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Divorce Effects on Children

When considering the consequences of divorce, effects on children are perhaps the most impactful and far-reaching. Children are the innocent victims—the bystanders who get swept into the aftermath of a decision they had no say in. And, while some children rebound on the merits of inherent resilience, others struggle greatly, even into adulthood.

Divorce is never easy. It comes at a high cost across the board—emotionally, financially, socially, physically. Spouses are so focused on what is driving their own discontent and how to assuage or escape it that children often become collateral damage. Everything, it seems, is about whether, when, and how to divorce. Effects on children are too often an afterthought, dealt with (if at all) after the divorce is all said and done.

The big question often explored more in hindsight than at the moment is whether staying together is better at all costs.

How Parental Conflict Harms Children

The unequivocal consensus among psychological experts is that the single most important factor that harms children of divorce is continual parental conflict. Children become damaged when parents fight in front of them, over them, and through them. It literally changes who they are and how they process the world.

The challenge in deciding whether to divorce comes when the homefront is so contentious that constant conflict is a given. In these cases, children do not fare better for having their parents stay together.

For example, a report by Pew Social Trends explains that, while children of divorce are more inclined to one day divorce, conflict is a huge influencer. It turns out that children have a better chance at marital success if their high-conflict parents divorced.

The point is, the immersion in constant conflict does the most damage.

But, even when choosing the better of two bad choices, there is no denying the divorce effects on children. And “high conflict” can follow and damage children even after the divorce.

It should come as no surprise that the first year or two after a divorce are the toughest on children. Imagine that your world is thrown off its axis. Imagine the constancy of even the simplest, most predictable components of your life being tossed into the darkness of chaos, change, and insecurity.

Now imagine having no say in how you navigate that darkness. You don’t know how you got here. You don’t know how to get out. And you don’t know how to recognize, let alone deal with, all you are feeling.

Young Children and the Effects of Divorce

Another “no surprise” is that children of different ages process divorce differently. And the far-reaching effects of divorce, such as high-risk behaviors, are influenced by a child’s age at the time of his/her parents’ divorce.

Young children, for example, may have difficulty processing the idea of having two homes and having to go between them. They may also wonder if their parents will stop loving them, just as their parents have stopped loving one another. They haven’t yet developed the cognitive ability to separate the two concepts.

In an effort to make sense of their world, grade school children may start looking for a place to lay blame. And too often that blame turns inward to themselves. Was this my fault? Are Mommy and Daddy mad at me for something I did?

Teenagers and the Effects of Divorce

Teenagers, on the other hand, have a lot more cognitive development under their belts. But they still have a lot of flux in their emotional development and expression. They are more inclined to feel stressed, angry, and resentful and to place blame on one or both parents.

The successful transition for children of any age really pivots on the behavior and choices of the parents.

Swearing there is a place in Hell for your Ex is akin to sending the same message to your children. They are, don’t forget, a blend of both of you. And, when you hate the other parent in any capacity, your children will subconsciously assume you hate the same in them.

And that unthinkable, albeit unintended, judgment upon a child is life-altering. It destroys their self-esteem and sets them up for mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and extreme emotional sensitivity.

It also lays the groundwork for loyalty conflict and cognitive dissonance. When parents fight in front of or through their kids, they impose an unspoken demand for the children to take sides. They may even divide the children in their loyalties, as if the children were material assets.

Some children are able to detach from the fighting and declare neutrality. But others internalize it. And the mental state of trying to hold two incompatible, contradictory thoughts at once becomes painful and unsustainable.

In an effort to alleviate the discomfort of cognitive dissonance, children will often “choose” one parent over the other. The parental alienation of the other parent has no justification. But the mind simply can’t survive that kind of mental conflict.

Far better to learn how to co-parent. If you absolutely hate your ex, you can still ensure that your children know you love that part of them that came from the other parent. And, by committing to conflict-free parenting post-divorce, you will give them the greatest chance of exercising their resilience.

Signs that Divorce and Conflict are Affecting Your Child

There are so many divorce effects on children, each worthy of and warranting its own spotlight. But here are some additional effects to keep in mind and look for as you navigate your own (potential) divorce:

  • Increased behavioral problems, especially in homes and divorces with high conflict.
  • Decreased interest in social activity. Children of divorce are more likely to feel insecure and alone in their experience and may therefore isolate.
  • Difficulty adapting to change. Even the most amicable, cooperative divorces involve change for everyone. But most involve a lot of uncomfortable change—residential moves, financial hardship, school changes, remarriages, and step-/blended families, etc.
  • Destructive and risky behavior like alcohol/drug use and sexual activity.
  • Decreased academic performance. Constantly changing family dynamics understandably leave children confused and distracted, making it difficult for them to concentrate on studies.
  • Increased health problems. Mental health issues include anxiety disorder, depressive disorder, anger issues, and feelings of overwhelming stress, pressure, and guilt. The internalization of symptoms can lead to somatic disorder, which may present as sleep problems, headaches, stomachaches, and tension. This somatic symptom disorder may become especially evident if parental conflict is high at the “switching hour” when children go from one parent to the other.
  • Decreased faith in marriage and family, and therefore an increased risk of divorce later in life.

The responsibility of parenthood assumes a prioritization of the child over the parent. But, when high conflict, abuse, or addiction occurs in the home, everyone gets lost in the fight for emotional (and sometimes physical) survival.

Tragically, parents often return to emotional childhood themselves. And, if they don’t learn conflict-free parenting post-divorce, they will set up a history that is destined to repeat itself.

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

 

*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.

 

Loveless marriage

Does Being in a Loveless Marriage Mean You Should Divorce?

Love is a foundational and primal need all humans have, but how each of us feels and expresses love most joyfully, from the gut, with no hesitation, is up to us to define. We’d like to think we enter marriages or other long-term love partnerships knowing that about ourselves. But more realistically, we might not discover that until we are already committed to one. And, as humans are organic, dynamic beings, we are therefore not only subject to change, but are also not growing unless we do.

If we know we are worthy of love, do we commit to ourselves enough to avoid settling for a partnership where love disappears? This question gives birth to the next, one that is the most difficult to answer, which often keeps people frozen inside loveless marriages all their lives.

Does being in a loveless marriage mean I should divorce? (Even in the midst of a pandemic)?

Well, as divorce is difficult, to say the very least, it’s worth trying to recover that love, but that requires that we first evaluate the marriage to see if it is showing signs of rupture that are beyond repair. The consensus is that some issues are more serious signs of a marriage that’s about to hit the rocks. For example, when the predominant number of exchanges between two spouses involve:

  • Criticism (not just occasional complaining but the more character assassinating, i.e. “you do,” “you don’t,” or “you never” statements of criticism).
  • Contempt.
  • Chronic defensiveness or “stonewalling.

Regarding these spousal interactions, generally defining what is meant by “predominant,” the Gottman Institute identifies a ratio of about five to one. If five to every one exchange is positive, loving, supportive, romantic, admiring, respectful, nurturing or symbiotically humorous (as opposed to caustically humorous, with one partner deriding the other), then the relationship is likely in good shape. Now flip that: If five to every one exchange is critical, fault-finding, passive aggressive, dismissive, impatient, indifferent, abusive, etc., then it is time to seriously consider getting professional help. Failing that help, it is time to consider that the marriage is on the brink of failure.

Qualitative Issues in Loveless Marriage

Further signs of total disrepair aren’t as much quantifiable as qualitative, and stem more from how we as individuals are creating or responding to the environment of our marriage rather than on a number of positive vs. negative exchanges with our spouse. Signs of serious qualitative issues in the marriage may include:

  • Prioritizing “Me time” or just avoiding time with your spouse instead of spending time together (i.e. We’d rather spend three hours in the basement with the dirty laundry than one hour with them in the living room, scrolling silently through the channels).
  • Fantasizing about escaping the marriage happens more often than seeking ways to make it better.
  • Experiencing prolonged absence 
  • Creating a primary relationship with something other than our primary partner (i.e. with work or another focus, fixation, or addiction that has taken our spouse’s place as our primary relationship—after all, we can be completely absent mentally and emotionally and still be sitting right there in the room).
  • Lacking sexual expression of the love that works for both partners.
  • Experiencing abuse (physical or emotional).

All of the above are the most commonly cited signs of a failing marriage, where the deficit is too great to fill back in unless each partner agrees to pick up a shovel and start digging.

When “Working on Your Marriage” Fails

And if that hole proves to big, too unstable to fill back in? Do we stay in a marriage that is completely loveless? That is mired in emotional deficit? If it’s just the two of you in the relationship, then no. If you have done honest and consistent work on yourself, worked together to address it, talked to a marriage counselor, rabbi, pastor, or divorce coach about it and applied what you learn to fixing it… and it still isn’t reparable?

If the answer isn’t no, why?

At that point we stop dithering (many of us are blue ribbon ditherers), and act. Whether you are going to stay in the marriage or leave it, braving that conversation with our spouse and asking for what we need has to happen. We have to act; we have to have that conversation. Otherwise, we will stay in a loveless marriage out of fear—literally wasting our lives away, and there is nothing about that that is authentic or joyful. It is a half-life.

Considering Divorce When Children Are Involved

What about the love you have for your kids? Well, then you’ve brought a third love into your marriage, and it supersedes the love you have for yourself and your mate. You have entered a form of love that is more about service to a goal beyond the two of you, which, ideally, is about raising healthy human beings.

If you do not have love for each other any longer but are still committed to the loving of your children together, then ultimately that is not a loveless marriage. You have love for your children.

At that point, while you may still share the goal of parenting, you do not share a love for each other. The love exists—and if you respect each other enough to coparent, that is a form of love, which might be a comforting thought.

But it is not just our children who need love. Each of us does. Commitment to ourselves is foundational; it comes first. If we are meeting our own needs in that regard, then we’re not creating a deficit within the relationship. We are present in partnering ourselves and expressing some aspect of individuality in a way that is meaningful to us.


Annie’s Group :: for those thinking about or beginning the divorce process.  

“There’s a comfort in strangers, that is simply not possible with friends and family who are not themselves divorcing.”  ~ T.Y., New York City


If we love ourselves enough to partner ourselves, then we most likely know when our spouse is not partnering us the way we need. If we choose to remain married to this person despite that, because doing so serves the children best, then we need to consider that the form of the marriage needs to change in order for our needs to be met.

Marriage, Act II: Renegotiation

A renegotiation of terms is completely possible, and along with LAT relationships (Living Apart Together), it’s happening far more often than a traditional marriage. We call this a Parenting Marriage. Do we live apart but remain married? Do we agree to partner in raising the children but allow ourselves and each other the right to see other people and engage in life activity that doesn’t include our spouse?

Certainly.

“Marriage is changing in so many ways, and the rigid paradigm of Ozzie and Harriet is trailing in the rearview mirror at breakneck speed… Now, couples are starting to see that they can renegotiate the terms of their marriage—without shame,” writes Susan Pease Gadoua, LCSW.

Gadoua stresses that both spouses have to accept that the marriage they originally set out to create—built on the romantic love they had for each other—has ended. Additionally, each spouse must commit equally to the love they share for their children and the idea that staying in partnership with each other is the best way to reach the goal of raising healthy kids. They discuss the renegotiation with the children together, and they agree on new terms.

This is the alchemy of changing an institution to fit you; it is a significant challenge, as we have no built-in template to work from, but people are learning that they can bend an institutional concept to fit them, rather than breaking themselves in half in order to fit an outdated set of laws and ideals.

Setting New Terms for the Marriage

Gadoua’s final point regarding the renegotiation of the marriage—a sort of emotional and social repurposing—is that both spouses draft and agree on the new terms.

New terms of the marriage might include an arrangement of one person sleeping in a new room in the house, planning set times with the kids, separating personal finances (i.e. those that don’t impact the family, such as mortgage and insurance payments). This may also include a negotiation of freedom: an agreement that they can spend their free time how they please and even have a relationship, as long as that person isn’t introduced to the kids without agreement ahead of time.

So, if we do actively choose to “stay in the marriage for the kids,” it does not necessarily then follow that the marriage is an emotional desert for us and yet an oasis of nourishment for our children. In fact, that’s impossible. Love can include variations on a theme and so can marriage. But if we’re staying and not going, we do have to get boldly creative about making an oasis somewhere inside that marriage for ourselves.

 

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

Since 2012, 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.

How is Property Divided in a Divorce Settlement?

How is Property Divided in a Divorce Settlement?

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

What Are The Types of Property? 

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

• Community or Marital Property

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

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

• Separate Property

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

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

What Properties Can You Keep?

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

• Offshore Asset Protection Trust

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

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

• Property Bought Before The Marriage

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

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


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


• Commingling and Transmutation

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

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

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

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

• Property You Contributed In

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Who Moves Out in a divorce?

Who Moves Out of the Marital Home During Divorce, and When Do They Leave?

A question that comes up over and over again in my line of work as a divorce attorney is “When can I move out?” Or put differently, “When can I get my husband to leave?” Maybe the tension is so thick you can cut it with a knife. Maybe your children are experiencing screaming matches followed by long bouts of silence. You may find yourself unable to think straight—to figure out what your next steps should be and how to begin a new life. Or maybe, there are even elements of abuse in your relationship. I get it. You want peace. You want answers. And finding out who moves out of the marital home during divorce can seem like the first step toward solving these problems.

But the question, when can a spouse move out, is not a simple one to answer.

If you have children, the upside is that I recommend you do nothing until you’ve spoken with an attorney. Unless, of course, there’s an emergency and you need to remove yourself from the situation for your safety. You don’t want to affect your claim to custody or marital property.

It’s complicated. Divorce laws vary state to state, but for this article, I will reference the laws of New York.

What does the law say about who moves out of the marital home during divorce?

New York courts are often reluctant to award one spouse “exclusive use and occupancy of a home.” In nonlegal speak, that means ordering one spouse to move out of the marital home—something the courts can do no matter which spouse’s name is on the deed or lease. The courts are especially reluctant to do so without a finding of violence or “marital strife.” When the safety of household members or property isn’t at risk, the courts require that your spouse has a place to live before moving out. That’s not to say that the courts oppose removing one spouse from the marital home. They often prefer spouses separate. With that said, the decision isn’t made lightly. Judges have seen it all. They haven’t succumbed to the popular belief that it is simply better to separate you and your spouse. They understand that what is best for one family isn’t best for all.

What if your safety is at risk?

But what if you can’t wait for your lawyers and the courts to battle it out? There has always been the understanding that in any divorce, separation, or annulment, the courts can’t require a spouse to move out during court proceedings unless taking such a drastic action is necessary to protect the “safety of persons or property.” To take action, courts require evidence, anything from a testimony to something physical such as photos, medical or hospital records, and broken items.

If your spouse has committed a criminal act and needs to move out immediately, you can get a temporary order of protection (in other states these are often called restraining orders) from Criminal Court, Family Court, or Supreme Court. In fact, what many may not realize is that a person isn’t limited to a single court when looking to get an order of protection. You can get orders from more than one court for the same act. If even one of the orders of protection granted is a “full stay away,” then your spouse won’t be able to live in the same home as the people listed on the order.

So, what if it’s your sanity (not your safety) that’s at risk?

Anger, resentment—they can chip away at any remaining civility between partners. The courts understand that staying together under one roof can be damaging for reasons that have nothing to do with violence. But again, you’ll have to provide evidence for “marital strife” (and your spouse will need a new place to live) before you can expect the court to make anyone move out. Before you provide evidence, you’ll have to file a petition in Family Court or a motion in Supreme Court for an order of protection in which you request a full stay away. In Supreme Court, you can file a motion for exclusive use and occupancy without requesting an order of protection.

And what about the children?

When it comes to children, how can fighting parents living in the same home be in their best interest?

In 2017, at least one judge addressed this concern. In one of the first judicial decisions to address the impact divorcing couples remaining together in the marital home has on their children, Judge Richard A. Dollinger of Monroe County found “that existence of a hostile home environment, during a divorce, runs contrary to the best interest of children.”

What is the benefit of having a court order your spouse to move out?

The obvious benefit is that you’ll finally have peace of mind and remove yourself from an otherwise difficult living situation. Some parties , however, often see a court order for one spouse to move out as a tool to gain an edge in custody battles. When both parents live together with their children, neither parent can claim to be the primary residential parent. When one spouse moves out, the parent who spends more time with the children will be entitled to child support. If you and your spouse share the children’s time equally, then the parent who earns more may end up paying child support to the other parent.

How do finances affect the court’s decision about who moves out?

The elephant in the room is the question of whether you and your spouse can afford to live in two separate homes. It is crucial that everyone involved reduces the effect of divorce on your children. Make sure you always work toward separating in a fair and reasonable manner. It can be more expensive and emotionally damaging for children to be in the middle of their parents’ fighting. To be assigned their own attorneys or go through forensic evaluations and therapy.

Divorce is complicated enough already. As a parent, it’s your duty to pick the battles you choose to fight with your soon-to-be Ex wisely. Who moves out matters less than how and why they move out.

Randi L. Karmel has had her own Matrimonial and Family Law practice for 19 years and been an attorney for 25 years. She practices in the Criminal, Family, and Supreme Courts in New York. Randi L. Karmel, PLLC focuses on matrimonial and family law litigation and settlements. Her practice consists of preparing and negotiating agreements from prenuptial agreements to stipulations of settlement: divorce, abuse, neglect and orders of protection matters, custody, parenting time, child support, maintenance, equitable distribution, and separation. She is also certified to represent children. For more information on how Randi might assist you with your concerns, visit her website or call 212.755.0224.

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future. “Divorce can be on your terms.“– SAS For Women”

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