Friendships Change After Divorce

Divorce clarifies who is friend and who is foe. Someone who stuck by you through thick and thin may not necessarily do so post-divorce. Other people may pleasantly surprise you. My husband had a friend who knew him from their teenage years and was in my women’s club. I am shocked how friendly she and her husband remain after our acrimonious divorce. I get hugs and they genuinely want to know how my sons and I are doing. I still do not reveal any very personal tidbits about our lives, but appreciate this unanticipated source of support. Right after my divorce was finalized, I ran into her with her daughter when buying myself spa products. They enthusiastically said I deserved to be pampered. How nice.

Friendships are give and take, so reassess if you seem to be always be on the giving end. If you have friends who suck the life out of you, then perhaps it is time to move on without these vampire energy drainers. Do you have a drama queen friend who flits from crisis to crisis? During one’s divorce – it is our turn to be on the receiving end of attention and concern, not doling it out to others. If this person refuses to listen to your woes, or be there for you, then consider pulling away. One way is to say, “I am dealing with my own situation right now and am no longer available.”

The tricky part is deciding how to end or wind down a friendship that is no longer working. When a friendship has become toxic, one way of dealing with this is to be direct, but polite. Consider saying something along this vein, “Our friendship seems to have run its course. Thanks for the good times and I wish you the best of luck in life.” Then do not answer any calls, texts or e-mails.

What if you have taken different paths and there is no animosity?  When you just do not have the time or energy to maintain this friendship, then cease contacting the friend. Let a few calls go unanswered before replying. Then say,” I am so overburdened right now, that I will get back to you later if my calendar ever lightens a bit.” A variation is “I am taking a break from some relationships right now, and cannot make plans in the near future.” You can wean your friend by planning a get together four months away.

Sometimes you may be the one who has changed or matured. Divorce is a catalyst for taking life’s responsibilities more seriously. In one case, a woman chose not to keep up her partying ways and numerous shopping expeditions post-divorce with a pal. It still hurt when her shallow friend dropped her for a more exciting new buddy. Intellectually this woman knew it was for the best, but it is no fun to be dumped by someone whom you thought was a friend.

Amanda moved after marriage and immediately met a kindred spirit. They were there for each other through infertility and their subsequent divorces. Amanda’s friend had cut off two of her long-term friends for what seemed to be frivolous reasons. One dated men too young and the other one did not divorce a nasty husband. When Amanda started getting the same treatment, she took a direct action. The friend had left packages in Amanda’s mailbox for two holidays. Amanda sent a note stating it was silly to leave packages or mail them when living in the same city. She told the friend that if they did not get together for a holiday that she would save the present until the next time that they saw each other (which had not been for months). The friend did not respond and Amanda never learned what her perceived infraction was. Being caught in someone’s games is not therapeutic. It takes two to dance, so do not participate in a dysfunctional one.

You will learn who really will be with you long-term and who wants your friendship for what you can do for them. Your exit plan will be different for each acquaintance whom you part ways with. Think about evasive, direct, or politely waving from afar. When one releases toxic people, that gives space for new wonderful folks to enter their life.  


Wendi Schuller, uses her knowledge as a nurse, Neuro-Linguistic Programmer (NLP), and hypnotherapist, to author the book The Women’s Holistic Guide to Divorce that helps women regaining their strength of inner peace and wisdom. She can be reached by email



The Impact of Relationship Apps on Family Dynamics

Marriage is a wonderful institution that affords couples significant psychological, emotional and financial benefits, in addition to being a commitment of their love to each other. Unfortunately, nothing worthwhile is easy, including marriages. If couples want their marriages to succeed, they must work at them. Furthermore, a marriage involves two people and both are responsible one way or another in its success or failure.

Recent research from Northwestern University provides in pertinent part as follows:

“Marriage in America has changed radically since the late 1700s. It is much less oriented toward helping spouses meet their physiological and safety needs and much more oriented toward helping them meet their esteem and self-actualization needs. Although the later set of needs requires a much deeper relational bond and a stronger psychological connection than the former set does, Americans appear to be spending less time cultivating these relational attributes than they did in previous eras. In conjunction, Americans’ increasing tendency to look to their marriage to facilitate the achievement of their high-level needs, along with their decreasing investment in the quality of their marriage, is linked to reductions in personal well-being and marital quality over time.

The good news, however, is that marriage has greater potential today than ever before, and marital quality is a stronger predictor of personal well-being than in the past. Meeting higher altitude needs is enormously gratifying, and doing so through one’s marriage can help people achieve exceptionally high levels of relationship well-being, happiness, and personal fulfillment.”

The research from Northwestern University argues that “the importance of relational processes like communication, responsiveness, and support have increased as the societal function of marriage has changed…. Just as the pursuit of higher needs frequently requires substantial insight into the self, looking to the marriage to help individuals fulfill their higher needs frequently requires that each spouse have substantial insight into the partner, and the development of such insight typically requires considerable communication and responsiveness over a sustained period…. [This] requires that they invest plenty of time and energy in facilitating the quality of their marital bond.”

At the same time, studies over the past 20 years have found that the amount of time fathers spend engaged in childrearing has more than doubled, while the amount of time spent by mothers has increased between 34 and 41 percent. In addition, each spouse spends approximately 30 more minutes a day involved in paid employment and it is unlikely that it occurs at precisely the same time as it does for their spouse. In other words, that is additional time that is not spent alone with their spouse. In any event, spousal time has decreased significantly over time. “Spouses without children at home experienced a 30% decline in weekday spousal time and a 17% decline in weekend spousal time. Spouses with children at home, whose spousal time tended to be quite limited in general, experienced a 40% decline in weekday spousal time,” but essentially no change in weekend spousal time.”

According to the most recently released “American Time Use Survey Study” by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employed adults living in households with no children under age 18 engaged in leisure activities for 4.7 hours per day, about an hour more than employed adults living with a child under age 6.” Such activities include, but are not limited to watching TV, socializing (such as visiting with friends, or attending or hosting social events), exercising, reading, playing games or using a computer for leisure. According to that Study, the majority of that time is spent watching TV. However, the average American spends 7.6 hours per month (15.2 minutes per day) on social networking sites.

Furthermore, the internet has brought with it increased opportunities for spousal infidelity. For years now, surveys have found Facebook responsible for anywhere from one-fifth to one-third of all divorces. “If you’re single, Facebook and other social networking sites can help you meet that special someone. However, for those in even the healthiest of marriages, improper use can quickly devolve into a marital disaster. A survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that ‘Facebook holds the distinction of being the unrivaled leader for online divorce evidence with 66% citing it as the primary source.’ Also, more than 80 percent of divorce lawyers reported they ‘have seen an increase in the number of cases using social networking evidence’ during the past few years.” In fact, studies have found that cybersex has been a major factor in separation or divorce.

I realize that we are also living in a time in which people would rather point fingers than accept responsibility for their actions, but sites and apps alone cannot be responsible for marital strife. Rather, the responsibility falls on the individuals using such sites and apps. After all, they will be so much happier if they find someone else, right? As they say, perception is reality. The “grass is always greener” until you get there. Otherwise, how do you explain the fact that the divorce rate in the United States increases from 50% for first marriages, to 67% for second marriages, and to 73% for third marriages?

Not surprisingly, one of three general options available to couples for improving their marriages is “increasing their investment of time and psychological resources in their marriage.” Spouses typically have the ability to dedicate the time and effort required to maintain a healthy marriage, but they instead choose to allocate their resources elsewhere. People regularly use lack of time as an excuse for pretty much anything and everything. The fact of the matter is that it is more an issue of priorities than lack of time. If both spouses consider their marriage a top priority, they will always have the time to invest in it. “Even if spouses are able to invest additional resources, many marriages will continue to exhibit an imbalance in which the amount of high-altitude need fulfillment spouses are asking of the marriage exceeds the level of investment they have made. Spouses can ask less of the marriage in one or both of two ways. … [First], they can pursue strategies designed to optimize their resource use, thereby bolstering the extent to which they can achieve high-altitude need fulfillment without a major infusion of additional time or psychological resources. [Second], they can require less oxygen by asking their spouse to shoulder less responsibility for helping them fulfill their higher altitude needs, thereby bringing the demands on the marriage into closer alignment with the available resources.” Obviously, these last two options are available to those couples in which one or both spouses are unable or unwilling to invest additional time in their marriage for whatever reason.

Prior to evaluating options and investing time and resources into their marriage, couples might want to reality check their expectations. According to Terri Orbuch, Ph.D, psychologist and author of “5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great,” conflict is actually frustration. Specifically, frustration forms when a partner’s expectations go unmet, she says. Happy couples have realistic expectations, both about relationships in general and about their relationship in particular.” Quentin Hafner, LMFT refers to unreasonable expectations as the “My Spouse is My ‘Everything’ Model of Marriage.” According to Mr. Hafner, “Being a spousal partner in an American marriage is a really tall order. Not just a tall order, but sometimes an impossible one. We see it on TV, and in the movies; it’s the glamorization of our spouse needing to be our ‘Everything’. There seems to be an implicit message that is pervasive in our American culture that says our spouse must be our ‘Everything’, and I see this idealism causing a lot of problems for people. Having our spouse be our ‘Everything’ sounds romantic, dreamy and idealistic – I know. But the hidden expectations that many spouses carry for their partner to be their ‘Everything’ isn’t helping people have thriving relationships.” The following are some of the comments that Mr. Hafner received from his article:

Great perspective Quentin, though I must say that MY spouse is ALL of the 20 ‘unachievable’ roles for ME, but I agree, a spouse is not and shouldn’t be EVERYTHING (or more accurately, the ‘only’ thing in our lives).” – David Steele, Relationship Coaching Institute

NO WAY can a spouse fill all those roles and no WONDER so many couples get divorced based on the expectations that their spouse SHOULD be all those things and if you’re not fulfilling them, then you’re out…NEXT I’ll find someone who will. Unfortunately they keep searching and searching only to continually be disappointed. I learned a long time ago the best possible scenario in a relationship is to have a council a group of people that each person fulfills one or many of those roles and I can leave the most important one’s for my partner….friend, lover, supporter etc. If more couples would realize this they would be able to give their partner a break from having to live up to such a high demand for spousal support and fight a losing battle. How many times have you heard it said, “I did everything I could and she/he they still weren’t happy.” Of course not, because they couldn’t do it all.” – Dale Genetti, Certified Strategic Intervention Relationship/Marriage Life Coach.

This article is spot on. The most common cause of the couples’ divorces that come through my office is the unrealistic and unhealthy expectation that our spouse is responsible for our happiness. This misplaced burden keeps people from looking within, strengthening the other relationships in their life and developing themselves into the full person they are meant to be.” – Selina Shultz, Principal at The Alternative Group and Coral Bridge Partners, LLC

However, as Dr. Orbuch says, “If your partner isn’t aware of your expectations, how can they meet them? … Most couples will say that they communicate. But this communication is commonly what Orbuch calls ‘maintaining the household,’ which includes talks about paying the bills, buying groceries, helping the kids with homework or calling the in-laws. Instead, meaningful communication means ‘getting to know your partner’s inner world,’ Orbuch says. ‘When you’re really happy, you know what makes your partner tick and really understand them.’”

I recently read an article titled “5 tips to creating a successful marriage.” I shared the article along with the following comment: “Isn’t it interesting that in divorce mediation, we are teaching people tools that could have prevented the divorce, had the couple sought them out earlier and for a different purpose?” Let me share with you some of the responses I received:

I have often thought that everything I have learned since my divorce would have greatly increased the chance that my marriage may have survived and even it didn’t, that it would have greatly improved the divorce experience. You are so right!” – Laura Weisbart Campbell, Love Intentionalist, Divorce Strategist, and Founder of The D Spot, LLC.

Wouldn’t it be great if this type of relationship building and problem solving skills set were taught in programs at the High School level? Exposing teenagers early would be a gift that would last a lifetime. Cultivating better communication skills would be an opportunity to enhance their relationships on all levels for their entire lifetime.” – Marcia Engel, Founder and Director of Single Concept- Premier Matchmaking Service and Dating Coach

“I SO agree! I wish I’d learned these skills in high school!” – Glori Zeltzer, MFT, Couple and Relationship Psychotherapist

As you can see, communication issues and unmet expectations are two of the most common causes of divorce. People’s expectations for themselves, their spouse and their marriage change over time. Those with the most successful marriages share these expectations with each other. These issues overlap when a person expects their spouse to read their mind because they were not properly communicating with them. That having been said, there are apps designed to address such things and actually improve relationships.

Moreover, couples are increasingly using apps for such purposes. In fact, according to the Pew Research Internet Project, “[t]he internet, cell phones, and social media have become key actors in the life of many American couples— the 66% of adults who are married or in committed relationships. Couples use technology in the little and large moments. They negotiate over when to use it and when to abstain. A portion of them quarrel over its use and have had hurtful experiences caused by tech use. At the same time, some couples find that digital tools facilitate communication and support.”

One such app that everyone should be aware of is text messaging, which allows you to communicate almost instantaneously, even if you are unable to make or receive a phone call. Other apps enable spouses to share and update grocery lists, track personal finances and create budgets, improve communication, understand and learn more about their spouse, and even explore their sexuality with their spouse. Imagine how many arguments could be avoided by making it more difficult, if not impossible, to forget things by utilizing synchronized lists, calendaring apps, and the like. By synchronizing their financial information, spouses can keep track of their combined income and expenses, avoid bouncing checks from joint accounts, and hopefully eliminate those financial “surprises” that are known to create marital conflict. In addition, technology can be used to help spouses develop a “deeper relational bond and a stronger psychological connection” by helping them gain much needed insight into their spouse.

Interestingly enough, several relationship apps have been included both on lists of apps for married couples and in post-divorce situations. Text messenging is one such app because it is frequently used to by divorced or separated parents to communicate with each other regarding their minor children. Grocery list apps such as “Grocery Smart” and “Out of Milk” are also included on both lists. After all, it is not always the other person who forgets to pick up certain items while shopping. Mint is one of the most popular apps for tracking finances, which is obviously useful to anybody and everybody, regardless of relationship status.

As far as scheduling and communication apps are concerned, OurFamilyWizard® has been in existence for almost 15 years to help reduce divorce conflict between co-parents. It provides a “shared co-parenting tool for scheduling parenting time calendars and visitation schedules, sharing information and managing expenses like un-reimbursed medical bills.” I find it rather ironic that such useful relationship apps were created for post-divorced co-parenting situations long before apps designed to improve marriages were brought to market.

In any event, one such app that has been receiving excellent reviews is Couple Counseling & Chatting, which was created by Marigrace Randazzo-Ratliff, MSW, CSW. According to its description, the application provides useful relationship and communication tips, helps facilitate communication, and even “allows you to speak with a real life therapist for relationship help and couples therapy.” Another such app titled “Gottman Love Maps” was created by The Gottman Institute. Dr. John Gottman is a world-renowned relationship expert and frequently quoted and/or referred to by many of his colleagues. As they say in the description of that app, “An important factor in relationship success is ‘Knowing’ about your partner’s world. This fun set of questions helps partners to know each other better.”

There is a great deal of debate as to the benefits of relationship apps. Regardless, people should consider their limitations, as expressed in the descriptions themselves. For example, included in the description of the Couple Counseling & Chatting app is the following: “Couples Counseling should be used for information and entertainment purposes only. Couple Counseling makes no warrant in express or implied about the success of your relationship. This application is meant to help facilitate and help relationships based upon therapeutic practices and relationship information. In a serious situational you should seek the help of a local professional.” That being said, if The Gottman Institute has concluded that such apps can improve relationships, I would have to agree.

Group Dating is a New Trend Post-Divorce

After a hiatus of a few decades – it is challenging to jump back into the dating scene post-divorce. Dating expectations have changed and our svelte figures have morphed into middle-aged bodies.  There are a plethora of options in meeting potential mates which can be a bit overwhelming. What is a simple way to dip your toe into the dating pool without totally plunging in? Group Dating.

Group dating is a recent global trend that makes it less daunting to meet new people. Conversing in a group setting takes the pressure off feeling being judged. Remember the laughs back in high school and college when you went out in a mixed group? It was enjoyable whether or not you ended up with someone. Group dating is the grown-up equivalent of this activity.

In London and spreading elsewhere, there is “Six Dinners Later.” After getting on the site’s guest list, a profile is uploaded. This is a fun one which includes favorite dishes and who would be an ideal dinner companion. Then one waits until invited to a dinner party by another member at his or her house for a potluck. There are three members of each gender at these gatherings. The next step is that one gives a dinner party at their place and includes the former host.  You would pick four others from the site to be a part of this gathering. After one attends these “six dinners” they will have met 25 people. This gives the chance to meet new pals as well as potential dates.  

In the US a variation on this theme of group dating is “Grouper.” One does a short profile on this dating site and Grouper also checks Facebook to ensure compatible matches for get-togethers. Two people are matched up and they each bring two single friends along with them. This is a little different from “Six Dinners Later” where you totally do not know anyone. The six people are contacted with a date, place and time. A fee is collected that covers the first round of drinks. Sometimes the whole bar will be reserved for “Grouper” members and the host will bring people to the correct tables.  Having two buddies with you makes for a fun night whether there are fireworks or not.

Ignighter is a group dating site that originated in New York City. The three founders set it up so that group dates could happen in Central Park or other NYC venues. The reaction to this site was tepid and did not really catch on – except in Asia, particularly India. Co-owner Adam Sachs stated “Here we are, a few Jewish guys sitting in Union Square, and we have accidently revolutionized the dating scene in India.” Ignighter moved its operations to India since 7000 people a day are signing up for this dating service. This is more like getting together for socializing than strictly a matrimonial site.

In the Atlanta area, Singles for Service is a free dating site that combines community service projects with dating. This gives people a way to see other’s more authentic selves when they are helping others. It also serves to enable singles to meet other singles with a similar area of interest. Singles for Service claims to bring “quality singles together.” is an international organization with various groups, including singles’ ones. Other groups are according to special interests, such as hiking. Even if not in a specific single’s group, one can meet many fascinating people in the other ones. The group I am in, gets together for coffees, lectures and so many other activities.

Churches and synagogues often have a single’s group, although may have a wider age span. My divorced friend is quite active in her church’s single group. Cities sometimes have activities and festivals particularly geared to singles and not families. Mine had “Rally in the Alley” which took place in a long alley between sky scrapers. There were live bands and beer on Friday afternoons during the summers.

These examples give you a place to start to see if there are any group dating sites in your community. I worked in a large hospital and we posted where we were going after work so that others could join us. It really is easier to ease into the dating scene from the security of a group.

 reached at (740) 919-1248 or through her website.

Wendi Schuller, uses her knowledge as a nurse, Neuro-Linguistic Programmer (NLP), and hypnotherapist, to author the book The Women’s Holistic Guide to Divorce that helps women regaining their strength of inner peace and wisdom. She can be reached by email


Emotional Aspects of De-Cluttering During Divorce

When one is faced with major life decisions and transitions – having to determine what to keep is one more burden. Separate your emotions from the practicality of de-cluttering during divorce. Do not get rid of objects when in anger. My enraged spouse left behind the gifts that I had given him when he moved out of our marital home. I was overjoyed when they later sold on E-Bay. This is a project for a clear head. Reacting in haste can cause regrets down the road when you wished that you would have kept your cherished childhood toy.
One woman got rid of her household goods after her husband departed during their divorce. She was fuming and claimed that she did not want the “junk” from her marriage. When she went to refurnish her house, she got a big surprise. Prices had gone up on these items and she struggled to replace them on her meager post-divorce budget. Her friends had not heard of the new trend, “Divorce Shower” so this woman was out of luck. Getting rid of some things to start anew makes sense, starting out from scratch when flat broke does not. However, several people I know mainly left with clothes and personal items and never looked back. See what works best for your situation.
Be cognizant of items that have particularly painful memories and possibly eliminate these first. What to do about your wedding gown? If a daughter or niece does not want it, consider donating it to charity. When I tried to sell mine online, they were only going for a pittance. Last Halloween, there were several wedding gowns as costumes and that is one creative solution. These “Gruesome Brides” had fake blood dripping down their gowns and were having a great time at the party.
Meditate, listen to relaxation CDs, or get to a place internally where you are calm, before tackling emotionally charged items. De-cluttering in a panic can backfire. Have a “Sell”, “Trash”, “Donate” and “I’ll think about it for a few days” bins. Knowing that you do not have to make snap judgments regarding your possessions takes some of the pressure off you. I had a huge yard sale the week before I moved out of the marital house. After I got settled in my new, smaller home, I had another one a few months later.
I already had a paid trip that was scheduled before my divorce commenced. Since it looked like I would be losing some nice decorations midway through the divorce, I used this opportunity to purchase a few new items. I really enjoy looking at the hand painted tiles and pottery from that vacation that was during the worst part of my collaborative proceedings.
The hardest part is the initial step. Once you get going, you build momentum. Look through your possessions and see what brings you joy as my grandparents’ china does for me. Other things that bring sadness or regret can be let go. If you can look at the cat statue from Italy and appreciate it for itself, then great. If it reminds you of exploring Sorrento on your honeymoon, then Goodwill would be a better spot for it. Enlisting a neutral third party can help you be less emotional and more realistic with paring down possessions.
Be careful of well-meaning family members unloading their clutter on to you. Your parents may try to give you some of their household goods or mementos. Just say something like this “I really appreciate you wanting me to have these treasures, but I am downsizing and am not the right home for these. Thanks for thinking of me.” You are required to make choices, but do not let guilt be one of them.
Getting rid of unwanted and unnecessary goods is mentally freeing also. Too much clutter is a mental distraction and can be an energy drainer. The trick is to have some open spaces, whether in your closet or your schedule, so new treasure and adventures can come your way.

reached at (740) 919-1248 or through her website.

Wendi Schuller, uses her knowledge as a nurse, Neuro-Linguistic Programmer (NLP), and hypnotherapist, to author the book The Women’s Holistic Guide to Divorce that helps women regaining their strength of inner peace and wisdom. She can be reached by email

Beating the Single-Mom/Step-Mom Mother’s Day Blues

mother's dayIf you’re going through separation or divorce, you may be dreading Mother’s Day this year. Family-centered holidays – like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day – can intensify feelings of sadness, inadequacy, and loss. For newly separated and divorced people, these holidays can really emphasize how much the family unit has changed.

If your family had Mother’s Day traditions – breakfast in bed, brunch at your favorite restaurant, flowers, cleaning the house, detailing your car, etc. – both you and your kids may be feeling blue.

For a stepmother, Mother’s Day can bring up feelings of unhappiness combined with hurtwhen the children they’re helping to raise head off to their “real mother’s” house without a backward glance.

Mother’s Day is going to be different this year, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be awful. Remember that you have choices about how you spend it: by being proactive and exercising these choices, you can create new and meaningful tra-

Here are some tips for beating the single-mom/stepmother blues on Mother’s Day.

1) Make a Plan

This is the single most important action to take to make sure that the day is fun – or at least okay – for you and the kids. Knowing how you’re going to spend the day will reduce stress.

2) Tell your Kids

Tell your kids what you want rather than hoping they’ll surprise you with the perfect gift/day.Hoping they’ll know just the right thing to create a Hallmark moment puts way too much pressure on them – and is a recipe for disappointment. If you’re a stepmother, make sure to communicate your wishes clearly with your husband.

3) Gifts from the Heart (not the Mall)

Especially if money is tight, ask your kids for a gift or card they can make themselves – or create a new tradition by making something together.

4) Create New Traditions

You can choose to start entirely new traditions – a picnic in the park (or your living room if the weather doesn’t cooperate), a trip to the zoo, an afternoon watching favorite movies in pajamas – or variations on an existing theme – brunch at Restaurant X rather than Restaurant Z.

5) Celebrate with Other Single Parents

This one works whether or not you have your kids on Mother’s Day. Another single mom will understand exactly how you’re feeling, and can provide coaching and support if she’s ahead of you in the divorce-recovery process – or you can be the one offering advice from experience. If you don’t know any other single parents, join a local support group like Parents Without Partners.

6) Pamper Yourself

Especially if you don’t have your kids on Mother’s Day make sure to do something special for yourself. If mani-pedis or massages aren’t your thing (or aren’t in the budget right now), give yourself permission to spend the day doing something you love. This could be meeting up with girlfriends for a movie/drinks/meal, or reading “guilty pleasure” magazines or books, or even just sleeping in as long as you want.

7) Don’t be Ruled by the Calendar

If you don’t have your kids on Mother’s Day, plan to celebrate it next weekend. Make sure to tell your kids about the new date so they won’t feel sad or guilty if they enjoy May 11 without you.

8) A Special Tip for Step-moms

If your stepchildren are going to be with their mother for the holiday, take the opportunity to have a romantic, kid-free dinner with your husband. Being a good step-mother is a tough (and can often a thankless) job; your husband can take the opportunity to thank and acknowledge you for being a great parent to his children.

For more tips on children and divorce, please visit Divorce Magazine’s website.

Martha ChanMartha Chan is the co-owner and V.P. Marketing of Divorce Marketing Group , Family Lawyer Magazine and Divorce Magazine. She is responsible for all online and offline initiatives of the company. She is married to Dan Couvrette and is a step mother of two sons. Connect with her on LinkedInGoogle+, Twitter and Facebook. She can be reached at (866) 803-6667 x 136

Divorce and Its Economic Impact on Corporations

Stats we should not ignore:

  • One in three marriages end in Divorce
  • Almost 40% of North American children will grow up in a single family home
  • The amount of unpaid Child Support in Canada totals more than 2.5 billion
  • 1.2 million annual US divorces cost taxpayers an estimated 30 billion in federal and state expenditures (Schramm, 2006)
  • Estimate of 6 billion is lost by North American businesses due to decreased productivity stemming from marriage and relationship difficulties (Forthofer, Markham, Cox, Stanley and Kessler, 1996)
  • Divorce can disrupt productivity of the worker for more than 3 years (Lavy, 2002)
  • In a year of divorce, employees lose an average of 168 hours of work time
  • A litigated divorce will likely last more than 3 years and will include time off to see lawyers, attend case conferences, court appearances etc.

The harsh reality is that divorce costs – big time. When we think of divorce in general terms we conjure up images of parents fighting, children crying, careers failing and bank accounts depleting. What we have not considered in this cost equation is the bottom line cost to the economy via our corporations.

Businesses have traditionally tried to stay out of the personal lives of their employees.  Therefore, the issues of dealing with divorce such as the loss of productivity at work, the danger of “absenteeism”, increased use of healthcare accounts due to stress and sickness have largely been ignored by companies.  However, times are changing and there is no longer a defined line between work and home.  People are less willing to compartmentalize their lives.  Social media such as Facebook brings work to home and home to work.   The younger generations do not have the same level of tolerance for “old school” rules of conduct and etiquette.  If their personal life is falling apart chances are that those they work with will know all about it – male or female.

So what does this mean for our companies?

It means that we must recognize that our organizations output is affected by our employee’s relationship status.  We now have stats to confirm that happily married people (people in healthy relationships) increase company profitability while unhappily married people decrease profitability.

While society as a whole has become more lenient and understanding of divorce our “system” as a whole has fallen way behind. Couples still fight it out in court believing in vindication.  They continue to have the illusion that fighting in court will bring them justice and fairness but unfortunately many destroy much of their net worth in the process.

The Canadian court system is starving for a way to reduce the backlog and dominance of family cases in their courts. Judges are left making “numerous child custody, access, matrimonial property, and support decisions every day on the basis of incomplete, subjective and highly emotional written evidence (called affidavits) with virtually no time to get to know the parents…” (Justice Harvey Brownstone in his book Tug of War).  While couples are finally choosing less costly (both emotionally and financially) alternatives like mediation, the large majority still get caught up the in the lawyer/client/fact vs. fiction triangle.

This is where Human Resource departments can help.  Companies can play an appropriate role in helping their employees navigate through these difficult times.

EAP programs can embrace the movement of “Taking Care in Divorce™”

“Taking Care in Divorce™”  is an acronym of simple steps that any Human Resource department can incorporate into their day-to day outreach to employees.  By incorporating steps such as teaching employees about divorce alternatives, or initiating health and wellness programs for families, not just the employee, Human Resource departments can drastically improve the negative impact of divorce on an employee and on the company’s bottom line.

Divorce Affects Everyone’s Bottom Line

One in three marriages end in Divorce!  Divorce leaves scares; families are torn apart as couples fight over their assets and their children.  For those lucky enough to not have experienced the big “D” they look at these families sympathetically, thanking their lucky stars that it is not them.   What they do not realize, is that everyone is affected.  It is only recently, that we have started to consider the economic impact to our society as a whole.

We know that the way a couple chooses to transition through their divorce has a huge impact on almost every aspect of their lives.   By avoiding a lengthy legal battle, they protect their assets, children, career and personal wellbeing.

In the past, companies have stayed out of the personal lives of their employees. However, times are changing and research has shown that happy marriages result in increased profits while unhappy marriages (divorce) hurts profits.

With the rise of divorce rates, our companies are paying dearly for their employee’s divorces.  Loss of time and energy has a direct measurable impact on profitability.  Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s) are positioned well to assist in ensuring that employees seek out alternative dispute resolution options such as mediation to reduce the time, the stress and the negative impact on their careers and the companies they work for.

Companies can and need to play a significant role in assisting and educating their employees so that they can reduce the time and cost associated with divorce for both the employee and the employer.

It’s up to the Human Resource departments to take an active role in this education to reduce the negative economic impact on society as a whole.

How to Handle Divorce Court When You Don’t Have a Lawyer: 7 Tips for DIY Divorce

Most people think that when you are getting divorced you need a divorce lawyer. Divorce lawyers know the law, understand the court system, and can help you get the outcome you want in your case. Having a divorce lawyer represent you, or, at the very least, consult with you, is always the best practice. But, not everyone wants, or can afford, a divorce lawyer. The truth is that every year in this country, hundreds of thousands of people go through divorce court without a lawyer. That may not be the best idea, but it’s a fact.

So, what do you do if you are one of those people who, for whatever reason, either doesn’t have a divorce lawyer or is “in between” divorce lawyers? (…which is a polite way of saying that you and your lawyer parted company and you now have to go to divorce court without a lawyer.)

If you have to go to divorce court without a lawyer, don’t panic! It may not be the most pleasant experience of your life, but it doesn’t have to be a disaster, either. Here are a few rules to guide you through the process so that you can get the judge to listen to what you’re saying, and either rule in your favor, or, at the very least, not rule against you.

1. Know What You Want. I know that seems pretty basic, but you would be amazed at the number of people who go before the judge without even knowing what they are asking for. For example, let’s say your spouse didn’t pick the children up from day care on time, in violation of a clear court order, and you had to leave work in a panic to get them when the irate day care provider called you. So you filed a motion to hold your spouse in contempt of court. And let’s say that the judge agrees with you and holds your spouse in contempt of court. What happens then? What do you want the judge to do? She can’t go back in time and make your spouse get the kids on time. Do you want her to order your spouse to pay you for the time you missed from work? Do you want her to change the pick up schedule? What do you want the judge to do?

2. Know Why You Want It, and Why You are Legally Entitled to It. You can want anything, but in order to persuade a judge to give you what you want, there has to be some legal basis for the judge to give you what you want. Knowing the legal basis for your request may require some digging on your part. You may have to research the law, or pay a lawyer for an hour long consultation so that you can educate yourself about the law. Or, maybe your issue is simple. For example, maybe you are the custodial parent and you want your spouse to pay child support. That kind of issue may not require a lot of research. But, if you have a more complicated issue, know that, if you want to persuade a judge to rule in your favor, you will need to give the judge a sound legal basis for doing so.

3. Follow the Rules. Every court is run by rules. There are rules about giving your spouse notice of a court hearing, rules about how and when the court hearing is conducted, and rules about what kind of evidence you need, and can give, to a judge to support your case. Even if you are representing yourself, you still have to know and follow the same rules as any lawyer in the court. (Which is why you really need to hire a lawyer if you have even a mildly complicated case.) You can find a lot of court rules on the internet, in a law library, or you can talk to a lawyer about them. No matter how you do it, though, before you go into court, it would be well worth your time to figure out and understand the rules that will govern your case.

4. Talk to the Judge, Not Your Spouse. Do not argue with your spouse while you are standing in front of the judge! A judge is not a referee. A judge is there to decide your case, not break up a fight. The best way to avoid getting into a fight is not to talk directly to your spouse at all. Address your comments to the judge. Answer questions from the judge. If your spouse says something you disagree with, when it is your turn, tell the judge that you disagree and why you disagree. But don’t get sucked into arguing with your spouse in front of the judge.

5. Dress Appropriately. Remember, you are going to court, not cleaning your basement. The judge will not be impressed if you walk into court looking like you’re trying to pick up a date at a nightclub, or like you just got out of bed and slept in your clothes. (Read this for more tips on What Not to Wear in Court.)

6. Be Polite. The judge is not the only important person in the court room. The judge’s clerk and the Bailiff or Sheriff in the court room are also important. They can help you a lot, especially when you talk to them politely and treat them with respect. They can’t give you legal advice, but they can help you understand court room procedure, and even give you a heads up about what to do (or not to do) in the court room.

7. Be Prepared. Court rooms are busy places. If you go there without bringing the documents the judge needs to see in order to decide your case, he will either deny your request, or continue your case – which means you will have to come back to court again to do whatever it is that you were trying to do in the first place. Also, if you have piles of documents, but you can’t find the one document that you need, don’t expect the judge to wait for twenty minutes while you shuffle through your files. Organize your documents before you go to court so that once you are there you can easily find what you need.

Going to divorce court without a lawyer will rarely be a great idea. But, if you have to (or choose to) do that, follow these guidelines and you may be successful in court nonetheless.

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Karen Covy is an experienced Chicago divorce attorney, mediator, educator, and collaborative lawyer.  She is the author of: When Happily Ever After Ends: How to Survive Your Divorce Emotionally, Financially, and Legally.  Karen can be reached at (312)236-1670 or You can view her website at


How “Touchy-Feely” Mediation Works – An Actual Case Study By Mark B. Baer, Esq.

I recently had an email exchange with some mediation clients of mine that demonstrates the power of what I refer to as “true mediation” and wanted to share it, to give people a better understanding of the process. The exchange went as follows:

“Dear **** and ****:

Please stop this. From reading these emails, it is clear to me that you are both acting out over things that are far and beyond the manner in which the finances were handled with regard to my mediation fees. Let me shed some light on this from my perspective. At our last session, the two of you agreed that [Husband] would pay for 2/3 of my mediation fees and [Wife] would pay for 1/3 of those fees. Since [Wife] did not have a checkbook with her, [Husband] agreed to pay for the entire session and [Wife] agreed to reimburse him. However, we never discussed how [Wife] would reimburse [Husband]. Since people typically think of reimbursement as being a direct payment to them, [Husband] assumed that [Wife] would pay him $600.00 directly. Instead, [Wife] decided to pay me $1,000.00, which amounted to $600.00 for her share of that cost and $400.00 as her anticipated share of the upcoming 3 hour session that is scheduled to take place next week. I promise that I would not have accepted [Wife’s] payment, if I thought for a moment that it would have created a problem and for that I must apologize.

With regard to the issue of the accounting regarding fees paid to me, my invoices to you both will reflect who paid what and therefore it will be very easy for you to determine whether anyone needs to be reimbursed for paying proportionately more. Since I know how I maintain my billing, I assumed that my accounting would be sufficient. Again, please forgive me because had I not taken the payment, you would not be having this particular argument.

Now, let’s discuss what is going on here. First of all, [Husband] had an expectation as to how the reimbursement was to take place and it was unexpressed. As a result, when that expectation was not met, he got upset. I want to now quote Brene’ Brown, Ph.D. because her work is amazing ( “Blame is about discharging pain and anger. Accountability is about understanding how vulnerable we feel, expressing that and asking for what we need. We tend to make people guess what we need and then blame them for not delivering.” Isn’t that exactly what occurred here? Remember we talked about trust and forgiveness? If you recall, we talked about the importance of learning from prior experiences and forgiving? Please read the following article I wrote because it covers much of this information: To be quite frank, I get charged a substantial fee for taking a credit card payment over the phone, especially if that credit card is American Express. By the time I take that fee into account, I am not making my agreed upon hourly rate. Would I have preferred being paid otherwise? Yes. Did this impact my financial situation? Yes. However, I do accept credit cards and the fee was paid in this manner. At this point, the fee was incurred, even if I were to reimburse it to [Wife]. Therefore, I just don’t see what good will come from arguing over this issue because the only person it financially impacted was me and there are many ways of doing the accounting.

Do you remember the three words you each came up with that describe your respective core values? When you are communicating with each other, are you doing so in a manner that satisfies those three words? Do you remember your “mission statements” as to why you each wanted to mediate your divorce? Do you really want to risk derailing the mediation over this?

Earlier, I mentioned that there is something else going on here. I think that [Husband] made that clear when he stated, “OK. Please also be cognizant of your mass emails to our mutual friends and family that I was not privy to, that painted me as abusive, etc. Pot=Kettle+Black.” If this did occur, it “shamed” [Husband] and shaming someone is very destructive. In fact, that is Dr. Brown’s specialty. She studies vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame at the University of Houston. I might suggest that you each consider purchasing her two books and reading them. I learned a great deal from her and quote her extensively. You can get some understanding about this issue from the article I linked to earlier in this email. However, you might also learn something from the following article:

[Husband’s] feelings have clearly been hurt as a result of certain things that were said and done and he is sharing that with us. Only [Husband] knows how he feels and it is important that we respect his feelings. You also both have very different stories of what occurred. Guess what? We all do. We all live in our own realities based upon our perceptions of things.

I would also strongly suggest that you read the following article about the “blame game” because you are playing that game regarding the “cause” of this divorce: This may not be [Husband’s] first divorce, but [Wife] entered into this marriage with complete knowledge of that fact. It would be different if [Wife] entered into this marriage without such knowledge.

If this exchange is an attempt to get me to “side” with one of you, it won’t happen because I am a professional and my role in this case is as the neutral mediator. Moreover, I am not making any of the decisions – I am merely facilitating settlement between the two of you.”

Husband responded as follows: “Mark- Thank you for this perspective. [Wife] – I’m sorry I was triggered by this and it took a negative turn.”

Wife responded as follows: “Mark, thank you for your big picture reminders. I chose to work with you precisely because you side with the child and no one else. That’s important.

I think for all the obvious reasons, mediation is very important. However, we need to discuss how ground rules must be observed. Taking ten steps to go one step forward is not progress and further erodes trust.

We also need timelines because [Husband] has not yet sent us the notes from our last mediation session and it was his turn to do so.

Anyhow, thanks for your guidance.”

How can a mental health professional help in the collaborative process?

A Collaborative Divorce Process takes place when couples have chosen to avoid divorcing in the traditional way, deciding to not involve the court. Instead, they decide to work with a team of professionals to achieve a settlement that best meets the needs of both parties and their children.

The team of professionals consists of a lawyer, a mental health professional who serves as the coach, a financial specialist and sometimes another mental health professional who is usually a child specialist. Three disciplines work together to integrate the legal, emotional, and financial aspects of divorce.

The role of the therapist/coach is remarkably beneficial. He/she help the couple define and implement a settlement that best meets the needs of their family, and teaches them how to communicate effectively, how to resolve conflicts in a respectful manner and how to successfully ‘co-parent.’

In the process, clients are not required to visit their past or childhood. The therapist/coach utilizes the Solution-Focused approach to therapy and helps the client in the following ways:

1. Prepares the clients to successfully negotiate an agreement: the client’s needs, concerns and underlying emotions are identified to help the client prioritize issues and be prepared for the meetings.

2. Establish effective communicate: the therapist/coach will learn about the clients’ blind-spots and impediments in the way they communicate and solve problems. Then he/she will coach the client how to overcome them. This contributes to the effectiveness of meetings. For example, teaching patience, assertiveness or temper control makes the meetings more effective with less confrontation.

3. Handle emotional issues that can sabotage a settlement: each party may experience certain emotions (e.g. sadness, anger, etc) that are in the way of achieving a resolution. The therapist/coach will help a client process, manage, understand and handle them in such a way that it will not interfere with achieving healthy solutions.

4. Develop effective co-parenting skills: therapists/coaches hears the feedback from the child specialist and will assist the clients to develop and implement an amicable and cooperative parenting plan.

5. Work collaboratively with: the couple, their attorneys and other involved professionals to improve communication, reduce misunderstandings and solve problems as they come up.

Overall, the therapist/coach will work closely with clients in many ways to aid handling critical issues regarding the divorce. Primarily, identifying needs and concerns, effective communication, reaching a settlement that serves both parties (e.g. that is free of ‘revenge,’ ‘anger’ or ‘negative feelings’) and implement a healthy co-parenting plan.

Dr. Ronit Lami is an internationally renowned psychologist. Her services include Consulting, Coaching, Affluenza evaluation and Expert witness. She has over 18 years of experience helping your clients through the hardships of divorce. She can be reached at (310) 626-0218, or visit her website