“The best divorces come from open eyes, smart choices and knowing what to expect.”
– JACQUELINE NEWMAN
01 THE BIG QUESTION: ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO GET DIVORCED?
Divorce is like law school—lots of tears, seemingly endless stacks of paperwork and neither is a road worth walking down unless you’re positive it’s the right one. Because of the emotional, financial and overall major life implications attached, it’s important you ask yourself ‘Am I sure I want to get divorced?’, if you can answer this question with a resounding ‘yes’, read on.
02 DIVORCE COMING YOUR WAY: THE 5 SIGNS OF IMPENDING SPLITS
Though you may have seen the ‘Brangelina’ split coming from a mile away, your own divorce probably took you somewhat by surprise. Marriages change slowly so it can be hard to spot the signs of separation. Still, there are bound to be some behavioral changes if splitting is on a wannabe ex’s mind. Here, we review five red flags that commonly precede divorce.
03 HOW COULD YOU BE CONSIDERING LEAVING MR. PERFECT?
So, your friends think you’re crazy. Not uncommon with divorce. It’s hard to understand that a ‘good man’ may no longer be the ‘right man’. For example, how could Heidi Klum have left Seal? He writes the most amazing, romantic ballads! Regardless of what it looks like from the outside, you are the one front and center in your relationship–no one can truly understand the dynamics of a broken marriage unless they are the one struggling inside it. Even then, it’s difficult.
04 SLIDING GLASS DOORS: CONSIDERING BOTH SIDES OF THE REALITY OF DIVORCE
Marriage is hard, divorce can be harder. The grass often seems greener on the other side, but it’s worth crossing the street and rolling around in it to know what you’re getting yourself into. There is much to consider with a decision that will drastically change your life and the lives of those close, especially children. Asking yourself the questions in this chapter can help you weigh the options and provide a glimpse of the realities that divorce may force you to face.
05 IGNORE THE HAIRDRESSER WITH A PH.D.: HOW TO DEAL WITH OTHERS’ OPINIONS
Everyone going through a divorce has a battalion of friends, family, personal trainers, and others who love to offer advice and play ‘lawyer’. People will spout this ‘wisdom’ whether you ask for it or not, and listening to them could cost you heavily–financially, legally and emotionally. Let the hair dresser’s advice wash down the drain with the toner. At this sensitive time, it’s important to be wary of other people’s thoughts, (not to mention your own!)
06 ABUSIVE MARRIAGES
Forget everything you just read. When abuse enters a marriage, the game changes entirely. If you or your children are experiencing abuse at the hands of your spouse, the situation calls for exigent change. The term “abusive marriage” might conjure images of a black-eyed wife toting the excuse of having “run into a door”, but in truth, abuse can take many surprising forms including physical, emotional, and the most common kind you’ve never heard of—financial. Here we uncover the signs and scars of abuse, and what’s next.
07 FINDING YOUR DREAM DIVORCE LAWYER – SWIMMING WITH THE SHARKS
In marriage, ‘the one’ is your betrothed. In divorce, it’s your attorney. Whether through word-of-mouth or the Internet, finding the right lawyer will save you unnecessary time, stress, therapy bills and a lifetime of what-ifs. They can help you stay strong and remind you why being a ‘yes’ person is a big no-no. Should you choose a mediated divorce? Collaborative law? Litigation? With help, you can tailor-make a divorce plan that feels right. Your rear doesn’t fit in one-size-fits-all, why should your divorce?
08 COURTROOM REALITIES: MAY AS WELL BRING A GOOD BOOK
You might think your day in court means telling the Judge what a bastard your soon-to-be-ex is and voila! She serves up his balls, and the Porsche, on a platter. Cut to commercial. Here’s a more likely picture: You sit in a courtroom hallway, aware the lawyer is on the clock. You finally get in front of the judge only to find that she has no interest in the filthy text messages that prove your ex was a cheating bastard (at least in NY and other ‘No Fault’ states.) Knowing these divorce court realities will curb expectations and inform your game.
09 TIPS FOR THE INITIAL CONSULTATION
Nothing turns on a divorce lawyer like a client who’s done their homework (we’re a dull bunch.) We don’t need every Starbucks receipt but come with as much information about the financial and emotional climate as possible. Be honest. Tell your divorce lawyer what’s keeping you awake at night. Ask them the right questions: How long will this take? Have you worked on cases with my spouse’s attorney or the judge before? Am I going to be able to afford toilet paper when you’re done billing me for this divorce?!
10 “TURN ON THE LIGHT” – PREPARING FOR THE FINANCIAL ASPECTS OF YOUR CASE
Okay, at this time of personal crisis the last thing you want to face is learning a new financial language you went out of your way to avoid in college. Sorry to say, this knowledge is vital for you to successfully make it through your divorce and on to your bright future. Study financial disclosure. Get to know the four financial buckets of divorce: asset distribution, spousal support, child support and child-related extra expenses. Ask questions. Learn to trust your healthy suspicions—this can be empowering and even fun for those who’ve spent years suppressing them!
11 THE DISTRIBUTION OF ASSETS: DISSOLVING YOUR FINANCIAL UNION
It seems like it should be easy to figure out the asset split—you get this and I get that, end of story. More likely, a firestorm of laws and loopholes will be exchanged from item to item, making you wish you never bought the stupid Segway to begin with. Remember when he bought you those Louboutin pumps? The left one is now technically his. As ridiculous as it sounds, his lawyer will happily have you jumping on one foot. At this stage, knowledge of the legal process is your greatest asset of all.
12 LOOKING LONG-TERM: THE REALITY OF SPOUSAL SUPPORT
Part two of the ‘Show me the money’ phase covers the last three buckets of divorce. If I listed all the formulas that exist in the US for calculating spousal support, child support and child-related extra expenses, it would fill this entire book (I won’t. Your welcome.) Things vary from state to state, even judge to judge, so it’s important to work closely with a lawyer who is deeply familiar with the laws in question—the way it’s handled could greatly influence how much—and how long—spousal support occurs.
13 HIGH-NET-WORTH DIVORCE: A DIFFERENT SET OF RULES
Mo’ money mo problems’—at least for your lawyer. The more to divide, the more to fight about. For those with significant incomes (exceeding $143,000 per household in NY), there are less ‘rules’. The laws no longer provide much guidance, so judges have somewhat unbridled discretion. Calls vary can greatly from one judge to another and thus, lawyers pull out all the tools in their toolbox. With high-net-worth divorce, I always ask my client, “How much do you like to gamble?”
14 CUSTODY BASICS—DECISIONS AND PARENTING SCHEDULES
Rita Rudner once said, “When I go on a date with someone, I think, “Is this the type of man I would want my children to be with every other weekend and on Wednesday nights for dinner?” Hilarious as that is, these days fathers tend to be significantly more involved. Men increasingly request 50/50 time with the kids—often to the horror of the divorcing mothers. The way I approach clients who regularly chant “I want 50/50, I want 50/50” is to ask them to throw percentages out the window and complete this one illuminating exercise.
15 HOW DO I NOT SCREW UP MY KIDS?
If you make sure your child feels unconditional love throughout the divorce and prioritize their best interests, the divorce probably won’t ruin their shot at growing healthily into adulthood. Simple steps like remembering your child is not your buddy, allowing them to feel they can love your spouse without betraying you, and reminding them they don’t have to ‘choose’ can go a long way. Take heart, everyone manages to screw up their kids to some extent, whether or not divorce is in the picture!
16 AM I THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD?: TELLING YOUR CHILDREN ABOUT YOUR DIVORCE
This might be the toughest part for everyone. Though there’s no ‘easy way’, there are less damaging ones. Man up, and tell your kids together. Will it be hard to sit next to him and say “Mommy and Daddy still love each other very much. But we also realize that we are better people and parents if we are no longer living together.” You betcha. Especially if he’s sleeping with the nanny. Bullshit or not, this is what your children need to hear. Their home is breaking up; The United Parenting Alliance to which they’ve always answered doesn’t have to.
17 PLAYING NICELY IN THE SANDBOX: SURVIVING PARENTING TIME TOGETHER
Okay, before the divorce he had trouble remembering where, exactly, your kids’ school was. Now he seems to be auditioning for president of the PTA. Resist all urges to call him an imposter (or worse…) at back-to-school night. There’s one way to handle stressful public run-ins together—graciously. If you absolutely need to criticize his stupid new goatee, do it via text, all the while maintaining a pleasant smile. Then put your focus back where it belongs—on your child.
18 DISNEY DADS
Do you suddenly feel like your ex is running a Disney World parade, providing over-the-top entertainment while you’re left behind balancing the stroller and diaper bag? Between the fun, freedom and junk food at dad’s house, you’re starting to worry they’ll like him more! With all due respect to Walt, reality trumps fantasy in the long run. The Magic Kingdom is a blast, but ultimately a child craves stability and consistency. Tip: Make sure that in the game between you and your spouse, the kids win.
19 TOO MUCH POPCORN—TRUSTING YOUR EX WITH CHILD TIME
If you ever wanted to become less of a control freak, now’s your chance. When you drop your kids off at dad’s they are no longer in your care. Before you start interrogating him about the brand of toothpaste he’s using, take a moment to practice letting go. Think of it as the kids going to sleep-away camp. Unless you perceive that there’s real danger (no, a popcorn overdose doesn’t count), you’ll just have to trust that they’re ok. Now go enjoy the benefits and let loose on the town!
20 ANY CRAYONS IN YOUR BAG? - ADJUSTING TO TIME AWAY FROM CHILDREN
You’ve finally made peace with the fact that they’re going to be okay—now the question is—will you? I once had a client call me on the first night away from her children, inconsolable. One year later she rang again, furious that her husband was backing out of taking the kids for two weeks while she and her boyfriend vacationed in the Hamptons. There’s a reason to muscle through this painful stage: freedom awaits.
21 THE PUPPY WARS: THE REALITY OF PET CUSTODY
You’ve heard of child support but chihuahua support?! Yep. It’s a thing. In the bygone days before organic cat food and pet psychics, our furry friends were treated in divorce court no differently than the furniture they peed on. Nowadays, the animals’ well-being is taken into account and a judge considers both who the primary caretaker is, and where the financial support comes from. Nobody wants fido to have to go without the pampering to which she’s grown accustomed! As with child custody, I encourage clients to log the time and money they spend on their pet.
22 CAN WE LIVE TOGETHER DURING OUR DIVORCE? SHOULD WE?
Now begins the ‘elephant in the room’ stage where divorce is in the open but everyone generally goes on living together, at least for a short period. This will have you wondering who should move out before you can say awkward-ass breakfast. Should you pack up right now? Ought you get an apartment to rotate staying in while the kids remain in their home? Again, there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer. Do what makes the most sense for your specific situation and be sure to consult with your lawyer before making any decisions—they may well have irreversible implications.
23 PSYCHOLOGICAL CHESS
You now have the basic landscape of Divorceland—it’s time to figure out how to navigate it. Like The Arena in Hunger Games, the climate of Divorceland is terrifying, can turn on a dime, and the key to making it through is a brilliant psychological strategy. Therefore, it is your job to become the Bobby Fischer of Divorce. Make every move with great care. Learn to anticipate your soon-to-be-ex’s moves. Ultimately in any negotiation, you want to achieve your goals while allowing the opposition to believe it was his idea. If you don’t, he will.
24 THE GUILT WINDOW: USING GUILT TO YOUR ADVANTAGE IN DIVORCE
A husband has an illicit affair with the interior designer (and his wife chose the designer! Plus, the living room is only half complete!). Two words: Guilt. Offerings. The wife now has a window of time where she will be most primed to get what she wants. But she must act quickly – the window could slam shut at any moment. Whether you feel like the perpetrator or the victim, beware the guilt—who gets the house could boil down to this one powerful emotion.
25 WANT A NEW PAIR OF EARRINGS? ANGER AND RETALIATION IN DIVORCE
“I want you to chop his balls off and I want to wear them as earrings!”—that’s a direct quote from a former client. People often walk into my office demanding blood (and occasionally, genitalia). To them, I say, “Would your preference be to pay for your kid’s college or mine?”. Declaring legal warfare takes unfathomable time, emotional energy and legal bills. He will see your bid and raise it. In deciding to go this route you invite a world of pain—not just for your spouse, but for you and your family. Ask yourself whether the Lamborghini is worth an ulcer.
26 MAINTAINING YOUR SANITY AS YOU EMBARK ON THE DIVORCE ROLLERCOASTER
The word ‘Mad’ holds two definitions: angry and insane. Right now, you’re both. (In addition to a myriad of other emotions.) How do you go on with work, getting the kids to school, and remembering to take the curlers out of your hair? One day at a time. Designate time to go for your emotions…literally. Let Tuesdays be tearful. Carve out a few hours for sadness. On Wednesdays, let yourself be angry! Mad Wednesdays. On Thursdays, let your anxiety have its day. Mondays and Fridays are for setting emotions aside and getting down to business. Remember that life will go on and soon you will be able to throw out your day of the week underwear, perhaps in exchange for some lingerie…
27 WHEN CONTEMPLATING DIVORCE, ALWAYS WEAR SUNTAN LOTION ON YOUR HANDS: DATING DURING DIVORCE
Time to focus less on the old “D” word (divorce) and move to a new “D” word (dating). Cover up that ring suntan…it’s perfectly okay to start dating before the divorce is final. Rejoice in having the freedom to go out and fall in love again, just don’t post selfies of it. Kiss all you want, just remember not to tell. If word gets out that you’re seeing the hot, young Italian from your soon-to-be-ex’s favorite restaurant, his fury will only hurt you. Rejoice in having the freedom to go out and fall in love again–just don’t post selfies of it.
28 MR. ONE NIGHT STAND, PLEASE MEET MY DAUGHTER, MADISON: HOW TO INTRODUCE YOUR NEW GUY TO YOUR CHILDREN
Realizing that this time around you have kids to think about can inspire some “paper bag breathing” to be sure. “Will your kids like Mr. X?” or “Will Mr. X like your kids?” There’s much to consider before this meeting occurs. Have you even known this new man long enough for him to be deserving of meeting your children? Do you still have a wedding ring on your finger? Does your spouse know? And whatever you do, prevent any and all scenarios that could lead to your child asking “mom, who’s the beardy man in his underwear eating my pop tarts?!”
29 SIMPLE SOCIAL MEDIA RULES DURING DIVORCE - DON’T DO IT!
Hands up! Anything you say or do on social media can and will be used against you in a court of law. Under no circumstances should you post negative remarks about your ex, humble brags about how you’re spending your divorce settlement or declarations or #singlelife hashtagging. No matter how much you are itching to mis-tweet your soon-to-be-ex, I strongly advise against it. Buy a pair of mittens and sew the thumbs together if you have to. Just don’t do it.
30 WHO AM I NOW? IDENTITY ISSUES
Each divorce is comprised of many smaller divorces: Legal, financial, parental, and the (often under-acknowledged) social divorce. So who are you now? It’s time to find out and nurture your own individual self. You should also have somewhere in your life where you can go and people don’t know you as Jamie’s Mother or Todd’s Wife. Get a job outside of the home, rekindle an old hobby, work with a charity, join a knitting circle, whatever. Forget about divorce – if you allow your identity to be solely wrapped up in your children, what happens when they grow up?
31 WELCOME TO THE DWC (DIVORCED WOMEN’S CLUB): FINDING QUALITY SUPPORT BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER DIVORCE
Remember that fabulous scene in the first wives club where Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, and Diane Keaton drop their wedding bands into a champagne glass? That’s what we’re going for here, (not the destroying their ex’s lives part, though I’m sure that was very bonding). Just as one who experienced a personal loss might seek out a grief group, so should you find ‘divorcing friends.’ These people won’t get annoyed when you bash your ex for the umpteenth time or speak legalese when discussing your case. Little will feel more healing than having an open conversation with someone who “gets it”.
32 AFTER THE DIVORCE IS FINALIZED: YOUR NEXT STEPS
Your divorce is signed, sealed, delivered so now you’re liberated from all of that paperwork and logistics. What awaits you? Freedom? Vacation? A hot latin lover? Sure! But first, more paperwork and logistics. It’s time to revise your will, switch your accounts, create a new budget, get new passwords and other tedious tasks. I encourage you to move through this stage swiftly but diligently so you can properly move on to the fabulous new you.
33 PREPARING FOR ACT II: PRENUPTIAL BASICS
You might be thinking, “You’re crazy lady, getting divorced again is the last thing on my mind!” Fair enough. But earmark this chapter for when the latin lover mentioned above proposes after sweeping you off your feet. It’s fabulous that life moves on and new love is possible after the devastation of divorce. This time around, walk into it with your eyes wide open. Prenups cover divorce and death. You’re 50% likely to face one and 100% likely to face the other. In this chapter, we delve into the details of why and how a prenuptial agreement should be made.
34 RECOGNIZING THE PERKS OF DIVORCE: YOUR OFFICIAL RELAUNCH
So…you’re officially divorced. Should you have an extravagant D-Day party or something? Why not? This marks the beginning of life all your own and you can do whatever you please! Buy yourself flowers. When your kids are with your ex (no longer soon-to-be!), sleep in incredibly late. Have a one-night stand. Walk around naked. Eat brownies directly from the pan as you watch reality TV. You’re free to be who you are without judgment from a spouse…and that is definitely something to celebrate.
“A tour de force by
Manhattan’s titan of divorce.”
Manhattan’s titan of divorce.”
WNR 1-11-17 About Jacqueline
Newman’s Soon-to-be Ex