Great Lakes Divorce Financial Solutions provides mediation services as well as detailed divorce financial analysis and planning whether you are contemplating divorce, evaluating options, or planning for your future. Your source for all information related to divorce financial planning and mediation. Empowering and educating clients to make wise financial decisions.
When I got divorced, I had three children between the ages of three and eight. I remember the stress. I was overwhelmed thinking about how I was going to help my kids get through the divorce and ultimately, how I would manage on my own.
It can be scary to think about how you’ll take care of your children after a divorce. There will be many changes on the horizon for everyone. You have to be confident that you can take care of them, even if you have to turn to friends and family members for emotional and financial support. It’s also important to remember that taking care of your own needs is vital as you’re not going to be able to care for your children if you aren’t taking care of yourself.
5 Tips to Help Kids Get Through Divorce as Smoothly as Possible
Ask For Help
Don’t be too stubborn to take advantage of the help that is offered. I don’t know what I would’ve done without my mom’s support. I am very fortunate that she lives close by. She listened to me when I was scared and when I was upset. She bought my kids shoes when I was freaking out about money and she took my kids to do stuff when I just needed a break.
Ask for what you need from those that do offer to be there for you. If they don’t offer, just ask anyway. Your friends and family care about you and your kids. It may be as simple as having someone to listen to you or to take your children for a few hours.
If you’re having a hard time getting your emotions under control, I highly recommend considering professional assistance such as a therapist or a divorce coach. In fact, don’t be afraid to seek counseling for the entire family if you feel it could be beneficial. Sometimes people avoid this because of the cost but the relief it could bring your family in invaluable.
Establish a new budget
Cutting out unnecessary expenses is going to have to be part of the plan for most people that have just been divorced. Establishing a solid budget for your new family structure is important to help kids through the process of divorce. You need to know you’ll be able to keep a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, and food on the table. In time, your finances will improve and you’ll be able to add in some comforts again for everyone to enjoy.
Some parents worry that their children are going to miss out on material things due to the financial changes a divorce can bring. While it may take the entire family time to adjust to such changes, it’s important to know that everyone will be fine. The truth is that as long as their basic needs are being met, they’ll get by. In fact, it may serve as a lesson that teaches them to appreciate what they do have.
Think of cost-effective things you can do as a family. You may spend the afternoon at the park or going for a walk. Play board games or watch a movie together. When my kids were younger, we spent beautiful days at playgrounds and cold and rainy days at the libraries. If money is tight, do things that allow you more time to bond instead of being an additional expense for the family.
Communication is very important when it comes to helping kids through a divorce. Make sure your children feel safe enough to come to you to talk. If you break down in tears every time the subject of the divorce comes up, they’ll clam up. While you may get emotional during discussions, you have to be strong. If you’re positive about everything turning out fine, they’ll believe it as well. I know that it can be difficult to be positive and there were many days when I had to tell myself to just fake until I could make it. We all did make it, though, and my kids are doing great.
Be as honest as you can to help kids through divorce. Children will have various questions about what’s going on. Some want to know why it happened in a more general way, as in “why does the family have to deal with it”. Other children will want to know the specific reasons why their parents aren’t together anymore. Make sure you fully understand what your child is really asking before you start to answer. Respond only to their question and resist the urge to overshare.
Try to Get Along With Your Ex
To help kids through divorce, you do need to do your very best to get along with the other parent. You want to make it possible for both of you to take care of the children. In fact, your former partner’s support can help you to have the personal time you need. It may take some getting used to at first when your house feels very quiet. However, when your ex has the children, it does free up time for you to rediscover the things you love to do. Your ex may also be willing to assist you financially if you are struggling to make ends meet. However, they’re only going to do that if you keep the lines of communication open.
Helping Kids Through Divorce Requires You
It can be hard to help kids through divorce. Still, many parents will tell you that that these simple tips are all that got them through such a difficult time in their lives. They focused on being strong for their children and there were days when that’s all that got them out of bed. It can be hard to go from a two-parent household to one, but many people are successfully doing just that every day. You will be, too!
spouse cheated. He or she is leaving you for someone else. Perhaps you’ve
argued for years and just finally had enough. Regardless of the reason, for the
vast majority of cases, divorce is emotional. People are emotional. Deciding
how your life will be after a divorce is emotional.
Unfortunately, making sound decisions while emotions are running high doesn’t work. When we get emotional, we stop thinking rationally, which can lead us to do and say things that we will regret later. It’s easy to blow up an important part of the settlement agreement by letting anger and frustration get the better of you. When emotions take over, we stop listening to the other person and focus on the feelings instead of the goals we have for the negotiation.
Emotions and Divorce Mediation: 7 Tips for Success
So, how do you stay unemotional in a situation that is going to have such a big impact on your future? Use the following tips to keep you on track, both with your emotions and divorce mediation.
Tip #1: Take care of your basic needs
oldest son recently informed me that hangry has actually been added to the
Oxford English Dictionary and it makes sense. When we are tired or hungry, we
are often more irritable. That’s human nature and a great example of why we
need to take care of our basic needs before entering an emotional situation.
One of the keys to managing your emotions in mediation is setting yourself up for success. That means to make sure that you get a good night of rest before you come to your session. Have a full meal ahead of time. While I tend to have snacks available for my clients, they won’t help much if you haven’t eaten all day. The last thing you want to be is “hangry” when you need to make major life decisions.
Tip #2: Know Your Triggers
going into any negotiation, whether it’s mediation or something else, it’s
important to know what tends to trigger your negative emotions. For example, if
you know one of your emotional triggers is someone interrupting you, it’ll be
easier to remain calm when it happens. Knowing yourself is the first step to a
As it relates to negotiating your divorce specifically, you might find certain topics are triggers. In many cases, the topic of spousal support is a trigger. If you know that there is a particular topic that is a trigger for you, it’s important to take some additional time to prepare for the conversation that will happen surrounding that topic. Be even more intentional when it comes to listening to the other person’s proposals and concerns regarding the topic.
Tip #3: Be Mindful
you can plan ahead, it’s important that you also pay attention to your emotions
during your negotiation. By taking the time to notice your thoughts and
feelings in the moment, you’ll be able to respond more quickly to those
emotions, instead of becoming triggered by them. If you find that your emotions
are getting out of control, stay clear-headed and focused by taking a deep
breath or drinking some water.
Tip #4: Focus on Facts
If you notice early enough that your emotions are beginning to spiral out of control, you may be able to reign them in by focusing on the facts. Simply redirecting the conversation back to the task at hand and away from the increasing emotions or the people involved may just be enough to avoid an emotional outburst you’ll later regret. This strategy may not work for you if the situation or conversation has already become emotional.
Tip #5: Take a break
emotions are running high, suggest taking a short break to regroup. This can
give everyone a chance to regain their composure before moving forward.
Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting outside of the room and taking a few
breaths of fresh air. Most of the time a short break can actually saves time by
creating an atmosphere that allows the rest of the session to be more
Tip #6: Actively Listen
you notice the other party is getting frustrated, this is a great time to
engage the idea of actively listening. They may feel that they aren’t being
heard or acknowledge for their ideas, and by taking the time to do just that,
you can effectively reverse their tense emotions. Let them know that you are
listening and understanding the ideas they are proposing, even if you don’t
One effective way to demonstrate active listening is to repeat back what the other party said to confirm that you fully understand their point. I regularly do this during mediation cases. Not only does it show that I’m actively listening, but it also gives the person a chance to clarify their position if I misinterpreted something.
Tip #7: Remember Your Priorities
the beginning of a divorce mediation, I ask people a few questions including
what they hope to accomplish, their biggest concerns, and I even ask them to consider
what their future self would like to be able to say about how they handled the
If you find yourself becoming angry, frustrated, or emotional in general, remind yourself of your big picture goals. Raising children together can be a big goal for many, and if you want to be able to remain friends with your soon-to-be-ex for that purpose, allowing your emotions to run high won’t help you achieve that.
Your Emotions and Divorce Mediation
Emotions have the tendency to cloud judgment, but when it comes to your divorce mediation, they don’t have to. By utilizing the previous steps, working to stay composed, and taking a break as necessary, you can keep them from becoming your worst enemy at the negotiation table.
Need help strategizing for your own divorce mediation? We’d love the opportunity to talk with you!
are several reasons that parents come in for mediation after a divorce is over.
A big one is parenting expenses. The reality is if you get divorced when your
children are young, it’s hard to know what kind of extracurricular activities
they will become involved with over the years or even if they will develop
chronic health issues.
Strategies to Handle Parenting Expenses After Divorce
It’s really impossible to negotiate every possible scenario. However, it is crucial to discuss at least a baseline for how you’ll divide those parenting expenses after divorce and effectively communicate as well.
Step 1: Discuss how parenting expenses will be handled prior to finalizing
parenting expenses to the divorce agreement. Under the best-case scenario, you will
have thoroughly discussed the division of expenses, so both of you know what to
expect. You’ll want to be aware of expenses including school tuition, lunches,
medical bills and insurance, clothing, books, shoes, toys, and other items. As
much as it’s possible, take the time to determine who will cover each expense ahead
of time and how much of each expense will be covered.
you have the items that need to be covered, figure out how you will communicate
about those expenses as they arise.
If your child is older, will he or
she be responsible for mentioning when they need new clothing or shoes?
Will all of the medical bills be sent
directly to the person responsible?
Will a phone call be necessary to
communicate the need for school supplies or books?
knowing these details ahead of time, you’ll save yourself a lot of frustration
when the need arises.
Step 2: Communicate with your ex
a parent is a life-long commitment that doesn’t end after divorce. Divorce can
make communication with your former partner a challenge, but it’s important to
communicate with your ex about parenting expenses to ensure that your children
continue to receive the care they need.
communication between you and your ex is a struggle, keep the following in mind:
Decide You’ll Be Successful
Co-parenting isn’t always easy, but having kids makes it a necessity. Acknowledge that, despite your difference, you will be in this journey together until the kids are grown, and even beyond. If possible, take the time to address what your new relationship will look like with your former spouse and then make the best effort to stick to it.
Set and Stick to
Uncomfortable with your former spouse in your home? Struggling with the constant scheduling changes on the part of your ex? By taking the time to set boundaries of your own, including those of a financial nature, you’ll be a lot more likely to stick to them when the situation arises.
Finally, it’s critical that you know yourself and your own tendencies. If you struggle to hold your tongue when you are tired or in a rush, make it a point not to initiate conversations with your ex during those times, or to plan ahead so you have more leeway in your schedule. Don’t exasperate yourself or your ex by not taking into account your own weaknesses, but rather, plan ahead to prevent further complicating the situation.
Step 3: Create a system for emergency expenses
Emergency parenting expenses can appear at any time whether you’re married or divorced. Did your children suddenly remember they need extra money for summer camp? What about emergency medical visits that aren’t fully covered by insurance? Carefully consider what will constitute as an emergency, then, plan ahead of time which one of you will take care of the expenses, or if you’ll split them evenly. By having a system in place ahead of time, you’ll be able to handle the emergency expenses with ease.
Step 4: Start an expense fund to cover extras
If you create an expense fund and contribute whatever you can each week, even if it’s a small amount, you’ll be more likely to be able to cover small expenses that come up. Determine ahead of time what that fund will be used for and then keep it for those reasons only. It’s likely this expense fund will be for use by you, and not in combination with your ex, so you may prefer to keep it for incidentals needed around your home, when the kids are in your care.
Step 5: Understand the extra costs of a separate household
Be prepared for the extra costs when children are living in two homes. Children who have to split their time between two households need items in both of them. Your expenses might include a new bed, desk, chairs, and other furniture for your child. You may also need to purchase toys and other items to make the child feel at home in the new location. Expect hidden expenses from time to time, such as the need for new lamps or pencils.
Step 6: Stop the competition
Avoid trying to outdo the other parent. You can’t buy your child’s love, so it’s a waste of time and money to try to outdo your ex when it comes to gifts. Your children can still appreciate boundaries and the occasional present. Avoid creating competition with your former partner by buying expensive gifts for the children. Instead, design a parenting budget of your own that includes gifts and stick with whatever amount works for you.
Step 7: Keep a Clear Schedule
the logistics of two different households can be challenging but is necessary
for the sake of the children. If you and your ex are struggling to keep all of
the kid-related details straight, you may want to consider using an app to help
you do so.
Our Family Wizard offers many options to help you stay on track: a calendar view of all of the scheduled activities; a message board for family communication that doesn’t allow messages to be edited, deleted, or retracted; an expense log to help families manage their shared expenses; and an info bank to help keep medical information, insurance details, emergency contacts and much more close at hand.
CoFamilies, SupportPay, and Cozi (the free version of Our Family Wizard) are other great options to get you started, so make sure to do your research and find the best tool for your own family needs.
Plan Ahead for Parenting Expenses after Divorce
are expensive at all stages and ages, and divorce can add a great deal of
stress to the financial situation. Planning for
your parenting expenses ahead of time can save you a lot of grief.
If you are considering the
mediation process for your divorce and would like to learn more, schedule
a phone consultation. We offer mediation locally in the
Cleveland-area and virtually nationwide.
I stayed in my house when I got divorced. At the time, the housing market had declined so much that we had negative equity in our home. Selling our house would have put us in a worse financial situation than keeping it and we had three young children. Keeping them in the house gave them some stability during a difficult time for our family.
That said, maintaining the house that I had with my ex has had its ups and downs. I’m glad we were able to stay put but the maintenance was a lot of work for me at first. I’ve since gotten remarried and now my kids are a little older so they can help more. Still, when I was on my own, to say I was overwhelmed would barely scratch the surface of how I was feeling.
I’ve also had some huge home-related expenses since my divorce that set me back significantly. At the time, the decision to stay in the house was a no-brainer. However, looking back, I have to wonder if the stress of being responsible for the house hasn’t been more difficult than if I would’ve just moved in the first place.
Deciding whether or not to keep your home in a divorce settlement is a huge financial decision but I always acknowledge with my clients that it’s very emotional as well. I put together this exercise to help take the emotion out of the decision so you can try to be logical about it.
A step-by-step approach to determining if you should keep the house in your divorce
Here is an exercise to help you determine if you should keep your house in your divorce settlement. I encourage you to consider every decision that you are making as part of your divorce settlement thoughtfully, fully understanding the short and long-term implications of your decisions.
Steps to determine if you should keep your house in your divorce
Step 1: Get an appraisal (or two)
Have the property appraised. It’s imperative that you know the value of each asset that you are negotiating. Sometimes you need to get more than one appraisal because the values can be pretty far off. Please do not skip this step and depend on sites like Zillow. They can be very off from the actual value. The cost of an appraisal may cost you a few hundred dollars but you are negotiating an asset that is worth many thousands of dollars. You need good information.
Step 2: What will the ongoing expenses be?
List all the costs associated with keeping the house. This should include all utilities, taxes, and insurance. It should also include regular household maintenance and any large improvement-related expenses. Identify your sources of income and determine if you will have enough cash flow to maintain the house.
Step 3: Reality check
In addition to getting clear on the ongoing costs, consider if the house will need to be refinanced in only your name. If there is a joint mortgage on the home or you want to pay out your spouse’s share of equity through a mortgage on the home, you need to make sure that you are eligible for financing. Sit down with a lender and/or a mortgage broker and discuss your options. Please do not agree to anything without taking this very important step.
Step 4: Consider alternatives
Consider 3 alternatives to keeping the house. Visit them and do your research. List all the costs associated with each alternative. Even if you are pretty sure you want to keep the house, I want you to try to push yourself to take this step. You may find that there is another option that you can get really excited about or at a minimum, will make life easier for you because you won’t be burdened with the expenses of the marital home.
Step 5: Consider the pros and cons of each alternative
Make a list of pros and cons for each option. Once you have your list of four options (your home and three alternatives), go through each one and determine what the benefits and drawbacks are of each. For example, a huge benefit to staying in your home is not having to move. However, if moving to a new place can free up your cash flow by an extra $1000/mo, it might be well worth the hassle of moving.
If you need additional information to fully compare your options, make a list of the information you need and detail how you will acquire the information.
Step 6: Narrow down the possibilities
Narrow your 4 options to 2 options and then give yourself a couple of weeks, if possible, to consider the two options. This is a big decision and not one that should be made on the fly. If a clear decision arises, congratulations, you have your answer. If not, move on to the last step.
Step 7: Listen to your intuition
Now you may think I’m crazy when I give you the next step but stay with me. It’s a coin toss. Heads up you choose option 1 and tails up you choose option 2. Once you toss the coin and determine which option to choose, check in with yourself on the results. How do you feel? Are you relieved? Are you disappointed? That’s what will give you your true answer.
When I was going through my own divorce, everything seemed overwhelming. Honestly, I wouldn’t have been able to imagine engaging with more than one professional during that time. I was worried about spending money because I knew the divorce itself would be expensive. Going from a two income household to one income was even scarier. I never would have considered hiring a divorce coach. I did not know what one was but I was also extremely reluctant to spend money. Since then, I have had the opportunity to interact with some pretty amazing divorce coaches so I wanted to share a little about what they do.
What is a Divorce Coach?
Up until the last few years, I had no idea how expansive the coaching industry was. I knew there were a lot of coaches out there but I didn’t really understand how they differed from one and other. I was introduced to the idea of a Divorce Coach when I completed my collaborative divorce training in 2013. It was clear to me what a valuable resource a Divorce Coach could be for a couple who chose to use the collaborative process. However, I had no idea how often coaching is used for those who aren’t using the collaborative process.
A Divorce Coach can serve many roles within the divorce. They are most commonly thought of as emotional support but depending on their training, they can do so much more than that. Some Divorce Coaches specialize in the challenges related to co-parenting. They can work with one or both parties to develop plans that resolve parenting issues. Other coaches help more with communication and how to approach divorce negotiations while others coach on healing from the relationship and moving on.
Do you need a Divorce Coach?
When I am working with clients who are facing a divorce, I am always looking for ways to better support them through the process with as minimal a financial impact as possible. In some cases, believe it or not, a Divorce Coach might be the key to saving you money. Just to reiterate, I’m saying in some cases. Most coaches are skilled at helping you separate your emotions from the decisions that need to be made to move forward. Having someone give you that clarity is incredibly valuable. Here are some reasons you might want to consider reaching out to a Divorce Coach:
You’re so fearful about your future that you can’t make decisions
You have no idea what you’re going to do when the divorce is final
You’re very angry and are trying to use your divorce to get revenge
You’re not familiar with the legal process and would like someone to hold your hand through it
You’re not thinking clearly and it’s making it very hard to make any decisions
You are struggling to figure out a parenting plan that’s going to work
You are struggling to figure out how you will co-parent
I reached out to some divorce coaches and asked them what they thought the biggest benefit of working with a coach is. Their answers are below.
Benefits of working with a divorce coach from the experts
“Divorce is a difficult time, there are so many uncertainties. Fear and overwhelm can hijack your brain and emotions. Well-intentioned advice pours in from everywhere. A divorce coach supports you to hear your own voice, to clearly understand and know your individual wants, needs, and goals and to create a plan for moving forward.” Susan Kiernan, Certified Divorce Coach
“The greatest benefit to using a divorce coach is that often people don’t have to use attorneys, who often only perpetuate the conflict between the parties. On the American Bar Association website, divorce coaches are listed as a type of mediation service. We work to try to reach an agreement between the parties so they don’t have to litigate. It is a kinder, more cost-effective approach, and it leaves the parties able to be friends instead of pitting them against one another.” -Dr. Marlene Bizub
“A divorce coach is invaluable in building resilience and promoting emotional healing throughout the divorce process and beyond. Need help in communicating calmly and succinctly with the ex? How about learning how to manage the inevitable stress so that you can sleep through the night? What about envisioning and creating your brand new life after the dust has settled? A divorce coach can assist with these issues and more.
An added bonus is that clients actually end up saving money when working with a divorce coach because they are dealing with the emotional fallout with a coach at a much lower hourly rate than with their lawyer, who really wants to focus on the legal aspect of divorce, and isn’t trained to deal with the emotional issues. A divorce coach can get a client through this difficult time with the least amount of damage possible. My goal is to take clients from devastation to dancing.” –Liesel Darby, M.A., M.Ed, CC
“One of the many benefits to working with a Certified Divorce Coach® is having support and guidance to help manage stress and the overwhelming myriad of emotions that inevitably come with the ending of a marriage, and often linger post divorce. Additionally, A Certified Divorce Coach®, especially one with a background in family law such as myself, will help you consider the practical, emotional, financial and legal challenges divorce presents and formulate a strategic plan so you can confidently move through the divorce process and successfully manage life after divorce.” –Sharri Freedman JD, CDC®
“As a Collaboratively trained divorce and co-parent coach, my hope is that parents who are contemplating separation/divorce prioritize meeting with a divorce coach as their first step. Divorce is a stressful time. Choosing a divorce team who will assist you through the legal system without unnecessary harm, without stoking adversarial fires, and without putting your children’s childhood in jeopardy makes all the difference in the world. What divorce breaks apart for kids, skillful co-parenting rebuilds. Your divorce/co-parent coach is the person who can assist you both together to keep your children central and to fight together for what’s right for their family now in transition.
In the face of all the change and loss, you may question your ability to work with one another. But from my experience, with a skilled divorce coach at your sides, you have an opportunity to take an extremely difficult circumstance and round the corner into a resilient and constructive future – after all, you’d do just about anything to protect your children from harm. It starts right here. Right now. Your divorce coaches are there to assist with not only getting through the divorce, but also, living into your high-end goals as an eventually thriving two-home family.” –Karen Bonnell
“Having a professional on your team who clears the path of clutter and obstacles makes it easier for you to accomplish what you want to accomplish. When we provide the right environment, your strengths and wisdom to make the right decisions emerge. In the end, the client feels that they have done their very best to make the best decisions for their future and that of their family. ” –Pegotty Cooper, FASAE, IOM, CDC
“By working with me, my clients are empowered to get off the emotional rollercoaster and make clear legal and financial decisions that will fund their future throughout the entire process.” -Laura Miolla, MA, CPCC, PCC
“A divorce coach can help you gain the clarity you need to make smart, healthy, life-long decisions so that you can look yourself in the mirror and KNOW you did the right thing. ” -Dr Karen Finn
“I believe, there is a way to navigate divorce with clarity, sanity and sensibility… a way that honors and preserves our sense of dignity… a way that safeguards the welfare of our children…a way that mitigates the unnecessary pain and suffering that is at the heart of most divorce and custody battles.” Kiri Maponya, Battle-Free Divorce Coach
It is my absolute pleasure to welcome guest blogger, Melissa Davis. Melissa’s story is so inspiring for anyone who is working to heal after an affair.
I thought we had a good life
I was in my closet (my go-to place when things get hard for me), curled up in a ball, sobbing. Not just sobbing, it was this sound I didn’t know I could even make. I was wailing – I lost all control of my thoughts, emotions, and my physical body. One word raced through my mind, tormenting me, “Why?”
I had a good life. My oldest just turned three and I had just given birth to my second daughter. I loved being their Mama! I was the kind of woman that gave everything for her family and put myself last or just completely ignored my own needs. Cook three meals a day, clean, walk the dog, set up playdates, teach ABCs, encourage my husband, listen to Kidz Bop and enjoy it more than the kids, full-time mom and wife. I loved it, my whole day was purposeful! It was such a precious time with my girls.
I played one year of soccer in the eighth grade, so of course, I felt fully capable of coaching my three-year old’s soccer team (aka little kids in uniform chasing a ball around in one giant swarm). The truth is I had no idea what I was doing and everyone knew it!
It was raining, I was driving down the narrow downtown streets to my daughter’s soccer game. She pouted in the back because her jersey was blue and she liked pink. My newborn slept quietly. Their dad was out of town working, he did that the majority of the year.
On our way there, I got a call from my best friend’s husband. This was odd, he never called me.
He apologized for being the one to tell me and it was clear that he didn’t really know how to say it. He said, “If it were me, I would want to know.” I was completely confused and he quickly got to the point. He shared how he happened to check something on his wife’s phone and saw text messages between her and my husband.
My hands and feet got hot and sweaty. He described what he saw with just enough detail for me to get the point. My stomach seemed to fall out from under me. After hanging up, I quietly cried, just a little, behind my sunglasses. I was in shock, I felt like I was in a fishbowl looking out at the world. I could see things but they were blurry, I could hear, but it was unclear, muffled.
Thank God my step-mom came to the game that day. I gave my baby to her and stood on the field in the rain, willing myself not to throw up. I have no clue what happened at the game, I just stood there as a hoard of three-year-olds chased a ball around me.
When I got the girls home, I immediately started to pack. After a nine-hour drive, we arrived at my grandmother’s home. We were there for a week and from the mess that I packed you could tell that I was out of my mind. It was cold and we were in flip flops, no one had underwear, toothbrushes, diapers, jackets.
The worst part was that I was nursing my baby. She would cry and cry, she was hungry. I would nurse her, but just wasn’t making enough milk all of a sudden. I was too stressed to care for her basic needs, food. If this doesn’t piss a mama bear off, I don’t know what does.
All I could do that week was sob, hysterically sob and compulsively take showers. Feeling dirty and ashamed, I didn’t think I would survive. I just needed to be clean. After scrubbing myself raw, ten, twelve showers a day, I still I couldn’t get myself clean. I couldn’t answer “why?”
The truth comes out about the affair
We returned home and as the weeks went by I found out that it wasn’t an affair with one person, it was so many people he couldn’t even put a number on it. It felt like I was being held under a waterfall – I was being pounded to death by violent waters, beat against rocks. Occasionally I would make it to the surface for just enough air to keep me alive and then the current would pull me back down. I isolated myself completely. Many of my friends were involved and I couldn’t trust anyone. I was so alone.
In my darkest moments, I would open the medicine cabinet and think, “If I took all of those pills, maybe I would go to sleep and never wake up.” I was paralyzed with fear, panic attacks, flashbacks and anxiety, and never could shake that, “Why?” Yes, he would give excuses or try and explain himself, but there was a deeper “why” a sort of purpose-driven “why.”
Our marriage didn’t survive
Our marriage didn’t survive. I fought hard to save our family, but ultimately I could only control myself and had to let go. Days turned into years and the anxiety and fear slowly started to leave. But that “why” didn’t leave. Nope.
I would pray and beg God to show me why this happened. There had to be a bigger reason, I couldn’t understand it. I felt such a pull to something significant, something I did not understand yet. Then it happened.
Beauty from the ashes
Several of my friends were sadly going through the same thing I faced and I was able to be there for them, to listen and cry on the phone during kidless holidays. This was it, this was my beauty from the ashes!
I got an idea and started planning and saving for years. I was going to make a way for everyone struggling with their partner’s infidelity to have access to help. You see I had a long list of excuses for not reaching out and getting help – too depressed to make a phone call, broke, too busy, afraid someone would see me going to a therapist…
Since I didn’t get help, I just stayed and sat in my misery for much longer than necessary. This is a fate I would never wish on anyone.
Helping others with After the Affair
After years of sleepless nights and long weekends of non-stop working, I finally launched After the Affair. You see, I wanted to create a straight to the point, no-nonsense, private, and affordable way for people to get help. Not help for their relationship, (there are plenty of people doing that) help for them, help for the healing of their own heart.
I created a solution that I longed for six years ago. When I think back over those years of sobbing in my closet, or spending hours getting ready to leave because I wanted to look perfect so no one knew I was dying on the inside, I see a little girl who just needed someone to tell her what to do next. I want to, scratch that, I NEED to do that for others. It’s my freakin why! After the Affair was custom designed to do just that. Bring help to everyone, right where they are, no matter their circumstances. For each subscription, we give a free subscription to someone in need. Everyone can get help, no one is turned down.
Beauty from the ashes, baby, that’s what my story is beauty from the ashes.
That’s right. I said it. My key to co-parenting success with my ex is not “putting my children first” as so many professionals recommend.
My first year co-parenting
I remember the first year of co-parenting well. I would describe it as a complete failure and excruciating. My youngest son was three years old. Every time he had to go between my home and my ex’s, he would have a complete meltdown. I felt like my heart was being torn out of my chest.
My ex wanted to be the fun parent so he would sugar them up and let them stay up late. We have three kids. At the time, they were 3, 6 and 7. When they came home, they were exhausted and cranky from lack of sleep. Then I had to be the bad guy and send them to bed early.
To say that I was aggravated with my ex would be an understatement. In fairness, I wasn’t innocent. He was pretty angry with me, too. I had recoupled very quickly after our divorce. He was hurt and uncomfortable with the situation and wanted to make sure I knew it.
What turned things around
I can actually pinpoint the day when things started to turnaround for us. We sat down and had a conversation. We were honest about how things were going and how it wasn’t healthy for any for us. We were honest about the kind of parents we wanted to be to our children.
What turned our relationship around was not putting our children first, although they certainly benefit the most. It was acknowledging that we would be in this together for many years to come. We both had to make a choice to create a new kind of relationship between us. In our case, it’s a friendship. I don’t think you have to be friends with your ex to make it work but you do have to have a relationship of some kind.
As we rebuilt our communication, I relied on Bill Eddy’s BIFF framework. If you’re not familiar with Bill Eddy, he is the founder of the High Conflict Institute and is an expert in managing high conflict personalities. I would not describe my ex as a high conflict personality but the framework is helpful regardless. BIFF stands for Brief, Informative, Firm and Friendly. I worked hard for quite some time to keep my communication brief, informative, firm and friendly. You can read more about corresponding using the BIFF framework here. I don’t have to rely on it so much these days but it helped me through when we were trying to turn things around.
I actually think we are better friends now than we were when we were married. For all of our differences, we have something pretty important in common – our kids. Our entire friendship revolves around our children.
What does it mean to “put your children first?”
I know that there are a lot of professionals out there who consistently say the same thing – put your children first. Here’s the thing. What does that actually mean? Does it mean the same thing to both of you? My ex and I did not parent well together when we were married. Without making a concerted effort, how could we co-parent after all of the hurt and anger that were heightened during our divorce? Suffice it to say, “Putting our children first” does not mean the same thing to both of us.
What is my key to co-parenting success?
My key to co-parenting success is choosing to be a co-parent. That means recognizing that I am not the only parent – that we are still in this together. While the divorce was the end of our marriage, it was not the end of the family that we created together.
Spoiler alert: We do not agree on everything. In fact, very carefully picking my battles has been critical to maintaining a good relationship. Here’s the thing. If your ex did things that annoyed you when you were married, they’re not going to stop doing those things when you’re divorced. Your ex is still your ex. You are still you. You are not going to love everything they do and they are not going to love everything you do. You wouldn’t if you were still married either.
Benefits of co-parenting success
There are countless benefits to putting your differences and hurt feelings aside and successfully co-parenting. It is well worth the effort! Here are some that have made a big difference in my own life:
Both my ex and I have positive relationships with each of our children.
My kids go back and forth between our homes with ease.
Nobody is in the dark. We communicate about the children regularly – not daily but at least a few times a week. My ex and I have dinner together with our children about once a month. Our kids probably wish we didn’t because it would be so much easier to manipulate us. Hey, they’re kids. They’re always going to test the limits.
My ex and I treat each other with respect and give each other the benefit of the doubt. Don’t get me wrong. The kids say stuff all of the time that makes me raise my eyebrows. I do my best to bite my tongue and follow up with my ex if necessary. I make an effort to reach out to him in the spirit of genuine curiosity and try not to jump to conclusions. I’m human, though, so like I said, I make an effort and try my best.
Communicating about problems does not add stress to the problem. Instead, it’s helpful to know that we support each other.
Top Tips for Co-Parenting Success
I know that everyone’s marriage is different. As a result, everyone’s divorce experience is different. Thus, the transition from parenting to co-parenting is not going to be the same for everyone. Here are some tips that have not only worked for me but also for many of my clients:
1. Choose to be a good co-parent.
Parenting is not easy and co-parenting with an ex is even harder. Choosing to be a good co-parent is different from choosing to be a good parent. It’s recognizing that you’re going to work together even though you are no longer married and making a conscious choice to co-parent successfully.
Respect yourself, respect your ex, and respect your children. Notice that I started with, “Respect yourself.” Set appropriate boundaries. Create structure in your relationship. Recognize what you have control over and what you don’t.
3. Keep to a regular schedule.
You may need to change the schedule as life changes but having a consistent schedule makes transitions easier for everyone.
4. Be flexible.
While you need to keep a regular schedule, you both need to be flexible. My ex and I try to give each other as much notice as possible with changes to the schedule. Still, we are both even more flexible when it comes to out-of-town family visiting and special events.
You have to talk to each other regularly to stay on the same page about your kids. My ex and I text regularly, call when we need clarification, meet when we need to discuss something important about one of the kids, and eat dinner as a family with our children about once a month.
6. Be a team.
When it comes to major health, education or discipline issues, work together. As I mentioned before, my ex and I meet in person to talk about important issues so that we can talk to the kids as a united front.
7. Pick your battles.
You’re not going to love everything your ex does. Accept it and decide what is really worth bringing up.
8. Honor each other’s values.
Have an honest conversation with your ex about what is most important to you when it comes to your children. Do not assume that just because you were married, you know everything there is to know about their values. Listen with intention, share honestly, and honor each other’s values.
9. Give your ex the benefit of the doubt.
Your kids will say all kinds of things. Always respond by giving your ex the benefit of the doubt.
10. Don’t give up.
It’s not always going to be easy. Just don’t give up. Get professional support if it’s not working. Mediation is a great way to work out co-parenting conflicts.
One more personal note
My relationship with my ex is not perfect. No relationship is perfect. I’ve decided that it’s important to me, though, and I treat it like it’s important to me.
My parents divorced when I was eight years old. I was raised by my mom. I kept in touch with my dad over the years. He lived about two hours away from us and I would see him a couple of times each year. I would not describe him as a co-parent. I always wished that I had a chance to know him better. He passed away when I was in my mid-20’s.
No parent is perfect but being there and doing the best you can is all anyone can ask.
If you are wondering how to keep your house in a divorce, you are not alone. A lot of my clients have sentimental attachments to their houses. You’ve made memories there. It’s where you raised your family. You may have close relationships with your neighbors or other strong ties to the community.
Even if you are not particularly sentimental, you may not want to think about moving in the midst of all the other changes happening in your life. If you have read some of my other blogs, you probably already know my stance on keeping the house in a divorce. In a lot of cases, it does not make the most financial sense. In fact, keeping that house when you cannot afford it is one of the most common financial mistakes that people make when going through a divorce. That said, if you are wondering how to keep your house (without sawing in two pieces!), here is some guidance.
How to keep your house in a divorce
First, take a look at your overall financial picture. If you are negotiating to keep the house and it is one of the larger assets in your marital estate, you are likely going to be giving up quite a bit of other assets. What are you willing to give up in exchange for the house?
To get a full financial picture, determine the value of the home. I always encourage people to get an appraisal. However, if both parties agree on a value then you can use that value for negotiations. Keep in mind that negotiating in mediation gives you a lot more flexibility and control than taking your case to court.
Once you know the value of the home, you can determine how much equity is in the home. Take the value of the home and subtract any loans on it. If there are no loans, the value and the equity are equal.
If the house is paid for
If there is no loan on your house, you have more options. As you negotiate your settlement, you could choose to offset the house with other assets. For example, let’s say you are dividing things 50/50. Your house is valued at $350,000. There is also an investment account that is valued at $350,000. You might give up the investment account so that you can keep the house. Keep in mind that you’ll want to know the cost basis for negotiating each of your assets.
If the house is in both of your names, you’ll need to have your ex sign a Quick Claim Deed to have his/her name removed from the property.
If you do not have other assets to offset the value of the home or you do not want to offset the value of the home with other assets, you might choose to get a loan to pay your ex out on his/her portion of the equity. If you are considering a loan, take extra care not to negatively impact your credit score during your divorce.
Let’s say you do decide to get a loan. Make sure that you have the cash flow to cover the ongoing payment along with taxes, insurance, and general maintenance of the house.
If there is still a mortgage on the house
If there’s still a mortgage on the house, sometimes it can be a little more difficult to keep the house in a divorce. Ideally, you will refinance it in your name so that your ex is no longer responsible for the debt. Some lenders will actually let you assume the existing mortgage so it’s worthwhile to check and see if you have that option.
The challenge in some cases is that the person who wants to keep the house does not have the income to get approved for refinancing. We recently interviewed a divorce lending specialist for tips on refinancing. You can read that post here.
Depending on how much equity is in the home, you might be able to refinance enough to pay your ex out on his/her portion of the equity. Let’s use the same example as before. Your home is worth $350,000 but in this case you have a $150,000 mortgage on it. Thus, there is $200,000 in equity in the house. You will need $100,000 to buy out your spouse’s share, if you’ve agreed to a 50-50 split. To get the money, you refinance into a $250,000 loan in your name only, and cash out $100,000 to pay your spouse. (We are excluding the transaction costs to keep the example simple.)
If you prefer not to refinance for the higher amount, you could negotiate offsetting the equity with other assets you are dividing.
If you do not have the income to refinance, you might be able to find someone to co-sign your loan. Regardless, if you are going to refinance, start talking to a lender as soon as possible so they can work with you on what you need to do to get the loan closed.
What if there is little or no equity?
If there is little or no equity in the house, it’s important to consider whether or not it really makes sense for you to stay in it. Even if there are emotional attachments, this is a really important financial decision.
You could negotiate to keep the existing ownership and mortgage in place. However, make it very clear who is going to be responsible for the payments as well as an ongoing maintenance. Also clarify what happens if a payment is missed. If both parties are on the mortgage, the lender will view both parties as equally responsible. Thus, any missed payments would negatively impact both parties’ credit.
Should you keep the house in your divorce?
Remember that deciding if you should keep the house is not a purely emotional decision. Make sure that it fits within your overall financial goals. If you are not sure if you can afford to keep the house, contact us. We can work with you to create a broader financial plan to determine if it makes financial sense.
Divorce itself is an emotionally charged, troubling process. Add major financial decisions to the mix and divorce can be a recipe for disaster. Litigants are forced to make life-altering financial decisions during a time of emotional turmoil. Anyone walking through a divorce knows this can feel like an insurmountable task. There is hope! You can do this!
Our next few articles will focus on different types of assets we see divided on a regular basis in divorce. We will discuss the different types of financial accounts, their tax benefits or consequences and their pros and cons.
The ROTH IRA in a Divorce
The ROTH IRA is a powerful financial tool which differs in many ways from a Traditional IRA or a Rollover IRA. The ROTH IRA can be used for a variety of needs sometimes without taxation or penalties. If you have a ROTH IRA to divide in your divorce you have potential access to a powerful financial tool.
Written by Nancy Hetrick of Smarter Divorce Solutions
With the increasing popularity of Pinterest, the concept of “do-it-yourself” or “DIY” projects have become enticing for many. I don’t consider myself to be the least bit crafty but have taken on daunting projects like painting kitchen cabinets (I swear, never again) all in the interest of saying, “Wow – look what I did! And I saved a lot of money!”
When DIY is the Only Option For Divorce
In some cases, however, DIY is necessary and the only option. Consider for example couples who are going through divorce and simply don’t have the financial means to get professional assistance. They are reliant upon DIY divorce documents and are faced with navigating complicated legal issues reduced to fill-in-the-blank forms. It’s a means to an end, albeit less than ideal.
Then there are others who pursue DIY divorce documents simply as a way of saving money – a noble thought, but possibly laden with issues.