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To illustrate if having an affair means divorce

Does Having an Affair Mean You Will Divorce?

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

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

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

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

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

  • Stay married.
  • Divorce.

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

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

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

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

When Children Are Involved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And men don’t like it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • One spouse refuses to get help.

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

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

  • One or both of you is just done.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But none are ever the same.

 

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

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

Stay at home. moms get alimony?

stay-at-home mom

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

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

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

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

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

Collate All Your Financial Documents

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

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

Find Out the Value of All Property

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

Get a Good Handle on Credit

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

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

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

Consider Plans to Return to Work

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

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

Create Possible Budgets

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

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

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

Retain an Attorney

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

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


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

 


Consider Divorce Mediation

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

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

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

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

Remember That You’re Worth It!

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

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

 

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

 

What are the Covid Divorce Statistics?

What are the COVID Divorce Statistics?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

A woman thinking about her expectations of the divorce process

Deflating Your Expectations about the Divorce Process

Unpacking what you thought would happen versus what actually happened in your divorce process can do much to further your healing, this I’ve learned firsthand. When I first started writing this blogpost, my original plan was to write “a divorce success story.” After all, our culture wants us to report on our successes. Even if we struggle, we’re ultimately expected to arrive on the other side of that struggle as heroes. I had internalized this cultural message at the start of my divorce. I had pictured a successful and quick divorce with a wonderful, new life waiting for me at the end. I expected that one day I’d be able to write this “success story” and, in doing so, would inspire other women to be like me.

However, as I truly reflected back on what happened in my own divorce, I realized that it wasn’t just one struggle I lived through. My divorce actually unleashed a list of obstacles that always seemed to get longer, while the end goal—a new, wonderful life with the past firmly behind me —was nowhere to be seen. I kept telling myself: I need just one more push to sort out the apartment, where the kids will live, or a child support agreement. And then, when it’s all sorted, I will write my story and inspire others.

I was trying to be my old perfectionist self. I was trying to be a good girl and a successful student, completing my assignments and getting all As. I had already failed in staying married and in keeping my family together — the least I could do to reclaim my worth was to be successful in my divorce!

A mess instead of success

As my divorce was finalized on paper, I failed to feel free or confident. I was filled with anxiety and fear, ridden with guilt and shame. One day I was so crushed while reading text messages from my Ex that I deleted WhatsApp and climbed under the covers. A scared child was what I was. I was in no shape to inspire anyone, certainly not my sister divorcées. I was a mess with no real story to tell. Who was I kidding?

Or so I thought, until I heard an invitation to a masterclass by the award-winning TV presenter of Good Morning America, Robin Roberts. She shared two ideas that I loved, and they picked me up. “Make your mess your message,” said Robin, adding “showing vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness.” Suddenly, I was inspired. I could do that! I could show my mess and vulnerability. After all, aren’t those two things we know for sure as divorced women? How to feel vulnerable and embrace the mess?

We divorced after seventeen years of marriage

My Ex and I separated over a year ago after being married for seventeen years. I initiated the breakup as I could no longer stand the mental, verbal, and sometimes physical abuse. We were a great team in our 20s, but by the time we hit our 30s, my personal growth and talents made my then-husband feel threatened. In turn, my husband felt invisible and like his needs were being ignored. The more he strengthened control, the weaker our connection and intimacy was. I had an affair in search of love and care, but it didn’t work for me long-term. After eight years of therapy and trying many methods of restoring peace as a couple, I realized there was nothing more I could do. The benefits of having a full family and loving memories no longer outweighed the stresses.

I decided to sacrifice my kids’ comfort, our household, and joint vacations in exchange for peace of mind, mental stability, confidence, and self-worth.

My post-divorce journey

As I was navigating my divorce, I realized that the process was nothing like I expected it to be! Through pain and many therapy sessions, I came to realize that the mismatch between the expectations and reality gave me grief and created a feeling of loss of control: it created a mess. As I review my top five expectations, I want to inspire other women getting divorced to face the expectations that may be weighing them down, causing pain and messy feelings.

Expectation 1: divorce will never happen to me

It is worth knowing that we are influenced by our close circle, not global statistics. For the rest of the world, 50% of marriages may end in divorce—but not in my social circle. My middle-class social group stuck by their traditional family structures whether they liked it or not. It was fine to live in different bedrooms and even apartments if you could afford it, but it wasn’t okay to get a divorce. This is largely because divorced men in Russia who worked in the military or for the state could lose their employment, destroying their careers and livelihoods.

What I did remember, though, is that my uncle got divorced when I was six, and his daughter, my cousin Catherine, was eight at the time. My mother told me that Catherine’s mother was a vile and stupid woman who wrongfully assumed that she could find someone better and, of course, she didn’t. A woman needs to stand by her man and not go looking for greener grass on the other side, I was told as a child. Catherine and her mom were excluded from our extended family after the divorce. Cousin Catherine and I reconnected only when we were both in our 40s via social media.

What did I make of all this? Subconsciously, I thought that divorce was a no-no for a good woman like me. I learned that initiating a divorce was bad, and a woman and her children would be punished for it.

As I was contemplating divorce myself, I was struggling to find a positive example to look toward. Divorce was untrodden territory in my family, as was following your feelings.

Expectation 2: it would be quick

Since I assumed that divorce doesn’t happen to good girls, getting divorced at all was extremely embarrassing. I didn’t want to tell anyone or discuss it. I wanted the divorce to be over with quickly. I was already thinking of getting a new, better husband since I was in the process of setting myself free. I was considering anything that could end my status of being “divorced.”

The shame and the denial of going through a long divorce process meant that I had trouble discussing my issues with lawyers, counselors, and my Ex. I googled. I read the advice in one of the blogposts on SAS for Women: “don’t stop communicating with your Ex if you have children.” What? I wanted so much not to see his texts, to not be reminded that I was living through this most undignified process!

Not only was I embarrassed about going through the divorce process, but I was also surprised that it wasn’t yet over. It took me many years to decide and get ready to separate, to voice and then follow through with my intention to divorce my husband*. I thought I was done when I moved out and got the divorce papers. I had no idea that untangling the seventeen-year-long co-dependent relationship with kids and property was another long process in and of itself.

Maybe, out of the entire list of things I hadn’t expected from my divorce, the slow pace was the hardest to embrace.

Expectation 3: my husband will behave like a gentleman

Why did I expect my Ex to behave like a gentleman and care for my feelings during our divorce? Especially when the reason I divorced him in the first place was because he was verbally and mentally abusive and didn’t care for my feelings? I like people to be respectful. He respected and loved me once, and I remember how good it felt. I expected my husband to behave like a gentleman because in my dreams I am a person who is treated respectfully by a man. I had heard of civilized divorces. Why couldn’t I have one?

I guess I expected my Ex to assume responsibility for OUR divorce and act as if we were equal throughout the process. I expected a fair division of assets, the kids’ time, and financial obligations.

What I got, in reality, was a man who was angry and bitter about my decision to “destroy his life.” He put all the blame and responsibility for the breakup on me, threatening me about the kids’ custody and our finances. He argued that I had to compensate him for the loss of his life.

“I will not behave like a gentleman during the divorce. You decided to break up, so don’t expect anything good from me,” my Ex wrote in one of his texts. “Find yourself another man to behave like a gentleman.” In front of friends and family, I was embarrassed at my Ex’s behavior during the divorce process, as if his manners and attitude were my fault.

I hear women say that they are too scared to get a divorce because they expect their husbands to behave nasty. “I am good to you as long as we are together. But don’t expect me to behave well if we separate,”  one of my friend’s husband said to her.

Expectation 4: my closest circle will support me

Just like I was embarrassed to be going through the divorce process and ashamed of my Ex’s behavior, some of my friends were embarrassed of me being the divorcée in their circle. I was once, in fact, asked to come to a private party but told not mention my divorce.

A reaction I got several times when I asked close people for support was this: you decided to divorce—not me—now deal with it, and don’t ask for sympathy.

Not only did I break the rules of the game, I disrespected many women who stuck with their husbands because I also dared to seek support.

We are talking about a very close circle of friends here, not simply colleagues. I was surprised to realize that some people were ready to support me when I was whining about my hard married life but were no longer there to support me when I was getting divorced.

We all hear that our circle of friends may change as we divorce. But I was unprepared to see my besties disregard my sense of purpose and feelings. Getting divorced was bad enough—grieving the loss of close friendships was doubly painful.

Expectation 5: my kids will be on my side

As I was planning the divorce, I had a picture of my sons — then eleven and fourteen — saying “Mom, we support you in any decision. We understand that you had enough of the fighting and crying and that you want to come home to a calm environment. We love you and will go anywhere with you.”

Instead, my eldest son stayed with his dad in our family apartment as I moved out. He grieved the breakup and blamed me for it. For six weeks, my son and I lived in the same city but in different apartments. That was painful. We saw each other regularly, but communication was poor. He was closed off and distant. I was upset and apologetic, attempting to buy him back with home-made meals and presents.

For the last two months of self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been living together. Our relationship has improved and evolved. I am learning to be comfortable in my new status of a divorced mom of two boys with my own decisions to make and responsibilities to take care of. I’m enjoying all the “cute son” moments on my own and am grateful for the isolation.

Once the quarantine is over, my eldest son will want to live with his dad again. And I will need to find a way to see him while also preparing for an empty nest.

A lot more could be said that came as a surprise during the divorce process and caused pain. But the thing that hurts the most is seeing the life that we imagined and planned crash and burn. Living through this period takes time. And during that time, we have the right to be a mess and be vulnerable. It’s our way of climbing out.

Anna Ivanova-Galitsina is an international expert in communications and storytelling based in Moscow, Russia. She is training to be a coach for women in transition. You can reach out to her via e-mail [email protected] for a test coach session or a discussion.

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.

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

Thinking about dealing with coronavirus as a single mom

Dealing with Divorce & Coronavirus as a Single Mom

Dealing with a divorce is very hard, but dealing with a divorce and coronavirus as a single mom, all at the same time? A virus that has infected more than 1 million people already, in fact. Well, that’s a whole other level of difficult. Not only do you have to learn how to live with your children on your own, but you also have to, you know, take care of them.

While it will surely not be a piece of cake, it’s very much doable—you just need to believe in yourself and do your best to not let these external events affect you or your attitude toward the little ones in your life. So how can you cope when dealing with divorce and coronavirus as a single mom? Well, here are a few things that might help.

Keeping a positive attitude

To say that going through a divorce and a pandemic is difficult is, quite frankly, a huge understatement. But that’s how we find ourselves most days, lately: uttering sentences and watching news stories that feel surreal and unprecedented. For most of us, both of these events really are those things. Surreal. Unprecedented. They throw your entire world off course and force you to live in the unknown—not only you but also your kids. If your children are still small, they probably don’t understand what’s going on yet, which is why they need your support and a positive attitude more than ever. You need to convince them that everything will be alright, but most importantly, you need to convince yourself. Because everything really will be. Do not let yourself believe that a divorce is the end of the world—it only means that your marriage was not meant to be.

Remember to look for positives in every negative situation. After all, it’s what you’d tell your children, right? When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

Spending time with your kids

It’s a cliché, but it’s true. In therapy, they sometimes tell you to speak to yourself as if you were a child—to treat yourself with that sort of grace and kindness. Right now it’s okay to immerse yourself in these clichés, to wear them like a coat you can shed when the days are a little less gloomy. Every cloud has a silver lining. This too shall pass. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. Whatever floats your boat. In this case, the light might be that since the pandemic forced the authorities to close schools and kindergartens, you have the perfect opportunity to spend more time with your little ones.

The pandemic will end one day, but the bond you establish with your children in these hard times will last a lifetime if you tend to it. It might be extremely helpful in the future as, according to experts from Parent Center Network, “a parent who is closer to their child will notice immediately when their kid is going through problems that the modern child faces such as depression, bullying or even when they are sick, and the symptoms are not so obvious.”

So instead of spending hours on overthinking why your marriage did not work out—something that’s now outside of your control—spend time with your kids. Play games, watch a movie, or read them a story. Whatever will make you and them happy. When it comes to dealing with divorce and coronavirus as a single mom, getting closer to your children might be some of the best advice out there.

Finding a new passion

Many women who get divorced experience a lower self-esteem, especially when their Ex was in the habit of making all the money-related decisions. But you cannot let a divorce put you down. It’s not just that your kids need you—it’s simply that the world throws enough hardships our way that we don’t need to add to our own woes by burdening ourselves with shame. Instead of crying over spilled milk, try to get to know the “new you.” As you introduce yourself to this new you, invite your kids along.

Take up a new hobby, such as painting or cooking. Get creative with things that you have at home. Since the pandemic has forced everyone to stay at home, you may find yourself with more time to devote to new interests you’ve always wanted to explore. That adventurous spirit and curiosity is something what will benefit your children later on.

Forgiving yourself for mistakes

Learning how to parent on your own (or learning to coparent, ideally) can be challenging, which is why you should not set unrealistic expectations for yourself and try to do everything perfectly. After all, when you are learning how to do something, you make mistakes—that’s a part of the process. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

If you have problems with your Ex, doubts, or need reassurance, remember that you always have your family and close friends to lean on. Most often these are the people we can count on to be there whenever we need them, waiting with open arms when we are ready to ask for help.

Taking care not only of your mental but physical health, too

The things above will help you with taking good care of your mental health in these tough times. But don’t forget that your physical health is just as important, especially when each and every one of us is exercising caution and doing our best not to overload our medical system.

This might actually be the best time to teach your kids good habits, such as washing their hands for at least 20 to 30 seconds or covering their mouth when they cough or sneeze.

But once the kids fall asleep, you’ll have time for yourself. Take a long bath, put on a face mask, paint your nails, or workout—there is no better way of lifting your mood and relaxing than a little bit of self-care.

A divorce isn’t pleasant, especially if you have kids, because you owe them the kind of explanations that you aren’t required to give anyone else. But dealing with divorce and coronavirus as a single mom means knowing that every day the world will ask too much of you. The weight you’re carrying right now feels impossible to lift on your own, and that’s okay. Some days will keep on feeling that way, while others will be so full of laughter and life and love that you’ll forget to be sad—you’ll forget to forget. Live knowing that ahead of you there is a life that’s better than you could have expected and that this moment in history is merely another thing that you’ll survive.

Your children are relying on you. You are their source of reassurance, and your behavior and actions throughout this pandemic will help guide their own. It’s extremely important to spend time with your kids in the best of times but especially in times of crisis. Use this time to strengthen these bonds.

SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to rebuilding their lives after divorce—on their own terms. If you are discerning, newly divorced and independent, you are invited to experience SAS for Women firsthand and schedule your free, 15-minute, private consultation. Whether you work further with us or not, we’ll help you understand what your next, black and white steps are for walking into your BRAVE unknown.

Will marriage become obsolete

Will Marriage Become Obsolete?

With the steady downturn in the number of new marriages and the 40 to 50 percent chance that existing ones will end in divorce, it would be comforting to think that marriage has become obsolete, or that, at the very least, successfully navigating the end of a legally-binding partnership would somehow be written into our DNA, like a migration pattern or an aversion to cilantro. With the coronavirus (COVID-19) impacting our sense of normalcy—putting both marriages and divorces alike on pause, in some cases—many of us find ourselves thinking about the role marriage and companionship play in our lives.

Divorce hasn’t yet been written in our DNA, of course. But if genetics change with our choices over time—and they do—it appears we are getting closer to a DNA-level instinct for divorce or marriage-avoidance. This is an exaggeration, yes, but we’re certainly getting closer to a pervasive social norm that does not include marriage as an assumed preference.

A generational shift

As of 2015, only about half of the adults in the United States claim to live with a spouse. Those adults include five of the six generations currently alive in America today—from the G.I. or Great Generation all the way down to Generation Z—and these generations’ collective attitudes about marriage have shifted dramatically over time. My 102-year-old grandmother’s generation, “The Greats” (born 1901 to 1926), hung in there until the bitter end. If you made a vow, you kept it, despite abuse, dislike, infidelity, and whatever other problem that may have snaked its way into your marriage. For the most part, so did the “Silent Generation,” people born between 1927 and 1945.

The Baby Boomers, though, who account for 77 million people in the US, began to shake things up. This generation (born 1946 to 1965) embraced the civil rights movement, feminism, women joining the work force as a rule rather than as an exception, and television.

The Baby Boomers brought us divorce because a person wasn’t happy—albeit still struggled with its taboo of humiliation that somehow we are not measuring up if we can’t make our marriage work, but still, divorce nonetheless. My generation, Gen Xers, born 1965 through 1980, was the first generation for whom having divorced parents was a common thing.

The result of this shift

Perhaps as a response, my peers have a lower divorce rate than Boomers (the numbers of Baby Boomers ending their marriages doubled in the last 20 years and is on its way to tripling). Gen Xers also waited a lot longer to take vows. When you grow up as a witness to all the ways in which marriage both supports and fails people, it seems only natural that your first inclination would be to approach things differently.

Millennials, for instance, are showing a trend of partnering and having children but avoiding the altar altogether. Only 26 percent of Millennials are actually getting married, down from Gen X’s 36 percent, the Boomers’ 48 percent, and the Silent Generation’s 65 percent.

Will marriage become obsolete?

That’s quite a drop. The youngest of Generation Z, born after 2001, have yet to make their choices about long-term life partnering, but as a population, this generation is larger than the Boomers, so its impact on social norms and potentially our genetic code for mating will be worth measuring.

We are now finding that even in the midst of a global pandemic, people are leaving marriages that no longer serve them. Living together under a quarantine order is, some people are finding, bringing problems in a marriage that once seemed small and easy to ignore to the surface. Divorce rates in China spiked as soon as restrictions lifted.

Even so, marriage has not become obsolete quite yet. But one day marriage may become the exception rather than the rule. One day that rising inclination to say “let’s revisit this conversation every two or three years and see where we are with this thing” (or some version of it) may be the new social norm—but until a union that used to be “forever” is honored as fluid, a dance of choice between two organic, dynamic beings, all we can do is support those who have found that their partnership no longer serves them.

No one wants to go through a divorce, but sometimes it’s the only real option you have. Perhaps by the time Generation Zs are having their second children, what was once considered the only choice—marriage, til death do us part—will have undergone such scrutiny that the idea of it is, as they say, as repellant as cilantro to a certain genetic selection of taste buds.

 

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

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

Contemplating divorce and coronavirus

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

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

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

Understand the temperature in your house.

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

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

Must-knows when dealing with divorce and coronavirus

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

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

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

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

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

Thinking about divorce

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

For mothers contemplating or dealing with divorce

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

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

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

Dealing with divorce

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

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

Legal and financial considerations…

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

Coparenting through coronavirus

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

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

Rebuilding after divorce

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

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

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

Above all, stay committed to you

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

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

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

 

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

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

Woman in the snow contempltaing managing conflict in divorce

How to Stay Calm Managing Conflict in Divorce

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

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

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

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

Get rid of all the negative emotions

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

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

Be flexible

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

Look at the big picture

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

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

Work on your listening skills

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

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

Mediate

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

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

Get coparent counseling

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

Use “I” messages frequently

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

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

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

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

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

Talk with facts

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

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

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

 

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

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

Dealing with joint custody

Joint Custody: What Is It, and How Does It Work?

I spoke with divorce attorney Kathy Wagner about joint custody recently. She shared some critical insights from her 30-plus years of experience practicing family law in Somerset County, New Jersey. While there will be similarities in family law state-to-state, there are also important differences, so be sure to Google custody law in your state before taking action on any of this.

The difference between physical and legal custody

In New Jersey, the person who has physical custody has actual possession of the child, meaning the child lives primarily with that person. Having legal custody means having the right to make decisions for the child in the areas of health, education, and general welfare.

When the parents are married, both of these powers are vested in both parents. This means the child lives with both parents, and both parents can and do make legal decisions for the child.

After the parents live separately, the physical and legal custody arrangements must be settled with a custody decision either amongst themselves, memorialized by the court in the final judgment of divorce, or by a family law judge if the parents cannot agree.


Remind yourself of what your children deserve. Read How to Help Your Child Cope with Divorce.


The best interests of the child dictate the custody arrangement

In New Jersey, family law judges determine what custody arrangement is in the “best interests of the child.” The judge begins by presuming that children benefit from maintaining “frequent and continuing contact with both parents” and from having both parents “share the rights and responsibilities of child-rearing.” N.J.S.A. 9:2-4. Then the judge weighs the following factors, among others, in determining what custody arrangement is in the best interest of the child:

  • The parents’ ability to agree, communicate, and cooperate regarding the child
  • The parents’ willingness to accept custody and any history of unjustified withholding
  • The interaction and relationship of the child with the parents and other siblings
  • History of domestic violence
  • Safety of the child and/or either parent from physical abuse by other parent
  • Preference of the child of sufficient age and capacity
  • Needs of the child
  • Stability of home environment
  • Quality and continuity of child’s education
  • Fitness of parents
  • Geographical proximity of parents’ homes
  • Extent and quality of time spent with child both before and after separation
  • Parents’ employment responsibilities
  • Age and number of children

Contrary to popular belief, a judge will never exclusively use one factor—like a parent’s income level—as the sole deciding factor in who gets custody of a child.

There are three types of custody in New Jersey

In New Jersey, custody can be summarized by these three possible arrangements: Joint, Split, and Sole custody. Sole and Joint custody is defined specifically by New Jersey law.

Joint custody

This is what married parents have by default. Both people can make decisions about the child’s welfare, and the child lives in the same home as both parents. After a divorce, parents can often retain joint legal custody, even if the child lives mostly with one parent or the other.

According to state law, any joint custody arrangements must include specific instructions for consultation between parents on important decisions and residency of the minor child.

Split custody

If parents have more than one child, the court could split the children between the two parents. This is rarely done—in most cases the courts won’t split siblings apart so long as there is another option. In exceptional cases, such as there being a child from a previous marriage or a large age gap between siblings, the court might be more willing to split custody between parents.

Sole custody

Sadly, some people just aren’t fit to be parents. It could be due to alcoholism, criminal behavior, or abuse, but in any case, the case courts will not leave a child in the care of a parent who seems abusive or negligent. In these cases, one parent takes legal and physical custody of the child, while the other parent loses those rights.

Unless the other parent is found to be abusive or negligent, the parent with sole custody must still make arrangements for the child to have time with the other parent. The statues provide no guidance for what constitutes “appropriate parenting time,” and this is a frequent cause of custody battles.


Learn about the relevance of drug use in divorce in Coparenting Through Divorce: Drug Use, Drug Testing & Family Court.


How does joint custody work?

Again, parents can share joint physical custody, joint legal custody, or both. If parents share both, then it is common for their child to live with one parent during the school week and with the other the remainder of the time. The parents consult with one another regarding major decisions and collaborate to parent their child as best they can despite the divorce.

Joint custody obviously requires a great deal of civil and constructive communication between parents, and not every divorced couple is capable of this.

Can we make the joint custody arrangement without a lawyer?

It’s highly recommended that you speak to an attorney and file a motion with the court if you want to change the child custody arrangement set by the court. Of course, you have the right to represent yourself pro se if you wish, but be forewarned: the courts won’t make special accommodations for you as a layperson, and you will be expected to follow the same procedures as a lawyer.

If you and your Ex try to change the custody arrangement without going to court, this can be problematic in that if either of you decide not to follow your new arrangement, the new arrangement cannot be enforced by the court. In fact, it is the person insisting on the new arrangement that will be found in the wrong by the family law judge, who knows only about the original arrangement.

Find the best lawyer for your joint custody case

Family law is a highly specialized area of practice, and laws vary state-to-state. In New Jersey, custody disputes are settled in separate courts from other legal matters by dedicated family court judges. Even if you and your Ex seem to agree on most things and believe that you can make joint custody work, you need to find an experienced family law attorney in your area who can help you craft an arrangement that works for your family and get that arrangement approved by the court.

Veronica Baxter is a blogger and legal assistant to Katherine K. Wagner, Esq. Katherine practices divorce and family law in Somerset County, NJ.

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