Child concernedWhile divorce is often expensive, when you look back on your divorce many years from now, the financial cost is not likely to be your most significant concern. If things do not go well during your divorce it is more likely that your real regrets will have more to do with the “real cost” of divorce; the impact on your children and on your emotional state. Can this “real cost” of divorce be reduced? Yes, but it takes hard work. The cost of your marriage. Of course, the first thing to think about is whether the divorce is necessary. If you are considering starting a divorce that you think can be avoided, make sure you explore all of your options before you give up on something you have worked to build. I am not talking about continuing to be unhappy in your marriage. I am only urging you to think about whether finding a way to become happy within the marriage may be a possibility and to consider whether the idea of happiness outside the marriage could be a mirage. If you have determined that the marriage cannot be saved (and I realize this may not be within your control), your next focus needs to be on how to avoid the real “cost” or damage that divorce can create. The cost of conflict to your family. Almost all divorce cases settle before going to trial. However, many people experience conflict during the settlement that can cause long term damage to their co-parenting relationship or their ability to move forward with their lives. So how do you achieve a settlement without high conflict and still protect yourself in the divorce process? Good settlements require a high degree of commitment. If you, and the professionals you hire, are truly committed to reaching a settlement that works for you and your children, you can achieve an outcome that reduces conflict and protects your other important interests. While your commitment will make the most difference, you also want an attorney that is committed to getting a good settlement as well. Almost all attorneys today will say they want to help you achieve an acceptable settlement. However, the difference between wanting a good settlement and committing to settlement is night a day. If getting the best settlement, and avoiding the real “cost” of divorce is important to you, you should consider hiring an attorney that is fully committed to settlement. Collaborative attorneys are attorneys who commit, in writing, to achieve a settlement that is acceptable to you. At the beginning of their case, both Collaborative attorneys sign a written document stating, in essence, that if they cannot get an acceptable settlement, they will be fired. The commitment to settlement causes everyone to use methods that are more effective; including full transparency, negotiation based on big picture goals, working with other professionals for more efficiency and reducing the posturing and arguing. To learn more about the Collaborative Process, and to find attorneys who are experienced in this area, go to or
By Antoine Ducrot (1814–?) (Koller Auktionen) [Public domain], <a href=I have learned a few things over the years being a divorce and family law attorney and mediator. One thing I have observed is that men are often result-oriented in a divorce (and just generally in life, right?!). They frequently believe that they have a solution worked out. If only their spouse would listen to them, they could have been done with this whole process yesterday. I have also observed that while women are concerned about the terms of the final agreement, they also want to be sure that they go through a thoughtful process to get there. Part of this stems from women’s tendency to value relationships more than men. Another part of this is that men may not appreciate the extent that relationships matter in negotiations. If men understood how much relationships matter in negotiations, they would be more thoughtful in how they approach negotiations in divorce, because as a result they would frequently find that they would get better outcomes for themselves and their spouses. With more open communication comes more potential options that benefit both people.  A great way to approach a negotiation is to start by trying to listen and ask open ended questions in order to honestly figure out what the other person wants and why they want it, in order to better understand their perspective. Without this knowledge, many potential settlement options will go undiscovered, which results in lost opportunities for both people. Of course generalizations about men and women are not always fair or accurate, but what negotiation professionals understand is that—regardless of gender—if a person feels valued and respected, they are more likely to show the same value and respect in return.  The result of this mutual respect is that communication between the two people, in a divorce or other legal process, is more open and honest and more effective and efficient, which almost invariably leads to more potential options for settlement and better outcomes for both people.
It is not uncommon for two people to come to divorce at very different points in readiness. In fact, one spouse may not want the divorce at all. You may not have anticipated your spouse wanting a divorce, but that does not mean you can ignore it. If one spouse wants a divorce, it needs to be addressed. If things cannot be worked out in counseling, or if one of spouse is not interested in therapy to improve the marriage, you will need to address the divorce. Minnesota is a no-fault-divorce state. This means a divorce may be granted if either party wants to end the marriage–you do not both need to agree. If one of you wants divorce, the other spouse should meet with an attorney to learn about the process. You will need legal guidance to help you through the divorce process and learn about your options. Collaborative divorce is one of the best options available to divorcing couples. Collaborative divorce allows both spouses to have legal representation, but moves through the process in a respectful and non-adversarial way. If discussing parenting schedules, child custody, financial division of property, or support options is challenging for you, you may want an advocate who is also versed in the emotional needs of both of you. The Collaborative Process also allows for other neutrals to help guide and support you through the process. A child specialist can help address parenting challenges. They have expertise in child development and co-parenting challenges and they can help tailor agreements that will work for the whole family. A neutral coach can help support you emotionally through the process. Maybe you need help with communication or guidance to work on a particularly emotional issue; a coach can help with this. Indeed the collaborative structure as a whole is designed to help you be your very best in this process. Even if you don’t want the divorce, bringing your best self forward will help the process go as smoothly as possible. Divorce is not an easy process. It is particularly challenging if you don’t want the divorce. Seeking a safe and caring process may be the best thing you do for yourself and the outcomes reached. Do not let the fact that the divorce is unwanted, or comes as a surprise, hinder you. Choose a process that will help you feel safe and protected.
Many of us have been there. A close friend has just confided that their marriage is ending. The news may or may not be surprising, but may still catch you off guard. You want to say and do the right thing. What can you do to be helpful? Here are three suggestions: Listen. First of all, just listen. This is so important…and much more difficult than it sounds. Listen with empathy and openness. Try to resist the temptation to react, interrupt, interject your own experience, or provide advice. Understand that your friend is expressing the truth as they see it in that moment, and that what they need most of all is connection. When we are listened to, we feel connected. Support. Divorce is an emotional event that takes time. As with any difficult journey, it helps to have a support along the way. By being available, and providing a stable presence in your friend’s life, you can provide much needed emotional support during what can be a tumultuous time. Meanwhile, try to refrain from giving legal and financial advice. Your friend must have competent professionals to assist them in these areas and needs you to be a friend. Be honest. If your friend does ask you for advice, be honest. Telling them what you think they want to hear will only serve to bolster what may be an unreasonable position. Instead, try to engage in a compassionate conversation about your friend’s situation. Expressing your own perspective from a place of caring may help your friend become more open to other perspectives and possibilities. You have been invited to accompany a friend through one of life’s most challenging transitions. By listening, supporting and being honest, you can provide a much needed connection along the way.
Recently I did a radio interview about how divorce impacts children during the holidays. One of the first questions asked was, “Isn’t it true that divorce traumatizes children, especially during the holidays?” My response was that divorce is a crisis for a child, but parents can ensure that it doesn’t become a trauma. A crisis fades to a painful but manageable memory, but a trauma feels life-threatening, and can reverberate throughout a lifetime. If a holiday becomes traumatic, a feeling of dread or deep sadness may accompany the holiday year after year.  I’d like to share five things divorcing parents can do to help their children cope and find moments of  holiday joy during a divorce. The first is for parents to commit to de-escalating conflict to ensure their children are not put in the middle. This ideally involves both parents pushing the pause button on arguments, but even if only one parent opts to not engage in negativity and conflict, the atmosphere will improve around children. Parents need to be mindful to keep from being triggered, and this is good self-care during a divorce. I always recommend the book The Four Agreements to my clients to help them learn ways to disengage from conflict. A second consideration concerns holiday gatherings of extended family or friends. Parents may need to set clear expectations that negative things will never be said about the other parent in the presence or hearing range of the children. Children should be encouraged and supported by both parents to enjoy holiday time and events with each parent and extended family. A third way to support children during the holidays is to stay attuned to them and spend time with them doing things they enjoy. This is a good time to distill holiday celebrations to their essence, and not go into overdrive. If you are in the midst of a divorce, your emotional energy is likely depleted and you may be in crisis yourself. Keep things simple, but show your children they are loved with the gift of your attention and interest. Fourth, it can help to honor the familiar while creating new holiday rituals. If co-parenting is harmonious enough, children may be soothed by maintaining a familiar ritual like decorating the tree, or gathering as a family for a couple of hours on Christmas morning to open stockings. Parents attending children’s school concerts or church pageants together can be similarly reassuring. Finally, I help parents create We Statements during a divorce to provide explanations for their children in a clear, developmentally appropriate, non-blaming and authentic way. A We Statement detailing holiday plans in advance can help children prepare and know what to expect. We Statements are especially effective when prepared and shared jointly by both parents.
“It’s a little girl,” my friend Rick said, his voice shaking with excitement. “Everybody’s fine!” A little later he said, “You know what the best part of this is? I didn’t hear about it. I was there for it!” It was an especially poignant thing to say, because the new mother–his daughter–was just starting grade school when Rick and his wife divorced, and she and their little girl moved to the East Coast from the West Coast. “I read to her,” he told me not long after we met. “I read to her every Tuesday night at seven. I give her Mom a lot of credit for that. Every Tuesday night at seven o’clock, I’d call her and I’d read books to her over the phone for an hour so she wouldn’t forget the sound of my voice. I worked it out with my boss, and I’d come in an hour early on Tuesday.” “What did that do to your phone bill?” “Are you kidding?” he said. “It’s the best money I’ve ever spent. The Summer she got married, I walked down the aisle with her, and then I went and sat next to her mother. And we were both crying!” It made me wonder about some of the kids in the thousands of families that divorce each year in Minnesota who spend years waiting for the sound of a parent’s voice, or a card, or a hug. And I remember what Rick said when I asked him why he did it. “I wanted her to know who she was, where she came from. I didn’t want her to wonder who she is. I never put a price on that!” Apparently, it worked.
A divorce is not only an emotional event, it is a financial event. As the year ends, people often focus on tax implications of divorce. Being planful and mindful of taxes may benefit both spouses moving forward. Having a good collaborative team can help you work through tax issues and make the best financial decisions possible. Here are some things to think about regarding taxes and divorce: If you are still married on December 31, you can file your taxes jointly as married–even if you are divorced by the time your taxes are due. You may want to work together to determine the best overall tax scenario and work together to save the family the most money possible in a given tax year.
  • You may want to include language about the tax consequences for your last year of marriage in the decree. Clarifying that any liability or refund for that year is shared, could save you effort later in the year when one or both of you have a claim to the other’s refund/liability.
  • The IRS does not care about the specifics of your property division. Unless it is explicitly in the decree, the IRS will not consider whether one of you received more property in exchange for less tax liability. The IRS operates on its own and you should obtain attorney advice on tax liability before finalizing the divorce.
  • You may want to look at the tax implications of filing as Head of Household v. Single post-divorce. Who will claim the dependent exemptions? Do the exemptions need to accompany other benefits claimed such as healthcare reimbursement or child care benefits? Taking the time to think through these issues before finalizing the divorce could save you time and money later.
Because the ramifications of financial decisions can linger long after a divorce is finalized, it is important that you work with an attorney who is experienced in divorce and financial issues so that there is less likelihood that you will have later financial questions. The collaborative process allows for open and thorough examination of tax issues and financial impacts down the line.
Cinderella Castle, Disney WorldRecently I received an email from a former client I met through Daisy Camp. This was a welcomed experience, as I value hearing back from parents once they have had the opportunity to experience co-parenting following their divorce or break-up. This message was a day brightener, describing how helpful their parenting plan had been as a guide and road map. Co-parenting can be challenging, and parents may  hit rough patches for any number of reasons. For these parents, the details in their plan had helped them successfully reach joint agreements and resolve their differences, and they felt good about how their co-parenting relationship had evolved. I was very pleased to get such a positive update, but then came the proverbial icing on the cake. These parents, with whom I worked with years ago during their divorce, had just taken their children together on a trip to Disney World. This was the experience of a lifetime, and their daughters were ecstatic to have both parents there. Apparently there were many raised eyebrows when the parents announced their intention to take this joint trip, but this reaction just made them smile. They knew why and how they were able to make this dream come true for their daughters. It was their mindful transformation from getting divorced to becoming resilient and successful co-parents. What a beautiful divorce story their daughters will be able to tell in the future! Focusing on the needs of children, and keeping children at the center and out of the middle helps create the motivation and vision to do the hard work my former clients were able to accomplish so well. I loved getting permission to share their inspirational story. My dream as a neutral child specialist in Collaborative Practice is that some day soon their story won’t be considered extraordinary, but typical. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all future divorce stories told by children contained healing moments of hope, laughter and grace, made possible by their parents?
Speed BumpMarie and Tim are divorced, but decided to enter CBS’s Amazing Race and spend 24 hours a day together tackling obstacles under constant stress with $1 million on the line.  They ended up in 2nd place and did not win the million, but think about how wonderful it is to see exes working together in a way that gets them all the way to 2nd place in a highly competitive race on reality TV. In their Race bios they both complained that the other does not listen well and always needs to be right. Tim wrote, “I would like us to be able to communicate what’s best for each other as an ‘us.’” In the Collaborative Divorce process we begin by asking the couple about their goals for finances, children, housing and their own relationship. Do they want to stay friends? Do they want to stay connected to in-laws? If there are children, do they want to share activities with their re-structured family? Often, divorcing couples will identify the exact same goal Tim identified above. Collaborative Divorce recognizes that dissolving a marriage does not have to be the same as ending the relationship. Many couples prefer to stay friends. In the Collaborative Process, couples can work with a neutral divorce coach to have honest conversations about their patterns of interaction and communication. It is an opportunity to say, “Yeah, we both want to always be right and neither of us listens very well.”  That kind of frank, open communication can lead to the ability to continue a rewarding relationship and, apparently, even try to win a million dollars together! Tim and Marie, I wish you had the million. Thank you for showing us that a couple can end their marriage, disagree with each other, have typical relationship conflicts, get frustrated with each other AND stay friends who can work together for a common goal whether it is for themselves, their children or the possibility of a million dollars.