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What are the Covid Divorce Statistics?

What are the COVID Divorce Statistics?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Should I leave my husband?

What Should I Do to Leave My Husband?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

1.     Financial preparation.

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

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

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

2.     The date.

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

3.     Get Support and feedback for guidance and direction.

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

4.     PINS, passwords, and important documents.

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

5.     The kids.

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

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

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

6.     The pets.

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

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


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

 


7.     Documentation.

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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.”

Learn from divorced women

What to Learn from Powerful Divorced Women

We’re seeing a shift in the balance of power right now in our country, as people of all colors finally begin to unite in a growing and vocal collective against systemic racism, following the murder of George Floyd. As it ties into the subject of this piece, it’s important to note something that women and people of color have known for centuries and what we as women and as humans need to remember as we each face whatever struggle we encounter and whatever frightens us into silence, compliance, or complaisance: power is not the most meaningful, the most wrenchingly beautiful, at the peak of the mountain when the hard climb is over and we’re looking out over the territory of pain we’ve conquered. It is most meaningful when we are still down in the mud, pulling our feet free one trembling, breath-tearing step at a time. That power is something we are seeing now and have seen time and time again as we learn from divorced women.

Facing our fears requires the most of us when we are still stuck, still terrified or frozen in the comfort of stillness itself. When we finally gather ourselves, reach toward whatever slippery branch or hand is there, push past the inertia, and embrace the ungodly mess that the most valuable changes require—that’s when power is most pure: before the success.

What we can learn from divorced women

That’s where we are again as a nation, and that’s where some of us are with our marriages and our self-partnering. So, look to the success stories and learn from divorced women who have made it to the height of the mountain, but let’s not forget that the most hard-won and overlooked power occurs in those first faltering steps.

Tabatha

Outspoken, red-headed, and strong-minded, Tabatha is a vibrant example of how much you can shine when you’re not buried by someone else’s lack of personal accountability, hampered by their emotional negligence, or tarnished by their lack of respect for you. A veteran small business owner, she established Tabatha’s Hair Design in December 2003 and is happily back to work now that Washington State has entered Phase 2 of the Covid-19 reopening.

She’s also a survivor and living proof that while much abuse and betrayal comes from external sources, it also comes from within your own home. Pulling yourself up afterward is grueling and takes courage women often don’t know they have until they reach for it, but it can be done.

“I woke up one morning and told my Ex-husband* (he was my boyfriend at the time) that I was buying a salon. Within eight weeks, Tabatha’s was open and running. I married him the following year, October 2004. By February 2005, he decided to quit his job and spent most of our marriage unemployed while my sweat and tears kept Tabatha’s open. Then, in April 2007, I received a phone call from a stylist who worked at a different salon, telling me that my husband’s mistress was there bragging about sleeping with my husband. I was devastated. We had just bought our house in March 2006.

When I confronted him, he denied everything, and I became everything I’d always disliked: I became doubting and insecure, checked his phone, figured out his email password, drove to his work to make sure he was actually there. It came to the point that I didn’t recognize myself.

I stayed with him for a couple more years, trying to forgive, trying not to be insecure. But I was never going to trust him again. Finally, in late August 2009, I put an air mattress and all his belongings in the spare bedroom and, after a couple weeks of that, told him I’d have a restraining order against him if he wasn’t out by Labor Day weekend. Then I packed up my 10-year-old daughter and left.

Since then, I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I ever thought, but I’ve also learned to be gentle with my emotions and feelings. I’m allowed to cry. My voice and my opinion count. I’m worthy of love—from me to myself and love from others. It’s okay to mourn the loss of my marriage, like it was a death. A part of me died the day the judge pronounced me divorced.

As the first of my siblings to divorce, I felt like a failure. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I make it work? I should have done more; I should have been the perfect wife. It’s only cheating…well, that’s ‘only’ deception on the deepest level. I’ve learned that I’m no one’s second choice. I’m only as worthy as I treat myself.

Now I teach my younger friends in the hopes that they can learn from divorced women: be a diamond. Pebbles get tossed, kicked aside, but we value diamonds. Be the precious stone you are, and shine.”

Susan

Always ahead of the curve, Susan was one of the first among her friends to get divorced back in the 1980s. Now 72, she is the embodiment of strong female energy: wise and no-nonsense, very dry and very funny.

“I learned early on, the hearse doesn’t come with a luggage rack,” she still says, to give perspective. “You’ve got to pick what matters most—and it’s usually stuff you can’t carry on your back.

How many people do you know who are miserable, married to a lifestyle, the trappings, the house, the shopping they can’t give up? I tell you: a lot of women. They are confused about happiness.”

Liza Caldwell

Liza is SAS for Women’s Cofounder, divorce coach, and an entrepreneur.

“I was a high functioning depressive,” Liza laughs. “And sometimes, not so high-functioning. More like pathetic and alone, unable to give words to what I was feeling, just knowing something was wrong. With ME!

Now, when I look back, I see it was exactly that leveling out, that hitting the ground, that also gave me the perspective that I never wanted my girls to experience such hell.

And somehow, that revelation—that I didn’t want my girls to experience it, but there I was living it in real time, modeling it to my girls, is what woke me up! So, think about that: Who is watching you? Forget society. Who is looking up at you and watching from the ground?”

Holly

A public school teacher who has bloomed since her divorce, Holly now nourishes others even better than before because she learned how to do that for herself.

“You have not a clue—except a part of you does—of how freaking great it can be on the other side of divorce!” says Holly, smiling widely.

You can’t, except to imagine how much time you put into coping with your NOW. Think about how much time you spend talking inside your head about your issues, how you’ll survive, or who is right and who is wrong. And then take stock of how much you do externally, in the real world, to appear ‘normal.’ When you truly think about this, you soon realize how much energy you spend trying to restore balance to your world when in fact, it’s out of whack. Now imagine all that is gone, and you are not experiencing that conflict or tension between what you think, feel, and know—with who you are in the real world. You’re not pretending anymore. Especially not to yourself.”

Stella

Edgy, articulate, and ruthlessly organized, Stella learned the hard way that sometimes you have to leave your tribe—even the one you are conditioned from your earliest upbringing to accept and conform to—in order to save yourself.

“My church pressured me to marry Henry and failed to give me information I should have been given, and he did not provide. He decimated me financially. He bled our accounts before I realized what was going on and then stole checks from me and forged my signature. Only my pastor was willing to stand with me in court. I was talking to this woman (a fellow congregant) afterward, when I was broken, and she wanted me to remember what a great day it was the day Henry and I got married! Just clueless…

The pressure they exerted—which I did cave to—to marry Henry brought me to a sorry, suicidal pass. Some of them never recognized that if they had told me information I deserved to know, instead of pressuring me to marry him, it would have been a different story.

I miss going to church and that community I had before Henry flipped out and returned to using (his 24-year-old daughter died of cancer and as a result—not having developed good coping —he returned to using drugs), but I’m not sure I will ever return to church.”

Addicts are often charming, charismatic, and adept liars. Even educated and experienced people can be convinced by their stories. Stella, who worked in community mental health as a case manager at the time of her marriage, is a great example of this, as well as a great example of a woman who got out anyway, despite the toll it took and the brutal self-honesty it required of her.

“I was not ostracized (by my church), but Henry was given more credence than I was by some members. Not my pastor. He was a newer pastor to our congregation, and he was always wonderful. He supported my decision when I left the church. I got to where I didn’t feel like I belonged and that was about the time I began to work with a Christian therapist who provided perspective. I would encourage Christians to seek Christian therapists.

I really work on not blaming others for my choices or for my ultimate decision to cave to the pressure I felt from the folks at church. I made a number of piss-poor decisions, and I don’t think any of them ever had an intention to harm. They just thought they were being good Christians…we are all affected by our own experiences.”

Lexi

This Gen-Xer has been many things and charmed many men. A Daughter of the American Revolution, a lawyer and an art teacher, she’s potty-mouthed, eclectic, and brazen whenever she can be. Her work has made her an award-winning journalist, Army Basic Camp graduate, river boat waitress, veterinary assistant, and stripper (she says she needed a plane ticket, but really, she just liked it). Even roguish women, though, can make the mistake of becoming atrophied by their comfort zones.

Lexi allowed the comfort trap—paired with a liking for alcohol that was the result of nature, nurture, and it being woven into her relationship with her husband—to have too big a role in her life. When she finally acknowledged that to herself, she also acknowledged that if she was going to come back to herself and rediscover both her gifts and her own wholeness, she was going to have to leave her marriage to do it.

 

“I had to learn how to partner myself, and I did. I have regrets, but I’ve learned from every mistake I made, and I’m finally firing on all pistons in a way I never have before. I’m happy, I’m free, and I’m whole.”

Penny

Also potty-mouthed and outspoken, Penny is a devoted mom of two, grandmother of two, a staunch animal advocate, and a former eighteen-year-old bride who had to face making it on her own in order to leave the comfortable numbness that was her marriage and her cage.

“The guy I’ve been seeing for two years, he tells me he loves me and I’m like, ‘I’m sorry,’” she laughs. Penny laughs a lot, which generally makes the people around her laugh, too.

“I’ve never told him I love him. He knows I’m never going to call him my boyfriend. He’s fun and the sex is quite fabulous, but I don’t want to be tied down ever again.

I have enough in savings from the divorce that I can buy a house if I want to, but I don’t want to. I like the idea of being able to pick up and go. I don’t want to have to answer to anybody. I want to be selfish. Everything will be my own decision, and if I f*&k up, it’s on me. If I want to go out with someone, I can. If I don’t want to cook dinner, I don’t have to. I don’t want to have to consider someone else.

Being divorced gives me a huge sense of relief. Marriage was like being in prison. Now that I’m out, I’m like ‘Woohoo!!’ Why would I want to go back? When I was married, I was suppressed. I was under someone’s thumb. He argued with me about everything, had to be right about everything. Nothing I said was ever right. It was constant, and I just started avoiding him. You get to the point where you don’t engage in a conversation because you know you’re going to lose. I was not being my own authentic self.

There were fun times peppered in, but it was only if I agreed to everything he wanted. And the sex was horrible. I was like, ‘I’m going to die miserable, and I’m going to die without ever having had a proper orgasm.’ And oh, dear God, now? It’s a whole new world! I’m like, this is what I’ve been missing? Most of the men now rock my world and it’s all about me, and when you have that, you don’t mind giving back.

He was just on me like a pecking chicken…he’d ask these rhetorical questions all the time, just to argue his point; it felt like being in a never-ending Jeopardy episode, and I never had the right answer.

My main reason to stay in it was the kids. And I was afraid he’d use them against me, in any way he could, as leverage to get me to do what he wanted or just to have power, like he did with the dogs. So, I focused on them. I was involved in everything and put all my energy into them because he was exhausting.

I was a second income, but I didn’t make the money—there was this fear of making my own living—that was terrifying. Then finally, he got fired from his job. He got a job in Kuwait and then another one in Alaska, and it was [in Alaska that] he had an affair. And it was a huge relief because I finally had an excuse to ask him for a divorce.

I found a text. I found a lot of things. He had also gone on match.com and was flirting with a couple girls who he ended up being friendly with, but I sat with that affair information for three weeks. My friend was like ‘I would have chopped something off if I had found those texts!’ I was like, ‘No, don’t you get it? That’s the thing. This is my ticket out. Now I have a reason.’ He was a gas lighter. He would have figured out a way to make it my fault and make me wrong, but this was rock-solid.

I got the date of the divorce and ‘RIP’ tattooed on my back next to our anniversary date. I love that tattoo—you need to take time for yourself and figure out what you want. Go to therapy, and do it for yourself. Live your life being your own authentic self. Figure it out. I wasn’t strong enough back then, but I always knew I was strong and I figured it out.”

Elaine

Elaine is a multi-million-dollar real estate agent and early Baby Boomer who divorced her husband and took on the challenges of earning her real estate license and continuing to raise and provide financial support for four children single-handedly.

“I watched my husband sit and spin his dreams about the invention ideas he had and never do anything to make them a reality for years. It wasn’t until he hit my oldest son that I decided enough was enough.

Something inside me just snapped.

I said to myself, ‘That’s it. I’m not letting him drain this family or tear my children down any more. I can do this better, alone or not.’”

Naomi

With a background that includes a Phi Beta Kappa ranking from Penn State University, a master’s degree from UCLA, and certifications in human resource management and spiritual coaching, Naomi embodies a highly-educated, highly self-aware approach to her life. She also embodies the (perhaps) harder-won wisdom that even the smartest, most educated women sometimes need help and should not be ashamed to ask for it or learn from other divorced women.

“Right after the divorce, the biggest thing I had to learn was that I needed to ask for help. I stayed in a relationship longer than I wanted to because I was afraid to be alone and afraid to not be able to make decisions myself. Once I was past the initial shock of the situation, I started to really, really love the ability to make my own decisions. I got to make choices about things I liked and didn’t like and return to myself without interference. And I also had to lean on other people, ask for help, [and] be willing to be vulnerable and make mistakes. I needed time to heal. It could not be on anyone else’s schedule, and it took longer than some of my friends had patience for. That’s fine. Those weren’t the friends I talked to about it after that, but I didn’t need to cut them out of my life, either.

We need different people for different aspects of our life. Don’t expect people to be your emotional crutch if they don’t have the capacity to do that. Trust yourself to heal and take the time to do it.”

Leaving your marriage behind might be one of the most difficult choices you ever have to make, but if there’s one thing we hope you learn from divorced women it’s that your future is yours. You will get through this.

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.

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.

*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.”

What not do to during divorce

What Not to Do During Divorce: 7 Must Knows

Divorce, like a marriage, takes mapping and maneuvering. There’s a lot of good common sense advice out there about what to do and what not to do during divorce. But as a writer who is forever curious, I sometimes find the don’ts a more appealing research subject.

Divorce is a regular occurrence in the US, but of course, it wasn’t always this way. Divorce as a research subject can be a slippery thing because it can still feel taboo to some people, but luckily, that attitude feels as if it’s more the exception rather than the rule these days.

It has taken five generations for the conversation of what not to do during a divorce to become common.

So, I asked a variety of divorced individuals what their advice is about “don’t dos” in divorce. The following is my recap of their suggestions and lessons learned.

1. The unanimous consensus was “don’t be unnecessarily nasty about it”

In other words, don’t set out to ruin your Ex’s life or punish them.

“In my divorce things have gone fairly smoothly, but that’s mainly due to the number one rule I feel all divorcees should abide by, which is, no matter what happened in your marriage, a divorce should be amicable,” said Millie*, a Washington state resident.

Washington is one of 18 states that is considered truly no-fault, which means no legal grounds have to be established for a divorce to be granted. You don’t have to have a reason, or blame the other—you can simply divorce. The benefit of this is that your divorce is over faster and with less expense. All 50 states have a no-fault option, but in others, there are established grounds for finding fault. These include: addiction, adultery, bigamy, desertion or abandonment, impotence, imprisonment, marriage between close relatives, marriage obtained by fraud or force, mental or physical abuse and/or cruelty, and mental illness or mental incapacity at the time of the marriage.

2. Don’t rush into a decision without examining your options

Jenny, another person I spoke with, noted that there aren’t just divorce law differences state to state, but county to county, which underscores another “don’t do” in divorce: don’t rush forward with divorce without examining your options, such as where to file. One county might review each case for fairness, but another may just push claims through. If you are guarding against being taken advantage of and don’t trust your Ex to be civil, then don’t accept the filing without looking first at what some other options might be.

Accepting that “you don’t know what you don’t know” leads you to wonder how will you find out fully and clearly what you are entitled to and what your rights are? And how will you handle this emotionally, or as a mother, or the primary breadwinner, or the stay-at-home-mom? Not knowing what you don’t now know is a good reason to consider working with a divorce coach or attorney.

3. Don’t be a pushover

The above suggestions counsel you not to be unnecessarily cruel or naïve, but another thing not to do? Be careful about being too nice. You don’t want guilt, confusion, or a lack of desire to lead your decision making. Women must understand that for them rebuilding their lives after divorce is harder than it is for men.

“I wish I would have consulted a lawyer, so I got what I deserved instead of what he made me feel like I deserved,” said Leticia, a woman in Manhattan.

“I wish,” said Patty, in Texas, “That I had put some money aside, opened my own bank account, and planned ahead instead of making a quick decision.”

Once you do begin looking at your options, don’t leave anything to memory. Document everything—every phone call, every bank deposit. Even simple divorces (usually from shorter marriages involving no joint bank accounts and no children) are complicated, and in the midst of it, you are probably going to be searching for a new place to live, possibly a new school for your children. You might be moving, changing jobs, and experiencing a wide variety of emotions—yours and your loved ones. Documentation may end up saving you from making an expensive or time-consuming mistake.

4. Don’t “use” your children

With regard to children, another “don’t” of divorce is to not use your children as leverage or have conversations with your Ex about the process (or vent to a friend about it) in front of them. You and your Ex made your children together; the marriage may be ending but the effort to raise them to be as healthy and happy as possible should not be.

5. Don’t go it alone

Finding your allies is another common theme among the people I spoke with. Whether you consult a court liaison to help you file, use an online divorce site, hire a divorce attorney or a divorce coach (or both), there are too many life-impacting aspects of divorce to try to just wing it. Assuming you’ll think of everything is setting yourself up for missing something. Conversely, don’t go “War of the Roses” on the thing and bring your lawyer in to haggle over a serving dish. Focus on the essentials.

6. Don’t do nothing now

And speaking of essentials, the chances are good that part of your income will be missing after a divorce, at least for a period of time, so don’t go into the process without first setting up a separate bank account for expenses, whether those funds go toward lawyers’ fees, a deposit on an apartment, paying off a credit card, college courses to advance your own income or a counselor for your children. Along these same lines, don’t forget to check your spouse’s credit score and your own and close joint bank accounts.

7. Don’t jump into your next serious relationship

In the interest of guarding your emotional assets as well as the financial ones, it’s probably best not to jump into a new relationship right after divorce or before it’s finished—especially if you live in a state where there is grounds for establishing fault. The ethical question of cheating is a whole other article, but it needs to be said, as it’s one of the leading causes of divorce in the first place. Pretend that everything you are doing, saying, posting, or tweeting is under a microscope, and once the divorce is finished, recognize that while it’s natural to seek validation and an endorphin boost from a new relationship, your emotional stability is going to take some time to come back to its grounded center.

Although it’s taken many generations for divorce to become an accepted, less isolating option for one’s life, there are now plenty of conversations, resources, and information about the process just about anywhere you care to look. The “divorce don’ts” above are a great launching point, but your divorce recovery is a journey, one that doesn’t end here.

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.

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.

*For the sake of confidentiality, we have not used people’s real names in this article.

Thinking about how to collect social security benefits from ex

Can I Collect Social Security Benefits from My Ex Spouse?

An important decision in planning for retirement is when to start receiving your Social Security payments. Should you start collecting at full retirement age? (Typically 67.) Or should you defer benefits to receive a larger amount? Can you collect social security benefits from your Ex?

If you’re divorced, then yes, your decision-making will be impacted by your Ex. You may be eligible to receive a higher Social Security retirement benefit based on your Ex’s earnings records.

To collect social security benefits from your Ex, there are some preliminary conditions that must be met

1. You and your Ex must have been married for 10 years or longer. There is no limit on how long ago the marriage must have ended. For example, if your marriage ended 25 years ago but you were married for 10 years, you can make still a claim based on your Ex’s earnings.

2. Both you and your Ex must be at least 62 years old.

3. You must not be remarried.

4. You and your Ex must be divorced for at least two years, or your Ex must already be claiming Social Security retirement benefits.

If you qualify as an Ex based on the rules above, you would be entitled to half of your Ex’s Social Security benefits, provided that you make the claim no earlier than your Full Retirement Age (FRA). For most people, that means being 67 years old.

Please note that your Social Security benefit will be based on your Ex’s earnings record only if it results in a higher benefit than you would receive based on your own earnings history.

For example, let’s assume you are at Full Retirement Age and you are entitled to $700 per month from Social Security. Your Ex is eligible to receive $2,000 per month at his FRA. If you meet all of the eligibility requirements to receive divorce benefits, you would be eligible to receive $1,000 per month from Social Security instead of the original $700.

What if your Ex remarried?

Your Ex’s new marriage will have no impact on what you can claim, and it will not impact how much he* will receive from Social Security. It also has no impact on how much your Ex’s current spouse may receive. Your claim toward benefits is not deducted from those that your Ex receives either.

If your Ex should die before you, you can receive 100 percent of the retirement benefits he was receiving when he died, assuming you are at FRA or older. If you are 60 or older but not yet FRA, you would get 71.5 to 99 percent of his benefits. If you are between 50 and 59 and disabled, you would get 71.5 percent of his benefits.

Every dollar counts in retirement, so if you are entitled to receive extra money each month make sure you’re taking advantage of it—even if that means you have to collect social security benefits from your Ex.

Word to the wise: Do not rely on anyone else to inform you of your eligibility to collect social security benefits from your Ex. As you can tell, the eligibility requirement can be somewhat complex, and there is no guarantee that the Social Security Administration will be aware of your marital history when you submit your claim. You can contact a representative at your local Social Security office for an estimate. Call Social Security at 800-772-1213 to make an appointment. But for a clear understanding and to hear what else you might be doing to build for your future retirement, you should consult with an experienced advisor about all of your options.

 

The article is for informational purposes only and it is not to be considered tax or legal advice. AXA Advisors (its affiliates) and associates do not provide tax, accounting or legal advice or services. You should seek advice based on your particular circumstances from an independent tax or legal advisor.

Chris Kelly is a financial advisor with over 25 years of experience in the financial services industry. He specializes in what he calls “Financial Transitions” – helping families design and implement a financial plan to help deal with the loss of the primary income earner due to divorce, death, or disability. He is well-versed in a broad range of financial subjects including investments, cash flow planning, and estate planning.

Contact Chris at [email protected] or 732-292-3357 to begin a conversation on how to make your post-divorce financial journey a smooth one.

 

*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.”

A woman in a bathtub contemplating what divorce does to a woman

What Divorce Does to a Woman: You and Your Money

The chances are fairly good that if you are a woman with school-age children and you are looking at getting divorced, you are facing a drain on your financial resources with no fast recovery in sight.

While marriage generally has a positive effect on financial health—due in part to tax incentives and thousands of laws that favor married couples—divorce is like trying to maintain a house that’s falling apart, money going out faster than it can come in. While sociological studies show that the net worth of each person in a marriage increases 77 percent over the years, that net worth starts to drop four years before divorce. Divorcees experience an average wealth decline of 77 percent.

And what divorce does to a woman is generally worse, because far more than not, women end up as the primary caregivers for a couple’s children, and children—while fulfilling and precious to women and men alike—are also expensive. Since this is a website for women, it would be easy to dismiss that statement as biased, but of the 13.6 million single parents in the United States, only 16 percent of those are single dads.

Divorce takes women with children’s financial resources and chops them in half and then adds expenses like a reduction sauce to the leftovers. For women without paid work of their own and full-time custody of their children, it is often a low-income existence, with approximately one in five women becoming impoverished as a result of divorce. Add to that the fact that, while they’re still married, women are more likely than men to leave paying jobs outside the home to care for the children, thereby siphoning off their financial independence and their workplace skills. And if they needed to file for disability, their lack of “points” in the workforce can later lead to a denial of such claims, leaving them hamstringed by health issues as well as poverty and the lack of mobility that comes with daily childcare.

“While the downturn and the weak economy of recent years have eliminated many of the jobs women held, a lack of family-friendly policies also appears to have contributed to the lower rate. In a (poll) of nonworking adults aged 25 to 54 in the United States, conducted recently, 61 percent of women said family responsibilities were a reason they weren’t working, compared with 37 percent of men,” write Claire Cain Miller and Liz Alderman of the New York Times. “Of women who identify as homemakers and have not looked for a job in the last year, nearly three-quarters said they would consider going back if a job offered flexible hours or allowed them to work from home.”

Pair that inclination to choose child-rearing over career and cost-crippling daycare (or at least the decision to postpone careers until the children are older) with the changing requirements of the work force, and then, add in the tendency in the U.S. toward employment policies that do not favor families or flexible schedules. According to Miller and Alderman, 1993 was the last time the U.S. Congress passed legislation that was family-forward, providing certain workers with 12 unpaid weeks with their newborn babies. All combined, and you have divorced American mothers with a stunted ability to make money.

“Women who worked before, during, or after their marriages see a 20 percent decline in income when their marriages end, according to Stephen Jenkins, a professor at the London School of Economics. His research found that men, meanwhile, tend to see their incomes rise more than 30 percent post-divorce. Meanwhile, the poverty rate for separated women is 27 percent, nearly triple the figure for separated men,” writes Darlena Cunha for The Atlantic in April 2016.

“The main reason women suffer the brunt of divorce’s financial burdens, according to Jenkins, is that during marriage, they are more likely than men to stop working in order to raise kids. ‘The key differences are not between men and women, but between fathers and mothers.’”

But here’s what’s interesting: the research also indicates that women will ask for that divorce anyway, despite the financial strain of it.

In 2015, one Psychology Today source cites a study of more than 2,000 heterosexual couples, stating that women initiated nearly 70 percent of divorces. Another source claims 80 percent. And if newer research is to be trusted, women may have less money and more limited ways to make it after divorce (which does change and can continue to improve, if slowly), but they are also discovering happiness is the surprise that awaits them.

The Huffington Post published a July 2013 article featuring research from London’s Kingston University—research that spanned 20 years and drew feedback from more than 10,000 United Kingdom residents between the ages of 16 and 60. Researchers asked subjects about their happiness before and after certain life events, including divorce. Women generally reported being more content than usual for several years after their divorces, leading the study authors to theorize that:

Women who leave unhappy marriages may end up feeling more unshackled by the break-up than men.

Another survey of 1,060 divorcees discovered that 53 percent of women said they are “much happier” after divorce—using words like “glad,” “celebration,” and “excitement”—while only 32 percent of the men interviewed made the same claim. Other writers have noted that 35 percent of U.K. women surveyed in 2018 said that they felt “less stressed” following the termination of their marriages, and while only 15 percent of men felt higher self-esteem post-divorce, 30 percent of women felt a boost in that regard.

So, what divorce often does to a woman is leave her struggling financially but coming through a divorce also seems to have the effect of making women feel stronger, more alive, and more authentically themselves.

For myself, neither my Ex of 13 years nor I have children of our own, though he is now a stepparent. (I never wanted to be a mother, so this is a happy circumstance for me, though I understand the profound pull to motherhood and respect it—especially if it’s done with thoughtfulness, self-knowledge, and preparation.) He and I had always kept separate bank accounts, yet shared the mortgage and bills equally, and we ended our partnership well, with our friendship intact and financial benefits on both sides. I’m very, very fortunate in this. We ended our partnership because we wanted to be happy and knew we’d taken that path as far as we could with each other. It’s difficult to speak legitimately to what children need when you don’t have any, but I do think that children benefit from having parents who are whole and authentically happy, not just making do, or, far worse, hiding the bruises or crumbling under the insults.

But whether you have children or not, it’s important to understand how divorce can affect your finances. In a 2017 article in The Guardian, a woman named Tracey McVeigh said that, “If I had any advice for women now thinking of getting married, I’d say never, never, never give up your financial independence. No matter how difficult it may seem, keep one toe in the water: it may make the difference between sinking and swimming.” We want you to swim, always. No matter where you are on your divorce journey, keep your head above water.

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.

Rebuilding after divorce

How to Get Clear on Your Career After Divorce

Now that you’re moving past your divorce and thinking about going back to work or changing your career, do you feel stuck, uncertain of how to begin, or fearful that you don’t have what it takes? You’re not alone. Life after divorce—and where to begin—can induce a whole new host (or return!) of emotions that may feel paralyzing and insurmountable. Add to that the current coronavirus pandemic we find ourselves living with and its accompanying pressures, and your stress levels might be going through the roof! But whether or not you worked outside the home during your marriage, starting over professionally doesn’t have to be dominated by fear and negativity. Even now. There is a process that can help you figure out your next steps to launching or rebuilding a career, even in the midst of so much uncertainty.

How to stop spinning your wheels

If you’re thinking about returning to the workforce, pivoting careers, securing more flexible work, or starting a new venture, there’s an important first step you can take to jumpstart your reinvention—gaining clarity about who you are now.

Women don’t spend enough time at the beginning of a career transition focusing on what they value and the mindsets, skills, and talents they have that are transferable to new opportunities. And that is the key to discovering a role that is meaningful to you.

In our professional work, we help women in midlife who have come to a crossroads and want to stop “spinning their wheels.” Many of those women are returning to the workforce after a break to care for children or other family members. Others are working and want to pivot careers or turn their “passion project” into a new venture. At the same time, women are often dealing with personal transitions—divorce or other life challenges such as a health crisis or a move.

What we’ve seen is when women gain a better understanding of what they have to offer, their career direction becomes much clearer. If this pandemic has shown us nothing else, it’s the realization that life is incredibly fragile, and we need to rely on ourselves and our inner resources. Self-discovery becomes the most powerful tool you have to boost your next steps.

Silver linings: growth mindset

The beautiful reality is that transition poses an opportunity for growth. For those who have dealt with divorce, studies show that this life challenge, in particular, can actually boost your career if you allow yourself to gain three perspectives: space and time to yourself, a different threshold for risk, and the ability to break old patterns.

If you adopt a growth mindset and believe that you can learn and develop at any age and stage, the road ahead feels optimistic rather than troubled. A growth mindset is important for career success because it pushes you beyond your comfort zone to learn new things. Rather than saying “I’m not good at ___” and ruling it out, a growth mindset encourages you to think about learning as a process and say “I’m not good at it yet.” This shift will change your outlook for what is possible for you professionally.

Self-discovery: put YOU back in focus

Who do you want to be when you grow up? We ask children this question but don’t take time to ponder it as adults. Careers often unwind based on the expectations that others have of us—what our parents, partners, or friends think we should do—rather than what we want for ourselves.

Many women’s career expectations were defined in marriage through the lens of family and children. When the marriage ends, they have to completely redefine what work means for them. That takes time and exploration.

After divorce, women want more from their work lives—more meaning, more fulfillment, and more challenge. An important first step to distill a career vision is to think about the components that will drive you in your next chapter. Dedicate a journal to your professional journey to develop an understanding of your career vision. Take time to respond to these six questions below. Better yet, ask another woman to go through the exercise with you and have a conversation in an interview format by taking turns.

  • Draft a list of the values that shape you now and narrow down the shortlist to five that speak to you.
  • Think about your past interests—what activities do you love? Which ones come naturally to you?
  • What current interests or activities do you lose yourself in—whether for work or in other parts of your life?
  • What “superpower” do people in your life look to you for help or advice?
  • What are the elements in your life that need to come together in order to fulfill this dream? Think about work-life integration.
  • What does success look like for you now?

Say goodbye to version 1.0 of you. Hello to future you!

After you take an assessment of what motivates you, explore the various roles you’ve held. It’s easy to carry around an outdated and limiting view of yourself from a previous position or how your partner saw you in your marriage. Start thinking about how you have exercised your “superpowers” in the past and what you want to bring into the future.

Career reinvention is not a linear process, and it’s helpful to come up with multiple versions of your future.

Here’s an easy way to elevate what’s working for you (or worked in the past) and say goodbye to what no longer serves you as you think about possible 2.0 versions of you:

  • Make a list of every job you’ve had (paid and unpaid). In one column, write down “things to keep” and on the other side “thing to let go of.” On the “things to keep side,” think about the things you loved about each role and what skills you gained from the experience (both “hard” and “soft” skills).
  • On the other side, write down all the things that you don’t want to carry forward into new opportunities. These could be skills that you don’t want to amplify going forward or attitudes and behaviors, such as the way previous bosses or colleagues treated you.
  • Now look at the list and write down five possible versions of who you’d like to become that elevates the best of the “keep” side and downplays the “let go of” side. These don’t have to be specific titles or roles, it could be an area of interest, an organization you’re interested in exploring, or a hobby that you want to turn into a professional opportunity.

Keeping these lists in mind will allow you to be more intentional about your choices. Rather than fixating on one idea of what your next chapter will look like, they’ll encourage you to be open to exploring and experimenting. You can do this through low-risk opportunities, such as project-based or volunteer work.

Gain confidence with connections

In a study with divorced women, Francis Financial found that during the divorce process, women tend to focus more on their loved ones and less on themselves. This may include children, parents, and even friends having difficulty coming to terms with a divorce. As a result, women come out on the other side with their own priorities on the back burner and lower self-esteem. Does this statistic sound like you—38 percent of women did not have enough support going through their divorce. Many women emerge lacking confidence, especially when it comes to money matters. This is when doubt creeps in about starting over in a professional role. Am I good enough? Who would pay me for my skills? Am I too old to reinvent?   

You can do this!

Gaining clarity in your career means believing in the skills and talents you already possess! If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. If you’re having trouble recognizing your value, be part of a group of like-minded women who will be the mirror for your talents and skills. An important aspect of boosting your confidence is understanding what you bring to the table—you need other women in order to play this critical role for each other. Studies demonstrate that when women underestimate how others view their contributions, they unintentionally hold themselves back. For example, if a woman underestimates her value, she may be more cautious about applying for a job or promotion, asking for a raise, or starting her own venture. Women need to see their skills and talents mirrored back at them through the eyes of others to be successful in their careers. Who’s in your inner circle now?

 

Judy Schoenberg and Linda Lautenberg are the Co-Founders of Evolve, where they bring women in midlife together to kickstart their next chapter. Start your career journey with Evolve and find a group of like-minded women invested in your success. Evolve is a “come as you are” community ready to support you. We’re better together! Become an Evolve member here: Evolve Membership


 

 


 

Founder of the quick online divorce service It's Over Easy, Laura Wasser

A Quick Online Divorce: Is It Right for You? Interview with Celeb Divorce Attorney Laura Wasser

Divorce is probably not one of your Pinterest boards, but given the hefty cost of dissolving a marriage, a DIY divorce is an option that could save you thousands of dollars, giving you a financial springboard into the next phase of your life instead of opening a drain under it. When you consider that the *median savings account for American households is about $11,700 and the average cost of an “attorney handled everything” divorce is about $11,300, it’s a simple comparison to make, but it’s also a complicated and emotionally fraught equation and, at first glance, a seemingly impossible choice.

It’s not impossible, but it is tricky. Online divorce options are not for everyone. They are best for people who get along with each other well enough to communicate throughout the process, keep it uncontested, and have a handle on what they want for themselves.

SAS interviewed divorce attorney Laura Wasser about why she is now offering quick, online divorce as an option for her clients.

Q: Who are the best candidates for an online divorce?

A: “The best candidates  are couples who can exchange information and reasonably negotiate on issues like child custody,  spousal and child support, and division of assets and debts,” said Wasser, who has handled high-profile divorce cases for Maria Shriver, the Kardashians, Ryan Reynolds, and Stevie Wonder.

With 20 years in the field of family law, Wasser established It’s Over Easy (IOE), a quick online divorce option that enables people to have some flexibility within the platform, offers customization state to state, provides referral resources and help with filling out the forms.

Q: Can one have a private consultation with an attorney and then use her advice to complete the application?

A: “We structured It’s Over Easy so that if  people need to take a break from the process,  consult with an attorney or mediator,  and come back to the site once they have gotten the information or the necessary arguments, they can do so,” said Wasser.

What to be careful of…

As with any DIY project, with a quick online divorce you will be learning by doing. Check-in with yourself. Are you genuinely up for the task or learning what you don’t know? There is research and leg work involved, not just about choosing the right online platform and what they offer, but about the legal requirements particular to your state, county, and household. One of the biggest mistakes people make in the online divorce arena is not doing enough research to make sure the right steps are taken, to make sure they’re taken correctly, and to navigate the to-do list well enough to negotiate a fair resolution that works, especially for them long-term.

When you are going through a divorce, you don’t know what you don’t now. Chances are you’ve never been here before. So be careful of not rushing through a document so that you are “done.”

You may not have treated your marriage like a merger and your household like a business, but preparing for a divorce is a good time to adopt that attitude. It doesn’t mean you have to play an aggressive game of hard ball, but it does mean you have to maneuver and make decisions based on numbers, logic, and a realistic approach to what you need to live, not on romantic ideals or emotions. And it means you need to look out for yourself—not yourselves as a “team.”

Q: What are the most important things to be aware of in the divorce process, and how do they relate to doing it online?

A: “Anything you can resolve on your own,” said Wasser, “is better than having it litigated.”

“We built this platform so individuals could use mediators or family law attorneys, or divorce coaches. But we also really wanted to make sure that there were referrals to such professionals. I have done the research and found that many of the other  online  divorce services simply provide forms  but no assistance in filling them out or resources or referrals that you can turn to if you hit a wall.”

Penalty of perjury and transparency

If you are not the marriage partner who has been the bread-winner or in charge of the bills, budget, and retirement planning, you need to be prepared for a steeper learning curve, and for the solid possibility that your (Ex) spouse may not want to be as transparent about what they’ve been doing with “the books” as they should be—even if you do get along. He* is probably savvier about things like where to file, and if he has assets to protect, he knows how to hang onto them.

So a big question to ask yourself is, are you getting all the financial information you need? And who is helping you evaluate your financial choices? If you’re not experienced with finances, you need someone you can trust (not your spouse) to help you evaluate what’s truly fair.

Of course, you can fill out the financial forms on any online platform, but you need to make sure you have fact-checked and been appropriately guided on what is best for you financially.

Q: How do you complete the financial information on the forms if you know nothing about the finances?

A: “In many  cases, the forms and disclosures you each complete will almost mirror each other because the family only has a certain amount in income or assets, which have to be accounted for on the more knowledgeable spouse’s forms, as well.  All are filled out under the penalty of perjury, which helps keep people honest,” said Wasser. “But it is fine to seek help from someone on the outside who can coach you through the negotiations.”

An expert third party with a well-versed eye on the significant financial and emotional cost of litigation can help you make sure that what you are agreeing to makes sense for you,  not only now, but 20 years from now.

Q: What do women in particular need to be careful of?

A: “Women, be wary of being taken advantage of,” said Wasser.  “It seems that, whether we’re the breadwinners or not, often women feel  it is our duty to be the caregivers. This extends  beyond  our children and sometimes to our prospective Exes. There is no reason to be bullied into a settlement to which you cannot  adhere.  Make sure that you put your emotions aside and handle this as a business transaction.”

Q: If you are dealing with high end clients, why start a quick online divorce option?

A:Creating It’s Over Easy, and providing online support and availability for people to work through the process on their own and save time,  money, and aggravation is extremely important for me,” said Wasser, “as I see the outdated ways of practicing family law negatively impacting our children. With the landscape of divorce changing comes new and outside-the-box thinking and ways for people to move onto their next chapters.”

 

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, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce. Schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation with SAS. Tell us confidentially what’s going on, and regardless of your working further with us or not, we’ll give you black & white feedback, resources and suggestions for your next steps.

 

*(Statistics on average American savings accounts and the average cost of attorney-handled divorces were gleaned from CNBC.com and NOLO.com, respectively).

*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.”