Hindsight’s 20/20, so there’s no one better than ex-wives to tell you what to do (and not to do) if you’re going through-or just contemplating-a divorce. Here, real women share what they wish they’d known when they split from their husbands and divorce professionals weigh in on how to combat the most unexpected, yet most common, mistakes they’ve seen clients make. Rest assured, these 10 lessons can get you through the end of your marriage, both financially and emotionally. Photo by Getty Images.
1. It may take a long time to recover-and that’s okay.
Julie, 50, from Denver, thought she’d be able to handle her divorce. “I’m a strong person, I own my own business and I’m a professional speaker,” she says. But she admits she could barely function for a full year after the split. Her divorce recovery classes helped her realize everyone bounces back at their own pace. Psychotherapist Pandora MacLean-Hoover, who’s divorced, also suggests finding a therapist who knows firsthand how vulnerable you are. “Therapists who haven’t experienced divorce often create false hope,” in regards to recovering quickly. “It’s important to have support that’s educated as well as therapeutic.”
2. Choose your counsel wisely.
“I used a criminal attorney and got a poor settlement,” admits Christine K. Clifford, CEO of Divorcing Divas. On the other hand, a lawyer who’s well-versed in family law could get you a better settlement because she knows the state-law nuances and local judges and lawyers, says Jacqueline Newman, a partner at a boutique New York City law firm specializing in divorce. If you and your husband have complicated combined assets, you may need additional pros. Kira Brown, 34, from Phoenix, AZ, owned a business with her ex-husband and wishes she’d also hired a financial planner for help negotiating her settlement.
3. Dig deeply into your joint finances.
According to financial analyst Sandy Arons, a divorcee herself, 40% of divorce proceedings are about money. So get as much information as you can about your shared accounts to be well-informed before court. Specifically, “learn all of the online passwords to bank accounts, which accounts had automatic payments and where money is invested, including the names of all accounts, the account numbers and the investment advisors,” says Newman. Ask your attorney when and how it’s best to gather this info first, though.
4. Figure out your future living expenses ASAP.
Your financial well-being should be your top priority, says divorce financial expert and mediator Rosemary Frank. “Raw emotions will heal and legalities will be completed, but the financial impact of poor decisions, or default decisions due to lack of understanding, will last a lifetime,” she warns. Step one: Thoroughly understand your current cost of living before the divorce proceedings start. “If you don’t know what you’ll need in the future, you won’t be able to ask for it and you surely won’t get it,” she says.
5. Anticipate unexpected costs.
Even with carefully planning out your future expenses, something surprising may pop up. For example, your husband may be able to boot you from his health insurance plan, leaving you with an added cost of as much as $1,000 per month. Caitlin, 55, from Tarrytown, NY, recommends requesting a one-time payment, separate from alimony. “I asked for, and got, a check 30 days after my husband left,” she says. “Too many men dodge their financial responsibilities, so waiting for that first alimony check is unwise. Try to have money available-like $5,000-within days. You’ll need it.”
6. Trying to hurt your ex usually backfires.
Newman says that a client of hers told her husband’s boss about his affair with his secretary and ended up getting him fired. “It not only ‘showed him;’ it also showed the wife-and their children-what life is like on a lower salary,” she says. Simply badmouthing your ex is likely to hurt your kids more than your husband, even if you don’t think they hear or read what you say. “Anything written online about an ex-spouse will exist forever-when the children are old enough to read,” cautions Newman.
7. Being divorced doesn’t mean you’re a failure, less competent or less desirable.
“Divorce used to be something people didn’t do, and many considered divorced women to be ‘loose’ and ‘scandalous,'” says two-time divorcee Jennifer Little, PhD, founder of Parents Teach Kids. Some of those stigmas still exist, she says, so remember that divorce doesn’t define you. “Divorcing just means that the relationship didn’t work out,” she says. “You haven’t been rejected as a woman or a person, nor are you incompetent at being a wife, a partner, a lover, a friend.”
8. The holidays will be harder than you expect.
Amanda, 29, from Albuquerque, NM, was married for over six years until her divorce. “I wasn’t prepared for the loneliness that accompanied Christmas,” she says. “It amplified the concept of a broken home.” She wishes she had made plans to see her mother or a friend-or taken a vacation-to take her mind off spending the holiday by herself. So make sure you stay busy during that difficult time of year.
9. Your kids won’t tell you how they really feel about the divorce, but their behavior will.
“Children feel a sense of responsibility for the breakup no matter how much the parents state it wasn’t about them,” says marriage and family therapist Lesli M. W. Doares, author of Blueprint for a Lasting Marriage. So monitor your kids’ actions to understand how they’re dealing. Watch out for little ones regressing in their behavior-acting younger, wanting to sleep in bed with you-or showing anger toward siblings and peers. Adolescents tend to act out by drinking, skipping school or disobeying curfews. To get things back on track, Doares suggests addressing issues as a family so everyone can talk about the changes together. Also, inform your child’s teacher of the new situation, but don’t automatically put your kid in therapy. “It can leave him feeling stigmatized or reinforce that the divorce is his fault,” says Doares, though therapy’s a good option if the behavior change is extreme.
10. Divorce can be freeing-and totally worth it. Annie, 47, from Boston, felt like she didn’t have any talents, besides caring for her kids, before divorcing in 2007. She now has a blog,PlentyPerfect.com, and sees new directions her life can take. “Divorce can be the beginning of a good next chapter, even if you don’t know how the book’s going to end,” she says. “Maybe you don’t know what the options are yet, but they’re out there.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott may have earned himself a new constituency, but the devil is in the details.
Local news site WPBF.com reported that a group of Satanists plans to hold a rally outside Scott’s office on Jan. 25 to support the governor’s signing of a bill that allows students to pray at school events.
“We’ve gotten such a response, it’s just impossible for me to know what that translates into,” Satanic Temple spokesman Lucien Greaves told WPBF, regarding how many will show up at the rally.
“You don’t build up your membership unless people know about you,” Greaves said in a separate interview with the Palm Beach Post. “So this allows us to get our message out in public. We’re hoping it will reduce the stigmatism.”
The Satanic Temple was launched in 2012 with what Greaves described as being “more or less an online community.”
The group’s website describes itself as being different from other, better-known Satanic organizations. Greaves said the rally is part of a larger ongoing effort at making the group’s beliefs more commonplace in mainstream discussions of religion and belief. From the website:
“Though we have far to go before public education leads to a mainstream embrace of our Satanic religion, we feel that our own public ‘coming out’ will go a long way toward raising the consciousness of the populace … and the social environment has never yet been better prepared for the welcoming of a new Satanic era.”
The group’s founder, Neil Bricke, is scheduled to speak at the rally.
“We feel it’s time for Satanists to come out and say exactly who we are,” Greaves said.
So, what does Scott think of the newly organized support?
A part-time student strode into the office of a longtime administrator at a downtown St. Louis business school Tuesday and shot the man in the chest, creating panic in the school before turning the gun on himself, police said.
Both men were in surgery Tuesday afternoon at Saint Louis University Hospital. Police Chief Sam Dotson said he was optimistic both would survive, but a hospital spokesman declined to discuss their conditions.
Police did not identify either man, but Dotson said theadministrator was a longtime employee in his late 40s. He said the suspect had been attending Stevens Institute of Business & Arts off and on for four years and had no history of threats or violence.
Dotson said police arrived to find a “chaotic” scene with many students running out of the five-story historic building in the downtown loft district of St. Louis. About 40 to 50 people were in the building when gunfire broke out, and police evacuated them before starting a floor-by-floor search with tactical teams and dogs.
They found the administrator, who had been shot in his fourth-floor office, near an elevator, Dotson said. Officers found the suspect in a stairwell between the third and fourth floors, he said. Police found a handgun, but a spokeswoman wasn’t sure where.
The motive wasn’t clear, but Dotson said the shooter apparently sought out the victim.
“This did not appear to be random,” Dotson said. “It appeared to be targeted.”
Britanee Jones, 24, hid under a desk while her classmates ducked into closets or ran out of the building. Her mother, Angae Lowery, raced to the school to make sure her daughter was safe.
“She sent a text message and said a gunman was in the building,” Lowery said. “She saw him (the gunman) go by the classroom.”
When Jones emerged from the building about an hour-and-a-half after the shooting, her mother and another relative greeted her with shrieks of joy. Jones declined interview requests, saying only that she was in a fashion management class when the shooting began.
“I’m so happy to see her come out,” Lowery said. “I’m relieved. It was really frightening.”
The school has about 180 students in programs including business administration, tourism and hospitality, paralegal studies, fashion, and retail and interior design.
Dotson said police arrived within one minute of getting a call about the shooting and used an “active shooter” protocol developed after a 2010 shooting spree in which a man killed four people and wounded five others at ABB Inc., a transformer manufacturing firm.
Officers followed the protocol to a tee, Dotson said, hurriedly going inside, getting everyone out, and using tactical teams and dogs to sweep the building in search of the shooter or shooters.
Several people left messages on the school’s Facebook page expressing dismay that a shooting happened there, and expressing prayers for a quick recovery for the administrator. The school posted on the Facebook page that it would be closed until 8 a.m. Jan. 22.
Several messages left Tuesday with the school’s telephone operator and the college’s president, Cynthia Musterman, were not immediately returned.