5 Tips for Finance Management After Divorce

It’s no secret that going through the process of a divorce can affect you mentally, physically, and financially. As you begin to navigate your new normal, perhaps the most important thing to lock down fast is your finances. Consider the tips below on how you can manage your finances after a divorce.

Update Your Accounts

Though going through the process of cancelling your joint accounts can seem like a tedious task, it’s important you take the time to do so as soon as possible. Most banks will be accommodating and understanding of your situation. Beyond transferring over certain accounts to your name, you should also consider your previous investments as a whole. Go through the entirety of your financial endeavors to be sure that what you’re investing in currently makes sense for you and your transition to a single income.

 Reassess Your Budget

Transitioning to only one source of income will naturally mean that you’ll need to do some budget reassessment. From utilizing an app to creating a spreadsheet of your own spending, make sure you run the numbers on every single expense. To start, make a list of every source of income you currently have. Should you have to pay or should you be receiving child support or alimony, don’t forget to add or subtract this accordingly. Determine what money you may be saving now that you’re on your own, and disperse it wisely. While there are some subscriptions that might end up costing you more by yourself, there are sure to be other expenses that you can eliminate from your budget entirely. Lastly, take a hard look at your monthly costs that fluctuate. Whether this be how much you spend on groceries or the cost of getting your nails done, these should not be overlooked.

Target New Goals

Though it may be difficult at first, try to see things as a fresh start. Starting this new chapter of your life also means targeting new goals. Start making plans for where you want to be in the years to come. Are you hoping to start your own business? Do you want to make the transition on your own from apartment living to home ownership? While they can feel far off to some, envisioning such goals will help you to maintain confidence as you navigate a single lifestyle and give you a greater sense of purpose though things may feel uncertain. If you do have your heart set on a side hustle, do some research on how to afford one on a single income. You can also look to friends and family members who have already reached such goals on their own. Discuss with them their advice on how they were able to reach a milestone of owning a home or starting their own business. Most aspirations like these require some sort of outside funding. However, there are plenty of financial options to look into. Research affordable small business loans, or look into the prerequisites of FHA loans if you have your heart set on a certain house. Don’t set your aspirations aside just because of a solo source of income. There are still plenty of ways to reach your goals and maintain financial stability after divorce.

Hire a Professional

If budgeting on your own is not something you feel qualified to do, you can always hire a professional to organize your finances for you. In some cases, your spouse may have been the one who handled the majority of your expenses to begin with, leaving you to feel overwhelmed at the prospect of doing it on your own. Should this be the case, hiring a financial advisor is a great option for you to set yourself up for financial success in the future. Professional advisors will be able to help you get a better understanding of your retirement plan, outstanding loan balances, and any past or future investments you might need extra assistance going over. Don’t be afraid to ask for help should you need it, and discuss with your lawyer who they might recommend. They may already have established connections with the perfect financial planner for you.

 Manage Your Credit

Lastly, having a plan of action to better manage your credit after your divorce is a must. Utilize free online platforms to determine where your score is currently at, and then develop a plan for increasing it accordingly. If your score is lower than anticipated, don’t get discouraged. It’s not uncommon for the financial setbacks of a divorce to negatively impact your credit. Tackle your credit one day at a time and set aside a specific amount each month to put toward any outstanding debt you may be currently dealing with. Taking the time to manage your credit first will better prepare you financially to tackle your goals and help you to be happy again after your divorce in all aspects of your life.

 Tackling the process of finance management after a divorce is no easy task, so make sure you’re taking the time to be proud of your financial accomplishments. As you move toward this next chapter of your life, look for ways to find enjoyment in outlining a solo budget and setting new goals. While it might not be the easiest journey, having your finances in order for your future will allow you to focus on rebuilding your life exactly the way you envision it.


Navigating Co-parenting Challenges During COVID-19

The entire world is facing numerous challenges during COVID-19, but those you encounter as a divorced co-parent may feel unique and sometimes even isolating. Parents right now are deciding how their children social distance, but what happens when you and your co-parent disagree?

In the early days of the pandemic, whether or not to distance was much easier for most co-parents as stay at home orders and work from home mandates gave them very few choices. As states are reopening, social distancing has become more complicated because personal levels of caution vary from home to home and person to person.

Initially, some co-parents quarantined to the extent that they had groceries and pharmacy needs delivered to their home. They did not have any interaction with others outside their homes, and only left for outdoor activities or to exchange their children as necessary.

Other co-parents continued to work on a daily basis at the office even if their employment was not deemed essential. They routinely left their homes to socialize with friends or families and for essential purposes.

Now with state regulations changing and, in many states, people becoming more relaxed, different factors come into play as the needs of children vary:
• Younger children may need socialization for development
• Older kids may feel left out from social events
• Mental health of children may be a consideration
• Health risks are still very prevalent
• Returning to school in September whether in person or virtual may feel like an impossible choice to make
• Losing a spot in day care may also be a concern

What do you do when you and your co-parent are trying to figure out how to navigate these uncertain times? Here are some common questions we have heard from parents and our best advice for them:

Q: What happens when one parent returns to work and the other is uncomfortable with this situation?
A: If the current executive order allows for the party to be working, then the parenting time schedule may likely be enforceable, unless there is a change in circumstances warranting a modification or harm to the child. The co-parents should attempt to find common ground so that one parent can return to work while making the other parent more comfortable.

Q: What happens if one parent needs to return to work and wants to hire childcare in their home?
A: Before hiring childcare, the parent returning to work should offer the other party parenting time when the parent is working. If neither parent is available to care for the children, then the parents should work together to try to find a suitable childcare solution that both parents are comfortable with.

Q: What happens if one parent is not adhering to the rules and is attending multiple functions that may put the child at risk?
A: If one parent is violating the Governor’s Executive Order, that may warrant an application to the Court to either place restraints on the parenting time (i.e., to ensure that the Executive Orders are followed) or to modify or suspend the parenting time.

Q: When one parent has parenting time in the summer and there is distance between the co-parents, will the parenting time which requires either the parent to travel or the child to travel (or both) be enforced?
A: It really depends on the specifics. In general, the parents should work together to find an alternative arrangement so that the child is not traveling by any public transportation means. If the parent is able to travel and get tested before the parenting time, that is preferred. Since some states such as New Jersey have asked people to quarantine after returning from so many states, the parents should consider where the other parent is coming from or where the child is supposed to go.

Q: Is it appropriate to take your children to dine at an outdoor restaurant, or take them to get a haircut?
A: Obviously state guidelines need to be followed. Co-parents should be working together and should be respectful of each other’s opinions and try to find common ground on what activities the child will partake in and what activities will be avoided.

Q: What happens if a parent wants to take the child on vacation/in or out of state?
A: It depends on where the vacation will be and how the parent and child will be traveling. Again, the co-parents should discuss and work together to find a suitable and reasonable compromise.

Q: When one parent is a high risk and the other parent is adhering to the new guidelines but is not taking extra precautions, should the other parent be forced to comply with stricter guidelines or should parenting time be suspended?
A: Suspension of parenting time is fairly severe. Unless one parent has a severe ongoing medical issue, a court would likely first attempt to place restraints on the parenting time or offer a modification of parenting time so that the parenting time can still occur. It is important, especially during times of high stress, for children to have support, love and affection for both parents.

If co-parents cannot come to a civil agreement on how situations should be handled, sometimes legal action needs to be taken. Here are some situations and examples where co-parents should consult their lawyers:
• An example of harm to a child is a child that is undergoing treatment which severely compromises the child’s immune system and one of the parents is taking the child to dine outdoors during the parenting time. This may be a situation in which the Court would modify the parenting time schedule or place restraints on the parenting time.
• An example of a change in circumstances would be a nurse parent whose work schedule has been changed due to the influx of patients to the hospital making the schedule impossible because the parents have agreed not to have third-party caregivers. This may require a tweak to the parenting time schedule.
• If you are making an application to force the other parent to adhere to stricter guidelines than the current Executive Order or to suspend parenting time for a specific reason, it may be helpful to offer suggestions about how the parenting time can continue or to offer make-up parenting time to show a genuine concern rather than simply trying to take away time from the other parent.
• In order to modify the parenting time schedule, you should first try to amicably resolve the matter. You may also attempt mediation with your co-parent. If you must file an application, you will have the burden to show harm to the child or change in circumstances which warrant a modification of parenting time.

COVID-19 has obviously thrown the world into a tailspin and people are having to making unprecedented decisions. And there is no one-size-fits-all formula for co-parenting during a pandemic. Each family, each child, and each circumstance should be heavily considered. However, it is important to know your rights, understand the legalities, and consult your attorney for any concerning questions.

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By Christine C. Fitzgerald

Seiden Family Law

Make Parent-Child Communication A Top Priority After Divorce

By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC

It’s no secret. One of the biggest challenges a parent faces after divorce is having healthy communication with your children. All parents struggle with communication issues as their children grow. However, children who have had their lives dramatically altered by separation or divorce need even more attention. And diligent observation by their parents.

Children tend not to tell you when they are angry, resentful, confused, hurt or depressed. Instead they reflect their problems through their behavior. Often that means acting out or perhaps turning inward in ways you hadn’t experienced prior to the divorce.

That’s why you must do all you can to encourage positive and productive communication between you and your children. It’s easy to overlook what can seem to be obvious bonding behaviors. Or to forget to pay attention amid the challenges you are juggling in your own life on a daily basis.

However, this is crucially important: Take time to see the world through your children’s eyes before making any decisions. That process alone will help you to better meet their needs. Equally important, you’ll be better prepared to understand their confusion, sadness or aggression. And that will support you in finding appropriate ways to dissolve tension through your conversations and caring behaviors.

Here are some useful tips for improving your communication efforts …

• Be available and attentive when your child comes to talk or ask questions. That means turning off the TV, putting down the tablet and not answering the phone. Be sure to greet them with eye-contact and a welcoming smile. Sometimes their attempting to talk to you comes after considerable thought and risk on their part. Encourage these conversations when they happen.
• It is helpful to sit, kneel or in other ways get down closer to your child’s eye level when you talk. Towering over them is a form of intimidation that does not translate into safety or trust.
• Keep your conversations private unless they want to include others. Let them know they are safe in confiding with you. Remind them that their feelings matter. Show them you are interested and care about issues that affect them.
• Don’t dismiss a subject lightly if it is one bothering your child. Laughing, joking or teasing will create mistrust. Trivializing their feelings will discourage your child from sharing what is bothering them with you. This is a dangerous road to travel, especially as your children develop into their teen years.
• Equally important: never embarrass your children or put them on the spot in front of others. This will immediately close the door to honest, trustworthy communication.
• Avoid talking to your child when you are angry with them or upset with others. If you’re not at ease, suggest talking again in a half-hour or hour at a specific place so you can settle down and regain your objectivity.
• Be an active listener. Don’t interrupt while your child is talking. Listen carefully and then paraphrase back what you heard them say. Ask if you’re right in your interpretation. They’ll tell you. This process will help you more accurately understand what is really at issue.

Children who feel safe talking to their parents grow up as better communicators overall. They will be more likely to have healthy communication in their own adult relationships – with their love partners and children.

Some families tend to keep feelings repressed. They hesitate to discuss issues that come up. This behavior sends the message that it’s not all right to talk about things that bother us. The consequences of that can be seen in our media headlines every day.

You can open the doors to caring communication in your home by starting today. Your children may be a little resistant at first as they test the waters. But they will surely appreciate this opportunity once they know you are sincere. Start the process yourself – and see how valuable it is to “hear” what your children have to say!

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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach and author of numerous books, e-courses and programs on divorcing with children and co-parenting successfully. For instant download of her FREE EBOOK on Doing Co-Parenting Right: Success Strategies For Avoiding Painful Mistakes! go to: childcentereddivorce.com/book

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© Rosalind Sedacca All rights reserved.

Children & Divorce: A Family Approach to Discussing Divorce

Your family is experiencing a transition. Divorce is difficult for everyone—parents, children, everyone is affected by the change. It’s new, and it can be scary. There are steps to be taken to make sure that the process is as smooth and painless as possible, and that the outcome can be good for all family members involved.

Family attorneys exist to make sure the divorce is handled with tact and care. Your child’s living arrangements, social life, day to day normalcy, education, and well being are incredibly important. When it comes to custody, everyone involved wants to make sure that the divorce is being handled for the best of the children. How do you maintain the feeling of family while the family is splitting apart? How do you make sure that the best interests of your children are being managed while dealing with the stresses of divorce?

Your Children Matter

Parental divorce nearly doubles the chances that children will grow up and see their own marriages end in divorce. It’s a difficult process, one that requires trust, intimacy, care, and thoughtfulness. Divorce is painfully personal, and when it comes to your family, they’re expecting the best of you. It can be profoundly difficult to be at your best under these circumstances, which is why family attorneys and counseling can work on your behalf.

Children soak up everything they see and hear. It’s important that their emotional and psychological well-being is met through every stage of your divorce. They are lightning rods for conflicting messages, conflict, and unintentional pain. Try and resolve conflicts in positive ways. Learn the art of compromise, and apologize when you do or say something wrong. Keep your children out of the middle of things, and praise them when they need it.

The Needs of your Children and Family Come First

As your children age, as people move, as education proceeds, it’s important to continue to listen to and work with your children on what’s best for them. If your ex-partner is difficult to work with on matters of parenting, listen to counsel and continue to strive towards working on agreements and resolutions whose outcomes benefit everyone, if possible. Avoid badmouthing your ex-partner in front of your children, even when frustrated. Children not only have terrific memories, but they internalize more than you might understand. Your children are intelligent and impressionable. Children innately feel like they are part of both of their parents. Criticizing or making sarcastic comments about your ex-partner can often lead to feelings of unworthiness or anxiety in your children. It can lead to low-self esteem and a sense that “something is wrong with me.”

If you can, take any issues with your ex-partner directly to them and avoid using your children as a mediation for your problems. Your children are their own individuals and must be nurtured and respected. They are not responsible for your divorce, or its outcomes. Be sensitive. It can be difficult, but do your best to monitor your own comments and leave your frustrations at the door when you are spending time with your children. Slip-ups can happen, but too many will lead to behavioral patterns that are difficult to change—and difficult for kids to recover from.

Take Care Of Your Family

When it comes to your family, it is your right to take care of those you love. Child support is a messy business, and it is important to let your attorneys find common ground so that you make work within the best interests of your family. Negotiating terms can be a difficult and arduous process, especially if you’re not on friendly ground with your ex-partner. Allow your attorney to do his negotiation for you so that you can focus on your family.

An important aspect of parenting is the plan of all those involved, the intentions and needs of doing what is best for your children. As children grow and your family changes, it becomes more and more important to make sure you change with them and do the best for your children. Parenting through a divorce is more than making sure your needs are met—it’s imperative to listen to your children’s wants and needs and to make sure they are being heard.

How To Make It Through Divorce

It can be a monumental effort imagining you and your family’s happiness again again after a divorce. Beyond seeking pleasure, seeking happiness, and pursuing joy are huge tasks. Your family needs you. This pressure can often add undue strain to your divorce but instead, look at the happiness of what you’re creating in your new family and focus on spending quality time with your children.

About the Author:

Jarrod Hays

Jarrod Hays is the founder of Skyview Law, a Family Law Firm in Richmond. He is licensed to practice law in Washington State and the Federal Court in the Western District of Washington. Jarrod earned his law degree from Lewis and Clark College in 2008. Jarrod is rated as one of the 10 Best Attorneys under 40 for Client Satisfaction in Washington for 2019

Resolving Issues After Divorce Through Mediation

Once a divorce is over, one of the many feelings a person feels is relief that the long, difficult and emotional process is finished. However, even long after a divorce is finalized, circumstances can still come up that require you and your spouse to revisit the terms of the divorce. These issues usually arise as the result of a change in circumstances, such as:

● A change in your job or income.
● A change in health insurance coverage.
● A change in your child’s education.
● An illness or other change in the medical needs of you or your child.
● A change in you or your spouse’s marital status.

Changes to the divorce agreement often have to be approved by the court. While changes can be made through traditional litigation, post divorce mediation is a quicker, less expensive, and more cooperative process that can help you and your spouse reach a mutually beneficial new agreement.

What is Post Divorce Mediation?

Divorce mediation is a process where two spouses meet with an impartial third party, a professional mediator, to discuss and resolve the many aspects of a divorce agreement, such as child custody and the division of assets, without the use of lawyers or a lengthy court battle. While an entire divorce can be resolved this way, mediation can also be used for any issues that arise after the divorce is finalized, even if the original divorce was settled through litigation. This is referred to as post divorce mediation. Mediation gives couples more control over the process and creates a positive, constructive environment. Many couples choose divorce mediation if they are amicable and able to work together to come to important decisions related to the divorce.

What Issues Can Be Resolved With Post Divorce Mediation?

Post divorce mediation can address any of the points that were decided on during the original divorce that now need to be adjusted due to a change in circumstances for either spouse or the couple’s children, including:

● Child Support Modification. Child support arrangements can be changed after a divorce if there is a change in one spouse’s income or the needs of the child. Mediation can help you and your spouse discuss the issue and come to a decision that is in the child’s best interest.
● Child Custody Modification. Child custody arrangements may need to change as time goes on, for example if one parent is planning to relocate or there is a serious issue with the current arrangement.
● Alimony Changes. Alimony, or spousal support, can be modified after the divorce if circumstances change for one or both spouses. For example, the receiving spouse might get remarried or no longer need the support.
● Modifying Parenting Time Agreements. Parenting time agreements, also called visitation, come in many forms. There is supervised and unsupervised parenting time, and a wide range of schedules that the parents may follow. For example the child can alternate spending one week at a time with each parent, or more. Depending on the family’s schedule and the needs of the child, the couple may want to alter the parenting time schedule through mediation.
● Relocating to Another State With a Child. As mentioned above, parent relocation is a complicated issue in child custody. The courts will typically examine the reasons for the move and whether it is in the best interest of the child. Mediation gives the couple a chance to weigh this important decision themselves.
● Allocating College Costs. Couples often seek mediation to decide who will contribute what to their child’s education, including tuition, books, room & board, transportation, and other issues.

Does Mediation Work for Changing a Legal Separation Agreement?

Legal separation, sometimes referred to as ‘limited divorce’ or ‘divorce from bed and board,’ is an alternative to divorce where the couple separates while still being legally married. Couples who believe they can still reconcile, want to remain eligible for healthcare and insurance benefits, or object to divorce for whatever reason often choose this option. Just like in a divorce, couples who opt for separation come to a legally binding agreement regarding all aspects of ending their marriage, and can use mediation to resolve any issues that come up after it is finalized.

Benefits of Mediation for Post Divorce Issues

For post divorce issues that need to be addressed, mediation has several benefits over a typical court proceeding, including:

● Time. Traditional court proceedings for post divorce changes can end up taking a long time, whereas mediation is a much quicker process. Usually, the more in agreement the couple is about the changes that need to be made, the quicker the mediation will be.
● Expense. Because mediation is faster, requires only one mediator instead of two attorneys, and usually does not involve retainer fees, it is a considerably cheaper option for post divorce proceedings.
● Atmosphere. Mediation encourages peaceful and cooperative resolution, and makes changing a divorce agreement a much more positive and less adversarial process that will be easier on your, your spouse, and your children.

Is Post Divorce Mediation Right For Me?

Professional mediators are trained in helping couples work through their issues in a calm, non-adversarial way. However, the mediator can only do so much for couples who cannot be civil or agree on anything. Mediation works well for couples who are organized, goal-oriented, and ready to cooperate and be respectful of each other. If you and your spouse are willing to work together to reach a decision on changing part of the divorce or legal separation agreement, post divorce mediation can be a positive and constructive process that benefits everyone involved.

By Steven B. Menack Divorce & Separation Mediation

5 Ways Your Belief in a Soul Mate is Holding You Back

By Lisa Arends

I’ve never been one to believe in soul mates. Even when my 22-year-old self said “I do” to the man I thought was perfect for me, I didn’t perceive him as “the one.”

And that idea may have saved me.

Because when the man-who-wasn’t-the-one decided to leave the marriage with a text message one day, I believed that I could create a happy marriage again and that I wasn’t merely a victim of fate.

There’s an allure to the idea of a soul mate, the belief that there is one person that is your perfect companion. The idea brings peace when relationships end (it’s over because he/she was not the one) and serves as a beacon of hope that everything will be okay once the right person enters your life.

We like the idea of a predestined partnership.

It’s romantic. It’s encouraging.

But it’s also limiting at its best and damaging at its worst.

Here are five ways that your belief in a soul mate is holding you back:

Relationships Are Formed, Not Found

I recently completed a furniture assembly project with my second husband. It was a ground-breaking endeavor, not because of our skills with hex wrenches and flat washers, but because we carried out the entire project in perfect harmony, anticipating and responding to the other’s needs with few words needed. My ex-husband and I used to be able to work together like a well-oiled machine and I had concluded that such easy teamwork would remain elusive in my new marriage after several frustration-tinged projects. What I neglected to remember were the years my ex and I spent learning how to work together.

A fulfilling relationship occurs when both partners are open and vulnerable, creating an environment of mutual understanding and intimacy. It takes time – often lots of time – and effort to reach this point. It’s all too easy to compare the beginning of one relationship to the fully-developed stage of another and reach the conclusion that the new partnership is somehow lacking when maybe all it needs is more time to ripen. Think of how many good relationships may be discarded before they mature, dismissing a life mate while searching for a soul mate.

Passing the Baton of Responsibility

I used to tell my ex-husband that he made me happy. And that worked okay as long as he did. But then one day, he walked out the door and I had to learn to make myself happy.

One of the most difficult exercises after the end of a relationship is turning a critical eye inward. Not to blame or assume guilt, but to identity thoughts and behaviors that proved maladaptive to the relationship. It’s uncomfortable to be honest with oneself and scary to accept full responsibility for your own well-being. By placing your contentment in the lap of a soul mate, you are avoiding your liability for your own choices and actions. Do you really want to give someone else the power to decide your own happiness?

Life in the Waiting Room

It’s a big world. And even with the far-reaching arms of social media and online dating, you will only ever come in contact with a small percentage of people. If you are waiting for “the one,” you may be waiting a very long time. And living life in the waiting room is no way to truly live.

Are you postponing your happiness for when you find your soul mate? How about finding your happiness first. Rather than looking for someone to “complete you,” complete yourself first and then look for somebody who complements you.

All too often, a search for a soul mate is really a search for contentment. But that’s only a snipe hunt for happiness. Because true satisfaction can only come from within. So rather than waiting for your soul mate, nurture your own soul first.

Paring Down Possibilities

We all enter dating with some compiled list of our “must haves.” Some of them are critical – values, lifestyle, character, etc. But others, such as height and even certain personality traits, are much less important. And yet, if we have built up some image of the “perfect” mate, we will inevitably eliminate viable candidates who simply didn’t measure up to the imagined ideal.

Many strong relationships start off slowly. My current marriage almost didn’t make it past the first date – he thought I was too reserved and analytical and I thought he was too abrupt and arrogant. It took time for us to truly understand each other and to recognize the core person beneath the initial impressions. And that abrupt and arrogant man? One of the traits I most admire about him is his willingness to admit his faults and wrongs. Although I’m still working on not being too analytical…

Inflated Expectations

If someone is your soul mate, then the relationship should be effortless. After all, they are your perfect match and you should fit together like hand and glove.

In the beginning of a relationship, this may appear to be true. After all, in the early stages, we present our best selves and only see the best in our partners. But that honeymoon stage always comes with an expiration date; it is an unsustainable state. A successful relationship has to navigate this changing relational terrain as reality sets in and idiosyncrasies and vulnerabilities are revealed. And that takes effort. If your expectations are for an effortless relationship, you may throw in the towel at the earliest sign of any discord, assuming that he or she must not be your soul mate after all.

Relationships are not a passive endeavor. If you want to create a connection, you have to look for it. Work for it. Everything worthwhile in life requires effort. Including relationships.

A relationship with “the one” is more than just a person with the right boxes checked, it’s also the partnership that you nurture and cultivate.

Lisa Arends tells the story of her own divorce in her book, Lessons From the End of a Marriage.

Website: http://lessonsfromtheendofamarriage.com

Twitter: @stilllearning2b


Divorced? Badmouthing Your Ex Is Bad For Your Children

By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC

We all do it from time to time. Make a sarcastic comment about our ex, criticize something they did or didn’t do, gesture or grimace our faces when referring to our former spouse. When we do it in front of, near or within hearing distance of our children, we set ourselves up for a hornet’s nest of problems.

Sure, we all know this, but it’s easy to forget or let slide. It hurts our children when they hear one of their parents put down the other. This is so even if your child does not say anything about it. With rare exceptions, children innately feel they are part of both parents. They love them both even when that love isn’t returned to them in the same way.

What Your Kids Think — They Believe

When you put down their other parent your children are likely to interpret it as a put-down of part of them. When both parents are guilty of this behavior, it can create a great confusion along with a sense of unworthiness and low self-esteem. “Something’s wrong with me” becomes the child’s unconscious belief.

I know it’s challenging sometimes not to criticize your ex, especially when you feel totally justified in doing so. Find a friend or therapist to vent to. Don’t do it around your children. And, whenever possible, find some good things to say about their other parent – or hold your tongue.

The lesson here is simple. Destructive comments about your ex can impact your children in many negative ways. It creates anxiety and insecurity. It raises their level of fear. It makes them question how much they can trust you and your opinions – or trust themselves. And it adds a level of unhappiness into their lives that they do not need … or deserve!

Catch Yourself Before You Do It!

When you have a problem with your ex, take it directly to them – and not to or through the children. Don’t exploit a difficult relationship, or difference of opinion with your ex, by editorializing about him or her to the kids. It’s easy to slip – especially when your frustration level is mounting.

Listen to and monitor your comments to your children about their other parent. Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine whether you might be guilty of this subtle form of parental alienation:
• Are you hearing yourself say: “Sounds like you picked that up from your Dad/Mom.”
• Do you make a negative retort about your child’s behavior and end it with “just like your father/mother?”
• Do you frequently compare your ex with other divorced parents you know making sure the kids get the negative judgment?
• Do you counter every positive comment your child makes about your ex with, “Yeah, but …” and finish it with a downer?
• Do you make your children feel guilty for having had fun visiting the other parent or liking something in their home?
• Do you throw around biting statements like “If Mom/Dad really loved you …”
• Do you try to frighten or intimidate your kids during a disagreement by saying “If you don’t like it here, then go live with your Mom/Dad?

It’s easy to fall into these behavior patterns – and they can effectively manipulate your children’s behavior – for the short-term. But in the long run you will be slowly eroding your personal relationship with the children you love and alienating their affection. This will bite you back in the years to come, especially as your children move into and through their teens.

Be The Role Model Your Kids Need

As a parent, you want to raise children with a healthy sense of self-worth. You want children who are trusting and trust-worthy – who are open to creating loving relationships in their lives. It’s not divorce per se that emotionally scars children. It’s how you, as a parent, model your behavior before, during and after your divorce. If you model maturity, dignity and integrity whenever challenges occur, that’s what your children will see and more likely the path they will take in their own relationships. You can’t make life choices for them, but you sure can influence their choices and perceptions about the world when they are young and vulnerable!

Minding your tongue around your children can be one of the most difficult behaviors to master after a divorce. It is also one of the behaviors that will reap the greatest rewards in the well-being of your family. Don’t let anger, bitterness and indiscriminate remarks affect and harm your children. Keep a “conscious” diligence on your commentary and your ex is more likely to follow suit, as well. If he or she doesn’t, your kids will naturally pick up on the different energy and gravitate toward the parent taking the high road. Ultimately that parent will win their respect and admiration. Shouldn’t that parent be you?
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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach and author of numerous books, e-courses and programs on divorcing with children and co-parenting successfully. For instant download of her FREE EBOOK on Doing Co-Parenting Right: Success Strategies For Avoiding Painful Mistakes! go to: childcentereddivorce.com/book

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© Rosalind Sedacca All rights reserved.

Will My Marriage Survive COVID-19?

If you are asking yourself this question, you need to know you are not alone.  Our families in the United States did not ring in the new year prepared for the total upheaval our lives would take so quickly beginning as early as February 2020.  When Coronavirus arrived to disrupt our American liberties, we did not have time to even get toilet paper stocked, much less think about enhancing our conflict resolution skills for what would become a very long period of family isolation.

Therefore, it is not a surprise that people are reexamining their marriage relationships.  That’s exactly what happened in China.  According to various news reports, provinces throughout China reported record-high numbers of divorce filings in early March, leading to long backlogs in the divorces.  China had been optimistically hoping for a baby boom, rolling out campaigns encouraging couples to support the nation by getting busy in the bedroom, and even loosening the one-child policy.  However, it appears that being quarantined together does not make the heart grow fonder.

What causes a “good marriage” to fail?  As a divorce attorney, I have spent significant time with hundreds of clients helping them through the divorce process.  While experts recite dramatic events, such as infidelity or money problems, as the cause of a divorce, I have found these are really symptoms of a marriage that is already broken.  Throughout my practice, I have noticed that previously “good marriages” tend to fail due to complacency, uncommon interests, and failure to connect.

Complacency. Complacency happens when couples take each other for granted, and stop showing appreciation and gratitude for their partner.  It’s so easy to become comfortable in your stretchy sweat pants (especially when quarantined), and to stop putting effort into showing up for your partner in a way that says, “you are important to me.”  If you recognize this feeling of complacency in your own heart, I would challenge you to find something you can do for your partner tomorrow.  Bring him or her a cup of coffee in the morning, write a little love note with something you appreciate about your partner, or go out of your way to help your partner do one of his or her daily chores.  It may or may not bring a smile to their face – but it won’t make your situation worse.  And it might even ignite a spark.

Uncommon Interests.  It’s not unusual for individuals in a marriage to have different interests.  In a healthy marriage, couples will support each other in their common and separate interests, and may even go along to events that are not really “of interest” to that spouse out of care and concern for their partner.  In couples facing marital difficulty, however, there is no effort to show support for the interests of the other partners.  Couples stop spending time together, even when they’re stuck in the same living quarters round the clock.  Instead of cooking meals together, or starting a garden one of you has always wanted to have, you spend time on your devices, distancing from each other.  If you have stopped showing any interest in the things that matter to your spouse, think about whether you are willing to give up an evening to do something with your partner that he or she wants to do.  You might just find a new “common interest.”

Failure to Connect.  It is easy to become disconnected in marriage, especially in relationships where there is a lot of blame and criticism.  So many couples struggle with trying to connect because they don’t know how to talk about the stuff that’s really bothering them, so they stop talking at all.  Of course, the real “connector” in a marriage is sexual intimacy.  It is not unusual for many divorcing couples to admit they’ve been living in a marriage without sexual intimacy for an extended period of time, in some cases more than ten years.  If you’ve stopped having sex with your spouse, that is a serious red flag.  For most people who have gone without sexual intimacy for a long time, it can be very difficult to reignite that spark.  You should consider speaking with a therapist trained in this area, even before you approach your spouse about this issue.  There may be underlying health or emotional issues that need to be dealt with compassionately so you don’t add fuel to the fire.

When couples become complacent, lose interest, and forget how to connect, they become vulnerable to the external forces that ultimately result in divorce, like infidelity.

If you are afraid your marriage is on the rocks, what should you do?  Now is the time for you to get really clear about your values, your options, and ultimately your decision.

  1. Clarify your Values. If you are questioning whether your marriage will survive, you are no doubt fighting an internal battle of value conflicts.  On the one hand, you value marriage and family.  You don’t want your children to grow up in a broken home.  On the other hand, there may be other values you have regarding your own personal goals and dreams, that cannot be fulfilled in your marriage.  It may be very difficult for you to identify what you value, if you ‘ve spent years trying to please everyone around you.  Now is the time to get really clear about what YOU value.  What do you want your children to learn about marriage and family from the example you are setting for them?
  2. Understand your Options. So often, when people think about divorce, they have preconceived ideas about divorce that bear no resemblance to reality.  One of the best things you can do is explore all the options available to you.  Spend an hour with a divorce attorney to get a better understanding of what divorce might mean in your situation.  Learn about different process options, such as Collaborative Divorce.  Research different therapists, and learn about Discernment Counseling, which is not marriage therapy, but rather provides a means for a couple together to discern whether they are each willing to do what they can do to save their marriage.  Whenever you feel stuck in situation, you need to know you always have options.  Exploring those options will help you make an empowered decision.
  3. Make a Decision. The most important thing you will do is make a decision.  Sitting on the fence is painful.  So many people live their lives sitting on the fence, not really committing to their marriage, but not having the courage to call it quits, either.

If being quarantined in your home with your partner has brought to light the dysfunction in your marriage, now is the time to decide what you are going to do to fix it.  Will you double down on efforts to restore your marriage, by investing in your partner, supporting his or her interests, showing gratitude and building connection?  Or, if it’s too late, will you choose divorce.  Divorce is not a destination, or a defining moment.  It is a process, with a beginning and an end, that prepares you for the next chapter in your life.  What will you decide?

Jennifer S. Hargrave is a family law attorney in Dallas, Texas, and is Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  She is the owner of Hargrave Family Law.  www.HargraveFamilyLaw.com

How To Be Happy Again After Divorce

Whenever you go through a difficult life situation like divorce it’s tempting to seek out short-term pleasure as a way to dull the pain. As emotions run high, quick-fix answers like drinking or one night stands can lead to a temporary amelioration of the hurt you’re experiencing, but they’ll ultimately leave you feeling empty and unhappy.

As you pick yourself up in the wake of a divorce, it’s important to channel your recovery efforts towards wise, healthy goals that will cultivate a sincere appreciation for life and help you feel genuinely happy once again.

From Seeking Pleasure to Seeking Happiness

The first step in finding true happiness post-divorce is to begin identifying the difference between pleasure and happiness. This can be found in both your activities and your thoughts.

You can start this process by studying cognitive distortions. This can make it easier to identify negative thought patterns (including seeking after pleasure to temporary dull pain). Things like mental filters, disqualifying the positive, and jumping to conclusions can all color your thoughts in a negative light — and by extension push you towards those “quick fixes” more readily.

Instead, look for the areas where you’ve found genuine goodness and happiness in the past. What have your healthy relationships looked like? What has your condition consisted of when you were at your peak of physical fitness? How did your emotional reactions come across when you were in a good place?

In addition, look for areas where you’ve been hiding from the truth. What real-life things have you been avoiding? Here are a few challenges to give yourself as you sort through your thoughts and emotions:

● You can accept that it’s okay to fail.
● Don’t give in to a victim mentality — be strong.
● Identify your key values and don’t compromise on them going forward.
● Leave the past in the past whenever possible.
● Avoid toxic relationships and aim to develop positive, healthy ones.

As you identify these items, begin to set clear goals and objectives as benchmarks for you to work towards in the future.

Cultivating the Good

As you sift through the negative and the positive in your life and set up healthy goals, you can begin to invest in finding your “most ideal self.” These efforts should focus on authentic, sustainable elements of your life that are aimed at cultivating genuine results.

Eating Healthy

One area that is important to cultivate is how you eat. Comfort food is never more comforting (or alluring) than when you’re drowning in the immense, overwhelming feelings of separating from someone. However, it’s important to resist this temptation to eat junk food that is temporarily comforting.

Instead, strive to study and learn about how to maintain a healthy diet. While all diets are different, there are some general tenets of healthy eating that always hold true. For instance, overly processed food; excessive fats, salt, and sugars; and unbalanced meals can all have negative effects on your health. Instead, strive to:

● Eat well-balanced meals.
● Stock up on healthy snacks.
● Cook your own food.

These habits will help you stay focused on the good — and you’ll feel physically better in the process, too.

Properly Use Social Media

Another area that’s easy to abuse is social media. Like food, social media can be a two-edged sword, with real pros and cons depending on how you’re using it.

For instance, on the one hand, it’s been shown that social media can alleviate feelings of isolation when it’s used to connect with others and bolster support systems.

On the other hand, when social media is used to avoid face-to-face interactions or to develop unrealistic opinions and other’s happiness and success, it can have profoundly negative effects on your recovery.

Whether you’re talking about food, social media, or any other facet of your life, it’s important to look for ways to weed out the bad and cultivate the good in each and every activity.

Moving Forward

As you avoid pleasure and focus on real happiness, you’ll begin to regain a measure of control over your thoughts and emotions. Once that happens, you can begin to look for ways to create positive, forward momentum as you re-enter normal life. A few suggestions include:

Exploring love languages: Learning about how to understand both your own and other’s love languages can help improve your relationships with others around you.
● Meditate and/or pray: You may be afraid to let your brain rest in the moment, but it is one of the best ways to address your pain and truly find inner peace and happiness again.
● Study your enneagram: Consider taking a test to discover your enneagram number. This can help you better understand how you function, how to address your hurt, and how to truly pursue what you value.

Learning to Believe in Love Again

It may sound cliche, but one of the most important goals in your shift from pleasure to happiness should be the ultimate pursuit to restore your faith in love. You may have felt betrayed, bruised, and battered by past experiences, and you’re not alone in those feelings.

However, past pain should never be an impenetrable barrier to future happiness. Instead, strive to identify that pain, avoid the meaningless pleasures, and hone in on both discovering true happiness and developing your most ideal self in the process.

Sam Bowman has a passion for healthy living and positivity. As a seasoned digital writer, he covers just about every subject that’s out there while diving a little deeper into divorce and mental health topics. In his spare time he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.

Mother’s Day Reflections: 7 Lessons Learned from My Divorce

By Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

Mother’s Day is a perfect time to reflect on how my divorce changed my relationship with my daughter. When I was a young teenager, I used to make lists of the things that I would teach a daughter – if I was lucky enough to have one. Since I’m a natural born coach, I’ve been thinking about what lessons I want to pass on to my daughter. In the meantime, it struck me recently how much my daughter has taught me about love, letting go, and resiliency.

Being a mom has always felt like an honor, a gift – something to feel proud of! However, no one prepared me for how much my relationship with my daughter would be altered by my divorce. Too much closeness, misunderstandings, love, and conflicts – there are many ways to describe this relationship and not a lot of research to draw from.

Since nearly one third of all daughters have parents who are divorced in America, and most of them reside with their mothers after the breakup, I was surprised to find so few studies on this topic. Perhaps it’s because we live in a culture psychologist Harriet Lerner refers to as mother-blaming rather than supportive of mothers. In The Dance of Connection Learner writes, “Mothers are held responsible not only for their own behavior (which is fair enough) but also for their children’s behavior, which they can influence but not control.”

Some studies posit that the mother-daughter relationship becomes more intense after divorce due to proximity and amount of time spent together. Psychologist E. Mavis Hetherington studied 1,400 divorced families over a period of thirty years. She considered the connection between mothers and daughters to be a protective factor after divorce. After extensive examination, Hetherington concluded that preadolescent girls develop close supportive relationships with their mothers but that this shifts during adolescence when there is more upheaval in their lives. In For Better or for Worse, she writes “In adolescence, there is a notable increase in conflict in these relationships, particularly between early maturing daughters and their mothers.” She concludes, “In addition, divorced mothers and their adult daughters are closer than divorced mothers and sons, and sons feel somewhat closer than daughters to their fathers.”

It makes sense that the mother-daughter bond would intensify after divorce since girls spend much less time with their fathers according to Dr. Linda Nielsen, author of Between Fathers and Daughters. She writes: “Sadly, only 10-15 percent of fathers and daughters get to enjoy the benefits of shared parenting.” Nielsen is a supporter of shared parenting, whenever possible, and recommends that parents encourage their daughter to spend close to equal time with both parents. Giving her messages such as “Both your dad and I made mistakes in our marriage, but we are good parents” will help your daughter to avoid loyalty conflicts and will strengthen her connection with both of her parents.

What are some concerns about the mother-daughter bond after divorce? Based on more than two decades of research on fathers and daughters, Linda Nielsen concludes that many mothers lean too heavily on their daughters for advice and caretaking and this can turn the daughter against her father. Another point made by Nielsen that I noted in my own research, is that daughters are more upset about and negatively impacted by parental conflict than sons post-divorce. Specifically, high parental conflict before and after divorce, was associated with lowered self-esteem for girls more so than sons in my study. Since girls tend to be more focused on relationships, and spend more time with their mothers post-divorce, it makes since that they would internalize feeling of low self-worth during times of conflict and take it personally when their father is absent or inconsistent in his contacts.

Some mothers may get too involved in their daughter’s lives after their divorce and have difficulty setting boundaries. An expert on parenting and gender issues, Dr. Peggy Drexler notes that many mothers want to feel connected to their daughters and, in many cases, their daughters’ friends. She writes, “At a time when there is so much societal pressure to stay young, this helps keep us feeling youthful. It also helps us feel appreciated long after our children stop “needing” us to survive. Dr. Drexler makes the point that many mothers seek validation through their daughters. In my opinion, this need could be exaggerated after divorce when the mother’s coping skills might be strained. In fact, the mother-daughter best friend idea doesn’t leave room for the more traditional role of mom and could even lead to a competitive edge between them.

Like many divorced Moms, Rita is a woman who craves closeness with her daughter, Shana, and this intensified after her divorce four years ago. During a recent counseling session, for instance, Shana talked about needing space from Rita: “I love my mom but sometimes things get a little stressful between us.” Rita described shopping trips with her seventeen-year-old daughter Shana and her friends. While they both enjoy many aspects of these outings, Shana admits that her mom may be living vicariously through her. Shana says, “My mom likes to go shopping with me and my friends and I don’t have the heart to tell her it’s not cool.”

Boundaries are an important part of any relationship, but they are especially critical for mothers and daughters after the breakup of a family. As mothers, we want our daughters to grow up to be independent and self-confident. But when we are overly involved and encourage them to tell us all of their deep, dark secrets, this may make it problematic for them to break away and to establish their autonomy – a crucial developmental task of adolescent identity formation.

Another important aspect of raising a daughter after divorce is to transmit a message of optimism about relationships. Be careful not to bad-mouth her other parent or to make disparaging comments about love or marriage. Hopefully, the legacy you’ll pass on to your daughter will be one of resiliency and hope.

7 lessons I learned from my daughter:

• Learn to let her go and try not to lean on her too much. Give her space to grow and to develop her own identity – this will strengthen your bond.
• Be her mother and mentor but realize this isn’t the same as being a friend. Don’t confide in her (when it comes to personal information that doesn’t involve her). You can enjoy each other’s company and be connected, yet be autonomous individuals.
• Honor your daughter’s boundaries. Try not to take it personally if she doesn’t want to invite you to join her and/or her friends for social activities.
Be a strong and supportive role model. But in order to help her find her way, she’ll need to question your decisions and personality at times. Lead by example.
• Don’t ask too much of her. Keeping your expectations realistic will improve your relationship with your daughter. She can’t make up for what you didn’t get from other people.
• Have faith in your daughter. While it may be hard to let go, you can delight in watching her grow into a self-confident person.
• Send out a message of hope about relationships. Be careful not to pass on a pessimistic view of love or mistrust of partners. Encouraging her to spend close to equal time with you and her other parent will help to restore her faith in love!

In sum, respecting the differences between you and your daughter will strengthen your connection in the years to come. Letting go means accepting that your daughter is separate from you and that she has her own personality, interests, and choices to make. She needs to learn from her mistakes just like you did. You can’t live through her or save her from the pain that comes with growing into womanhood – but you can delight in her joys.

I’d love to read your comments on this page. Be sure to order my new book “Daughters of Divorce: Overcome The Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship.”

Terry’s new book, The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around, was be published by Sounds True in February of 2020 and can be ordered here.