Posts

Divorce Laws in Illinois

What to Know About Divorce Laws in Illinois

Divorce is difficult. There are legal processes to deal with and emotional issues to overcome. And while, divorce laws differ from state to state, with some states having longer, more difficult processes, if you live in Illinois, getting a divorce is not as challenging as in many other states. For this reason, it’s important to acquaint yourself with the divorce laws in Illinois. 

Although divorcing in Illinois is not difficult, few people know how to go about it. Here is some information that can help.

Eligibility requirements for divorce in Illinois

According to Illinois divorce laws, couples can only divorce if one of the spouses has been a resident of the state for at least 90 days.  

Where a child custody agreement is necessary, the children must have been residents of Illinois for at least six months. 

Couples must also legally separate for at least six months to commence divorce proceedings in Illinois.

Uncontested divorces are quicker to finalize than contested ones because, with the latter, the couples disagree on issues that they must streamline before they can divorce. 

Some grounds for divorce that the state of Illinois recognizes are:

  • Willful desertion
  • Irreconcilable differences
  • Conviction of a crime
  • Domestic violence
  • Venereal disease
  • Drug/alcohol addiction
  • Abandonment for one year or more
  • Attempted murder of one’s spouse
  • Unexplained absences
  • A prior marriage that was never dissolved

The legal divorce process

If you have grounds for divorce in Illinois, here is the simplest way to file for one and begin the legal process.

If you are the plaintiff, the first step is to ensure the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is delivered to the defendant. Once the defendant receives the petition, he or she has 30 days to respond. 

Some supporting documents, such as a parenting plan (with children involved), can also be filed in addition to the petition. If the judge finds all the paperwork is in order, s/he will grant the spouses a Judgement of Dissolution of Marriage.

You and your spouse can also file for divorce together by filing a joint petition for simplified dissolution. You can file this petition when where there are no complications, and spouses are largely in agreement on how to go about the divorce. Factors that make a simplified dissolution of marriage possible include:

  • A marriage with no children
  • A marriage that has not been in existence for more than 8 years
  • Divorce without expected spousal support
  • Where the couple wants to get a divorce on no-fault grounds
  • A marriage where the couple involved have a written agreement on how to divide debt and any existing property in excess of $100 between themselves.

Divorce coaching and support

The above are just procedural facts. However, we know divorce is highly triggering and emotional responses can lead the charge. So if you are a woman, we urge you to consult and ask the right questions of a divorce attorney before you make any decisions about “how you will divorce” or before you agree to any terms with your spouse —yes, even if you want to do it amicably. You’ve probably never divorced before, and just rushing through the divorce process, agreeing to terms because you “want it to be over” is a very bad strategy.

As divorce coaches, we know the number one mistake women often make is that they do not do due diligence in securing their best outcomes. In other words, they don’t find out what the law entitles them to. Without talking to a divorce lawyer, you do not know what you don’t know and what you are giving up. This could have serious implications for your future. Divorce laws exist for good reasons —these laws are often designed to protect women and children. So find out for sure before proceeding.

Child custody requirements

Children are the most important part of our lives. We often worry about getting a divorce because we are thinking of their well being. In Illinois, a child is anyone under the age of 18. Illinois law defines a child as one who is under 19 years and still in high school.

Fortunately, the divorce laws in Illinois put children’s welfare first to ensure their happiness after the divorce. The court decides who gets custody of children in a divorce by considering the best interest of the child or children involved. 

The custodial parent has responsibility for taking care of the children while the other parent pays child support, which the court calculates according to their income. The couple can also agree on joint custody, in which case they need to enter into a Joint Parenting Agreement. 

In Illinois, child support is calculated as a percentage of one’s income after deductions such as FICA are removed from an individual’s income. The percentage increases according to the number of children involved.

Marital property during divorce

In Illinois, law categorizes property as “separate” during a divorce if earned before the marriage. On the other hand, marital property is what the couple acquired during the marriage.

Marital property belongs to both spouses, and the judge splits it up among the two in the divorce. However, any separate property belongs to the owner and does not get split in the divorce.

Couples should be careful with the separate property as it can turn into marital property. For example, if you receive money from a gift or inheritance and put it in a joint marital account, the court can categorize that as marital property. Therefore, be careful about how you handle your personal assets. If you inherit money, do not commingle it with your marital accounts.

Illinois divorce law and dividing assets

In Illinois, judges are responsible for dividing property in a divorce. The judge ensures a fair distribution of any property or assets among the spouses based on the following factors.

  • Health and age of the couple
  • How much each couple contributed to the marital property
  • Financial resources of each spouse
  • How long the marriage lasted
  • Employability of either party

Unfortunately, since judges look at the spouses’ earning capacity, it means the lower-earning party can get a bigger portion of the marital assets and property.

The good news is any misbehavior during the marriage, such as adultery, will not hamper the chances of a spouse getting what is justly theirs when the property is divided.


For more practical, legal, and emotional things to do to support yourself, read our 36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce


In Illinois, the law considers retirement property acquired by the spouses during their marriage to be marital property too.  You may worry about splitting such, and that is okay. The process is quite complicated, and it is best that you and your ex-spouse contact a financial advisor for help in understanding and making the process easy.

When it comes to inheritance, a surviving spouse cannot claim the ex-spouse’s property after their death, if their divorce is finalized. 

Spousal support and alimony

According to divorce laws in Illinois, when it comes to paying alimony, either of the spouses can get spousal support from the other after a divorce. 

However, the court will decide how much alimony the deserving spouse receives. It will also consider other factors, such as the emotional, physical, and mental condition of both parties. In many cases, the court sets alimony arrangements only for a specific duration as judges expect the deserving spouse to become self-supporting after some time. 

The spousal support can be permanent if the deserving spouse is unable to support themselves indefinitely; for example, if they have a debilitating injury that prevents them from working. Where a divorce is pending, courts can also allow spouses to get temporary alimony agreed upon by both parties.

Can you get a no-fault divorce in Illinois?

A no-fault divorce is where spouses get a divorce without putting fault on each other. They only have to give any reason that the state approves for a divorce to get it. 

For example, in Illinois, a no-fault divorce can be granted if the couple says their union is irretrievably broken. An irretrievably broken marriage is where a couple cannot get along in their marriage, and their relationship cannot be repaired. 

If you want to divorce your spouse, it’s best to maintain a cordial relationship so that you may be eligible for a no-fault divorce. However, sometimes it’s difficult as relations are quite broken by the time you seek a divorce. If you are undergoing a difficult process, seeking a divorce coach or mediator can make things easier.

Are there other options apart from a divorce?

According to divorce laws in Illinois, there are other alternatives to getting a divorce. For example, a couple can get their marriage annulled or legally separate. The process of divorcing in Illinois, although much easier than in many other states, can be challenging. It’s always a good idea to contact a divorce coach to better understand the process and what steps to take first or a divorce lawyer for helping you understand what your rights are and what you are entitled to.  

 

For women seeking structure, guidance, education, and support as they “contemplate” or begin the actual divorce/separation process, we invite you to consider Annie’s Group, our powerful, virtual, group coaching program for women only. Annie’s Group provides support, education, and a community of like-minded, resourceful women, so you feel less alone. Read more here

How is Property Divided in a Divorce Settlement?

How is Property Divided in a Divorce Settlement?

During a divorce settlement, there needs to be a clear agreement on everything, including kids, assets, liabilities, and properties. Because of this, arguments may arise from property settlements. This usually involves property that the couple bought before or during their marriage. But there are still a lot of intricacies to consider when it comes to settling properties, which are important to understand if you’re beginning the settlement process. Learning how property is divided in a divorce settlement can help you prepare for your new future.

What Are The Types of Property? 

Typically, there are two types of property that a judge will distribute during a divorce settlement. These are separate property and community or marital property. 

• Community or Marital Property

Community property refers to the properties acquired by using earnings during the marriage. 

As much as it includes all the acquisitions during the marriage, it also takes into account the debt and mortgages incurred. In effect, all debt and property incurred during the marriage are classified as community property. 

• Separate Property

On the other hand, separate property will include inheritance and gifts bequeathed to that certain spouse. This also includes personal injury awards and pension proceeds. 

In addition, a property your spouse purchased using his or her separate funds will be considered as separate property. All kinds of property purchased or acquired before the marriage is also considered as separate property. 

What Properties Can You Keep?

By understanding the two types of property, you can determine how property is divided in your divorce settlement. This helps you work with a lawyer to identify which properties you can keep. Determining which properties you can keep depends on your specific scenario. However, classifying your assets as separate or community property can help the judge and lawyers guide you through the divorce settlement. 

• Offshore Asset Protection Trust

Assets, including property, that you put into an offshore asset protection trust cannot be taken away during a divorce settlement. This trust is usually established under the laws of a different country and managed by a trustee. Given that it’s under the law of a foreign country, your home country won’t have any jurisdiction.

So, if you’re facing a divorce settlement, it’ll be very beneficial if you can put up an offshore asset protection trust so that you can keep your properties. If you still need more information on this, you can check out www.milehighestateplanning.com/offshore-asset-protection

• Property Bought Before The Marriage

Any kind of property that either party bought before the marriage is separate property. This, in itself, is proof that the intent of the property is just for one spouse. 

So, if you have any property from before the marriage, the law does not require you to include that in the settlement. As a result, it will remain under your ownership.


If you’ve been out of the workforce raising your children, you’ll appreciate this article: How to Prepare for Divorce If You are a Stay-at-Home Mom.


• Commingling and Transmutation

Properties that involve commingling and transmutation may be harder to provide evidence for, but you may still be able to keep them. 

To start, the law defines commingled properties as assets that you bought together using a joint bank account. When this happens, it may be more difficult to prove ownership. So, you need to keep separate accounts to have good records of property ownership. If you have separate accounts and can trace back who bought it, then this may be one of the properties that you can keep.

On the other hand, transmutation is a type of separate property that the law treats as marital property. To illustrate, this usually occurs when both spouses use the property. However, in reality, just one of the spouses bought and paid for the property. 

If you have records that you bought it, even if you use this property with your spouse, you can build a case to keep this property. So, when it comes to a divorce settlement, keep a good record of your purchases so you can prove this more easily. 

• Property You Contributed In

Lastly, if you have a property where you and your spouse made different contributions, this can also be a property that you can keep. With records on how much each spouse has invested, you can either split the property or buy out the other spouse.  

Conclusion

In a divorce settlement, you need to be knowledgeable about these kinds of properties to get what you feel you deserve. 

Now that you know the types of properties during a settlement and what kind of property you can keep, you’ll be able to strategize more efficiently with your lawyer. Remember to consult your divorce coach about the process of divorce and your recovery and your lawyer about the legal matters. 

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.

Women must know about divorce in texas

6 Things a Woman Must Know About Divorce in Texas

Every state is unique in how it adjudicates divorce, adding to the headache of getting on with life-after-marriage. And the Lone Star state, as you might expect, has its own unique rule book. There are several things a woman must know about divorce in Texas if she is going to avoid painful surprises. We’re going to look at six of them.

From waiting periods to custody to the division of assets, it’s imperative that a woman goes into her divorce with eyes wide open. And, if that woman is you, the time to educate yourself and prepare is now.

Even if you’re still in the not-sure stage, there is a checklist of things to do if you are contemplating divorce. The fact that “the big D” is stirring around in your mind may be the shoulder-tap you need to work on your marriage.

But, if you are past the point of possible resolution, it’s time to bring your A-game. The more informed and prepared you are, the better you (and your children) will be going forward. So embrace the unembraceable with wisdom, dedicated research, and unflappable self-advocacy.

Let’s look at six important things a woman must know about divorce in Texas.

 

  1. Grounds for divorce. 

There are seven grounds (reasons) for divorce in Texas, but only the first one is considered “no-fault.” The remaining grounds can influence judgment regarding things like division of assets and child guardianship. (Obviously these grounds can apply to either or both spouses. And most couples opt for a no-fault divorce.)

    1. You have irreconcilable differences. “No one’s at fault, but we just can’t live together or get along anymore.”
    2. There is emotional and/or physical abuse (“cruel treatment”) that makes staying in the marriage unsafe and/or unbearable.
    3. Your spouse has cheated on you.
    4. Conviction of a felony. During the marriage, your spouse was convicted of a felony and incarcerated for at least a year without pardon.
    5. Your spouse has been gone for more than a year with the intention of leaving you forever.
    6. Living apart. You and your spouse have lived apart, without cohabitating, for at least three years.
    7. Confinement in a mental hospital. At the time of filing, your spouse has been confined to a mental hospital for at least three years without a prognosis of improvement.

2. Mandatory waiting period vs. reality. 

Texas family courts aren’t in a rush to finalize divorces. Expect to wait a minimum of 60 days from the date of filing for your divorce to be final. However, the average wait is six months to a year, depending on the complexity of the divorce and degree of conflict.

The only exception to the 60-day waiting period is one of two specific criteria involving domestic violence.

3. Legal separation? Not in Texas. 

In Texas, you’re either married, or you’re not. Or so says the law. That means that all assets and debts, whether accumulated while together or separated, are considered communal property at the time of divorce.

This is important to keep in mind if you’re thinking that a separation will give you time to think, experiment with singlehood, or side-step divorce.

You could end up liable for expenses your spouse accrues on a separate credit card, for example. You could also have to divide income and benefits you accumulate while “kind of” living on your own.

4. Alimony? Good luck.

One of the most important things you, as a woman, must know about divorce in Texas is that there is no court-ordered alimony. Texas courts call this “judicially imposed allowance,” and they don’t award it. What the courts refer to as “maintenance” comes with specific criteria.

Three examples that don’t involve the specific conditions of domestic violence include:

    1. You will not have enough property to provide for your minimal needs after the divorce. (Note: not “the lifestyle to which you are accustomed.”)
    2. You have been married 10 or more years and are unable to provide for your minimal needs. (This is particularly relevant to women who forfeited careers to care for children or elders.)
    3. You have a child that requires extensive supervision because of a physical or mental illness.

For women seeking structure, guidance, education, and support as they “contemplate” …. or begin the actual divorce/separation process, we invite you to consider Annie’s Group, our powerful, virtual, group coaching program for women only.

Annie’s Group provides support, education and a community of like-minded, resourceful women, so you feel less alone. Read more about Annie’s Group here. 


5. Custody arrangements.

The preferred and usual custodial arrangement in Texas is joint custody. The underlying desire is for children to have an equal relationship with both parents, even if they live primarily with one.

In a coparenting arrangement, both parents make decisions and have responsibility for the children. And the children live with each parent for at least 35% of the year.

While “joint managing conservatorship” is the court’s preference, the best interest of the children trumps all other considerations.

Finally, divorcing parents of minor children are required to complete a parenting class before a divorce is granted. Its intention is to help parents and children through the painful process of divorce. The class is available online.

6. Division of assets (and debts).

Texas is considered a “community property” state, which implies an equal division of both assets and debts.

However, special considerations can be taken into account by the judge. For example, the degree of disparity between income and earning potential can influence an unequal division.

Similarly, the physical capacity of both parties, nature of assets, and fault in the marriage’s breakup may be taken into consideration.

When it comes to the division of debt, it’s important to know that a divorce decree means nothing to creditors.

To assure that you aren’t left paying off mutual debts alone, it may be wise to divide responsibility for debts as part of the divorce.

Finally, it would be in your best interest to have a financial advisor or attorney go over your community assets with you. The timing of the acquisition of retirement benefits, for example, can determine what you are owed in the divorce.

There are a lot of things a woman must know about divorce in Texas before signing off on the next phase of her life.

 

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.

 

Stay at home. moms get alimony?

stay-at-home mom

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

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

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

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

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

Collate All Your Financial Documents

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

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

Find Out the Value of All Property

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

Get a Good Handle on Credit

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

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

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

Consider Plans to Return to Work

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

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

Create Possible Budgets

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

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

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

Retain an Attorney

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

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


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

 


Consider Divorce Mediation

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

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

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

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

Remember That You’re Worth It!

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

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

 

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

 

What are the Covid Divorce Statistics?

What are the COVID Divorce Statistics?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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.