality will be for money after the divorce, what you will need to make for income going forward, and what you should be shooting for to contribute to your retirement fund.

47. If you are unemployed and have skills to find a job, your next critical step is to start your job search.

You might consider a career coach who can help you evaluate your strengths, strategize your resume, and organize your search, especially if you’ve been out of the workforce for a long time. Check out iRelaunch for helpful resources, advice and guidance.

Post-Divorce Checklist

It didn’t happen overnight but now you are on the Other Side of divorce. Having arrived here, there are still things to take care of and new things to (excitedly) consider.

48. Make sure all retirement accounts, investment accounts, and monies got transferred over as stipulated by your divorce judgment.

Make sure you’re checking that everything was completed correctly in accordance with your judgment. Prepare to make whatever calls you need to.

49. Change beneficiaries on all your accounts and policies (unless you negotiated otherwise in your divorce).

You may not even remember all of the places you listed your Ex as a beneficiary or emergency contact. Make sure to change or check on these designations.

50. Get a few copies of your divorce decree notarized so you can submit it for official things in the future.

Then file it, baby!

51. Change your name legally if you choose.

Don’t forget your driver’s license, social security card, passport, credit card, and bank account to update. For many accounts, you will need to submit a copy of your signed divorce decree.

52. Change vehicle titles (if appropriate)

Again, what matters is what’s on paper. Even if you physically have the car, you’ll want to make sure it is legally yours and registered to you.

53. Check your credit report again.

Make sure nothing new has happened and you know what your current credit score is.

54. Create a new Will, Power of Attorney, and Healthcare Directive.

So much has changed in your life, and that means your end-of-life plans may be very different as well. Make sure to update these documents with your new preferences to avoid any mistakes once you’re no longer around to advocate for yourself.

55. Make a plan for how you will care for yourself and continue to create your best independent life.

You are not fully healed or completed just because you’ve signed a legal document. But you are in a very different stage than the beginning. You are now working on your divorce recovery. Critical to this recovery plan is identifying the right people you will surround yourself with going forward.

Read 100 Must Do’s for the Newly Divorced, Independent Woman.

For many, finding other women who understand what they are going through and what they have been through as with a divorce recovery group for women, can have a huge impact on one’s individual healing. Surrounded by others who “get it” can help you feel saner, provide calm and give you a much-needed perspective on your own story. With the right people, you’ll be able to speak honestly and authentically. You’ll even be able to share some much-needed laughs that others who haven’t been down this road (—sorry, Ozzie and Harriet) simply will never understand.

Closing Thoughts

Divorce is challenging. It’s a life crisis. But by compiling this divorce checklist and putting the items in one place with suggested sequencing, our goal is to slow things down and guide you as you get informed logically and healthily. In doing this we hope to lessen the overwhelm that naturally accompanies this crisis. Even so, this checklist may require multiple read-throughs depending on where you are in your process. If it’s too much to nail down all of these moving parts in one fell swoop or two (very likely) then simply save or bookmark our checklist somewhere safe for you to return to throughout your journey.

You will get through this. Breathe, and stay committed to you.

 

Notes

Whether you are thinking about divorce, dealing with it, or recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oftentimes complicated experience of breaking up and reinventing. 

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.

 

* At SAS, we support same-sex marriages. For the sake of ease, we may refer to the Ex as “he/him” but we understand that exes come with many gender identities. 

Coparenting with a Narcissist by Weheartit.

41 Things to Remember When Coparenting with a Narcissist

Divorcing with children is one of the hardest things you may ever do. But doing so with an ex-spouse who is also a narcissist, well, this presents its own ring of hell. For it’s likely that your Ex’s narcissism is a large part of why you’re divorcing at all, so the thought of having to continue to “work with your Ex” long-term to parent can feel daunting, intimidating, depressing, infuriating—as if you’ve not escaped him at all. Luckily, coparenting with a narcissist can be possible—you can do this. It simply requires a shift in your mindset and a change in your communication.

In fact, learning how to deal with a narcissist at arm’s length as your coparent is a critical piece to your recovery from having married one—and certainly critical to your children who are impacted by the actions of both of you. 

Before we jump into sharing suggested practices, rules, and tips for coparenting with a narcissist, we want to address the obvious elephant on the page. You deserve credit here for what you are setting out to do, modeling the healthiest thing you can to your kids. Because the healthiest thing for you would be to have no contact with this person at all. If you had your choice you’d be done with him*. But he’s your children’s other parent. Here you are.

Let’s show your kids something different than what he is showing them. 

First, though, we’ll get clear on what a narcissist is.

What is a Narcissist?

You may have heard the term thrown around, but it’s important to clarify the details and discuss some common misconceptions about what a narcissist is. 

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is defined by the American Psychological Association as a disturbance characterized by a lack of empathy towards others, a sense of grandiosity or exaggerated self-importance, entitlement, and a fantastical sense of one’s power. 

Narcissists also experience difficulty with any forms of indifference, defeat, or criticism, and often refuse to accept these common experiences as valid. They may go into a rage when their “power” is challenged, or they may attempt to discredit the individual sharing the information they feel challenged by. 

They may depend on the admiration of others to validate their feelings that they are more important than others. 

This can get tricky when children are involved, as children are an easy audience for validating a narcissist’s self-absorbed need for admiration. Coparenting with a narcissist can therefore provide some unique challenges.

Note that some narcissists may commandeer this phrasing to call others narcissists as a deflection mechanism. They are adept at manipulating whatever tools they have at their disposal to serve their own self-image fantasy.

After divorce, how do you move forward while coparenting with a narcissist?

It may not happen overnight, but once you become familiar with the frame of mind most helpful in working with a narcissist, knowing how to respond will become second nature. 

Recognizing how narcissism works will also help you detach emotionally from whatever attempts a narcissist makes to manipulate you, the court systems, your family and friends, or your children. 

To get started, keep reading now for our 41 tips for coparenting with a narcissist. And know that going forward, we will refer to your narcissistic Ex-Spouse as your N. Ex. or your children’s other parent or father.

Where Your Children Are Involved

  1. Always keep your children top of mind and model healthy behavior to them. 

If you cannot take in the full gamut of this list, at the minimum, remember this first rule and you won’t go wrong.

In reality, you may have escaped your former spouse, to some degree, but your kids have little choice in who their father is. If you think of your children first before responding to your N. Ex, you will be teaching your kids behavior and skills that will nurture them and their understanding of how to deal with a narcissist who happens to be a parent. (See #6)

  1. Understand the difference between coparenting and parallel parenting and be honest with yourself.

Parallel parenting may afford some distance and reduced contact between you and your N. Ex., because, unfortunately, you will likely never attain the standards of a healthy coparenting relationship with the father of your children. Coparenting with a narcissist is typically not compatible with standard coparenting routines. Appreciating this will help you manage your expectations about the future by staying realistic and accepting the things you cannot change.  

For this article, we will use the word “parenting” when guiding you, but—between us—you are probably not coparenting but parallel parenting. 

  1. Avoid talking about your Ex negatively or passive-aggressively (even if you hate him) as your children will internalize that you also feel this way about a part of them.

    You are striving to help your kids cope with their other parent. If they express their frustrations with him, it’s important to listen and validate while also letting them know you’re available to help with whatever it is they feel they need.

  2. Find professionals and put in place a support system for your children.

    This is so they have a neutral place to go and vent; so they don’t feel like they are burdening you or their father. They may feel isolated from the outside world. Giving them space to normalize their feelings outside of their immediate family can be incredibly healing.

Tip: Check with your kids’ schools or their doctors for referrals to professionals who work with children your kids’ age.

  1. Try to do everything to keep your kids out of conflict. 

    Your N. Ex may look for manipulative moments to use your children as pawns for leverage, or as a way to “recruit” them to serve him or his needs or his ideas of what they should be doing. Your N. Ex will not know how important it is to leave the kids out of conflict, tense moments, stressed scenes, because his ego and needs reign supreme. But if your kids are around try to stay calm and neutral in front of them and him. This is a key skill in coparenting with a narcissist.

  2. It is not your job to educate your children about narcissists per se.

    Instead, you can educate them subtly by modeling healthy responses to your N. Ex. Let them come to their own conclusions about your and his personality types. Throwing your N. Ex under the bus and labeling the summation of his existence as one word, “narcissist” only makes you look troubled too.

  3. Don’t feel sorry for your kids.

It’s no picnic having a narcissistic parent, but there could be worse problems. Showing your children that they should be pitied is teaching them they are disempowered. Au contraire: as a result of having a narcissistic parent, they will learn coping mechanisms for surviving and growing and hopefully, avoiding a spouse like this down the road. 

  1. Be prepared. 

    Your children may even act like their father. Observe your children — who have learned how to survive in this family, just like you did. Even if they are adult, their behaviors may reinforce the old, toxic norms they grew up with. Be patient and don’t expect your children to always understand you or the new normal. Therapy can help them (and you) get a more grounded sense of healthy behaviors. Coparenting with a narcissist can be exhausting, and you’ll need the steady reset of therapy to maintain your own mental health.

  2. What’s more, expect your kids to act out.

    It’s likely that your kids feel safer with you, which is why they may act out with you more so than their other parent. They’ve probably learned that their other parent’s approval is conditional, and they want to be loved by him (if even unconsciously). They may be more guarded with him because they don’t want the backlash of not pleasing him. Allow them the freedom to express their full range of emotions with you and without judgment, and make sure they know their feelings are valid. 

  3. Do not allow your children to replicate their father’s behavior.

    While it’s important to validate your child’s acting out (this is a stressful time for them), you must make sure that you don’t sacrifice the boundaries of healthy engagement. Like their dad, your children may need retraining. Don’t give in to toxic behavior toward you. Calmly discussing the new rules of engagement without being reactive may be an important turning point in your relationship with them. 

Tip: At your house, there are New Rules.

  1. Model to your children what it looks like to trust your instincts.

     This is a powerful lesson for any child. You don’t have to make it about their dad, but show them every day how important it is to listen to their inner wisdom and to not ignore red flags in life. Confidently show them what it looks like to know what you do and do not want.

  2. Try to fill the void that your N. Ex leaves and nurture the unseen.

    Observe how you think your N. Ex treats your kids and close the gap. By definition, narcissists put themselves first, so be the parent who puts your kids first and shows them your unconditional love. They need you more than ever.

  3. Pay close attention to your child’s interests and cultivate their passions.

    Your N. Ex is likely not doing that but pushing activities or commitments that he finds important (to him).  Be the parent who sees your child’s individual, special talents and nurtures their unique interests. See them.

  4. Be grateful and stay prepared for things to take a turn.

In the back of your head always remember, your N. Ex could complicate matters. Be grateful for the times when there is peace in your house and your kids can experience a kinder, stabler atmosphere. Seeing this difference between the homes will help your children realize they do have the power to create boundaries and to cultivate the life they deserve.

  1. Be savvy about the research on kids and divorce.

    Studies show that children whose parents broke up and coparented as civilly as possible were children who tended to weather the divorce best long term. Conversely, those kids whose parents split amidst high conflict and whose parents continued to generate conflict were kids who suffered the worst and had the hardest time resuming normalcy in their lives. Appreciate this and understand it’s going to take extra work on your part to demonstrate what healthy is because your N. Ex probably doesn’t have it in him.

  2. Never give up on your children.

    Your spouse may dominate, inconvenience, or manipulate them, but as their healthier parent, you can never give up on your kids. Show them you are always there for whatever (and whenever) they need you.  

How to Interact with Your Narcissistic Ex 

  1. Do not openly criticize (or negotiate with) your N. Ex in front of your children.

    Do you want him to do this to you? (We know, he probably already does!) But modeling healthy behavior is important for everyone involved and sets a precedent for future interactions. Also, if you’re thinking about a narcissist’s need to be adored unconditionally, having an audience of his “followers” (kids) may trigger his uglier behaviors. In other words, you’ll need to be much more tactful to get your message heard.

  1. Calmly state your new rules to your N. Ex.

    It is not like the old days when you were married. There are hard-line boundaries now. You are blocking him. You are not listening to him. You are not doing his bidding. You won’t argue in front of the kids. If he wants to let you know something (unless it is an emergency) there are clear protocols and boundaries for connecting to the mother of his children. The following are a few ideas you may want to consider.

  1. Follow a parenting plan that is as comprehensive as possible.

    Hammering things out in advance, and having rules to point to will help enforce boundaries with your N. Ex and make coparenting with a narcissist easier. You want to avoid making things up as you go along at all costs.

  2. Commit to a parenting app that will enable your communication but also, critically, act as a buffer between you two.

    The app will allow you to share school calendars, doctor’s appointments, and important meetings, without having to remind your N. Ex or having to connect with him to remind him. It will also document your having shared this information and when and if he reads it. It’s an excellent accountability tool to use when coparenting with a narcissist.We like Family Wizard because it’s among the oldest apps supporting parents and the one most often suggested by family courts.

  1. Set up regular call times for your kids with each parent when they are at the other parent’s house.

    This is important so it’s a rule and everybody can plan on it. (However, be prepared to hold the space for your kids if dad fails to take their call because he’s got something more “important” going on.)

  2. Take a cool 24 hours before you respond to any of his communications (preferably through your parenting app).

This will give you time to consider how you want to respond in the interest of your kids. Of course, you cannot do this with everything. There will be times of urgency, and you will have to respond. But in general, putting a time barrier between your communications will serve the dual purpose of allowing you to emotionally cool off and will also send the message that you are a busy person and he is not your first priority. This sets a real precedent for responsiveness that will be easier to maintain long term.

  1. Stay black & white. Do not emotionally engage with your N. Ex.

    Limit your emotional vulnerability to him. Be careful of your heart and its pain, and your possible sense of anger or unfairness. Showing “how you feel” or exposing your vulnerability makes it possible for him to use it against you in the future. Remember: narcissists are not above using manipulation to get their needs met. Seeking “to reason with him” or “to explain your feelings” never worked before. Cut it, move on. And think about your kids. They need you to get the facts out to their dad. Keep it black and white.

  1. Keep reminding yourself that the leopard doesn’t change his spots.

    Just because you’ve been working on yourself and have had some epiphanies about your former marriage does not mean your N. Ex is doing any of that kind of work. Don’t expect him to change. You might want to remain skeptical of any claims he may make—how he has changed! or that he seems to be doing “even better now!” Remember, manipulation and showboating are in your N. Ex’s nature.

  2. Do not bother sharing your truth that you find him to be a narcissist.

    It’s not going to advance your relations, serve your kids or magically transform him into a philanthropist! Calling him a narcissist (even a suggestion that he needs help, therapy, counseling, etc.) will only backfire. As with your emotional vulnerabilities, you’ll need to resist the urge to show your cards with this revelation. A narcissist will never see themselves as one.

  3. Practice your own rules and firm boundaries for dealing with him.

    For example, when communicating, remind yourself of the BIFF ruleKeep your communication:

      • Brief.
      • Informative
      • Friendly 
      • Firm
  1. Be prepared for face-to-face meetings and public interactions.

    Don’t wing it, prepare. If you don’t, you are likely to resort to the behavior you used to do (and how well did that serve you in the past?) Instead, visualize scenarios, practicing whom you want to be when you see your N. Ex and how you want to respond using BIFF. (See tip #24). You are retraining your body’s response system.

Tip: It helps if you visualize that your kids are watching you.

  1. Stop apologizing.

    You can never apologize enough to a narcissist, and in their book, you will always be wrong. Stop trying to find a resolution by taking the hit or expecting his apology. He will never apologize genuinely for his wrongdoing, and your apologies won’t stop him from constantly blaming you. 

  2. Save your power.

    This means not going head-to-head with your N. Ex. This will always trigger the worst of his narcissism.  It will never work without greatly exhausting you and getting you emotionally fired up or feeling depleted. You can only outwit the narcissist by not engaging directly with him on an issue. BIFF, baby (See #24). You may also want to educate yourself on the “gray rocking” tactic of showing no emotion to a narcissist as a form of self-protection.

  3. Do the Right Thing: don’t let his behavior affect yours.

It’s safe to say that your N. Ex will often not do the right thing when it comes to parenting, because narcissists think of themselves first and foremost, and they believe they can do no wrong—the opposite of a good parent. But if you endeavor to do the right thing for your kids, your children will see the difference one day. They may not understand you right now, but they will look back and remember how you showed character in difficult times.

Even if your kids aren’t around, do the right thing to remind yourself of the type of person you are, no matter who’s watching. 

  1. Model to your N. Ex the way you want to be treated.

Let’s face it, selfless behavior does not come naturally to your children’s father. He needs to learn how things should be done. Instead of telling him or yelling at him, or begging him, show him how by being that person. While there’s little guarantee that he’ll catch the drift, it may at least be easier for him to play along with the healthy routines you set than to disrupt them. If he does attempt to get a reaction from you, showing him that he has no more power over your emotions may ultimately cause him to become disinterested in trying. 

  1. Let go.

You have no control over him or how he does things inside or outside his house. Be selective with what you learn about and what gets you upset. Choose your battles wisely. And don’t let your children think you are quizzing them about how things are done in dad’s house. 

Part of showing that your N. Ex no longer has emotional power over you is to ultimately make that true. Whether it’s the right women’s divorce group, meditation, a new activity, hobby, or therapy (or all of the above), you’ll need to find your way to avert your eyes and take back your life. In doing so, you are accepting the only control you have is over yourself and how you show up for your kids.

  1. This means letting go of the fantasy (no matter how dim it is) that your N. Ex is there for you in any way.

Sometimes with distance, one forgets certain things about our N. Ex. The distance can cause us to soften, or to even romanticize who he is. ‘Oh, he’s not that bad.” (We, women, have an incredible ability to forget pain, otherwise, we would never give birth a second time.) 

Do not delude yourself into thinking he will be there for you if you need him. Never expect anything from him, and you will never be disappointed again. Coparenting with a narcissist can be lonely, but as long as you know you’re doing it alone from the start, you won’t set yourself up for disappointment.

  1. Be prepared to repeat and remind your N. Ex of your boundaries.

    Your N. Ex probably benefited from your lack of boundaries before, so he may continue to try to exploit you even post-divorce. Be prepared to repeat and stand by your boundaries. This is also a way for you to remind yourself by putting it into your muscle memory: you are breaking with your past and forging a new chapter as a single mom. 

Repairing Your Relationship with Yourself 

  1. Keep a log.

    Document your ongoing experiences with your N. Ex. Date it and keep it simple with each account being one or two lines. Make sure you indicate how his behavior impacted your children (first) and you (second) at the time. A simple log will be helpful if you ever need to go to court or prove what’s been or not been happening. And the court system will be more interested in how the children were impacted in any of these interactions.

Keeping a detailed log can be helpful to validate your feelings and experiences with factual details, too. You may have been at the receiving end of your N. Ex’s gaslighting behavior, which eroded your trust in yourself and your memories. Rereading your log and seeing what’s black and white can help you metabolize what you’ve been and are going through.

  1. Stay committed to your divorce recovery.

    You’ve been damaged, but you’ve shown yourself that you can do incredible things, like survive divorcing and coparenting with a narcissist. Keep taking steps forward not backward. Also, a strong mama who keeps evolving is the best mama for her kids

  2. Keep track of all bills and receipts paid.

    Your N. Ex loves to argue, blame or distort the facts. So, expect more down the road and be prepared to respond with black and white facts and figures. Knowing that you’re retaining this tangible proof can help you feel safe and build confidence in your ability to troubleshoot any issues that arise.

  3. Understand the difference between parental estrangement and parental alienation.

Narcissists often consciously or unwittingly perpetrate harmful attachments onto their children. When coparenting with a narcissist, strive to see this behavior developing and do everything to stop it in its tracks.

  1. Forgive yourself.

Realize that if you’ve been in a long-term marriage, partnered with a narcissist, you’ve been trained to think a certain way: always putting your former narcissist first. Forgive yourself, because that’s how you survived. 

  1. Break old patterns and continue your transformation.

You are learning how to break with your former behaviors and discover who you are. For those women who are older, and rebuilding after gray divorce, these patterns are especially difficult to break and can be reinforced by the way your older children treat you. You don’t have to do it alone: get support.      

  1. Find your tribe.

Appreciate that you N. Ex may think he’s special and the only one of his kind. But a lot of women have divorced partners just like him, and once you realize this, you realize too how genuinely good it feels to be with other women who understand what you have been through. Coparenting with a narcissist is unfortunately a common situation.

Consider joining a group of women who are committed to reinventing after divorce, women who are seeking to do right by their kids and live another story. 

 

* At SAS, we support same-sex marriages. For the sake of ease, we may refer to the Ex as “he/him” but we understand that exes come with many gender identities. 

Notes

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce, or that challenging place of recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. 

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oftentimes complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. 

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.

Starting Over After Divorce

The Truth About Starting Over After Divorce at 45

Starting over after divorce at 45 is something I never planned for. Like many women, I dreamt of being married to a loving partner and raising our children, and then playing with our grandchildren. When I thought about divorce in my 30’s, I still didn’t want to be divorced. The plan then was to remarry immediately and create an even more successful family. A newer, kinder, and richer man would share my burdens, handle the nasty divorce-related negotiations and shield me from shame and guilt. He would be a great stepdad and a father to more of my kids. That was my idea of a successful life for a woman starting over after divorce at 45.

The reality was different. I initiated my divorce without the prospect of a better husband at 43 and finalized it at 44 almost 2 years ago.

I think that my age gave me courage and motivation. In a way, I realized that “the rest of my life” was getting shorter with every year and this motivated me towards change. If I didn’t change my life, it would stay the same, if not worse. I realized that my Ex’s abusive tactics would never stop. And I was right. To illustrate, my Ex is already remarried and is verbally abusive to his new wife. I felt unsafe growing old with an abuser. My children turned into teenagers. I reckoned they needed a sane and hopefully happy mother to support them in their critical years.

Divorce as Part of a Midlife Crisis

For me, like for many other women, divorce came as part of a midlife crisis. It’s the time when we are forced to reassess our bodies, careers, relationships, let kids grow up. We let go of old patterns and look for new meanings. Divorce helps us transform in its brutal way. In my case, I got divorced, lost my job, lost my home, went into COVID lockdown, and saw my eldest son choose to stay with his father — all in a space of 6 months.

From a home-owner, a wife and a mother of two, a career-minded professional, I turned into a jobless divorced half-empty nester living with my parents.

There are lots of things to face in your life after divorce. At 45, I am looking for a job and even considering a new career. I haven’t rebuilt my finances and haven’t yet moved into my new apartment. I’ve had to reassess my relationship with my Ex. I am still working on healing my relationship with my children, looking to rebuild my connections with my friends, and when it comes to my parents, I am looking at them in a new light.

Maybe most importantly: I am looking at myself. Who am I after all? What do I like doing, eating, watching? Whom do I like being with?

These questions and practical issues invariably bring up feelings within me, and so I think it’s important to discuss what it’s like emotionally, now that I am starting over after divorce at 45.


If you’re recreating after divorce and looking for insights and traction, check out our “How to Overcome the 6 Hardest Things About Life After Divorce


Divorce and Grief

The honest truth is that divorce at any age makes us feel grief and disappointment. Divorce takes everything we envisioned —like hearth and home, love and children, and long-term goals of golden years —and throws that dream out the window. As if that wasn’t enough, many of us have deeper-seeded emotions that come to the surface once we’re looking out that window, assessing the damage. It’s better to recognize these feelings and handle them with care. They are different for every woman and very much depend on core beliefs, culture, or religion. I live in Moscow, and certainly here in Russia, women who have been married for a long time especially with children likely did it out of fundamental faith in the institution of marriage. Some see God’s intention for us to live married. Others consider marriage as the only safe and respectable way to raise children.

I found myself deeply grieving and needing a longer, kinder adjustment time to my new reality. The transformation from a wife in a nuclear family to a single mom with just one of the kids choosing to live with me caused deep guilt, shame, and an escapable feeling of being a failure.

Motherhood In Midlife Divorce

Despite my journey, I am now finding that starting over after divorce at 45 as a mother is not as bad as I thought. I may not be a mom who provides her children with a classic family experience —but who does anymore? I may have put some of my interests ahead of theirs when I divorced. However, I am still concentrating on other motherly jobs like taking care of their education, their health, coordinating logistics, teaching them values and healthy habits, and demonstrating responsibility. I am doing my best to respect my sons’ choices and their need for a relationship with their father. I am learning how to continue their education with less money than we planned.

It seems like my motherhood style is working. My elder son recently gave me an unexpected hug and a kiss and said: “Thank you for being the way you are. You are such a great mom.” It brought tears to my eyes.

Whereas I planned for coparenting with a lot of coordinated decisions, I admit that I am happy with the parallel parenting with almost no contact and no arguing. Now, if I want my son to go to yoga, I just talk to my son. Previously I had to get approval from my Ex and argue for yoga versus boxing or football. Now, it’s the business of the kids to discuss with their father whatever they need to discuss. My current model saves me time and energy.

Responsibility: The one who decides and drinks all the wine

In my experience of starting over after divorce at 45, I want to single out a newfound responsibility. I am still getting used to being the sole decision-maker in many things. Now it’s me who has responsibility for the bills, the gadgets, the car maintenance, vacation destination, vaccine choices. Not only do I need to decide what to watch on TV but I also have to work out how to turn the damn thing on!

All this new responsibility and decision-making is stressful. The longer the marriage, the more stressful the new tasks. Many of us need to learn updated technology and computer skills, for example, if we hope to go out into the workforce. This means allocating resources and time for the new learning. The result, however, can be empowering!

I continue to make discoveries about my old way of life and my new one. For example, I am learning that while my Ex-husband pretended to share responsibility when we were married, he was in fact controlling my activities and my hobbies, and my beauty-related spending. He also pushed me to get jobs I didn’t want just so we would have more money. Realizing that I was controlled for a long time was sad but now I feel even more liberated.

Facing responsibility is empowering. I’ve learned about my own usage of resources and consumption. And, being the only adult in my family, I can no longer blame a husband for the empty wine bottle or the undone bed.

Financially Speaking

Divorce is a tough time financially. Moreover, high legal fees and multiple therapy sessions are only part of the problem. The bigger part of the problem is that divorce takes away the confidence and energy necessary for work. I still have days when all I can manage physically is to walk the dog and thank God for food delivery services. A recently divorced friend in a high-power job confessed that she is only staying employed because of her ability to delegate to subordinates.

Rebuilding finances can take even longer if you decide to change your career as part of the midlife crisis. Many women who were stay-at-home Moms are starting from scratch.

It can take a few years to rebuild your life financially and professionally after a divorce, and it takes longer to rebuild ourselves emotionally and personally. We need to recognize that, manage our ambitions, and maybe watch fewer films where women are left better off after a successful divorce from a millionaire!

On the positive side, I don’t feel financially insecure like I did in my marriage. I may not have a stable income now but I use it the way I see fit. And no one is forcing me into a job that I don’t like.

Recovering Socially and Romantically

I haven’t dated yet after my divorce. That’s 2 years. I never imagined it would be possible to not date for such a long time, but it is easy. There wasn’t much socializing due to COVID, no vacations where a holiday romance could have happened. At the moment I am horrified by Tinder and other dating apps. I might consider apps later, but at the moment I am embracing singlehood. Right now, I like the idea of self-partnering, taking myself out for lunch or a walk. I have made myself available for girly events and organized some myself like a trip to a gallery or museum or a live music event. And I am loving it.

While I am enjoying my new single status, some friends seem to have a problem with it. When I tell friends about embracing my singlehood, three different women replied with the same message: “Don’t despair, you may still meet a nice man.” I think culturally in Russia we still think that it’s safer and more respectable to be with a man than on your own.

A “single person” has a negative connotation in the Russian language and translates as “lonely” or “solitary”, one to be pitied. Another possibility is that my friends are just jealous that I have my freedom and the whole bed to myself!

Other Cultural Details About Midlife Divorce in Russia

The divorce experience and life after divorce can differ anywhere and within any country due to the difference between people, values, class specifics, or religious ideas. Getting divorced in Russia meant that I had to go beyond the information provided in Russia, and rely instead on English-language resources about divorce, abuse, narcissistic abuse, coparenting, and how to rebuild myself. Many such concepts and terms just don’t exist in my language. I am so grateful to have the skill of speaking different languages because it means I am not locked into one world.

Yet, while psychological or emotional advice in English was useful, I had to be careful with legal or financial information because of the differences with Russian law. I am sad to say that the Russian legal system does not protect women enough either through a welfare system or by recognizing the impact of abuse. As a single mother out of a job for ten months, I got next to nothing from the state in financial support. I have learned that in many countries, it can be similar; a woman needs to have sufficient savings and support of a family to live onward after divorce.

I have also noticed that men in Russia in my social circles remarry quickly or enter into a new long-term relationship almost immediately after their divorces. Conversely, women take time to rediscover who they really are and what it is they want. That discovery is precious and long overdue.

So, as I ask myself again: “What is starting over after divorce at 45 really like?” I must say, it’s not bad. Not bad at all. I am definitely happy I’ve done it. And as I look back at how much I have been through, I feel proud of myself. “Good for me, brave girl!”

Notes

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

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

Understanding the Difference Between Coparenting and Parallel Parenting

Understanding the Difference Between Coparenting and Parallel Parenting

Of all the complexities, strategies, and obligations involved in a divorce, none are as important as those involving children. The ability (or inability) of the parting couple to put their children above their own grievances is critical to the final arrangement. It’s also the essential difference between coparenting and parallel parenting.

Custody arrangements script more than just guardianship and a visitation calendar. They reflect the tone of the divorce and the maturity of the parents. And they lay the foundation for the children’s adaptability and happiness.

It has been almost half a century since joint custody became a custodial option, let alone the norm. 

Anyone who was a child of divorce before this major shift will remember a very different arrangement. The custodial parent, usually the mother, had legal and physical guardianship of the children. And the non-custodial parent had visitation, usually bi-weekly for a weekend.

You can probably imagine the emotional upending for parents and children alike. Anyone who has seen the 1979 Oscar-winning movie Kramer vs. Kramer can attest to the palpable agony of everyone involved.

For the non-custodial parent, being reduced to seeing your child only four days a month, while paying child support, could be emotionally eviscerating.

For the custodial parent, having full responsibility for your child, without the daily help from a spouse, could be overwhelming.

And for the child? Well, the effects of being raised by one parent, perhaps missing the other, and fielding alliance persuasions from both could be harrowing.

Important Terms to Learn

Before exploring the difference between coparenting and parallel parenting, let’s clarify a few terms that you will frequently hear.

Custody refers to the rights and responsibilities between parents for their children. It is divided into legal custody and physical custody. 

  • Legal custody refers to the right and responsibility to make important decisions for the child. Where will he go to school and church? Who will his doctors be? Can he travel out of state? 

One or both parents can have legal custody, contingent upon the amiability and communication between them.

  • Physical custody refers to where the child will live. Again, physical custody can be granted to one (sole) or both (joint) parents. 

It’s possible for parents to share legal custody but not physical custody. In this case, both would be involved in important decision-making. The child, however, would live with the primary custodian and have visitation with the other.

Visitation, while sounding like “physical custody,” refers to the actual arrangement for time spent with each parent. 

Having joint physical custody, for example, doesn’t mean the child has to split time 50/50 between parents. Because of school, friends, and other ties, a child will usually spend more time with one parent. 

You can probably get a sense of how these terms are going to play out in the different parenting arrangements.

The difference between coparenting and parallel parenting isn’t rooted in legal or physical custody. It’s rooted in the ability and commitment of the parents to behave and communicate in a responsible and amicable manner. 

A judge’s decision to establish one or the other will always come down to the best interests of the child(ren). 

To put it bluntly, if the two of you can’t be in the same room without snarling, arguing, or embarrassing your child, don’t plan on coparenting.

You may receive joint legal custody and even joint physical custody. But, if you can’t rise above who you are as exes to be exemplary parents, your child shouldn’t suffer the consequences.

So let’s start on a positive, best-case-scenario note: coparenting. 

The underlying premise of coparenting is that children of divorce benefit from having strong, healthy relationships with both parents. And both parents commit themselves to making that possible for the children.

While co-parenting may sound like the obvious choice, it relies on a special relationship between exes. It requires the kind of respect and healthy communication that you would naturally think could have saved your marriage in the first place.

What Does Coparenting Look Like?

  • You and your coparent are separated, divorced, or otherwise not romantically involved or cohabitating with one another.
  • You are both involved in important decisions involving your child, and you communicate openly and respectfully about them.
  • Communicationg occurs comfortably in various forms—in-person, by phone, by text, and by email.
  • You can be in the same room or at the same events for your child and be cordial. You actually make a point of both being present at important events like birthdays and school productions.
  • Both of you are flexible in matters of childrearing, accommodating things like changes in schedules, vacations, and transportation.
  • You allow your child to have a voice in the visitation arrangements. You understand that younger children don’t do well shuffling between homes. Older children, however, want more say in where they spend their time, and you both allow for that.
  • Your goodwill toward one another doesn’t preclude healthy boundaries. You don’t give false hope that you will be getting back together.
  • You are respectful and cordial toward your ex’s new spouse (if relevant). And you include him/her in communication when necessary for the good of your child.
  • Neither parent ever, ever bad-mouths the other in front of your child. You handle disagreements between adults only. And you share your frustrations (they will definitely happen) with adult friends, a counselor, a coach, or a support group.
  • You have a forum in place for conflict resolution to avoid problems.
  • Both of you want your child to witness his parents working together for his well-being.

The critical difference between coparenting and parallel parenting lies in the ability for and commitment to healthy communication with your ex. Sometimes, for possibly a laundry list of reasons, coparenting simply isn’t an option, and parallel parenting is the only viable solution.

What Does Parallel Parenting Look Like?

  • You and your ex may or may not share physical custody.
  • Your relationship with your ex is contentious, high-conflict, and you still harbor too much anger and negativity to communicate directly in a healthy way, even for your child.
  • You and your ex disengage. This may mean you limit direct contact in matters where you cannot communicate respectfully.
  • You and your ex, while sharing in major decisions, conduct your day-to-day parenting completely separately. Except for emergencies, you don’t check in with one another or impose your individual styles or expectations on one another. 
  • Your communication is “all business.” Nothing personal is exchanged—only necessary information about your child.
  • You avoid personal contact and talking by phone. This may mean you hand off your child without seeing or interacting with one another.
  • You use emails and calendars as your primary means of communication.
  • Neither one of you changes the schedule without a written agreement.
  • You never, ever use your child as a messenger or seek him as an ally against your ex.

The communication difference between coparenting and parallel parenting may make your arrangement seem carved in stone. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

Hopefully, if you begin with a coparenting relationship, you will not only be able to maintain it, but even improve upon it.

If the initial period after your divorce necessitates parallel parenting, however, there is still hope for evolution. 

Releasing Your Anger

Keep in mind that one of the most prohibitive things to coparenting is unresolved, unrelinquished anger. The belief that your life will never be good again can keep you in a state of seething resentment toward your ex.

But, once you start to discover and live the good things about life post-divorce, the anger will begin to fall away. Dedicate yourself to your own growth and accountability, and you will eventually step into a non-blaming ownership of your life. 

With a renewed focus on what can (and should) be, it will become easier to see beyond yourself. And you will become able to shift your focus to the priority and lifelong well-being of your child.

If both you and your ex can bring this kind of self-development to the table, co-parenting can become your new normal.

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 divorce or are already navigating your life afterward, choose to acknowledge your vulnerability and learn from others. Choose not to go it alone.

Advice on Custody

Best Advice on Custody for Divorcing Moms

Determining child custody can be the most challenging aspect of the divorce process. It’s important to know the facts in order to take the necessary steps to achieve what’s best for you and your children. Speak with your attorney about your options and how best to position yourself during this challenging time. Gathering key legal advice about custody can help you prepare for the challenges ahead.

Courts typically want children to benefit from time with both parents, so prepare yourself to hear the truth about the reality of your goals and expectations. The more information you have, the easier it will be to plan for you and your children’s emotional well-being.

Custody 101

First, it’s important and helpful to understand the legal terms with respect to custody. For the purpose of this article, I will discuss terms and custody in New York State (but know, divorce laws vary from state to state; which is why it’s important to discuss your situation with a lawyer practicing in your state.)

In New York State, child custody contains two parts: legal custody and residential (physical) custody.

  • Legal custody is the right and responsibility to make decisions about major issues affecting the child including education, medical and healthcare, therapeutic issues, and religion. In some cases, major decisions may also include decisions regarding child care, extracurricular activities, and camp.
  • Residential custody and/or physical custody pertains to where the child will physically live, and the access schedule for the non-custodial parent.

Sole Custody vs. Joint Custody

There are two types of legal custody in New York State: sole custody or joint legal custody.

  • Sole custody: One parent will make major life decisions. Sometimes the court will require a consultation. Other times, the parent who has sole legal custody must inform the other parent about the decision but the court may not require them to consult with the other parent.
  • Joint custody: Both parents contribute to major life decisions and jointly make such decisions; the parent with whom the child is residing is generally responsible for day-to-day decisions. At times, you may also have a hybrid model-joint legal custody with one parent having final decision making if the parents cannot jointly agree upon a major decision.  Another common term is “zones of decision making,” whereby one parent makes decisions about medical issues and another parent may make decisions about education. Essentially, the parents are dividing up the decision-making.

In determining legal custody in a divorce case, the Court will base their decision on the best interests of the child. Some issues that may define parental custody include your children’s special needs, learning differences, where they attend school, their wishes (in the case of older children), future goals, mental health issues (for parents as well as children), parental use of alcohol/drugs, and any domestic violence issues.

The secret key to gaining primary custody

But while all of these issues are important, the Court’s most important factor in determining custody might surprise you. That factor is which parent is most likely to foster a continuing relationship between the children and the other parent.

In fact, if I could give my clients a mantra as advice regarding custody it would be “fostering, fostering, fostering.” If you want to be the primary custodian, you must put aside all efforts to undermine your spouse. You must also demonstrate to the Court that you are most likely to ensure that both parents remain in your children’s life.

This might seem counterintuitive given that all of the other factors involve establishing that you are the “superior” choice, but it’s true. Children need the continuing presence of both parents in their lives, and Courts are highly sensitive to which parent is most likely to make sure that happens.

Managing expectations

When you meet with your attorney, be prepared to discuss both parents’ relationships and your varying roles with the children. Also be ready to discuss each parent’s relationships with the professionals (pediatricians, therapists, tutors, etc.) treating your children and appointment schedules for these meetings. The best advice for custody decisions is to be honest and informed.

It is not uncommon for parents and their children to have therapists. Many parents pursuing divorce may seek therapy for themselves or their children to help inform the children about divorce, aid with coparenting, and gain support while going through a difficult time period. If there are mental health issues, my best advice during custody disputes is to raise these issues with your attorney. You may also discuss reports and evaluations prepared by professionals at your children’s school, or outside professionals such as psychologists who are treating your children. You should be able to discuss any special needs and learning differences that impact your children.

What about domestic abuse?

Courts are also concerned about domestic violence, particularly when it occurs in the presence of children in the household. Plainly, it is not healthy for children to witness domestic violence against their parent.

Clients sometimes underplay the existence of domestic abuse even after they initiate divorce proceedings, but you need to be honest with your attorney as it may impact custody issues.

Let’s back up a moment and state very clearly at the outset what abuse is. At the most basic level, domestic abuse—also known as “intimate partner violence”—is about the desire of one partner to establish and maintain power and control over another.

Abuse can be psychological, emotional, verbal, physical, sexual, financial—even technological (using tracking devices or manipulating smart home technology to undermine a victim’s sanity). Abusers mix and match tactics from the list above to maintain control over their partners by forcing physical, emotional, and financial dependency and producing a continual fear that prevents their partners from challenging or leaving them.

I encounter abused spouses when they have finally mustered the courage to leave, more often than not because the abuse is so overwhelming that they can’t take it anymore. Before that, they frequently live in terrifying isolation, compounded by despair over being believed, since there are commonly no marks and therefore no evidence. Most significantly, they worry that if they aren’t believed and they end up in court, their children could face significant time alone with the abuser.

How to Get Help

Eventually, my clients will customarily get the orders of protection they need to protect themselves and their children from the abusive spouse. However, they are almost always confronted with questions about why they didn’t go to Court earlier, or why they didn’t report it to the police. They may be questioned about why there are no prior orders of protection to show the Judge, no hospital records, or no records of the abuse at all. When the judge asks me these questions, I have to explain: “Because they were terrified for themselves and their children and, most importantly, too ashamed to speak about the abuse.”

It is important to be honest with your attorney from the outset to get the help you need.

If you are fearful for your or your children’s safety, please visit The Hotline 1−800−799−SAFE(7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224 or (206) 518-9361 (Video Phone Only for Deaf Callers) or Safe Horizon.

If possible, resolve your divorce without going to Court

With the exception of abuse cases, remember that the best agreements are those you and your spouse reach yourselves (in concert with your attorneys). Going to Court is always a risk as you are handing decisions about your life and your children’s lives over to one individual (the Judge) who doesn’t know you and/or your spouse. Nevertheless, if you are unable to reach an agreement through negotiations, it may be necessary to involve the Court.

 

Notes

Lisa Zeiderman, a managing partner at Miller Zeiderman LLP, a Founding Member of the American Academy of Certified Financial Litigation, a Divorce Financial Analyst, practices in all areas of matrimonial and family law including but not limited to matters involving custody, an equitable distribution of assets, child support and the negotiation and drafting of prenuptial and postnuptial agreements. Once divorced, Lisa is a mom and is remarried. She strategically and creatively crafts each case from the time of the first consultation to its resolution, in order to achieve the client’s ultimate goals.

 

Since 2012, SAS for Women supports women through the unexpected challenges they face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience. 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.

Coparenting Children’s Birthdays after divorce

Coparenting Through Children’s Birthdays After Divorce

Despite the high divorce rates, the end of a marriage is never easyespecially when you’re the one getting divorced. Obviously, it’s not easy for you or (most likely) your Ex. And it’s definitely difficult for your children. Children of divorce tend to wonder about things like what part they played in the breakup of their family and how their lives will change. For this reason, successful coparenting through children’s birthdays can be especially important.

Ideally, you will be able to coparent with your Ex and continue to provide your children with the love, support, and structure they need so they can begin to understand that your divorce isn’t about them. One way this can happen is if you’re able to celebrate your children’s special events like birthdays, graduations, and weddings as one happy, well-adjusted, expanded family.

As ideal as this sounds, it may not be a reality for you right now. (And it might never be if your ex is a narcissist and/or unable to coparent.) Right now, you might need to work toward truly being able to successfully coparent through your children’s birthdays after divorce. If this is your situation, remember that working toward something is hugely important to making it happen!

The Importance of Birthdays

Children love celebrating their birthdays. They excitedly wait for their special day to arrive. And when it does, they are the center of attention.

As adults, it is easy for us to believe that if we cannot work together right now to throw a joint birthday party for our child, that two separate ones will be just as goodif not better! (Assuming, of course, that you don’t turn the 2 parties into a competition.)

However, that’s not how young children (3 – 5 years old) view it. Children in this age range tend to believe that they age because they have a birthday party, according to research by Dr. Jacqueline Wooley. So, children in this age range would tend to believe that two birthday parties would mean they’ve aged two years instead of just one.

As adorable as this might be to contemplate, it is quite confusing for the child. And if their parents have also recently divorced, it is just confusion on top of confusion.

As children age, however, the idea of 2 birthday parties can become more appealing. Yet their ideal is still to have one party which their entire family attends.

Navigating Expenses for a Shared Birthday Party

If you can celebrate your child’s birthday together, who pays for what can often become a point of contention. It is not unheard of for one parent to plan the event with no regard to budget and simply expect the other to pay for it. This is not successful coparenting.

Coparenting through a child’s birthday after divorce requires communicationjust as every other facet of successful coparenting does. It doesn’t mean you each have to do exactly 50% of everything involved in throwing the party. It simply means that you don’t surprise the other with a bill or anything else at the end.

The size or extravagance of birthday celebrations after divorce may also be different due to differing financial situations. Your children may be disappointed that instead of the usual trip they had become used to, this year’s celebration will be a gathering of friends and family at home.

And as sad as you might feel about not being able to do this, the truth is that so long as you and your coparent take time to celebrate your child and let them know how much you love them, that is what your child needs more than a trip or a new iPhone.

Quality Over Quantity

Coparenting through your child’s birthday after divorce is really about the quality of the connection you have with your childnot about the number of gifts, the number of friends in attendance, or which parent spent the most. It is about the love, support, and structure you provide for your child as you celebrate their birthday and every other day of the year.

Divorce isn’t easyespecially for the kids. However, if you and your Ex can find even small ways to successfully coparent especially for special occasions like holidays and birthdays, you can go a long way toward building a strong foundation for your entire extended family. And, who knows, you may wind up being one of those families who can come together with new spouses and step-kids to celebrate life.

 

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

“A successful divorce requires smart steps, taken one at a time.” ~ Liza Caldwell, SAS Cofounder.

Make a move to support what’s possible for you and your children, hear feedback on your challenges, and learn specific black & white steps to take based on your story: schedule your free consultation now.

Support kids through divorce

7 Ways to Lovingly Support Your Kids Through Divorce

Whether you’re contemplating, planning, or coparenting after divorce, if you’re a parent it’s vitally important that your children are your top priority. Before making any decisions regarding divorce issues, put yourself in their shoes in order to best support your kids. Think about the consequences for them. See the outcome through the eyes of your five, ten, or fifteen-year-old. Ask yourself, what will they say about this when they are grown adults? Will they thank me for the way I handled the divorce, or be angry and resentful about my attitude and behavior?

The choices you make will affect your children for years and, yes, decades to come. For their sake, try to take the high road and be the role model they will come to respect and later want to emulate.

Here are some helpful tips for mindfully supporting the children you love before, during, and long after your divorce.

Before Divorce: Avoid Showing Conflict Around the Kids!

  1. Studies show time and again that conflict and tension around children creates the most difficulties for them related to divorce. It’s not the divorce itself! Parents can ease the process for their kids by eliminating battles, disrespectful behavior, and emotional outburst anywhere near the kids. That means no fighting on the phone, in another room, during pick-ups and drop-offs, or when talking with friends within earshot of your child.
  2. When you belittle, put down, or in any way disrespect your child’s other parent, regardless of how justified it may feel, it hurts your children in deep and long-lasting ways.

    Kids innately love and feel connected to both their parents. When you insult their other parent, it creates confusion, guilt, sadness, anger, insecurity, and low self-esteem.

    Instead, support your kids by reminding them that you will always be their parents and will always love them. Reassure them that no one will replace their parents either. “We will both always love you and be there for you, no matter where we live or how things should change.” Then make it your business to do the right thing on their behalf.

  3. Don’t wait for emotional or behavioral problems to appear. It is often wise to talk to a coparenting coach or family therapist in advance about issues worth your attention when assisting your children through divorce. Or schedule a few sessions with your children so they can express their anxiety, fear, anger, etc., and feel heard by an objective, third party. Ask friends, pediatricians, clergy, divorce coaches, or school professionals for referrals to professionals experienced with helping children through divorce.

During Divorce: Separate without Blaming or Shaming Your Kids

  1. It is common for children to blame themselves for the divorce no matter how bad their parents’ relationship has been. The younger the child, the more likely it is for this to occur. Sit down together and talk to your kids, emphasizing that they are in no way at fault. You can say something like:“Sadly, Mom and Dad* don’t agree about certain key issues and that has created conflict. Even when some of the things are about you, it does not mean you are to blame. You are an innocent child we both love. We disagree about some things—but not about our love for you. You are not to blame for our divorce.”
  2. Divorce always results in change within the family. Some of those changes can be challenging. Others will be beneficial and create a more peaceful environment for your children. It is important to address these issues. Remind the kids that the family is changing in some ways, but change is an inevitable part of life and not necessarily bad. Let your children see that everything around us keeps changing. “You grow bigger every year. Seasons change, clothing styles change, your school classes change. Sometimes it takes a while to get used to changes, like when you get a new teacher or try a new sport. In time you may come to like these new changes. Let’s give it a try.”

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

Read more and learn the difference.


As challenging as it may be, always keep from pointing fingers or blaming their other parent when talking to the kids about the divorce. It bears repeating: they love both parents and shouldn’t be judged nor shamed for this. Remember, it’s your divorce, not theirs!

After Divorce: Coparent with Mindful Love and Attention to Support Your Kids!

  1. Prioritize spending time and attention with your children. With all the stress in your life, it’s easy to overlook your kid’s need for stability and security. The best source for that support is you. It’s easy to take solace with friends or bury yourself in work, but keep in mind that your children need your support more than ever right now. Your love and attention are the most valuable resources you can share with them. Make sure you are generous with both!
  2. Let your kids still be kids. That means never burdening them with adult responsibilities beyond their age level. Your children should not become your messengers. Use texts or online scheduling tools for that! They are not your confidants either. Contact coparenting coaches and counselors for vital support you need. Never share adult content with them, as tempting as it may be, even with your teens. It halts their childhood innocence and throws them into your parental drama. Their brains aren’t developed enough to digest it. And they certainly can’t fix your damaged relationship. So, it’s not only foolish, it’s selfish.

Remember, divorce imposes changes within the family that your children never asked for. With these suggestions in mind, support your kids in ways that deepen your relationship at a time when they need it most. They’ll thank you when they are grown!

Notes

Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach. She’s the author of How Do I Tell the Kids About The Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide To Preparing Your Children – With Love! To get her coaching services, programs, e-courses, and other valuable resources along with her free ebook on co-parenting success strategies, visit her website here.

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

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

When Your Child Refuses to Visit Father

5 Must Do’s When Your Child Refuses to Visit Their Father

One of the more complex issues in coparenting after divorce is balancing your needs with your child’s needs. This is especially challenging when your child refuses to visit a parent based on the agreements made with your coparent, such as visitation time.

Some children do not want to spend time with their father* or other parent and refuse to go. This may be because of inconvenience in their life schedule: preferring to be with friends, participating in a planned event, avoiding the hassles of changing homes, travel, etc.

More troublesome is when the refusal is of a more emotional nature: saying I don’t have fun at daddy’s house, I don’t like daddy, he’s too strict, there’s nothing to do, he doesn’t spend any time with me, etc.

Obviously, the emotional argument demands more attention to unravel what’s going on.

And it requires your most objective perspective focused on listening, acknowledging, and responding as well as looking within.

  1. LISTEN ATTENTIVELY

Ask questions and listen to your child’s response about what they’re feeling—and try to figure out why your child refuses to visit their other parent. Put yourself in your child’s shoes and see the world from their perspective, without judgment. Reflect back to your child what you hear them saying to make sure you’re understanding them correctly. Respond with kindness and compassion, even if you don’t agree.

If you can, come up with alternative solutions or options: a time change, new agreements, more space for their things. Suggest you’ll have a conversation with dad if that’s appropriate—or perhaps they can have that conversation themselves.

  1. ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR FEELINGS

Don’t discount your child’s feelings or wishes. Don’t dismiss them as foolish or unrealistic. Tell them they have the right to anger, fear, frustration or other feelings. They also have the right to express their emotions—but without infringing on other people’s rights.

Children need to know they are not bad or wrong for resisting things they don’t like. However, life is full of obstacles that we have to cope with. Let’s look for solutions. But keep in mind you are the adult who is making decisions. Be sure they are mature, rational, compassionate decisions for everyone involved, including dad.

  1. RESPOND WITH SUGGESTIONS AND QUESTIONS

Can your child come up with a solution that is also fair to dad? Is dad being fair with them? If not, what can we do to make things better?

Should they talk to him so he has an opportunity to respond and address the issues? Should we have a family conference together, if possible?

Other questions: Are their ways to change the circumstances to find a middle-ground or compromise? What can your child do to adapt to the situation more easily? What can dad do to change the visiting experience?

  1. REFLECT ON YOUR OWN INFLUENCE

Are you letting your own feelings about dad impact your child? Kids pick up not only on what is said, but on facial expressions, intonations, and other non-verbal cues. If your child knows you don’t respect dad, or hears you talk about him to others in a derogatory manner, your child will want to refuse to visit in defense and support of you. But is that fair to their father?


When is it parental estrangement, and when is it parental alienation? Read more to understand what’s going on with your coparent and what can happen when your child refuses to visit a parent.


It’s important for you to keep your objections to yourself. Don’t confide negative opinions to your child. Don’t let them feel guilty for loving their other parent. And don’t encourage them to demean their other parent who loves them.

  1. TALK TO YOUR COPARENT

Whenever possible, discuss these issues with dad to create a plan you both can agree on. Encourage more interaction and communication between visits on phone or video to build a low-stress bond.

Consider reaching out to a therapist or divorce coach as an objective party supporting a peaceful resolution. This is especially important before bringing these issues into the court or legal proceedings.

Discuss ways to make the visit transitions as easy and stress-free as possible. In addition, be sure your child can call you when they are away for emotional support. Be positive and reassuring on these conversations. Don’t add guilt to the dynamic at hand by stressing how much you miss them. Let them know you’ll be busy while they’re away so they needn’t worry about you and your feelings.

A child who refuses to visit and doesn’t want to spend time with their father is a child in pain. It’s important to address the underlying factors contributing to this situation as quickly as you can. Get the support you need so you can support your child in the best possible ways while respecting the father-child relationship at the same time.

 

Notes

Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach and author of numerous books, e-courses and programs on divorcing with children and co-parenting successfully. For instant download of her FREE EBOOK on Doing Co-Parenting Right: Success Strategies For Avoiding Painful Mistakes! go to: childcentereddivorce.com/book

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.

 

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

Life after divorce

Life After Divorce: Finding My Footing in Year One

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

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

Life After Divorce

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

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

Gaining Perspective and Distance

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

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

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

When Trouble Comes — Open the Gates

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

Blessings in Disguise

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

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

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

Listen to Others with Shared Experiences

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

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

Healing through Technology

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, maybe, not yet.

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

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

 

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

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