Posts

Tips for Amicable Divorce

Top 6 Tips for an Amicable Divorce

In the minds of many people, divorce and court trials are inseparable like smoke and fire. A few decades ago, this was the case. Fortunately, there are other options nowadays, namely an amicable divorce, where married couples don’t have to wage war against each other in court.

After the adoption of the no-fault divorce law in 1970, the divorce rate skyrocketed. A 2019 University of Virginia research report revealed approximately 3 divorces per 1,000 married women in the 1960s. In the 70s, this figure rose to 4.5, and 5.5 in the 80s.

These results suggest that divorce was increasingly viewed as a viable option for women; they were feeling more empowered, making more money, and feeling like they had more choices.  In the latter scenario, these divorces can likely be uncontested or amicable.

What is an amicable divorce?

An amicable divorce is not about being best friends with your (soon-to-be) Ex and liking each other. You wouldn’t consider divorce in the first place if your relationship was a loving one.

In the context of ending your marriage, “amicable” means “civilized.” It’s about resolving disputes in a nurturing and productive environment.

A peaceful divorce is actually not that hard to get to if both sides are willing to make an effort. You’ve probably heard of Conscious Uncoupling, for example, or divorce mediation, or Pro Se (DIY) divorces. To learn if one of these alternative processes is right for you, consider these six key steps to ensure a smooth and amicable process–and don’t forget to ask yourself: are you and your spouse capable of them?

1. Have an open mind for negotiation

Honesty and openness are the foundation of a successful negotiation. If one of the parties starts hiding valuable information, assets, income, etc., it’s not going to work. Agree from the very beginning to be truthful about all the aspects of your divorce. Otherwise, all your efforts will be pointless.

SAS note to women: It’s one thing to say you both will be honest, it’s another to know that you both will be. If your spouse has a record of deceiving, betraying or hiding things from you, go for a more traditional approach to divorce. Hire a lawyer who is a good negotiator on your behalf.

Naturally, in any divorce, neither of you will get precisely what you desire. Don’t expect your spouse to agree with everything you suggest just because you think it’s reasonable. Sometimes their point of view may differ from yours, and you’ll have to accept that.

During negotiations, the most vital thing is to stay focused on the key points that hold the most significant interest to both of you. How much money would you need to meet your needs after divorce adequately? Could your spouse (or you) afford to pay alimony (spousal support) and child support? You and your partner need to carefully approach all the details together and make a joint decision. That’s the essence of peaceful negotiations, right?

2. Focus on the desirable result.

Can you remember why you got married in the first place? You were in love and full of hope to walk hand in hand through life until death separates you. Unfortunately, not all of us can reach that distant goal.

Nothing has changed since then except that your goals are now different. Have you already determined what you really want from this divorce? If not, it’s high time to start figuring it out. But if you know where you’re heading, don’t let negative emotions lead you astray.

An amicable divorce is all about attitude. Reduce the tension to a minimum, and keep your eyes on your goal.

Take time to ponder over your life post-divorce. Do you see your Ex in it? After an amicable divorce, many couples remain friends and even sometimes spend time with their children as a family unit. You must agree that such a scenario is more pleasant than fighting endlessly over all sorts of things.

Act based on what is paramount to you and ignore everything else. Work through any disputes peacefully and make sure your communication is positive.

3. Treat each other with respect.

An uncontested divorce is only possible with mutual respect and politeness. Both you and your spouse are adults and can behave accordingly. It’s not as challenging as you might expect.

Start with getting into a positive state of mind and remain focused on keeping calm. Also, listen attentively to your spouse and contemplate their suggestions. Don’t let your emotions take over.

Whenever you feel like losing it to anger, take a deep breath and pause before saying or doing anything. Consider the consequences in the long run–will your current action improve the situation in any way? If not, give it up. Neither you nor your spouse will win if you keep insulting each other instead of resolving disputes.

Show civilized behavior. Don’t badmouth your partner in front of your children and relatives. And especially, don’t gossip about them on social media. You’ll only entertain the public and receive even more negative feelings back. Such actions also won’t help you to maintain an amicable divorce.

4. Think about your children’s needs.

Divorce affects everyone in your family, and especially children. They are very sensitive to any changes in mood and attitude between their parents. Remember yourself in childhood and what acute sensations of the surrounding world you had.

Now imagine how terrifying it is for a child to go through a family breakup. You don’t want to aggravate the situation even more by fighting with the other parent, do you? On the contrary, you want to protect your children and make them feel loved by both you and your ex.

Learn to trust yourself to be a good parent. The same goes for your partner. It’s time to loosen your grip and stop controlling everything and everyone around. Every good parent brings up their children with a position of love and a wish to make their lives happy. You will never be able to communicate well with your ex if you do not trust them with raising children.

And since we have touched on the issue of healthy communication, children need to see their parents find common ground and behave in a civilized manner whenever they meet. It can make a huge difference in a child’s emotional health.

5. Get an educational consultation with an attorney: don’t rush to hire one.

You cannot become your own divorce lawyer fast enough, despite what Google makes you believe. If you are thinking about divorce, and especially if you have children, assets, and/or debt, we encourage you to draw up your questions and consult with an attorney to hear what the law says about your circumstances. Do this before you commit to “how” you will divorce, or even, “if” you will divorce.

After you are informed about the law, you can decide if you will pursue DIY divorce, mediation, an online divorce, or a more traditional approach of you hiring an attorney and your spouse doing likewise.

Consulting with an attorney does not mean you are necessarily getting divorced. It also does not mean you are seeking to be adversarial or un-“amicable.” It means you as a woman are getting educated on your rights and what you are entitled to before you act.

It’s good practice to consult with other experts, too. For example, you may want to keep the house but need to learn if it’s really in your best financial interest. Consult with a financial advisor to learn the optimal longterm play for you (and don’t rely on an attorney for this.) You might consult with a parenting expert if you have concerns on what the best custody arrangement will be or how to support your kids through the divorce. Throughout the process, you might recognize that you are feeling overwhelmed and need to get strategic and healthy in your approach to all things “divorce”, in which case your best move is to schedule a free consult with a divorce coach.

The Legal Takeaway

Keep in mind that in divorce, you won’t always get what you want. The ability to find compromises is what makes a divorce amicable. On the bright side, you will be able to control the outcome by at least 50%. If you go to court, you will have to surrender to the will of the judge.

Do you trust absolute strangers to decide your fate, or do you prefer to do it yourself? Get informed, double check information, and choose wisely. It’s you and your children who will have to live with the consequences, not the lawyers and judges.

6. Forgive and forget.

You probably think, “How can I forget all those times when I was wronged during my marriage? And why should I? Now, I want justice.” Well, guess what? Such an attitude will bring you nothing but more suffering.

There are no winners in divorce. And you won’t feel any better if you keep blaming your marriage breakdown on your partner. Be wiser than that. Does a butterfly think about the time it was a caterpillar? No, it spreads its wings and flies. So, instead of focusing on your past and arguing over it, choose to take action to help yourself recover and move forward. 

Learn how to help yourself grieve the losses you experience, choose to live in the present, and plan for the upcoming future.

Is it worth the try?

An amicable divorce is a conscious choice. It can’t be involuntary, and it doesn’t work for everybody. You have to decide for yourself what type of separation you want and stick to it. Just keep in mind that no matter what method you choose, going down the hateful path only brings more negative feelings into your life. There is always a way to go about any situation productively. You can choose less stress and fewer expenses with a more positive experience by opting for an amicable process.

Jamie Kurtz is a divorce attorney and a member of the State Bar of California. She’s a co-founder of a law company helping people with uncontested divorces and a contributing writer for OnlineDivorce.com, a web-based service for divorce papers preparation.

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.

Best Divorce Help

The Best Divorce Help Centers on These 4 Things

The mere prospect of divorce can be overwhelming, lonely, isolating, and confusing. And figuring out where to get the best divorce help, regardless of whether and when you decide, can be daunting.

Sometimes the most difficult part of a task is simply getting started. And that’s especially true with something as life-altering as ending a marriage.

Where do you even begin?

How do you strategize the pragmatics while navigating all the messy emotions and relationship issues?

Do you explore the process of divorce on your own, or share your thoughts with your spouse?

Do you separate or stay in the same home?

What about the kids? What about income?

What about…? What if…? How? When? Who?

You may be nagged by your inner voice telling you that something isn’t right. Something hasn’t been right for a long time. You can’t live like this anymore, but you don’t know what to do about it.

And so the clock ticks and the calendar pages turn…

And then you finally reach a fork in the road. You realize you have been overthinking leaving your husband, but haven’t taken any action. And you can’t keep living this way.

At the very least, it’s time to get answers, even if those answers lead you to stay in your marriage.

No matter what the outcome of your exploration is, the only way to deal with your fears is to move through them.

There are so many aspects of divorce, and no one but a divorce attorney goes into marriage well-versed in them.

What’s important to remember from the start of your journey is that divorce is a whole-life, whole-person experience. The approach to it, therefore, needs to be just as holistic.

We frequently discuss the transactional nature of divorce on this site, primarily as a caution not to lead or make decisions from your emotional place. Too often, women will back down when it comes to finances and assets, or they don’t think ahead to the future. This is an area, for example, that warrants a compartmentalizing of thought, emotion, and action.

But emotions are a huge component of both marriage and divorce. And they need to be acknowledged, dealt with, and supported, too.

For purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on four main areas of your well-being as you think about or begin divorce.

The smartest approach is the village approach. It involves strategizing the various areas affected by divorce and finding the best help, advice, and support possible for each area.

In essence, your first job in thinking through divorce is to build your village, your trusted circle of experts, friends, and support.

There are four common categories of support that you may require:

1. Clarity and Encouragement

It’s important to remember to think in terms of the big picture. Who has the familiarity, expertise, personal experience, and resources to guide and support you through this?

Perhaps you have a sister or best friend who has gone through the divorce process. She can be a tremendous source of comfort and been-there-done-that support.

You will also want to include expert professional help that can bring objectivity and strategic guidance to the table.

There are therapists who specialize in marriage and divorce issues. Finding one early in the process can be an emotional and procedural anchor for you, even after a divorce.

Some of the best divorce help you will find is from a divorce coach.

You may not have even known that profession existed. However, a divorce coach could be your greatest asset while navigating a divorce or a legal separation.

A divorce coach knows the process from start to finish. And a big part of her job is pointing you in the right direction at each stage of the process, based on your specific story and needs.

She will have access to resources you may not otherwise know you need. She will have experience working with other professionals in the area of divorce. And she will be able to steer you toward quality divorce help.

Think of a divorce coach as the ultimate guide and concierge for your varied divorce needs. A divorce coach had perspective, knowledge, resources, guidance, and support, all bundled into one person.

If you can’t afford to work one-on-one with a professional at this time, consider joining a group coaching program. You will not only receive guidance, but also you’ll receive support in the context of camaraderie with others going through the same process.

2. Emotional Stability

Sometimes the best divorce help is right inside you.

Your emotions are messengers, loaded with information that can lend insight and direction to your decisions.

I mentioned earlier that we often talk about separating your emotions from certain decisions. In no way does that mean that you should disregard or sacrifice your emotions.

Finding emotional support during the divorce process is of paramount importance.

You will need a place to “let go”—to vent, cry, stomp, question, and speak freely. You will also need safety and the assurance of like-minded, compassionate people who can help you discern the messages in your emotions.

All that fear, self-doubt, anger, sadness, grief, worry, exhaustion—you’re not the first to experience that cauldron of emotion. And you won’t be the last.

Sometimes the people you turn to for clarity and support—fellow divorcees, a counselor, coach, or support group—can help prop you up emotionally.

There is also an element of emotional stability that is often overlooked.

Self-care and good survival skills have never been more important than at this time.

We hear certain advice so often that we become numb to it, but now is the time to listen. Get plenty of sleep. Eat nutritious foods. Have a self-care routine. Exercise. Get out into nature. Meditate. Pray. Have a hobby. Create. All of these bits of advice are common for an important reason: they work!

The divorce itself, involved and exhausting as it is, is just the beginning of your new life. We need you healthy, strong, and encouraged for the journey ahead!

3. Legal Options

The time to have a legal consultation with a divorce attorney is before you tell your husband you want a divorce. And, regardless of your intended style of divorce (e.g. DIY, mediation, uncontested, contested, collaborative, etc), it is always best to have a legal consultation first.

If, however, you find yourself on the receiving end of divorce papers, you will want to find an attorney immediately for an understanding of what you should and should not be doing. This is where a divorce coach can be a diamond on a rough path.

Every state has its own divorce laws and procedures, and a divorce attorney will spell those out for you.

He or she will also walk you through the best- and worst-case scenario so you can be prepared and put yourself at the best advantage.

Whatever you do, don’t rely on Google for your legal advice! Sure, you can do some cursory research to generate questions and gain general familiarity about divorce laws in your state (alimony or custody laws, for example). But learn what the law says about your circumstances, and what you should optimize, from a lawyer who is looking at the details of your marriage.

4. Financial Choices

Yes, your divorce attorney can walk you through all the legal steps and their possible outcomes. But a huge part of any divorce is the division of assets. And that can get messy, depending on the length of the marriage and its accumulated investments and assets. Having a smart financial expert as part of your “village” is absolutely essential.

As a woman, you can’t afford to not find out what would be the best LONG-TERM plays for you because research says it’s harder economically for women after divorce compared to men.

So, don’t rush to get through the negotiation just because you want to be done. Be sure to learn what your must-haves are.

A good financial advisor (meaning one who has been in the business for more than 15 years and has seen various markets come and go) will be able to tell you about what’s in your interest in the near and LONG run. For this, SAS for Women adores Ronit Rogoszinski at Women + Wealth Solutions because she speaks plainly, educates, and clearly understands what women go through when they divorce. (And no, SAS received no “kick backs” from Ronit. We share her name openly because she’s impressed us with her service to our diverse — both, economically and geographically — female clients.)

Divorce is something no one needs to tackle alone. There is help available in every area of this painful (but liberating) journey—emotional, legal, financial, parental, etc.

The best divorce help starts at the center and works its way out. Establish your core supporters and allow them to help you expand your village from there.

By making a few wise choices at the foot of your journey, you may very well create a support system that sees you through life.

Notes

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

Life after divorce

How to Overcome the 6 Hardest Things About Life After Divorce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Certain friends and family have “disappeared”

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

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

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

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

4. An empty house

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

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

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

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

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

5. The shock of being “replaced”

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

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

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

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

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

6. Learning to let go and adapting to the Unknown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suing the other woman

Suing the Other Woman

A recent lawsuit in North Carolina has called attention to the presence of “the other woman” as a cause of divorce.

There are only six states left where a woman (or man) can file this kind of lawsuit—the other five being Mississippi, South Dakota, Hawaii, New Mexico and Utah. The legal suit, termed “alienation of affection” and its precedent dates back to the 1800s when women were still considered property. Initially, only men could make such a claim. That right shifted later to married women as well, but most states have repealed the dated laws in part because they were vehicles for revenge, greed, and blackmail. There is also the slipperiness of trying to litigate what makes a good marriage. Even the most practiced lawyer might find that tying the ideals of partnership, commitment, respect, and trust to the pragmatic iron of money is a bit like trying to put the mercury back into the thermometer.

In the case of N.C. residents Elizabeth Clark vs. Adam Clark (U.S. Army Major, Special Forces) and Dr. Kimberly Barrett (U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel and an ob-gyn at Womack Army Medical Center), the questions of infidelity and revenge include both the plaintiff and defendant. Both Clarks cheated on each other during their marriage, but later renewed their vows and went to marriage counseling. Regarding the issue of revenge, the former Mrs. Clark sought and won punitive damages against Barret for alienation of affection.

Details of The Clark v. Clark Case

The motivation for seeking these damages may have had more to do with child support than revenge, as Major Clark allegedly refused to pay most of it on behalf of the two children the couple had together. In retaliation, Clark posted nude pictures of his now-ex-wife on dating web sites, along with the claim that she had sexually transmitted diseases. Aside from being against the military code of conduct and behavior unbecoming of an officer, these were pictures that Clark had sent to her husband while they were married. He had been the only recipient—the only one, that is, before he made them public and publicly humiliating.

Revenge and punishment make up one aspect of the Clark v. Clark case.

Another is the question of property—begging the question addressed in some articles of whether it is possible to steal a spouse as a thief might steal a car or necklace. Marriage does involve property, but holding to the idea that such lawsuits are not valid from a humanist/feminist perspective because they sustain the antiquated, demeaning idea that the spouses themselves are property is one-dimensional. A more accurate interpretation is that this is far less about property than it is about a spouse violating a contract—that promise to love and cherish that are typically part of the marriage vows.

The Other Woman

It is not the “Other Woman” who made that vow; it is the spouse who is responsible for his (or her) end of that stick.

So why should a spurned wife go after the other woman for punitive damages—an action characterized as simply revenge, just a way to lash out at her for being his new choice?

The spouse breaks the vow; why should the other woman be on the hook for a promise he made? Because, in making the decision to get involved with and pursue a lasting relationship with a married man, the other woman is an agent of that contract violation.


If you are dealing with infidelity, consider reading What to Do With Your Cheating Spouse


She may not have made any promises to the wife of her lover, and she may not have signed a non-compete clause, and he may have cheated with someone else if he hadn’t with her.

But the fact remains: she helped him cheat.

There are grey areas, of course, and love does make things messy with some frequency. Occasionally, the spouse who is being betrayed is venal or toxic or has some other aspect of character that their mate finds unsustainable and unlivable. People are also organic; they change and grow, and the partners who once fit now don’t, and both of you may now fit and feel better with someone else. The other woman may have been one agent of a marriage’s demise, but there are almost certainly others, and it is not often appropriate or healthy to blame her. One could make intellectual and spiritual arguments about the role of the “other” in a marriage.

Professional Implications

Cheating may not be illegal in most cases or most states, but it is a question of ethics–particularly for a woman who took the Hippocratic Oath to “abstain from that which is deleterious or mischievous.” (Technically that does only pertain to patients, though). We may not marry the guy or the gal, but when we mess around with a married person, we help them cheat. Grey areas or not, who took the vow or not, that fact does remain.

In the case of Dr. Kimberly Barrett, not only has she made a high-powered, highly educated career out of facilitating the birth of other women’s families, she sat there in the courtroom and watched her lover denounce the love he told his wife he had for her all along. He said out loud on legal record that he lied to her, and Barrett watched with complicity, so that she could avoid responsibility for her participation in the corrosion of another woman’s marriage.

Apparently, the court agreed that she was culpable. On charges of alienation-of-affection, libel and revenge porn, Clark (a Fayetteville bartender) won $3.2 million from her ex-husband and his (new) wife.

Facing Facts

All grey areas, intellectual and spiritual perspectives and angles aside for the moment, it does make you want to ask, “How dare you?” to both parties, as Annette Benning’s character in the new movie Hope Gap says to that other woman, after her husband of 29 years tells her he is leaving her for his new love.

Not only did Clark cheat on his wife (as have hundreds of thousands of other spouses, male and female, across the globe), he stood up and testified in court that he never loved her, despite telling her throughout their marriage that he did. Barrett and Clark used the defense that Clark never loved his wife; ergo, Barrett wasn’t guilty of despoiling the sanctity of anything. The court disagreed.

To a sharper point than alienation of affection laws, then, perhaps one should give more focus to making illegal and subject to punitive damages the practice of marrying someone and maintaining that marriage under false emotional pretenses.

Notes:

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

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

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

How to divorce your husband and get everything by Weheartit

How to Divorce Your Husband and Get Everything

Emotions are tough to excise from a divorce. After all, being unhappy is how you got here in the first place. So, it’s not inconceivable that you would seek to learn how to divorce your husband and get everything.

Feelings, however, don’t write divorce laws or sway judges. And fuming into your divorce proceedings with a “get everything” attitude could be costly, both financially and emotionally.

It’s a natural byproduct of living in emotional warfare to want to get revenge. The hunger for validation and some kind of compensating vindication is understandable.

And nowhere is that more true than in a marriage with a narcissist.

Getting Your Fair Share When Divorcing a Narcissist

The emotional manipulation is constant. The mental twisting of gaslighting is maddening and exhausting.

And the narcissist’s mastery of playing his manipulation of you against his charming of others is isolating and even dangerous.

One of the must-knows when divorcing a narcissist is that you will not be receiving any thanks or compassion for your years of tortured commitment.

If anything, he will up his game to prey on your emotions and leave you with nothing.

All the more reason to study up on how to divorce your husband and get everything, right?

Well, not exactly.

Going into the mud with a narcissist is never going to end well for you.

He’s not going to see the error of his ways. And a court isn’t going to weigh its decision on your attempt to expose him for what he is.

Your safest and ultimately most advantageous approach is also the one that will not come naturally.

Emotional detachment.

Go ahead and scream. I know you want to. And God knows that man deserves it.

But once you enter into negotiating your divorce, you have got to put on your all-business face and put emotions aside.

“But he has ruined my life!”

“He was emotionally abusive.”

“He’s lying about everything.”

“He doesn’t deserve to get anything!”

Maybe so. But divorce court isn’t marriage counseling.

Knowing how to survive a nasty divorce is less about your relationship and more about the laws governing divorce in your state.

Sounds kind of heartless, doesn’t it?

In some ways it is.

And that’s not to say that the circumstances of your marriage will have no bearing on the final terms of your divorce.

It’s really just to say that the best tip for how to divorce your husband and get everything is to keep things transactional.

That means focusing on the business side of the contract, surrounding yourself with the right experts, and being prepared.

Develop a Level-Headed Plan for Your Divorce

You should even carefully plan out the timing of declaring your desire for a divorce (assuming you are the one initiating it).

Preparation also includes collecting hard copies of all your and your husband’s financial records and assets. Everything.

It means researching the divorce laws for your state and specific area. You need to know what you are entitled to before you can fight for it.

For example, some states have communal property laws. Not only will the assets acquired during your marriage be considered mutual property, but so will your debts.

Also, alimony isn’t a given in every state, even if you have been a stay-at-home mom.

Build Your Divorce Support Team Wisely

Probably the most important part of your preparation is the assembly of your divorce team.

If you’re looking for a way to divorce your husband and get everything, you may be tempted to find the most cut-throat attorney you can.

But be forewarned. This approach could end up costing you the money you want and the peace of mind you need.

Remember that divorce attorneys aren’t working out of a spirit of philanthropy. They’re expensive, and they round up, not down.

Going in with an attitude of “I want it all!” may get you a high-five and “Let’s get the bastard!” There are plenty of attorneys who will happily match your mindset if the money is there to support it.

But organizing a solid team isn’t necessarily about hearing what you want to hear, let alone an echo of your own thoughts.

Building a solid support team is about getting sound advice and guidance in areas where you’re not an expert.

It’s about hiring people intelligent, experienced, and ethical enough to look out for your best interest.

It’s about being courageous enough to trust experts to tell you what you need to hear, not necessarily what you want to hear.

For example, a tax expert should give you not only a current view of your liabilities, but your long-term ones, as well.

Adjust Your Ideas About “Getting Everything”

You may think in the moment that it would be sweet revenge to rip your 10,000-square-foot mansion out from under your ex-to-be.

But what is that asset going to mean for you down the road? Without access to your husband’s full ongoing income, will you be able to maintain it?

Or will you be weighed under by the mortgage, property taxes, and maintenance?

Investments and retirement are other considerations. You may “want it all” today, but you may not want the future liabilities.

That’s why you want to have outstanding financial, tax, and legal representation.

And that means representation that doesn’t delude you into believing that “getting everything” is likely, let alone prudent.

Dealing with Emotions During (and After) Divorce

Now, back to those emotions I told you to disregard in the interest of treating your divorce as a transaction…

It would be unrealistic to expect you to ignore your emotions during your divorce. This is one of the most emotionally traumatizing events you can experience in life.

It’s important that you understand what divorce does to a woman. And you’re not going to get the complete picture of that in one place.

The wisdom and preparation of this time simply calls for prudence in choosing who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Use the experts on your team for their chosen expertise. And use your therapist, divorce coach and an  educational divorce support group to hold you up emotionally and provide camaraderie.

Difficult as it may be to hear, planning how to divorce your husband and get everything warrants a shift in perspective.

“Everything” acquired in a state of anger or revenge will not be the “everything” that sustains you and builds a happy future.

You don’t have to forfeit anything.

And you should never forfeit your peace of mind.

 

Notes

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

*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.”

 

Is Cheap Divorce worth it?

Is Exploring a Cheap Divorce in Your Best Interest?

With divorce fees averaging a whopping $13,000 in the U.S., many couples tend to postpone their divorce until they are ready to fork up the cash for a good lawyer, or they stay trapped in a marriage, believing there is no way out. The truth is that the perfect time may never come. However, remaining in a failing marriage because you cannot afford to end it will only ensure your misery forever.

Luckily, more affordable divorce assistance from an online divorce company or other cheaper, divorce services may work for you. When should you use an online divorce service, and how do you make sure its safe and trustworthy? Every divorce is different and deserves careful consideration. Let’s take a look at some legitimate options suitable for your unique situation.

Would an online divorce company work for me?

There are 4 questions to consider:

  • Can I reach an agreement with my spouse on the division of property and debt?
  • Can I reach common ground on custody, child support, and alimony arrangements?
  • Are we ready to resolve all potential disputes amicably?
  • Do I know what I am entitled to by law as a woman in this marriage before I start signing anything?

If the answer to ANY of the first three questions is ‘no,’ an online service isn’t for you and it would be in your best interest to hire a lawyer. With #4, it’s SAS for Women’s (strongly urged) suggestion that regardless of how you think you might divorce (DIY, mediation, collaborative approach, or a more traditional approach) that you always have at least one private consultation with a lawyer (without your spouse in the room) to understand what the law would say you are entitled to and what your rights are, FIRST. If after learning this important information, you think you can advocate for yourself in conversation with your husband while using an online divorce company, then keep reading.

If the answer to all of these questions is ‘yes,’ your situation is more flexible:

  • Your marriage dissolution is uncontested, and hiring a lawyer is optional.
  • You can look into working with an online divorce company.

When you and your spouse are in full agreement on the details of the divorce, you can present your arrangement to a judge who will begin the process of the divorce judgement. The judge will likely approve your draft settlement as long as you are both satisfied with the agreement and it’s deemed fair. The judge will also ensure that it’s in compliance with divorce law in your state, and that you have considered the best interest of your children, if any.

When You Aren’t Able to Agree…

However, if you and your husband do not see eye to eye (you’re divorcing, after all), or you’re easily bullied because of the nature of your marital relationship, SAS for Women counsels you to schedule a consult with an attorney. Divorce lawyers do not just fill out the paperwork on your behalf: their job is to make sure you are protected and your rights and entitlements are ensured.

Another strategy is to consult with an attorney on the side as you attempt to do a DIY divorce. This could be an affordable and SMART way of doing a cheap divorce. See more about this below, or consider scheduling a free consultation with SAS for Women so we can hear more about your unique situation.

How to find the right divorce company for you

Before settling on a specific company, do the following:

  • Talk to people you know. If you feel comfortable asking your friends or colleagues who’ve been through a divorce if they have experience with online divorce services, see what insights they can offer. They might even be able to recommend a trusted company.
  • Read the reviews. Find a few companies by doing a simple search and see what their clients have to say. Be sure to check customer feedback on independent websites like Sitejabber, Trustpilot, or Yelp to find genuine reviews.
  • Prioritize the websites you trust. A good design and intuitive navigation mean that the company wants to make sure that customers will have a transparent process and ultimately a positive experience.
  • See what they offer. The services divorce companies offer vary, and some can help you if your case is contested. The key is to choose the one that has a good price-value ratio and will provide you with the required service package.
  • Review the guarantees. Knowing what deliverables to expect, how long the processes will take, and what the company’s plan of action is if they fail to meet your expectations will help you decide if the service is worth your time.

How to play it safe when using an online divorce company

Being skeptical about using online services to resolve legal issues, such as divorce, is natural. More so, questioning the reliability of any company you plan on using is a great way to protect yourself from potential losses. Here are a few things you can do to play it safe when ordering from a divorce company:

  • Talk to customer support. If there is none, that’s a bad sign. Ideally, someone should be able to assist you 24/7 and address any of your questions or concerns. Moreover, it is best when there are a few ways to contact the support team.
  • Check the privacy policy. In order to prepare your documents, a company will ask you to provide a lot of your personal information. Your SSN, driver’s license number, and other data are extremely sensitive and need to be treated as such. Therefore, make sure a company has decent protective measures in place to secure your private information.
  • Review the refund policy. It is crucial to understand when and how you can get your money back if something goes wrong. If a refund policy is vague, it leaves a lot of room for interpretation, which is code for “we try our hardest not to refund our customers.”
  • Look for hidden fees. While having extras to offer to the clients is absolutely fine, charging extra for services that were initially advertised as a part of a standard package is unacceptable.
  • Find out if they offer legal advice. If they do not have a legal license, that is a huge red flag. Make sure you verify their credentials first. Understand that divorce laws vary from state, and that again, best practice is for you to have a private consultation with a lawyer in your specific state before you start signing things.

Why use an online divorce service instead of other cheap alternatives?

If you want to save money, and you are the right candidate, a cheap divorce service is an option that trumps the alternatives. Other options include preparing your legal forms yourself or trying to find an inexpensive lawyer, or free or reduced fee legal services available in your town or state.

Searching for divorce forms on your own is obviously free. However, understanding how to find up-to-date and court-approved ones, picking those that suit your specific case, and filling them out correctly without having any legal knowledge takes a lot of time and patience.

Working with an online company, you are free to manage your time as you wish as you can access the website at any time. You will likely have to complete a simple questionnaire for the company to fill out your divorce paperwork and expect to pay a relatively minor flat fee. Depending on a service, you might get free filing instructions or request that a company representative files the forms for you for an extra charge.

Can I get help from a legal professional if I’m using an online service?

Of course! If you want to get professional legal assistance or advice and can afford it, it is a good idea. Some online services offer their own lawyers, but you can always choose to hire one on the side to avoid potential bias.

Overall, the more divorce-related aspects you and your Ex need to settle on, specifically those concerning joint finances, the better idea it is to get an attorney involved, even if you are willing to come to an agreement. Getting a lawyer would benefit you the most if:

  • You and your Ex jointly own real estate and other valuable property.
  • You have a share in the same business(es).
  • There are joint accounts (savings, checking, retirement, etc.).
  • You have underage children.
  • You and your spouse share debt.

While getting an attorney in an amicable divorce is optional, when you and your Ex are not in full agreement, it is a must. You may try mediation first though, as a mediator might help you resolve your disputes and simplify the divorce process for you. Making your case uncontested will not only give you a chance to opt out of lawyer’s services if you cannot afford them but also allow you to choose from a wider variety of cheap divorce services to get professional assistance from.

How much will I save by exploring cheap divorce options?

Getting help online rather than from an attorney will make a difference between paying “a thousand” and “thousands” of dollars. Considering the industry average, you may expect to save anywhere from $3,000 to $12,000. If you aren’t sure that exploring cheap divorce options is worth your time, think about your priorities. Note that you are not choosing between “simple yet expensive” (lawyers) and “complicated but affordable” (online companies). While the latter obviously takes a bit more effort, it is by no means hard to find a trustworthy service that will help you get a divorce. Therefore, it all comes down to how much money you want to save and how savvy you are in protecting your interests.

Surely enough, when you and your Ex are not in agreement, hiring an attorney is the best course of action. If you can reach agreement through mediation, you have a huge pool of cheap divorce options to choose from. Marriage dissolution shouldn’t be a luxury. While finding an online divorce company that suits your needs might take a little searching, it is in your best interests if you want to start the next chapter of your life without a huge burden of divorce fees hanging over your head.

 

Notes

Greg Semmit is a legal writer with years of experience working on Family Law topics. After winning a 2020 Law Scholarship from OnlineDivorcer, he joined the company’s writing and editing team to help spread knowledge about the best ways to approach the divorce process. In his free time, Greg assists his father with pro bono cases and roams the streets of New York with his Olympus making photos of the best spots in the city.

Since 2012, SAS for Women helps women face the considerable challenges involved in considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

 

“Divorce can be on your terms.” ~ SAS for Women.

 

Divorce mistakes women make

The 9 Biggest Divorce Mistakes Women Make

Simply hear the word “divorce” and chances are you feel a wave of emotion. Even the most amicably, equitably handled dissolutions are imbued with sadness, disappointment, and loss. But there are divorce mistakes women make that can lead to greater loss than marriage alone.

Divorce has a lot of parallels to the death of a loved one.

It marks a permanent end to an important relationship. It drags the predictable stages of grief in its wake.

And, as if adding insult to injury, it demands a resolute pragmatism against a backdrop of painful emotions.

Decisions have to be made—immediate, short-term, and far-reaching decisions. And many of those decisions will be complicated and will tempt your emotional resolve.

Most of the divorce mistakes women make are born out of this conflict. And they can be costly and regretful after there is clarity and it’s too late to make changes.

Here are the 9 biggest divorce mistakes women make. While you’re trying to figure out what to do, take time to also learn what not to do.

 

1.) Leading with your emotions.

Perhaps you and your soon-to-be-ex donned traditional stereotypes when it came to “emotional stuff.” You shed the tears and led with your heart; he was all business and quick to “fix.”

Perhaps there were incendiary topics that consistently led to heated conflicts and one person giving in to avoid more hurt.

Perhaps there are areas that always go for the jugular and cause you to react before thinking.

But now isn’t the time to let your emotions cloud your thinking. It’s not the time to cave in order to avoid conflict.

And it’s also not the time to drag things out to inflict punitive damage.

It’s time to be a wise, informed, level-headed advocate for your (and your children’s) future.

2.) Thinking there is an “ideal” time to divorce.

One of the biggest divorce mistakes women make is convincing themselves there will be an ideal or “better” time to divorce.

At any point in time, there are going to be challenges that make you question your timing.

You may not know how to file for divorce during uncertainty, as with the COVID-19 pandemic.

You may suddenly have a medical emergency with a family member.

If you have children in high school, perhaps you think it’s better to wait until they graduate.

The point is, there is never going to be a perfect, pragmatic time to divorce once you have made the decision that that’s your destiny.

3.) Not understanding the family finances.

This mistake can be the most costly to a woman. And it is only made worse by letting fear and/or emotional fatigue take the reins.

If you have deferred control of the family finances to your husband, it’s imperative that you get informed now.

Get copies of everything relating to your family finances—accounts, investments, debts.

And get a financial adviser to help you understand the picture that will ultimately determine your settlement.


For more steps to take if you are thinking about divorce or beginning the challenging process, read our “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.”


4.) Not understanding the future value and liability of the settlement.

Even if you have been involved in the finances, you probably don’t understand them with a future projection.

Different kinds of investments, for example, will have different tax liabilities. This area alone warrants having a financial advisor.

Just because something looks like “apples to apples” doesn’t mean it is.

5.) Settling too soon and for too little.

I get it. You’re tired and angry. You’re afraid. You just want to get it over with.

But settling too soon—and ultimately for too little—is one of the biggest divorce mistakes women make.

You may be overwhelmed by the realization that you have been completely in the dark about your finances.

It’s possible you feel guilt over your role in your marriage.

You may think a “decent sum” of money now will make walking away without a fight worthwhile.

But this is the time to suit up and show up for yourself and your future.

Put a little extra protein in your morning shake and get to work learning what you need to learn to advocate for yourself.

6.) Not using an attorney.

You and your ex-to-be may feel comfortable and amicable enough to work out most of the details of your divorce on your own.

No matter what you agree to, however, having your own attorney is just prudent. You need someone to cut through all that makes your divorce so “personal” and provide you with facts and figures.

Your divorce doesn’t have to be The War of the Roses in order for you to have what you’re entitled to.

But this isn’t the time to let your spouse be in charge of your future.

Hiring a good attorney, even if your divorce doesn’t go to trial, is your first step in building a circle of reliable support and resources. (Read more about questions to ask a divorce attorney.)

Your ex isn’t going to be directing your future after your divorce. Don’t give him that power now.

7.) Confusing justice with divorce law.

If you have been wronged in some way—infidelity, abandonment—this may be a tough pill to swallow. It’s only natural that you would want some kind of justice to make up for your suffering.

While no amount of money can make up for what you may have endured, a little legal justice would be gratifying.

Unfortunately, divorce law doesn’t work that way.

Part of your self-education should be learning the specifics of divorce law in your state. Some states are community property states. Some allow alimony and some don’t.

The point is, assuming there is no abuse or physical endangerment, divorce law isn’t punitive.

A good attorney will drive this point home so you can step outside your emotional thinking and into your pragmatic thinking.

8.) Keeping the family home.

It’s understandable that you would instinctively cling to the nest that you largely created on your own.

If you have children, you may not want them to be uprooted from their last vestige of familiarity. And “the house” may feel like your only anchor to not being demoted in your lifestyle.

But think about what it has taken to afford and maintain the house up to this point. Are you still paying a mortgage? What about property tax, utilities, and repairs?

Are you in a position to take on that responsibility by yourself?

While selling your house may seem like the final straw of loss, it can actually be a liberation. Starting over in your own place, downsized to what is essential and affordably comfortable, can reduce your burden going forward.

9.) Overspending

If you’re accustomed to a certain lifestyle, putting the brakes on spending money may feel unnatural and unfairly restrictive.

As you and your ex-to-be negotiate your settlement, non-essential spending will need to stop. Otherwise, you will be trying to pin a decision on a moving target.

Spending habits after your divorce will most likely also need modification.

Women usually come out of a divorce with less of a financial advantage. They struggle, in general, more than men post-divorce, living on restricted budgets and a lower income.

Of all the divorce mistakes women make, the most crippling and unnecessary is believing they have to go through a divorce alone.

Whether you’re contemplating or embarking on a divorce, there is plenty of support to help educate, guide, and encourage you.

One of the most empowering outcomes of going through a divorce is emerging with the realization that you can take care of yourself…

…because you already did.

 

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.

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

 

How much will my divorce cost me?

How Much Will My Divorce Cost Me, Financially & Emotionally?

Losing your marriage is difficult enough. But add to it, your fears about the financial and emotional price tags, and you may feel paralyzed. You might try to simplify and ask a clear question, How much will my divorce cost me?  — a logical and pragmatic question to ask.  And then you hear that its answer isn’t so straightforward either.

It’s of little help to hear, “It all depends” when you’re searching for absolutes in the middle of chaos. But the cost of divorce really does depend… on a lot of things.

When it comes to the cost of the divorce itself, the biggest determining factor is what you and your ex-to-be can accomplish on your own.

If the two of you can agree on how you want your divorce to look, you can save both time and money on legal fees. 

That may sound like a tall order when “not agreeing on anything” is part of how you got here. But it’s not impossible, especially if you both value what the effort could save you in dollars and sanity.

An uncontested divorce is less complicated, less expensive, and less time-consuming than a contested divorce. Even if you use lawyers for a small part of your case—a process called limited scope representation—the savings can be substantial.

All states have a fee for filing divorce papers. If you write and file your own, your fee could be as little as $70 and as high as $500. Some states will even waive the fee for filers with low income.

If you choose to go the DIY route, the person who files will have to serve the other spouse with divorce papers. If a private process server is used, that could add another $50.

One catch to an uncontested divorce is that it’s non-appealable. Given that the two of you came to your agreement on your own, this shouldn’t be a problem. 

So far, not so bad.

The more complex answer to “How much will my divorce cost me?” depends on the experts and the amount of time involved. And this is where a contested divorce can become quite costly.

If you and your ex-to-be can’t agree on one or more areas of your divorce arrangement, your divorce will be contested. 

And, if you can’t settle out of court, your divorce will have to go to trial. Your divorce terms will then be at the mercy of a judge. 

That means that, after all the money spent on legal fees, you still may not get what you want. The judge will decide what gets prioritized and how.

The average divorce takes 4 to 11 months. If a divorce has to go to trial, however, it could take over a year.

This is where forethought and unemotional planning can save you a lot of money and mental anguish. 

Time is money, and attorneys and courts round up, not down. 

The national average cost of divorce is about $15,000 per person. That includes legal fees, court costs, and the cost of hiring outside experts. (Even if you do a collaborative divorce, for example, you will have to build a team of experts. You will have your attorney, of course. But you will also have specialists like a financial advisor, a child custody expert, and maybe a therapist.)

How much will my divorce cost me when it’s all said and done? Well, that will depend, in part, on the following factors:

  • Is the divorce contested or uncontested? 

Even an uncontested divorce will cost, on average, $1,000 and up to $5,000 in attorney’s fees.

  • Does your attorney charge a retainer fee or by the hour? 

A retainer fee will include most of your legal and filing fees. It will also cover the cost of meeting and communicating with your lawyer and your lawyer showing up at court on your behalf. 

If your attorney charges by the hour, you’re looking at an average hourly rate of $150-250 in some areas of the country, and more in other regions. That rate can skyrocket depending on where you live and the complexity of your divorce. So make sure you ask the attorney you interview about their retainer and hourly fee. (Visit here for more smart questions to ask a lawyer during an initial interview.)

It’s important to remember that the legal profession rounds up when it charges by the hour. That 5-minute quickie phone call will be billed as at least 15 minutes. And 35 minutes of document review could be a full billable hour. 

So, regardless of whether your divorce is contested or uncontested, lawyers don’t give sympathy-vote coupons. 

Being organized and concise and having a well-thought-out and reviewed plan is essential to not throwing money away.

  • Where do you live? 

You will pay a lot more to get a divorce in California, for example, than you will in most other states. (But that’s true for everything in California. Why should divorce be any different?)

Be sure to educate yourself about the average costs of divorce by state.

  • Do you have children?

Custody can be complicated. If you and your spouse are contentious over this subject, the court may require an evaluation from a custody evaluator. That could add another $1,000-2,500, assuming you don’t hire a private evaluator.

Child support will also have to be decided on, and that will depend on incomes and visitation or custody arrangements.

  • Will there be alimony? 

Every state has its own guidelines regarding alimony. Texas, for example, has strict criteria for alimony eligibility. 

When you start asking, “How much will my divorce cost me?” you’re most likely thinking in terms of money and pragmatics. 

You may be searching for ways to pay for a divorce, and that could affect your decision to file if the divorce is your initiative.

You may be getting a grim picture of what divorce does to a woman in terms of finances and lifestyle. And that could make you fearful of stepping out on your own.

But there is another cost to divorce that often gets overlooked or pushed to the background during the tediousness of the divorce itself—and that’s the emotional cost.


For more on the economics and emotions that may come with your journey, read our What Does a Gray Divorce Mean for You?”


Both men and women will go through the grief process as it relates to the loss of their marriage. But there are some emotional aspects that tend to be unique to women.

First of all, women file for divorce more often than men. If you count among that group, you have had a head start on your husband. And that difference has an impact.

Even if you have been miserable for years, nursing the idea of divorce over time gives you an emotional advantage.

By the time you inform your ex-to-be of your intentions, your brain has already made adjustments. It has silently grappled with past and pending losses, and you have maybe started to envision the future.

This doesn’t mean the consequences of your divorce will be easy. It simply means that there is a difference in emotional adjustment between the person who “knew” and the person who didn’t.

Working Through “Surprise” Divorce

If, on the other hand, you were on the “surprise” end of the divorce and don’t want it, your experience will be very different. 

The shock can open the floodgates to a wave of emotions—devastation, anger, fear, panic. You may even cling to your marriage or make promises and concessions that don’t honor yourself. 

While men are quicker to remarry after divorce, women are more likely to build and rely on a strong support network. They are also more likely to suffer financially and for a longer period of time.

Women also often struggle with their identity post-divorce. 

If they are mothers, they are now single mothers, and they’re likely living on limited income. 

They may have to start working outside the home and leaving their children in daycare. Feelings of guilt and sadness are only natural.

And now that their identity as wives has been annihilated, they have to reevaluate who they are in the context of love and relationships. 

On a positive note, the beauty that often emerges from this cocoon is a clear, confident, unshakeable love of self.

Women have a remarkable ability to reinvent themselves, even in the face of limited resources. And their willingness to reach out for help and support helps them create a sphere of influence with far-reaching benefits.

Perhaps, when the question “How much will my divorce cost me?” becomes paralyzing, you can benefit from a shift in perspective.

Ask yourself what your marriage is costing you and what your loss of life-force will be if you remain stuck.

The examination may lead you to a realization that there is still work left to do on your marriage.

It may also lead you to the realization that your work there is finished.

Notes

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

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

How to file for divorce during uncertain times

How to File for Divorce During Uncertainty

Divorce is an obstacle course of flaming hoops, even under the simplest and most amicable conditions. But knowing how to file for divorce when you’re still uncertain is its own form of uncertainty.

There’s so much to figure out. Do you stay and work it out when you’re unhappy and unmotivated? Should you start planning for divorce but stay quiet about it? Do you tell your spouse you want a divorce before doing anything?

Or do you take matters into your own hands and start proceedings?

And what about all the chaos and uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic?

Sheltering in place can certainly foster much needed family and relationship time. But it can also confirm stirring doubts if a marriage is unhappy or unhealthy.

Even if you know that divorce is the way you have to go, the circumstances of this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic fuel their own doubts.

And where do you even start? Divorce is complicated enough without having limited access to necessary resources and agencies.

There’s something about certainty that provides clarity. It’s as if the path ahead clears itself in anticipation of your next move. You’ve decided. You’re focused. You’re driven.

But permanent, life-changing decisions like divorce are rarely so clear-cut.

You may be overthinking whether to leave your husband. Perhaps you’re terrified of the loss of financial security, social approval, and custody of your children. Maybe you’re stuck remembering the good times, unsure of how to move on.

You may be determined to go through with a divorce, but the current circumstances brought on by COVID raise new questions and concerns.

For example, many courts and legal services were closed in the early months of the pandemic. Even those that have reopened may be playing catch-up for a long time. Then there’s the uncertainty of whether the courts and legal services will remain open as the number of COVID cases begin rising again. You will have to think about how that could affect the timing of your divorce and your access to needed services.

Additionally, you or your spouse may have lost your source of income. Your investments may have taken a big hit, especially if you have had to rely on them for survival. Any changes in employment and finances during this time could make your settlement more difficult to negotiate.

Even the pragmatic issue of physical separation could prove problematic. Most realtors and landlords have resorted to virtual property tours to avoid in-person contact, potentially making a home search more difficult.

How could your kids be affected by a divorce or physical move at this time?

If you have children, you know that schooling has become more complicated, even from school to school. Some have returned to in-person attendance, some are virtual, and some are a blend of the two.

There are countless reasons to feel overwhelmed with uncertainty at a time like this. And that overwhelming feeling can make it difficult to focus on learning how to file for divorce if and when you decide to do so.

The less confusion and fear you have about the process itself, the more clarity and security you will have about your decision.

Just as importantly, that clarity will keep you from making mistakes that could cost you heartache and money now and down the road.

As tempting as it is to be easily triggered and reactive, wisdom would advise you to convert that energy into making a plan.

Educate yourself on the various stages of divorce and what it takes to dot your i’s and cross your t’s. And know the consequences if you overlook something.

It’s important to know upfront that every state has different laws. From residency requirements within your county and state to waiting periods, every state has its own divorce process.

Here is an overview of the divorce process, regardless of what state you’re in. This can serve as an outline for guiding your questions and helping you get educated and prepared.

  1. Prepare a divorce petition. 

One spouse has to file for divorce, which starts with a divorce petition.

Every state provides couples the option of filing a no-fault divorce, which can make an uncontested divorce much simpler (and less expensive).

  1. File the divorce petition.

The petition for termination of marriage must be filed with the correct court within your district.

  1. Ask for temporary orders if necessary. 

Perhaps the required waiting period isn’t possible for you. You may need a court order to secure child custody, child support, and spousal support.

Other temporary orders include status quo orders, temporary property restraining orders, and restraining orders.

Depending on your situation, you should become educated on all of these orders and their possible necessity in your divorce.

  1. Serve your spouse with the appropriate documentation. 

There are laws governing the serving of divorce papers and reporting it to the court. There can also be consequences for not following the required procedures and deadlines.

  1. The recipient files a response. 

The recipient response, whether agreement or contest, must also be filed within a certain amount of time.

  1. Negotiate a settlement. 

Obviously, your divorce will go much more smoothly if you and your spouse can negotiate your own terms. Division of assets, child custody, and support, alimony (if applicable)—the list is long and should be thought out in detail.

Even if you and your spouse are able to be agreeable, you would still be wise to seek professional guidance for this stage.

  1. The hearing. 

Depending on your and your spouse’s ability to work agreeably, you could have either an uncontested hearing or a trial.

  1. The final judgment. 

Just what it sounds like, this final step is the first step to your new life. It’s also the point at which you will want to feel secure that you have done everything right leading up to it.

If all of this sounds daunting, know that your feelings are only natural. You’re considering the end of a marriage and a change in life for your entire family.

But now is the time to channel that consternation into preparedness. You’re seeking clarity so you know your options and can best prepare for and protect your future.

Learning how to file for divorce when there is so much uncertainty will be easier if you surround yourself with experts knowledgeable about the process.

Clarity comes from knowledge. And there are plenty of resources with the knowledge you will need to navigate this life-changing process.

You may not have a clue how to get started, but you can build a trustworthy team to guide you.

A divorce coach, for example, can serve as the hub of your wheel, directing you through both pragmatic and emotional decisions.

A financial expert can help make sense of your marital finances and lay the groundwork for an equitable settlement and a plan for your future.

And a good family law attorney that specializes in divorce will provide sound legal guidance and walk you through the legal process.

Here are some tips for how to file for divorce when you’re feeling uncertain.

  • Grab a journal.

Give it a hope-filled title if that will inspire you to make it your constant companion. The important thing is that you get used to documenting… everything.

You don’t have to be on the verge of the War of the Roses to justify documenting everything that is or could be relevant to a divorce.

This journal is your private, dedicated space for logging questions to ask a divorce attorney, answers, research, resources, events, conversations, and concerns.

When you have this vital information safely written where you can easily access it, you can let go of some anxiety. You will also be prepared for discussions with lawyers and other consultants.

  • Get organized.

Now is the time to start collecting and organizing copies of all information that could affect your settlement and therefore your future.

This is also one of the first vital steps if you’re asking, What should I do to leave my husband? 

In the context of fear and uncertainty, organization is incredibly clarifying and empowering.

Buy an accordion folder and organize all your documents. Make copies of any documents that pertain to both of you.

If you have been in the dark regarding your marital finances, be sure to get access to all relevant information. Investments, accounts, retirement (401(k), IRA), life insurance, social security, past taxes, children’s records (medical, education), mortgage and home expenses, etc.—it all matters.

  • Consider hiring a divorce coach.  

According to the American Bar Association, “Divorce coaching is a flexible, goal-oriented process designed to support, motivate, and guide people going through a divorce to help them make the best possible decisions for their future, based on their particular interests, needs, and concerns.”

The more upheaval and uncertainty you feel as you look to the possibility of divorce, the more essential a divorce coach becomes.

An experienced divorce coach will be able to advise you as to whether a traditional, pro se, mediated, or collaborative divorce is best for you. And she can also help with aspects of the process that an attorney can’t or won’t.

From pre-divorce to post-divorce, a divorce coach can be your link to sanity and hope. Some coaches offer not only private coaching, but educational, divorce support groups, which can lessen the expense of working with a coach and give you a much-needed community so you feel less weird, less alone.

  • Talk to an accountant or financial advisor.

Find someone who can do a thorough analysis of your financial situation and help you prepare for the future.

Women commonly enter into a life of lowered income post-divorce, so they need prudent guidance in forecasting their situation and future needs.

The longer you have been married and the more complex your marital finances, the more important it is to have expertise on your side.

  • Find the right lawyer. 

Whether or not you want to do your divorce on your own, at least consult with a family law attorney. Have your questions and concerns listed in your journal and bring your portfolio of documents.


If you are wondering what else you can do BEFORE you file, read our “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce”


Being organized and prepared will not only help with legal expenses but will help you to hear the answers more effectively.

  • Update your resume and start researching employment. 

Whether you have been actively employed or have been out of the workforce raising kids, this is the time to look ahead.

Update your resume, polish up your relevant skills, and do some research on the job market, even if you currently work.

If you have lost work during the pandemic, you may find that your options are limited. Or you may be forced to change the way you work.

Working from home, for example, may not be as simple as it sounds if you’re starting divorce proceedings.

Entering the job market during the cultural uncertainty of COVID could be challenging. It’s therefore important that you have a firm grasp on your gifts and skills and are prepared to be creative in their use.

You may not have had to worry about things like health insurance and retirement funds in the past. But now you could be on your own without those safety nets.

  • Get your credit in good shape. 

Know where your credit stands. Get a copy of your credit report and review it before sharing concerns with your accountant.

You may have credit issues tied to your spouse. And you may have debts accrued by your spouse but reflecting on you.

It’s imperative that you know where you stand and how to protect your credit going forward. You will need good credit to secure essentials like housing and credit cards in your name.

Now is the time to work on rebuilding credit in your name, even if you simply start with a secured credit card.

  • Don’t jeopardize the outcome.

Simply put, mind your p’s and q’s. Don’t do anything that could give your spouse ammunition to use against you in your divorce.

Don’t start dating. Avoid making large or unnecessary purchases. Don’t start pitting your kids against their father. And don’t unilaterally change your parenting practices.

Knowing how to file for divorce during uncertainty starts with a focus on achieving clarity.

Just because you research the divorce process and prepare yourself for the possibility doesn’t mean you’ve signed off on a divorce.

It simply means you will step confidently and wisely into your future if you do decide to end your marriage.

 

Since 2012, SAS for Women has been entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusion afterward. SAS offers 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 “he.”