Archives for August 2009

Divorce is Traumatic for Your Kids

There’s no question that divorce is traumatic for your kids. Everyone knows children suffer the most in a divorce, and have the least say about what happens. Experts advise different ways to tell your kids about divorce, and different methods for dealing with divorce. Ultimately, you probably know that divorce is traumatic for your kids, but do you begin to understand why? Here are a few of the most popular things that happen to kids in a divorce:

Kids think divorce is their fault.

First and foremost, many kids worry that divorce is their fault. Unless you take great pains to convince your kids that you and your spouse just don’t get along anymore, they are likely to have a secret, gnawing fear that they are the reason for your divorce. It’s your job as an adult to convince them otherwise, as much as possible. Kids may need therapy to deal with this fear, and they definitely need your reassurance and explanations as to why the marriage failed.

Kids worry that parents don’t love them.

Only slightly less worrisome to kids is the fear that their parents just don’t love them. This is tied up with the fear that kids are the reason for divorce, but it’s hard to process a parent leaving the household if said parent loves the kids. Therefore, it’s vital for you to tell your kids early and tell them often that you love them. But you have to do more than tell them; you have to show your kids that you love them, or they might not believe you. This is perhaps the most important thing to help kids survive through a divorce with as little trauma as possible.

Kids wonder what will become of their life.

Most kids have no concept of their way of life after divorce. For kids that have lived in one house with both parents their entire lives, it’s impossible to conceptualize anything else. Therefore, kids will wonder what will become of their life. You can help with this worry by providing as stable a household as possible. Try to continue normal routines, take kids to the same schools and establish that things are going to be similar even after the divorce. Be consistent, and reliable. Kids need stability, so try to confine moving to a minimum and be careful to explain things to kids along the way.

Kids are neglected while parents worry about divorce stuff.

Divorce is tough. You’re juggling a lot of balls while you’re dealing with divorce stuff. You’re dealing with finances, trying to get housing lined up, arranging childcare, talking to lawyers; the to-do list is endless. In the midst of it all, you can’t neglect your kids while you’re worrying about your grown-up concerns. Kids need quality time with parents perhaps more than ever during a divorce, so make it a point to spend that time with your kids. Time with your kids has therapeutic value for you, too, so it’s a win-win situation.

Be Realistic about Your Divorce Settlement

High-profile divorce settlements make the news all the time. People love to read about other people’s unhappiness; the juicy details of a failed marriage and an astronomical price tag make popular stories. However, if you’re going through a divorce, you must separate what you read in the news from your own situation. Be realistic about your divorce settlement; just because some celebrity got several million in a divorce doesn’t mean you’ll be set for life when you divorce your spouse.

Talk to a divorce lawyer about what you can expect.

Divorce lawyers know the law. They can look at your relationship, any documentation you might have signed like a pre-nup or a post-nup and weigh the factors to determine approximately what you can expect.

Don’t look for a lawyer to give you a hard number on an initial consultation; negotiating a settlement is exactly that – a negotiation. A divorce settlement depends on a number of factors that may not be clear in the beginning, so any information a divorce lawyer gives you about potential settlement amounts is purely speculation, and should not be used as a guideline.

You’ll need a clear financial picture to negotiate a divorce settlement.

Before you can truly negotiate a divorce settlement, you need a clear financial picture of the status of finances in the marriage. You’ll need documentation about your income, your spouse’s income, joint debts, joint assets – a complete financial breakdown of both parties.

If your spouse manages to hide assets, you may not be able to negotiate an equitable settlement based on the full value of the relationship. If you think your spouse is going to be resistant to an equitable settlement, you may want to begin gathering financial documentation early, before your spouse has a chance to begin moving things around.

Your way of life will change.

The point of an equitable settlement is to split assets fairly and evenly between you and your spouse. If you didn’t bring much to the marriage, you may not take much from the marriage. Don’t expect that just because your spouse had assets prior to the marriage, you’ll get to take any of that with you.

Bottom line: even in a best-case-scenario equitable settlement, your way of life will change. One income doesn’t go as far as two, and without being able to split the costs for housing, utilities, etc., you’ll be paying more than you expect to support yourself. Even if you get alimony, it may not be enough to maintain your current way of life, so you should resign yourself to that fact when the divorce begins and develop reasonable expectations about your divorce settlement.

Dealing with Anger About Divorce

Even in an amicable divorce, it’s hard to be Zen-like and not resent your spouse for tearing your world apart. In a divorce that catches one of the parties by surprise, or in which one party doesn’t want a divorce, it can be downright near-impossible. You’re dealing with a ton of negative emotions, and chief among them is anger.

If you’re angry about your divorce, you’re not alone. Many spouses find themselves struggling with anger over a divorce. Dealing with your anger effectively is one of the most challenging aspects of divorce, but especially if you have kids, you have to find a way to put on a happy face to protect your children.

Acknowledge your anger, and the reasons for it.

One of the first things you need to do in order to deal with your anger is to acknowledge it. Denial can be a powerful tool, but it can’t help you work through things; it only helps with avoidance. If you want to deal with your anger, you must look at it, acknowledge it for what it is and understand why you feel that way.

It’s ok to feel angry. Do you feel angry because your spouse took control out of your hands? Angry because you trusted your spouse, and you feel betrayed by a divorce? Angry because you feel like your marriage can be saved but your spouse doesn’t agree? Angry because of something particular your spouse said or did?

There are tons of reasons to feel angry about a divorce, and your anger is probably valid. Take a look at why; consider making a list or jotting down the reasons you feel angry. Acknowledging your anger is powerful, and can help take some of the potency out of it.

Keep your anger away from your kids.

If you’ve got kids, it’s absolutely vital to keep your anger away from your kids. It’s ok for you to feel angry. It’s not fair that you have to hide it, but for the sake of your kids, you must. Don’t badmouth your spouse to your kids. Try not to behave in a hostile manner when your kids are around. Divorce is never easy, but couples walk into marriage knowing that there’s a risk for divorce down the road. Kids have no say in the matter, and should not be exposed to the by-product of parental unhappiness, no matter how angry you are (and how valid the anger).

Consider going to counseling.

Counseling isn’t just for couples, and it doesn’t warrant the negative stigma that it sometimes receives. Counseling is a wonderful tool in helping you to identify your anger and find positive ways to deal with it. The purpose of counseling isn’t to deny your anger. When you undergo counseling, you’re allowed to be angry. You don’t have to pretend it’s not there or force it to go away. A counselor can simply help you identify the root of your anger, and work on positive ways to deal with it.

Should a Guardian be able to File a Divorce Proceeding?

Imagine a worse-case-scenario: your parents are in a car accident, and your mother becomes incapacitated. She’s no longer able to do many things for herself, and your father takes over the finances, dealing with important issues and running day-to-day life. Over time, your father tires of having a dependent spouse, and begins to move on.

Maybe he puts your mother in a care facility and begins dating, using her income to help finance his lifestyle with the new woman. Say the care facility isn’t the best in the world, and you feel he doesn’t have your mother’s best interests at heart. He starts spending more and more of her money on his lifestyle, perhaps dipping into her retirement account or other assets to buy himself a car or take an expensive vacation. What can you do?

Unfortunately, the laws on guardianship allow very little wiggle room for you to pursue matters on behalf of your mother. If your father is using the marriage to take advantage of your mother’s assets and resources, you may not be able to do anything about it.

If you’re lucky, you might be able to get yourself appointed as her guardian and make some decisions about her medical care. However, the law is quite clear in most states that you can’t file divorce proceedings as a guardian on behalf of the incompetent spouse, so there’s ultimately no way to protect your mother from your father’s deprivations.

The incompetent spouse and the competent spouse don’t have the same legal remedies.

A competent spouse has access to the full range of legal remedies if he should feel the need to use them. However, an incompetent spouse, through a guardian, doesn’t have access to the same legal remedies. If a guardian can’t file a divorce proceeding on behalf of an incompetent spouse, there’s ultimately very little that a guardian can do to protect the incompetent spouse from being taken advantage of. This is an unfair loophole in the law, because it leaves virtually no legal recourse for the incompetent spouse.

Some courts may be willing to grant a divorce proceeding if it was clear that the incompetent spouse was pursuing said proceeding before he or she became incompetent. I.e. if you can prove that your mother was unhappy in the marriage and planned to pursue a divorce, a judge may be willing to take that into consideration. However, many states won’t even allow that, so incompetent spouses don’t even have that small window of recourse.

Ultimately, the law isn’t particularly fair in this regard. The letter of the law has good intentions, in theory, by saying that a divorce proceeding is too personal a decision for a guardian to pursue. However, without granting other forms of legal recourse, the legal system provides no real remedies for exploitation and no way to dissolve a union that is no longer safe or in the best interests of the incompetent spouse.

What do you think? Should a guardian be able to file a divorce proceeding?

Canada Explores the Interests of Children versus Equal Parenting

The Canadian Justice Minister Rob Nicholson spoke on Monday about equal parenting and children’s interests in divorce cases. In theory, kids do best when both parents are equally present in their lives. In other words, kids need mom and dad for optimal development and happiness. However, Justice Minister Nicholson added that kids’ interests should be the deciding factor in whether or not equal parenting was granted.

This strikes me as a slippery slope. How is a judge to decide what’s in a kid’s best interests? A judge doesn’t know the kids, doesn’t know the parents and doesn’t know what each respective home life would be like. Deciding custody and parenting rights based on something as ephemeral as ‘the kids’ best interests’ looks like an easy way to get into a bidding war between mom and dad.

Unfortunately, kids are often caught in the middle of messy divorces. It’s not fair, but kids may be asked to choose with whom they wish to live, or to be shuttled back and forth from one parent to another like so much baggage. This isn’t an easy life, but is it better than establishing ‘best interests’ and awarding sole custody to one parent?

In an ideal world, everyone would be friends and could deal amicably with a divorce. However, reality isn’t ideal, and sometimes it isn’t always possible to be amicable with a spouse after a long, messy shared history. Should one spouse be penalized because relations are less than cordial? Unfortunately, if this sort of attitude came to the United States, it’d be far too easy to penalize a spouse.

Women are traditionally seen as the primary caregivers for children, and often tend to play a bigger role in kids’ lives post-divorce. Many fathers feel that this is unfair, and want to have a more active role in kids’ lives. How would fathers feel if mothers could take it upon themselves to prove that ‘it’s in the kids’ best interests’ that the mother has joint custody and doesn’t share parenting responsibilities? Unfortunately, if a woman were feeling vindictive, it’d be far too easy to press this point with a court and penalize the husband for things that have nothing to do with the kids.

Hopefully this Canadian guideline won’t make it to the United States. In a world where it’s already difficult enough to settle a divorce and sort out custody, the last thing parents need is to add another shade of gray to an already challenging process.

Enjoy the Little Moments

About a million clichés exist to describe the pain and unpleasantness that everyone deals with. “Into every life a little rain must fall,” or “beautiful light is born of darkness” are just a couple of examples of the things people say to minimize the unhappiness we all suffer from time to time. The thing about clichés is that they’re often true, which is why they stick around, even though they’re clichés.

The unhappiness you feel as you’re going through your divorce is fleeting, just like all happiness and unhappiness in life. In time, you’ll have other worries, and you’ll recover from your divorce. What you’re going through today will seem like distant history. That may not necessarily be a comfort, now, but it’s something to keep in the back of your head for when you’re feeling particularly down.

In the meantime, enjoy the little moments in life. Even while you’re going through a divorce, it’s ok to feel joy and take pleasure in small things. How do you reach those moments?

  • Go to a movie by yourself.

Going to a movie by yourself is a great way to get away and create some quiet space for yourself. Sitting in the dark, all alone, losing yourself in the story is a great way to forget about the thousands of little details and unhappiness you’re dealing with as you go through a divorce. It’s only a temporary relief, but your troubles may feel less troublesome when you emerge into the light, and you know you can always go back to the movies if things get tough again.

  • Treat yourself to a cup of coffee at a café.

Sitting quietly in a café, drinking a cup of coffee and watching the world go by can be a relaxing pastime. You could bring a book to read, or a newspaper. Or you could just sit and watch the people walk by through the windows. One day, you’ll be one of those people, walking by on your way to work, no worries about a divorce looming over your head. All you have to do is bide your time.

  • Go for a walk in the rain.

As kids, we have a joy and appreciation for the simple things in life that we seem to lose as adults. The next time you get a cool rain on a warm summer day, go for a walk. Yes, your clothes will get wet. But they’re just clothes – you can throw them in the dryer when you get home. Enjoy this impulsive way to connect with the world and just be in a moment.

  • Sit on your porch and sip iced tea on a warm summer day.

Few things are nicer than a cool drink on a warm summer day. Just sitting and being contemplative on your porch can be a good way to relax and reconnect with the world around you. Look at the grass. Appreciate the flowers. Wave to your neighbors. Enjoy the cool drink and the warm sunshine, and then get back to your hectic day.

  • Find a moment or an hour to escape and just be.

Regardless of your particular pleasure, it’s vital to escape from your worries every now and then and just be. You don’t even have to enjoy yourself, although an escape from worries may be enjoyment enough. Just take a break from worrying and stressing, and stop and smell the roses. You’ll find your divorce a lot more tolerable, and in time, all the stress will fade.

Making Tough Decisions about Your Living Arrangements

Divorce changes lives. I read an article in the Washington Post the other day about a woman “Squeaking by on $300,000”. The Post meant the article to be ironic, and most of us would have a difficult time sympathizing with a woman whose income is $300,000 a year, but her story is just a divorce story on a bigger scale.

Housing. Housing is one of the biggest adjustments that most couples have to make post-divorce. First of all, even if you keep the house, only one spouse can live in it. The other spouse automatically has to find someplace else to live. Woe be it to you if you’re the unlucky spouse. Or is it such a bad thing?

Even if you are the lucky party that gets to keep the house, you might not be as lucky as you think. Most couples buy houses based on a two-income family. After a divorce, you’ve got one income, and you’ll find that income doesn’t stretch as far as it used to. With a single income, your house may be a struggle or even impossible to maintain.

Take a realistic look at your living situation. How much is your mortgage? How much are your utilities? Even if you think you can squeak by in your home, you need to make sure you build room into your budget for things like unexpected repairs and expenses. And you need to make sure you’re still contributing to retirement savings, savings for college for the kids – savings is one of the first things to go in a single-income family trying to maintain an expensive way of life.

It’s a hard decision to make, but if you’re living too close to the financial edge in your house, you should be prepared to downgrade. There’s nothing wrong with finding a smaller place to live, or temporarily renting an apartment while you get settled into newly divorced life. Smaller spaces require less in the way of utilities, and don’t seem quite so lonely to the newly-divorced.

Don’t “squeak” by on your newly-divorced income. Find a living situation in which you can live a comfortable existence – even thrive. Change is difficult, but it can also be liberating. Don’t hang onto something you can’t afford – be ready to move on when the opportunity arises.

Be Careful with Your Assets in a Divorce

I was reading an article the other day about how Steve Wynn, owner of Wynn Resorts, sold a chunk of his casino stock to pay for his divorce. While liquidating assets is sometimes the only way to cover a divorce, it’s generally an option of last resort, as it can expose you to some unexpected side effects. Why should you be careful with your assets in a divorce?

Selling stocks can expose you to capital gains tax.

Steve Wynn is going to give up a lot in liquidating his casino stock to pay for his divorce. One thing you have to consider in selling any stock is that you expose yourself to capital gains taxes. If you sell a stock for more than you paid, the IRS counts that as a sort of income called a capital gain. You’re taxed on anything you make.

When you’re liquidating stocks to pay for a divorce settlement, a good divorce lawyer will make allowances in the settlement for capital gains taxes. Those taxes are basically additional expenses above and beyond the cost of the settlement. Therefore, if you’re selling stocks to pay your spouse $50,000 in cash in a divorce settlement, the value of the settlement is really $50,000 plus your capital gains tax – really closer to $60,000, depending on how long you’ve held the assets.

Consider your options for distributing liabilities.

If you don’t want to deal with the burden of tax liabilities for liquidating assets, there are a few ways around it. In some cases, you may be able to transfer ownership of assets to your spouse, thereby neatly sidestepping the question of liabilities. If your spouse then chooses to sell said assets, it’s his or her responsibility to pay the taxes.

There are other options, too, for distributing liabilities – a good divorce attorney knows all the tricks, and can advise you or set you up with an accountant who can run your numbers and determine the most advantageous settlement for your situation. If you do liquidate assets to pay your divorce settlement: be careful, and know what you’re getting into!

Is Divorce Really What You Need?

Just because you’re considering a divorce doesn’t mean divorce is what you really need. Divorce entails a lot of big decisions and serious implications, and it’s not a path to be undertaken lightly. You may be able to resolve your relationship issues short of divorce, and you should seriously consider your options before you resolve to divorce your spouse.

Can the relationship be saved?

The first question most people ask themselves when they’re considering divorce is whether or not the relationship can be saved. It’s difficult to answer this question impartially. Typically, in a divorce, one spouse believes the relationship can’t be saved, while the other believes it can be.

If you haven’t reached the point of deciding the relationship can’t be saved, hold off on your decision to pursue a divorce. Examine your options, and see what you and your spouse can do to salvage your relationship. A marriage entails a big commitment, and you don’t want to throw away all that work and shared history if you can find a way to make it work.

Are you and your spouse willing to undergo counseling?

Not everyone is willing to speak with a counselor, but counseling can make all the difference in the world as to whether or not a relationship will work. If you and your spouse are willing to talk with a counselor, you should do it. Counselors can give you an impartial third-party view of the dynamics of your relationship, and help you develop skills to communicate effectively and solve conflicts that some relationships lack; driving their members to divorce. If you can solve these communication problems with the aid of a counselor, you may be able to save your marriage.

Do you have kids?

Kids are a big factor in the decision of whether or not to divorce. The question of whether to divorce if you have kids is a tricky one. If you and your spouse are arguing constantly and creating a hostile environment, it’s not a good way to raise kids. However, if you and your spouse are still amicable, living together may be preferable for your kids than divorcing and splitting up. Ultimately, the question of whether or not to divorce is yours to make, and your kids are only one consideration in the equation. But many people site kids as the reason they stay together, and it’s worthwhile to take a look at the situation from your kids’ perspective when you’re considering a divorce.

Can you endure a post-divorce lifestyle?

Lifestyles change after a divorce. You won’t be coming home to someone every night. Your circle of friends may change. You may have to enter the dating scene again, at some point. And economically, most divorced individuals have radically different lifestyles with the loss of the extra income. Think seriously about whether or not you can endure a post-divorce lifestyle. If you’re not ready to shake up your way of life, you might not be ready for a divorce.

Divorce is a big, final step.

Think on it. Sleep on it. Don’t make a decision to divorce hastily. Divorce may be the best thing for your relationship, ultimately, if you and your spouse are simply no longer capable of getting along or interested in maintaining the relationship. However, don’t rush into such a decision unless you’re absolutely sure it’s what you want. Once you broach the topic, your relationship may never be able to recover if you decide it’s not what you want, so make sure you know if it’s what you want before you begin the process.

Be Careful What You Say, Because Gossip Gets Around

Gossip can be a serious problem for any relationship, but it can be fatal when you’re getting a divorce. I recently saw a news blurb that mentioned the world’s first divorce by Facebook, the popular social networking program. Apparently a man on Facebook changed his marital status to reflect that he was no longer married to his wife – before he ever talked to her about getting a divorce. Worse yet, one of his friends commented that he was “better off out of it.”

His wife found out about it when one of their mutual friends called her to console her about the fact that her husband had ended the marriage. Before that phone call, her husband hadn’t discussed divorce with her and she had no idea he’d changed his status.

Imagine finding out from one of your friends that your husband was divorcing you before he ever spoke a word about it.

When the wife was later questioned about it, she said she was most upset about the fact that other people knew about it before she did, and that her husband hadn’t discussed the relationship problems with her before talking about it with other people.

Bottom line? Be careful what you say, because gossip gets around – and more than ever in this world of Internet connectivity.

Emails can be forwarded. A word in the wrong ear can make its way back to your spouse. Whether you haven’t decided to divorce yet, or if you’re knee-deep in the divorce itself, watch what you say. The wrong words can turn an amicable divorce into a major mess, and your spouse may choose to use them against you in the divorce settlement.

A $1.5 Million Example of Why You Need a Good Divorce Attorney

I was reading an article the other day in the New York Law Journal about a divorce case that went badly awry for one of the parties. In short, a doctor was ordered to pay his ex-wife a $1.2 million settlement from ‘immediately available’ funds. Unfortunately, the doctor didn’t have $1.2 million in ‘immediately available’ funds, and was forced to withdraw the funds from his retirement account.

As you may know, most retirement accounts entail fees and tax penalties for early withdrawal, so the doctor was left with a $500,000 liability for the funds he withdrew to pay his spouse.

In the end, he was left with $850,000 in assets, while his ex-wife walked away with approximately $1.2 million in a settlement that was supposed to be equitable.

Where did things go wrong for the doctor?

There are a couple of ways in which the settlement turned out to be unfavorable for this newly-divorced doctor. First, the words “immediately available funds” in the settlement. If his divorce attorney had examined the settlement properly, she would have realized he didn’t have such funds immediately available. As his attorney, she should have changed the language in the settlement to remove the ‘immediately available’ from the stipulation, and to include some language that would enable the doctor the time he needed to obtain the funds.

Second, when he realized he couldn’t obtain the funds immediately, his divorce attorney should have gone back to the table to renegotiate the agreement. The attorney refused to renegotiate, and told him to come up with the funds in some other way.

Finally, the divorce attorney was not looking out for her client’s interests when he withdrew the funds from his retirement account. She failed to advise him that withdrawing funds from his retirement account would result in massive fees and tax liability.

If nothing else, at that point she should have gone back to the table and negotiate an agreement that would stipulate both the doctor and his ex-wife would split the tax liability. That would have left them both with roughly equal assets after the divorce. However, the attorney didn’t take this step, and the doctor was left with an inequitable settlement that he never should have signed in the first place.

The doctor is now out $500,000 in unexpected losses, and the attorney who was supposed to be looking out for his interests failed to get him the equitable settlement he deserved. This is one sterling example of why you need a good divorce attorney who has your interests in mind.

Dating After Divorce Requires a Different Set of Expectations

After years of partnership with your spouse, the prospect of entering into the dating scene again can be intimidating. By the time you’re divorced, you’ve probably got a pretty clear idea of what you like and dislike in your spouse, and what you’re looking for in a relationship. Most divorced individuals lead pretty settled lifestyles, and know exactly what they want. The thought of getting to know someone new, compromising that settled lifestyle and dealing with someone else all over again is tough. However, you should know that when you’re dating again after a divorce, it requires an entirely new set of expectations.

Set your boundaries.

One of the most important things you can do for yourself when you’re dating again after a divorce is to set your boundaries. What are you looking for? Do you want a companion who enjoys similar activities, or do you want someone who will introduce you to new things? Are you looking for a casual relationship, or an exclusive arrangement? Decide what you’re ready for when you start dating again, and don’t let other people push you outside of your boundaries or manipulate your needs. Your boundaries are your own to set, and asserting yourself can get you off to a great start when dating again.

Be clear about your physical wants and needs.

When you begin dating again, you must be clear about your physical wants and needs, if only to yourself. Depending on how things were with your spouse, you may be ready for physical contact, or you may prefer to take things slow and avoid physical contact for a while. Think about your needs ahead of time. Again, don’t let people push you into contact that makes you uncomfortable, and be prepared for the things you might experience when you become physical with a new partner.

Decide how to deal with dating and kids.

If you’ve got kids, you have a whole extra set of questions to deal with. How do you broach the topic of dating with your kids? Do you let your kids know that you’re dating, or keep it to yourself? When do you introduce a new partner to the kids?

Conventional wisdom says to insulate your kids from the dating experience as much as possible, and don’t introduce kids to a new partner until you’re sure he or she is going to be around for a while. Kids may be feeling vulnerable after a divorce, and if you introduce a new partner too soon and then it doesn’t work out, kids may feel betrayed or feel that they have an unstable lifestyle. You must take these factors into consideration when you’re deciding how to deal with dating and kids.

Take your time.

Take your time when you begin dating again. Start out casually. You definitely don’t want to rush right into a relationship with the first person you date after your marriage. Being alone can make you feel vulnerable, and it can be tempting to launch into a new relationship to avoid those feelings, but take your time. There are plenty of people to get to know, and you owe it to yourself to enjoy the experience and not put undue pressure on yourself during the post-divorce dating process.

Don’t look for a new spouse.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, don’t look for a new spouse. The sole purpose of dating isn’t to replace your husband or wife. It’s to get to know new people, and enjoy spending your time with interesting companions. If a relationship should eventually progress to the point of a new marriage – good for you. But don’t expect it from every relationship, and don’t go out screening your dating partners as if you’re shopping for a new spouse. Enjoy the experience.

Take Care of Your Health When You Divorce

Medical studies over the years have proven that marriage is good for the health. Married partners tend to be more proactive about their own health, and tend to have a better support system with the spouse looking out for them, than single partners of the same age. Married people tend to live longer, have fewer major complications and tend to be overall healthier than their single counterparts.

Unfortunately, a new study by the University of Chicago reveals that just as marriage can have a positive impact on health, divorce can have a negative impact on health. Divorce is a big emotional stressor, and that translates to the physical effects of stress on our fragile human bodies. Further, the physical effects of stress can last for years; far after the emotional stress of a divorce has faded.

This study underlines the vital importance of taking care of your health when you divorce. Many people use a divorce as an excuse to eat better and exercise, and this is a very positive course for newly-divorced individuals. Other people may lapse into a depression after a divorce which can cause them to neglect their health, but it’s vital to be proactive about health and avoid this lethargy following a divorce.

  1. Eat healthy.

First and foremost: eat healthy after your divorce. It may be tempting to splurge on ice cream and cookies to help you feel better and fill the emotional hole left by divorce, but resist the temptation. Poor diet can lead to a host of medical complications, whereas eating healthy helps you feel better and is ultimately more likely to lead you out of a depression than trying to stuff it with unhealthy foods.

  1. Exercise regularly.

Not only is exercise a vital component of a healthy regimen, but it releases endorphins that make you feel happy and more energetic. Regular exercise can help you along the road to recovery far better than sitting around watching television or a movie. Most people don’t get enough exercise, so make sure you are meeting your exercise goals and requirements, and don’t be afraid to hire a personal trainer or consult a professional about your exercise goals.

  1. Manage your stress.

Finally, you must find healthy ways to manage your stress. Stress has a lot of physical manifestations that can ultimately lead to poor health. High blood pressure, trouble sleeping, loss of appetite; all of these can stem from stress. Again, don’t be afraid to consult a professional for help with handling stress, because staying healthy after your divorce should be one of your highest priorities.

Making Ends Meet on Your New Budget

Financial situations change after a divorce. There are no two ways around it. Whether you are lucky enough to be able to keep your house or whether you’ve got to find a new place to live, you’ll have an entire set of expenses to manage on your own. If you’re struggling with making ends meet on your new budget, sit down and run through these tips to see if you’re maximizing what you have.

Evaluate your living arrangements.

First and foremost, evaluate your living arrangements. Are your living arrangements appropriate after your divorce? Can you afford to live in your current house or apartment? Unfortunately, it’s often necessary to downsize after a divorce, so don’t be caught by surprise by your living expenses. If you need to get a smaller apartment, get a smaller apartment; it’s better to lose some stuff than to stress every month about making your rent or mortgage payment.

Cut out unnecessary expenses.

Everyone’s routine consists of unnecessary expenses. Maybe you don’t need a house phone and a cell phone; consider cutting one. Have one of those colossal cable television packages? Downgrade. You may need to quit or temporarily pause workout classes or other hobbies that add an extra expense every month. If you’re really heartbroken about cutting expenses, make a pact with yourself that it’s only temporary and find a way to resume the programs or services you’ll be missing.

Create and stick with your budget.

Budgeting is never fun, but it’s the best way you’ll be able to survive with an adjusted income. Even if you have the ability to spend within your means, you won’t do it if you don’t know how much you’re spending or what your means actually are. Sit down, create a budget, and follow it. If you go over budget in one area, cut the budget back in another. It may be stressful, but by developing a plan and sticking with it, you can take better care of yourself in the long run.

Supplement your income.

It may be time to consider a part time job, or some other way to supplement your income. Do you bake really awesome cookies? Consider selling them at a local farmer’s market every week. Are you a skilled knitter? Look into hosting classes, or selling hand-knit items on the Internet. While the economy is bad in general, there are plenty of ways that a creative person with a few skills can supplement his or her income outside of getting a part-time job. However, a part-time job has added benefits; it keeps you from sitting at home, moping, if you’re unhappy about your divorce.

Food, food, food.

Food is one of the single biggest budget busters out there. If you go out to eat too often, you’ll blow your budget. Likewise if you’re an impulse buyer at the grocery store, or even if you buy things that you don’t end up using when you shop. Seriously evaluate your food habits and determine whether or not you can save money on food somehow. Cut back on eating out, buy generic brands when possible and avoid buying convenience foods to save cash on your food bills.

Ask for help if you need it.

There’s no shame in asking for help. If you’re having trouble with an unusually high electrical bill or fluctuations in your income, ask for help. If you call creditors or utility companies, they’re usually willing to set up payment arrangements and work something out. Don’t avoid dealing with the issues, as costs mount when you practice avoidance. Instead, deal with financial issues head-on before mounting late fees and overdraft fees make it impossible.

Iowa City Creates Program to Help Kids Cope with Divorce

Children get the short end of the stick when it comes to dealing with divorce. They often don’t get the information they need to cope with and process a divorce, and may find themselves trivialized or even neglected as a parent deals with their part in the divorce process. This is such a big problem that United Action for Youth in Iowa City has started providing Kids First Divorce Workshops for children of a divorcing couple.

Kids process things differently at different ages. These Kids First Divorce Workshops pair children with other kids their age and provide kids a way to explore their feelings in a safe setting. They help kids process divorce in a way that’s appropriate to their age groups, and give kids the opportunity to interact with their peers as they cope with divorce. It’s one of the first programs designed just to help kids process divorce, and Iowa City officials expect nearly 250 kids per year to attend the workshops.

Help your kids cope with divorce.

Iowa City has the right idea. Too many kids aren’t given the information they need to work through a divorce. They don’t have an opportunity to interact with peers, or process the information in a way that works for them. In other words, they’re left to fend for themselves as parents cope with the divorce in their own ways.

Don’t leave your kids alone to cope with divorce. Find resources to help your kids cope; from books written for your children’s age groups, to support groups for kids of divorcing parents, to even therapy for your children. While a divorce may be the best solution for you and your spouse, you owe it to your kids to provide a way for them to deal with it, too, instead of feeling disenfranchised, neglected or irrelevant.

Don’t Cut Your Spouse Out of Your Child’s Life

Divorces are traumatic. Some divorces may happen due to years of indifference and neglect, but other divorces may have a much more upsetting and immediate cause. If your spouse cheated on you or otherwise precipitated the divorce suddenly, the last thing you probably want is for your kids to have anything to do with your spouse. However, it’s important to be moderate in your interactions with your spouse around a divorce. Cutting your kids off from your spouse entirely is generally a bad idea, and can lead to a bitter divorce.

Bitterness in a divorce can cause a rift with children.

I saw a blurb the other day about a rapper and his wife who are in the process of divorcing. His wife gave birth to their child, and she banned him from the delivery room while she was in labor. This is a very bad start to the child’s life, and if it’s any indication of how their divorce is proceeding, it may end up being a bitter and hotly contested divorce.

Regardless of what your spouse does, your child doesn’t deserve to be punished for it. Children need both parents, and they need to know that both parents love them. If you cut your spouse off from your child’s life, you’re preventing your child from learning that important fact, and your child may never understand that his father or mother loved him because that parent was never around to show it.

Your personal unhappiness may be difficult to overcome, and you may never reach the point where you’re amicable with your spouse. Still, you should work to overcome those negative feelings until you can reach the point where your spouse and your child can interact regularly and easily. By cutting your spouse off from your child, you’re severing half of your child’s parental resources and may be setting your kid up for long-term unhappiness. If you care about your child’s well-being, avoid letting your animosity cut him or her off from your spouse in spite of your personal feelings.

Father’s Influence Helps Lessen Risk of Co-Dependency?

I was reading an interesting article the other day about a research study on adolescent girls, and how their development is related to their fathers’ roles in their lives. If you’re in the process of getting a divorce, you might want to keep this in mind, as fathers apparently play an extremely important role in their daughters’ development.

Fathers essential in helping daughters develop voices.

Apparently, this study indicated that fathers are essential to help their daughters develop their voices during pivotal development years of their childhoods. Between the ages of 8 and 12, girls are developing their identity and the unique voice with which they respond to the world. This voice determines how girls handle conflicts, their self-esteem and their willingness to stand up for themselves.

Believe it or not, a father’s influence during this time can determine whether or not women become co-dependent in adulthood.

Men can help lessen risk of co-dependency.

According to numerous studies, men are at a lower risk of co-dependency. 85% of co-dependent individuals are female. This means that only 15% of co-dependent people are male. Women are far more likely to minimize their feelings, compromise themselves into oblivion and become silent victims throughout their lives. With co-dependent women role models, young women grow up to be co-dependent. However, with strong male role models, women stand a far greater chance of avoiding co-dependency and growing up to be strong advocates for themselves.

Don’t remove your father from your daughter’s life.

If you weren’t convinced that your spouse should play a role in your daughter’s life, consider this study in co-dependency. By removing her father from her life, you could be setting your daughter up for a lifetime of co-dependency. Further, you could be setting her up for her own bad relationships, because co-dependent women are more likely to file for divorce on the grounds that they feel they have no voice in a relationship. Co-dependent women have no voice in a relationship because they never learn it during this vital development phase of adolescence.

Children need both mother and father to have a healthy adolescence.

Ultimately, children need both their mom and their dad to have a healthy childhood and adolescence. Both sexes have lessons to teach their kids, and children need both genders as role models during their developmental phases. When you get a divorce, both you and your spouse still need to be active in your children’s lives. Otherwise, your kids may not have the healthy development you’d like to see.

Winehouse Debate Highlights Asset Allocation Difficulties

If you follow the news, you’ve probably heard about Amy Winehouse’s divorce, and the fact that her soon-to-be-ex-husband is requesting $10 million in a divorce settlement. Why? Because he claims that he’s the inspiration behind one of her albums, and is entitled to income from that album and a big chunk of her assets.

This highlights an interesting issue. Blake, the ex-husband, is claiming a chunk of Amy’s assets because he was her muse. He’s not the first person to claim compensation for being a muse, although this is a legal area in which plaintiffs are not often awarded anything. Artists are generally protected when it comes to their sources of inspiration claiming a share of the profits, so this case is interesting from a legal precedent standpoint. If the judge were to award anything to Blake, he’d be setting an unfortunate legal precedent or anyone who has ever been the inspiration for a work of art.

This also highlights the asset allocation difficulties that can come up during a divorce. Blake didn’t write the music or perform, but he argues that he is the reason that Amy wrote the music, and therefore is entitled to a portion of the proceeds. Honestly, it can be difficult to divvy up some marriage assets and income, so it’s not an uncommon problem for divorce lawyers to encounter.

Ultimately, the resolution of the Winehouse-Blake case will be interesting from a legal precedent standpoint. It’s the first time that the question of a Muse has come up from the perspective of a divorce settlement. From an income and shared asset standpoint, Blake might be entitled to some monetary compensation as part of the divorce settlement. However, if he gets that compensation, the terms in which he has couched his demand would theoretically apply to Muse cases, too, so it could set up dangerous legal precedent for other artists and Muses down the road.

See how complicated divorce cases can get? If you’ve got any income or assets to protect in your divorce, hire a knowledgeable attorney, or you could find your spouse trying to claim a big chunk of your profit and assets.

What’s Better for Kids: Sole Custody, or Joint Custody?

Child custody is often at the forefront of any divorce proceedings. Child custody may be an easy question to answer in some divorces, but it may be hotly contested otherwise. Traditionally, courts give preference to awarding custody to the mother. However, that doesn’t mean a father isn’t equally well-suited to care for the kids, or a joint custody arrangement might be ideal. Ultimately, what is better for kids: sole or joint custody?

Joint custody is an ideal arrangement.

Ideally, every divorced family would share custody. Joint custody is the best way for kids to feel that their family unit is somewhat intact, in spite of a divorce. Children in joint-custody situations still get to spend time with both parents, and theoretically have the best of both worlds. However, joint custody also carries a downside, so examine your options fully when you consider joint custody.

On the downside, joint custody means your kids don’t have a stable living situation. Going from one home to another on a regular basis can be upsetting for kids. Additionally, if kids have different routines at different places, they may find it difficult to adjust. Finally, kids may even use a joint custody arrangement against you, by playing one parent against another or by using the living situation as an excuse to make unreasonable demands.

Sole custody may be appropriate in some situations.

While joint custody theoretically gives kids the best of both worlds, and definitely provides both adults with the peace of mind of knowing they’ll be able to see their kids regularly, sole custody may be appropriate in some situations. In the event that one parent works long hours and isn’t at home to care for the kids, granting sole custody to the other parent may be preferable to leaving the kids in the care of babysitters or nannies.

Additionally, frequent travel may make it difficult for a parent to share custody, making sole custody an ideal arrangement. Finally, if one parent is violent or an otherwise inappropriate caregiver, it may be preferable to push for sole custody.

Ultimately, the decision to pursue sole custody shouldn’t be undertaken lightly, and it should be a decision that both parents advocate. If one parent is fighting for sole custody while the other parent argues for joint custody or even sole custody for themselves, the custody battle can become a long, drawn-out issue, traumatizing the kids and delaying a divorce.

How to Rediscover Your Identity Without Going Too Far

A divorce is a trying time. You’re dealing with a lot of emotions about a significant relationship in your life, about your partner and about yourself. When people are married, especially for a long time, they become accustomed to compromise and loose somewhat of their own sense of identity. One of your tasks during a divorce and afterward is to rediscover your sense of identity, and redefine who you want to be without your spouse.

Unfortunately, with all the overwhelming feelings floating around, it’s far too easy to lose your sense of perspective and go too far in your quest to rediscover your identity. Look out for yourself as you go through this vital and reaffirming process.

Don’t behave inappropriately in front of your kids.

First and foremost, don’t behave inappropriately in front of your kids. As you’re dealing with a divorce and all that entails, it may be tempting to badmouth your spouse, drink, neglect your responsibilities and behave like a kid again. Don’t do any of that in front of your kids. If you behave inappropriately in front of your kids, you undermine your authority as a parent, and you also provide a poor example for your children to follow. Don’t forget to remain a parent to your kids while you go through the rediscovery process.

Avoid bringing new partners to meet your kids too soon.

When you start dating after a divorce, you may have a difficult time with your kids. Children may resent the intrusion of a new partner, and have a lot of feelings to resolve regarding a divorce. Be sensitive to your children’s needs. Avoid bringing new partners to meet your kids too soon; give them a reasonable time to mourn the divorce and cope with their feelings.

Beware of behaving inappropriately during a divorce.

Beyond protecting your kids, you should also beware of behaving inappropriately as you’re going through the divorce process. Don’t spend a ton of money going on an exotic trip to a far-away-place, and don’t buy expensive things for the home. Don’t flaunt new partners in front of your spouse and don’t abuse your spouse to your friends. Never destroy property or otherwise damage anything belonging to your spouse, and don’t assault your spouse. Be careful what you do during your divorce, as all of these things can impact your divorce settlement (and some of them could potentially expose you to criminal charges).

Don’t spend outside your means.

Retail therapy is a common way people deal with feelings of loss, and other difficult emotions. However, you must avoid spending outside your means. Keep your new income and living situation in mind as you buy clothes and furniture for your new place, engage in new hobbies or travel. It’s tempting to try to buy happiness, but there isn’t enough money in the world to soothe a divorce, so don’t spend yourself into debt trying.

Pursue interests you’ve missed.

One of the healthiest things you can do to rediscover your identity after a divorce is to pursue interests you’ve missed. Love going to museums, but haven’t been in years? Make it a point to visit a museum you’ve missed. Used to go to concerts all the time? Go listen to some good music. A divorce is a great time to reconnect with the things you used to love before your life became a compromise.

Reconnect with friends, and make new ones.

Finally, reconnect with your friends to help you through your divorce. Old friends can help remind you of who you once were, and new friends can help you develop the burgeoning sense of self that you’re nurturing after a divorce. Your friends are probably glad to spend time with you as you go through this process, and you can meet new friends pursuing new hobbies or even in support groups or meet-up groups for people going through a divorce.