Author Archives: divorcewithoutdisaster

The 5 Worst Mistakes People Make During Divorce

Going through a divorce is an overwhelming experience. If you are going through divorce or have gone through it, I am sure you will agree that the initial sensation is of being flooded by emotions, things to handle and tough, very tough decisions to make. Here are five very big mistakes, often made by anyone going through separation or divorce, and some tips that can spare you some bad decisions and keep you on the right track:

Making Decisions Without Fully Understanding the Implications:
Read as much as you can, go to free (or paid) consultations with various professionals (mediators, attorneys, divorce coaches and more). The more information you have regarding your rights and options, the better decisions you will be able to make. Yes, the easiest thing to do is let someone else handle it for you and make decisions for you. It is easy to take advice from a friend of a friend who just went through divorce, but you want to be fully aware of your options — you want to fully understand the implications of every step. If you do not fully understand and fully control every step you make along the way, you, and you only, will have to live with the real-life consequences. Be as informed as you possibly can.

Losing Control of Your Divorce:
Do not let your attorney act on your behalf without fully informing you. I have heard too many times from clients that their lawyers were making decisions for them without consulting them or, even worse, against what they have requested. Not everyone does, but some do. You need to stay in control of what is going on. You are the client and this is your life we are talking about. If this divorce spirals out of control, who will pay the price? You.

Acting Out of Anger:
Court battles will not teach your soon-to-be ex a lesson. Trust me. And if you go that route, it will teach both of you a lesson: nobody goes dancing out of court. I am not talking about extreme cases, where parents are denied of their rights, child support is not paid or a child’s welfare is at stake. I am talking about the average, not-getting-along, angry-with-each-other, someone-cheated-on-someone, it-didn’t-work-out-at-all kind of couple. Make the right choice — stay away from unnecessary drama and stick to the facts: what can and cannot be done, what are your legal rights, how do you handle this sensibly and spare your kids, your job, your sanity. Feeling angry? While you may have excellent reasons, don’t take that to court. Take that to a great therapist.

Settling for Less Than You Need or Deserve:
While settling is settling, you do not want to underestimate your expenses and what you need in order to be comfortable within your means. If you are the payer, you do not want to commit to more than you can afford. Be fair to yourself and to your soon-to-be ex. Everybody needs to live, your kids need to have a decent life and you need to make a diligent plan for your projected overhead when you lead separate lives. Never settle too low, and never commit too high.

And last but not least: Do not lose yourself.
Do not lose your head. Breath, think, research, plan, hire professionals, work smart and work with a budget. You can make good decisions, no matter how bad things may seem right now. While you may feel flooded, a lot of good decisions are in your hands to make.


How to Help Your Children Cope With Divorce?

Separation and divorce can be devastating but there are things you can do to support and comfort your child. Challenges that are confronted effectively can improve relationships and strengthen your child’s ability to cope.

It is possible to have your children go through the divorce with relatively few problems or permanent negative effects. Changes in a child’s living arrangements, time with parents, education and lifestyle can cause anger and fear. When a child cannot express and process those emotions, the child may feel extremely powerless and feel traumatized.

It is important to keep in mind that trauma has to do with the child’s experience of the event, which is closely related to what their parents’ attitude and message is. Therefore, your words and actions can either expose your children to unnecessary emotional pain or help them develop in positive ways

Here are some helpful tips to help your child cope with divorce:

Allow your children to communicate openly. Encourage them to describe their feelings and express the sadness, fear and anger they may be experiencing. This gives you an opportunity to provide comfort and reassure them that they will be loved and continue to be cared for and safe.

Offer your children choices, whenever possible, to increase their sense of power over their lives. These can include food choices, clothing choices and other choices that don’t disrupt your routines or endanger their well-being.

Find support for yourself and your children. It takes a village to get things right. Reach out and ask for help from friends, family members, religious and secular support groups, counselors and therapists.

Provide continuity and stability. Children need the sense of continuity provided by a certain amount of structure such as dependable meal and bed times, leisure and work times.

Don’t expose your kids to marital conflict

Do not argue with your spouse in front of your children or on the phone.

Refrain from talking with your children about details of your spouse’s negative behavior.

Take care of yourself so you can help your child cope

If you are feeling intense anger, fear, grief, shame or guilt about your spouse, find someone to help you work through those feelings. By processing your emotions through talking with supportive people or a professional, and taking good care of yourself, you will be modeling ways for your kids to better cope with their strong emotions.


How to Prepare for Your First Mediation Session — Your Eight Steps Plan

So, you have scheduled your first mediation session and from what I hear from my clients, I am sure you must be nervous. How will it go? How will the other party behave? What will they say or do? How to prepare and what to expect?

Well, first of all, breath. You have made a very good choice for your kids, as well as for yourself. You have made a financially sensibly, and family friendly choice. I command it. Now, let’s prepare, to make sure that you are doing everything possible on your end, to assist the process and contribute to its success. Here are ten practical tips for preparing to your first mediation session:
1. Come with Organized Financial Documents:

This should include the following: a list of all the assets you have: bank account, mutual funds, brokerage accounts, retirement funds, real estate, vehicles, time shares, businesses, important household contents, annuities, stock, equity in companies, pending law suits. You need to have balances of all bank accounts and retirement funds. For your debts, you will need the balance and monthly payment on your mortgage and home equity loan, all credit cards balances, all loan balances including student loans, private loans, loans against retirement funds and car loans. If you have any loans within the circle of your family members or friends (you borrowed or lent money to someone, including parents, siblings, friends etc.) make sure that you have concrete information on that as well. You may or may not need to bring original documents (please check with your mediator about that), but make sure that you are super organized. Typically, a spreadsheet or an organized list will do wonders in sparing both of you time and money in mediation. You can work on the list together or separately, depending on your relationship. Both options are fine.
2. Get Your Emotions Under Control:

Mediation is, for the most part, a negotiation process, and heated emotions, as understandable as they are, will not allow you to have the clear head you need. This is not the time for hurtful words or getting at the other party, and it is not good for the process or for any of you. Find a great therapist, which will be so much more productive in handling this process in the best possible way. Join a support group. Be kind to yourself. Get support from your family and friends. But come to mediation as composed as you can be. It will work for you, believe me.
3. Be Prepared to Negotiate, Not to Argue:

The past is the past. It cannot be changed. This, however, is a forward looking, proactive process. You will find this refreshing, and very helpful. Arguing is something that you have done before, and it does not work. Negotiating, however, works and works well. So the first question to ask yourself is: What do I want? Think about that. Then, together with your mediator, you can think about how to accomplish what you are looking for, within reason and within the scope of what is possible.
4. You Can Ask to Talk to Your Mediator Alone:

If you have specific concerns, go ahead and express them. You can ask for a few minutes individually with your mediator every now and then, most mediators allow that, and none of what you discuss with the mediator will be transferred or reported to the other party. Most mediators understand that not everything can be discussed with both of you in the room. A few minutes of private discussion with your mediator every now and then, can help the process tremendously. Your mediator will spend similar time with the other party. Be respectful and stay away. Session will then resume with both of you, it is a normal part of mediation.
5. Get a Non Adversarial Attorney to Advise You Throughout the Process:

It is important to know what your rights are, and to get legal advice. If you feel that your attorney is steering you towards litigation and is more adversarial than you are looking for, you can ask your mediator for a referral. It is great to have the legal advice on the one hand, and keep yourselves out of litigation and out of adversarial proceedings on the other hand.
6. Plan a Budget:

It will be easier to negotiate if you know how much money you need (monthly or as a lump some) in order to achieve what you are looking for, or how much you can afford to pay. Be realistic. Base your budget on fair and concrete expenses, and bring it to mediation with you. Your budget form should include housing and household expenses, car expenses, kids activities and expenses, health insurance, co pays, deductibles, and miscellaneous (detailed and specified) expenses. There are many family budget forms online. Find the one that you like the most or ask your mediator for one.
7. Learn Your Rights and Obligations:

Go to more than one consultation. Gather information. Read articles. Do not go into the process of divorce before you know the terms, the meanings, the implications. Educate yourself. Read books. Many professionals offer free consultations. Go to a few, together or separately, and ask a lot of questions. It will give you a clearer picture of what your options are, and what each option means for you.
8. Put Your Concerns on the Table (or in Writing):

Your concerns are important to the process. Put them on the table so that they can be discussed. Some people are concerned about travel with the kids, some have a family member they are concerned about, others are concerned about not being notified before the kids when a significant other is introduced to them. Everything is relevant, and should be brought up. Use this proactive process to assist you in setting the grounds for productive co-parenting and peace of mind.

Good luck!


8 Tips on Telling Your Kids You’re Getting a Divorce

Informing your children that you and your spouse are divorcing is not easy, nor should it be. But you can alleviate some of the pain and the pressure if you stick to a game plan based on simplicity, truth and emotional comfort.

1. Avoid sharing inappropriate information with children. Don’t discuss adult details with your children. They either won’t understand what you’re talking about or will resent you for a number of reasons: You’re bad mouthing the other parent, you’re overburdening them, and you are providing them a hidden request to judge the situation, in your favor. Tell them what they need to know in an honest and sincere manner. Keep the focus on the kids, not on the adults, in terms of how this will impact their lives: Will they be moving? When will they see each of you?

2. Keep a unified parental front. Your kids would feel more secure and less anxious if you set clear and mutually agreed upon expectations and boundaries and send clear and similar messages about your divorce and its subsequent transitions. There is nothing more confusing to a child than to hear conflicting messages from the two most trusted adults in his or her life. While you may disagree on some day-to-day operations, or just have different parenting styles, you’ll do your kids a lot of good.

3. Don’t play the blame game. Of course, you know the reason why the separation is occurring. Or you think you do. (And let’s be totally honest — your spouse probably has his or her own ideas.) The kids don’t need to know any of this. Why? If you blame your soon-to-be ex for the separation, you may indirectly give the child a reason to choose sides. It is unhealthy for your child to feel that there is someone to blame for the separation. Keep your thoughts about your ex to yourself. Choose productive and neutral language when you talk about your ex to your kids, his or her children just as much.

4. The kids didn’t cause this. Make sure they know that. Your best bet is to give the kids the reason for the separation but make it external to both of you and something that they can live with. “We grew apart” is a good one. “Your mom/dad is a great mom/dad but we just don’t get along as a couple” is good as well. The reality (in your mind) and what you actually tell the kids, really do not have to match. It’s not their fault, it’s an external reason that is not the fault of any of you: you, your spouse or your kids. And for their own well-being, that’s all they need to know.

5. It’s not over until it’s over. Refrain from telling the children that you are divorcing unless you and your spouse are absolutely certain that the decision is final. Your best bet is to wait until you have a signed divorce agreement with specified custody arrangements and one of you is ready to move out. However, this may not be possible in every case. If so, talk to your soon to be ex about when to break the news. Do not tell the kids without telling your ex, it is not fair towards your ex and not fair towards your kids.

6. Timing is everything. Pick a time where you and your ex are emotionally ready to support the kids, in whichever way they end up reacting. If you can arrange a support system for them from other family members, great. Inform their teacher and guidance counselor. Do not do this to them right before graduation or an important exam. Choose your timing carefully.

7. Consistency is key — to the best of your ability. Be as specific as you can in telling your kids what they should expect in the future as far as school and living arrangements. Give them concrete information and stick to it. Do not make promises that you cannot keep. Knowing what to expect and then seeing that it actually happens, will alleviate a lot of their anxieties.

8. Stay calm. Your kids are watching you. All the time. If you are anxious, they will be anxious. If you are out of control, they will be out of control as well. It is ok to grieve, all of you, it is normal. It is not ok as a parent to be out of control in front of the kids, badmouth the other parent or neglect the kids’ routines. Breath, deeply, and be there for your kids. They need you.

Graduation? Communion? Bar Mitzvah? Best Tips for Event Planning for Divorced Parents

Planning an event for the kids such as communion, bar or bat mitzvah, or even a birthday party, can turn a happy event into a nerve wrecking one. Here are some practical tips for those divorced parents who are planning a joint event for their child, and are looking to spare themselves much unneeded agony:

Plan Ahead:
Do not leave planning for the last minute. Discuss your plans ahead of time. If you are having a hard time communicating, use emails. Do not leave things for the last minute and make sure that you are both aware of all the options, and what the financial and practical meaning of each option may be.

Remain respectful:
As frustrated as you may sometimes feel, keep your communications respectful, and to the point. One sentence, not to say one word, can throw the whole process off and set a huge fire. Think before you say something, If the other parent is not maintaining respectful communications, do not get sucked into it. Remember: your goal is for your child to have a great event, and that is where your focus should be. Negative communications will not help you in achieving that goal, to the contrary, they may sabotage it.

Remain goal oriented:
Set your goals clearly. What are you looking to accomplish for your child? You should not use this event to showcase anything to the other parent, and not to teach them any lessons. You are not the center of attention, your child is. Your goals should therefore be centered around your child. Keep reminding yourself of what your goals are in planning this event, and check with yourself if you feel that you are not remaining focused around the goals that you have initially defined to yourself.

Stick to an agreed upon budget:
There is nothing more dangerous to productive co-parenting than a poorly planned budget. Plan for the financial aspect of the event carefully. Remember — you are splitting with the other parent only what you have both agreed to. There is nothing in the law that would force a parent to agree to these kind of flowers versus the other kind of flowers. If you, or the other parent, would like to go above the agreed upon budget and cover the difference, that is fine, but you are only splitting the agreed upon budget only.

Decide what to do together, and what to do apart:
Not everything must be done together. Check your options carefully. If you can celebrate certain parts of the event separately and it makes things easier for both of you and for the kids, clarify that with each other and explain to your kids that it is ok to celebrate together or separately, depending on what can and cannot be done and on everyone’s comfort level, parents and kids as well as extended family members.

Keep the kids out of the details:
It is really none of the kids’ business who planned what, who paid for what, and who refused to pay. All they need to know is that both of your parents are there with them and for them. The rest is adult’s business and should stay as such.

See things in proportion:
It’s just an event. It doesn’t represent anything, it does not carry any hidden meaning and it doesn’t define you in any way. It is a happy day that you need to plan for. Plan carefully and enjoy!

Look forward, not backwards:
Nothing that happened in the past should be incorporated into the dynamics of planning. If your ex is engaging is past talk — shift it to present and future talk. What happened in the past, should stay in the past. Once you engage in past talk, it will become very hard for both of you to decide on pretty much anything.

Discuss the presence of significant others:
The presence of significant others cannot be prevented unless you both agree ahead of
time not to be bringing significant others to your child’s event. Having said that, nobody
should be taken by surprise here, including the kids. The presence of significant others
should be discussed ahead of time and you should both be aware of who is coming.

Most importantly, remember to have fun!
Enjoy, laugh and have fun genuinely. To yourself and for yourself. You have a child and today you are celebrating. Don’t mind glitches, don’t pay attention to any attempts to upset or hurt you if there are any. This is your happy day. Enjoy!

Five Best Choices You Can Make When It Comes to Your Divorce

1. Call a Mediator

If you are contemplating a divorce or are in a period of separation, it can be a scary time in your life. There are many uncertainties: What about the kids? Who gets the house or car? How will I be able to live? How does all of this work? In the past, it has been the case that a divorcing couple would each seek a lawyer, and go out to battle. A long, expensive, painful battle. It does not have to be this way. Many divorcing couples these days use mediation as a dignified, reasonable and affordable way to divorce, without war and disaster. You will be keeping your costs down (mediation is only a fraction of the cost of litigation), you will be keeping your conflict down, and together with your mediator you will both be able to make good decisions about your finances and your kids.
2. Get as Much Information as You Can:

It is important to take informed decisions. Read about the divorce laws in your state. Go to consultations with attorneys and mediators, ask questions, and make sure that you have enough information to take good decisions. It is sometimes easy to let someone else (your judge, your attorney) take decisions for you. You may feel exhausted and overwhelmed and be tempted to just let someone else handle it. Big mistake! Getting advice from professionals- yes. But letting other people act on your behalf and take decisions for you- not a good choice.


3. Stay Calm:

Once you are entering a divorce process, there are very big decisions to take. What to do with the house? What to do with the kids? How to split your assets? You may need to negotiate on some of these things with your soon to be ex. Your friends and family may be pulling you in different directions. You surely have a lot on your plate. The only reasonable way to deal with it all, is first of all, to breath. You cannot take good decisions from a place of anger and hurt feelings. As angry or upset as you may be, set that aside for a little while. Think about your kids. Think about keeping your job. Think about keeping your sanity and what is really important to you. When you deal with your divorce, think it terms of the future, not in terms of what happened and what you can prove in court. Just standing in front of a judge to make a point about your unfair spouse is going to cost you a fortune. Anger belongs in therapy, not in divorce negotiation, if you want to have a sensible divorce.


4. Focus on Your Kids:

Your kids need, with the exception of acute abuse cases, both of their parents in their lives. As much as you may dislike your soon to be ex, that is your co-parenting partner for the rest of your life. Think about your soon-to-be ex as a coworker that you have a project with: you may not want this partner for this project, if you could you would probably choose a different one, but that is the partner, and that is the project, and you do not want to lose your job. Same thing: work with your soon-to-be ex, set an atmosphere of flexibility and collaboration when it comes to your kids. Your kids will transition better, and so will you.


5. Don’t Say Anything that You May Regret Later:

In the context of divorce, anything you say may make your soon-to-be ex hit the roof and run to start a litigated process against you. Any small match can start a huge fire that is then very hard, if at all possible, to put down. Watch what you say, even if your soon-to-be ex has said something that they should not have. Do not let your friends and family fuel the fire. Do not be quick to make allegations of abuse, stealing, or abandonment if it not really there. Do not tell your soon to be ex how unworthy they are. There is no need for that. If you did say something that you should not have — apologize. Remember, you used to love that person. You do not have to stay with them, but there is no reason to shatter them to pieces in order to justify the breakup. Be civil and move on with your life.

Tips For Divorced Parents To Have A Stress-Free Summer Vacation

Summer vacation can be a stressful for time for all parents. What to do with the kids? How to keep them busy? Which camp should they go to? How to deal with the huge expenses of childcare? These challenges, which every parent faces, become even more difficult for divorced or separated couples based on a number of factors:

No parenting plan or a vague parenting plan:
The parenting plan (custody agreement) is that part of the divorce agreement that deals with the kids. It defines custody as well as monetary issues related to the children, the parenting schedule (visitation) and any other issues related to raising the children. Among other things, it is supposed to deal with summer vacation. However, some parents may not have a Parenting Plan yet for a variety of reasons including that they are unofficially separated or they haven’t completed the divorce process yet or they do have a custody agreement that has vague references to the summer that they find difficult to manage based on their work schedules.

Fewer finances as a result of divorce:
There is no rabbit in the hat when it comes to divorce. When you take one household income and divide it in two, most families will simply have less money. This makes preparing for summer vacation even more challenging. Some families who sent their kids to certain camps cannot afford to do that anymore. Other families deal with a stay at home parent who is now working and need to deal with childcare issues and costs that they didn’t have before. Having less money creates stress for many divorced parents who wish to give their children the same or similar summer fun times before getting divorced.

Conflict between the parents and differences of opinion:
Parents may have different ideas and different parenting styles when it comes to the summer. They may have differences in their comfort level as far as being away from the children for certain period of time due to the summer parenting schedules or due to the children going away for camp. If the parents are not on best terms with each other, these differences can lead to tremendous amounts of stress and to numerous conflicts.

Here are some practical, hands on tips that can help divorced or separated parents plan for the summer with less stress, and less conflict:

Structure is key. Divorced or separated parents need to have a plan in place that defines ahead of time how their children will be spending the summers. It’s important to know in advance if your child will attend camps and when they will be vacationing with each parent. This structure will eliminate your kids from feeling anxious and allow them to look forward to the summer.

Plan expenses carefully. Every working parent knows that childcare is a huge expense and it might not have been a concern when you were married. However, divorced and separated parents need to have a specific plan and clarity about how these expenses will be handled so there are no surprises. This also eliminates the burden falling on one parent. Seeking help from a divorce mediator can make this a seamless process.

Work out schedules in advance. Make a plan with your ex-spouse before summer break is upon you on the specific weeks when you will be spending time with your children. This avoids any unnecessary bickering over last minutes changes to your schedule. Sometimes, even with the best intentions, people leave their schedule flexible. While this may work for some divorced parents, it may turn out to be a disaster for others. Make sure you have structure to fall back on. You can always be flexible and change, but at least you have a plan in place.

Think of things from the other parent’s perspective. If you come up with a plan that works great for you, but does not work for the other parent, it would be a waste of your time and energy to be upset and resentful. Instead, try to consider their perspective. What is the other parent’s schedule like? What might work for them? This approach will help you come up with ideas that are more likely to be agreed upon more easily.

Don’t make it personal. Agreeing on the summer parenting schedule should be detached from any other conflicts that you have. It is easier to deal with problems when you divide them into smaller units. So only think about the summer plan. It’s important to not let the issues of the divorce influence your judgment as it relates to the summer plan. Parents need to put their feelings aside on how they feel about the divorce, any guilt they have and try to avoid outdoing the other parent. The goal for the summer plan should be clear, financially reasonable and easy to. It is a two-month period of time and you need a plan. That’s all.

Look forward, not backwards. In order to plan successfully, look at any problems that might have come up in the past as far as the summer or as far as planning in a proactive way. Rather than being angry about conflicts that you might have had on these subjects, learn from them: what has triggered problems? What has worked? What might work going forward? The only way to deal with the past productively is if it is used for the benefit of everyone going forward.

Be realistic financially. Plan for the summer with a realistic budget in mind. Sit down and crunch the numbers and make an overall budget for the summer. Keep in mind what the other parent’s financial capability is and what they can and cannot afford. The fact that the kids are accustomed to a certain camp or a certain lifestyle means nothing if you can’t afford it.

Don’t involve the kids in details. Children don’t need to know who paid for what, who demanded what for them and who refused or agreed to do it. They need to know the the plan for their summer and that both of their parents want them to have a wonderful time and look forward to the time spent with them.

If handled correctly, planning ahead will allow both parents and kids to have a fun and joyful summer that is free of conflict and full of exciting things to do with both parents. Remember, this is about the well being of the kids. A plan in advance will allow all involved to have a wonderful summer.