Divorce Roundup – Q&A With Some of the Top Divorce Experts
We recently reached out to divorce experts to gather advice on nine different divorce related questions. Each expert was asked to answer at least five of the provided questions to participate in this divorce roundup. The answers provide a comprehensive resource for anyone seeking advice during a divorce.
Meet the Divorce Experts
Steven Miller is a Florida divorce attorney who provides representation throughout the state of Florida. He has worked for over 30 years to perfect the legal divorce process with his clients, and offers online uncontested divorce options.
Sage Cohen is an author, life coach, entrepreneur, and single mom. She writes about her experience on her blog, Radical Divorce.
Karen McMahon is a divorce coach that founded Journey Beyond Divorce after experiencing a tumultuous divorce.
DSO is a divorced father that shares his experiences on Dad Starting Over through blogs and podcasts.
Kineatra Jones is a lifestyle blogger at Naturally Nex that has openly shared her divorce experience in between sharing entertainment and beauty tips.
Rita Roberts is a intuitive reiki master, spiritual life coach, and author that provides advice on her blog Reiki Rita.
Rosalind Sedacca is the voice of Child-Centered Divorce providing a resource for families separating with children.
Amy Botwinick is a life coach, divorce coach, published author and blogger at Women Moving On.
What is the best advice you have personally received regarding dealing with a divorce?
Steven Miller – Make sure that you hire a lawyer that knows the process, meaning that the lawyer understands the needs of the client. A clear goal must be established based upon the facts and the law. A client should not pay for unnecessary legal services. The majority of time spent by some lawyers on a case is unnecessary, and it does nothing to facilitate resolution. It is done only in order to bill and generate money for lawyer.
Sage Cohen – I was advised that using a lawyer would be preferable to mediation, because mediation would likely perpetuate the dynamic created in marriage. A lawyer would help disrupt the pattern and establish a new one.
DSO – It’s over. Pretend she’s dead. Move on. Get rid of all reminders of her. Her family is dead, too. It’s time for a new you and you can’t do that with any reminders of her around. You’re addicted to her presence. You need to quit her, cold turkey.
Kineatra Jones – The best advice I’ve received regarding dealing with my divorce is that self-love and positive affirmations will get you through the hard time. Just because one chapter of your life didn’t go as planned doesn’t mean that the whole book will be in disarray.
Rita Roberts – Try to avoid it if you can! Divorce is not for “sissies” and requires a lot of energy to stay on top of it. Otherwise, it can mortally, emotionally, and financially ruin you!
Rosalind Sedacca – It takes two people to create a divorce. By stopping to understand and uncover the part you played in the dissolution of the marriage you will be better able to move forward more effectively and successfully. Use the divorce as a stepping-stone to greater personal growth and empowerment. Avoid playing the victim. Take responsibility for your own behavior and decisions, and you will discover a valuable lesson in the divorce that can transform your life for the better.
Have you noticed any common situations among couples you have helped through a divorce that might be warning signs for couples to look out for?
Steven Miller – Yes, a good marriage is like a good book. It will have a beginning, a middle and an end. Most couple I see, throw the book away before getting to the middle, and they rarely reach the end. Though it is so cliché’, communication is the key. Communication takes many forms. One of the things people fail to recognize is that sex, or lack thereof, is critical to the survival of marriage. People should have sex often. It opens up all other lines of communication.
Karen McMahon – Often communication has either always been a weak spot or has deteriorated due to stress and tension. The other common pattern is that the couple has gone round and round the same problem without ever finding a solution. The problem arises, causes conflict, gets swept under the carpet seemingly disappearing until it rears up again. Keep the focus on your part of the pattern and be solution oriented rather than problem focused. Thereby making suggestions for a change in the pattern.
Sage Cohen – When two people have radically different stories about the events or dynamics of their relationship, this is an early warning sign that the marriage may be in danger. When people stop seeking understanding and instead blame, hold each other in contempt, and stand on opposite sides of the fence, they tend to move farther and farther away from each other.
Kineatra Jones – Yes, when non-communication (cold shoulder) from your spouse occurs then something is wrong. Also another “warning” sign would be if your spouse becomes distant and ends up pushing you away with any chance they get. When couples who have been married for years are asked what keeps them married typically their reply is communication.
Rita Roberts – A common situation I’ve noticed that could be considered a “warning sign” of divorce is an increase in negativity from one or both of the partners. Anger, resentment, sarcasm often results as a lack of love and an increase in fear which results in a distancing of the heart. If the person does not address their inner unhappiness, it often leads to depression or anxiety which can eventually lead to a breakdown of the marriage.
Any advice for older couples that are divorcing after many years together? What would you recommend they should do to establish a new life after many years, or even decades, living with their partner?
Steven Miller – Jumping back into the single world after a lengthy marriage might not be the easiest thing to do. That said, once it happens, and once word gets out, the most important thing is to protect yourself from STDs as the rate of STD’s among older/divorced people has skyrocketed. Apparently, lots of unprotected older folks sex going on. Exercise is key to your new life. Can’t do anything at all if the ticker craps out – no sex, no golf, no bowling and usually a quick death.
Karen McMahon – It is vital that someone divorcing after a long term marriage honor the need to grieve and give themselves the time and space to feel. Many people get busy, stiff, numb or otherwise avoid these painful feelings. Also joining a support group so you can verbally process all you are feeling will help with the healing process. The other practice that is very helpful is to rekindle interests that you put aside due to beginning a family or your spouse not having the same interest. Take an adult education course, find a book club, volunteer at the local ASPCA or soup kitchen. The more engaged in the world you are, the faster you will find your way to your new norm.
Sage Cohen – I invite people to look at divorce as a rebirth. It can be that messy, profound, and life-altering. The person you were in marriage is gone, and now you are literally becoming someone new, outside of the previous context. This can be hugely disorienting and difficult. The very first thing I help people do is remember what makes them happy, and start developing practices that re-establish their pilot light of self and joy.
DSO – If you are incapable of conceiving of a life without your spouse, then you haven’t done enough to build your SELF all these years you had with her. Therapy can help a great deal. Also, traveling alone and making new friends. If possible, get away from your current surroundings. If you can completely start over someplace new, even better.
Amy Botwinick – Be brave and step out of your comfort zone. You will need to create a new network of friends that are single and schedule to have an active healthy adult life. Be careful to not take the easy way out and curl up on the couch with ice cream and tv every night. With the internet it’s easy and exciting to find social singles activities for older age groups to find new friends to enjoy life with. It’s not just about dating, it’s about enjoying the rest of your life. Go into this with a sense of adventure and shake things up. Feel the fear but do it anyway…just get out there!
What is the first thing you would recommend if someone contacts you for divorce advice if a child custody battle is going to play a role in the divorce?
Steven Miller – Document everything. Keep a calendar of when your spouse had the kid(s), when they were picked up and dropped off. Keep a record of money the other spouse provided for support. Make notes about everything you think is important for a lawyer to know – most of it won’t be relevant but that is for lawyer to decide. I instruct my clients to tell me anything and everything they think is important. We boil it down to the most important items if a trial/hearing is necessary.
Karen McMahon – Keep your children’s needs front and center. Parenting time is not a competition, when the children’s best interest is put first, you also begin negotiating from agreement, ie. we both want the kids to emerge whole and unscathed. Also watch your communication. Do not criticize the other parent as your child is made from half him or her and will be hurt by your words. Make sure that you are not within earshot when talking about your STBX with someone on the phone. Finally, stay calm and remember that they will be grown before you know it and custody is temporary but the effects of a hostile divorce can be permanent.
DSO – Listen to your attorney, not to people who are being emotional and want to see you exact revenge on your ex. Emotion doesn’t have a role in this. Custody and financial disputes are a matter of the law. Not what “SHOULD” be, in your eyes or the eyes of your loved ones. The results could be unfair in the end, but you keep fighting with your attorney and within the parameters of the law.
Rita Roberts – I would recommend NOT using their child(ren) as live ammunition as a way of “punishing” their ex-spouse.
Rosalind Sedacca – Watch the film, “Talk To Strangers.” This 25-minute dramatic film is in use throughout the U.S. and abroad to dissuade parents from pursuing unnecessary custody and other child-related litigation. It is accompanied by a Guide to help separating parents co-parent productively. I highly recommend this film as does Alan Dershowitz and other divorce experts who care about post-divorce family dynamics. More about the film can be found on my website.
Amy Botwinick – Consider what is in the best interest of your children. To keep in mind that in the end the real victims of divorce are the children. They didn’t ask for it and they don’t want it so both parents need to suck it up and think about the best solution that would work to protect them and help them keep their childhood. Keep your adult problems and issues to yourself and find a good therapist. Never ever talk badly about the other parent because your children are made of half of each of you. When you insult their parent you are insulting your children. Get a grip and be the adult and do what works best for your children’s geographic and emotional health.
For those that are planning to seek alimony or child custody have you noticed any common situations in the past where it was denied that people can use to learn from?
Steven Miller – Sure, make sure you have a competent lawyer that talks to you in plain English. In most every case, I can tell you the result, within reasonable certainty, on the 1st day I meet with a client – alimony, child custody, division of property. It is not rocket science and clients need to know the reality of life. My clients understand the law as applied to their case, and they have reasonable expectations/goals based upon our discussions. Bad lawyering (i.e., setting up unreasonable client expectations) is recipe for disaster every time.
Karen McMahon – The more volatile your reactions, the worse things will play out for you. Even if your STBX is difficult or being unfair, showing up with a calm clear head and negotiating from reason rather than reaction will be as important as the arguments you put forth. There is only one thing you can control during the divorce process and that is your behavior. Those who show restraint and are responsive rather than reactive are received better by their attorney, the court and even their STBX.
What advice do you have for parents that have kids and want to make sure that the divorce goes as smoothly as possible for the children?
Steven Miller – Leave them out of it. Younger children have no business being involved with the family law process. Yes, at some point they will need to be talked to about mommy and daddy not living together, etc. but that’s it. Older children (10+) must be kept in the loop to some extent. Why, because they hear and see everything. Not keeping them informed (to the extent necessary depending on age/ability/awareness) will only make a bad situation worse. Older children (13+) will be irate and in all likelihood resistant to being compelled to follow a formal parenting plan. To some extent, those children must be “left alone.” Yes, parents must encourage a relationship with the other parent but a teenager does not want to be told what to do, especially after their world has been turned upside down. Keep an eye on the 13-16 year old children as they will be hit hardest by the divorce.
Sage Cohen – Having a peaceful and collaborative dynamic with your co-parent is key to making this transition easier on your children. Goodwill between parents ripples out through the family and assures kids that they are loved and safe. Also, seeing their parents take responsibility for their own well being (with diet, exercise, and fun) is critical for their ability to nurture their own happiness and resilience through difficult times.
DSO – Rise above any temptations to make petty remarks about your ex to your children. Don’t call her “your mom”… call her “mom”. Keep things as smooth as possible. Security is everything to children, and you and your ex just threw a major bomb into their world. They’ll never be the same again, but they don’t have to be ruined by it… unless you want them to be. Also, get them somebody else to talk to, like a therapist.
Rita Roberts – I would advise both parents to work on their personal self-healing in order to release all negative emotions such as anger, resentment, guilt, etc. It has been my own personal experience that children of divorced homes grow up happy and well-adjusted when BOTH parents are happy and avoid spilling their negativity onto the child.
Rosalind Sedacca – Ask yourself the simple question, “Do I love my Kids more than I hate, or dislike my Ex?” That will guide you to avoiding serious mistakes we too often see when parents are at odds with one another and decide to hurt the other parent by using the kids as pawns. In my book, How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce? I provide 6 key messages every child needs to hear. These also help parents stay on the same page and not battle with one another at the expense of the kids. Crucial advice for parents: Never fight around the children. Never bad-mouth one another to your children. Never use your kids as spies about their other parent. Never use your kids to relay messages to your co-parent. Never try to alienate the kids from their other parent regardless of what you think of your ex.
For new couples that are planning to get married, what is the best advice you would give them regarding finances in their relationship?
Steven Miller – Good question. In this day and age, with a high divorce rate, combine money to pay for joint things/major purchase – house, cars, etc. Make sure you have a clear understanding of premarital debt including student loans. Make sure to have clear picture of your future spouse’s income – do not take your spouses word for it – show me the money. I think that young women should be financially independent before getting married.
DSO – She has her money. You have yours. Separate accounts. You split the costs of things for the home and kids. Oh, one of you doesn’t make your own money? Ha! Good luck.
Kineatra Jones – Finances is one of the #1 reasons for divorce, so my suggestion would be to get a professional to help manage your budget. Come up with a plan that will fit your family’s budget perfectly. Most importantly COMMUNICATE to your partner if something goes wrong with your end of the budget.
Rita Roberts – Money is another form of energy and a very necessary tool to ensure the survival of a healthy marriage. However, society has placed an enormous amount of fear around money and, as a result, many people lose energy worrying about it, working for it, holding on it, etc. which causes them to live unbalanced, unhappy lives. My best advice to them is to keep the need to earn and spend money in balance and NEVER make it a priority over the love you feel for each other. Money is replaceable — a happy marriage is not!
Amy Botwinick – Having this conversation can help a marriage have a fighting chance. It can also uncover a disconnect for couples on their philosophy of money and spending that might be too different and they realize marriage might not be the answer. Difficult and important conversation to have but can help you to be smart or avoid a disaster. Again, not the most romantic conversation but oh sooooo important to discuss and iron out before the wedding day…or not.
Do you believe that a prenuptial agreement should be used for every marriage? What about for couples that do not believe they have enough money or assets to worry about?
Steven Miller – Well, this is tough one for sure. Look, divorce rate is ridiculous. So, I think a prenup is a good idea to protect certain things. For instance, a young single woman starting a new career where she has pensions, should protect herself against having to give a portion to a potential future EX husband. It’s not a pleasant conversation, but one I think is necessary in this day and age.
DSO – Yes. Always. Regardless of the circumstances. It makes zero sense not to.
Kineatra Jones – I don’t believe prenuptial agreements should be used for every marriage. Especially if couples do not have enough money to support an agreement of the such. In cases where a couple or an individual may have more assets than the other, I think a talk about a prenuptial agreement could be beneficial.
Rosalind Sedacca – Yes, a prenuptial agreement can be designed to protect both you and your spouse if worded in a win-win manner. It’s especially useful when you don’t know what the future will bring regarding your career and assets, or when you bring different levels of assets to the marriage. Avoid prenups that appear punitive as opposed to protective for both spouses.
Amy Botwinick – YES!!!! It’s about respecting one another. Laying all the cards out on the table to address the realities of what marriage will look like and how to have a low conflict divorce if things don’t go as planned can save a lot of heartache and money. What I like most about this is that the soon to be married couple are forced to have very important discussions about money before they tie the knot to see if they are on the same page. While it’s not romantic, it can create a different kind of closeness if handled with love and respect. Nobody needs to live through a train wreck divorce that can devastate so many different areas in life when you are faced with having to begin again.
How often do you recommend that a couple try to work through their issues if they have already started to explore divorce options?
Steven Miller – I ask every potential client about resolution of issues as I am not a fan of divorce – the breakdown of family unit is going to ruin this country. People are quick to divorce without really trying to save their relationship.
Karen McMahon – Being in a rocky marriage is the BEST place to grow personally in a relationship. Rather than focusing on your spouse’s part in the dissolution of the marriage, focus on your part and begin to make changes in the way you think and behave. Take the focus off them and onto you, noticing your shortcomings, assumptions, judgement, unforgiveness…knee jerk reactions. While the marriage may or may not mend, you will definitely emerge healthier and more capable of engaging in healthy relationships. If you partner does the same, you may enjoy a second honeymoon that blows away the first due to the depth of love, forgiveness and understanding. Having said this, it takes TWO to reconcile.
Sage Cohen – First, I encourage couples to get clear about what they want. If they have a mutual desire to work through their issues, then a breakdown can be a powerful portal through which they can create breakthroughs that dramatically improve their relationship. However, if both people have lost hope, trust, or respect and no longer want to work to repair and re-establish these relationship anchors, then it’s far more likely that they’ll pursue divorce options.
DSO – Well, every situation is different, of course. It would depend on the circumstances. Most men I work with are dealing with infidelity… so I tell them it is over 100% of the time.
Kineatra Jones – I think working through issues is a part of marriage; therefore, couples should plan in the engagement stage to work their issues before the issues arise. Also, if issues come up I suggest getting a middle man or a counselor to neutralize the issues and come to an agreement. Both parties must be willing to keep exploring options to fix whatever issues that may arise.
Rita Roberts – If couples still have loving feelings towards each other and mutual trust is still in tact, they should continue to work through their issues to keep the family foundation.
Rosalind Sedacca – I advise seeking out the help of a therapist or Divorce Coach before taking action on divorce. If both parties desire to make the marriage work, this is an excellent opportunity to address vital issues and implement new agreements on how to approach the relationship. If one party is emotionally out the door, it is very difficult to convince them to work on the marriage through counseling or coaching. But remember, unresolved personal issues will follow you into new relationships. So taking the time to learn skills on better communication, managing stress and anger, fighting fairly, etc. can be a life-saving decision that will lead to greater satisfaction and happiness in your life for decades to come.
Amy Botwinick – If a marriage can be saved I encourage couples to explore what those options might look like. As long as there is no abuse and both parties are willing to try without holding back I think every marriage deserves a fighting chance. It’s important for couples to understand the legal, financial, and emotional challenges especially if children are involved before they move toward divorce. Sometimes a good reality check can make a marriage look better than the couples thought. Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side, sometimes it’s greener in your own backyard. There is power in taking a pause before moving forward.
Disclaimer : The views and opinions of the participating experts are not those of Steven Miller, and should not be considered an endorsement.