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Woman contemplating getting divorce

10 Critical Things I Wish I’d Known Before Getting Divorced

When you go through a catastrophe like a life-crisis alone, the ground shakes. You lose your bearings as the tectonic plates of your routine and What’s Always Been crack and shift. As you struggle to gain footing, you realize you don’t know what else is coming, what else you’ll be faced with.

You simply don’t know what else you don’t know.

Getting divorced is like that, one full-blown life crisis where your “normal” breaks and collides with splintering parts—not only with what’s happening outside you with your partner, family, friends and work—but inside too, with your mind, body, and heart in spiraling conflict. Sometimes it seems like stress alone is the only rope keeping these disparate pieces together—stress is the one constant as you try with all your might to get through and beyond.

But once things begin to settle and you start to emerge from the heat and protracted legal process, and you arrive on the other side, starting to live on your own, you often find yourself looking back, instead of forward. For time gives you a chance to search for reasons now, lessons that explain how you got here, and what’s more, what’s good about this new place, if anything.

Sometimes you’ll wish, “Ah, if only I’d known this before while going through my divorce.”

Hard-won lessons, below are a few that resonate with me, a divorced woman and divorce coach. Between my personal story and professional experiences hearing from other women, I’ve learned of many such epiphanies, Eureka moments that only reveal themselves farther down the divorce road. So, for those of you struggling — thinking about or navigating divorce — I share a few as a way of giving you perspective on what else you don’t know and can’t know based on your today.

Here are 10 essential lessons WE divorced women want you to know … not after the fact … but right now!

1. Eventually “New Rules” will rule

When you live one way for a long period of time—as in a marriage—you forget there are other ways of living. It’s a feeling not unlike traveling to a new country or immersing yourself in a foreign culture—you don’t realize how trapped you’ve become by familiar patterns and behaviors, things you can do and things you cannot, until you’ve stepped off the plane. As I stepped out of a former life, I discovered I’d be letting go of an entire worldview that, consciously or not, had been dictated by my Ex. That worldview (even my rebellion to or acceptance of it) had dominated my life. Until it didn’t.

After getting divorced, I could begin again. I could create and make something else, a world ruled by my values. A place of peace, laughter, and the occasional shrimp cocktail (my Ex was allergic to shell fish). A place where I wanted to live. A place that genuinely existed. A place where there were New Rules.

2 . Don’t strictly rely on a lawyer

Diversify your insights. Get feedback from various strategic people as you go through your divorce. It’s too easy to get caught up in your own emotions and to keep telling your story the way you always have. The story can become like cinder blocks tied to your feet, dragging you down and preventing you from moving forward. Make sure you speak to multiple someones—who can help you understand the process (the legal, the financial, AND the emotional journey)—so you protect and take care of yourself. People who understand divorce can make the burden you’re carrying feel lighter and make you feel less alone. They can help you see what you are unable to see, or even know what to look for.

Even more importantly, take steps to do this in the healthiest possible way so you and your family will heal. This means knowing whom it’s okay to unload on and how much they can realistically handle before you overstep. Your friends, family members, and colleagues might be great shoulders to lean on, yes, but they are not therapists or divorce coaches. As well-intentioned as they may be, they often give you advice based on their own or someone else’s story. Not yours.

3. You will lose

I thought I’d be losing a mate as a result of getting divorced. I had no idea I’d be losing so much more—friends, people who I thought were friends, extended family members, and acquaintances who stopped “seeing” me. Beyond people, I’d also lose a way of living. A lifestyle. I’d lose a way of being.

I also discovered the flip side. This long list of loss would usher in a cleansing. And in the wake of loss, there opened up a new space for all the incoming positive people and things my soul genuinely desired and especially needed.

4. It’s how you leave your marriage that will hurt your kids the most

Even if you have a history of high emotions and conflict in the house, understand it’s all about how you and your husband* behave now that will impact your kids the most. This is the reason to try to keep it civil, or restore civility and respect, as you struggle through divorce and do everything possible to recover from it.

You’ll want to learn about “good coparenting,” best suggestions and tools for boundaries, all directed to keep you and your children (and your soon-to-be Ex) sane and healthy. The fact is that if you are a mother, the father of your children will never entirely disappear. (So, you’ll edit that “loss” from your list above.) Chances are, your Ex will always be in your life to some extent. How you reframe this relationship is key for your children and their divorce recovery.

5. Now’s the time to learn about your financials

In particular, you want to find out what you own and what you owe—but don’t let NOT knowing these answers keep you from getting divorced. You can still find out or identify the people who can help you read statements and documents so you understand what you have and what your choices in life really are. Get fully informed before you start making decisions. And commit to the idea that once you are independent you will begin learning more about protecting and growing your money.

6. Figure out ways to generate income for yourself

Some women leave their marriages with full-time careers while others find themselves reentering the workforce or fearing that they will have to. If you find yourself lumped into the latter groups, step one is to stop telling yourself you are unemployable because it’s simply not true.

There are too many jobs out there to count, and every one of them requires something different of each of us. Take baby steps, if need be, but volunteer, hire a job coach, learn about iRelaunch, go back to school, start your own freelance business with a partner. Make a plan to support yourself and, in turn, seek the support you need to make it happen.

7. You can’t figure everything out in advance of getting divorced

Nor do you need to have everything figured out to move forward. It is a blessing to have search engines like Google in our lives, but it’s also a curse. Google makes us believe we can solve everything if only we research it well enough, if only we type in the magic keywords!

Phooey—at some point you have to get specific feedback about your personal circumstances from experts who deal with divorce and not just whatever articles, Facebook groups, and mind-numbing blog posts and forums you stumble across.

I get it—you’re scrappy. You can teach yourself nearly anything. But you are not a divorce attorney and you can’t become one fast enough.

8. What’s waiting for you is probably bigger and better than anything you can imagine right now

I can’t tell you what’s in store for you after getting divorced, and even if I could, women like me living on the other side of divorce know our words could never do it justice. What we can say is that when women like you face your fears and move through them, you are capable of nearly anything! We know women who after getting divorced recreated careers based on buried dreams, and women who have found happiness in their new freedom and sense of peace. We’ve met women who were scared to death about being alone only to find their figurative dance cards full and that their friends, some of them long lost, were waiting with open arms.

Remember why ending your marriage happened. And know that your future is better than you can even think possible. Trust us.

9. You must learn what being “healed” from divorce will look like

There will come a time when you must evaluate the role you played in getting divorced so you can truly heal yourself and stop blaming your Ex for everything that went wrong and for the hellish journey you’ve been through. The earlier on in your divorce that you confront this the better—it’s a necessary step for moving forward, for growing. It’s what true healing looks like.

10. You can let it go now

That Little Voice in your head? The one keeping you in a dark corner, feeling especially stupid and unloved? You can let it go. Because you’ll discover that divorce has a way of breaking you open, and as you watch all your messy insides spill out, you’ll eventually get to choose which parts of yourself you’ll keep and which you’ll toss into the heap. Your shame? Your guilt? Your regrets? Let it all go. None of it has ever served you anyway, except for now, as a marker symbolizing your critical turning point.

Going forward, take heart and practice intention. We know you don’t want to just divorce your husband—you want to end your marriage in the healthiest way. But that takes more than simply wanting something. It takes preparation and action. This is your life. This is your children’s future. Get a map, yes, but then take the wheel and steer.

 

Change the course of your life — AFTER DIVORCE — this October. Spots go quickly

Paloma’s Group™: Learning the Art of Reinvention.

For newly independent women, post-divorce. Over the course of (only) 3 months, each group-class ​builds on a core theme required to ​design a life you deserve. Schedule a free 45-minute coaching session to explore (and experience) how this remarkable group of post-divorce women will plan and act on creating a life they love.  

We promise — whether you join us for Paloma or not  — you’ll walk away from your complimentary coaching-session discovering a next step in your unique After Divorce journey. 

“We choose not to do it alone.” ~ Sas for Women

 

*At SAS for Women, we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

Life after divorce

Life After Divorce: Getting You and Your Money Together

Before, during, and after divorce, one thing that’s on everyone’s mind is their finances. The following is an imagined conversation, but as a financial advisor, I’ve heard variations of it all too often amidst women struggling to rebuild their life after divorce.

An all-too-common conversation between divorced friends

FRIEND: So, how are things going with the divorce? Are you close to finalizing everything?

FRIEND 2: Believe it or not, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. My attorney has been wonderful—as far as attorneys go, I guess.

FRIEND: That’s great.

FRIEND 2: Yeah, I guess.

FRIEND: What’s wrong? I thought you said your attorney was good.

FRIEND 2: Yes, she is, but, well, this other part is embarrassing.

FRIEND: What do you mean? Are you OK?

FRIEND 2: I’m fine—but it’s hard for me to talk about this. I feel ashamed. You probably won’t understand.

FRIEND: What is it? Are you OK? Please, let me help you.

FRIEND 2: Well, OK, OK. But please don’t tell anyone, OK?

FRIEND: OK.

FRIEND 2: Well, my attorney is good. She got me almost everything I wanted, or at least everything I thought I deserved—to be fair.

FRIEND: So what’s the problem?

FRIEND 2: This is hard for me. Well, I let my husband take care of all the money stuff. I never really kept track of what we had. And now the attorney is showing me all these accounts that I’m getting. And this may sound stupid, but I don’t know what to do with them, how to read them or understand them.

FRIEND: Oh, don’t worry, you’ll be fine. I thought you were going to say you were sick or something! 

FRIEND 2: Don’t laugh, please, this is making me sick. I don’t know anything about investments. I’ve never balanced a checkbook, let alone managed our account online. I can’t believe I let this happen! And now I have to take care of it for me and the kids? Mutual funds, 401(k)s, life insurance—what does it all even mean? It’s overwhelming! To be truthful, I am scared. I thought life after divorce would be easier. I am going to mess everything up and lose what little I have.

FRIEND: OK OK. Calm down, everything will be fine.

FRIEND 2: How do you know everything will be fine? You went to college and studied economics! When you got divorced you already knew about all these things.


Learn what other steps you could be taking to promote your healthiest life after divorce. Read 100 Must Do’s for the Newly Divorced, Independent Woman


FRIEND: No way—after I got married and had kids I forgot everything I learned in college about money because my Ex handled the finances too.

FRIEND 2: So what did you do with the money you got in the divorce? How did you begin?

FRIEND: I was lucky. My sister had a friend who’s a financial person, a professional she referred me to. He began to teach me what to focus on and helped me learn how to invest money. The important thing is that this person guiding you is smart and a good teacher who can help you take care of everything as you rebuild your life after divorce. Do you want his name?

FRIEND 2: Sure, I guess. I’m assuming he’s qualified and he knows what he’s doing?

FRIEND: Yes, he’s got all types of credentials, but that’s not what impressed me.

FRIEND 2: Then why did you use him?

FRIEND: Because of how he interacted with me when I first met him. He took the time to get an idea of what I understood and figure out what I didn’t have a clue about. It seemed like he knew when I didn’t understand something, and he took the extra time to make it clear before we moved onto the next topic.

FRIEND 2: Sounds like someone who doesn’t exist!

FRIEND: Too good to be true, right!

FRIEND 2: Yeah, but he probably deals with a lot of rich people and would’t deal with small accounts like mine.

FRIEND: Nope, not the case—he only accepts referrals from existing clients so when I refer you to him, he will work with you if you want him to. By the way, he doesn’t have a minimum.

FRIEND 2: But if I sign up with him is he ever going to call me after I give him my money?

FRIEND: That’s one of the most important things! When I first started working with him, he spent a ton of time with me to come up with a plan, to understand what my goals are. He even helped me identify my goals. He’s a very good listener. And he requires meeting with you as times goes on to review the plan and to see if it needs any changes. Oh, and one more thing, when you meet with him, he doesn’t hand you off to his assistant or junior person on the team.

FRIEND 2: OK. But how will I know if he’s doing a good job?

FRIEND: You will have online access so you can review the accounts at any time. Quarterly reports are also provided. And he also checks with my accountant to make sure I’m paying enough in taxes and stuff like that. I like having more than one person looking after me. Life after divorce is hard enough. I like a diversified approach. I am not putting my eggs in any one basket ever again. Neither in marriage or other things.

FRIEND 2: OK. I guess I can call him.

FRIEND: I have a better idea. If it’s OK with you, I’ll have him call you. He’s very good at being proactive and following up.

FRIEND 2: Well that would be a big help. I think I feel better after talking with you.

FRIEND: Yes, that’s a step in the right direction.

Life after divorce can be fraught with a sense of anxiety and, yes, even shame. If you find yourself here, then maybe you feel a bit more like Friend 2 in this scenario. Knowing help is out there can already make the weight on your shoulders feel a little smaller, but not everyone has a friend with a referral in their back pocket—how do you even begin to pick the right financial professional for you? What do you do when you find yourself suddenly in charge of your household’s finances?

Keys to picking a financial professional

  • Get recommendations from people you know and trust. That means anyone from family members and friends to attorneys, accountants, divorce coaches, and therapists.
  • Interview the financial professional in person or by phone. You are looking for a personality that will work well with your personality.
  • Check the financial professional’s background on the Financial Industry Regulatory
  • Authority (FINRA) BrokerCheck website.
  • Does the financial professional have account minimums?
  • Does the financial professional handle a lot of clients like you. By that, we mean people who are going through a transition due to divorce or widowhood.
  • How does the financial professional get paid? Do they earn commissions on each transaction, or do they charge an annual fee based on how much you have with him?
  • Does the financial professional have a communication plan for staying in touch with clients? How often can you expect a phone call or email from him? Does he have periodic reviews? If so, how often? Are they in-person or over-the-phone?
  • Who is the financial professional’s typical client? You don’t want to be overlooked for his bigger clients!

Life after divorce is a journey, and it’s one made easier by having the right community by your side. The best part of starting over is that you get to decide exactly who’s a part of that community—your friends and relatives, yes, but also smart professionals who empower you to make the best choices for yourself and your family. They are out there, and now you know how to find them.

 

This conversation is hypothetical and is intended for illustration purposes only. The article is for informational purposes only and it is not to be considered tax or legal advice. AXA Advisors (its affiliates) and associates do not provide tax, accounting or legal advice or services. You should seek advice based on your particular circumstances from an independent tax or legal advisor. Christopher Kelly offers securities through AXA Advisors, LLC (NY, NY 2123144600), member FINRA, SIPC. Annuity and insurance products offered through AXA Network, LLC. Individuals may transact business and/or respond to inquiries only in state(s) in which they are properly registered and/or licensed.  AGE 146422(08/19) (exp.08/21)

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

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

 

how to make divorce cheaper

How to Make Divorce Cheaper

You’ve gone through a lot. Now you just want to get ending your marriage over with.

And while a divorce is the only way to move forward sometimes it’s also the problem, especially when it comes to the cost.

The estimated cost of getting divorced in the United States is $10,000 to $20,000. Yes, that’s a lot. But here’s the good news: if managed properly, the overall cost can be much less. How, exactly, does one make divorce cheaper, might you ask?

While every divorce situation is different, there are some things you can do to lessen the cost.

Remember that it isn’t going to be easy

Since your spouse will no longer be there to help you financially, expect a significant reduction in your income. It’s not easy, especially if you have children to send to school and bills to pay. Don’t expect that you will be able to maintain your present lifestyle. Money will be tight, that’s for sure. There will be times when personal loans, such as emergency cash for single moms, is the only way to keep up with your financial responsibilities. But you shouldn’t feel discouraged. The key is to plan ahead. Think about ways to augment your income and try to keep your expenses down.


You may want to read 7 Ways to Pay for a Divorce.


Work through it together

It may sound counterintuitive because you are divorcing your husband*, but trying to be reasonable with him is actually the path to an inexpensive, quick, and easy divorce. In this setup, both of you will have your own attorney. You may choose to work with a divorce financial specialist and, especially, a divorce coach too. This latter investment may look expensive at first, but in the long run, a divorce coach will actually save you money by helping you understand what you can and cannot be doing so you avoid a drawn-out, exhausting divorce that ends up going to court.

The experts will work together to advise and help you and your husband achieve an amicable settlement. Be ready to compromise on several issues, particularly those concerning property division and child custody.

There’s nothing more draining than embarking on an all-out-war with your husband. If you trust him, be willing to share needed information with him. Be willing to negotiate. It’s not always about getting all you can get. Sometimes, you may have to settle for less to avoid most costs.

Assess your current financial situation

The more work your attorney has to do, the more expensive the divorce process gets. Get organized and make sure you have all the information on hand, from your list of assets to your bank information, investment funds, pension plans, etc. Make copies of all relevant documents for yourself and your attorney. This will go a long way as you attempt to make divorce cheaper.

Choose your battles

Remember this—every conflict in the divorce proceeding will cost you. Figure out what’s most important to you. Financial security? Family home? Custody? Deciding on this matter early on should help you concentrate your attention and expenses to things that are more important. This should also help your lawyer deal with your case and make the process easier.

Take it online

Instead of going to your attorney’s office right away, you can start the process online. But first, check if your state allows e-filing for divorce petitions. It’s easy, quick, and convenient. You can download the forms from your court’s website and fill them out before heading to an attorney. Alternately, you can get an online divorce paper preparation service, which will cost you no more than $400.

Online filing is really best to make divorce cheaper, especially for those who do not have a lot of assets or debt and no children. It is also easier when your divorce is uncontested. Meaning, you and your spouse agree to the terms stated in the paper. Ensure that all the divorce details are in the documents you have prepared such as your social security numbers, marriage date and location, addresses, names of your children, and the properties you are dividing. If you have a more complex situation, it is much better to work with an attorney.

Get rid of joint accounts

When all is done and over, the last thing you want to happen is to pay for your Ex’s loan because he defaulted. Before getting divorced, get rid of joint accounts you have with your spouse. If you can’t get rid of such accounts, check if you can have them under one name only.

Focus on the future

A divorce is an event that affects the rest of your life. You must look at every financial issue from the perspective of how it will affect you, especially your children, in say five to ten years. This should help you make smarter financial decisions. Do what’s best for your kids. After all, at the end of the day, they are the ones who will suffer or benefit from the outcome of your decisions.

Divorce itself is a difficult and expensive process. So why make it worse? There are things you can do to make divorce cheaper, easier, and quicker so you can get on with the healing that is critical to your divorce recovery. You and your spouse have to cooperate and agree on many things. Think about what’s most important to you. This way, you can make better decisions that can save you money in the long run.

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to support them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce. SAS offers women 6 FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future.

“When a woman comes through divorce with the proper guidance and her questions answered, her life stands before her like something she could never imagine while she was is in the dark.” ~ SAS for Women

Lidia Staron is a part of Content and Marketing team at opencashadvance.com. She contributes insightful articles about the role of finance in the strategic-planning and decision-making process.

Save your marriage

7 Last-Ditch Efforts to Save Your Marriage When Divorce Appears on the Horizon

A healthy marriage takes work. There’s no questioning that. It requires balancing schedules, maintaining a home, and dividing and conquering whatever life throws your way. And when you add kids into the mix, dealing with all of that can become a full-time job. Maintaining your marriage can quickly slip into a need to save your marriage. Or at least, it feels quick. Like most things in life, we see most of the signs only in hindsight.

Even though a marriage takes work, when it feels like that’s all you ever do, it can start to feel like there is no hope for the two of you—and living in that place is another sort of scary. Surrendering to those feelings and giving up on your marriage may seem like the right thing to do. And in the end, it may be. But one last-ditch effort is almost always worth it.

After all, once you let go of the resentment and make room for true healing, there may still be a spark there. Will you regret exploring some ways to turn that spark into a flame? It’s pretty doubtful. Trying to save your marriage is well worth your time and energy.

Here are 7 common last-ditch efforts to save your marriage when divorce appears to be on the horizon.

1. Slow down

Stop talking about divorce, and focus on saving your marriage. In fact, go even further and try your best to stop thinking about divorce too. It’s like that saying about having your feet in two boats—you’re bound to fall into deep waters.

When things get bad in a marriage, couples tend to jump straight to talk about divorce. When your mindset is changed and you’re focused on how to save your marriage, your attention shifts to fixing the source of your problems instead of simply walking away from them.

2. Go to counseling

If you haven’t tried counseling, it’s worth giving it a go. The key is to find a counselor who both you and your husband* feel comfortable with. Otherwise, your sessions will feel one-sided.

Another crucial thing to remember about counseling is that you just don’t go to the sessions and leave with all of your problems solved. Counseling gives you the tools you need to work on your marriage outside of each session. You need to go into it with that understanding. If the two of you have been doing well with counseling, that’s a great sign that you can overcome whatever it is that you’re dealing with, but those results must eventually extend to your everyday life.

3. Acknowledge your partner’s dreams

A lot of marriages fall apart because one person feels like they are constantly making sacrifices. Find out what your husband really wants to achieve in life and help him go after it, or if it’s you who’s feeling this way, find a way to voice your wants and needs.

Whether it’s dreams of being a painter or building handmade furniture, help each other carve out some time and chase that dream. The alternative is a lot of anger and resentment. Make sure that’s not the case in your marriage. And if you find that you’re already there, work toward balancing the load.

4. A romantic getaway

Sometimes all you need is a romantic trip to reignite the flame in your marriage. It may seem like a quick fix, but the truth is that a change of perspective really can work wonders. That’s not to say that one trip can save your marriage, of course, but the time away from “the real world” can make problems that seemed too big to conquer less daunting. It can remind you that there are other ways to live, and it may not be your marriage that isn’t serving you.

5. Say anything session

A “say anything” session might be a great way to get all your cards out on the table. Simply set the ground rules—what you say at this session stays at this session. You must talk it through during the meeting and resolve it. After that, it all becomes water under the bridge.

Another important thing about say anything sessions—though you likely guessed this already—is that you can say whatever you want. You don’t have to hold back. While it’s good to be able to say what you’re thinking, be prepared to listen too. Really listening is vital because the end goal is to make changes that will benefit both of you.

Ideally, you will both learn to communicatively more effectively over time and no longer need these sessions, but in the meantime, they can help open up a dialogue between you and your husband.

6. Change the victim mindset

A lot of divorces occur because one partner continually feels like the victim of the other partner’s choices. Your husband has a gambling problem, for instance, or they’re addicted to video games. Or maybe you shop too much. One partner has chosen a career that’s led to financial setbacks or that takes too much time away from your relationship. (Money is typically a common reason for divorce and relationship problems in general.) Someone’s mother is around a lot or her say pulls too much weight in decisions.

Whatever it is, one important thing to remember in any relationship is that you are responsible for your own emotions. No one can make you feel a particular way. Your perspective is yours. And you can choose the way you frame your particular challenges in your mind and how you choose to tackle them, together.

7. A short break

Sometimes taking a week or so to sort through your feelings can be another excellent way to put things into perspective. But before you take a break, make sure you establish a realistic time frame. It’s not a separation—it’s just a short break, so it should only be a few days. And it should, ideally, end with some sort of epiphany. The goal is to take some time and sort through your feelings. It’s not about taking a vacation.

Marriage is hard work. But if you make the commitment, it’s because you loved your husband enough to spend the rest of your life with him. That also has to mean it’s worth your time and energy to explore ways to save your marriage and make it last.

Of course, if you find that you still can’t stop thinking about getting a divorced, maybe you really are overthinking leaving your husband and beyond saving your marriage. If that sounds like you, consider working with a divorce coach to help you make the decision that’s right for you and your family. Counseling, romantic getaways—sometime none of it is enough in the end, and we need to be around women who’ve been here, in this in-between place, before us to know which path to take on the journey ahead.

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

SAS offers women 6 FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future. “A successful divorce requires smart steps, taken one at a time.” – SAS for Women 

*At SAS for Women, we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

A woman thinking about asking for financial help with a divorce

How a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst Can Help with a Divorce

Dividing a house, retirement accounts, alimony, child support—all the financial issues that come up in a divorce can leave your head spinning. The process of going through a divorce is incredibly stressful, regardless, but if you’re not comfortable talking about money, facing the topic of splitting up your finances can be downright miserable. You may be wondering how to plan for your financial life after the divorce, how to divide your assets, who gets the primary residence, and how to negotiate spousal support. Having a financial professional on your team to help with a divorce can reduce your stress while allowing you to achieve the best possible financial outcome.

Getting financial help with a divorce is critical as studies have shown that women experience disproportionate losses in income as a result of divorce, increasing their risk of poverty.

When facing a divorce, a person’s first instinct is often to get an attorney involved. While there’s no substitute for sound legal advice, many of the decisions made in a divorce are financial in nature. Having support from someone well-versed in divorce financial planning and analysis (such as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst) can save you a lot of frustration—it can also save you money on legal fees.

What is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst?

A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) has extensive training in the financial issues of divorce. The credential is awarded by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts and requires extensive work experience and education. These professionals are trained to help you navigate any and all money issues that come up before, during, and after divorce. A CDFA can serve as a financial advocate for just you or as a neutral person who works with both you and your Ex. However, it’s important to remember a CDFA is a financial professional who can’t replace sound legal advice.

What does a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst do?

A CDFA is responsible for looking at your finances, considering the best way to divide assets, and helping you determine the short- and long-term implications of your divorce settlement. By doing so, a CDFA can help alleviate the fear of the unknown. She’ll prepare a financial plan for you based on various scenarios. Having that plan in place will offer you a great sense of confidence (or a reality check, if needed) as you face your financial future.

While every situation is different, the responsibilities of your CDFA may include some or all of the following.

Division of assets

The division of assets during a divorce is more than just a simple split down the middle. Many times, there’s no easy way to split an asset that both you and your Ex want. Your home, furniture, vehicles, among others, come with memories and security that neither of you may want to let go of.

In addition to those physical assets you have, there are financial assets that need to be divided, such as bank accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies. Pensions are commonly the largest asset dealt with in a divorce. Any and all of the pension earned during the marriage is considered marital property and is considered divisible as part of the divorce settlement either by dividing the pension itself or offsetting the value with other assets.

A CDFA will sort out all the details and help you and your Ex determine the best ways to maximize your assets while minimizing the tax impact of your division.

Marital property

If you live in an equitable division state (41 of 50 states are), a couples’ marital assets (those accumulated during the marriage) will need to be divided equitably or fairly. In community property states, marital property is split 50/50. A CDFA can support you and your attorney by determining which items are marital assets and which ones are separate.


If you are wondering about your home and who gets it, you’ll want to read Should You Keep the House During the Divorce?


For example, any money contributed to a 401(k) during the marriage is considered marital property. However, if the account was started before the marriage, a portion of the account may be regarded as separate. The actual definition of what is considered separate property varies somewhat from state to state. Money and things you had before your marriage, gifts you’ve received over the years, and more can complicate an already stressful situation if you don’t have someone to help with a divorce and provide clear guidance on these issues.

Alimony (aka Spousal Support/Spousal Maintenance)

If your Ex provided the primary income, suddenly concerns of how to pay for the house, cover your bills, or whether you’ll have to get another job are at the forefront of your mind. While some states do provide a calculator to determine alimony that will be awarded to the lower income spouse, many do not. In fact, in many states, the issue of alimony is pretty gray.

Some of the factors that contribute to spousal support (depending on the state) include:

  • Your income
  • Health (emotional, physical, and mental)
  • Retirement benefits
  • Length of marriage
  • Childcare status
  • Education
  • Assets and liabilities

When you have a CDFA on your team to help with a divorce, she can do the calculations and give you confidence with projections for how much spousal support is needed compared to how much is available to be paid.

Tax implications of the divorce settlement

Any change in income or accumulation of significant assets can have tax implications as well. In the case of divorce, that’s definitely true. Going from two incomes to one, eliminating an income, or taking on the primary residence all have tax implications. A CDFA will walk you through those challenges so that there’s no guesswork when it comes to that first tax season on your own.

Additional tasks

Additionally, your CDFA will help with a divorce by providing analysis of the settlement, identifying if any information has not been disclosed, and pointing out areas of financial risk in the agreement. A CDFA can also guide you to make decisions that will help your credit score and not hurt it. By hiring a CDFA, you know that your entire financial situation has been evaluated, and you’ll walk away with a clear picture of what your financial future holds.

How is a CDFA paid?

In terms of cost, the fees for CDFA vary widely. Some offer services on an hourly basis, while others offer flat-fee packages. Hourly rates generally range from $150 to $500 per hour depending on the CDFA’s level of experience and the region of the country they work in. Flat fees are typically based on the financial complexity of the case and the extent of the work involved.

To find a CDFA near you, visit the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts (IDFA) website. At the top of the screen, you’ll see a link to “Find a CDFA.” You can then search either by name or by zip code. Many CDFAs also offer virtual services if there is not one in your area.

Your Certified Divorce Analyst can make financial decisions easier

While CDFA professionals can help with a divorce at any point in the process, choosing to work with a CDFA before deciding how you will proceed makes good financial sense. Not only will it save you both time and money throughout the divorce process, but your CDFA will help you and your soon-to-be Ex work out a divorce settlement that is amicable and fair for both of you. Additionally, she will make the process easier to deal with so that you can focus on the things that matter most to you, whether that’s your kids, your family, or your well-being.

 

Leah Hadley is an experienced mediator, Accredited Financial Counselor, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, and a Master Analyst in Financial Forensics. After going through her own divorce after ten years of marriage, her goal is to ease the stress of divorce by making the process as painless as possible for couples and individuals alike. When she’s not working, Leah loves spending time with her family, taking her kids on road trips, and volunteering with various organizations like the PTA, NAWBO and Girl Scouts. You can find out more about Leah and her services by visiting her website, Great Lakes Divorce Financial Services.

 

divorce process

The Divorce Process: What You Must Know as a Woman

We work with smart women, and because you’re here, we know you’re one of us. During the divorce process, we also know that sometimes, smart women believe they can outthink their pain, outlogic it. If their pain were a landmark on a map, a deep river splitting the ground in two, they’d lose whole days planning a route around it. But with divorce, the river is never ending, and the only way to get around it is to jump in and swim through.

If you’ve gone through a particularly bad breakup before, it’s easy to underestimate just how difficult the divorce process can be. It’s not just the emotional upheaval it brings to your life—for you may “get over” being married quickly. You may even move on to other romantic partners or physically reside in different homes, but none of this changes the fact that your union, your relationship, is legally recognized, something that may differ from relationships in your past. Your marriage isn’t truly over until the courts say it is.

These two sides to the divorce process, the emotional and the legal, require different things of you.

You’re on a journey, but this journey may sometimes feel like it’s pulling you in different directions, asking you at times to bury your emotions and focus on the practical and then demanding that you confront your demons so you can exorcise them.

Knowing when, where, and how to handle the myriad pieces of this divorce process is half the battle. Below is the easy-to-digest breakdown of the divorce process. As you read about and, even, journey through, keep in mind you don’t have to have all the answers—only some of them. Divorce professionals, the right kind of friends, constructive support groups, and family can help you get through the rest.

Decide what you really want

And that word really is important. We’re not talking about figuring out what you used to want. Or what you kind of want. Or even what you think other people want you to want.

We’re asking what you really want. Getting that honest with yourself can be absolutely terrifying because acting on whatever your truth is might mean tearing your world apart and putting it back together.

If you want a career that your husband doesn’t support, then for you each to be happy, you may have to leave him. If you want a lifestyle your husband doesn’t buy into, then you might have to leave him. If you want a marriage built on open communication but, instead, your husband would rather close parts of himself off and keep secrets, then you might have to leave him. If you want to be happy and your husband thinks “happiness” is a different thing than you, then you might have to leave him. No matter what problems you are having in your marriage, everything hinges on that question of what you might have to do and the fear that’s keeping you from doing it.

Sometimes deciding what you really want means making it a point to get in touch with friends or family members who know you best, who will be honest with you and who, in turn, you can open up to. Other times it means getting still and quiet, digging down into the depths of yourself and taking a look at what you find there.

Of course, there will be pain as you “go there.” But chances are there’s already been a lot of pain, which is what brings you to reading this page.

Get the support you need before you act

We recommend a woman get fully informed on her choices in life before she makes any big decisions, including telling her husband she wants a divorce. And that the best first stop for that, strategically and economically, is with a seasoned divorce coach—a “thinking partner” who can you help you understand both your emotional and legal journey, what your choices truly are, and what good decision-making looks like.

A coach will bring down your stress levels by helping you understand what questions you must answer first and which ones can wait, or what type of divorce (traditional, mediated, collaborative, or DIY) is right for you. And if you’re not sure about getting a divorce—if you’re just wondering what “normal” even means in a marriage—a coach can help you with that too. (That’s right, meeting with a divorce coach does not mean you are necessarily divorcing.) A coach will also be able to make good referrals, like the best lawyer for your circumstances or the name of a well-respected mediator to interview.

Depending on the circumstances of your marriage, you may have the impulse to punish your husband throughout the divorce process in any way you can. Maybe I’ll blindside him, you’ll think to yourself. I’d love to see the look on his face when he’s served with papers. But doing this starts the divorce process off with nothing but charged emotions, ill will, and resentment—and that’s a bad recipe for both your own recovery and any relationship you and your Ex might have in the future. To say nothing about what it could do to the kids. A divorce coach will help you understand what to do with your anger or sense of betrayal, so you don’t lead from a reactive emotional place that often leads to worse, spiraling lawyer costs and wasted energies.

Consult with a divorce lawyer

A divorce lawyer isn’t just going to file paperwork for you and represent you in court—a good one will also help you set expectations so that you understand going into the divorce process what you’ll be facing. Divorce laws vary state by state, and every case operates on its own timeline. If your soon-to-be Ex isn’t being cooperative or there are circumstances, like abuse, that make protecting both yourself and your children especially crucial, then your attorney can help you by taking steps with the court, like an order of protection or, at the very least, ordering your husband to move out of the marital home.

Prepare as much as you can before filing

Prepare, and then prepare some more. The more knowledge you have throughout the divorce process, the more in control you will feel. But don’t just stop there. Get copies of family photographs or other mementos that you’re sentimental about. Set up your own bank accounts and credit cards if you don’t already have them, and change the passwords to your accounts so that your husband no longer has access to them.

Gather important documents, like birth certificates, mortgage statements, and insurance policies, and make sure you understand your financial situation. If you’re working with a divorce coach, she can put you in touch with a certified divorce financial analyst who can help you understand the big picture, like if you can afford to keep the house. After divorce, it’s not likely that you’ll be able to maintain the lifestyle you led as a married woman, and the more that you prepare for this new future, the better off you’ll be.

Be kind to yourself

There’s the end of your marriage, and then there’s the end of your marriage. By that, we mean, there’s the moment you truly realize your marriage is over. You’re not in love anymore, or maybe something has happened—a betrayal, for instance—that you can’t come back from. And then there’s the moment you actually do something about the end of your marriage—you talk with a divorce coach, consult with an attorney, you negotiate the terms of your divorce, and you file the paperwork.

Everything we’ve covered so far deals largely with the practical, legal, and financial aspects of divorce, but mixed up in there are a whole lot of emotions. Even if you feel a sense of relief now that your marriage is ending, you’re feeling so many other things it’s almost impossible to pinpoint your exact mood from one moment to the next.

Are you happy? Maybe. Are you miserable? Always, except when I’m not. Are you lonely? Even in a crowd. Are you angry? Oh, yes, there’s a lot of that to go around. Are you keeping it together? I have to.

Much of the divorce process is riding out these highs and lows until the road evens out again, the journey becomes smoother, or maybe you just become better for all of it.

Get ready for life after divorce

Your divorce is final when you receive your signed divorce decree, or judgment of divorce, from the court. After that you can change your name, if you want to, and take further steps to separate yourself as much as possible from your Ex financially, such as removing them from insurance policies or your will.

But if you have children, then coparenting them can be another obstacle you must learn to overcome—hopefully together, with your Ex.

Even with DIY divorces or mediation, the divorce process can be long, and the ending of a marriage can feel a lot like grieving. But what, exactly, you are actually grieving feels uncertain. Your relationship with your husband? Your sense of family? Your ability to trust others? The image you projected as the perfect couple, the couple your friends liked? Or what your marriage could have been?

After divorce, all of it seems to have gotten so far away from you, and perspective takes time. Be patient with and kind to yourself. We recommend practicing self-care throughout this journey (and really, always) and taking steps to find your support network if you don’t already have one.

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 divorce recovery. Experience SAS firsthand. Schedule your free, 45-minute consultation to hear perspective, next steps and the best resources that will honor your life and who you are meant to be.

*At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

Delaying divorce tactics

Delaying Divorce Tactics

Even when our marriages feel rocky, many of us are resistant to change. So when you or your spouse comes to the other and says, “I want a divorce,” understanding your emotions and your new reality can be a long and difficult journey. It’s not uncommon for either partner to find reasons to resist and to use a variety of delaying divorce tactics as you scramble to make sense of the events that led you here.

It’s almost impossible to leave your marriage without “baggage,” without emotions and regrets.

As angry or hurt as you are, a part of you does not want to hurt the people you love the most. If you have children, you tell yourself that the break up news will break them. When you look at your husband* and say you want a divorce, you dread the heartbreak or shock or, even, anger you’ll see in his face.

And if it’s the other way around—if you are the one being told your marriage is over—then the realization of either how bad your marriage has gotten or how much you’ve grown apart fills you with another kind of regret. The kind that makes you asks yourself: What did I miss? Were there signs? What could I have done differently? I know we have problems, but why doesn’t he care enough to try to work on our relationship and stay?

Grappling with these emotions during divorce can cause us to lash out and make questionable decisions. It can also cause us to procrastinate or go into denial.

Why people use delaying divorce tactics

If you or your husband find yourself looking for ways to delay or stop your divorce, it’s usually for one of the following reasons…

  1. You’re angry and unhappy about the divorce, so you’ve decided that you won’t make this easy for anyone. You want any form of revenge or punishment you can get.
  2. You’re scared about your future (or your children’s future), and so you’re trying to prolong the inevitable for as long as possible.
  3. You think you can fix your marriage—that, perhaps, your spouse is rushing into this decision or being too stubborn to work on himself—and you’re trying to give the two of you more time together so that he realizes this too.
  4. You’re hoping to gain something financially—you’re hiding assets, racking up attorney fees, or putting off support payments.

Of course, human emotions are complicated and fickle things. It’s possible you or your spouse has a myriad of reasons for delaying your divorce, but these are some of the more common ones.

Below you’ll find a list of common delaying divorce tactics—it’s important that you recognize them, whether you’re the person doing them or not. Sometimes we delay movement or “progress” in our lives unintentionally, and we have to take a step back to see it clearly.

Seeing a therapist

Whether you talk to a therapist on your own or attend marriage counseling, talking to a professional about the problems arising in your relationship is one way to delay your divorce and help you figure out what it is you and your spouse really want. Some states will grant a continuance putting the divorce on hold for a number of days if it looks like there’s a possibility of reconciliation.

But if you’ve already seen a therapist (possibly even more than once) or your husband isn’t receptive to counseling, then it becomes clear that no amount of talking is going to help your marriage. These conversations quickly devolve into attempts at figuring out who to blame, and solving that is nearly impossible and almost always pointless.

Claiming to have busy schedules

By cancelling meetings at the last minute or being unavailable to schedule them at all, you can delay your divorce. Sometimes people use their jobs as an excuse, but some people exploit or invent health reasons to cause delays. Whether it’s stress-related or a medical condition, they claim that their need to schedule doctor visits and procedures is affecting their ability to continue on with divorce proceedings in a timely manner.

Changing attorneys

People look for new attorneys for a lot of reasons. Sometimes they just want someone who’s more aggressive. They do not feel well represented, or maybe they don’t feel understood or heard.

When you or your spouse changes attorneys, you can be granted a continuance and divorce proceedings are placed on hold. This isn’t always the case, of course. Judges might require you to stick to your current schedule even if you’re changing representation. But certainly, divorce professionals have seen spouses use this tactic to consistently put off negotiations.

Being unresponsive

Ignoring texts, phone calls, and emails? Failing to sign documents? Generally being unresponsive and unavailable is another way that people attempt to delay their divorce.

Consciously or not.

In any case, whether it’s you or your spouse employing delaying divorce tactics, judges and attorneys have seen it all. Your particular spin will not be new. Divorce professionals recognize when someone isn’t acting in good faith, and in many states, this is when attempts at delaying divorce start to backfire. They might continue on with proceedings without you, and in the end, your husband will get much of what he wanted in the first place.

If you think your spouse is attempting to delay your divorce, a good attorney will help you balance out those attempts with, for one, motions to deny their repeated cancellation requests and other tactics. Your attorney will help you prove that you have made every effort to notify your husband of the divorce proceedings and come to an agreement, and the judge will be able to use this evidence to waive his rights to a trial.

Delaying divorce tactics might work, but they can never truly be successful in the long-term. We no longer live in a world where one spouse can force another to remain in a marriage against their will, and these tactics don’t just hurt your Ex—they inevitably prolong your own pain and put off your divorce recovery. They also affect your children’s relationship with both parents and their ability to heal. How you resolve your challenges with the divorce, the temperature of the negotiation, and how you conduct yourselves is directly related to how your children will recover long term.

If one of you is really ready to move on from your marriage, then using delaying divorce tactics won’t actually change anything. The longer you put off your divorce, the higher the chances are that your spouse will move on with his/her life—romantically and otherwise—while you’re still technically married. This further complicates everything. Even well-intentioned love interests will want to offer their opinions on your divorce, and those opinions could sway your Ex to make certain choices as proceedings continue. Choices that may not benefit you or your children.

If you find yourself dealing with delaying divorce tactics, whether you are perpetrating them or not, we encourage you to seek the divorce support you need so you and your family can move through and forward with your lives.

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

SAS offers women 6, FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future. “A successful divorce requires smart steps, taken one at a time.” – SAS for Women 

 

*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.

How to divorce a missing spouse

How to Divorce a Missing Spouse

Marriage doesn’t always work out.

Feelings fade away, interests don’t align, and couples drift apart from each other. Sometimes both you and your husband* want nothing more than to be miles apart—you’re no longer bothering to “keep tabs” on each other anymore! But marriage isn’t something you can really walk away from and forget about. There’s a legal weight to the words “I do” and “till death do us part.”

Even if you get married on a whim in Vegas, with Elvis presiding over your marriage, that contract is as real as it gets. And here lies the rub: if you fall in love with someone else and want to get married again, you need to get a divorce first.

But what if you and your husband drifted so far apart from each other, you don’t actually know where he is? Because, yes, marriage might not always work out, but surely your divorce won’t either when step number one is figuring out exactly how to divorce a missing spouse. Luckily, that’s not the case. Women who find themselves in this position have options.

Missing in action

If your not-so-significant other is M.I.A and you’ve lost track of where he’s living, do not fret. There are a few more legal steps you need to take, but you can still get a divorce. Your husband’s absence doesn’t mean you have to stay married to him forever.

That would be just plain unfair, but the good news is that each state has laws about how to divorce a missing spouse. A central part of this process is taking out an ad and publishing a notice of the divorce in the local newspaper. Before starting the publication process, however, there are a few steps you need to take as required by the state you’re in. Let’s take a look.

Leave no stone unturned

The first order of business is to conduct an exhaustive search for your missing husband. Most states require a “diligent effort” search, so if you’ve heard the term “due diligence” before, it applies in this situation. What this all means is that you have taken all the necessary steps in trying to locate your husband.

Here are some of the steps in the due diligence search process:

  • You must ask the sheriff to try and serve your husband at his last known address (in some states).
  • Use the internet, email, social media and other networking sites to try and track down your husband. Besides, you can try search people online tools to find out new registered information about your spouse.
  • Get in touch with the DMV for his latest registration information.
  • Check with the post office and voter registration.
  • Contact your husband’s known family to find birth parents, friends, and office mates, as well as previous employers.
  • Try calling his last known phone number.

If you don’t want to do all this (no time, emotional distress), don’t worry. You can always hire an attorney or private investigator to act on your behalf. Hiring a professional is actually a great idea because they can conduct a more thorough search than you can.

Get court approval to publish

After conducting a due diligence search and exhausting all possible ways to find your missing husband, it’s time to go to court. Take the results of your search, present it to the court, and ask for permission to serve your husband by publication. Depending on what state you’re in, the process usually involves filing a motion with the court together with an affidavit.

An affidavit is a sworn statement detailing your efforts to search for your husband. The judge will review your testimony once you file your papers with the court. If the judge approves your due diligence, they will issue an order for publication.

It’s publishing time

After getting your order for publication, read the instructions carefully. The rules for “service by publication” vary for each state. For instance, in New York, the newspaper must serve the last known address of your husband. Most states require that you run the notice once a week for three straight weeks in the county where you filed the divorce.

Most jurisdictions give you 30 days to publish your notice after receiving your order, and some require you to post a note at the courthouse. Look for the newspaper’s legal notice department and show them your order and a copy of all divorce documents. The legal staff will help you craft an appropriate notice based on the judge’s instructions.

The divorce process

The newspaper will give you an affidavit that confirms they published your notice. You must notify the court that you’ve run the announcement and file the affidavit immediately. Note that there will be a waiting period of up to 30 days before you can go ahead with your divorce. This gives your husband time to respond and provide notice to the court.

If your husband doesn’t respond after the required waiting period, you can ask the court to give you a divorce by default. Some states cannot rule monetary issues such as child support or property division when you get a divorce via a missing spouse. If that’s the case for you, you’ll get a divorce, but some problems will likely remain unresolved.

Figuring out how to divorce a missing spouse seems daunting at first, but like most things, it can be tackled one step at a time. The route to getting divorce may be a little longer than usual, yes, but you’ll soon be sipping margaritas on the beach with some girlfriends or your new love once all the legalities are over and done with.

Ben Hartwig is a Digital Overlord at InfoTracer who takes a wide view on the whole system. He authors guides on entire security posture, both physical and cyber. He enjoys sharing best practices and does it the right way!

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

SAS offers women 6 FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future. “A successful divorce requires smart steps, taken one at a time.” – SAS for Women 

*At SAS for Women, we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

Coping with Divorce like a modern woman

Not Your Mother’s Divorce: How to Cope Like a Modern Woman

Coping with divorce was not on my list of goals as a happily married mom of three. But my husband of twelve years had a different list, one he shared with me just weeks before Christmas.

He asked me to join him at the dining room table, where he sat with a piece of paper and two fingers of scotch in front of him and read the words he’d prepared: He’d been unfaithful for more than ten years, and he was leaving me for someone he’d met and known for one day in Las Vegas.

I remember sliding off my chair onto the floor as he walked out, leaving me alone with the kids sleeping in their beds.

When I finally got to my feet, an image of my mother flashed before me and I felt weak with shame. How could I be here, in a situation so similar to what she had faced with my father? How was it possible when I had done everything right? I had chosen my husband so carefully, certain that I could never be fooled by an unfaithful man.

Let the ghosts out

I dreaded telling her, certain that she would make the inevitable comparisons and that my experience would invite more dad-bashing.

But my mother only cried with me. A lot. I felt the depth of her pain through the phone line, and I was soothed because there is nothing in the world like crying to your mother. I believe it waters some dry patch in us that, as adults, we tend to overlook, intent instead on staking up our Proven-Winner lives.

Here I had believed my life was in full bloom. I had vowed to do everything differently from my mother, different from all the divorced women who came before me. My mother didn’t know how to write a check when my parents divorced. She had never handled her own money. I may have been a stay-at-home mom when my husband left, but I had a college degree and I knew how to run a Quickbooks spreadsheet. I was part of a new generation of smart women.

But the helplessness, the sense of doom, that my mother must have felt flared in me, and I understood it in a way I never could before.

In a session with my therapist, I cried, “I don’t want to be like my mother, alone and bitter!”

“That’s one picture,” he said. “But there are others.”

Those words would become a lifeline for me: there are other pictures, other ways of being. I didn’t have to become my mother. Now that I’d been thrust into the same situation, I felt the anger and judgments I’d carried toward her dissolve, replaced by a resolve that I would do all I could to feel powerful again after divorce.

So I created a new list:

Refuse to repeat the past

I found ways to ground myself in the present, even if that meant constantly repeating the obvious to myself: I lived in a different city, had a different education, personality, and support system than my mother. I could move on and choose a new future simply by deciding to.

Break the rules that need to be broken

During my divorce process I was told what to do by a variety of experts, including lawyers, mediators, vocational counselors, judges, and even other divorced friends. When I decided, on my own, to move myself and my kids to a cheaper apartment, my lawyer warned me to get permission from the court first. Instead, I trusted my gut and calmly explained that my move would save everyone money, including my former husband. My lawyer shifted gears so enthusiastically that I almost thought it was his idea!

Put yourself first

I learned that coping includes not only setting boundaries but stretching them too. I trained myself to tell my Ex-husband, “Sorry, that won’t work for me.” That was it. End of sentence. I stopped adding explanations and entertaining objections.

And then I went dancing. I took every lesson I’d always dreamed of taking, enduring the embarrassment of being up close and personal with strangers or stepping on someone’s toes. Dancing would become one of the unexpected gifts of my divorce. And when I knew enough to hold my own, I invited my mom to a jazz club, where we tore up the dance floor and had a blast.

I saw that we had very different ways of moving, both on the dance floor and through our divorces.

My divorce wasn’t my mother’s divorce. It was mine. And it was perfectly orchestrated for me to become my best self—past, present, and future.

 

Tammy Letherer is an author and writing coach. Her most recent book, The Buddha at My Table: How I Found Peace in Betrayal and Divorce, is a Gold Medal Winner in the Living Now Book Awards and in the Human Relations Indie Book Awards. It was also a finalist in the 2018 Best Book Awards. Tammy writes regularly about creativity, the writing life, inspiration, and spirituality. You can find her blogs on Huffington Post, SheKnows, GrokNation, SheDoesTheCity, and more. Connect with her at TammyLetherer.com.