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Plan for Divorce: a Five-part Series

Posted by Brooke Benson on
Plan for Divorce: a Five-part Series

Wedding planning guides abound.  Visit nearly any supermarket check stand to find publications showcasing flowers, venues, gowns, rings, music, catering, and every other detail imaginable.  Brides- and grooms-to-be expect to plan every detail of their special day down to the buttons and cufflinks!  Everyone witnessing the union vows to support the happy couple in their journey together and off they go!

While no one expects or advocates for a fork in the road, practically speaking, we know it happens.  In the United States as many as 60% of first marriages end in divorce.  The percentage is even higher for second and third marriages.

As a Certified Divorce Lending Professional (CDLP™), I work with lots of homeowners experiencing divorce.  I frequently hear “I don’t even know where to start” or “I don’t really care – just make this end!”  Frustrated, emotional people have so many questions about child custody and visitation, financial matters, housing, domestic violence, employment concerns, insurance, estate plans … and the list goes on and on.

So, what’s the plan?

Many family lawyers have developed policies and procedures to guide clients through the legal process of divorce.

In this five-part series, I will use the word “divorce” to represent a breakup – whether the couple is same sex or opposite sex and whether the couple legally married or not.

While nearly all family lawyers I work with are dedicated, compassionate legal advisors, their job is to legally dissolve a marriage or dismantle a partnership such that future claims/suits are not worth pursuing. Use the family lawyer for the most important parts of his/her job and consult with others for the non-legal concerns.

This “plan stimulator” – while not comprehensive by any means – is designed to help the reader work on his or her own individual needs/goals, flesh out initial actions, and gather information.  In the fog of unmet expectations and hurt feelings, it is possible to build a framework for the future.

In my experience, these are the most common considerations in a divorce:

  • Emotional wellbeing: Yours
  • Children of the marriage
  • Financial
  • Additional
  • How to Get It Done

For each of these areas, the corresponding article will explore some typical concerns, open-ended suggestions, and service providers who specialize in this area.

Emotional Wellbeing: Yours

Put the Oxygen Mask on Yourself First, Then Assist Others

While this series is meant to be a practical, roll-up-your sleeves guide to planning, there is a reason Emotional Wellbeing is the first topic: you should be intentional about it.  When you run yourself down and try to solve problems while you’re exhausted, you’re not in top negotiating form.  Of course you want to advocate for your children, if you have them, but addressing your own needs should be considered Step 1 in positive parenting.

Be on the lookout for:

  • Sleep problems – studies have shown loneliness is worse at night. Deliberately plan your rest and seek help if you need it.  There are homeopathic alternatives to medication and often just adhering to a ritual helps.  Exercising brings multiple benefits with “ability to sleep” among them.
  • Substance abuse – self-medicating might help for a short time but it can turn into a long-term problem. If children are involved in the divorce, be mindful of what they observe.
  • Nervous energy – the uncertainties in divorce seem to beget the nervous energy that can lead to sleeplessness and substance abuse. Think back to what has worked in prior times of transition.  Make time for exercise, meditation, pastoral counseling and time with friends.
  • The tendency to overshare – while it’s important to get a “divorce team” together (more on that below), avoid broadcasting on only one channel. Even well meaning people don’t know what to say … and might not want to hear about it anyway.

Give some thought to:

  • Deliberately planning your free time: schedule a walk, write in a journal (this can be enormously helpful for charting your progress), set aside an hour a day for hobbies or activities you enjoy.
  • Joining an informal group in your community related to your interests. If it’s outdoors (cycling, hiking, bird-watching) even better!
  • Watching your language.  Just this morning I had a client say his refinance will depend on what his ex will “let him do.”  Because he and I are also friends, I pointed out she’s not the boss of him!  This man has very experienced legal counsel and the ex will not be calling the shots.  Speak of your own actions with intention and don’t surrender the driver’s seat to anyone other than your attorney.  If your ex demeans you, ask yourself if those descriptors actually fit … and maybe also who gave that person the podium.
  • Taking a break from social media. It’s not reality and I have read very upsetting stories about posts or comments being used against a person experiencing divorce.  If you do post something or make a comment related to your divorce, read it aloud and see how it would sound in front of a jury or church audience.  If you don’t feel fantastic about how those audiences would react, restrain yourself.
  • Educating yourself on the “High Conflict Individual.”  Even if you and your partner are reasonably amicable, the data on this personality is readily available and might help you negotiate with what you feel is unreasonable behavior.  Major or minor, divorce is full of conflict and information about the HCI can reassure you you’re not alone.
  • Identifying a “support group” or “divorce team” and check in with them on a regular basis. These could be paid professionals, your college friend out of state, a neighbor.  Be mindful if your divorce is super-contentious and could wind up in court … but allow people who care about you to check in and do small, helpful chores for you.  I have noticed people who have these groups or teams are not as likely to overshare (see above) and a little venting to a trusted friend might help resist the urge to post a rant online.

Whether or not you discipline yourself to write in a journal every day, here are some questions to ask yourself in this process:

What would help me “feel like myself” in this process? 

Service providers in this area include qualified Divorce Coaches/Consultants, Marriage and Family Counselors, and trusted religious advisors.  This may be a good time to consider “have to haves” in the divorce process – even while keeping in mind that divorce is a negotiation.  Touch base with a long-time friend who knows the real you and revisit yourself.  I, personally, found this gave me a reality check and a lot of positive energy.

What individual goals do I have for myself (Epic trip? Write a book?  Improve my parenting skills? Retire at a certain age?) and how can the break-up plan keep them in mind?

Now is a great time to work them into your future factoring in your children, your worklife, your physical location (whether it stays the same or changes).  Mental health professionals can help organize your thoughts.

Do I want to further my education with the idea of advancing in your industry or changing industries?

Continuing education opportunities abound!  School districts, community colleges and online university programs provide connection and education on thousands of topics.  Employers often sponsor training programs or professional development.  Devote some nervous energy to exploring those options.  Career counselors – independent or staff members of a continuing education organization – often provide aptitude and personality testing to help identify strengths and weaknesses.

It’s 1,000 times easier to say than do but consider whether the end of a relationship might serve as a “wake-up call” to put the past in the past and make some positive changes going forward.

Brooke Benson, MA, CDLP, works with homeowners experiencing divorce and occasionally shares her personal experience with the subject matter.  This is Part I in a five-part series called “Plan for Divorce.”  Watch this space for Part II: Children of the Marriage.  To receive a copy of Parts II-V, contact Brooke at brookebensonlender@gmail.com

Don’t miss out on the exciting premiere of “Plan for Divorce” hosted by Brooke Benson, airing on June 14th on voiceamerica.com. Be sure to tune in for valuable insights and strategies on navigating divorce.

Who Is My Dependent?

Posted by rstapholz on
Who Is My Dependent?

Who to claim as a dependent on a tax return can range from being simple to very complicated. The IRS has tests that must be met for you to claim an individual as a dependent. For married parents claiming their children, it can be relatively simple. However, other situations, such as divorced parents, single parents, living with a grandparent, and other unusual circumstances can cloud who is eligible to claim a child. You must have the correct filing status. What do I do if the electronic filing is rejected because my dependent was claimed on another tax return? What tax credits can I claim for my dependents? Can I claim my child going to college? This episode will help to clear up the waters and answer these questions.

How to Prepare for Divorce: Divorce Support Guide

Posted by rstapholz on
How to Prepare for Divorce: Divorce Support Guide

Are you going through a divorce? Here is a good guide to help you in the process.

1. Do not Believe What You Might Have Heard

There is a good chance you have heard a lot from friends, family, co-workers, and tv characters. This “legal advice” should be written down then shredded. You should not put any value in such advice. Lawyers are used to hearing people saying “my friend got X amount of money in spousal support, why am I not getting the same” or “my co-worker got sole custody of his children, why can I also get it?”

It is not a good idea to let those who have been through separation or divorce to set your expectations when it comes to legal entitlements and obligations. You will often end up disappointed.

Each case has to be analyzed individually by looking at the unique set of circumstances: the assets and liabilities of this particular couple, their income, and the interest of the children. Cookie-cutter or prototype approaches don’t apply in family law matters. You cannot relate two different cases because the outcome might not be the same. You can still listen to and value what it is they are saying because you can know how they felt about the process.

2. Making Sure You Have a Reliable Support Network

During the divorce process, you are going to need a lot of support; both emotionally and financially. Emotional support can be in the form of counseling, a solid core family and friends you share with, or even an online support group. There are times when you might start feeling like the walls are closing in. When you have the right people in your corner who are ready to listen to you during those bad days, then you can expect to have an easier time. It is advisable to look at any form of emotional self-treatment because it is how you are going to find your happy place. Visit clarityclinic.com for support.

It can be a challenge to deal with the legal fees involved with Divorce and Family Law matters. Make sure you choose a lawyer who is within your financial means. Make sure you have a plan for financing their fees, upfront payments, and other related costs.

3. Choosing the Right Lawyer

The lawyer you are going to work with needs to be someone who is experienced and ready to help you with your case. Take the time to choose the right lawyer because he/she is going to have a big impact on your case. Different lawyers have different levels of experience and also different styles. If you feel like your spouse is going to use the “scorched earth” approach, then it might be better to look for a lawyer experienced in cases involving high conflict matters. A lawyer with a more collaborative style is a great option when you have a good relationship that you want to salvage and cultivate even after you have divorced.

4. Distinguishing Battles from the War

There are Divorce and Family Law issues that might come with a high degree of urgency and have to be resolved in the shortest time possible. There are issues that can be considered as “low-hanging fruit” because the fair and just outcome can be seen by all. It is important to resolve them upfront, even if it is on a temporary basis, as you wait for the final decision.

Talk with your lawyer about your priorities and triage the issues. The genuine impasse is going to reveal itself with merit, urgency, and priority assigned to your case. The remaining part will be about solving these issues.

5. Looking at Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

The court is not the only option for solving issues. The best way to look at it is as a final resort. There are many models of ADR out there and they are becoming more and more popular. This is usually referred to as “mediation”, and the forum is going to provide amicable, economical, and emotionally healthier ways for both parties to resolve any issues they might be having.

There are no limits on where ADR can be applied. It is going to be a good option whether it involves child/spousal support, parenting matters, or property division.

Court Order Says My Ex Claims the Children

Posted by presspass on
Court Order Says My Ex Claims the Children

Many tax preparers misinterpret court orders and tax law when preparing tax returns. Since 2009 the IRS has taken the position that a county court cannot tell the IRS how exemptions are claimed on a tax return. Attaching copies of a divorce decree are not sufficient to claim the exemption on a child who does not live with you.

Basicly, the parent who has the child in their home for more than half the year and provides 50% or more of the support (this does not include child support) is the parent that can claim the child as a dependent. The dependency can be released to the noncustodial parent if the custodial parent signs form 8332. The noncustodial parent must then attached form 8332 to his tax return. If you are a noncustodial parent, make sure to have the custodial parent sign 8332. If form 8332 is not attached to your return, it can cost you later.

One area where I commonly see mistakes for custodial parents is with the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The noncustodial parent is not eligible to claim the EITC, since their child did not reside in their home 6 months or more. Even if the child dependency is released to the noncustodial parent, the custodial parent is eligible to claim EITC if they have earned income. The custodial parent may even be eligible to claim head-of-household filing status. In cases where the parents have joint custody, there are many factors that the tax preparer has to examine before determining who is eligible for the EITC.

I always request a copy of the court documents.

Life Derailed

Posted by presspass on
Life Derailed

I host a radio weekly internet radio show on the VoiceAmerica Empowerment Channel called Life Altering Events (https://www.voiceamerica.com/show/3902/life-altering-events). People often ask me what exactly is a life altering event? I tell them this – It can be something we choose or something that is thrust upon us that dramatically alters the trajectory of our life.

On August 20, 2019 my guest was Latachia Morrissette Harper who is a truly remarkable and inspirational women. You can hear the conversation at https://www.voiceamerica.com/episode/116498/life-derailed.

Latachia is the author of the book Life Derailed, A Divorced Mom’s Survival Guide. Her inspiration to write this book was to recover from a very traumatic divorce and let other women and men know they are not alone. Latachia addresses that your emotions, feelings, grief, sense of loss, how will I pay my bills, fear of the future are not unique. If you have not read this book – do it today!

Latachia is also a public speaker, writer, and entrepreneur. Her passion is to motivate and inspire women, especially women with children impacted by divorce. Being in an abusive relationship is a life altering and divorce can be terrifying and debilitating but which is worse? She equips women to find their independence and strength, learning how to find their voice and love themselves first.

Now men, don’t see this title and think “This is a chick book.” It’s not. Latachia provides a common sense approach at time when common sense is often absent. This common sense applies equally to both men and women.

One powerful piece of advice from her book is:

In dealing with the sorrow of divorce or a major loss in your life/family, take one breath at a time, make one decision at a time, and focus on just the current day and what you can achieve. The saddest thing for a child is to be in your presence and you not really being there. Be in the moment, embrace them. You control more in life when you don’t let the issues, things control you.

Another statement she wrote that I loved and wish I had followed is “Stop Saying you are OK.”

Stop saying you’re OK. Seriously, it’s OK to not be OK. Wait till the kids are away and SCREAM, cry and then get out a piece of paper and write it all down, random thoughts, fears and ideas. Get it out, it’s OK, you have a right to be in this place.

Remember divorce is a legal process. It is a legal process to become married and a legal process to end the marriage. It is a huge mistake to rush through the process or say to your ex “Just get the papers and I’ll sign so we can get this over.” Don’t ignore this step. There are too many important issues regarding finances, property and most importantly the needs of your children. Get it in writing up front because promises made prior to divorce often change afterwards. The children certainly don’t need to re-live these battles over and over.

Another major issue you will likely face is “the call” from your ex, suggesting you try again. Stop! Proceed with caution. Think about why things will be better or different if you jump back in. Really stop and think about it or you may find yourself in a worse situation in the next year or two. Why is your ex asking to get back together when they were so eager to leave?

Picking up the pieces is not easy. It will be the most difficult thing you will ever do, but keep this in mind, stop looking behind you, you’re not going that way. There is nothing new to see in the past so keep moving forward. Believe it or not, better times and better people will come into your life.

Can you pick up the pieces

Posted by presspass on
Can you pick up the pieces


The story is too familiar. You are involved in a long term relationship or marriage. It usually starts out wonderful, full of joy and excitement as you pursue your hopes and dreams. You are ready to take on the world together. Then life happens. Stress at work; money issues; children’s needs; losing a job; issues with in-laws; health concerns. The list goes on and on. The feelings of joy starts to fade. You didn’t sign up for this! You stop communicating with each other, I mean really communicating and connecting, not just talking at each other. The relationship and your life become a grind. You start going through the motions.

You start to think, there has to be a better way. Chances are your partner feels the same. One of you finds a kindred spirit, a friend, an associate, someone with whom you can share your frustrations. You tell yourself, it is nothing serious we’re just talking. The more you talk and share with your kindred spirit, the less you share with your partner. Sooner or later you cross the line. You are hoping to make things better, but they are about to become worse. Heart break, separation, betrayal, divorce.

Since my book When the Wife Cheats was released, I have spoken to dozens of men and women whose resolution is simply to “move on” from betrayal. This one is not so easy. Betrayal comes in many forms. We have all been betrayed by a friend or co-worker or a trusted employee. Although these betrayals hurt, we are able to move on fairly quickly. However, it is not so easy when the betrayal is your spouse or life partner. I wish I had the answer—I don’t. I can only share what has helped me.

Whether you want to or not, you cannot escape the grief process (shock, denial, anger, bargaining, guilt, depression, and acceptance). I know because I tried. Unfortunately, these stages don’t always go in order. I still find myself going back and forth between them. It’s OK. This process is not an exact science. Spousal betrayal is made more difficult because your heart isn’t just broken, often it is shattered. There is usually a set time to fix a break. A broken bone may heal in six to eight weeks. A shattered bone or heart has no fixed time to heal. It is going to take far more time than you expect. Give yourself time.

Before you can pick up the pieces and start moving forward you have to forgive yourself. Let me say that again; forgive yourself. You weren’t the worst husband or wife ever. While you may have done the best you could to make your marriage work, it didn’t work. You cannot make someone else happy or make them love you if they don’t. You may never forgive your spouse—that’s OK—but forgive yourself.

I used this quote in When the Wife Cheats. It helped me. I hope it helps you.

“There comes a point in your life when you realize: who matters, who never did, who won’t anymore and who always will…so don’t worry about people from your past; there is a reason they didn’t make it to your future.”

Now I know this is far easier said that done. You are going to find yourself in the depths of depression and sorrow; when you don’t believe you have the strength to even get out of bed; when you have no idea how you are going to survive the next hour—let alone raise your children. Believe me, you will have ALL of these feelings. When you feel completely overwhelmed, remember this: Look up… Get up… And never ever give up.

You will recover in time. When you are ready, pick up the pieces and start moving forward. There is nothing new to see in the past, so don’t look behind you; you’re not going that way. Even in your hardest day move forward. Better times and better people will come into your life.

Starting Over

Posted by presspass on
Starting Over

Starting Over

An excerpt from How to Create a Magical Relationship, The Three Simple Ideas That Will Instantaneously Transform Your Love Life

Click here for more information or to purchase this book

Have you ever found yourself in one of those moods where no matter what your partner says or does, it is all fodder for the fight? Where you are angry, disturbed, and nothing he or she says or does is right or good enough to relieve your sense of aggravation?

We recently met a couple, Hal and Mary, in one of these altered states of consciousness. They came to speak to us about their relationship and how, no matter what they did, it always ended in an upset and distress, and their fight never seemed to completely resolve. Oh sure, it abated from time to time, but the embers of disagreement were always just below a thin skin, ready to erupt at any time.

The funny thing was they were both right—from their individual points of view. From his point of view, “She would always . . . ,” and from her point of view, he was wrong and all of her friends agreed with her. This couple had a list of grievances dating back to early in their relationship, past events over which the two of them continued to disagree.

Hal and Mary had fundamental behavior patterns in their relationship that we have seen in other intimate relationships where nothing seems to resolve. No matter how much they tried to change or fix the situation, it stayed the same or became worse. So they came to us, looking at whether or not they should remain together. Their situation was further complicated by the fact that they had a sixteen-month-old child together. By now, the sense of intimacy between them had completely eroded, and while they were very devoted to their daughter, she had become the focal point for many of their fights.

The real problem was that Mary and Hal, for all of their strife, were obviously still in love. They just couldn’t find a way to sidestep the old grievances that kept resurfacing, incendiary mechanical behaviors that set them battling against their will.

Our usual approach is to find out where it all started and what happened that initiated the fight, but when we asked what had caused this pattern of behavior in the first place, Hal and Mary each had their reasons for what the other did or didn’t do that created the situation, and both of them were “right” from their points of view. Apparently, we had a stalemate. No matter what we came up with, each person felt certain that the other was the cause of their stress, upset, and dissatisfaction. This is normal for most relationships that are in trouble.

In situations like this, where the partners have been together for several years, the starting point of the disagreement is obscured forever. So what do you do to alleviate the pain when you are locked in a habituated way of relating that seems to have no beginning and no end—a way of relating that keeps accelerating in its frequency, intensity, and duration?

At some point, the reasons why you are upset become irrelevant because everything becomes grounds for the disturbance. It has been unresolved for so long that there is no way to go back and fix all of the grievances and transgressions.

So what do you do then? You can leave each other, which is the end result that a lot of loving relationships devolve into — it’s called divorce. You can punish each other perpetually and live a life of complaint and pain. Or you can start over.

There have been times in our relationship when we found ourselves fighting and could not find a way out of the disagreement in which we were locked. Finally, we came up with a device that allowed us to stop fighting. One day, we were driving into New York City, and for whatever reason, we were deeply engaged in disagreeing with each other. It escalated and was like a sore tooth that you worry with your tongue; we couldn’t seem to leave it alone. Our silences were noisy — very noisy. And each of us was certain that we were right in our own perspective and that the other was simply wrong. We each felt picked on and misunderstood. It didn’t feel good, but there didn’t seem to be a way to resolve the conflict. Finally, we came up with the idea of starting over. We picked out an overpass ahead on the highway and said, “When we go under that overpass, the fight is over.” This meant that as soon as our car passed that spot, we were going to operate as if this disagreeable conversation had never taken place. Onward we drove. It took discipline at first to resist thinking about the altercation that had just happened, but we kept bringing our thoughts and conversation back to current things, such as what we could see out the window and our plans for the day, rather than rehashing the past.

We can’t remember now what our fight was about. It seemed so important at the time, but now the details have faded into obscurity. We knew that the fight could fade away for Hal and Mary too, if given a chance, and so we suggested that they try starting over. We warned them it would be challenging not to keep going back to past gripes, but they grew excited and intrigued at the idea.

That night, Hal and Mary had a date. They had not been on a real, live date since before their child was born. The point where they started over was the opportunity for a new beginning. They grabbed this chance with both hands, and intimacy resulted. However, the next time an upsetting event happened between them or a similar type of disagreement cropped up over their child, it took discipline to resist the temptation to revisit old events. With practice, the habit of going back to touch on old events in your thoughts or in your actions can fade away.

Since 1987, internationally acclaimed authors, seminar leaders, podcast/radio show hosts and business consultants Ariel and Shya Kane have acted as guides, leading people through the swamp of the mind into the clarity and brilliance of the moment. Find out more about the Kanes, their seminars in NYC, Germany and Costa Rica, the Say YES to Your Life! Meetups their work has inspired, their Being Here podcast or join their email newsletter. Also get information about their award-winning books. Their newest book, Being Here…Too, is available on Amazon.comBarnesandNoble.com and everywhere books are sold.

Books by Ariel & Shya Kane

Understanding and Using the Thoughts and Feelings After Divorce By Dr. Suzanne B. Phillips

Posted by Editor on
Understanding and Using the Thoughts and Feelings After Divorce By Dr. Suzanne B. Phillips

Despite statistics, divorce is difficult. Understanding the thoughts and feelings after divorce allows for use of them as lessons learned in going forward. This blog considers why intimate feelings can linger, the cost of re-writing history, the time for grieving, the cost of “tearing up” the good memories for children and way to find self and a better future.

More Here!

Family Mediation Group led by VoiceAmerica show host Virginia Colin wins legal services award

Posted by Editor on
Family Mediation Group led by VoiceAmerica show host Virginia Colin wins legal services award

Angus Renee vlc Rick a

What does Dr. Virginia Colin, host of “Family Matters” on VoiceAmerica’s Variety channel, do when not on air? As Director of Colin Family Mediation Group LLC (CFMG), she provides family mediation services to families in Burke and other parts of northern Virginia. For 2015, the Best in Burke Award for providing legal services went to Colin Family Mediation Group. The Group is, naturally, proud, and also very happy to be able to provide valuable, low-cost assistance to families making decisions about marriage, separation, divorce, reconciliation, or other family matters. Best of Burke 2015 CFMG award v2

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