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Woman contemplating getting divorce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Eventually “New Rules” will rule

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

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

2 . Don’t strictly rely on a lawyer

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

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

3. You will lose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Figure out ways to generate income for yourself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. You can let it go now

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

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

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

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

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

A woman walking through nature thinking about the signs of divorce

The Signs of Divorce and How to Spot Them

Divorce can sometimes feel like it comes out of the blue—one day you are “happily married,” and the next, your spouse is asking you to sign on the dotted line. The world you’ve built together seems like it’s falling apart. Other times, there are clear signs of divorce, ones that you may have noticed and ones that you may be ignoring.

One of the biggest signs of divorce might just be that you’re here, reading this post. Deciding whether or not to divorce your husband* may be something that’s been weighing on your mind for quite some time. We get it. Before divorce, it feels like a giant leap to take, and it’s only after that you realize what you were always capable of—that you’re stronger than you realize.

Right now you might be in need of a friend who can make sense of all the competing emotions and choices at war inside you. We’re happy to be that person for you. The following six signs of divorce are good indicators that your marriage and your relationship with your husband are not in the healthiest place. If these feel familiar, it might be time to take a step back and reevaluate your marriage and to learn what else is possible.

1. The fighting has stopped

Yes, on the surface, the end of arguing might seem like a good thing—no fighting means you and your husband are on the same page, right? Not exactly. Whether you’re fighting over big things like how to manage finances or small things like which brand of toothpaste to buy, if the arguments have stopped without actually being resolved, it can be a sign that one of you has simply given up.

Having disagreements, expressing opposing or conflicting opinions, and then working them out means that you and your husband are invested in creating a lasting future together. Once your investment in your marriage stops, the possibility of divorce becomes more and more likely.

2. You’re arguing way more than usual

Yes, there is such a thing as fighting too little and fighting too much. Conflicts happen, but as adults, we must learn how to work through disagreements in a healthy way. If small arguments have suddenly become huge battles within your household, arguments that end with no resolution and tension that lingers in the air like a bad taste in your mouth, something has fundamentally changed between you and your husband—and not in a good way.

Once a relationship becomes so antagonistic that arguments simply never end, divorce is one way to find peace once again and escape from an unhealthy or potentially abusive situation.

3. Your finances are in a bad place

Marriage is hard, and money problems make marriage even more difficult. If one or both of you are having issues at work and your income isn’t what it used to be, that extra pressure can compound the problems in your marriage. You and your husband might not be on the brink of bankruptcy, but maybe you two have fundamentally different ideas on how a person budgets and spends money. You, for instance, might want savings safely tucked away in case of an emergency while he might prefer to spend any extra money he has on the latest gadget.

For whatever reason, you two are in a bad place financially, and you aren’t seeing eye to eye. We might not like it, but money is key to our survival and one of the biggest sources of stress in a marriage. This is one of those situations that isn’t likely to change without some serious communication and work on both of your parts, and if both of you aren’t willing to budge? It might be time to talk about divorce.

4. You don’t feel connected to your husband anymore

Fridays used to be date nights, but now things have changed. You can’t really remember the last time you two had a good talk, or the last time you’ve gone out and truly enjoyed each other’s company. At the dinner table, it sometimes feels like you’re sitting across from a roommate or, worse, a stranger who just happens to share the same space.

If it’s been a while since you and your husband have invested time in each other, then you’re not maintaining an emotionally intimate connection, and you can lose that spark you once had. This is called emotional disengagement, where one or both parties in a marriage have stopped investing in maintaining emotional intimacy. Once you and your husband no longer feel like a couple, divorce starts to make more and more sense. It feels like an inevitability and the only way to find someone else you do have an emotional connection with.

5. There’s a lack of physical intimacy in your marriage

Yes, sex matters. Especially in marriage. Emotional intimacy is important, and one reflection of strong emotional intimacy within a marriage manifests itself as a strong physical connection between two partners. If you can’t remember the last time you and your husband were intimate, and there’s a clear change in how often you sleep together, you might have something to worry about.

Sometimes the source of the change is obvious—it’s medical, for instance, or there are young children at home, problems at work, or another source of stress. But combined with other factors in your relationship, a lack of physical intimacy becomes a worrisome sign that divorce may be on the horizon.

6. Your or your husband’s focus is outside the relationship

You two are no longer working on building something together, but instead, you find yourself more invested in things outside of your marriage, such as a club, the gym, or a large project at work. Maybe your husband has been spending a lot of late nights at the office, or he spends most weekends working on his golf swing with friends. You find yourself spending more and more time alone. Marriage can get boring, just like anything, and sometimes instead of looking inward and finding interests to share, grow, or explore with a partner, we turn to people in our lives who we’re already engaged with (or who we’d like to be).

When you and your husband have stopped making time for each other, it’s a sign that something’s wrong in your marriage that neither of you are willing to look at head on and address. Without working together to form a solid marriage, you two are actively growing emotionally apart and that can lead you down the road to divorce.

If you recognize one or more of these signs of divorce in your own marriage, it might be time to think about the future—your future, specifically. Do you see your husband in that future? Do these challenges in your marriage feel like things the two of you can overcome together?

If you want to salvage your marriage and you think that it’s not too late, talking to your husband about going to counseling is one option. And if so, we recommend this kind of marital support. You can also reach out to a divorce coach to fully understand all of the options in front of you, no matter which path you take (even if you decide not to get a divorce).

The truth is that even if you want to salvage your marriage, once you start seeing the signs of divorce, things might already be too far along for you and your husband to work together to solve the problems in your marriage. Knowing your options is the best way to protect yourself, your children, and your husband in case divorce is inevitable. Together, you can work on what you must navigate near term, and what your post-divorce future will look like so you can start down the path to your divorce recovery. It might be even better than you expect.

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

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

This article was authored for the all-women website SAS for Women by Melanie Figueroa, a writer and content editor who loves discussing women’s issues and creativity. 

 

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

divorced women

What All Divorced Women Have in Common

Years ago, when I was still shell-shocked from learning of my husband’s infidelity and angry that I had become a divorced woman, I went out to dinner with two friends. Both were divorced women, so we had that in common. But one was talking easily about co-hosting her son’s graduation party with her Ex and his new wife—the woman he’d left her for.

She barely even rolled her eyes when she said his name!

I couldn’t believe it. “How can you stand to be in the same room with him?” I asked, thinking of my own Ex-husband and the knot of dread and anxiety I felt just seeing his name pop up on my phone.

“It’s been five years,” she said. “After a while, I stopped caring about the past. You’ll get there too.”

She said this casually, with so much assurance, that I felt I had to believe her. But how could I?

I couldn’t imagine a day when I could be civil to my Ex

And I considered this pretty normal. Certainly, my other girlfriends who were newly divorced weren’t planning parties with their Ex-husbands. Like me, their scars were too fresh. They were still reeling from divorce fallout that seemed unending: Sandy was constantly facing her Ex in court, while Roxanne’s Ex refused to see or speak to her for more than a year. Linda was grieving not just the loss of her husband but the loss of her best friend, with whom he had an affair. Katie, in her sixties, had given up her retirement plans and savings for her second husband only to be abandoned and forced to navigate the harsh realities of a grey divorce.

What I knew for sure was that my friends and I, and many women like us, had been thrust into situations we never asked for.

As divorced women, how could we stop caring about the past when the past wouldn’t leave us alone?

I gave this a lot of thought. And I kept hearing my friend’s confident voice saying, “You’ll get there too.”


For more suggestions on how to move forward, check out What to Do After Divorce: Your Top 15 Best Moves


Then a funny thing happened. The more I thought about the past, the more I began seeing it through a different lens. In the same way that I had never imagined getting a divorce, I’d never imagined doing other challenging things, like not getting permission from the judge before moving my children to a safer, less expensive apartment. Or buying my own car without consulting with my Ex. Or enrolling in a course to become an energy medicine practitioner. Or learning to say no (full stop!) when my Ex tried to control my life.

When I focused on all the strong, independent moves I made throughout my divorce, the past didn’t seem so suffocating. In fact, I saw that I actually came through my divorce with the best gift imaginable: I met the best version of myself.

And this has been true for my friends too. We have something wonderful in common.

Divorced women have a secret superpower; it’s the strength to rise again

Not all of us look wildly successful on the outside. All of us still face challenges and struggles, but we share an inner strength that we never knew existed.

Here’s what that strength looks like:

Sandy spent so much time in court that she connected with someone who offered her a job as the office manager of an all-female law firm.

The extended cold shoulder Roxanne got from her Ex gave her the space to meet an amazing new partner.

Linda kept loneliness at bay by focusing on her education and career. She earned a doctorate degree and became a department head at a Big Ten university.

Katie, like me, wrote an award-winning memoir about surviving divorce.

Now, when I meet someone going through a divorce, I want to be the one offering assurances. I want to share what my friends and I have learned. I want to take that baffled, disbelieving woman gently by the shoulders, look her in the eyes, and tell her to have faith.

Divorced women are the strongest women you’ll ever meet

A divorced woman knows that the best version of her has gone ahead and is pulling her forward.

A divorced woman has earned a seat at a table loaded with resilience, clarity, wisdom, and freedom. And yes, it’s the very same table where she may, one day, have dinner with her Ex and her Ex’s new wife.

And it will be no big deal. I promise.

Tammy Letherer is an author and writing coach. Her most recent book, The Buddha at My Table: How I Found Peace in Betrayal and Divorce, is a Gold Medal Winner in the Living Now Book Awards and in the Human Relations Indie Book Awards. It was also a finalist in the 2018 Best Book Awards and National Indie Excellence Awards. Join her and author Maureen Muldoon for their July 10 online event, Divorce Unscripted: An Off-the-Cuff Conversation on Finding Your Peace and Power and find out how to turn one of life’s most difficult challenges into your greatest blessing.

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

Parenting while divorcing with children

Divorcing with Children: A Step by Step Process

Divorcing with children means having to deal with the consequences of ending your marriage as well as ensuring the wellbeing of your kids. During this time, your life might start to feel like one long game of whack-a-mole, each item on your to-do list and each problem you have to solve popping its head above ground just long enough for it to be a nuisance.

Many moms simply don’t know how to make things right when their family has changed so irrevocably. And can you blame them? They are changing too.

When it comes to your children, however, it’s important to stay aware of the fact that they need structure and support to be both emotionally and physically healthy. Seventy-two percent of divorces occur within the first fourteen years of marriage. Put in context, these numbers mean that young children are often affected by divorce the most.

And yet, divorcing with children is never easy for parents or children, no matter their age.

While you struggle to pick up the pieces and move forward as you rebuild your life, you’ll also have to be there every step of the way supporting and encouraging your kids. Your adult children will certainly manifest their own reactions (just like younger children), but you are no longer responsible for their day-to-day survival in this world.

Is their such a thing as a good divorce? The general answer is not really. Sure, there are divorces you are grateful for and divorces you wish you’d had sooner—but divorce is rarely a decision you come to without careful consideration and a little heartbreak. Still, there are things you can do to make the transition easier for yourself, your soon-to-be Ex, and your kids. Here are some of the most important steps to take when you are divorcing with children.

Handle reactions in a healthy way

Prepare for your children to have an avalanche of angry and sad reactions to your divorce. These are inevitable regardless of how old your children are or the reasons for your divorce. As a parent, you have to make sure these reactions are handled in a loving, healthy way.

Acknowledge the emotional responses they are having. Denying the fact that they’re hurt or angry will only make matters worse. Reassure your children that it’s perfectly okay to feel upset, betrayed, sad, or lonely. Help them let these emotions out so that the healing can begin.

It’s best to have the conversation (and we do mean the conversation—you should figure out how to break the news of your divorce to your children before you sit down with them) as a family and to get your soon-to-be Ex involved early on. Regardless of the status of your relationship, assure your children that they’re still and will always be loved. Ask questions, like “is there anything we can do to make you feel better?” They might ignore you at first, but eventually they may feel like opening up and start talking about their needs.

Answer the important questions

Once the dust has settled and you’ve addressed your children’s immediate reaction to your divorce in a healthy and safe environment, the real questions will start.

We all know that children can be brutally honest. That’s why you need to prepare your answers for some of the most candid and difficult questions you’re going to face.

Some of the questions your children are likely to have during your divorce include:

  • Who am I going to live with?
  • Will I still get to see my mom or dad?
  • Where will I spend the holidays?
  • Where will I go to school?
  • Will I still get to see grandma and grandpa?
  • Does mom or dad still love me?
  • Will we have to move, and will I see my friends again?

Chances are that you don’t have all the answers to those questions yet. Honesty is still the best policy in these situations. Tell your children that you don’t know quite yet, but that you’re working hard on a plan that ensures everyone’s happiness moving forward. You can also give your children books on divorce to help normalize the situation.

Build a strong support network

Like I said, having a “good” divorce isn’t always easy or even possible. After all, you cannot control other people—your children and your soon-to-be Ex or the way they handle negative emotions.

The only thing you own and can control is your behavior.

You should work toward building a strong support network when divorcing with children. You know your kids will need all the comfort they can get during and in the aftermath of your divorce (even if it happens to be a civil and good one).

Loving, extended family members can be a tremendous resource, both for you and your kids. During a divorce, you might be pressed for time, dealing with appointments and work and meetings with your lawyer while still managing all the mundane everyday things that need to happen for you life to keep running smoothly. Aunts, uncles, and grandparents can deliver a lot of practical caregiving assistance or help with the daily logistics of it all.

The warm and familiar presence of a family member is comforting and reassuring when everything else in your children’s lives seems to be changing rapidly.

Think about the practical aspects of divorce

Healing emotionally is obviously important (especially when divorcing with children) but so is ensuring the best future for your kids. You will have to face the fact that divorce means having a series of difficult conversation with your Ex—accept it and move forward.

Those conversations will have to focus on things like custody, child support, and spousal maintenance. Sorting these issues out of court will be the most painless way to determine what’s best for everyone involved and move on faster. Occasionally, though, a peaceful agreement just isn’t going to be possible.

You know your Ex well, and you know what reaction to anticipate from him*. It’s highly recommended you speak to a divorce attorney before approaching potential challenging issues you foresee coming up. Knowing what your options are will give you a bit of leverage during the negotiations, and an attorney can educate you on what you don’t know. Do not commit to custody or parenting plans without this legal knowledge.

Remember that you’re not always on mom duty

When divorcing with children, creating and activating your support network will give you the much-needed chance to fall apart and grieve while you step away from parenting. Remember the fact that you’re a human being and that your marriage just ended.

A grieving process is necessary, and it’s healthy. Understanding what grief is and allowing it to wash over you for as long as it takes will actually help you close this chapter of your life and move on to the next one.

Can you fall apart during and after divorce? Absolutely! And you should, of course, when the time is right.

There will be days when you’ll feel like staying in bed and not even brushing your teeth. If grandma and grandpa could help with dropping the kids off at school during such moments, you’ll get the opportunity you need to feel what you must—to be angry, overwhelmed, lost, sad, betrayed, or abandoned. (Possibly all at the same time.) Let those emotions out. They need to come out in order for you to metabolize what you’ve been through.

Don’t be afraid to look vulnerable in front of friends or your parents. No one is expecting you to be strong and tough during your divorce (except maybe your kids). If you give yourself an opportunity to mourn what you must—maybe what you’re mourning isn’t even him, really, so much as it is the fantasy that kept you hoping your marriage would turn around—you’ll be better positioned to reclaim yourself and who you want to be as you move forward with your life. You’ll be a better mom if you understand your healing process.

There is no doubt a divorce makes you face your fears. It delivers challenges and changes you never thought would cross your path. At times it will feel like you have to learn fast and have all the answers to every crucial decision. Empower yourself to slow down and seek the information you need to learn about your choices BEFORE making any decisions.

Get informed. Knowing what your options are before you decide anything will allow you to make healthier choices and create a plan. This will anchor you as you endeavor to be honest with your children. Keep the lines of communication open with them and your husband or Ex (if possible). While the divorce process is painful, the way you go about it will determine your and your children’s emotional outcome.

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

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

Elizabeth S. Coyle is the current Director of Client Services for JacksonWhite Attorneys at Law based in Mesa, Arizona. She serves as a paralegal for the Family Law Department of the firm.

A family dealing with parental estrangement walking on a dark path alongside a building

When is it Parental Estrangement and When is it Parental Alienation?

Divorce is full of big words—the ones the lawyers and courts toss around, the ones your friends and family are scared of, and the ones your divorce coach and therapist use to label processes and behaviors that seem almost incapable of being contained so easily. When it comes to divorce and children, two common terms parents become aware of are parental alienation and parental estrangement.

Even the smoothest divorces can impact your relationship with your children. But it’s not always easy to pin down the source of your specific issues. Your mind starts racing. Is it something I said during the divorce? Are my children angry with me? Or disappointed? And which is worse? And when the answers to these questions don’t come quickly, you begin slipping down that slippery slope. Have I broken them somehow? Maybe it’s not anything I’ve done at all—maybe it’s him*. What has he been saying to them?

Two different things could be happening here, and you have more control over one than the other.

But what exactly is the difference between parental estrangement and parental alienation?

Parental estrangement

The source of parental estrangement can be murky. Your children have cut off contact with you or, at the very least, there is a growing distance between you. You get a sense that your children are blaming your for something but what that blame is for is less clear, especially if your children aren’t the type of people to freely share their feelings and opinions. But with estrangement, your children’s feelings are their own. They have not been influenced by their other parent (even if that other parent, coincidentally, shares many of the same feelings).

If you feel estranged from your children and they’ve communicated to you why that is, you might feel defensive, but as hard as it may be, we recommend you keep those feelings from your kids. Children often see things as black or white and right or wrong. Little moments or impulsive actions take on vast meaning. Your children are experiencing so much for the first time, and divorce has a way of dredging up all of it—the good and the bad. Even if you can’t understand where your children are coming from, you must respect their point of view and work with them from that perspective.

Know that it’s okay to accept each other’s differences, but as the parent in this situation, you should defer to your children’s point of view to repair your relationship. Whether the reasons your children are distancing themselves from you are real or perceived, they are still their reasons.

Are you experiencing parental estrangement?

Think through your divorce: Were there times where you let your stress levels get the best of you? Did you get depressed and disappear? Did you get angry and lash out? Did you turn to substances to numb your pain? In what ways did your divorce disrupt your children’s lives? A new home? A new city?

Did someone hit pause on your lives? Have you remembered to press play again?

Have you been giving your children space? Maybe it’s actually too much space. Maybe what they really need is a more hands-on form of support. Sometimes if you wait for your children to “come around on their own” they just, well, never do. They learn, instead, to get by on their own. They take your space as a hint: You’re alone now. Time to suck it up, and grow up. Make sure your children understand that you are still their parent even if the dynamics of your family have changed. Play an active role in repairing and creating a new relationship with your children.

Sometimes parental estrangement feels a lot like parental alienation (more on the latter below) because “the symptoms” of both situations overlap in some cases. Both situations are isolating, for the parent and the children. And both situations can have long-term effects on your relationship with your children. The key difference? With estrangement, there isn’t another parent behind-the-scenes working against you.

Parental alienation

With parental alienation, you know exactly who the perpetrator is: your Ex or, perhaps, even yourself. In this situation, one parent is actively campaigning against the other parent, both manipulating their children and monopolizing their time to foster negative feelings toward that other parent.

It’s a subtle difference, but it’s one that matters. While this is nothing short of devious, it’s hard to repair the rift without causing more mental harm to your children in the process.

You can’t, for instance, outright call their other parent a liar because that plays into the same mental games of alienating your children from their other parent. You can’t get the courts to cut off or reduce visitation without proof that your Ex is actively working against you, and to gain said proof would mean pressing your kids to testify against their other parent. Perhaps worst of all, even if you do “fix” your relationship with your children, those achievements are likely to be temporary—your Ex, after all, is still out there waiting for his next moment to strike.

Are you experiencing parental alienation?

Parental alienation can be hard to distinguish from parental estrangement. You can’t know what your Ex is saying to your kids, and for obvious reasons, you shouldn’t ask your children to divulge private conversations—it can be hard on them to repeat the negative (and perhaps genuinely horrible) things that your Ex may have said.

But there are some telltale signs of alienation: One parent constructs a negative narrative around their children’s other parent. They list off reasons for the divorce, for instance, and always put the blame on the other parent. Or they suggest that the other parent doesn’t care about their kids because they don’t spend as much time with them. Or maybe it’s less deliberate—one parent consistently vents to friends and family members about their Ex and the children overhear, or post-divorce, one parent is depressed or otherwise in a bad spot while the other parent is seemingly thriving.

Regardless of the specific ways in which you’ve become alienated from your children, the rift will grow worse over time. Your Ex is, in effect, poisoning your relationship with your children, and like most poisons, they grow stronger the more a person is exposed to them.

Parental estrangement vs. parental alienation

Parental estrangement, then, is when you can look back at your actions throughout your divorce and recognize that you’ve made choices that have left your children feeling unsupported in a time of need. Even if you can’t recognize this yourself, your children have likely accused you of doing so.

Parental alienation is when your children’s other parent is actively poisoning your relationship with your children. It’s an ongoing psychological battle that isn’t about your children’s best interests or yours or even your Ex’s, really. It has more to do with power than anything. But here’s the other thing we haven’t mentioned yet about parental alienation—over time, it becomes an actual syndrome. By that, we mean that parental alienation syndrome is habitual. A pattern develops, routines settle in, and your children may no longer play passive roles in the damage that’s being done to your relationship. Instead, they begin to see the world through the eyes of the parent who’s targeting their other parent.

What you can do in the case of parental estrangement

If your life involves parental estrangement or you’re hoping to avoid it, there are some things you can do to start to repair your relationship with your children. (Depending on the specifics of your situation, some of these may help in cases involving parental alienation as well.)

  • Has your child spoken up about the growing distance between you? Don’t wait for them to “get over it” or “come around.” Address your children’s concerns directly by listening to them, trying to understand, validating their feelings, and telling them that you want to work on their concerns with them so you two can repair your relationship.
  • Don’t wait for your children to contact you to repair your relationship with them—you are the parent. Even if your children have hurled insults your way, ignored your messages, or placed an unfair amount of blame on your shoulders, you need to take the first step and reach out. Even if your children have crow’s feet and their fair share of grey, this particular dynamic will never really change. Your children may eventually come around on their own, to be sure, but you may lose more time than any of us is comfortable with if you wait too long.
  • If you’re struggling to get through to your children, know that persistence is key here as are the words you use—let your children know you love them, that you want to repair your relationship, and that you’ll keep checking-in with them so that they know you’re there when they’re ready to talk to you. We’re not suggesting that you harass or stalk your children, to be clear. There are ways to reach out that feel less invasive than a text or call, like a letter, for instance.
  • Don’t violate your children’s boundaries. Don’t show up unexpectedly at their school or other parent’s house to talk or force your company on them. This can backfire and cause your children to feel even more distant from you.
  • Do not give up on communicating with your children—no matter how long they ignore you. You might feel abandoned, and that’s a bitter pill to swallow. But, again, you are the parent in this relationship, and your children were never here to emotionally support you. Call your children on their birthdays and holidays even if they don’t answer. Set an example of the type of relationship you want to have with your children, and in time, they may grow to appreciate that you never gave up.
  • If your children do come around and feel ready to speak with you, they might want to talk about the aspects of your relationship that made them distance themselves from you in the first place. Whether you agree with their side of your story or not, you must do your best to react neutrally and find a way to work together to overcome your past. An unwillingness to see your shared history from your children’s perspective is just one reason you may have been cut off from them in the first place—and while that may seem harsh, it has more to do with your children feeling as though they are living in one reality while you exist in another. There is no greater distance than that.
  • Be ready to admit your shortcomings to your children. Of course, we know that we’re simply humans—we’re far from perfect. But your divorce and how you handled the aftermath may have been the first time in your children’s lives where they really came to understand this firsthand. Don’t sweep your mistakes under the rug. Own your flaws, and let your children see you work through them.
  • You might be ready to move on, but your children might need more time to be angry or sad or confused. To just feel and experience whatever emotions are flooding through them. If you children are acting out, don’t punish them or push them to get over their feelings. Instead, make sure they know that their emotions are valid and that you are there for them whether they are ready to move forward or not.

Understand that a “repaired” relationship with your children may look different than you thought it would. If there’s one thing we all know, it’s that you can’t change the past and you can’t return to it. Before divorce, you didn’t have to deal with things like a custody agreement, a different home, or your Ex’s new partner. Your relationship with your children—indeed your entire lives—have changed in fundamental ways that you simply can’t ignore.

What you can do in the case of parental alienation

There are a few additional things you can do to try to repair your relationship with your children when your Ex is actively working to poison it.

  • Let your children know that their mental state comes first. Explain that they might feel upset or pressured or mad at you but that’s okay—they don’t need to tell you why, but if they ever want to talk, you are there for them and will always love them unconditionally.
  • See if your Ex will agree to therapy for your children. This way there’s a third party there to help your children navigate their relationship with both parents and work through any negative feelings they may have in a safe environment.
  • Don’t worry about being right or about proving your Ex wrong—instead, model healthy parent-child behavior by not crossing that boundary and focus on things that are within your control. Focus on strengthening your relationship with your children and not tearing apart their relationship with their other parent. Forcing your children to be the middlemen between you and your Ex will only isolate them further.
  • Work on good coparenting skills with your Ex. This is especially true if the alienation is accidental more than purposeful (though in either case, we realize this isn’t always easy, especially if some sort of betrayal was responsible for your divorce). If your Ex is in a bad place mentally and is using your children as a therapist, talking to them about what’s going on and appropriate places for help might work wonders in repairing your relationship with your children.

In general, you want to be clear with your Ex about the fact that, post-divorce, you two have every right to be upset and vent about one another, but that, for the sake of your children, that should be done privately. And because children have a way of overhearing things they shouldn’t, it’s best to vent your feelings when they’re not at home.

Why is the difference between parental estrangement and parental alienation important?

Name your demons, and maybe then you can face them. Divorce is different for everyone. It’s the naming of each part of the process—contemplation, finding a lawyer, awaiting your divorce decree, to list a few—that makes us feel like we’ve arrived somewhere and are now standing on firmer ground. The more information we have, the more prepared we feel to face whatever comes next.

But naming your demons isn’t enough. You have to take ownership of them or you will never feel like you are truly in control of them. And that’s why knowing the difference between estrangement and alienation is so important.

With parental estrangement, feeling in control means being honest with yourself: Do you want a relationship with your children? Then stop making excuses for yourself. You know now that you and your children can live without one another, but is that what you really want? Whatever attempts you’ve made in the past? They didn’t work. Think long and hard about why, and next time, approach things differently.

With alienation, feeling in control means exercising an extreme amount of patience and accepting that, ultimately, you’re not actually in control. It means learning when to let go and focus on you for your best divorce recovery. Understand that you simply can’t change other people or push the clock forward so that time heals everyone all at once—it’s simply not an option. So let it go.

We choose to focus on what we can control, and we recommend you do the same. Even though it may feel like it, you’re not the first person to weather this storm. Meet up with other divorced women. Use this time to travel. Lose yourself in nature so that you might find yourself again. Reach out to a divorce coach who can help you understand your choices and the actions leading to the results you really want—so you, your children, and your relationship with them make it safely through this time in your life.

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unique challenges women face when dealing with divorce or navigating its afterward. Discover the smartest, and most educated, next step for you and your family. Schedule your free, 45-minute coaching session with SAS now.

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

A woman looking for love after divorce

The Blessings of Finding Love After Divorce

Dating has its ups and downs after being divorced. The frustration and fear of not meeting the right person and potentially cycling through a failed marriage again is almost enough to discourage you from the process altogether. Is finding love after divorce really possible? Is the risk of being hurt again worth it?

You want to feel like one of those independent and strong divorced women you’re always hearing about. You want to feel like you’re ready to move on, but you’re not actually sure what that looks like. In fact, you can’t even remember why you shouldn’t give up the search for your ideal partner entirely.

It may take longer and a little more effort than you had anticipated, but ultimately, you’ll be glad you pushed through because there is love after divorce and it’s better than you imagined. In the meantime, there’s nothing wrong with being single and embracing your independence as you continue your quest.

But if you need a reminder of why there are blessings in finding love after divorce, then look no further. We can help you get back in touch with your inner-romantic.

Feels like home

Wouldn’t dates be so much better if you could skip the small talk and just be comfortable with one another? That’s one of the benefits of finding your partner. Conversations become more meaningful, or better yet, you can spend time together without needing to speak non-stop and fill up every silent pause. Your partner can act as a sounding board for how to approach your problems or ideas, and he* can be there for you if you feel out of sorts. When you travel together, you don’t feel so homesick because you’ve brought a piece of your life along with you.


Worried you are “Destined for Rebound Relationships?” You’ll want to learn more about yourself in this piece.


Fired up by the familiar

If you don’t have the opportunity to spend too much time together, the thought of seeing your partner after a long absence is a wonderful feeling. Doing simple things, like being in his presence while watching a movie and eating pizza, can become some of your favorite pastimes. Even mundane activities, like household chores or grocery shopping, become fun undertakings.

And then, of course, there are times when the daily grind of work and life may take its toll, and you may not want to do anything or talk to anyone. That’s when just being together is enough.

The power of touch

Touching is about more than just sex. It includes the small stuff, too. Holding hands and hugging may seem trivial, but they actually have powerful effects on our overall well-being.

Simple human contact boosts oxytocin levels, which is shown to decrease feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety. Grabbing your partner’s hand or giving into a spontaneous embrace are gestures that stimulate the pleasure center of the brain—no matter how inconsequential they seem.

Being yourself

We all have weird quirks and idiosyncrasies. When you meet the right person, you can be yourself. You and your partner don’t have to share the same interests or mannerisms to get along. Often, people who have opposite personalities and different interests just click and complement each other.

In reality, of course, not everyone’s peculiarities mesh well over the long-term. Things that seemed endearing at the onset of a relationship lose their charm. But then, that’s what dating is all about—you can figure out exactly what you need in a partner to truly be yourself.

With all the positives that come with finding love after divorce, it’s worth putting in the work. Nothing worthwhile comes easy. If you’re thinking about calling it quits on the dating scene, maybe you just need to rethink your strategy. Not all relationships after divorce will be rebounds. But there are certainly different types of men that youll meet, and not all of them are the right fit for you.

When conventional methods of meeting people are proving to be less than successful, try alternatives like dating sites. There’s no need to settle when you have access to a variety of websites and apps that specialize in everything from certain age ranges and religious backgrounds to interracial dating. Expanding your options will afford you so many more opportunities to find love after divorce.

Being divorced shouldn’t be seen as a failure. It should be seen as a closed chapter and an open door. You’re ready to start this new chapter—you’re brave enough to walk through that door. Your divorce recovery starts now.

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the challenging experience of divorce and re-creation. Now you can learn the Art of Reinvention through Palomas Group, our virtual, online post-divorce group coaching class for women only. To promote sisterhood and protect confidentiality, space is limited.

* 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.

Save your marriage

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

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

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

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

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

1. Slow down

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

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

2. Go to counseling

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

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

3. Acknowledge your partner’s dreams

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

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

4. A romantic getaway

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

5. Say anything session

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

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

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

6. Change the victim mindset

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

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

7. A short break

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women fighting post divorce depression with yoga

Benefits of Yoga in Fighting Post Divorce Depression

Post Divorce Depression is real, and it’s a bit different than the pain and other negative emotions stirred up during your divorce. Those emotions manifest differently for everybody—grief, anger, frustration, and anxiety are only some of the emotions at play during and after a divorce. Sometimes the feelings get so bad, you want to build a fire and burn your divorce records, but unfortunately, that won’t actually make any of this, your divorce itself or the version of you that’s left in the aftermath, disappear.

One of the worst byproducts of the end of a marriage (particularly when said ending is messy) is Post Divorce Depression (PDD), but most people don’t like to talk about it. Some women are excited to get out of a marriage that isn’t working anymore, or one that was especially nasty. But for other women, the divorce process having come to an end, they’re led to a new, darker place called Post Divorce Depression.

What is Post Divorce Depression?

PDD is similar to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) in that the trigger (your Ex, in this case) may be gone, but the trauma and real-life pain remain. But while depression after a divorce is normal, it does not have to be the end of the world. If you’re familiar with the story of how a Phoenix rises from its ashes, then you get the idea.

Now is your chance to be reborn and start with a blank slate again. Yoga can be your new BFF and help you stamp out all the negativity in your life once and for all.

Exercise relieves stress and anxiety

Study after study has shown that exercise can help lower stress and anxiety levels in the body. Do you take regular walks or ride your bike to work? How do you feel afterwards? Chances are you feel energized and ready to conquer the world. Runners call this a “runner’s high,” and all it takes is some form of physical activity to feel it.

But what causes all this euphoria in the first place?

The short answer: Endorphins.

The long answer: The human body releases chemicals called endorphins during exercise. These endorphins play a role in how your brain perceives pain. There’s also a reason why endorphins rhyme with morphine. Both these chemicals trigger a positive feeling in the body, but only one of them is addictive. So think of endorphins as a natural sedative, mood enhancer, and pain reliever rolled into one. All you need now are regular installments of yoga to get all the euphoric benefits of endorphins.

How yoga helps with depression

Yoga can help with more than just the physical aspects of Post Divorce Depression. Sure, practicing yoga involves physical exertion that can release those feel-good chemicals that enhance your mood, but the ancient practice is about a lot more than that.

Here are some of the top reasons why yoga can help with Post Divorce Depression:

  • You’ll learn to be at peace with yourself. It takes mental clarity, focus, and inner peace to perform a yoga pose. Take one of these out of the equation while thinking about your Ex, and you’ll fail at truly moving on, guaranteed. With yoga, you’ll learn NOT to think about certain things anymore.
  • You’ll learn how to manage your anger. A lot of poses elicit feelings of anger and helplessness when you can’t do them. Yoga teaches you deep breathing techniques, allowing you to conquer these feelings.
  • You’ll be healthier. Yoga is equal parts body, mind, and spirit, but the physical part helps you get fit. If you want an activity that is gentle on your knees and can help with joint mobility, yoga is for you. Shed the old you and practice yoga!
  • You’ll combat your loneliness. Much of Post Divorce Depression has something to do with being alone. The camaraderie and friendship of a yoga class can counter feelings of loneliness. Yoga gives you a chance to get out of the house and meet new people.
    You’ll learn to face your fears. Slow yoga poses are fierce and force you to confront your fears of falling and failing. You’ll learn to get over these fears and trust in yourself again. Believing that you can do a crow pose and twist your body way beyond your perceived limits goes a long way in bringing you back from the brink.
  • You start to trust yourself again. It’s that simple. Trust is crucial as we move on after divorce.

Namaste

Getting a divorce can be the toughest thing in the world. But you shouldn’t let it dictate your life going forward—your divorce recovery is about you. Practicing yoga can help you reconnect to your body, your mind, and your spirit. And doing that can help you conquer Post Divorce Depression and feel normal again.

Emily Andrews is the marketing communications specialist at RecordsFinder, an online public records search company. Communications specialist by day and community volunteer at night, she believes in compassion and defending the defenseless.

Since 2012 SAS for Women has been helping women come to terms with divorce and recreating LIFE afterward. Now, for newly independent women, post-divorce — wanting best practices for healing and rebuilding their lives — we invite you to join us for Paloma’s Group and to actively create the woman you want to be. Read about Palomas Group and schedule your interview for this powerful group coaching class coming soon.

A woman thinking about asking for financial help with a divorce

How a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst Can Help with a Divorce

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

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

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

What is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst?

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

What does a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst do?

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

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

Division of assets

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

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

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

Marital property

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


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


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

Alimony (aka Spousal Support/Spousal Maintenance)

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

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

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

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

Tax implications of the divorce settlement

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

Additional tasks

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

How is a CDFA paid?

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

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

Your Certified Divorce Analyst can make financial decisions easier

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

 

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