Divorce Advice for Women Thinking about Divorce
By Attorney Jacqueline Newman
Like childbirth, I feel that no one tells you the real truth about the divorce process. Here are some things to consider when thinking about divorce and if you can live with them, then you may be ready:
- His affair will not shock a judge: The fact that he violated the sacred rule of marriage by having an affair will not make a judge blink his/her eye. A court will not typically agree that because he was a bad husband, he is now a bad father. Therefore the effect of an affair (even an affair with your best friend) will not have an impact on the determinations a court makes in terms of custody.
- Be prepared to do everything yourself. While you may already feel that you already do everything yourself anyway and his absence will not be noticed, there are few times that it may be and you should be ready for that. It may be cold out, but the garbage is now not going to go out by itself. He may also not be home most of the time, but there are the few Sundays that he is in the house watching football, so you can at least run to do an errand or two and leave the kids at home. Those days of the simple escape may be gone.
- Understand and accept that he will have time alone with your children: Many Moms do not think about the fact that, except in rare situations, the Fathers will have time alone with the children which will more often than not, include overnights. This will mean that you will have little to no control on what he serves them for dinner (McDonalds anyone?) and what time they go to bed (ok – you can watch one more movie). I have seen many clients stay in marriages for this reason alone.
- The divorce process can take a long time: While on TV the divorce case typically concludes and settles in the hour show (including commercials), it typically takes much longer in real life. If you litigate it can take years and even if you settle quickly, it can be at least three to six months before you are actually divorced. A marriage can happen in a less than an hour… but not the divorce.
- You do not have to go to Court to get divorced: Many people are under the mistaken presumption that the only way to get divorced is to go to Court and see a judge. That idea is so scary that many people stay in marriages just to avoid it. However, there are other amicable ways that are much more constructive and less scary such as the mediation process and the collaborative law process. Both result in divorce as well.
- Do not bad mouth your spouse on social media: He claims to be working late but then you were looking at the credit card bill and see that his just incurred a charge at a wine bar. You are furious and who do you turn to? Your best friends on Facebook or twitter. If you are thinking about divorce or going through a divorce – put on mittens and stay away from your iphone!
- Divorce mourning is a real thing: Some people feel that divorce can be worse than death. In divorce, you are reminded of the failed relationship and the anger remains each time your ex picks up the children for his weekend. It is ok and even expected to go through a mourning process.
- The Social Divorce: While everyone knows about the legal divorce that ends the marriage, few people think about the social divorce. Friends may feel the need to chose sides. It is his best friend’s wife from high school that is now one of your closest friends, but she may not be comfortable being your confidant anymore or you may not be comfortable having her as your confidant either. Your phone contacts may change.
- Hobbies: While the last thing you can think of is adding something else to your to-do list when you now have to add taking out the garbage to your list, I suggest you find a hobby you enjoy. There is going to be downtime after a divorce that you did not have before (every other weekend may be free when your children are with your ex), you do not want to spend that time staring out the window thinking about the “could have beens” or the “I should have just done that”. You should start to create your enjoyable distraction before the divorce process begins so it can be a comfort to you during and after.
- Peeing in peace: I had a client once call me from Starbucks right after she had dropped her children off at her ex’s for his first overnight. She was hysterically crying and could not believe she was about to spend a night without hearing the comforting sounds of her children snoring. Once she calmed down, I asked her if she had to go to the bathroom. She could not understand why I would ask that and when I said “If you have to go to the bathroom – you know what? You can just go! You do not have to make sure you have the diaper bag with you and make sure that you the children do not touch the walls and make sure that they put enough toilet paper on the seat. Just get up and go… so easy!”
- You are not a bad Mother or person for ending the marriage: The studies show that children fare better when you have two parents that are happy in separate households than when you have two parents who are unhappy in the same household. Your children want you to be happy and if you feel that ending the marriage you are in will open you both up to healthier relationships that your children can role model, then maybe it is the right decision for you and your family.
Jacqueline Newman is a Family Law Attorney & Managing Partner at Berkman Bottger Newman & Rodd in NYC. Ms. Newman’s practice consists of litigation, collaborative law and mediation. Jacqueline specializes in complex high net worth matrimonial cases and negotiating prenuptial agreements. She has appeared as a commentator on various television shows and has been quoted as an expert in numerous publications, including Glamour Magazine, Crain’s New York Business, U.S. News and World Report, Woman’s Day and The Huffington Post.