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Pre-divorce checklist

A Pre-Divorce Checklist? Consider Composing One During the Holidays

“He’s making a list and checking it twice. Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice.”

Should you be making your own (pre-divorce) checklist … and checking it twice? As an experienced divorce attorney in Utah, I find the second phrase to the jingle, “gonna find out who’s naughty and nice” an inspired idea, and one that is not coincidental. The day after Christmas, Dec. 26, marks the beginning of what is officially considered “Divorce Day”: what those of us in the divorce industry call divorce season.

After the holidays have subsided and divorce season begun, our phones are ringing off the hook, with plenty of revelations suggesting who is naughty and who is nice.

Taking the time now to create your own pre-divorce checklist is positive and it’s constructive — unlike racing to a lawyer’s office or venting on social media about the sorry state of your marriage. The slow, deliberate movement of checklist making adds perspective, grounds you, and informs your ultimate decision on whether or not to add to the divorce rate across the United States or Canada, or wherever you may be (besides purgatory).

In fact, making a pre-divorce checklist is, perhaps, the best free divorce advice I give my clients during the holidays. And so, in the spirit of giving, I’d like to share more with SAS readers. Let’s use this post as your go-to guide for creating that checklist.

The Legal Point of View

There are so many different ways to look at a divorce and what you may or may not need to navigate that beginning with the legal perspective is often the best first step. And this begins, if you are a US citizen, by talking to a lawyer in your specific state, because divorce law varies from state to state.

To prepare for that meeting, think about your questions and get the necessary documents organized in advance. This will give the lawyer something to look at, evaluate and base their answers on, when you meet.

If you wonder what documents to gather and organize, check out this post Thinking About Divorce? Be Prepared.

If you wonder what questions to ask, SAS for Women has you covered there, too. Consult this blog post Questions to Ask a Divorce Attorney.  Of course you may have other questions you will not find on that blog post, like should you open a post-office box for personal or divorce-related mail? Would it be a good idea to take money out from an account in advance of the divorce? Can you leave the marital home before officially separating or divorcing? What happens to the money you are due to inherit if you divorce? Should you file for divorce before you get your bonus?

All of your questions (and fears) need to be explored and answered, but be careful about making any radical moves. It’s critical you vet your big actions with a lawyer before you act so nothing is held against you in the divorce.

This is why organizing your documents and meeting with a lawyer is such an important step on your pre-divorce checklist. You must get grounded on reality, what is and what is not possible.  

The Financial Point of View

Next, you cannot underestimate the power of getting educated on what your best business transaction would be if you were to divorce. Which is why gathering your financials and getting feedback on them is critical.

Here you can listen to Certified Divorce Financial Analyst and advisor, Stacy Francis discuss The Financial Do’s and Don’ts Before, During, and After Divorce.  Listening to Stacy will help you further formulate your financial questions. Don’t worry if your money questions overlap with your legal questions, that’s normal.

So, your pre-divorce checklist includes organizing documents, gathering your questions, meeting with a lawyer, and then going deeper with the money and getting feedback on your financial choices. This is best done with a financial person who is familiar with how divorce impacts the money. And now there’s a new professional who does just that kind of work.

Keep in mind to really forecast what you may have for money in the future, you’ll need to gather current Social Security calculations, details on debts, personal and marital property information, and monthly budget figures. Do you keep safety deposit boxes? What’s in them? Have you or your spouse already received an inheritance? All of these details need to be gathered and included on your pre-divorce checklist.


If you are thinking about … or beginning the divorce process, consider Annie’s Group SAS for Women’s virtual group coaching program for women looking for an education, support, structure, and a safe community.

A new cohort (with you?) is starting soon.

 


Consider Your Home Property

Ready to go deeper? You’ll also have to consider your home. If you have not previously done so for your home insurance, take pictures of each room of your house. Make sure each room’s contents are displayed as part of a more thorough listing of assets. With the home, your own accounting is not all that counts. Getting an appraisal can be beneficial as well, so add that to your list. Renting mother-in-law apartments in a home is common these days (all the more so in a COVID climate). Make sure to get copies of leases for in-home or other rental properties. Your To-Do list grows!

Take Care of Your Heart

Don’t forget to factor into your list your need for emotional support (besides all this legal, financial and practical info).

Chances are your heart and your feelings are not going to be in synch with learning about your legal and financial choices. This means you need a safe place to vent what you are genuinely feeling and to learn from the messages your emotions are trying to tell you.

So, add to your pre-divorce list “Emotional Support” and consider how you will find it. Have you got a therapist or do you need to work on finding one?  Or, do you have a coach who understands the divorce journey and can help you feel anchored as you begin to take steps?  Be careful in whom you confide during this vulnerable moment in your life. Sometimes our family or friends are not the best people to share our challenges with, because their opinion, reaction, prejudices may not be in alignment with who we really are.

You absolutely need a safe, neutral, judgement-free place to go and you deserve that place.

As you make your pre-divorce checklist, realize that action with these different steps deepens your awareness and possible commitment to divorce. As your sense of empowerment grows, you may move from flirtation to surety. 

Here are some other pre-divorce checklists I recommend

You might want to check the following to see if there are any other crucial items or steps you want to add to your list:

  • SAS for Women’s “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.”
  • Donna Fulscado, Investopedia, Oct. 28, 2019 “Divorce Planning Checklist: What You Need To Know”
  • Shawn Leamon, CDFA, Divorce and Your Money: How To Avoid Costly Divorce Mistakes, March 1, 2017  “The Ultimate Divorce Checklist: What You Need To Prepare”
  • Communication planning is a unique aspect of Rebecca Jones’s list. Jones is a London-based family lawyer. Her divorce checklist includes letting everyone from family dentists and opticians to utility companies know about a divorce, if enacted. That’s something you can consider to do later on — if you indeed go through with the divorce.

‘Tis the Season for Making a List and Checking it Twice!

Yes, it may be the holidays, but if you are in a troubled marriage, the holidays may be anything but merry.

Breathe deeply, think clearly, and get anchored. Using a pre-divorce checklist will help minimize the overwhelm of everything seemingly coming toward you at once. And checking things off will give you a sense of “doing something” at the same time it keeps you moving in a sequenced, goal-oriented way.

To all, we wish you the Season’s Best, a better 2022, and to all a good night.

Notes

Jill L. Coil is Utah’s leading female family law and divorce attorney and invites you to hire her before your spouse does. She is admitted to the Utah and Texas bars and has contributed to case law by successfully arguing a landmark case before the Utah Supreme Court. Coil is a 2019 Super Lawyer and an author featured on Amazon, contributes actively within her community, and is the proud mother of four children.

 

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

Understanding the Difference Between Coparenting and Parallel Parenting

Understanding the Difference Between Coparenting and Parallel Parenting

Of all the complexities, strategies, and obligations involved in a divorce, none are as important as those involving children. The ability (or inability) of the parting couple to put their children above their own grievances is critical to the final arrangement. It’s also the essential difference between coparenting and parallel parenting.

Custody arrangements script more than just guardianship and a visitation calendar. They reflect the tone of the divorce and the maturity of the parents. And they lay the foundation for the children’s adaptability and happiness.

It has been almost half a century since joint custody became a custodial option, let alone the norm. 

Anyone who was a child of divorce before this major shift will remember a very different arrangement. The custodial parent, usually the mother, had legal and physical guardianship of the children. And the non-custodial parent had visitation, usually bi-weekly for a weekend.

You can probably imagine the emotional upending for parents and children alike. Anyone who has seen the 1979 Oscar-winning movie Kramer vs. Kramer can attest to the palpable agony of everyone involved.

For the non-custodial parent, being reduced to seeing your child only four days a month, while paying child support, could be emotionally eviscerating.

For the custodial parent, having full responsibility for your child, without the daily help from a spouse, could be overwhelming.

And for the child? Well, the effects of being raised by one parent, perhaps missing the other, and fielding alliance persuasions from both could be harrowing.

Important Terms to Learn

Before exploring the difference between coparenting and parallel parenting, let’s clarify a few terms that you will frequently hear.

Custody refers to the rights and responsibilities between parents for their children. It is divided into legal custody and physical custody. 

  • Legal custody refers to the right and responsibility to make important decisions for the child. Where will he go to school and church? Who will his doctors be? Can he travel out of state? 

One or both parents can have legal custody, contingent upon the amiability and communication between them.

  • Physical custody refers to where the child will live. Again, physical custody can be granted to one (sole) or both (joint) parents. 

It’s possible for parents to share legal custody but not physical custody. In this case, both would be involved in important decision-making. The child, however, would live with the primary custodian and have visitation with the other.

Visitation, while sounding like “physical custody,” refers to the actual arrangement for time spent with each parent. 

Having joint physical custody, for example, doesn’t mean the child has to split time 50/50 between parents. Because of school, friends, and other ties, a child will usually spend more time with one parent. 

You can probably get a sense of how these terms are going to play out in the different parenting arrangements.

The difference between coparenting and parallel parenting isn’t rooted in legal or physical custody. It’s rooted in the ability and commitment of the parents to behave and communicate in a responsible and amicable manner. 

A judge’s decision to establish one or the other will always come down to the best interests of the child(ren). 

To put it bluntly, if the two of you can’t be in the same room without snarling, arguing, or embarrassing your child, don’t plan on coparenting.

You may receive joint legal custody and even joint physical custody. But, if you can’t rise above who you are as exes to be exemplary parents, your child shouldn’t suffer the consequences.

So let’s start on a positive, best-case-scenario note: coparenting. 

The underlying premise of coparenting is that children of divorce benefit from having strong, healthy relationships with both parents. And both parents commit themselves to making that possible for the children.

While co-parenting may sound like the obvious choice, it relies on a special relationship between exes. It requires the kind of respect and healthy communication that you would naturally think could have saved your marriage in the first place.

What Does Coparenting Look Like?

  • You and your coparent are separated, divorced, or otherwise not romantically involved or cohabitating with one another.
  • You are both involved in important decisions involving your child, and you communicate openly and respectfully about them.
  • Communicationg occurs comfortably in various forms—in-person, by phone, by text, and by email.
  • You can be in the same room or at the same events for your child and be cordial. You actually make a point of both being present at important events like birthdays and school productions.
  • Both of you are flexible in matters of childrearing, accommodating things like changes in schedules, vacations, and transportation.
  • You allow your child to have a voice in the visitation arrangements. You understand that younger children don’t do well shuffling between homes. Older children, however, want more say in where they spend their time, and you both allow for that.
  • Your goodwill toward one another doesn’t preclude healthy boundaries. You don’t give false hope that you will be getting back together.
  • You are respectful and cordial toward your ex’s new spouse (if relevant). And you include him/her in communication when necessary for the good of your child.
  • Neither parent ever, ever bad-mouths the other in front of your child. You handle disagreements between adults only. And you share your frustrations (they will definitely happen) with adult friends, a counselor, a coach, or a support group.
  • You have a forum in place for conflict resolution to avoid problems.
  • Both of you want your child to witness his parents working together for his well-being.

The critical difference between coparenting and parallel parenting lies in the ability for and commitment to healthy communication with your ex. Sometimes, for possibly a laundry list of reasons, coparenting simply isn’t an option, and parallel parenting is the only viable solution.

What Does Parallel Parenting Look Like?

  • You and your ex may or may not share physical custody.
  • Your relationship with your ex is contentious, high-conflict, and you still harbor too much anger and negativity to communicate directly in a healthy way, even for your child.
  • You and your ex disengage. This may mean you limit direct contact in matters where you cannot communicate respectfully.
  • You and your ex, while sharing in major decisions, conduct your day-to-day parenting completely separately. Except for emergencies, you don’t check in with one another or impose your individual styles or expectations on one another. 
  • Your communication is “all business.” Nothing personal is exchanged—only necessary information about your child.
  • You avoid personal contact and talking by phone. This may mean you hand off your child without seeing or interacting with one another.
  • You use emails and calendars as your primary means of communication.
  • Neither one of you changes the schedule without a written agreement.
  • You never, ever use your child as a messenger or seek him as an ally against your ex.

The communication difference between coparenting and parallel parenting may make your arrangement seem carved in stone. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

Hopefully, if you begin with a coparenting relationship, you will not only be able to maintain it, but even improve upon it.

If the initial period after your divorce necessitates parallel parenting, however, there is still hope for evolution. 

Releasing Your Anger

Keep in mind that one of the most prohibitive things to coparenting is unresolved, unrelinquished anger. The belief that your life will never be good again can keep you in a state of seething resentment toward your ex.

But, once you start to discover and live the good things about life post-divorce, the anger will begin to fall away. Dedicate yourself to your own growth and accountability, and you will eventually step into a non-blaming ownership of your life. 

With a renewed focus on what can (and should) be, it will become easier to see beyond yourself. And you will become able to shift your focus to the priority and lifelong well-being of your child.

If both you and your ex can bring this kind of self-development to the table, co-parenting can become your new normal.

Notes

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional and often complicated experience of divorce. We invite you to learn what’s possible for you. Schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation with SAS. Whether you are coping with divorce or are already navigating your life afterward, choose to acknowledge your vulnerability and learn from others. Choose not to go it alone.

Telling your husband you want a divoce when he doesn't by Weheartit a

Telling Your Husband You Want a Divorce When He Doesn’t

When your marriage reaches a great divide, you can only hope that you are both on the same page for the same reasons. Civility would be the cherry on top to make something upending seem at least survivable. But divorce isn’t the conclusion to a perfect marriage, so expecting such an alignment between imminent exes is often unrealistic. Telling your husband you want a divorce when he doesn’t may be your first hurdle to overcome en route to an unavoidable conclusion.

Divorce, like marriage, isn’t a decision to be entered into lightly. It is, in a different way, its own kind of commitment. It has life-changing consequences for everyone involved, including those not part of the decision-making process.

How you come to the conclusion that divorce is your only answer is as important as the conclusion itself. 

Overthinking when to leave your husband can lead to a drawn-out Purgatory suffered by everyone in your home. Even the best effort to keep your considerations under wraps can’t hide the subconscious leaks of doubt, testing, and indecision.

And the stress of being in, then out, then unsure can wreak havoc with your sanity and health.

Underthinking when to end your marriage can be just as damning, if not more so. Using divorce as a threat or exasperated resignation isn’t a wild card that you can casually play without lasting consequence.

Telling your husband you want a divorce when he doesn’t—and when you’re not sure you do—is irresponsible, even cruel. You could do irreparable damage to a struggling marriage that might otherwise have a chance of repair with the right help.

Divorce as a Last Resort

For purposes of this discussion, we will assume that you have given your marriage every effort you can to heal it. You are not throwing up your hands in anger or fatigue and simply saying, “I am so done!” as you walk away.

You have examined your own role in whatever issues have become irreconcilable. Perhaps you have even gone to couples counseling with your spouse and laid your issues on the table.

You have considered outside factors in your discontent—stress, overworking, financial issues, children, health issues—and have assessed and adjusted fairly.

You know that this is more than just the normal ebb and flow of marriage. And you are convinced that you cannot be happy and true to yourself in the context of this relationship.

Your husband, however, has a different take on things. 

Perhaps he thinks you are overreacting or are too sensitive or emotional.

Perhaps he isn’t as unhappy as you are or he simply has different or fewer expectations of marriage than you do.

Or perhaps he thinks the two of you are making progress in your marriage that you simply don’t see.

Perhaps the two of you have very different beliefs about living out your marriage vows, regardless of what staying together would look like.

All you know is that you are absolutely sure that divorce is the only livable solution for you. And you are prepared to go through with it.

But now the hard part: telling your husband you want a divorce when he doesn’t.

If you have really been working on your marriage and communicating with your husband about your discontent, then he may not be surprised.

Remember that divorce is a complicated, often drawn-out process. It’s not a snap-your-fingers change in living arrangements. You may not be able to move out or physically separate until after the divorce is final.

So call upon wisdom and civility to guide your discussions and decisions.

Here are some important considerations for telling your husband you want a divorce when he doesn’t.

1. Think about how your husband is likely to react. 

Take into consideration your husband’s temperament and his style of communicating and dealing with conflict. 

This isn’t going to be easy for either one of you. But you have at least had a head start on the decision to divorce. 

The more aware he has been of your unhappiness, the less of a shock the conversation will be for him.

2. Create the right time and space for the conversation. 

You’re about to tell your spouse you want to end your marriage. So respect the magnitude of the conversation by setting aside an uninterrupted time for both of you and a space that feels neutral and safe. No kids, no phones, and no appointments on deck.

3. Avoid the shock-and-awe. 

Don’t open with “I want a divorce.” Instead, communicate the feelings and irreconcilable discontent you have had in your marriage. 

How long have you felt this way? Why do you believe it can’t be repaired? What efforts have you made to understand and remedy the issues in your marriage? 

Disclosing that you have decided you want a divorce should come at the end of that discussion.

4. Listen. 

You may have decided you want out of your marriage. But your husband has his side to the story, too. 

If you have come to the table prepared to follow through, then you can at least listen to what he has to say. Conviction doesn’t preclude courtesy. 

Be compassionate and own up to your own contribution to the failure of your marriage.

5. Be strong. 

Telling your husband you want a divorce when he doesn’t has heartbreak written all over it—at least for him. 

You may have accurately predicted his response, but you may also be surprised. He may become angry, defiant, silent, withdrawn, or even supplicating in an effort to change your mind. 

If and only if you are firm in your decision, it is important to be clear about your intentions. 

Don’t allow yourself to be baited into an argument, and, whatever you do, don’t accuse or blame him for the divorce.

6. Schedule a time for more discussion. 

This disclosure won’t be an over-and-out deal. Allow the two of you to sit with this new reality for a while, then come back together to move forward with cooler heads. 

7. Always be civil. 

Remember, no matter what your feelings are toward your husband now, this was a person you once loved enough to marry. And, if you have children together, he will always be their father and will therefore always be in your lives. 

Sometimes knowing that you are preparing for a new future makes it easier not to succumb to provocation or anger. 

Recognize, as well, that your composure and treatment at the beginning of the divorce will be reflected in the process itself. 

Civility from the get-go can also influence lasting decisions like settlements, custody, and alimony.

8. Have support on hand. 

Weddings today often have professional planners. And for good reason. Divorce, while not something to look forward to, has its own form of guidance and support. 

Divorce coaches, support groups, counselors, lawyers, financial people all play a role in helping you through. 

Talking about divorce with a spouse is difficult enough. Telling your husband you want a divorce when he doesn’t is especially complicated and difficult. 

Having support in the form of people who “have been there” and/or who know the process of divorce is indispensable. Have resources in place so you have reliable guidance before and after “the talk.”

Being on different pages in your marriage is a difficult way to live.

Being on different pages in your divorce is equally difficult.

Once you have made your decision, however, your disclosure will become easier and more focused.

And you will be able to close the door on unnecessary regret.


Ready for more? 

Read advice from our clients “Women Share How to Live Together During Divorce” 


Notes

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.

Why a Good Divorce is Better Than a Bad Marriage by weheartit.com

Why A Good Divorce is Better Than a Bad Marriage

Many couples would rather stay married than face the reality of the unknown that divorce brings. For many, divorce can also lead to feelings of guilt or shame or even failure. And yet, it doesn’t have to be that way. If you are stuck in a bad marriage, a divorce is the better option for everyone involved, and here’s why.

You Can’t Hide the Truth Forever

When you got married, you probably had a dream in your head and an expectation of where you wanted it to go. This dream may have included a big house, children, a beloved dog, and a golden retirement down the road, perhaps one where you and your partner would enjoy quiet walks along the beach. If this isn’t your life today and there are core issues in your marriage, it’s just a matter of time before you’re going to have to face the truth. When your marriage no longer feels like a partnership, this can have a negative effect on your overall life quality. You may find yourself less motivated or isolated, with greater feelings of negativity and low mood.


If you are wondering whether you should or should not divorce, consider 36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.


Regardless of what impression other people may have regarding your marriage, only you know the true reality. You can pretend everything is fine on the outside, but at the end of the day, you’re the one experiencing the truth of the marriage. There comes a time where the only person you are fooling is yourself. Don’t stay because you think you can hide it. You should never stay in a bad marriage because you are worried about what others might say. Again, an unhealthy marriage affects you, not them. Don’t be afraid of making choices that improve your quality of life just because it makes others uncomfortable.

Living your truth will also translate to better, more healthy relationships outside the marriage. Surround yourself with people who accept your truth. Having healthy relationships with others outside the marriage is always important for your well-being.

Living Honestly Is Better for Your Health

Sticking it out isn’t always the best option and doing so can lead to you feeling ill, both mentally and physically. The strain and stress from a bad marriage will take a toll on anyone and can lead to many health issues, such as depression, addiction, anxiety, and even eating disorders. A bad marriage doesn’t need to be one that consists of abuse. It can be a marriage where you cannot be yourself, do not feel authentic, can’t communicate, or aren’t happy no matter how hard you both try.

When you and your partner cannot be your truest selves, you are inviting in other problems that will only worsen the situation. Divorce can be stressful too, but understanding what steps to take can help ease the pressure. Here is what to know before you get divorced.

Never underestimate how damaging stress can be. And when your marriage is the cause of your stress, you cannot expect things to get better as time passes. In time, mental disorders can also lead to physical problems. For instance, eating disorders, reduced immunity, and other issues can also make your heart more susceptible to potentially deadly problems.

Children Sense When Things Are Bad

If you are staying in a bad marriage for the sake of your children, then think again. Your children spend as much time with you as your partner does and they notice things you don’t expect, whether they realize it now or when they get older. If you are both unhappy in the marriage, your kids will know it.

If you stay in a bad marriage, they will grow up thinking this is the right thing to do too and may follow in your footsteps. Consider what advice you would give your child if you knew they were in a bad marriage and follow that advice for yourself. While divorce can have negative impacts on children, it is better to have two separate happy households than one toxic and unhappy one.

Getting a divorce isn’t what anybody dreams of when they marry, but sometimes things don’t work out. You don’t need to stay in a bad marriage when you could go through a good divorce, especially when you both know it’s the right choice.

Greeting Divorce as a Gateway

Getting a divorce is not the end of the world. It’s not worth avoiding just because you fear what others would think of you. You also shouldn’t stay in an unhealthy marriage because of your children. In time, staying in a bad marriage is ultimately worse for everyone involved, and has negative effects on mental and physical health.

If you want to try to save your marriage, do take steps like going to a marriage counselor or trying discernment counseling. However, if things do not get better, take a long hard look at your daily reality. You can’t expect things to change if they are not changing with professional help.

Divorce is not the end of the world. In fact, it could be the beginning of a whole new, better life for you. You may also find a new community of friends and others who have gone through a divorce as well. You may benefit from joining an educational support group or talking with a divorce coach who can help you understand what other choices are available to you.

Notes

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.

Facing the fear of Divorce Change Weheartit Size 2

Fearing the Change of Divorce

Think back to when you were a small girl and how, when you were little, the prospect of change was exciting. Perhaps you were scared but excited about losing that first tooth. But it meant growing up and that the tooth fairy was coming to reward you for being brave. Do you recall when you were invited to do grownup things? Like stay later at the table with adult guests, or accompany a teenager on an outing and how thrilled you felt? Larger than yourself, and suddenly bigger, more important than your peers. Change signified good when we were younger, and perhaps even faced with the shock of menstruation, a part of us welcomed it (maybe) with a particular horror fascination. It symbolized certain doors opening, and a private world of unexplainable mysteries and womanly secrets now to be yours. Most likely, though, fearing the change of divorce was not included in those early imaginings.

When we were little, we understood change as natural. We still do. However, with age, we have come to fear it. Older now, “wiser”, we resist change, we ignore it, and we pay to not see it. And in no place is change more fear-inducing than in our post-divorce, apocalyptic future, somewhere out there, in an unknown galaxy of life after separation.

This “resistance” begs a few questions. How do we look at the change that divorce inevitably brings in a healthy way? 

How do we make friends with it? 

And how do we prepare for it when we can’t know what’s out there?

Change and Its Thorny Opportunity

Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom or losing our marriage, or losing ourselves in a marriage for us to see that something’s got to change because there are no alternatives. There simply is no other choice. That’s the gift for some of us, the catalyst: we have no choice. So, for those who are change-averse, sometimes it takes hitting the wall for change to be accepted. Others say they have no problem with change and embrace it with every opportunity. 

And yet there are degrees to change.

Genuine change is not about getting Botox or our hair colored. It takes work to learn what is changing, what needs to change, and what we want from the change. Put simply, it’s uncomfortable. Fearing the change of divorce is natural, but can also be seen as a huge opportunity for growth and yes, even improvement on the way we are currently living.

Change on the Inside

To understand change, we need to appreciate how our bodies are hardwired and what genuine hard work it is to change. We resist doing something different because it is physically difficult. The brain has hard-wired networks and paths. Any kind of change to our homeostasis or what our networks know as “normal” causes stress for the body. The body has to work extra hard to override old patterns and create a new response.

The fact is we’re not just lazy, or cowards when we’re looking at change: we are conditioned NOT to make it happen.

And society certainly reinforces this, or so it seems at first blush. If we look at myths and fairy tales around the world, they tell us, don’t leave home, don’t wander out of the village, don’t amble into the woods. Don’t change. For there, lurking is the Great Unknown, the wolf, the ogres, the dragons, they’ll get you. No, stay local and do what you’re supposed to do, what’s expected of you. If you don’t change, you’ll stay safe and out of harm’s way.  

But those myths are never about the common folk, the villagers or townspeople who continued doing they always did. The great myths are about that one unusual, individual who chooses to not heed the “stay-safe” words. The hero. The hero is called by the beyond and the hero pursues. S/he leaves the familiar stay safe world and goes off to face the unknown. And it’s that journey, that epic quest of twists and challenges, struggles and fights, that transforms the hero into a changed person, a leader for all. 

The lesson in those myths is not to stay with the same and what you know. If you want to lead a passionate life, it requires you to face change and its harrowing obstacles. It will not be easy, but in the failing, stumbling, and caterwauling on the ground, you will learn anew. As well, the lesson reveals that failure is a profound opportunity for learning.

Rather than focusing on fearing the change that divorce brings, ask yourself: What have you learned from your marriage? 

Preparing for Change When We Can’t Know Our Future

Perhaps you are feeling your fear about divorce, or battling dragons right now in the midst of the legal process. Maybe you’re facing your battle-weary self in the mirror after divorce. Wherever you are in the process, begin by taking stock of the pain you know so well. And then ask yourself, what do you want to do with this pain? Stay with it? Or, use its energy for something that will end it?

Scary, we know. But remind yourself, you’ve been afraid before. Fear has always been with you, ever since you were a child. It’s how you respond to it and what you do with the fear that matters most. 

Ask, what are your genuine choices today? Map them out. Will doing nothing and staying in your status quo end the pain? Or is it another path, where you will have to do uncomfortable things, like explore your options, learn about them and their long-term playouts, that offers a better chance of ending your pain?

Make Friends with Change by Making Friends with Others Facing It

Feel yourself fearing the change of divorce, and then begin. Take small steps. Find the right mentors and communities who can bolster your commitment to facing the fear of divorce in your life. These people hold the knowledge that will help ease your journey and liberate you.

In myths, the hero is always visited or inspired by otherworldly creatures, whether it was Pinocchio’s Blue Fairy or the god and goddesses in the Odyssey. Open up to finding your source of inspiration, your specific light that pulls you forward. This power may come from your spiritual practice or your therapist who’s helped other women leave difficult marriages. It might come from private meditation or the words of a divorced coach. Perhaps your guidance comes from another divorced woman who, further along her journey and healed, is turning to help you be guided from the demons, mishaps, and pitfalls along the way. 

Lean On Group Support!

Don’t overlook the power of the group. Maybe it’s a community of like-minded women, each seeking to learn if she should or should not divorce. Or maybe it’s a group of inspired divorce survivors who have similar values to you: they too are learning what they want from change as they support each other rebuilding their lives. The contagion of the group is powerful. Think of the successful, recovery model of peer-to-peer support in Alcoholics Anonymous, or the triumph of Suffragettes in the early 20th century. Being with others will inspire you, and you, with all your flaws and strengths, will inspire them. Together, there is group momentum. Together, there is greater success in numbers.

Accepting Change Involves Action and Calculated Risks

Though you are allied and supported, you must accept that there is no one else who can change your life. It will come down to the action you must take, and here, your body needs you to do something. You will meet with a lawyer to hear your legal choices, you will evaluate them. You will worry about the money, but you will find out the best business transaction for yourself. If you have kids, you will remind the children, once it starts, this is not about them, and that their daddy* and you love them very much. You will keep taking steps to prepare and integrate change, and to foster your best post-divorce life. You will remind yourself, you will continue to face fearing the change of divorce throughout your journey.


“I never heard of anyone regretting being brave.”  ~ SAS for Women Co-founder, Liza Caldwell

 


In spite of your ongoing fear, all of your steps will be in alignment with your best post-divorce life. Yes. If that is hard for you to imagine, then spend time visualizing what you want in your sweetest life. In the safety of the visualization, go big! Think about your ideal landing ground after divorce. Visualize peace and safety, think about the people whom you’ll have more time for, consider how your body will feel not being constantly triggered by your spouse. Allow change to be an inspiration for you. Don’t hold back. Nurture that vision and infuse it with healthiness and compassion, but also steel-edged resolve for honoring who you must be, who you truly are. Hold that vision front and center and ensure your steps, small or large, are directed toward that vision.

You will fumble. You will fall. Likely, you will find yourself on your knees, and on occasion, your children will be watching. Forgive yourself. You are human, not a god. But your body is an incredible thing. It’s seemingly hardwired to keep you small, and yet, you are learning it can also catapult you into new, exciting places and situations, where you can and will learn anew. You can adapt, and in this adaption, discover unpredictably beautiful things. There are risks with your moves, but there are often greater risks in doing nothing. You’ve accepted “something’s got to change” and you are giving it your all. This is the one precious life you were meant to live. 

Notes

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce or that confusing place of recreating the life you deserve, one thing that makes a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it 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 and reinvention. SAS offers all women six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you—and your precious future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

 

*At SAS, we support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity, however, we may refer to your spouse as “he” or “husband.”

Finding Your Sexy After Divorce

Finding Your Sexy Again After Divorce

There must be millions of articles, books, essays, studies and memoirs out there about sex. There are thousands of variations on the topic. People have been philosophizing about this subject in one way or another for eons. Some experts even focus specifically on finding your sexy again after divorce.

And not one of them is an expert on you.

By all means, read about it, talk to your friends about it. But your sexuality is as unique to you as your DNA, your fingerprint, your particular blend of pheromones. You may find a community in these sites and pages; that’s wonderful. You may get some ideas, you may find comfort in discovering that you are one of millions who wonder how best to do this, this most visceral celebration of ourselves. Read and educate yourself, but after that? Forget it. The only thing that matters at this point is what you like, and now that you are divorced, you are free again to find that out.

One Opinion on Finding Your Sexy After Divorce

If you’re scrolling through what other people say about getting your sexy back after divorce, then there’s a good chance you’ve already got some inkling as to how you’d like to go about it. There’s an even better chance that you’re a lot closer to uncovering yourself than you think you are.

Even more, you already know on some level that celebrating with sex after a divorce is really a fresh blooming of something you never lost to begin with. It just got buried under the years, the routine, and the compromises. Now that you’ve dug yourself out again, know that your sexual experience of yourself is one of the most valuable things you have. It will outlast every other relationship and is more valuable than any material wealth.

So, whether you’re approaching this subject with enthusiastic, hungry curiosity, or dread, just thinking about it, or tiptoeing into it with your hands over your eyes, you’ve reached the really precious part of being on the other side of divorce. This is the part where you celebrate being free and deciding for you, only you, what you like and what excites you—without apology.

Finding Your Sexy After Divorce

A person’s healthy sexual expression is one of the most delicious things in life. When it comes to your own, your opinion is the only one that matters.

The Corset of Comparison:

Resurrecting your sexiness just as you like it is the best part of life after divorce. Don’t waste a minute of it comparing yourself to anyone else or holding yourself up to a yard stick of social commentary.

Other people’s opinions are abundant. Sometimes the wise ones can help clarify your own feelings or give you a kind of compass reading on which direction you’d like to take. Often, though, they are about as useful as pantyhose on an octopus. Comparison is useful when buying watermelons and mattresses and in a few other circumstances. When it comes to our own individuality, though, comparison cripples feeling good about ourselves.

Regaining Your Sensuality After Divorce

When it comes to sexuality and our bodies, that goes double. There is nothing more individual, more particular to each of us, than our sexuality. It is rich and singular and precious. Nothing matters except that truth.

Leaving Judgement in the Past:

Few things have been more subject to outside opinions than female sexuality. There is probably not one single aspect of woman that has been more objectified, commodified, co-opted, shamed, exploited, corseted, misrepresented, homogenized, villainized, violently or subtly punished, criticized or boxed up and put on a shelf than our sexuality.

Now that you’re divorced, it’s time to claim your sexual experience for you alone. But how? Is there really anything to look forward to? Oh, just wait. That’s a gigantic yes.

Life After Divorce

Use your mind as much as your body. And don’t judge yourself badly for wanting what you want. As long as you stick to consenting adults and are doing no harm to yourself and others, imagine whatever you like. If it’s the result of negative conditioning, self-judgement has nothing to do with your real feelings about yourself. Judgement and shaming have far more to do with power plays than ethics or morals. Whether they’re on a global level and stem from religious dogma, or from a personal level rooted in individual insecurity, they don’t have a place in your sexual story.

If you’ve come from an abusive marriage, you know all about power plays and what it’s like to be helpless in the face of them. You aren’t helpless now, but erasing those tapes of abuse and humiliation will take time. Recovering sexual expression can take time even when abuse hasn’t been a factor, though, so be patient with yourself.

Quality Control:

In addition to being patient with yourself, pacing yourself is also advisable. If you’ve been bored, under-expressed or long unsatisfied in your marriage, it’s tempting to gorge yourself sexually. Unleashing your starving sexual self on an entire buffet of available partners might be an appealing thought, but doing so comes with pitfalls. Think big picture. Think STDs.

Letting your cat out of the bag, so to speak, is fantastic, but doing so in a high-traffic zone might be hazardous. In other words, you don’t need to say yes to everyone. Get out of scarcity thinking and be sure to vet your partners. Ask for test results, use condoms, meet new people in public places and get to know them at least a little. If they’re resistant to that, listen to your gut and check them off the list. New partners don’t have to be the great new love, but sex really is better if knowing and liking the person enough for connection is part of the experience.

Curiouser and Curiouser:

The brain is just as important as the body in sexual experience. It is the biggest sexual organ there is. So engage intellectually. Fantasize. And speaking of fantasy, know that what you picture now may have changed from what titillated you 20 years ago. Getting divorced may have opened you up to sexual opportunity, but a change or additions in preference doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the divorce. Nor is it born from a negative opinion of men. If you’ve wondered what it may be like to kiss a mouth with no stubble, one that tastes of lipstick, don’t edit or hide from that curiosity. Explore it. It might be just as delicious to entwine yourself with silky limbs and curl up against the softness of another woman’s breast as it is to run your fingers through rough chest-hair.

Sexuality can be fluid, which just means that as we move through life, we change and seek new experiences. Preferring males over females in our sexual partnering is not etched in stone. As we get older, we realize that so many things we thought we’d never do, we’ve done. Why should arousal come only at the hands of one gender?

Body of Work… and Play:

Get physical. For some, it is easier to move into sensuality through sexually neutral activities. Sex doesn’t have to be the goal for something to be sexy.

Water droplets christening your skin as you paddleboard, the shotgun blast of your foot cracking against a punching bag, the deep-breath release of a muscle finally loosening after a sustained stretch… these are sexy things. Sensuality is everywhere. It is in the click of your heels on the sidewalk, the satiny shift of your trouser lining against your thigh, the swish and swing of a dress, the push of your posterior against denim.

And there is just as much freedom in deciding that you don’t actually want to have sex.

Finding Your Sexy After Divorce

For women who have invested a lot of their self-worth in male sexual attention, or who felt dominated by a spouse in their marriage bed, this can be especially liberating. Likewise, if sex was the only thing good about your marriage, don’t be afraid that it was only because of your Ex. If you have a foundation in great sexual experience, the end of the marriage does not mean the end of great sex. There is a sequel and it is often even better.

Regardless, be physical in a way that is less laden with negative judgements. Dance, stretch, lift, roll your hips, engage your muscles, put all of your attention in your body and let yourself move. Run your hands over your own hips, breasts, thighs. You are luscious. You are edible, bountiful, bodacious.

Party of One:

And while the brain is the biggest sexual organ, the clitoris is the smallest. But it won’t be overlooked, because it is the only organ in the human body designed solely for pleasure. It is a pleasure powerhouse. And it’s all ours, so appreciate it. You do not need a partner to have mind-blowing sex. If you have not yet touched yourself and brought yourself to orgasm, that is your homework assignment. It’s the best after-school project you will ever have. Any woman who has pleasured herself knows that the orgasms she gives herself are the most powerful, rollicking, undulating solo rides. They are not to be missed simply because there is no one else involved.

Finding Your Sexy After Divorce

The Body Politic:

And finally, for the love of God(dess), big bodies are just as sexy, just as beautiful as small ones. Sexiness is not “one size fits all.” We are inundated by images now; it is beyond ridiculous. This image-driven culture requires a sharp and critical eye on what body politic we are electing, with every choice, every “like” on social media, every purchase, every change in the channel. Keep in mind that we are each other’s guardians and advocates and choose accordingly.

Sexuality is a rich dessert; in what world do we decide that young and Slim Fasted women are the only ones who get treated like sex goddesses? An anemic one. A boring one. A plastic one.

So, as you move beyond the maze of divorce and into the uncharted beyond, know that pleasure is your prerogative no matter your size, your scars, your solo act, or the false stories you’ve been told.

It is also your prerogative to ignore everything I’ve said. Defining yourself, celebrating your sexuality post-divorce or not, is no one’s business but yours.

Notes

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer, former print journalist and feature writer living on the West Coast. Connect with Jennifer at verbosej@hotmail.com 

SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to rebuilding their lives on their own, healthiest terms. If you are recreating after divorce or separation, you are invited to experience SAS firsthand. Schedule your free 15-minute consultation. Whether you work further with us or not, we’ll help you understand your next, black-and-white steps for walking into your brave unknown — with compassion, integrity and excitement.

Post Divorce

Is Happiness Even Possible Post-Divorce?

When a marriage is languishing in misery or the futility of irreconcilable differences, “happiness” may seem more conceptual than attainable. Sometimes not being unhappy makes the leap into the unknown worth the risk. But, at some point, either during or after the process, one question will become unavoidable: Is happiness even possible post-divorce?

The idea of post-divorce life actually being beautiful, let alone full of Under the Tuscan Sun movie-worthy transformation, may seem maddeningly out of reach. 

Sure, wouldn’t we all love to stumble across a decaying Italian villa and have the vision and lira to resurrect it?

Shaking down olives in late autumn, plucking basil from your window planter, spending all day preparing a Mediterranean feast for local friends… It all sounds so dreamy. 

And watching a divorcee go from non-functional to Florentine in under two hours—well, let’s face it, that makes anything seem possible.

Netflix, however, isn’t reality. And chances are you’re not going to become an ex-pat with your divorce settlement.

But you might. And that’s the point.

The Power of Post-Divorce Possibility

The question “Is happiness possible post-divorce?” isn’t a trick question or a test of your pragmatism.

Even if you hear it like a broken record, echoing from the dungeon of your shattered dreams, the answer is always yes!

But how? And when? How long does it take to get over a divorce, let alone to be happy?

While there is no foolproof formula for answering those questions, there are definitely factors that influence them. 

And one of the biggest factors is time. How long you were married and how old you are at the time of your divorce will affect your recovery.

If you’ve already raised your children, have your AARP card, and are a stone’s throw away from retirement, you’re probably in a gray divorce.

Divorcing after 50 or after a lengthy marriage means more baggage. It’s not necessarily bad baggage, but baggage nonetheless. 

Children, communication styles, habits, rituals, families, infidelity, vacations, jobs, memories, complicated assets and finances. It all gets mushed together into an identity that you now have to unravel. 

What do you keep? What do you throw away? What do you lug into counseling to understand? What do you use as a springboard to manifesting latent dreams and possibilities?

The longer you were married, the more likely it is that a big part of your identity became enmeshed in the care of others. 

Children, elderly relatives, your spouse—it can become almost impossible to tell where they end and you begin. After all, part of loving others is caring for them, sacrificing for them, compromising with them.

Redefining Your Happiness

You may not even know how to be happy if you’re not taking care of someone else. In that case, asking “Is happiness possible post-divorce?” is even more relevant…and possibly frightening.

Suddenly your dinner prep isn’t for a small army. It may not even require setting the table.

The only laundry you have to do is your own. 

And the only person who will be passing judgment on your housekeeping skills is you.

What’s the problem? those eager for freedom may ask.

The problem isn’t as much a problem as it is a challenge for those whose self-care has always taken a back seat to caring for others. 

All that outward focus, compounded over decades, may appear altruistic and mother-of-the-year responsible. But it can also become a shield that blocks you from the most important responsibility in your life: yourself.

So now you’re “stuck” with the one person you forgot about while you were making everyone else happy. And somewhere along the line, you lost the discernment that happiness within yourself is not selfish, but essential.

Getting through the divorce process is largely an exercise in discipline, resourcefulness, and compartmentalization. And, for all the calories burned, the exercise isn’t a fun one.

The reality of life in the wake of divorce is that it’s still a lot of discipline (especially financial) and resourcefulness. And grief and a medley of emotions can make a mess of even the most well-intended, organized calendar.

Learning to Slow Down and Focus Inward

The compartmentalization that allowed you to stay on course during the divorce process now has the freedom to open up. 

Yes, it’s still wise to put boundaries around your “divorce stuff.” But now is the time to start thinking expansively.

To be a bit cliche, it’s time to start coloring outside the lines, both literally and figuratively. 

(Seriously—pick up a cheap coloring book and some crayons and color a page. How do you instinctively color? Inside the lines? All over the page? With realistic color choices? Slowly? Quickly? Do you edit yourself? Do you add your own elements?

Put the picture into an envelope, write the date on the outside, and put it in a safe place. Make a mental note of how you felt as you colored. 

Repeat this simple exercise periodically, making the same mental notes.

After a year has passed, open your envelopes, pull out your pictures, and line them up. Do you see any differences as you journeyed through that first year? Do you remember differences in how you felt as you did something so simple and childlike?)

The point of doing such a rudimentary, seemingly nonsensical exercise is to help you connect to your own self-awareness. It’s a physical expression of what is so often locked inside and inaccessible for women after they are no longer sworn to the prioritization of others.

Visualize Happiness

The question now shifts from Is happiness possible post-divorce? to What would happiness look and feel like post-divorce?

Even as you reflect and grieve, it’s also time to meditate on who you are. Who is this magnificent person is with whom you are now spending so much time?

Who was she before she became a wife, mother, caregiver? What were her moonshot fantasies and superpower gifts? What did she always dream of doing if time, money, work, and family weren’t limiting factors?

Believe it or not, vision boards are still in vogue, even if they’re glued together on Pinterest. There is great power in seeing and writing what your mind repeatedly creates. 

Even if you are having to recreate yourself professionally and financially, opportunities abound for you to take classes in areas that interest you.

Even if all you do is watch how-to YouTube videos and TED Talks on subjects that stir your soul, you will be getting a free education. 

Keep a dedicated, unlined journal for taking notes and drawing pictures and diagrams. Allow it to be a testament of your journey to the life you only dreamed was possible.

Think of other women you hold in high esteem. If you can’t think of women you know personally, start with celebrities or influencers. 

Follow their social media pages and blogs. Interact in their comment streams. Make connections with other people who are inspired by the same women. 

And, again, take notes. You may not realize their worth today. But you most definitely will down the road when you marvel at how far you have come since your divorce.

Explore and Reconnect with the World

Begin to travel by yourself. Sound terrifying? Then start small and close. 

Take in farmers’ markets and art fairs. Rescue a senior dog so you have someone who is happy to go with you (and ecstatic to try samples).

Make one day a week your personal exploration day. Visit an art museum or specialty boutique, then take yourself to lunch. You’ll be amazed at how special that one day becomes to you. 

Commit to trying one new group or social event a month. There are Meetup groups, for example, for every interest under the sun (and then some). 

One of the best ways to help yourself and actually feel happy as you’re trying to “become” happy is to help others. 

Not only does stepping outside yourself to benefit another person do double-duty on the happiness front, but it builds your social network.

Build Your Social Connections

Divorce is one of the most isolating, lonely experiences you can go through in life. One reason women ask Is happiness possible post-divorce? is that they don’t know who “their people” are anymore. Whom can they trust? Who will like and love them for who and where they are? 

And the idea of braving a social scene that mostly centers around dating may be wrong-place, wrong-time.

So it makes perfect sense to involve yourself with others who have no agenda other than to bring goodness to people, animals, the community, and/or the environment.

In doing so, you will, without realizing it, build a new sacred circle of trusted friends who share your values…and possibly your place in life.

Finally, remember the importance of staying connected to women who support each other through the various stages of divorce and its recovery.

Happiness, after all, is found in relationships. And the most transformative relationships are those that encourage and strengthen the most important relationship of all: the one with yourself.

Notes

 
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 to not do it 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 and reinvention. SAS offers all women six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you — and your precious future. Join our tribe and stay connected.
Moving Out Of The House After Divorce

21 Steps to Moving Out of the House After Divorce

The process of divorce can be tedious and overwhelming. Not to mention, it’s also emotionally draining. Everything requires planning, timing, documenting, and money. And moving out of the house after a divorce is no exception.

You would think that deciding who moves out of the marital home during a divorce would be left to the soon-to-be-exes. After all, they’re the ones who have decided they can’t be married anymore. Shouldn’t they know if it’s better for one person to leave during the divorce process?

Unfortunately, the who/when/where of moving out of the house after divorce (and especially during the divorce process) isn’t that simple.

There are ramifications to everything during this time. What you do and don’t do can have legal, financial, and even custodial consequences.

With that in mind, keep this mantra at the forefront of your brain: When in doubt, ask.

That’s why having your team of experts—legal, financial, emotional and practical—is so important before you dive into the detailed essentials of your divorce.

Finding Legal Support

If you haven’t yet hired a divorce attorney, now is the time to secure one—or least schedule a legal consultation dedicated to you and your specific needs and rights as a woman. Visit our helpful guide to hiring a divorce lawyer for suggestions on finding the right attorney for you.

Not sure what to ask a divorce attorney during a consult? We’ve got you covered on that, too.

All that’s to say, don’t be packing your clothes—or throwing out your husbands’ clothes—before talking with your attorney.

If you read your own Miranda Rights before making any big decisions, you will be much more inclined to consult before leaping.

Think, “Everything I say/do/spend can and will be used against me in divorce court. Consult first.”

Because the marital home is your primary asset, any movement to sell or separate will complicate everything regarding division of assets.

It could also become a factor in determining a custodial arrangement for children, as well as child support now and in the future.

*Important note: If you and/or your children and pets are in any kind of danger from your spouse, your safety comes first. Please contact your attorney, divorce coach, and domestic violence hotline to devise a plan for getting you to safety while working on your divorce.

Let’s look at 21 steps for moving out of the house after divorce.

The last two steps pertain to you especially if you are dealing with an unwanted divorce.

Before you move…

    1. Talk to your attorney about what to do with joint property or property you assume is yours. Should you move out or request he move?
    2. Begin to plan for the move (his or yours) by reviewing all these steps, and then following the steps most relevant to where you are on your timeline. Don’t let the planning scare you away. “Remind yourself who you are,” says a recently separated SAS client, “and know your own work ethic and ability to provide for yourself is there and in your control.”
    3. Budget. If you are good with numbers and will be moving out, figure out how much money you will have to spend on housing so you know what you can and cannot afford. If you have no idea, ask a friend to help you crunch the numbers so you understand your options. Or consult with a good financial advisor who can help you plan.
    4. Make lists of your belongings, joint accounts, individual accounts, etc.
    5. Start thinking about what you want to surround yourself with in your new life. As another SAS client enrolled in Annie’s Group told us:

“As I started to plan for my move, I walked around our marital home considering how I wanted to live going forward. I decided to bring things that gave me a sense of peace and joy. I evaluated these things deeply, then I used this opportunity to start to purge and downsize before moving out. Next, I began getting rid of things that were weighing me down: clothes that I was no longer wearing or I had ‘overworn’, paperwork that didn’t need saving, mementos that were just too heavy for my future, and the many items I had received and collected over the years.”

Before talking to your spouse about divorce …

    1. If possible, start cleaning and purging before announcing your desire to divorce. You will get more done not dealing with the stress of his reaction, trust us. And the more non-essentials you can clear from your plate, the better. As suggested above, get rid of clothes you don’t wear or need and tchotchkes collecting dust. Most importantly, tidy up your files and make copies of essential documents. Think of this process as getting both prepared and lighter for your next chapter.
    2. Make 5 categories to guide your organizing and purging. These five categories include: Trash; Donate; Take (your must-haves for immediate survival); Give to Him; and Storage (the nice-to-have items, sparingly selected, for down-the-road). Next, with the things you will be keeping, giving to him, or needing to discuss, inventory and stash in labeled boxes — if your circumstances allow you to. (If not, you will do it later.) Consider color-coding with stickers on the boxes to quickly recognize “his” and “hers.” For example, you can use blue and green stickers for boxes and for later, going through the house and marking who gets what. And here we go with the “document, document, document.” Yes, you need to document everything, preferably in a dedicated journal. Identify what is in every box (“kitchen drawers near refrigerator”) and to whom it belongs. (You’ll thank us later!) Putting a number on each box to correspond with its number in your ledger will make cross-referencing a breeze.

Your mantra for this step? Let it go. Cue the music and sing out loud if doing so inspires you to toss.

Give it to your ex, donate it, or toss it. But lighten your load. Would you rather write your next chapter on a blank page or between the lines of one already filled?

Get your things in order, literally…

    1. Take things to the thrift store, recycling, or trash. Ask for a receipt at the thrift store if you itemize for tax purposes.
    2. Protect special items. Things like photo albums and special mementos can be the source of some tug-of-war in divorce. Take good care of these items. Put them in a safe, protected place. And, wherever possible, consider copying and/or scanning and saving your favorites. If you have children, remember that your civility to their father is your civility to them. And protecting items directly related to their family heritage is a gift to them, no matter which homes the items remain in.
    3. Work at your own pace keeping positive thoughts in your head when possible.

After you have “the talk”…

    1. Pick your timing, but talk to your Soon-to-Be-Ex about any items he might have an emotional attachment to and or any large items (a piano? A camper? Paintings? A special collection of CD’s or records?) that will need to find a home. Will the large items go to one of you, or will you sell the baby grand and split the proceeds? Make the necessary arrangements.
    2. Understand that there are no hard rules or laws about ownership of household items collected during a marriage, but some common ways to decide ownership is if one spouse received a gift personally, like a birthday present from a relative or an engagement ring, that spouse gets to keep it. Gifts made to the couple are typically divided equally. Keep in mind that jewelry your spouse gave you (except your engagement ring) is a marital asset as surprising as that sounds. When in doubt check with your lawyer (see step 1).As for things you already owned before coming into the marriage, those are usually viewed as “yours.”
    3. Make a plan for children and pets. What will the custody arrangement look like? What will the children and pets need for living space? If you have bonded pets, think compassionately about their happiness and welfare before splitting them up like material assets.
    4. Line up supportive friends for assistance with helping you organize or move out of the house post-divorce (if necessary) or taking things for storage.

Maintaining fairness and civility…

    1. Split items equitably. Those blue and green stickers you bought? Now is the time to go through the house together and take turns claiming your major possessions by affixing your colored stickers. If an item becomes a point of contention, either put it on hold… or take a big breath and let it go.
    2. If you get “stuck,” and can’t just let it go, agree to donate the item to Goodwill or to give it to one of your children. Do not seek justice in court. If you do, you will be greatly frustrated, because the court will likely say, sell it and split the proceeds.
    3. Keep the kids out of it. They don’t need to witness this, nor participate in the split-up of things, nor help you move. If they are younger, they need to see constancy, even if it’s only in the form of their bedrooms, toys, and daily routines. So, make plans for what items belonging to the kids will be moved, what will stay, and what may need to be duplicated.

Managing the logistics and your heart …

    1. Hire professional movers. You will be relying on family and friends enough during this journey. Moving out of the house after divorce is something best left to objective, non-emotionally involved movers.
    2. Make sure your utilities and internet are turned on in advance of moving to your new place. Yes, we are speaking from experience… Candlelight is divine for bubble baths, but not so much for finding the wooden spoon you need to stir your soup.
    3. If you’re dealing with an unwanted divorce and are alone, ask close friends and family to help. Keep your children out of this process. Make arrangements for them to spend the night with friends. Or take care of the move while they’re in school and doing after-school activities. Professional movers may be ideal, but you may not have that financial option.
    4. Try to move to a new place if possible. Yes, it’s a lot of work to move. But you will soon realize how emotionally interconnected everything is. This is a time to think “fresh, new, renew(ed).” You don’t need to spend the next chapter of your life steeped in a home you built with someone no longer there.

Understand that moving out of the house after a divorce is not only logistically and physically challenging, but an enormous emotional step in an already difficult process. There is a lot to think about, and yet, you don’t want to get trapped and weighed down by memories and “things.”

This is a time for prudence, wise counsel, strategic coaching… and letting go.

 

Notes

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 to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and often times complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. SAS offers all women six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you and your precious future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

Divorce Mediation

6 Essentials for Preparing for Divorce Mediation

Deciding to divorce is hard, and there are many big and little choices behind the ultimate decision. But there’s one question that many don’t grapple with: how do I want to divorce? This question is often left unaddressed because many believe that they’re doomed to have a litigious divorce. When most people think about divorce, they imagine the war-like scenario so often portrayed in popular culture. In this, one party is victorious, and the other is the loser. This image often involves mudslinging and scandal. While this route is one path to divorce, it’s not the only one. Moreover, it’s often not the best way to navigate an already difficult process. Divorce mediation offers an alternative solution.

What is Mediation?

One approach that’s continuing to grow in popularity—and is typically more cost-efficient—is mediation. In mediation, the parties meet with a neutral third party who guides them through the decisions that form their separation agreement. Mediation is an interest-based approach where the parties, together with the mediator, work to understand each other’s underlying motivations. Together, they generate creative resolutions to resolve any impasse. For that reason, mediation is not focused on retribution for marital grievances; instead, it’s a future-focused process intended to set the parties up for the next chapter of their lives. And most importantly for many of my clients, mediation provides absolute control over the outcome to the parties. This is because they—not the mediator—make all final decisions.

Who Should Mediate?

I truly believe that everyone (with limited exceptions) should attempt mediation before engaging in a traditional divorce model. Mediation is intended for (and should be used by) all who desire a less combative divorce process. Mediation also allows for more control over the timeline, cost, and outcome of the process.

Ideally, parties should attempt mediation before asking for court intervention. However, mediation is flexible and can be implemented at any stage of the process.

Mediation also can be used to resolve any issues relating to the divorce or a limited set of disputes. It can also be used for one issue, like custody. Thus, even if you’ve already begun a different process, you can still mediate—it’s not too late.

It’s especially important for parties who have children to attempt mediation. As I always tell my clients, children bind you for life, and the coparenting relationship is one of the most important relationships you will have—it does not end when your child turns eighteen. You and your Ex will forever have celebrations and life events that require you both to be present (graduations, weddings, and the birth of grandchildren, to name a few) so it’s best for all involved to try to learn how to move forward and get along.

The Benefits of Divorce Mediation

In fact, even if you don’t succeed at resolving your disputes in mediation, the mere act of engaging in the process produces positive results in the long run. A 12-year study conducted by Dr. Robert Emery shows that just five hours of mediation prompted parents to settle their divorce outside of court—and had positive effects on the coparenting and parent-child relationships. In fact, after just 5 hours of mediation, non-residential parents were more likely to speak with their children on a weekly basis and see their children more frequently. Moreover, the primary residential parent “graded” the other parent more highly in every area of parenting, including discussions related to coparenting problems.

Who Should Not Mediate?

There are three factors that make mediation an unsuitable process for some people to divorce. Since you are probably a woman reading this blog post on SAS for Women, you’ll want to understand them.

First, mediation should not be used if there is a history of domestic abuse (including physical, emotional, verbal, cyber, or financial abuse). A truly voluntary (and thus, enforceable) agreement cannot be made under threat or fear of abuse.

Second, parties who are not willing to be open about their finances are not suited for mediation. Since mediation does not include a formal discovery process, each party must be willing to produce documents necessary to illustrate the full financial landscape. Again, this is because a truly voluntary agreement cannot be reached if one party is not privy to all relevant facts.

Finally, mediation will be unsuccessful if a party is unable or disinclined to express themselves without an advocate present.

SAS Note: So, if you feel bullied in your marriage, if you’ve not had access to the money, don’t understand how the finances worked in your marriage, and/or your husband will not/would not share financial information with you, mediation may not be right for you. This is because you are not coming to the table at the same level of power as your husband. You may need an advocate, like a lawyer.

You’ve Made the Decision to Mediate, Now What?

1. Interview Several Mediators

Do your research and speak with several divorce mediators, either independently or together with your Ex. If you are speaking with the mediator separately from your husband, understand that the mediator will not be able to discuss content with you, but can discuss the structure of mediation and answer general questions. How to choose? Remember, you will share some of the most intimate details of your life with your mediator so it’s important that you feel comfortable with them. Moreover, not all mediators are attorneys, so make sure you understand the mediator’s background and whether they’re the right fit.

SAS Note: We recommend that the mediator you hire be a licensed divorce attorney. The truth is you want someone who really understands divorce law to help you complete this document. If your mediator is not a licensed attorney, you will pay extra to have it edited by a lawyer to make sure the document is legally tight before it gets sent off to court.

2. Gather Necessary Information

Create a file of your most recent financial statements (including statements related to bank accounts, credit cards, investment accounts, and mortgages). Your mediator may request documents dating further back, but having your most recent statements will be sufficient for your first session. If you are unable to gather all of your documents, a list of assets and liabilities will often give your mediator enough background to get started.

3. Make a List of Monthly Income and Expenses

Recreate your marital monthly income and expenses based on historical data. At a minimum, these amounts should be based on an average of three months’ worth of data. Being knowledgeable about the family income and expenses will help you and your Ex have realistic conversations and expectations relating to spousal maintenance and child support.

4. Meet with a Financial Advisor or Certified Divorce Financial Analyst

If you feel unprepared to speak about finances, you should speak privately with a financial expert. This person should be experienced with understanding how your money will be impacted by the divorce. This is the case no matter what model of divorce you and your spouse choose. A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (“CDFA”) will help you understand the marital finances and prepare you for the finance-related conversations that will occur during mediation.

5. Consult with an Attorney

At any point in the mediation process, you can consult with OR retain independent counsel. This helps ensure that any tentative agreements you’ve made or are considering make financial and practical sense for you long term.

This attorney will help you understand your rights and obligations under the law, before or during mediation. The attorney can even review the proposed separation agreement on your behalf. You should note, though, that not all attorneys favor the mediation process; it’s important to retain an attorney who is committed to your goal of succeeding in mediation. On the upside, more and more attorneys are willing to frame their mediation services as “unbundled services,” which are different than the traditional divorce retainer.

6. Adapt the Healthy Frame of Mind

There is no winning when it comes to divorce–even if you go to court. The sooner everyone comes to understand this, the better. When coming to mediation, be prepared to compromise and to come to an agreement. To help you do this, you’ll need to set aside your personal feelings. You’ll need to prepare to go to the “mind side of the wall” and prepare to work rationally. Your spouse may need to be reminded of this too.

Because making the decision to pursue a divorce is so challenging, it’s easy to forget that you have choices. For an increasing number of people, mediation offers a better path forward than traditional divorce models. As such, mediation has helped many families begin the next stage of their lives.

Notes:

Bryana founded Turner Divorce Mediation, P.C. after seeing firsthand the detrimental effects that litigation can have on a divorcing couple and their children. Through her mediation practice, she provides clients with a friendlier approach to divorce so that they are better equipped for a positive future. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about mediation, you are invited to email Bryana or you can visit her website.

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.