Friday, 30 August 2019

Divorce And Kids: 5 Ways Divorce Benefits Kids

Contrary to popular belief, divorce isn’t always negative for kids — sometimes it’s excellent for kids. Here are five ways that your children can benefit from your divorce:
1. When Mommy and Daddy are happier as individuals, their kids will be too. When there’s ugliness between the couple, no one’s happy. Once the halves of the couple move on and find their grounding, each one as an individual has the opportunity to be happier than ever. When children have a happy mom and dad, they’ll do much better.
2. When the tension dissolves out of the house, kids will be more relaxed. Children are like barometers. You can measure the level of tension in the air by their behavior. Once the split happens and the nasty intensity in the environment fades, watch how the children’s behavior follows.

3. When you model that you deserve to be in a satisfying and supportive relationship, you model something wonderful to your kids. If you stay in a bad relationship “for the kids,” don’t fool yourself that the kids will really benefit. Although there will be certainly be an adjustment when you divorce, the end result is positive. You’re showing your children not to settle for an unhealthy marriage.
4. With shared custody, kids have the opportunity to experience each parent as a full and competent parent. Usually when both parents are together, one of them takes on most of the nurturing and/or logistical planning. After a divorce, the children can have each parent completely focusing on them with the time they have together. They can also see each parent fully taking care of home business.
5. There’s the potential for your kids to either witness you being happy on your own or finding a better partner, both of which are a good thing. Whether or not you decide to pair up with another mate, your kids can benefit by watching your joyful independence or new positive relationship. Either way, your children will benefit. 
So, if you were thinking this article would be about the horrors your children will experience if you divorce, at this point you’re either hugely disappointed or greatly relieved. What’s most important to remember is your newfound single life after divorce is what you make it — and your children’s attitude and well-being will follow suit.

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Divorce: Whose Problem Is It?

The enormity of divorce scares me to the core every time. Every time I meet someone who is lonely after divorce, or speaks about the effects of divorce or even see it on a soap opera, the challenges divorce presents shocks every time.

Divorce is not something that just affects the separating couple. It is just as likely to hit the extended family to outside friends who have no choice but watch the drama unfold.
The problem is divorce is on the increase and the ever-changing family structures see the effects forever unfolding.

As a child of divorced parents, I see the effects on a daily basis. I find it difficult to trust new people, which is one of the reasons why I have never been in a relationship. My nan is always worrying about our family after my parents’ traumatic divorce. My mum and dad regularly comment on the divorce. My sister has been known to break into tears randomly thinking about the divorce.

It’s been four years down the line and I am forever asking myself when will it end? Will the consequences still be felt ten years down the line? Will future generations feel it?
I’m trying to move on from the point of my parents’ divorce and open up the debate of the effects of divorce. My parents’ divorce happened as it happened. Yes, it was awful. Yes, it could have been less traumatic. Yes, it maybe didn’t have to have happen.

But it made me who I am today. I don’t think I would be half as resilient, adaptable, feisty, blunt and adventurous if it wasn’t for my parents’ divorce. Everything can change in a heartbeat.

I have been asked in various contexts what advice I would give to young adults whose parents’ are separating. My advice is simple; It’s not your fault. For a while during my parents’ divorce, I pretended to ignore it was happening. I don’t think I’ve ever been as exhausted as I was during my parents’ divorce. Living between two friends’ houses, working 16 hours a week, studying for four A Levels, having parental responsibility for my younger sister, being woken up with abusive messages the night before my A Level exams, I’m surprised I didn’t combust. But having all these various responsibilities was the way I dealt with my parents’ divorce. We all have our own coping mechanisms and you need to find the one that suits you. There will be moments when the grief cuts you anew and with time, it will become less so.

My work with Voices in the Middle is attempting to show there can be positives to divorce. Families can be happier, stable and focused when there is divorce.

The more we can do to ease the pain of divorce, the less we can save having to treat for depression and other problems. Only last year, one newspaper stated ‘the stress of divorce can triple risk children getting diabetes‘. If this is even partly true and you weigh up the associated costs of diabetes, you can start to understand the enormity of divorce.

That’s why I will be working with Voices in the Middle to establish a voice for children when their parents’ separate. We should all be doing far more to eradicate the effects of divorce, even if we haven’t personally be affected by it. For our friends, our future generations and ourselves.


Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Lessons I Have Learned Post Divorce

Today I am reflecting on some of the lessons I have learned during and post divorce.

Happiness is a choice

This may seem obvious to some of you, but when you are caught up in a continual cycle of drama you may not be able to see that removing yourself from a negative situation is your choice. I have learned to remove myself from negative people and negative situations that don’t have a positive impact on my life. In nearly all situations I ask myself “does this make me happy?” or “do I feel good about this?” if the answer is “No” then it’s not something I pursue. You can use the ‘joy or annoy’ method! Bin the things, situations and people that annoy, keep the ones that bring you joy.

Forgiveness is required to move forward

Right now this may seem impossible for you and admittedly I still find it hard to fully forgive my ex and his (now) wife for turning my world upside-down and putting me in a very difficult situation. Not only did their actions affect me emotionally and mentally, being coerced in to bankruptcy and denied rights to an equal divorce has continued to affect my life and financial situation for nearly 5 years.

However, I am reminded of the quote “Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die“ ~ Buddha. I must accept that I will never receive an apology for what they put me through and that by holding on to resentment, the only person getting hurt is me!

The UK legal system is flawed

Maybe I didn’t select the right representation or maybe I was just a small fish in a big pond. If my solicitor had told me right from the start that I would get nothing from my ex due to my bankruptcy then I NEVER would have pursued him to pay my mum back what she was owed from the house. If I had known that he would come after my business/livelihood and that legally he was entitled to, I would have taken steps to protect it and myself. All in all it was a costly and emotionally damaging exercise where he kept everything and my mum only received a fraction of what she was due. I received nothing and still owe my dad for the cost of the divorce. If I could turn back the clock, my choice of solicitor and route to divorce would be completely different. My advice would be; do some research, select the right route to divorce for you and if going down the route of using a solicitor, choose someone you feel comfortable with.

Psychopaths exist outside of the movies

I have dated a psychopath, post divorce, and believe I may also have married one. I believe no decent human being would act in a malicious manner to intentionally hurt a vulnerable person.

It’s ok to ask for help

I fought for ages about seeking professional help. My defense was “I’m fine!”. On reflection, the early days of the split were when I needed help the most, over 4 years on I believe that this lack of professional help in the early stages has impacted on how I deal with my emotions now. Go get help and don’t be embarrassed about it!

Stress is a choice, depression is not

I choose to be self-employed, therefore I can choose whether to be stressed about work, deadlines or life in general. It is in my power to keep stress at a minimum level. For years I thought I thrived in stressful situations, procrastinating on projects and leaving it to the last minute to meet the deadline as working under pressure produced the best results... or so I thought! Having tried to lose weight for over 4 years and consistently putting it on, I am beginning to understand (and be educated on) the impact of stress on the body. Having been diagnosed with depression and ignoring this diagnosis I am now bigger than I have ever been, EVEN THOUGH I eat well and have 3 personal training sessions a week and complete my step goal each day. I have drastically changed some habits to reduce my stress levels and I am working on others. I may just have to succumb to the idea that all though mentally I feel ‘fine’, my body is telling me that I am depressed.

Acceptance is key

In order to move forward you must accept what has happened and learn to find peace with it. Some people may say ‘things happen for a reason’. I used to HATE it when people threw this cliché at me, but now I find myself saying it to others in times of emotional turmoil. I have accepted the role I played in the end of my marriage and have accepted that in order to have a happy life I must follow my own advice and forgive those who have caused me hurt.

Money isn’t everything

Going through bankruptcy alone and living off a small wage was a lesson I would never have wanted to learn in a million years! I was a high flyer in marketing, loved shopping and home-making... But shit happens and I dealt with it, day by day. I am still tarnished with the ‘bankruptcy brush’ as I can’t get a mortgage or write a cheque or get a credit card, but it has taught me that the important thing in life is not how much money is in the bank but how much love there is around you. My family, friends, pets and my home are among the MOST important things to me and I am truly grateful to have them in my life.

Choose your friends wisely

I learned very early on after my split that there are some friends who will be there no matter what, they’ll give you the truth even if it hurts because they care - hold on to them and don’t let them go, and there are some friends who stick around because they a) feel guilty b) are nosey c) love drama & gossip - avoid these at all costs! Delete them from social media, no need to be nasty or cause further drama, just be aware of who in your life makes a positive impact and who doesn’t.

Finally - Embrace change and all the lessons life throws at you!


Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Divorce after 50: It's complicated, especially if retirement is near

Divorce rates for most age groups have leveled off, but for people age 50 and older, it's higher than ever.

Today 1 in 4 divorces is a couple over 50 untying the knot—about double what it was 20 years ago, according to the National Center for Family and Marriage at Bowling Green State University. Though divorce at any age comes with financial consequences, it's particularly fraught when retirement is in the crosshairs.

"When people spend a lifetime together and they look at finances together, when divorce comes, it's a different thing," said financial advisor Chris Chen, of Insight Financial Strategists.

At 50-plus, there are more assets and possibly more debt, more retirement accounts and more estate-planning issues. What isn't there is a lot of time. Older divorcees may not have a chance to course-correct for bad retirement-planning decisions.

"It's really hard to get a divorce judgment overturned on appeal," said Lori Lustberg, a lawyer, mediator and independent divorce financial analyst. A spouse who gets an award of support will have a hard time getting it readjusted to reflect higher inflation in a few years, for instance.

Working with a financial planner or a certified divorce financial analyst—someone trained to look at the financial implications of these decisions—can help soon-to-be exes avoid financial pitfalls before the divorce decree becomes final.

Retirement assets

When it comes to splitting retirement assets, it's not always a 50/50 division. Divorce laws are governed by state, so judges and mediators have wide latitude about the actual terms of the split. They come up with the percentages of retirement accounts that each spouse receives.

To divide a 401(k) plan or a pension tax-free, you'll need a court-ordered qualified domestic relations order, or QDRO. The QDRO tells the plan administrator how much to pay the non-employee spouse's share of the plan. The lump sum can then be deposited into another tax-sheltered account.

A QDRO is not necessary to divide individual retirement account or simplified employee pension (SEP) IRA assets, however.

"People sometimes delay getting the QDRO, and I really urge them to do it sooner rather than later," Insight Financial Strategists' Chen, who is both a certified financial planner and a certified divorce financial analyst.

Dilly-dallying can have dire consequences. Chen recalled a client whose husband delayed obtaining a QDRO. The husband died suddenly, without the document having been given to the pension administrator. "His wife lost all the spousal benefit that she was entitled to," he said.

Houses as assets

Of course, retirement assets are not just those that exist in a 401(k) plan or IRA. Couples use all sorts of assets to help them plan for retirement.

What to do with the house is a subject accompanied by deep emotions, both from couples and their financial advisors. The way many financial advisors tell it, spouses—especially women—often have an irrational attachment to the home. They often see it as the embodiment of all that was good about the marriage.

"It's the biggest mistake that most women make," said financial planner Candace Bahr, founder and managing partner of Bahr Investment Group. Bahr's not-for-profit organization, Women's Institute for Financial Education, holds monthly divorce workshops at a local community college in the Carlsbad, California, area.
"I call it the marriage mansion," she said. "Women want to keep the home, even if it's not appropriate."

But a house can also be viewed as a retirement asset, argued Sandy Voit, a certified divorce financial analyst with Tangible Solutions. And it's more tax-efficient than other pools of retirement money.

In the Seattle region, where Voit is located, it's not uncommon for clients who work for large-area employers, such as Microsoft or Boeing, to sell a home for $1 million or more. Assuming closing costs of 8 percent, a $500,000 original purchase price and $100,000 in capital improvement, a home could end up earning its owners a net profit of $320,000. 
For couples, $500,000 of the capital gain is tax-free, so selling a property prior to the divorce decree might be prudent. But it might make sense post-divorce, too, Voit said. In that case, $250,000 would be tax-free for the single person and $70,000 taxed at the favorable 15 percent or 20 percent capital gains tax rate. 
"From a tax perspective, that might still make sense," he said, comparing home sales to withdrawals from 401(k) plans and IRAs. The latter are taxed at the ordinary tax rate, which can run as high as 39.6 percent.

Social Security

When it comes to Social Security, divorced couples have some options, but they need to be mindful of the timing.

First, an ex-spouse is entitled to spousal benefits—half of their ex's benefit—starting at age 62, even after divorce. Spouses can receive this benefit as long as they were married at least 10 years and not remarried when they start collecting the benefit. And having an ex collect a spousal benefit does not affect the primary beneficiary's Social Security payments at all.

"The only way you can screw this up is by remarrying someone who is not making as much money as your ex," said Bahr at Bahr Investment Group.

And it gets better. Should an ex die first, spouses can get a step up to the higher benefit, the same they would receive if they were still married to the person. As divorce financial analyst Lustberg put it, that's "very valuable income."

Money for one

How you invest your assets should not change much post-divorce. 
At Insight Financial Strategists, Chen has found that older divorced couples, for example, often become too risk-averse—even if doing so means their portfolio won't keep up with inflation. "Risk tolerance is all about perception," he said. "The way that people who are under stress look at it, they don't believe they'll lose 20 percent [in a down market]; all they hear is 100 percent." 
Some clients insist on keeping their money in cash, a move that Chen calls "a very safe way to lose money." Even someone in his or her 50s needs a healthy dose of equities in order to make sure their money keeps pace with inflation. 
"Even at 65, people could have a 30-year horizon, and they do need to be invested more aggressively," said Chen.

Monday, 26 August 2019

Lessons from the end of a marriage

7 Areas to Downsize During Divorce

One of the most gut-wrenching sensations during divorce is to be by yourself in what was the marital home. It’s a different type of alone than the kind that comes when your spouse is away on a business trip. It’s a hollowing. A fragile glass sphere rattling around in a sharp-edged box with no padding for protection. It’s a tangible experience of the loss, the cleaving. The house feels deserted. An empty vessel that once held life and possibilities now only serves as a backdrop for memories.
And the house isn’t the only area that is often too big after divorce. The life you built with your partner expanded to hold both you. And maybe you’re lost within its generous boundaries. Divorce can be a time for contraction, a time for simplification and retreat.
The following are 7 areas you may want to consider downsizing during divorce:
A large home requires a large bank account and a large amount of energy, both of which may be in short supply during your divorce. There is a freedom that can be found in occupying a smaller space. Be honest about your needs and your resources. If you do not have kids, this can be a great time to rent a room or move into the city. If you have children, consider other options within their school district. If you are staying in the marital home, simplify it. Consider how you can save time and money around the house. And, by all means, make the space your own.
It can feel strange moving from home ownership back to apartment life. It feels like back-sliding, especially in our culture where owning a home is both a status symbol and a sign of adulthood. But this isn’t a time to worry about keeping up with the Jonees. This is a time for rest and recharge. The Joneses be damned.
Many of us are overextended. We have obligations to family, work and friends. We then weigh those even more by piling on the “shoulds,” which are simply self-imposed obligations. Divorce is a time of letting go. Not just of the marriage, but of anything that is clutter in your life. Consider all of your commitments. Do they still fit? Are there some that no longer serve you and your life purpose? Release them. Practice saying “no” when asked to carry additional weight. If you have been lax about boundaries in your personal or professional life, now is a great time to reinforce them. And if people take offense at your new, less sycophantic self, just blame it on post-divorce psychosis.
Clutter tends to accumulate not only in our obligations, but also in our closets. Go through your stuff and sell what you can (check with your attorney first if you’re still in the legal process); you probably need money now more than you need that fancy watch or cute shoes that are too expensive to actually wear. Purge your mementos from the marriage. Even if you want to keep some, you have no reason to keep them all. Too much is paralyzing, especially when we are already weakened. So remove the excess and find peace in the space left behind.
Divorce has a way of revealing your true friends. You learn that some of those you thought had your back, only had it in smooth seas and sunny days. This isn’t a time to be overly concerned with social niceties and excessive politeness. If a friend is making you feel lousy or anxious, let them go. Invest your energy in the relationships that help to build you up and make you feel connected.
During divorce, your brain practically demands distractions. Reality is pretty sucky and so anything seems preferable. Even (or maybe especially) bad television. Now, I’m not saying you have to cancel your cable or disavow your Netflix, but I am recommending you set limits. Television is an attractive escape because it is a passive one, requiring nothing of you other than attention. But its very nature acts a pause button. Because while you’re watching, nothing else is happening. You may be distracted, but you’re also not changing anything. The pain will still be there when the power is clicked “off.”
Social Media
Social media is a double-edged sword during divorce. It allows you to be connected to friends and family across the world in a time when you need all the support you can get. On the other hand, it has a devious way of showing you pictures of your ex, smiling with a new partner. And even if you manage to avoid the jarring pictures of your ex moving on, there is still the Photoshopped world that makes you feel less than. Be judicious in your consumption of social media. Maybe shift to phone calls/texts/emails with the people who matter and ignore for a time the people that don’t.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Yet, in divorce, even the small stuff feels big. Try to focus on what is really important:
Do you have a place to live (even temporarily)?
Do you have a source of income?
Are your children safe?
Are your basic needs being met (food, safety, sleep, etc.)?
Do you have a support system?
Cool. Everything else is just details. Release your worries. You don’t have to know everything today. Just the next step.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Motivational Tips: Life Tips after Divorce

Mental Health: 10 Tips to Get your Life in Order and Regain Control after the Divorce

I sometimes have restless nights where I can’t seem to get my mind off everything I’m faced with. Often I’m thinking about my next move in this world. How about you? When your marriage ends, thiscan happena lot. Divorce, and coping with it, has a way of mkaing your mind wander in these directions.
After such a night not too long ago I went for a walk along the Grand Traverse Bay (one of my favorite spots) to shake off my grogginess and fretfulness. Walking east, the morning light cast an amber haze on gentle ripples easing their way to shore. I spied two sandpipers flitting in the sand, and a few sea gulls feasting on something that had washed up on the beach. A couple of minutes later, from behind the large breakwater surrounding the marina, came a powerboat disrupting the baby ripples, forcing more aggressive waves toward me.
I made it over to the space next to the harbor house and looked north to the water’s edge, continuing the conversations in my head from the middle of the night, as well as trying to figure out what on earth I was going to write about for this column when I got back to my computer.Just as I started to head for home I caught sight of a mama duck and her babies making their way to the beach. Ten baby ducklings, all in a row. I said to myself, “They seem to know where they’re going and they’re doing it with purpose and precision. Why can’t I seem to get it together like that?”
Then I wondered: What would be the ten things I’d need to do more of to get me closer to my dreams and a more settled life? After pondering it for a short while I came up with the following list, in no particular order (and all subject to change) that I intend to work on:
1. Get healthy, and lose weight, so I’ll look and feel better about myself.
2. Clean out my closets, literally and figuratively. This applies to anything or anyone weighing me down.
3. Tackle those things I tend to procrastinate over, taking them one step at a time so as to not feel so overwhelmed.
4. Stop feeling the need to take care of EVERYONE all of the time, and start caring more about my own needs.
5. Spend more time doing what I truly love to do (which is almost always tied to our purpose in life).
6. Take the time to learn something new every day.
7. Find something to be grateful for every single day.
8. Work on my relationships, especially the ones I find the most difficult (gee, where do I start?).
9. Catch myself every time I use negative self-talk, and think more positively.
10. Meditate.
When the issues of divorce are surrounding us, it’s really easy for everything to feel like one big jumbled mess. Taking the time to create a list of things we find important to our well-being (both inner and outer), and then actually acting on them, can help us feel more in control, more together. What 10 ducks are you going to compile?

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Is Divorce a Career Killer for Mums?

Well, you’ve heard it said once and many times over - divorce is like a death.

So many losses are involved including the future you had once dreamed off. You life’s direction takes a turn that you didn’t plan for and you really don’t know what lies ahead.

You get to see that there are indeed life events that are capable of knocking you sideways and propelling you into a land that you never had any intention of visiting let alone residing in.

Yet here you are. In the land of inner pain, anger, resentment with a touch of relief and anticipation for what the future holds. A place where concentration, sleep disturbance and appetite attacks are all names of avenues, street and roads.

Welcome to the land of “The Divorced Working Mum.”

20 years on and I still recall how one of my daughter’s nursery teachers came to school one Monday morning looking tired, worn out and red-eyed.

Her “new” appearance was easily noticeable to us parents because Mrs Blake-Harrington, let’s call her that, was always very presentably dressed with an air of collectedness and coolness about her.

It turned out, her husband had just left her and the children (both under 9) that weekend. She was not the I-am-in-control teacher whom we used to see. That one had left. 

Mrs Blake-Harrington, stayed on for another couple of weeks but eventually had to leave and take a much needed break. She went to see her parents who lived outside London...never to return.

So what happens when you find yourself divorced and the main carer of your children? How does that affect your career or work prospects?

My own divorce experiences steered me to working in a totally different way than I had anticipated albeit in the same profession - child therapy. I had two children and no family around to help. 

I had to drop out of courses during divorce number one and had to quit one full-time job during divorce number two and opt for a part-time position that was paying me not only a fraction of my previous salary but that was also mind-numbingly dull.

In the meantime, my ex-husbands, had the support and help from their work places. They could work long hours if they wanted to because they didn’t have to get home in time to pick up their children from school and look after them and this reflected back on the successes they achieved post-divorce.

However, and I hope they don’t mind me saying this, these successes were short lived as after a while, they both were burned out having not taken time off to deal with such huge life events. Today they are both working in different fields.

I recently read this quote in Oprah Magazine, an article by Martha Beck:

“If you’ve had a run of horrible luck, you can tell yourself you’re being tortured or punished. Or you can decide you’re being steered.”

So did my two divorces kill my career?

That’s the story I held for a long time. That’s the belief that I carried with me for a long while until one day, I realised that, the divorces shifted me to where I am today, doing what I love.

Remember that mind-numbingly dull job I ended up in? Well if it wasn’t for that job and it’s dreariness, I wouldn’t have taken the huge risk of resigning and working for myself. I had to do something. I just couldn’t stay there.

I am now working with children and families affected by divorce, trauma and loss and I am pursing my other love and passion, which is writing and editing entirely on the topic of divorce and separation.

I work for myself. I control my days and hours. That is what has worked for my children and I.

So is divorce a career killer? Will it be yours? It certainly was mine for a while there, but not anymore.

During divorce, there are many parts of your inner world and being that no longer function as you knew them. You day to day life is affected by your emotions which are affected by your thoughts which then play a role in determining your actions.

The one piece of advice I could give anyone going through divorce to do is to take time off. Do ask for help, take it and accept it when it is offered. Ok, that’s more than one but they hey.

Only when you take care of yourself will you be able to see things clearly and make better decisions and judgments as to which way to go next. This is no time to be a warrior woman.

Grieve if you need to but don’t stay there forever.

Divorce encourages you to reassess your current situation to find and discover very creative ways to get time with your children, earn some money and look after yourself.
It’s not easy. We love spending time with our little ones but bills need to be paid.

But here you are. The change has come. You are being steered. Which way will you go? What will you do? What can you do? Know your options and take it from there.


Tuesday, 20 August 2019

11 successful co-parenting commandments

As the song goes, “breaking up is hard to do”—but you can make it easier on your kids. Here’s how to rock at co-parenting.

1. Collaborate, don’t litigate

Acrimony is expensive financially (a divorce trial, on average, costs each party $13,000, but that figure can go up to $100,000 or more) but also emotionally, particularly for your children. According to a 2009 report for the Ottawa-based Vanier Institute of the Family, kids who’ve lived through an ugly split are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and self-esteem issues, and are more likely to drop out of school. Court-imposed outcomes also tend to be more short-lived than amicable settlements and can actually increase conflict in the long-term. “When you go to court, the winner goes yahoo, and the loser goes boo hoo,” says Gary Direnfeld, Dundas, Ont., social worker who specializes in family mediation and counselling. That means the “losing” parent will be less likely to follow the court order and will try to undermine the other parent in hopes of having it overturned. More collaborative processes force co-parents to achieve a mutually agreeable settlement. “Though you might have to plug your nose a bit,” says Direnfeld, “you’re likely to have a more durable agreement.”

2. Be respectful and “professional”

“Treat your co-parent as a colleague,” says Cameron Shouldice, a collaborative lawyer in Toronto. Would you blow off an appointment with a co-worker? No way. But Deborah Moskovitch, author of The Smart Divorce, remembers rushing home to meet her children, only to have her ex show up an hour late. “That escalates the tension,” she says.

3. Create a parenting plan

Sit down with your co-parent (and, if necessary, a third party, such as a mediator or parenting coordinator) to set out the rules and routines of your child-rearing partnership. The more acrimonious the divorce, the more detailed your plan should be, says Moskovitch, whose own high-conflict split dragged on for seven years. How will you share birthdays and holidays? Where and when will you pick up the kids on transition days? How long will you wait before introducing a new significant other? Is it OK to post pictures of your child on Facebook? Revisit the plan every couple of years to ensure it’s still relevant, given your child’s age.

4. Remember that “fair” doesn’t always mean “equal”

In the aftermath of a split, many parents get caught up in the notion that “fair” means sharing access 50/50. “But what makes sense for the child might not look like that,” says Nancy Cameron, a family lawyer and parenting co-ordinator in Vancouver. If Mom travels often for work, it might make sense for the kids to spend more time with Dad. If your ex has always taken your child to hockey practice, try working that into the schedule—even if it means giving up some of “your” weekend. And get your kids’ input before making any decisions. “They don’t want to be in control, but they do want what’s important to them to be taken into consideration,” says Cameron.

5. Communicate effectively, part 1

“Generally, ineffective communication is one of the primary causes of the break-up in the first place,” says Shouldice. That doesn’t magically change because you’re no longer a couple. Attend a short-term seminar (check with your local social services agencies, such as Toronto’s Families in Transition, the BC Council for Families and the Alberta Courts), or hire a coach/therapist to ensure that what you’re communicating to your co-parent is being received in the manner you intended. “This stuff is way more of an important investment than trying to outfit the second bedroom to help the kid transition to two new houses,” says Shouldice.

6. Communicate effectively, part 2

Electronic communication allows co-parents to discuss schedules and air grievances without having to pick up the phone, chat in person, or stress your child out by turning them into a messenger. “But it’s so easy in an email to start a war,” cautions Moskovitch. A few rules: Take time to cool off, and to objectively consider your words and tone, before hitting send. Only deal with one issue per email. And respond to your co-parent’s missives within 24 hours (or set specific guidelines depending on the urgency of the situation).

7. Never dis your co-parent in front of the kids

This one can be tough, but if you’ve got a beef, deal with it when you’re sure little ears can’t hear. “Kids are terribly conflicted if they feel they have to align with one parent or the other,” says Cameron.

8. Schedule parenting “dates”

Clear your schedule monthly to talk to your co-parent about your children’s progress. If possible, have regular family meetings with the kids to discuss school, activities and whether the schedule is working.

9. Let it go, let it go…

You might have a few immutable rules in your house: a strict 8 p.m. bedtime, no fast food, one hour of screen time per day. Your ex, conversely, might take the kids to McDonald’s and let them stay up late watching movies. You can’t expect your co-parent to enforce the same rules you do, so try to let it go. But do sit down together and identify critical values—say, religious observance or a ban on TV violence—you both agree on.

10. Don’t sweat the small stuff

Empower your child to take their belongings to your ex’s place—yes, even that expensive new toy. “If it doesn’t come back, that’s OK,” says Shouldice. “It’s the kids’ stuff, and it belongs in both households. That gives them a sense of security.”

11. Get on the same page

To help keep track of pickups, appointments and school events, Direnfeld recommends using a Web-based program like Our Family Wizard, which was designed specifically for co-parents. Or keep it simple with Google Calendar. It also helps to have both parents on the school or daycare email list.


Monday, 19 August 2019

Developing Co-Parenting Plans

The organisation of cooperative parenting schedules.

A co-parenting plan is a written document that outlines how parents will raise their children after separation or divorce. Developed with the best interests of children in mind, a co-parenting plan details how much time children will spend time with each parent, scheduling details, how major and minor decisions about children will be made, exchanges of information and ongoing communicate about the children, children’s extra-curricular activities, and how parental disputes will be resolved. A written plan will help all family members to know what is expected of them and will be a valuable reference as time passes and family circumstances change.
There are numerous formats and templates for developing a co-parenting plan, but the key to successful co-parenting is to focus on the needs of the children, particularly their need to maintain routine relationships with each parent and to be shielded from ongoing parental conflict. There is no one “best” co-parenting plan that families should adopt and follow, as much depends on the unique circumstances and specific needs of family members. Some of the key issues that have to be addressed when putting together a parenting plan include the ages of the children and their developmental needs, the children’s school schedules and extracurricular activities, the parents’ work schedules, scheduling for holidays and summer vacations, the distance of the parents’ homes from each other, and any special needs of the children (such as disabilities or health concerns). Most often, it is best for a parenting plan to be as specific as possible. For example, with both routine weekly/monthly schedules, as well as specific holiday schedules, the exact times for pickup and return of the children, as well as where the exchange will take place (at a parent’s home or in a neutral location, for instance), need to be spelled out in detail. Of course, if parents are able to accommodate each other comfortably, they may not need to follow the parenting plan to the letter, but in the majority of cases, where there is some degree of friction, specificity is important.
In my own practice, I focus parent on five main dimensions of co-parenting, three time dimensions and two aspects of decision-making.  These will constitute the heart of the final parenting plan. Time dimensions include (1) overnight stays (how many will there be with each parent?); (2) routine time (the actual time the child and parent spend together in the daily routines of caretaking and parenting); and (3) activity time (time spent together in recreational and special activities). Difficulties are likely to arise if one parent has little activity time but the main responsibility for routine time, or vice-versa, or if all overnights are with only one parent.  It is also important to separate out the school year, holidays, and special days and observances for each of these time dimensions. Parental decision-making includes (1) daily decisions made in the course of daily child-rearing; and (2) major decisions (including schooling, religious affiliation and training, and major medical decisions). Again, a plan in which one parent has power to make major decisions without any responsibility for day-to-day decisions can be highly problematic.
How best to begin the process of formulating a co-parenting plan? One possibility is for each of the parents to draft a proposal with respect to the five dimensions of post-divorce parenting, and then come together to compare the lists and begin to negotiate. Another option is to have each parent work through a time survey—for example, outlining what a typical week would look like when the child is living with them, and then come together in mediation to compare their lists.  This kind of exercise helps parents consider what will be involved in parenting as separate entities, think about their strengths and deficiencies as caretakers, and identify the skills they will need to be able to carry through their co-parenting plan.
While parenting plans take many forms, it is important to include the following five clauses in the written agreement:
(1) A general statement to begin the agreement: The parents will cooperatively share the parenting of the children, with co-parenting defined as having two core elements:  shared responsibility for important decision-making as well as the daily routine parenting of the children, and parental cooperation with respect to same.  This includes respect for one another's parenting style and authority; that is, parents agree to say or do nothing that will harm the relationship of the other parent with their children.  A helpful clause to include in this section is, "The parents agree to foster love and affection between their children and the other parent."
(2) Sharing of parental responsibilities: The parents agree to confer on all important matters affecting the welfare of the children, including education, health, and religious upbringing.  They agree that each will have access to medical and school records. There should also be a clause saying that day-to-day decisions are the responsibility of the parent with whom the child is living.
(3) The specifics of the actual time-sharing and residential arrangement: This includes overnight stays, routine time, and activity time.
(4) Details regarding holidays and special days and observances: This includes overnight stays, routine time, and activity time.
(5) The agreement time period, and amendments to the agreement: End with a clause indicating the length of the agreement, and that the plan will be reexamined at a later fixed time, or from time to time.  If no revisions are deemed necessary after the agreed time period, the agreement is automatically renewable.  A clause specifying the manner in which parents will settle disputed issues in the future, with an emphasis on cooperation and a return to mediation if necessary, is also essential.
Explicit guidelines for co- parenting can be developed at the time the co-parenting plan is drafted.  These may include: respect the other's parenting rules; avoid criticizing the other parent, directly or indirectly;  avoid placing a child in the middle of an argument or using a child as a messenger;  stick to the time-sharing schedule and keep promises, but also be flexible in a way that meets the children's and the other parent's needs (try to accommodate the other parent's request for changes, but the other parent should remember that even small changes to the schedule that occur with little forewarning can cause major problems);  make transitions as comfortable as possible for the child (be positive about the child's stay with the other parent;  be courteous with the other parent;  once the child settles back in, let her talk freely about the other parent or the other home);  and respect each other's privacy (keep contacts and communications restricted to set times, and to child-related matters).
While the co-parenting plan should usually be highly structured at the beginning, over time, flexibility, creativity, and compromise should be encouraged.  Changes to the plan over time are inevitable; parenting arrangements will require reevaluation and change over time, based on children's changing developmental needs and the parents' own changing circumstances.
Contingency planning sets the stage for needed future changes.  Potential obstacles and areas of conflict regarding parenting can be anticipated; issues such as changing job demands, relocation, and how to deal with children's changing developmental needs need to be discussed.  Remarriage or cohabitation and stepfamily formation may affect co-parenting in a significant way, as the problem of mistrust often reemerges when new members join the family
Once a co-parenting plan has been negotiated and drafted, it should be implemented for a specified trial period, anywhere between 6-12 months.  At the end of the trial period, the plan is reviewed and made permanent, modified, or abandoned.  It is important to know that the plan you initially negotiate is not irrevocable.
Establishing a routine and an environment conducive to children's adaptation to the new co-parenting arrangement are critical tasks for both parents.  Children are generally anxious to know the specifics of their new routine, and the predictability of a clear schedule facilitates adaptation.  They also prefer to develop a sense of "belonging" in both of  their parents’ homes, and will adapt more easily if they have a place of their own in each house, which they have helped in creating.  Other important considerations include deciding on children's items that need to be duplicated (toothbrushes, nightclothes, school supplies, diapers and baby supplies for infants), those that are divided between the two homes (shoes and clothing apportioned in measure with how much time is spent in each residence, toys, books), and those that will go back and forth between the two homes (cherished toys,  bicycles, musical instruments).

Friday, 16 August 2019

10 Empowering Tips For Re-Entering The Workforce After Divorce

What distinguishes a divorced mom from any other applicant as she re-enters the workforce is that she is either in the midst of crisis or in the wake of a crisis. In the quest to find a job or clients and customers for herself, she will compete with people who are feeling settled and happy or, perhaps, wide-eyed 20-somethings newly out of college and grad school. She will compete against women who do not have the responsibilities of caring for children. She will compete against men.

In terms of preparing myself as I joined the ranks of competitors in the depths of the recession, I read many articles that dealt with resumes, cover letters, and interviews. And these were full of suggestions not without value. I would recommend reading all you can. However, I got most bogged down in the part that involved me, as an individual, reimagining my future as my world completely dissolved.

This step of envisioning where you want to go and who you want to be, takes a tremendous amount of courage and strength that is lost on those who are not in the wake of, emotional trauma.

To find that internal footing from which to launch yourself, try the following 10 tips to boost your sense of empowerment when re-entering the workforce after divorce:

1. Be “unrealistic!”: 

As your new life unfolds, there may be numerous opportunities to crashland in "reality." However, I would say to try to allow for opening up wide to the potential of your future as you explore your options. Do your best to prevent hemming yourself in by "realism." We must be philosophers and question What is reality anyway? People around you may say things like, "Oh, don't expect to go back at your old salary." They may grimace and frown and say, "At your age you will bump into agism." People say all kinds of depressing things that would seem to hem us in and hold us down as they project their fears onto us. Try to have your imaginary shield up for this kind of thing and don't create an artificial box for yourself and think you are somehow limited before you even begin. Try to allow for infinite possibility, and even happiness, in your new work life.

2. Be a legend in your own mind: 

Because you are "starting over again," there is a wonderful opportunity to completely change your career direction. Just because you were a project manager before having kids doesn't mean you have to be one now. Are there any latent dreams you've had about becoming a milliner and running a cottage industry online somewhere like Etsy? Have you always wanted to sing? Again, as in Tip 1, try not to limit yourself too quickly (if at all) by brushing aside any dearly held dreams. Sure, you may have to get the proverbial day job until you launch something else, however this is a golden time in your life to reinvent yourself. Write down a list of all the jobs you saw yourself doing when you were a child. Write down the jobs that other women have that, when you ponder them, make you just a tad jealous or create a sense of longing. What does your heart long for in terms of your professional world?

3. Be Wonder Woman: 

So much of what we end up doing in the outer world begins with a series of thoughts we have. If our inner dialogue is fearful and cautious, we might accept sub-par job offers thinking that we have to grab the first thing even if it isn't right for us. Even if you are the most passive woman on the planet, picture yourself not only as confident and proactive but with several super powers to boot. Have fun with it.

4. Cast your net wide: 

College applicants are told to apply to three tiers of choices: their "reach" schools, their 2nd choice schools and their fall-back schools. Think of your job search in a similar way. Even if you don't get the advertised position, the HR person might pull your resume for a different opportunity.

5. Take aim like Artemis: 

In addition to being a superhero, imagine you are a powerful woman in mythology who goes after what she wants. Imagine a job as a bright red apple and you drawing back your golden arrow. Focus on what you want. Know what excites you and makes your heart say YES!and then take aim.

6. Have a multi-pronged strategy: 

Yes, you should look at job listings and send resumes. However, try other approaches as well. Walk into a business and talk to the people there. Invite a manager to have coffee with you for an informational interview. Go to job fairs. Be creative.

7. Don't fret over your resume: 

Heresy, right? Of course you must have a resume. However, odds are your resume won't be the thing that gets you the interview or the job. If working on your resume is the bogeyman that prevents you from moving forward with your job search, begin by setting up a Linkedin account at You don't have to complete it to have a presence on Linkedin. Just get your name and a brief description of your industry and past job experience so you can begin to build your contacts base.

8. Believe in your technical skills: 

Try not to confuse your comfort level with your true ability. When the job description says, "Must be Microsoft Word proficient," it does not mean you have to be a Word genius. It just means you need to have worked on Word. Are you comfortable with computers? Maybe not. But that does not mean you should limit yourself from applying to a perfectly good job. Many community colleges have cheap or free classes on basic skills for computers.

9. Network like a mother: 

This is most likely how you will find a job. Use Linkedin. Use your friends. Use your family. Use professional associations. This is how it is done. Connections. Use your superpowers to gain courage and start the power lunches.

10. Have vision: 

Picture what you WANT your new life to look like in 5-10 years and hold tight to that vision. Finding a job--or settling on a career path--may take longer than expected and, at times, feel frustrating. It is important to draw upon your inner resources and who you really are--or who you can be--when life isn't cooperating yet. Know what you really want the outcome to be deep in your heart. The road may be long, but you CAN get there.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

5 Positive Lessons Children Learn From Divorce

Many parents worry their divorce will negatively effect their children. However, one psychologist says divorce can have a positive impact on kids.

Your parents, a best friend, perhaps even yourself—most Canadians have had some experience with divorce. In 2008, Statistics Canada estimated that 41 percent of Canadian marriages would end in divorce before their 30th wedding anniversaries.

Despite this forecast, the actual number of divorces in Canada declined between 2007 and 2008—the most recent years studied by Statistics Canada—but the heartbreak that accompanies a divorce is still very real for many Canadian children. Thankfully, not all kids grow up to carry scars from their parents' split. Here are five positive life lessons children can learn following a divorce.

1. They become resilient and adaptable

For Gabrielle Domingues, a Toronto media specialist and married mother of two, her parents' divorce taught her how to roll with life's changes. "Divorce made me more adaptable to varying lifestyle situations," she says. "My dad lived in a different city for years, so I was more attuned to having more than one resting place with different people and things. That's a useful skill to have."

Dr. Lisa Ferrari, a Vancouver-based clinical psychologist, says Gabrielle's hunch is bang on. "A natural byproduct of going through divorce is that you are required to be more adaptive," she says. "You're in a situation where you have to develop coping strategies to deal with physical and psychological space transitions."

Often, children of divorce grow up having to develop coping strategies that their non-divorce counterparts wouldn't encounter until years later, if at all. "Having to overcome these obstacles and having to deal with change makes some children of divorce more resilient in life," says Dr. Ferrari.

2. They become more self-sufficient

Tara Richmond, a married mother to a six-year-old son and a marketing and media consultant in Collingwood, ON, found that her parents' divorce made her more confident in her own abilities. "Having a mother working full time after my parents' split taught me how to be more self-sufficient," she says. "I went home after school by myself and often started dinner. At age 11, I was doing laundry, and small grocery shops. I really relished my time alone at home. I got to know myself."

The new economic challenges that come with having a single-parent income often result in the child becoming more responsible for household chores. "It's logical that divorce offspring would view themselves as more self-sufficient, and see this strength as a positive outcome of their parents' divorce," says Dr. Ferrari.

3. They develop an increased sense of empathy toward others

A change in the family unit can make some children more sympathetic to the problems of others. "I think I am more accepting of people, their situations and circumstances," says Tara. "My parents were the first of my friends or family to get a divorce. It was 1980, so there was still a stigma."

Dr. Ferrari says that she sees this caring trait in the kids of divorce who frequent her practice. "When their peers have family problems, it's very relatable for them," she says. "I find that they can be quite empathetic."

4. The idea of marriage isn't taken for granted

"Coming from divorced parents, I have a heightened understanding to the stakes [in marriage], which hopefully makes me a more conscientious spouse," says Gabrielle. I feel a certain pride that my marriage is strong and happy when my parents' wasn't, like I'm succeeding where they didn't."

"I'm not surprised that's something Gabrielle's proud of," says Dr. Ferrari. "Even at a young age, kids want to create something different after they've experienced the hurt that comes from the separation of their parents. They say that they're going to do this better than their parents, or not do it at all. Gabrielle's doing it, and she's changing her history."

5. They learn more through quality time spent with each parent

Not all kids of divorce spend less time with their parents. "I got to know my parents on a different level by spending so much time with them individually," says Tara. "I think my relationship with each of them became closer and we learned a lot about each other."
Like Tara, the kids in Dr. Ferrari's practice often mention this plus. "The biggest positive I hear from the kids and see first hand is that they spend more time with dad, especially if their family structure was more traditional [pre-divorce]," she says. "When the parents move into a shared role, the kids find they get more time with their fathers."

While it's more common for a child, or adult, to recount negatives from their parents' divorce, Dr. Ferrari says that the legal community is adopting changes that suit the children's best interests. Hopefully, these adjustments will facilitate more positive outcomes. "We're moving towards alternate dispute resolution processes such as mediation, so parents can go through divorce without involving court," she says. "Engaging in co-parenting therapy lets mom and dad commit to parenting the kids the same way, despite no longer being married to one another. These changes are positive for kids."