This Divorce Help Q&A Roundup includes eight comprehensive divorce help related questions, that were responded to, and answered by ten different divorce experts. These experts were kind enough to share there unique perspective and vast knowledge of divorce, in the form of detailed answers, illustrating their extensive grasp and expertise of divorce related issues and topics. We are honored to include and feature such a diverse and distinguished group of divorce coaches, survivors, attorneys, bloggers, mediators, and professionals from all across the U.S. in this Divorce Q&A Roundup. Below, is an introduction to each participating divorce expert, their contact info, and most importantly their answers/responses to our collection of questions.
Question #1- If someone who is considering divorce contacts you seeking advice and or help, what is the first thing you ask them? And what is the first thing you tell them to do? Why?
The first thing I ask people when they call is, “Do you have minor children?” When a couple has children, their initial focus is usually to help their children through the divorce. Until they get the answers they need, they will not be able to focus on the other issues fully. Parents typically want to know how to tell the children the marriage is over, what to anticipate their children will ask, and how it will impact them.
I ask the person how long they have been married or how long they have been thinking about getting a divorce. I don’t tell my clients to do anything. Coaching is about asking insightful though provoking questions that will allow the client to find their path.
As a Divorce Coach I don’t tell people what to do, rather I help them to identify what they want to do, what is best for them. “Tell me about your marriage.” “How long have you been considering divorce?” “How will your spouse react when you tell her/him that you are considering a divorce?”These questions allow the client to say things out loud, express their feelings and concerns to someone who is neutral. It may be the first time they have been able to do this and it makes them feel like they are being heard. The questions also tell me what s/he has or hasn’t tried and if there is a need for concern around being harmed when addressing this issue with their spouse.
The first thing I ask: are you willing to look to the present and the future more than you look to the past?
The first two things you tell them to do: get emotional support for yourself from people other than your ex or your children; and, don’t make this into a power struggle, because it’s not. It’s a legal dissolution of an important relationship, not a zero-sum battle for pride, ego, or “winning.” The energy you invest in trying to “win” the divorce will bear no fruit in your other important relationships–such as relationships with your children, family, and future partner(s).
If you are a parent, there is much more to consider when getting a divorce. The needs of the children must come first. Often those are different needs from your own. Children love both their parents and are extremely distressed when divorce affects their relationship with one or both parents. The more things can remain the same for them, the easier the transition. So I ask clients “Do you love your children more than you may hate your spouse? If so, you need to follow guidelines that keep the kids out of the middle of your divorce.
No one plans to get divorced. But more than one million children in the U.S. will experience its affects this year alone. Divorce has become a reality in our culture and innocent children are coping with the consequences every day.
The good news is that divorce need not wound and scar your children if you put their emotional and psychological needs first when making crucial decisions. It’s misguided parents – angry, resentful, hurt and mistrusting – who unintentionally set their children up for painful outcomes. These parents don’t understand that every decision they make regarding their divorce will affect the well-being of their children in countless ways. The emotional scars are not only harder to see, they’re also much harder to erase.
Here are five keys to helping your children move through and thrive after divorce:
1) Remind them this is not their fault.
Children tend to blame themselves for divorce, no matter how bad Mom and Dad’s relationship has been. The younger the child, the more likely this is so. Sit down together and talk to your children, emphasizing that they are in no way at fault. You can say something like: “Mom and Dad don’t agree about certain key issues and that has created conflict. Even when some of the issues are about you, it does not mean you are to blame. You are an innocent child who we both love. Sadly, Mom and Dad disagree about certain important issues — but not about our love for you. You are not in any way at fault.”
2) Focus on change — not on blame.
Divorce is all about change within the family structure. Often those changes can be beneficial and create a more peaceful environment for your children. Never burden them with adult information and judgments. Focus instead on the fact that change is an inevitable part of life and not necessarily bad. Let your children see that everything in life keeps changing. “You grow bigger every year. Seasons change, clothing styles change, your school classes change. Sometimes it takes a while to get used to changes, like when you get a new teacher or try a new sport. In time you may come to like these new changes. Let’s give it a try.”
3) Respect your child’s other parent.
When you belittle, put down or in any way disrespect your ex – regardless how justified it may feel – it hurts your children in deep and long-lasting ways. Children innately love both their parents and feel a connection to them. When you insult their other parent it creates confusion, guilt, sadness, insecurity and low self-esteem in your children. Instead, remind them that Mom and Dad will always be their parents and will always love them. No one will replace Mom or Dad either. “We will both always love you and be there for you, no matter where we live or how things should change.” Then strive to do the right thing on their behalf.
4) Let your children continue to be children.
While it may sometimes be tempting, never confide adult content to your children. They are not psychologically prepared to handle the emotional complexity. Save venting for trusted friends, a divorce counselor or support group. Also never ask your children to spy, act as messengers between both parents or provide inappropriate details about the other parent’s home life. Again, this pressure’s them in many ways – none of which are positive. It is not their place to assume adult responsibilities or help you to find evidence against your ex.
5) Make decisions through the eyes of your child.
Before making any decisions regarding divorce issues, think about the consequences for your children. Ask yourself, what will they say to me about this when they are grown adults? Will they thank me for the way I handled the divorce – or be angry and resentful about my attitude and behavior? The choices you make will affect your children for years and decades to come. For their sake, take the high road and be a role model they will want to emulate.
A successful first encounter with any prospective client requires that the attorney be sensitive to a client’s expectations and work towards developing attorney-client attitudes of trust and confidence. One of the first questions I ask a prospective client that is considering a divorce is, what led to the breakdown in the marriage? Some cases may require immediate legal action, such as a protective relief if the client is in a physically abusive relationship, experiencing immediate financial hardship, or faces child custody matters. If the client suspects their spouse is hiding financial gains, I advise the client to get as much financial information as they can before any action is filed, including bank statements, profit and loss statements, credit card statements, books and records and copies of a joint tax return. The client and I then review a global analysis of their known and suspected assets and debts and what specific strategies are best suited for the clients long term goals. Discharging an attorney’s duty of competence under the law requires advising a client about all potential legal options and remedies. (Cal. Rules of Professional Conduct, rule 3-110).
The first thing I ask someone is, “Why are you seeking divorce?” And then – depending on the nature of the response – “Have you done everything you can to save your marriage?” I think some people get frustrated and threaten divorce, but may not understand fully what that means and how their lives will change, so I definitely urge them to join some divorce forums, or post on our forum at breakupworkbook.com/forum to speak with others in the same situation. The decision to get a divorce should not be taken lightly, unless there is a safety or security issue, so I urge people to do as much research (and soul searching) as possible before contacting an attorney.
The first thing that would need to be done is to set up a time for their free discovery session. If I already knew that they were thinking about divorce, my first question during the discovery session would be what is working for them and what is not working for them. Being a divorce coach, I would never tell them what to do. Instead, I would walk the path with them and we would co-create a road-map to see if divorce is the right option for them.
The first thing i would do is to listen. Someone about to make a big decision like this with all its consequences needs to be as sure as possible that this is the path to take. if i hear any vacillation about their decision, i ask them what i call “Should I” or “Shouldn’t I” questions:
1) What are 3 fears that come to mind about getting a divorce?
2) What are the hurdles or obstacles?
3) Who do you want to be during the process?
4) What steps do you want to take?
From their answers, they can usually get a sense of their path and then we can proceed together with me serving as their thinking partner and helping them to organize so they can proceed
The first thing I do is ask if they have attempted marriage counseling. A good family law attorney advises that divorce is the last remedy, not the first that should be explored when a couple is having marital problems. This is especially true if there are children involved.
Question #2 – What is some of the best and most useful advice and or instructions you offer people involved in a divorce to help increase the chances of a successful divorce outcome?
Most parents who begin a divorce are concerned about the damage they are inflicting on their children. I explain to them how important it is to talk to the children. If not, children will fill in the silence with a much worse reality than the truth. My instructions are simple—tailor the information shared to the child’s age. For instance, a child under the age of 8, “If my parents can stop loving each other, can they stop loving me, too?” In this case, a parent might say something like, “Daddy and I are going to live in two houses pretty soon. One will be called Daddy’s house and the other Mommy’s house.” Adding to that, young children need to be reassured by saying something like, “A parent’s love is like a magic spell. It is the strongest, most powerful love in the world. No matter what happens, your Mom will always be your Mom, and your Dad will always be your Dad. Nothing can change that. Not anger or sadness or distance or time.”
Teenagers, on the other hand, want to know how the divorce is going to change their lives (Will they have to move? Change schools?). As parents of teens know, having a smooth conversation about everyday matters can be trying. When parents introduce a discussion about a difficult matter that directly impacts a teen, they need to prepare themselves ahead of time. They will need to discuss real facts and be completely honest about the impact, otherwise the teen will be harder to manage.
Do not blind side your spouse with divorce. The number one reason not to blind side someone is that you rob them of their dignity. Dignity can be defined as “being worthy of esteem or respect” and it is one of the most fundamental of human needs. Blind siding someone will do nothing for being able to communicate with them throughout the divorce process. And will probably stir up enough of a storm that you may have to deal with a lot of collateral damage.
Success is measured differently be each person. For those who have children, a successful divorce is when:
•the children remain the primary focus during negotiations, conversations, interactions of all kinds before, during and after the divorce.
•Relationships remain intact so children feel safe and loved by all relationships in their life.
For everyone, it’s important to:
•Keep your emotions in check. Reduce your overwhelming feelings so you can make clear decisions. Break things down into small, workable tasks.
•Remain open to other possibilities that you may not have thought of but may actually provide what you need.
Don’t trash the other parent. In word and gesture, speak well about your child’s mom/dad even when you’re angry with her/him—and even if she/he mom speaks poorly about you. If you have trouble speaking well, wisely say little. Negative talk about my child’s other parent humiliates and wounds my child, causing her to think less of herself, your ex, and you. Keep her out of the middle, even if others don’t, and resolve adult conflicts away from her so she can be the child.
Co-parent with the other parent. If possible, communicate openly with his mom/dad. As our child grows up, the other parents’ perspectives are valuable—and a real bonus for our child. Work with each other (and your current or future partners) for our child’s well-being. When you share your concerns and joys about your child with his mom/dad (and vice versa), your child gets our best and most informed parenting.
Your child and her other parent are different people. Don’t misdirect anger at your ex toward your child. When your child doesn’t listen, does less than her best or makes mistakes (normal kid behaviors), don’t confuse her mistakes with your ex’s actions. Instead, honor mistakes as great teachers, and do what you can do to help your child learn from her mistakes—and learn from the inevitable mistakes you make.
I recently came upon this quote from British blogger, David Bly: “Your children will become what you are; so be what you want them to be.” Basically that’s the best advice anyone can give any parent. It’s especially so when faced with challenging times, such as your divorce.
It’s estimated that 40% of our children will experience the divorce of their parents. The outcome is not the same for all children or all families. That’s why it’s so important for parents facing divorce to understand that every decision they make has consequences that affect their children as well as their own well-being for years and decades to come.As a Divorce & Parenting Coach I’ve found that many parents are short-sighted when it comes to understanding the effects of divorce on their children. They don’t understand that emotional wounds in childhood lead to behaviors in the teen years and decisions in adult-hood that were based on several factors related to the divorce.
•Lack of power: Did they feel helpless – a victim of the divorce that made them mistrust adults and life in general?
•Lack of respect: Did they feel unheard or unimportant as waves of changes took place in their life without anyone caring or asking about their feelings or needs?
•Lack of acknowledgment: Did they speak out to share their fears, anger, hurt, guilt or frustration only to find no one heard, and more importantly, no one validated their feelings and anxiety?
As parents we can’t always fix life to give our children what they want, especially when divorce is looming ahead. But we can be sensitive to our children’s reality and acknowledge that what they’re feelings matter.
We can address issues they bring up or ones we know are creating pain for them with age-appropriate answers and compassion for their plight. They didn’t ask for this, nor are they responsible for the complexities of adult marital problems. You don’t want to turn your children into confidants, friends or therapists while you’re going through this challenging transition. But you do want to encourage them to share their feelings, voice their opinions and let you know what it’s like for them to be affected by your divorce.
Sometimes making a counselor available to them really helps so they can vent to another adult without fear of consequences. Sometimes letting them talk to their grandparents, a teacher or a friend’s parent can make a positive difference. At all times let them know you’re there for them, want to hear what they have to say, and won’t punish or reprimand them for contradicting your vision of life for your family in the months and years ahead.
Remember, you’re not alone. There are so many valuable resources available to you and your children in your community, through local schools and churches, in therapist’s offices and extensively online. When divorce hits your family, take advantage of these resources to help you “be what you want your children to be.” Mature. Responsible. Compassionate. Forgiving. Resilient. Loving. And a role model they can be proud of.
As important as it is to be sensitive to a client’s expectations, it is equally important to fully inform your client of the laws and procedural practices of the family law court. Specific legal advice will depend on the circumstances, but it is always important to provide the client with essential legal information about the case, such as the client’s legal rights and obligations and the procedure for protecting the client’s rights and achieving the client’s goals, including the costs involved. Some dependent clients are concerned about what they foresee as an inability to pay attorney’s fees to accomplish their goals. They feel their spouse will be fully and unfairly funded for litigation and thus bully them into an unfavorable settlement. However, the law protects the supported spouse against the unfair advantages of the higher wage earning spouse. One incredibly useful piece of advice for a client who is the lower wage earner, is an exception to the automatic temporary restraining orders (ATRO) which take effect upon the commencement of a divorce proceeding. Under Family Code section 2040(a)(2), a party may use community property “to pay reasonable attorneys fees and costs in order to retain legal counsel in the proceeding.” The policy of this is to ensure early in the proceeding that the litigating parties are on equal footing in their ability to present their cases. (See Kevin Q. v. Lauren W., (2011) 195 Cal.App.4th 633, 643).
I think it’s about keeping in mind what’s best for you, what’s best for your children, and figuring out the items on which you can compromise. Divorce is hard on everyone involved, so it’s about fighting for the most important things, but not letting the idea of “winning” turn your divorce into an ugly, spirit-crushing, mess.
I do not give advice. However, I do give them the tools and information that they need so that they are able to come to the decision that is best for them.
As crazy as it might sound since communication issues are many times one of the reasons people seek divorce, i suggest that they begin to develop their skills to have conversations with their soon to be ex spouse. Being able to handle the other’s emotions of possible anger,upset, etc. allows the couple to be able to process not only the divorce, but the afterwards of divorce, especially if children are involved. If they want to proceed, the next step is to go through interviewing possible lawyers to see if the lawyer is compatible with the way the client wants to do the divorce: litigation, mediation, etc.
If a couple has children I advise them that even though they may no longer be marriage partners, they will always be parent partners. How they handle the divorce and the divorce process, the respect or disrespect that they show to each other, may set the ground rules for decades to come. Communication will be one of the most important tools that they will have to learn to use going forward.
Question #3 – In your opinion what are some of the positive and negative effects that a prenuptial agreement can have on a marriage?
A prenuptial agreement is not the most romantic aspect of the time leading up to the beginning of a marriage. Asking a future spouse to sign a prenuptial agreement can come across as self-serving at a time when people are committing to sharing their lives together. When a client comes to me to draft a prenuptial agreement, I always advise the client on the importance of starting the conversation early and listening to the other spouse’s concerns. A prenuptial agreement can certainly have negative effects in the aftermath of a divorce. For example, if a client signed a prenuptial agreement that would be financially disadvantageous, the effect of the prenuptial agreement was a negative one.
However, a marriage is not just a love story. It is a social and economical contract of the strictest order, and a prenuptial agreement in its most basic sense is a contract between two people. It just so happens that this contract is between two people who will spend the rest of their lives together. So why do we enter into contracts? We enter into contracts, because we want to know what we are getting into by clearly defining the goals, expectations, and obligations of the parties. People caught up in the romantic aspects of a marriage often fail to learn key things about the other: knowledge of each other’s views of money and money management skills, as well as a full disclosure of each other’s assets and debts. Financial stress is one of the biggest reasons for the breakdown of a marriage. A prenuptial agreement can enable a couple to move forward in their relationship knowing that their financial commitments to one another are settled.
No one enters into a marriage with the intention of the termination of his or her marriage. However, with a prenuptial agreement, if they meet very strict rules and requirements, they may be valid to protect assets and finances in the case of the unlikely termination of marriage, whether by death, divorce, annulment or legal separation.
These agreements, may, in fact, promote marital harmony between two people, especially when parties have been married before and may have children and or have accumulated property prior to their marriage and wish to protect and or provide for premarital interests. Agreements entered into after marriage, called Postnuptial Agreements are much harder to enforce and require a more stringent set of requirements. Individuals not being properly represented by independent counsel at the time they are negotiated and entered into by the parties could cause the negative effects of these agreements. Full and complete disclosure of all assets and liabilities is essential, as well as “arms length” dealings with separate attorneys representing the interests of each party.
Question #4 – What advice and or counsel can you offer a person who is uncertain about divorce that will help them decide if divorce is the right option or not?
Many people who contemplate divorce have a skewed outlook because the post-divorce life they envision is based in pure fantasy. The perspective focuses on how much better their life will be without their spouse in it. As many quickly discover, the relief they find is not only short-lived, but also replaced with a far-reaching trickle effect is especially damaging. In order to lessen the impact, it’s best to be realistic about what will happen once you announce your divorce. To do this, you need to think of everyone and everything in your life that will be touched negatively by a divorce. The key is to get detailed about what the realistic outcome will be.
We can explore areas of life that are impacted by divorce. I have a 17 question self-assessment that will tell them about their general readiness for change. A conscious, developed awareness of your response to change can help you develop better coping strategies. “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”
– Charles Darwin
I would ask “Think about what your life will look like after you have been divorced for 5 months, for 5 years. How do you feel? What does your life look like?
I would recommend that they speak with other resources, especially those who have a different point of view so they can look at all possibilities.
Divorce or stay together for the sake of the kids? Generations of miserable parents have faced that dilemma, hoping their sacrifices would pay off for their children in the end. Many still believe that staying is the only option for parents stuck in a dead-end marriage.
Based on my own personal experience, I have another perspective. Having been raised by parents that chose to stay together in a miserable marriage, I opt in on the other side. For me, parental divorce is preferable to years of living in a home where parents fight, disrespect one another and children are surrounded by sadness and anger. That’s the world I grew up in and the scars are still with me today, many decades later.
I believe that staying in a marriage only for the kids is a physical choice that doesn’t touch upon the emotional and psychological pain children endure when their parents are a couple in name only. In that environment there is no positive role model for children to see how marriage can and should be lived. In fact, it makes marriage appear to be something dreaded or to be avoided.
Happiness, harmony, cooperation, respect and joy are all absent when parents are emotionally divorced while still living together. Children feel it, are confused by it and too often blame themselves for their parents’ unhappiness. Consequently, they grow up anxious and guilt-ridden, experiencing little peace in childhood. In many ways, the scars are much the same as for children who experience a poorly handled divorce.
For me, parents who find themselves in an ongoing unhappy marriage who consciously choose to create a Child-Centered Divorce are providing a much better option and outcome for everyone in the family.
My own parents should have divorced early in their marriage. They were both miserable together, had little respect for one another, and raised two children in a home fraught with anger, tension, frequent loud arguments and discord.
I remember my mother asking me one day whether she should divorce Dad. “No,” I cried. I wanted a Mom and a Dad like all the other kids. Although my childhood was miserable and filled with insecurity, I feared what life would be like if my parents were divorced. Mom didn’t have the courage to do it anyway. Those were vastly different times, especially for women — and she continued in her unhappy marriage for decades longer.
Today, looking back, I feel that was an unfortunate mistake. Neither of my parents were bad people. They were both just totally mismatched in a bad marriage. Their communication skills were miserably lacking and they were wrapped up in winning every battle at all costs. The real cost, of course, was the well-being of their children. I believe that each of my parents would have been happier and more fulfilled had they parted ways and remained single or chosen another partner.
That’s why I chose the other route when my own marriage was failing. Because of my childhood experiences, however, I intuitively understood what not to do in divorce. I intentionally worked to create what I call a Child-Centered Divorce. My “was-band” and I co-parented cooperatively, shared the important parenting decisions and maintained a positive relationship for the decade to follow when my son grew from ten to twenty years old. Most gratifying for me was the satisfaction of having my now adult son acknowledge the merits of my co-parenting philosophy and choices.
More than a decade after my divorce I wrote the book that shared my unique approach to breaking the divorce news to my son. As a grown adult, he is a strong supporter of my Child-Centered Divorce Network and wrote the Forward to my digital guidebook, How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love!
Fortunately, despite my painful childhood, I still believe in marriage and have since happily remarried myself. My advice to unhappily married parents can be summed up succinctly:
If parents have the maturity and determination to get professional assistance before divorce, learn how to positively reconnect and renew their commitment to marriage, that is undeniably ideal. The entire family will benefit and the healing will be a blessing to all.
However, if children are being raised in a war zone or in the silence and apathy of a dead marriage, divorce may open the door to a healthier, happier future for parents and children alike. But parental divorce in itself is never a solution. To give children the best outcome parents must consciously work on creating a cooperative Child-Centered Divorce that puts the children’s psychological well-being first – as the basis for all parenting decisions!
Ultimately, the decision to file for a divorce is a personal one that needs to be made by the client. However, as an attorney, it is essential to advise the client of his or her options and provide the client with the resources necessary to assist him or her in arriving at their decision. As described in question one, there may be situations where it would be advisable for the client to seek immediate legal action. If for example, the client needs protection from abuse, needs protection from imminent property dissipation, or where the other party is about to leave the jurisdiction, it may be advisable for the client to file for legal separation or divorce and to terminate the marriage as soon as possible.
If immediate legal action is not necessary, I would ask the client whether there is any reason or ability to preserve the marriage. Again, the duty of competency requires an attorney to advise about all possible legal options, including reconciliation of any issues. If necessary, depending on each client’s situation I recommend and refer clients to other professionals, such as a religious adviser, psychologist, marriage counselor, or financial adviser. If there is uncertainty, I always recommend a trial separation. For clients who have an idealized dissolution as a cure for their marital issues, this may prove that divorce is not the answer to their underlying problems. On the other hand, if separation is a positive experience, then dissolution will be an easier transition. California law provides for a mandatory 6 month cooling off phase before the court will grant the formal dissolution. This time frame is often sufficient for my clients to determine if a divorce is truly what they want.
I’m a big advocate for therapy. When people come to me and are uncertain about the future of their marriage, I urge the person to see if they and their spouse can try couples counseling. Oftentimes, the answer I receive is, “No. My wife/husband would never consent to that.” So I urge the person to start to attend therapy on their own. Sometimes a therapist can help facilitate communication, especially when it has broken down, just by working with one of the parties. Ideally, after some time has passed, the other spouse will understand how serious their partner is about the marriage and will also agree to attend therapy.
Regardless, I think visiting a certified mental health professional can really help you figure out your best course. Pro/con lists are nice, but when ending a marriage, I think it’s really important to go the extra mile to be sure it’s the right decision for you, so even if you’re not a “therapy” person, I’d still urge people to consider it.
I have the tools and information that will get them thinking and looking at things in a different way. It will give them other things to consider and other options that they may not have thought about before, so they can ultimately be in control of their life and decide what the best option for them is.
Divorce should usually be a last remedy. Some marriages, where there has been abuse and or domestic violence have no place in our society. Those marriages should end and individuals should be protected. When a marriage has broken down, though, and domestic violence is not an issue, especially when there are children, parents should explore options to try to save their marriage, if possible. Sometimes, one party has already moved on and met a third party and saving a marriage from divorce is no longer an option. Sometimes, parties are able to overcome obstacles that they once thought they would not be able to overcome. Seeking counseling is always a good option and learning good communication skills will be essential, if not in being able to save your marriage, in being able to better communicate after your divorce and help move on with the next phase of your life.
Question #5 – What are some of the most significant and crucial effects a divorce has or can have on a recently divorced individual’s life?
Getting children to talk about their parent’s divorce and express their emotions can be a real challenge. This is because many children have trouble talking about a emotional subjects like divorce. To help, parents can help them by using the tips below:
• Explain that being upset about divorce is normal. Children of any age may find it reassuring to hear that it’s natural to cry or feel frightened or angry when parents divorce.
• Encourage your child to express emotions that he may be holding back. You might tell a younger child, “I heard you telling your stuffed animal that you were sad after I told you Daddy and I said we weren’t going to live together any more. I feel sad, too, and it’s OK to feel sad when things change in the family.”
• When talking with your child, repeat back what you are hearing to let him. This will reassure the child that you are listening. “I know that you are worried that daddy won’t love you anymore after he moves out. That will never happen because daddy’s and mommy’s will always love their children. Daddy loves you and that will never change.
• Play doll and stuffed animals with your children. Often times younger children communicate their real feelings through the dolls, as though it is the doll who has the feelings.
• Read picture books on divorce with young children. Books help put words what they are feeling. “Fables of Fairy Good Heart: Divorce–A Parent’s Love Lasts Forever” by Nancy Fagan is helpful.
• Talk to adolescents and teenagers about what they know about divorce from their friends and what they see on TV and the Internet. Starting a conversation is easier if you phrase your question about someone else going through divorce, rather than asking your teen. Say something such as, “What do you think the high school kid in the movie felt about having to change schools after his parents divorced?” Relate the questions to issues your teen is likely having to deal with.
• If your child seems to be having more trouble than most, you may want to go see a child or family therapist to help process the transition.
Divorce is going to put a lot of stress on a person damaging their physical and emotional well-being. If you don’t have a plan to deal with it will cause a lot of pain and maybe their life. It is not unusual for a women to be diagnosed with breast cancer within one year after their divorce is finalized.
Every area of life is effected by divorce. I think the biggest effect is on Self:
•Not sleeping, declining health
•Trying to do it all rather than using a support system
•Loss of self-esteem, self-respect
Additional areas impacted that can also effect Self:
•Loss of friends – some take sides, some can’t deal with their friend’s marriage ending as it means their marriage might end too
•Reduction in lifestyle and finances
•Change in community involvement if done as a couple
•During the divorce business and career can take a back seat. This can negatively their job or business and they may not be able to recover from it.
A status change from married to single can affect nearly every aspect of one’s life. If this is a long-term marriage, your identity has been linked to your partner for years, and establishing yourself as a single person can be a challenge. Depending on the length of the marriage, the history between the parties, or if there are children involved, moving forward in life is a formidable challenge. Where divorcing parties have minor children, for example, the most significant change will be the child-sharing plan the family will now need to adopt. Children who were once living in one home will now be living in two homes. There will need to be a pick-up and drop-off schedule, coordination of holiday schedules, and a method of communication between the parties. In order to maintain structure, parents will need to learn how to effectively co-parent with one another. This requires respect, limiting conversation to issues involving the children, and being production and positive role models for the children.
Additionally, what was once an income set for one household, now becomes an income for two households. It is important to properly plan for this division of income and ensure that the balance exists between both parties. On the one hand a supporting party should not have to bear the burden of completely supporting a spouse who is capable of becoming self-supporting. On the other hand the supported spouse may need time to get back on their feet. Either way, proper planning and an effective legal strategy is critical.
There are so many different effects a divorce can have on a person; from the realization that you no longer have a helping hand for groceries or watching the kids, to the emotional void of losing your best friend and the physical void of being alone in your bed. You may have to get up an hour earlier for work just so you can get the kids off to school on your own, or you may notice friendship dynamics changing – especially when you and your spouse have shared the same circle of friends. Then, obviously, your finances will change. Money may be a new worry, when it wasn’t before, especially if you’re paying an attorney and not yet collecting child support. It’s important to take time to perform self-care while you’re going through these changes, as your self-esteem can plummet and depression can creep in.
Divorce means the end of “you” as you have defined yourself after getting married. Getting married means that you accepted the role of being a spouse and in-law. Along with that role came things like different responsibilities (shared responsibilities), family concerns, and planning for the future not only for yourself, but others as well. Getting divorced also changes the dynamics of relationships with your “circle of friends” that you had as a couple, your community relationships (for example, church), and relationships with in-laws. And it makes an impact financially in part because you are going from two incomes sharing the financial obligations (in the majority of cases) to just one income being responsible for all their obligations.
This varies in most cases. However, financial concerns and creating a “new vision for their life” seem to be the most prevalent in my clients.
Financial changes occur to everyone following their divorce. A good family law attorney will help you plan accordingly. Social changes also will occur. Where you were once a couple you are now single. Friends sometimes feel “funny” not knowing whether to call and go out (they do not want to take sides). You may feel like the “third wheel” when you go out with people who you once socialized with and were your friends. But, you must realize, that your “friends” will often times react to you. They will wait to see how you are following your break-up. If you are a “Debby-downer” people will not want to be with you. If all you do is complain about what you went through and your “Ex” and live on your negative energy, people will not want to be around you, either. Yes, you will be feeling those things, but your main goal will be to take your negative energy that you will be feeling following the life changing event of the divorce and find positive things in your life to make the negatives, positive. People want to be around positive energy…so will you.
Question #6 – In your past experiences and or involvements have you ever noticed certain characteristics, qualities, and or behaviors of a parent (positive and or negative) that plays a role in the child custody outcome?
Full commitment to co-parenting. You are your child’s parent until the day your child dies. Seize the obligation and opportunity to influence her positively. Your child’s other parent also has lifelong impact, so don’t denigrate her/him or pretend that she/he doesn’t (or shouldn’t) matter to you child.
Big picture perspective. E.g., the parenting time arrangements set up in the first divorce hearing are likely to change over time–especially if you continue to act responsibly. So, don’t catastrophize. Remember that (with luck) you have decades ahead to nurture your relationship with your children.
Open mind and heart. It’s very tough–but not impossible–to remain open during the pain of divorce. Remember that you are not perfect (otherwise, you’d be a terrible bore) and so other people’s ideas might help you out. And be proactive about getting emotional support and fellowship during this time–and in the future. It’s essential that you not rely solely on your next romantic/sexual relationship for this support; reach out to friends, family, and other people who are going through or have been through divorce.
I frequently advise clients that the judge’s decision on child custody and visitation will be based on a twenty minute hearing and heavily influenced by a mediator’s report. In my past experiences, parties that show an inability to co-parent and do little but make accusatory allegations about the other spouse often find themselves placed in an adverse light in the mediator’s report. This could include the simplest of things, such as referring to the child as “my child” instead of “our child.” Constant accusations show the mediator that the party cares more about his or herself than the child. Co-parenting after all, is all about resolving issues and doing what is in the best interests of the child.
Before the commencement of a child custody hearing or a mediation, I always advise the client of the factors a court looks at when it comes to the parent. Some factors, such as the educational level and employment status of each parent, may not able to be controlled. However, a client’s behavior during the proceedings can also affect the court’s decision. Questions the court will take into consideration include: Which parent is the most suitable custodian based on character, temperament and stability? What’s the child’s relationship with each parent? Which parent will provide the best home environment? What’s each parent’s apparent motive for seeking custody? Is either parent unfit to have custody? Which parent is the most likely to allow the child a meaningful relationship with the other parent and extended family?
This is an area where, many times if there is a custody issue, I would suggest calling in another professional geared to custody outcomes to come onto the client’s “team”.
Parents who are nurturing individuals, by nature, usually do better in child custody disputes, then parents who are not. This is mostly caused by the fact that they are less selfish and more selfless. They care for others, less than they care for themselves. They put their children first and clearly can be shown to be the better “administrators of custody” when putting together child custody disputes.
Question #7 – What advice and or guidance can you offer someone going through a divorce that might help them maintain a civilized and respectful relationship with their ex or soon to be ex-spouse?
Be your best self. Think about 4 – 5 of people who have had a positive influence on you. Write down each name and identify 2 – 3 attributes that you admire in them. Once you have defined your best self, it provides a touchstone for you keep your choices and your actions aligned with your best self. Keep in mind how you want people to remember how you handled this difficult situation especially your children (modeling) and who you want to become in your new life.
During a divorce emotions run high and it is easy to want to say or do things to hurt the other person that you wouldn’t do under other circumstances. Bring your best-self and remember your personal values throughout the divorce process and into your new life after your divorce. Remember how you would like to be treated and pause or take a moment before you say something you may regret. Practice saying things out loud with someone you trust before you say it to your spouse/ex-spouse. Know your emotional triggers/buttons and learn how to react less when they are being pushed.
Divorce changes relationships; it doesn’t end them. Accept that you will need to communicate with your ex now and in the future–and then commit to communicate clearly, calmly, and compassionately. Continuing to battle or rehash old wounds only prolongs your upset and difficulties.
The other person’s opinion is none of your damn business. You have zero (as in none, zilch, nada) control over the opinions or feelings of your ex, her/his family members….or anybody else, for that matter. If you are rigorously honest and responsible in your actions, other people’s responses will take care of themselves. If, on the other hand, you try to control the other person’s feelings, opinions, behaviors, etc., you will only succeed in upsetting yourself and making the overall situation worse.
Getting divorced and exploring the realities of co-parenting ahead? This facet of life after divorce can be enormously complex and challenging for several good reasons.
•Both parents are bringing the raw emotions resulting from the divorce into a new stage in their lives
•Mom and Dad are also bringing previous baggage from the marriage – ongoing conflicts, major disputes, differing styles of communication, unresolved issues and continual frustrations — into the mix as they negotiate a co-parenting plan
•Both parents are vying for the respect and love of the children – and are easily tempted to slant their parenting decisions in the direction that wins them popularity with the kids
•Anger and resentment resulting from the divorce settlement can impact and influence levels of cooperation in the years to come
•Parents may disagree about major issues ahead that weren’t part of the parenting dynamic in the past including: visits and sleepovers with friends, scheduling after-school activities, handling curfews, new behavior problems, consequences for smoking, drinking and drug use, dating parameters, using the car and scheduling vacation time.
•Parents may not share values and visions for the children as they grow and may also not agree on the plan of action required to honor those values.
When these types of differences appear parents might find themselves struggling to find ways of coping. Agreement on how to co-parent effectively in the present and the future is not a one-time discussion. It takes on-going communication, both verbal and written as well as regular meetings via phone or in person. And it takes a commitment to make co-parenting work – because you both want it to.
The consequences, when it doesn’t work, can be considerable. Your children are very likely to exploit any lack of parental agreement or unity, pitting Mom and Dad against one another while they eagerly take advantage of the situation. This is a danger sign that can result in major family turmoil fueled by behavior problems that neither parent can handle.
When Mom and Dad are on the same page, so to speak, they can parent as a team regardless of how far apart they live. These parents agree about behavioral rules, consequences, schedules and shared intentions regarding their children. They discuss areas of disagreement and find solutions they can both live with – or agree to disagree and not make those differences an area of contention.
If curfew in Mom’s house is 9:00 pm and it’s 10:00 pm in Dad’s house, that can still work if both parents respect the differences and let the children know it’s all okay. When differing curfews becomes an area of major contention, that’s when the kids can get hurt – caught between battling parental egos. Children are confused and often feel guilty in battling parent situations which rarely lead to any good within the family structure.
Keep in mind that when you’re more open and receptive to your co-parent, you are more likely to get what you really want in the end. Good listening skills, flexibility and the commitment to do what’s best on behalf of your children are part of a smart co-parenting mindset. Remember that co-parenting will be a life-long process for the two of you. Why not do it in a way that will garner your children’s respect and appreciation? They will thank you when they are grown adults.
While each situation is different, I often advise clients to actually limit communication to as little as possible. For example, if there are children involved, only discuss things that are in the best interests of the children. It is important to advise clients to concentrate on co-parenting, and to leave the legal issues to the attorneys. If a client’s ex-spouse calls them asking why a particular document was filed in court, I advise clients to refrain from engaging in any conversation other than to tell the ex-spouse to have his or her attorney call theirs. Anything a client emails or text messages an ex-spouse in the heat of the moment can be used as evidence against them.
Additionally, maintaining a civil and respectful relationship involves continuous financial transparency and disclosure. Unlike other practice areas, in which the case is over upon the rendering of a court’s decision, family law cases are always continuing. Under Family Code section 2100(c), each party has a continuing duty to “immediately, fully, and accurately” update and augment disclosures of all assets and liabilities throughout the case.
This is an important question and it definitely depends on the nature of the grounds for divorce.
In The Breakup Workbook 2.0, I interviewed a therapist who outlined these ways to help deal with an ex if you share children:
-Keep communication ‘strictly business.’ An arrangement or schedule can be drawn up in order to develop a routine where little communication is needed.
-Let someone else schedule the arrangements. For example, if your child is a teenager, he or she may be able to take over the scheduling rather than relying on you as the go-between.
-Think of alternate possibilities, like dropping off your child with a neutral third-party, such as a grandparent, and then have your ex pick up your child from there.
If you don’t share children, but still need to speak with your ex, I’d suggest keeping the communication ‘strictly business.’ Beyond that, I believe that as you begin to heal from the pain of divorce, forgiveness will eventually take the place of bitterness, and seeing your ex in public will get easier with time.
In one word, dignity. Dignity plays an important role in the emotional responses to divorce.
I use the concept of identifying and developing their “BEST SELF”. It is a simple exercise that I do with my client. This makes a huge difference in the process going as smoothly as possible even if the other spouse has anger or other issues. When one of the two spouses doesn’t add ” fuel to the fire” by engaging in counter productive reactions and responses, many times the “fire” dies down or goes out. At the same time, I work with my client on processing their own emotional responses/reactions so that they are able to be their BEST SELF. Becoming aware of one’s BEST SELF in an adverse situation often develops skills that can be used productively in all other areas of a person’s life, thereby beginning to create a new vision of what kind of life they will create after the divorce and with their children.
Question #8 – Are there any specific divorce related resources/books/websites/publications/etc… that you recommend for someone in the pre, current, post-divorce stage of life?
a. Website Recommendation
The Fairy Good Heart Website offers resources for parents and children who are dealing with parental separation, and anxiety surrounding divorce. The tools on this site will help strengthen the connection between your child and the away parent using fun activities, techniques, how-to divorce parenting articles and videos for children.
Articles: How divorce impacts kids according to their age
Divorce Parenting Book Recommendation
Fables of Fairy Good Heart: Divorce-A Parent’s Love Lasts Forever
Divorce isn’t easy for anyone. But for children, the process of divorce can raise difficult questions and distinct fears—fears that parents may neither understand nor know to address. In Fables of Fairy Good Heart: Divorce—A Parent’s Love Lasts Forever, author, mediator and renowned relationship expert Nancy Fagan takes on one child’s all too common question: “If my parents can stop loving one another, can they stop loving me, too?” The result is a children’s book that operates on multiple levels, offering sons and daughters of divorce a relatable story while providing parents with a context in which to address their children’s concerns. As the first installment in Fagan’s Divorce Help Clinic Children’s Series, Fables of Fairy Good Heart, book one: A Parent’s Love Lasts, Forever is equal parts storybook, communication aid and therapy tool—and as such, an invaluable resource for families, mediators and therapists alike.
Divorce Toy Recommendation
A small stuffed, plush toy based on the character of Fairy Good Heart™–a mascot for children dealing with parental separation and divorce to remind them they are loved. It features a “parent pocket” where parents can insert notes, photos for their children for them to have when away from a parent.
1)divorcemag.com has great articles and information based on location/state
2)Divorce support groups – local meetings can be found at religious venues, meetup groups, etc.
3)Webinars/conference calls conducted by law firms in your state
4)overdivorce.com – started out as a site for men but more and more women are using it and are participating as guests for their podcast
-Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After a Divorce or Separation by Jann Blackstone-Ford and Sharyl Jupe (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2004)
-Live-away Dads: Staying a Part of Your Children’s Lives When They Aren’t a Part of Your Home by William C. Klatte (New York: Penguin, 1999)
-Befriending Your Ex after Divorce: Making Life Better for You, Your Kids, and, Yes, Your Ex by Judith Ruskay Rabinor, PhD. (Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, 2013)
-The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family by Ron L. Deal (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2014
exetiquette.com Ex-Etiquette: Good behavior after a divorce or separation
bonusfamilies.com An international non-profit organization dedicated to promoting peaceful coexistence between divorced or separated parents and their combined families.
At the Child-Centered Divorce Network you’ll find free and low-cost resources on all facets of divorce and parenting. There’s a free ebook, Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies For Getting It Right! You can get a weekly ezine filled with excellent advice and tips. You’ll also find an Expert Interview Series to tap into. Plus you can access the Mastering Child-Centered Divorce 10-hr. Audio Coaching Program with Workbook as well as dozens of other valuable resources for divorcing and divorced parents. All this and more can be found at ChildCenteredDivorce.com
How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children – with Love! By Rosalind Sedacca, CCT offers a unique, effective and innovative approach to breaking the divorce news to children. Internationally-acclaimed. HowDoITelltheKids.com.
The Divorce View Talk Show interviews divorce experts on a weekly basis. See all video interviews for free at DivorceView.com.
1)California Rules of Court: courts.ca.gov/documents/title_5.pdf.
2)California State Bar Parenting Plan: courts.ca.gov/15872.htm
3)California State Bar Pamphlet “What Should I Know About Divorce And Custody?”: www.calbar.ca.gov/Portals/0/documents/publications/Divorce.pdf
Divorce360.com is a site that I’ve personally been involved with in the past. They do a great job helping you through each stage of the divorce.
Another great website with which I’ve been personally involved is First30Days.com. On this site, they focus on the first 30 days of any life change or event, and offer expert advice for different subjects, including divorce.
1) I certainly recommend having a divorce/transition coach throughout the divorce process and afterwards.
2) The book: Divorce: Overcome the Overwhelm and Avoid the Six Biggest Mistakes by Pegotty and Randall Cooper.
3) Being in group support, whether locally in person or on a webinar group support. We are beginning a webinar called: Breaking UP is Hard To Do: An Affordable Divorce Support Group.