Random Thoughts

This is my first attempt to post by email. Let’s see how it goes.

Ricky

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.

Can Divorce Strengthen Father-Child Bonds?

Family dynamics are different in every situation and household. However, some trends tend to be true in many families, and the strongest of those trends is that the mother traditionally has a stronger bond with kids than the father. While modern households with working moms and stay-at-home-dads are bucking this trend somewhat, it’s still prevalent in many households. Oddly, divorce can actually help to break this trend, and strengthen the father-child bond.

Divorced dads often try harder.

It’s a sad truth that in many family situations, two working parents take their family time for granted. They come home, spend time with the kids, read the paper while eating dinner, and generally expect it to be the same every day. Those parents are so busy living their lives that it never occurs to them things might change, and therefore they take their kids for granted.

Divorce changes that dynamic. When you no longer come home to your kids every night, you begin to value time that you spend with them a lot more. Parents who share custody are more likely to make it a point to spend time with their kids when the kids are around, instead of simply take them for granted as an accessory in a busy household. In many cases, dads who see their kids less often try harder than dads who see their kids every day.

Technology makes it easier for dads to connect with kids.

Kids today use all kinds of social networking technology to stay in touch with friends. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter – all these things are avenues for kids to communicate with one another and stay in touch with each other’s lives. However, dads can also use this technology to stay in touch with kids even when they don’t see them as often. Liberal use of social networking technology makes it possible for dads to stay in touch with kids even when they’re apart for days or weeks at a time, strengthening the father-child bond.

Divorce doesn’t have to spell bad news for your family.

Ultimately, divorce doesn’t have to be a bad thing for your family. If both parents are committed to making their children’s lives good, they can work together to develop appropriate time and custody sharing to enable both parents to be a large part of the kids’ lives. And by taking mom out of the equation sometimes, dad gets an opportunity to bond with the kids one-on-one, and ultimately strengthen the father-child bond. Use divorce as an opportunity to get closer to your kids; not to let them drift away.

In Spite of High Divorce Rates, Marriage Growing Stronger

How about some positive news for a change? I read a New York Times article recently that talked about the fact that marriage is actually growing stronger as an institution. High divorce rates might seem to argue otherwise, but studies conducted by several universities reveal that marriages themselves; the ones that last through the divorce stage; are actually growing stronger.

How is this happening?

People are aligning their expectations of marriage to something different. Marriage has been seen as a disposable institution, and many people have been choosing the route of least resistance to leave a spouse when the going gets tough. However, studies conducted by the University of Washington and the University of North Carolina reveal that spouses who are ‘pretty happy’ with their significant others are far less likely to divorce, in spite of the traditional marital difficulties that have been the causes of a growing divorce rate.

The statistic that many people cite relating to divorce is that half of all marriages end in divorce. What many people don’t realize is that those statistics are based on people who were married in the 70s. People married in the 80s have a significantly lower chance of divorcing when the marriage lasts for 10 years, and people married in the 90s have an even lower divorce rate.

This reveals some trends about marriage and divorce that can spell good news for your relationship, or for future relationships. The majority of marriages that break up don’t last very long, so if your marriage lasts for more than 10 years, you’ve got a good chance of making it last a lifetime. Likewise, more people are waiting to get married until they’re ‘sure’ or ‘committed’ to a relationship. As a result of so many people directly impacted by divorce, people are getting more careful about marrying in general, and are more committed to their marriages.

Ultimately, this spells good news for the people who can make their marriages last. If you can survive long enough to have kids together, or work toward goals together, you’ve got more invested in a relationship, and are more likely to work to make the marriage last. With more and more marriages standing the test of time, it’s good news for people who are still committed to marriage as an institution and their marriages specifically.

Recession Makes Changes to Divorce Process

While it comes as no surprise that the recession is causing difficulties in practically every area of life right now, you may not realize how much the recession is influencing divorce proceedings. People use the recession as an excuse to cut back on costs, but be careful; cutting back on your divorce can cost you far more in the long run.

More people are choosing to separate instead of divorce.

One of the biggest changes in divorce right now is that more and more people are choosing to separate instead of divorce. People are trying to save money on court fees and attorney fees, and choosing to live apart without going through the legal process of divorcing. This may be an acceptable solution to some people, but keep in mind that your spouse still has certain legal rights as long as he or she is your spouse.

If you want to terminate those legal rights, a separation doesn’t cut it; you need a divorce. Be mindful of things like account access, access to creditors and debtors, joint accounts and tax liabilities. Your spouse may have access to all of these things as long as you’re still married, and you may have responsibilities and duties related to these issues until the moment you’re divorced.

Especially in a poor economy, you must pay attention to a divorce settlement.

Even in an amicable divorce, you’ve got to pay attention to your divorce settlement in a poor economy. You might not want to do it, but it’s in your best interests to know where every penny is going, and ensure you and your spouse get an equitable split. Don’t lose out on what you deserve because you’re unwilling to push for your rights. Insist on what’s yours by right, because you never know if you’ll get laid off the day after your settlement and be wishing you’d pushed for more.

Make sure you get what you need for child support.

Child support can be a slippery slope, and it’s typically a point of contention in a divorce settlement. Especially with the economy in such bad shape, it’s vital that you get what you need for child support. Be realistic about your needs; don’t underestimate what you’ll require to get by, and then get stuck struggling to make up for the shortfall. Your children should not suffer because of your divorce, and a poorly-negotiated child support agreement can be a bad thing for the sake of your kids.

Beware of taxes and hidden fees when you’re filing a divorce settlement.

A divorce settlement isn’t just about who gets the money or the furniture; it’s also about how you’re splitting debt and liabilities. Don’t forget about your debt and potential tax liabilities when you’re negotiating a divorce settlement. Likewise, be careful about money in a retirement account; if you withdraw funds early, even to transfer to a separate account, you may face tax penalties. Make sure you consult a professional to avoid hidden fees and ensure your finances are protected both at the time of your divorce and also down the line.

Don’t cut back on legal representation to save money.

It’s tempting to opt not to use a divorce lawyer when you’re trying to save money and get a divorce cheap. Think twice before you cut back on legal representation, though, because what you think you’re saving in fees could be more than accounted-for in flaws in your divorce settlement. You need an advocate to look out for your interests – especially in a down economy. If you don’t use proper legal representation, you may find yourself owing thousands of dollars in debt you didn’t think about, and have no provision in the settlement to handle it.

Five Questions to Ask Before You File for Divorce

Even in cases where divorce is the answer to irreconcilable relationship difficulties, it’s still a difficult option to pursue and may require a lot of sacrifice. If you’re thinking about a divorce, ask yourself these questions before you make things official and file the paperwork.

  1. Is there any way to resolve your difficulties with your spouse?

Divorces arise because of irreconcilable differences between a couple. Whether it’s an affair or one-too-many arguments over doing the dishes, these differences can seem insurmountable, and it typically seems easier to quit than to fix the issues.

Before you file any paperwork, ask yourself if there’s any way to resolve your difficulties. Are you willing to consider marriage or individual counseling? Are there any changes your spouse can make to address your issues? Make sure you explore all avenues of reconciliation before you decide on a divorce.

  1. Are you prepared to deal with the financial reality of a divorce?

The financial reality of a divorce often catches people by surprise. Before you file any paperwork, think about your income, your financial situation and your expenses. How is a divorce going to impact your life financially? Can you get by on a lower income and with a different lifestyle? If you’re not ready for some big lifestyle changes, you may want to reconsider a divorce.

  1. How will divorce affect the kids, and is that ok?

Children always make any divorce decision far more difficult. How will a divorce affect your kids, and are you ok with that? Some parents feel guilty over a divorce, and have a difficult time leading a balanced lifestyle with their kids. Other parents may be concerned about joint custody, or how each parent is going to interact with the kids. Make sure you consider all of these issues and find acceptable answers before you file for a divorce.

  1. Where will you, your kids and your spouse live?

Living arrangements change in a divorce. You may not be able to afford your home on your salary, or your spouse may be unwilling to move out. Where will you, your spouse and your kids live? With whom will the kids stay? Who moves out and who stays? How long until you sell the house? Finding acceptable living arrangements before you file any paperwork can help remove a lot of the pressure of the actual divorce process.

  1. Who can help you through the process?

Even if you’re the one initiating the divorce, a divorce is an extremely big step. You’ll have a lot of emotional upheaval and changes to your life when you file a divorce. You need a support network in place before you file the paperwork. Will your friends help you through the process? Is your family supportive? Do you need to find a support group for divorcees? Make sure you have a support system in place before you file any divorce paperwork.

New Book Helps People Cope with Divorce

Coping with divorce is a loaded prospect. Divorce brings up a lot of emotional and financial baggage. It can feel overwhelming, at times. People going through a divorce experience everything from alienation to failure, and may have trouble getting on firm footing again with friendships, managing life and dealing with emotions.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by a divorce, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. With the divorce rate at almost 50%, lots of people are dealing with similar fears and worries. Getting out into the dating world again after years of marriage can be an intimidating prospect, and people often underestimate the difficulty of getting out there again. Fortunately, other people are experiencing similar things, so you’ve got resources to help you cope.

Bonnie Broughton wrote a new book recently called “Single Again After All These Years.” It deals with her feelings and fears that she experienced as a result of being divorce after 27 years of marriage. Bonnie spoke to other newly divorced individuals to compile the book, and presents a synthesis of their combined experiences to help newly divorced people.

In the book, Bonnie examines the feelings of alienation, discrimination and dislocation that she experiences after her divorce from her long-time husband. Bonnie feels awkward among her married friends, and in social situations that she used to attend with her husband. When she begins speaking with other divorced individuals, Bonnie is happy to discover that she’s not alone, and that these feelings are common. Together, Bonnie and her newfound friends look for ways to cope with these feelings and begin to enjoy the new life of being single.

More and more people over the age of 50 are getting newly divorced after a long marriage. Many couples find that they have nothing in common, and split after raising a family together. The book “Single Again After All These Years” is meant for people in this situation, to help them cope and create a new life out of the ashes of a divorce. If you feel like you’re alone, check out Bonnie’s new book and you may find yourself feeling differently.

Marriage is a Minority Institution

Divorce rates are high. More and more people aren’t getting married in the first place. For the first time in American history, marriage is a minority institution. Of the 307 million people in the United States, married couples are now in charge of less than half of the nation’s households. The rest of the households are composed of single individuals, or unrelated people living together.

This is a groundbreaking and somewhat sad moment in American history. In spite of government initiatives supporting marriage, such as tax breaks and other legal benefits of marriage, more and more households are headed by unmarried individuals. Marriage is now a minority institution. Why and how has this happened?

Divorce makes marriage a tough choice.

With the divorce rate at approximately 50%, more and more people are opting not to get married at all. Divorce can be an expensive prospect, and it’s much more difficult to split up if one must divorce to accomplish this. Divorce can get ugly and unpleasant, and it signals an end to a relationship with incontrovertible finality. Relationships are much easier to dissolve, and more and more people are choosing to go this route when cohabiting.

Economically speaking, marriage may not be as advantageous as it once was.

Getting married was once the key to economic prosperity. Splitting the bills, getting tax benefits and moving into bigger and better living spaces made marriage a highly desirable economic situation. Marriage represented economic security. Unfortunately, marriage today doesn’t necessarily offer the same stability and plenty it once did. With more and more people burdened individually by student loan debts, car loans and other consumer debt, it’s more difficult than it used to be to combine households. The economic reality of today’s society makes marriage a less-obvious choice.

Social stigma against unmarried couples has dissipated.

It used to be that you had to be married to live together. There were no two ways around it. If you were living together and you weren’t married, you’d be shunned by respectable folks and possibly disowned by your parents. Today, it’s considered socially acceptable in many circles for couples to live together without being married. Parents still dream of children’s weddings, but children are in no hurry to rush to the once-inevitable conclusion. In short, things have changed.

As the family unit changes, so does divorce.

Being a divorcee no longer carries the social stigma that it once did, either. Nowadays, with the divorce rate so high, people give each other an understanding smile and commiserate over their troubles when the topic of divorce comes up. If you’re considering a divorce, you’re not alone. The changing face of the family unit makes divorce easier, and there are more and more support groups and resources available to help you cope with divorce. While the changing face of family may be a sad moment for American society, it brings benefits to the newly divorced.