Divorce is never an easy topic, nor should it be an easy answer – but what about during a pandemic? Is disrupting your family’s life to separate into two households the right thing to do when a pandemic is taking place? There is never going to be a “right” time to divorce.  Once a couple figures out either on their own or through counseling[1] that their problems cannot be solved, a constructive divorce is often the next step. Courts are open and those cases that can be resolved without any court hearings are moving more rapidly than ever through the now virtual court system.  The collaborative divorce model has been around for awhile, but using it now during the pandemic can make your divorce more efficient, while still bringing in the professionals as needed for your particular situation, including financial planners, mortgage brokers, child specialists, divorce coaches or mediators. Collaborative may be the right process for you if you want the following:
  • To stay out of court,
  • To work things out on your own,
  • To make a plan for the future for both parties looking at your family’s interests and needs,
  • To maintain a private, safe environment to exchange ideas and options,
  • To put your family first.
Collaborative Divorce is not going to be about winning, revenge or punishment.  Rather the collaborative process requires both attorneys and parties to focus on interests and goals instead of positions through a series of joint meetings.  Traditionally these meetings were held in person, but the same meetings can now take place virtually and everything can be handled online.  Starting the process now may be just as good as any other time. You can find more detailed information about collaborative practice and look for professionals to help get you started at the Collaborative Law Institute of Minnesota. [1] Discernment Counseling is a type of limited scope counseling that helps couples or individuals determine whether to work on their marriage or keep moving towards divorce. See University of Minnesota Couples on the Brink project. Author:  Angela Heart, Heart Law, LLC Angela is a collaborative family law attorney at Heart Law, LLC. Her mission is to enable and empower divorcing couples to have a smooth transition that is family focused during a life changing event. To find more information about Heart Law go to www.heartlaw.net.
pexels-photo-704149Who would ever ask for a two month supply of elevated cortisol and high anxiety in their Christmas stocking!  Yet for many, the holiday season adds to rather than relieves stress as parents feel obliged to layer Hallmark fantasies about “the most wonderful time of the year” onto work demands, gift shopping, extra food preparation, children’s activities, cleaning and decorating.  The holiday season can feel challenging during the best of times. What about when holidays fall during one of the most difficult of times, when parents are in the process of separating or getting unmarried?  While feeling overwhelmed themselves, many parents worry that their divorces will cast a pall on Christmas or Hanukkah or winter solstice activities for their children.  Your kids don’t benefit if you make yourself miserable with unrealistic expectations for “business as usual” over the holidays if you’re running on empty and in pain.  But it’s also unfair to them to completely pull the plug on holiday celebrations for the same reasons. More than presents, your children need your presence, love and support, as they deal with their own feelings of sadness and loss about the family change. The winter holidays are all about hope and light, which children need to thrive, so help them find moments with you to experience them both:
  • Have a clarifying discussion with your co-parent about what to expect in terms of help with holiday rituals like decorating the house, shared gift-giving for the kids and possible shared activities like Christmas morning or one of the nights of Hanukkah.
  • Decide with your kids (or for them, depending on their ages) on a few heart-felt and meaningful ways to celebrate.  Having a do-able game plan can relieve stress. Now is a good time to create new rituals as well as honor the old.
  • Be authentic and set realistic expectations for activities and gifts if your energy and finances are low.  Resist any urge to blame your co-parent.  Putting your kids in the middle is guaranteed to make them unhappy.
  • Actively enlist your support system this year.  Most people who care about you will want to help, so give them a way. Cookies made by a friend or family member will be just as delicious, and someone would love to help you set up your tree.  Meet with your therapist, go to the gym, get that massage.
  • Affirm your support for your kids to enjoy holiday activities with both sides of their extended family.  When you are not with them, focus not on resentment, but on resting, renewing and recharging in the true spirit of the season.
children-cute-drawing-159823April is Autism Awareness Month, the two month anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, and the 19th anniversary of Columbine.  Why talk about ASD and school shootings in the same sentence?  And why a divorce blog?  I will get to that.  But as a lawyer-mom, these two issues are at the forefront of my mind, and probably the minds of many parents and educators these days.  We should rest assured that our kids would know what to do during a lock-down because they have spontaneous drills throughout the year, right?  Ugh…what am I saying?  The fact that kids NEED lockdown drills is downright outrageous!  Nonetheless, I wondered what the younger kids are told and what happens during these drills.  Well, lucky me, when I recently volunteered in my son’s elementary school classroom, the school had a lock down drill.  And one word sums up the experience: chilling. Lockdown drills are very different from the fire and tornado drills we had as kids.  I’m sure everyone remembers the fire drills – exit the classroom quickly and get away from the building.  Or the tornado drills – go out to the hallways, away from the doors and windows, and cover your head with your hands.  Up until about 1999, THOSE were the drills Minnesotan kids experienced.  In fact, most the time, much to our teacher’s chagrin, we were laughing and joking around.  A lock down drill, however, has a very different vibe.  The kids must be EXTREMELY quiet.  They huddle into a specific area and are instructed to remain eerily still.  This had been a bustling class (and school) just moments before, but now it was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop.  This was a class of 30 second graders, so I was stunned at the deafening silence.  Just when I thought it was over (it seemed like forever, but was probably two minutes) someone rattled the door handle.  Forcefully.  Not a peep from the kids, but I jumped.  Luckily, they didn’t see me or they might have erupted into giggles.  We had to continue to remain quiet and motionless.  Interestingly, I don’t remember what happened next; that is, I don’t recall if there was a bell or another signal indicating the drill was over (I think I was sort of in shock).  The kids went about their business, working on their projects, like it was no big deal.  Only it was a big deal.  At least it was to me and the other adults in the room.  I just looked at the staff, wide-eyed, and shook my head. School lock downs are now a reality for school-aged children.  It makes my heart ache.  I asked my son that evening why they have lockdowns and he nonchalantly said it was in case anyone wants to break into the school.  That was it.  Simple enough.  But as we grown-ups know, there is nothing simple about this. My son is a “mover and a crasher,” so I was relieved he made it through the drill.  But I thought about the other high-needs/special-needs kids in his school.  For any child who has physical needs or doesn’t cognitively understand the drill, simply can’t be quiet and remain calm, needs to move, or overreacts when accidentally bumped or touched by a classmate, what would that child do in this drill?  Or, God forbid, in a REAL situation? With more and more kids being diagnosed with ASD, what protocols are in place for them?  Is there a special section in their IEP about drills?  There ought to be. This made me think about special-needs kids whose parents are going through a divorce.  The teachers are aware of kids’ needs (or should be).  So, too, should the divorce team.  A child’s symptoms often reemerge or worsen when they are stressed, which could happen during parental conflict and/or separation.  Child specialists can work with the parents and the child’s pediatrician and/or therapist to help create a parenting plan that is in the child’s best interests.  Like it or not, otherwise fit and loving parents need to work together for there children’s sake.  Fortunately, the Collaborative process can help parents really focus on their kids, by putting them in the center, rather than the middle, of the divorce process.  Every family situation is unique.  Every family and every child deserve a creative plan to help move them forward, restructure, and get to a new “normal.”  Drill and lockdown protocols included.
flowerAs many know, because Minnesota is a no fault divorce state, one spouse not being ready does not need to stop the process from moving forward. The ready spouse can file for divorce and the process moves on in court with little control of the reluctant spouse. A potential client recently came in for a consult and, as often is the case, her husband was struggling to move forward in the process. They were at very different points on the divorce readiness scale – she was ready, he was not. This is quite typical. The other spouse is sometimes called “reluctant” or “in denial.” When one spouse is looking for a non-adversarial, out-of-court alternative (like mediation or collaborative divorce), there is more of a need to bring that other spouse along. The reluctant spouse really can delay the process and interfere with the non-reluctant spouse’s desire to divorce. This potential client said something very interesting to me. She said, “I know I am committed to collaborative divorce, but I am learning that this does not have to be a collaborative decision.” This realization was profound. She realized that she could control the process (with her husband’s agreement), even if her husband never agrees with the decision to divorce. It is common during the divorce process to have spouses be at different comfort levels with the decision to divorce. These levels of readiness can change throughout the process and even vary greatly from one meeting to another. The challenge often lies with helping the reluctant spouse commit to a collaborative process, while acknowledging his or her disagreement with the process. A good collaborative attorney can strategize ways to bring the reluctant spouse into the process and help move things forward. Ways to teach him or her about the divorce options and lay out the pros and cons of different processes for divorce.  To learn more, contact Kimberly Miller.  
Those married, and especially with children, might dream of having a quiet Saturday night to themselves, but for many divorcees, especially those newly divorced this new “free time” can be especially lonely. You might not be ready or wanting to jump into dating, but being home alone frequently can be rather lonely during those early days of divorce, whether the kid’s are at your ex’s house, grown, or you don’t have any. We put together a list of ideas to get you started to help pass the time.
  • Exercise – Whether you prefer to exercise solo, or would like to make it a social activity by joining a gym or a running/swim/etc. there is no better time to get fit than on these lonely days. The endorphins will instantly boost your mood and you’ll gain extra side effects like weight loss, strength, and confidence!
  • Reading – If you don’t already love to read, keep trying – surely there is something out there that will peak your interest to keep reading! Join a book club if you want to make it a social activity. Not sure where to find one look online or start one – ask friends and neighbors with similar interests if they would like to join. You can rotate the meeting space/host each month to keep it fun and interesting!
  • Explore your town – play tourist in your own town, get lost in a bookstore, see when museums and arboretums have free admission days. Check into free classes and groups at your local library, many offer events like adult coloring night, crafts, and cooking. In addition to children’s activities, Community Education through the school districts also offer adult activities.
  • Cook – try new recipes, or maybe just save them on Pinterest for another day. If cooking for one person doesn’t interest you, perhaps make a monthly standing date with a parent/friend/sibling where you have them over for dinner and conversation. If baking is more your style, but you don’t want all of the sweet temptations around, take the treats to a nursing home, shelter, police precinct, etc.
  • Start a new hobby – maybe you haven’t picked up a paintbrush since high school art class, or dusted off that old sewing machine great Aunt Edna passed down to you years ago, but find something that peaks your interest. All the better if you’ve never done it before. Now days you can find a video tutorial for just about anything on the internet, which even makes home projects that you may have never considered DIYing possible. Hobbies like painting or sewing are difficult to start and stop when the kids are around, so those perfect projects for these lonely days.
  • Part time job – if you could use the extra cash there is no shame in getting a part-time gig. Even if you don’t necessarily need the money and are just looking to fill the time, find something you enjoy doing and set the money aside for a vacation! Even direct sales can provide a fun, no pressure, no schedule way to earn some extra cash and socialization too!
  • Volunteer – The options for volunteering are endless so find something that you are passionate about and look into how you can help.
Like the idea of being more social and meeting new friends, but not sure where to start? Websites like MeetUp.com are a great way to find local interest groups. Do you have activities that have helped you through your newly found free time? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below!
150954514-african-american-businesswoman-looking-at-gettyimagesNearly every celebrity seems to have a divorce under their belt, but what about our local public figures – our children’s teachers, our mayors, city councilmen – how does the pubic feel about “those” public figures when they are facing divorce? About midway through the year I had noticed my daughter’s teacher’s name on Facebook (we have mutual friends) going from FIRST MARRIED to FIRST MARRIED MAIDEN, and I thought a divorce must be imminent. Admittedly my first thought was how a divorce might affect her teaching abilities for MY child. Selfish? Perhaps. Or are those type of reactions expected with public careers? Her private life is certainly none of my business, but is it easy to check your feelings at the door? Certainly not. The University of Minnesota is currently doing a study on the impact of divorce on a person’s career. Those results will be interesting to see, especially as there are careers can have a big impact on the public sector. Some may say that their divorce was the best thing that ever happened to their career. Perhaps work was a necessary distraction as their marriage crumbled at home. But on the other hand some people admit that they simply could not focus at work with their marriage on the rocks. Sometimes people can attribute their careers to actually being the CAUSE of their divorce. A husband that travels all week, a wife who tends bar on the weekends, a stay at home parent who never gets a break, and more often than not, simply the demands and stress of a person’s career can tear apart a marriage. Some careers are statistically at a higher risk for divorce, almost as if divorce is beyond their control. A few months later as school was coming to a close I noticed my daughter’s teachers name on social media is now: FIRST MAIDEN. Admittedly, my feelings changed from worrying about the affect her divorce would have on my own daughter to feeling horribly sympathetic towards her and her own children. As I leaned more I realized her husband holds a local political office and I began to wonder about the effects the divorce may have on his political career. It’s important to remember that everyone is human, divorce does not define a person, and even if you feel like your divorce is in the spotlight, remember that this too shall pass. Please share your thoughts about public divorces in the comment section below.
551985347Is money a little tight and it seems you’ll never get ahead in life? Perhaps it’s time for you to invest in yourself. In fact, investing in yourself can be the most profitable investment that you can make.  Three possible investment options include investing to improve your skills, your creativity and your health. To invest in your education and skills consider these investment options:
  • Increase your education – get an advanced degree or relevant certification that will qualify you for a better job.
  • Increase your skills – for example, become more efficient by learning about computer software or even a computer language. Take courses that provide skills which will make you stand out when a promotion is considered, such as communications and managing people.
  • Expand your knowledge – are there technical aspects of your job that you just assume are someone else’s job to figure out? Take a deeper dive into the technical aspects of what your department does.  Also, keep up-to-date on the current trends or advancements in your profession or industry. If something strikes a chord, bring it up at work and you may get noticed for your interest in improving your skills, the office or company.
To invest in your creativity, you need to expose yourself to ideas, concepts and experiences that help you think outside the box. Consider trying new things such as:
  • Take an art class such as drawing, photography or jewelry making
  • Learn to play an instrument
  • Take a trip and really learn about the people, their culture and history. Heck even try learning their language.
  • Take up a hobby that involves learning and doing rather than buying and collecting.
Finally, invest in your health. You can avoid spending a lot of money on prescriptions, doctors and hospitals by staying healthy. And, when you have less stress, you become a better person and more efficient worker.
  • Make healthy food choices
  • Make time to move – walk, bike, hike, play tennis, do yoga.
  • Make time to relax. Learn to enjoy slowing it down. Read a book, take a trip, learn to meditate.
  • Make time for family and friends. Learn the skill of conversation, accept and don’t judge.
  • Make time for yourself. Listen to what your body is telling you.
A full life is measured by so many dimensions other than wealth.  You need to figure out the dimensions of your life that make you feel fortunate, whether the stock market is up or down.
514409797-rocks-forming-numbers-reading-2016-gettyimages2016 is well underway and many will look at the new year as a new beginning. While it’s important to have a positive outlook on the year ahead, sometimes the changing of the calendar year can create a false sense of promise. Pressure to set unrealistic goals such as being healed from your divorce this year, or that you will fall in love this year. Sometimes while going through the difficult path of grieving your divorce it may be helpful to consider that January 1st is nothing more than the day after December 31st. The changing of the year will bring a bit more healing and personal growth as each day passes, however it is imperative to understand that things can’t, and won’t, change overnight, which is why creating realistic expectations of the new year is essential to your healing. All the talk about new year’s resolutions, goals, “new year, new you,” that come with the month of January can leave you feeling overwhelmed, which creating realistic expectations, even if that means lowering or having no expectations at all can be a healthier way to navigate the healing process. Setting lower expectations allows you to be gentler on yourself. Creating a sense of balance in your life can be far more important than checking something off of an overwhelming, or unrealistic, to-do list. As you gradually adjust to your new normal, you may feel that everything in your world is now different, yourself included. You will have days of triumph, days of defeat, and plenty of temporary setbacks throughout the year ahead, but it’s crucial to remember that these temporary setbacks are just that – temporary. They happen to everyone and are a normal part of the process of healing from your divorce. It’s natural to have days where you hope and pray for everything to go back to the way things once were, but it is unrealistic to expect for that to actually happen. As you begin to accept your new normal, it might require a new approach to life, and maybe your biggest goal for 2016 will be to learn that approach and how to navigate it. Find the joy in life, which is more important than checking something off of a list. Reconnect with old friends, find new hobbies, look for the joy in everyday, but don’t feel the pressure to have a timeline on your healing, your happiness, your life, or finding new love.
87324578-number-fourteen-with-a-heart-round-it-gettyimagesMany romantic expectations surround Valentine’s Day. For those contemplating a divorce or In the midst of divorce proceedings, Valentine’s Day can be extra stressful because the pressure to express romantic love to a sweetheart simply can’t be fulfilled in the way society expects, and it is impossible to avoid the Valentine’s Day spirit when out and about. For example, when shopping this time of year, you can’t help but notice the greeting card aisle. The hearts! The glitter! Selling Valentine’s Day cards is nothing new – commercialism has found its way into expressing love through cards for over a century now, with valentines first being mass produced in the 1800s. There has been something made for everyone, since the very beginning: in 1797 The Young Man’s Valentine Writer was published in Britain, and contained romantic poems for gentlemen that couldn’t write their own to impress their Valentine. While there is nothing wrong with buying or receiving a store-bought card or pre-written sentiments (or any other classic Valentine’s Day gift, like roses or chocolates), I personally think it is more meaningful to express your feelings in your own unique words and gestures, spontaneously, throughout the year.  And not just to a significant other – how about those precious kiddos in your life? I think instead of feeling pressure to be in a romantic relationship and consume everything pink/red/glittery on February 14th, Valentine’s Day can serve as a reminder to us that every day is an opportunity for us to creatively express our feelings to anyone we care about – not just a sweetheart.
525444317-studio-shot-of-females-hands-holding-broken-gettyimagesMarried, separated, or divorced alike, it’s hard not to feel anxious about the upcoming holiday season. Whether you love it or are dreading it, the 2015 holiday season is just around the corner. Maybe you are feeling that there is no way you are going to get through this year with your emotions in check. You are not alone. Whether you are feeling anger, sadness, grief, frustration, anxiety, etc. it is important to feel balance this time of year. How do you do that, especially if you are still grieving from your divorce? We can’t (and shouldn’t) try to banish these emotions. However, we can be intentional and generate positive emotions to help redistribute the weight of these negative emotions. So how can you do that even if you are feeling completely down this time of year? We’ve blogged previously about ways of helping others and paying it forward as ways to help ourselves emotionally, and ‘tis the season of a vast array of opportunities to help others, but here are some additional ideas for creating positive emotions in your world: Finding Nature: Nature has an amazing way of soothing us without words. Sit down and make a list of places nearby to visit nature. Maybe some are as easy as stepping out your front door and others maybe involve a little bit of a drive. Even that drive to get their can prove to be therapeutic. Nature heals and being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, has been shown to reduces anger, fear, and stress. Exercise: It’s no secret that exercise can help to balance your emotions – whether it’s running, walking, yoga, or even a team sport, find what you love and carve time out of your schedule to do it! When you exercise, the body releases endorphins that minimize the sensation of pain. These endorphins elevate your mood and reduce feelings of anxiety. You will also feel better when you exercise and because you are healthier, you will have more energy, and feel more balanced. Distractions: Distractions can be a positive solution for balancing emotions. Although you might be thinking that distractions will just bury your feelings to come out later on, healthy distractions provide positive emotions that will help you to release some of the negative feelings. Make a list of both healthy and unhealthy distractions that you tend to gravitate towards. While an unhealthy distraction like having drinks with friends seems like a good idea in the moment, a healthy distraction like Saturday morning coffee with a friend will prove to be better for your emotions. Focus on the Positive: Right now you might be thinking, “what positive?” At Daisy Camp we love the quote, “There is always, ALWAYS, something to be thankful for.” Maybe you’ve found journaling a helpful process for you through your divorce, which is great, but if you read through it, it may bring on raw and deep negative emotions, so start a separate gratitude journal. Make lists of what you are thankful for (past, present, and future), and try to add to that list daily. When you are feeling down – read that journal. Wishing you strength and positivity as you balance your emotions this holiday season. Remember that, “Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.” Maya Angelou. You will make it through this.