Guard Against the Derailed Divorce

Divorce may seem to be an effortless way to cut ties with your spouse, but be very careful you do not put your children in harm’s way during the process. Your children could be at risk for Emotional/Psychological Abuse, Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Neglectful Abuse and Sexually Exploited Abuse.

Making the decision to divorce is one of the toughest decisions people face in life.  Even when people are in abusive situations the decision to divorce does not come easy.  Divorce requires a lot of planning.  The person who leads the divorce march must accurately project future circumstances like financial security for the duration of the divorce, future living arrangements, assess current living risks, understand the impact the divorce news will have on the other party, the best scenario possible for your children and anticipate the emotional roller coaster that will ensue from divorce kick-off to divorce closure.  To be real, very few people cover all the bases and at times the emotional roller coaster can get derailed.  A derailed emotional roller coaster during a divorce is problematic for the children and puts your children at risk for abuse by you, by your estranged spouse, siblings or even from predators that seek children who are feeling lonely, unwanted, etc.

The first step in preventing this abuse from occurring is knowing and understanding the distinct types of abuse.

1. Emotional/Psychological Abuse

2. Physical Abuse

3. Sexual Abuse

4. Neglectful Abuse

5. Sexually Exploited Abuse

In some relationships, elements of these may already be present on a surface level – abuse is occurring, but not occurring enough to be identified as a problem or occurring only behind closed doors so no one really has any insight about the issues other than the people directly involved.  It’s terrible to think that children are exposed to this behavior at all, but the fact of the matter is child protective agencies receive millions of reports a year in the United States, a report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds.

What is Emotional Abuse?

It is the most difficult abuse to detect, especially by the parties engaged in it. According to the book, Understanding Child Abuse & Neglect by Cynthia Crosson-Tower there is a distinct pattern of psychically destructive behavior which includes: rejecting, isolating, ignoring, terrorizing and corrupting.  As you read this you may have some shocking realizations that this has happened to you in your life, your family or your marriage.  When a parent rejects a child they do so by dismissing the child’s worth or minimizing the child’s needs.  For example, never feeling “good enough” to be loved by the parent would be considered rejecting.  When a parent limits the child’s social engagements, outside communication and makes the child solely dependent on them this would be considered isolating.  When the parent plops their child in front of a television/phone/tablet all day as the babysitter, does not interact with the child, does not teach the child and stunts the intellectual development of a child this would be considered ignoring. Constant berating, verbal assaults, creating a climate of fear and making the child believe the world is out to get them would be terrorizing and finally, an example of corrupting – the adult encourages damaging behavior such as watching violence or witnessing a drug deal.

Children that experience emotional abuse grow up to be adults that have difficulty recognizing or correctly identifying the emotions in others and have trust issues.

Emotional/psychological abuse is probably the most prevalent in families and especially families of divorce.  Children that experience emotional abuse grow up to be adults that have difficulty recognizing or correctly identifying the emotions in others and have trust issues.  The idea of empathic deficiency comes from this article, “Linkages between Childhood Emotional Abuse & marital satisfaction: The mediating role of empathic accuracy for hostile emotions” from the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.  This can also explain why some people more readily divorce than others.

What is Physical Abuse?

This is any type of physical hurt inflicted on another; however, it does not include the form of discipline like spanking.  If spanking leads to bruising, the spanking goes beyond discipline and can fall into the physical abuse category.  The medical community identifies physical abuse as battered child syndrome (BCS).  Physical abuse can be prevalent in a divorce, because the stress can lead to learned coping strategies like indulging in alcohol which increases the likelihood of abuse.  Some family and friends may not be able to handle the separation and could disassociate themselves with the divorcing parties, making the divorcing parents feel even more isolated during the most stressful time they have ever experienced in life.  If people have less reliable relationships for support, the stress can boil over onto the children.  Additionally, if the couple goes through the court process with attorneys there is an additional financial strain on the relationship which also adds fuel to the already smoldering fire.  The dynamics of each person should be considered as well.  If either spouse has abuse in their background (it could be unknown by both parties – the brain blocks bad memories); this increases the chances of abuse as well.  If you were raised in a military family, especially if one parent was deployed or served during wartime; there could be abuse in your history.  Take note: having children can be a trigger for you if you have abuse in your history.  Anyone can identify the behavior warning signs of abuse.  If you see children that exhibit certain behavior it could indicate they have been exposed to an abusive situation.  Babies could have a shrill cry or do not cry at all.  Young children show no expectation of being consoled.  Children end up having a low self-esteem and very little confidence in their own abilities.  Some children can start regressing by wetting the bed, using baby talk and sucking on fingers.  Other children could have stuttering or speech problems, ADHD/ADD or general acting out.

What is Sexual Abuse?

Any sexual violence, exposing any sexual act to children (this includes inappropriate touching, seducing, precarious situations, testing the child’s boundaries, showing images, etc.).  There are two types of sexual abuse intrafamilial abuse and extrafamilial abuse.  Concerning child abuse, intrafamilial (incest between members in the nuclear family) abuse is much more common than extrafamilial (non-family members) abuse.  Over 90% of the time the abuser is someone the child knows (Crosson-Tower, 2014, p. 115).  When there is incest in a family it does not automatically make the perpetrator a pedophile.  There’s also some theories of covert incest where there is no touching involved.

What perpetrators fail to realize is that there are consequences beyond a court of law for their actions.

When there are marital problems and the spouse is no longer fulfilling the needs of the other spouse or one spouse rejects the other, some people turn to their children for comfort as a coping mechanism.  What perpetrators fail to realize is that there are consequences beyond a court of law for their actions.  Mia Fontaine from the Atlantic put it this way, “Incest is the single biggest commonality between drug and alcohol addiction, mental illness, teenage and adult prostitution, criminal activity, and eating disorders. Abused youths don’t go quietly into the night. They grow up—and 18 isn’t a restart button.”  Divorce triggers feelings of rejection, loneliness and loss; be sure to teach your children what is appropriate and what is inappropriate, because they will not be under your supervision while they spend time in another household and divorce by nature is a stressor that triggers people to act out of character.

What is Neglectful Abuse?

Neglect is an act of omission.  When a child is neglected physically it could be as simple as sleeping instead of giving the child dinner.  Another example, if there is more than one child in the household, parents may often lean on the older children to perform their parental duties such as feeding the children, bathing the children and nurturing the younger children (this is called parentification); because the divorce situation becomes too much for them to handle the responsibility.  Divorce is notorious for causing depression and if there are young children involved depression can occur very easily in both parents; because the mother is recovering from giving birth.  If the mother is not treated for postpartum depression, the depression can last much longer and could be described as continued postpartum distress.  This scenario sets the stage for neglectMedical Neglect can occur as well if the parents fail to get medical help when the child needs it (this does not include missing immunizations or well child care visits). Neglect can happen in mature families as well.  Families with older children may take their older children’s independence for granted and forget they need to be extra attentive during a divorce not the latter which falls under Emotional Neglect.  If anyone decides to keep the children from school for an extended period of time or fails to notice their children’s absence from school – that’s Educational Neglect.  Ask friends and family for help and support if you are in this phase of life.

What is Sexually Exploited Abuse?

People are tricked to believe they are in a mutually loving relationship and the relationship gradually progresses beyond their control and they are coerced to perform sexual acts in exchange for money.  Single parent or divorced households struggle financially and under stress some people resort to doing things out of character to cope with their situation.  Rebekah’s story is a good example.

Divorce may seem to be an effortless way to cut ties with your spouse, but be very careful you do not put your children in harm’s way during the process.  Your children could be at risk for Emotional/Psychological Abuse, Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Neglectful Abuse and Sexually Exploited Abuse.  Divorce changes a person to their very inner core.  Divorce is a refining fire.  For some that means the heat will uncover strengths the person did not know they had, make them a better parent than they were before and allow them to self-reflect on their mistakes so they are not repeated in the future; however for others it will send them on a downward spiral and possibly change them for the worst (there are always those middle ground people too, that continue with life maintaining status quo unchanged).  If attorneys are involved in the divorce, the attorney will reflect the person they represent in most cases.  Unfortunately, just like anything in this world the tools of law can be used to help or hurt a situation be sure to think before you act with any request for order or paperwork filed, because whatever you do you are indirectly affecting your children for the good or for the bad.

If you suspect a child is being abused please call the National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-Child, you can report anonymously and you could save a life.

Family Law – The Desert for Raw Emotions

If you’re considering divorce, please reconsider. Make your spouse a priority, work on your marriage and above all avoid the Family Law desert, especially if there is no abuse in your marriage.

The best deterrent to ending your marriage is the Family Law system.  Family Law itself is the greatest punishment inflicted on married couples in their lifetime.  Of course, married couples don’t realize the doom that awaits until they decide to divorce.  The person looking for the divorce wants to immediately end whatever disruption that is in the marriage by severing the relationship with the other person; however, this feeling to separate to end the pain of the relationship does not justify the divorce, but demonstrates that person’s inability to cope, adapt, change and most of all forgive and bounce back.  In cases of abuse it is much different.  Often the one being abused doesn’t divorce, because they are controlled by their abuser or they think it is against their religion.  The brave punching bags (people that are at the mercy of their spouse’s fists or flying objects, verbally abusive words, psychological games and abuse, neglect or isolation or withholding stimulation such as conversation for extended periods of time), these people are extremely tough victims that have the courage to file for divorce.

Abusers rarely file for divorce because they like controlling their victims and divorcing defeats their sick passion for control or domination.  If they divorce there is no one left to control, belittle and put down to make themselves feel better (abusers have low self-esteem).   In some cases, the victim can convince their abuser to divorce them if their abuser is extremely concerned with public perception or the abuser is hiding something they do not want public.  The abuser will sometimes file to have perceived control over the outcome of divorce thus giving them the upper hand or saving their reputation.  Many states have adopted no-fault divorce to keep the situation surrounding the divorce quiet; however, if you’re married to an abuser they will be sure to use their abusing tactics whether or not the state is no-fault, so be forewarned, abuse does not go away in a divorce or during the separation process it just takes on a different form.  Liberal states do not care about abuse in a divorce case unless there are criminal cases attached and the abuser has a criminal record.

The Family Law system is incredibly broken.  Some states like Mississippi still do not have no-fault in their divorce proceedings; however, recently they passed a Domestic Abuse Reform bill according to The Clarion Ledger – Part of the USA Today Network.  However, even this amendment doesn’t account for numerous kinds of abuse that occur in families (neglect, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, etc.).  Additionally, what if there is ongoing abuse of the children within the relationship by one spouse?  In liberal states, the courts do not care unless it is so bad there is a criminal case and conviction.  Best interest of the child doctrine is only used loosely in liberal states and IS NOT LAWBecause best interest of the child is not law, judges are not required to follow it.  Absurd, right?  Child Protective Services or Child Welfare Services or all the other state variations that name the agency that steps in to supposedly prevent child abuse (every state and even county have a different child abuse prevention agency), will only get involved if the situation is bad enough to remove the children from both parents.  The general consensus is, “keep the children in the home, because the foster care system makes things even worse.”

Men, if your wife is deranged and you can see your children have been neglected; however, your wife has no criminal background you will not get sole custody of the children.  Women, if your husband is abusing you and the children and there is no criminal documentation of the incidents you will not get sole custody of the children.  Men and Women who have zero abuse in your relationship, please DO NOT go to court and claim there is abuse.  One of the main reasons men and women in abusive relationships are not protected by the system, because people are notorious for lying and duping the system to one-up their spouses.  DO NOT be these people, you are hurting others indirectly and you are hurting your children if you have children.  Divorce elicits a number of jungle emotions that are unhealthy for a family which is another reason why divorce should be your last resort if there’s no abuse.

If you’re considering divorce, please reconsider.  Make your spouse a priority, work on your marriage and above all avoid the Family Law desert, especially if there is no abuse in your marriage.  If you are in an abusive relationship, get out.  There are many resources online that can help you define whether you are in an abusive relationship; Family Services is one of many.  Some abuse can be mended with counseling; however, unless the abuser truly finds God or there’s an act of God that makes the abuser change, like they get struck by lightning or have a near death experience the likelihood of change on their own will either be a trap (manipulation) or behavior modification that will only last for a season.

Divorce Strategy, Petitioner or Respondent?

There are some advantages for the person who files for divorce, also known as the petitioner, but the advantages do not compare to the internal turmoil that results which is why you should consider being the respondent instead.  The thought of divorce starts brewing when there is conflict percolating that goes unresolved.  One person avoids confronting the other, so the internal grumbling gets pushed off to another day and that seed of discontent resurfaces when something else goes wrong.  If you have young children you are in a pressure cooker, because both of you aren’t getting any sleep, you have less time to talk than you did before little ones, you are now in a position of disciplinarian and/or correcting daily and one person is usually more of the care-taker which means less caring for the other person and less caring for themselves in general (this is a season, don’t lose track of your end game).  If your relationship didn’t break with young kids, after the period  you either do not rebuild your relationship or you continue in the same negative relationship patterns that evolved during that time.  Long-term relationships are demanding work!  Marriages with children require even more work!  If you’re lazy, do not get married.  Like anything in this life, relationships require maintenance and upkeep for them to thrive.

If a thriving marriage seems nowhere in sight and you are considering divorce as a petitioner, it would be folly not to mention the immediate 5 advantages of this position in the divorce.

  1. The petitioner has the most time to find the right attorney. You can interview as many attorneys as you like and there will not be one single attorney that recommends you stay married.  They aren’t marriage counselors.  They are marriage destroyers.  Family law is their life and they will be eager to agree with whatever story you unload at their office as cause for the divorce.
  2. You, as the petitioner, are paying into the Family Law system upfront. The other person has zero skin in the game; however, as the petitioner you are already making the investment in controlling the outcome of your divorce settlement.  This is also somewhat of an illusion, because every state and county has rules and laws at which settlement is derived; however, you are the one steering the boat and it is your timetable and your timetable only.  Your spouse has zero say.  Even if your spouse wanted to file online, your spouse is stuck doing things your way through the court no matter what.
  3. You can take advantage of the loopholes in the system. There are certain deadlines, disclosures, et cetera that are required throughout the process; however, the petitioner will often surprise the respondent in court like delivering declarations at the hearing instead of beforehand like documentation requires (attorneys are not reprimanded for engaging in this type of courtroom scheming).  The purpose is to put added pressure on the respondent whether the respondent has an attorney or not so that the respondent will yield to what opposing council desires.
  4. A conniving petitioner has the advantage of hiding assets and cash. The court does not automatically order financial discovery.   Due to this fact, the petitioner has a monetary advantage unless the respondent chooses to enlist a financial discovery team; however, no team can explore offshore bank accounts.  Domestically they will only find something that the respondent has generally already discovered, but needs more backup.  For example, if the petitioner decided to open a bank account a year before they decided to file for a divorce and kept it a complete secret from the spouse.  Hiding assets is a crime; however, people will do the craziest things in a divorce and shockingly some get away with it.
  5. Finally, the petitioner has the first opportunity to engage in vengeful rhetoric aimed to break the respondent. The person who files is usually the person who is harder to please in the relationship.  They keep track of every single grievance either by literally writing it down or making mental notes throughout the relationship.  The petitioner could also be someone who wants to hide something that could damage the petitioner’s reputation, so the goal is to make the respondent sound like a bad person whether it’s true or not.  The court never verifies the story from either side.

Emotions in a divorce are nothing like you’ve ever experienced.  Divorce creates an emotional jungle which is why being the petitioner is more hurtful to the person petitioning than they realize.  All the reasons why they file for divorce are relived repeatedly during the process from the start.  If there isn’t abuse involved, being the petitioner is essentially giving up.  The person who files is rarely the person that’s happy after it’s over.  Their emotional state is likely to remain unchanged longer than that of the respondent.  As the respondent, the emotional jungle is still something to be dealt with; however, it is not all consuming like it is for the petitioner (this could be false, if there are other factors involved like alcohol dependency, drugs, disorders, etc.).  The respondent is faced with rejection; however, the petitioner undoubtedly left clues of dissatisfaction throughout the relationship so it’s not like the respondent can claim they were blindsided.  As the respondent, there are more mental advantages than monetary advantages and power plays.

  1. The respondent does not harbor bitterness which can slowly deteriorate and infect other relationships. This is huge, because when going through a divorce the lives of both people are turned upside down and maintaining friendships is critical to remain somewhat of a balanced person.  If you have children keeping your mind free of negativity helps you to parent wisely and recover from rejection.
  2. The respondent can make better decisions, because they aren’t steering the boat. As the respondent, you can focus on what really matters instead of past grievances or what the attorney(s) conjure up.
  3. If you’re the respondent, you know that you weren’t the one that gave up on your marriage. By definition, you are the more optimistic partner.  If you were given a choice in the matter, you probably would have gone to great lengths to save the marriage if you could.
  4. Being the respondent means you are more willing to be flexible and you are less selfish than your partner. You are relinquishing control to the other person by default.
  5. Finally, choosing to respond to a divorce filing rather than initiating a divorce filing means you take your wedding vows more seriously and commitment is something you honor. Even with all the conflict that made the other person file, you decided that filing for divorce would cause more harm than good.  As the respondent, you are taking the high road.

A long-term relationship is challenging work!  Marriage is no exception; add in children and the work is that much greater.  However, working through conflict, practicing forgiveness and honoring marriage unlocks the door to relationship contentment.  As the petitioner, you’re giving up and you’re letting your emotions drive your actions; as the respondent, you can find the eye of the storm and find peace through it all.  Yes, as the petitioner there are monetary and power play advantages, but as the respondent, you have a mental advantage.  Money is temporal and power plays damage the soul, neither is much of a win.   Choose respondent, go to great lengths to save your marriage now.  Do not wait for the other person.  If the other person files, at least you know you did your best.

A Contested Divorce Revealed

Picture this, a couple made in heaven.  Two people that look as though they are made for each other.  Their mutual friends call them the dynamic duo.  They gaze into each other’s eyes and those moments are enough.  They do absolutely EVERYTHING together.  The friends they had before they met can’t seem to compete with the newfound love.  All the sudden they find themselves in a love-ship and friendship that only dreams are made of.  One person spills their guts about past mistakes and the other accepts them for who they are, no questions asked.  Future goals align with precision and the possibility of boredom is incomprehensible.

As the relationship continues to blossom separate lives collide at a rapid pace; however, only a few mutual friendships stick in the process.  One person has solid relationships and the other person more than willing to partake in those relationships and call them their own.  No harm no foul, that happens when two become one.  One person 100% themselves, whereas the other person molds themselves to fit the other person’s ideal mate.  Not exactly honest, but incredibly self-sacrificing at least for the short-term to win the prize.

One person goes along with whatever the other person has on their agenda.   People pleasing?  Maybe.  Madly in love – definitely.  This person is made to be the passenger in more ways than one.  At first glance, it’s chivalrous.  On second glance, it’s controlling. This person didn’t realize how important it is to recognize the absence of conflict as a red flag after years of experience.  Even couples counseling didn’t spotlight the glaring red herring lurking amid pure love.

Love that can only be manifested by starting a family of course.  A family in which both people know for certain could make their image complete, because somehow the pure love that was supposed to last forever didn’t seem to be enough after a while.  Something must be missing.  It must be children.

The couple made in heaven, got a nice heaping dose of reality.  Conflict surfaced immediately after children.  The bliss came crashing down as if an earthquake hit their inner core.  No longer was the controlling person able to control.  No longer was the compliant person able to sustain compliance.  Equilibrium was off in a big way.  The pressure test is the ultimate test of true love.  Is the love strong enough to conquer all as fairy tales so triumphantly preach?  No.  Because for true love to conquer all, agape love must exist and persist.  If the pressure is too great for either party, the foundation cracks.  Those cracks leave the relationship vulnerable to outside influences that have the power to transform each person in the relationship into someone else entirely.  That’s what happened.  That’s what’s behind a contested divorce.

Hard Divorce Fact: It’s not Easy & It’s Brutal for Children

There are countless resources that falsely explain that divorce can be better for the children, because the children won’t be exposed to as much conflict or the children will be shielded from the parental relationship problems or co-parenting strategies minimize the effects of divorce for children. Yada, yada, yada. The ONLY scenario where it’s better for the children is when there is abuse; however if there is no probable cause against the perpetrator, there’s no guarantee of protection.

Relationships are not easy.  A divorce relationship with children is probably one of the most difficult relationships that exist.  Not only did the divorce happen in a public forum, family court, but the children are unknowingly catapulted into a world that’s ready to feast on their every vulnerability from the experience.  The person that files for divorce does not have this insight beforehand, because the person that files is thinking only about their own circumstances and how the divorce will be an instant solution to whatever is going on in their relationship.  There are countless resources that falsely explain that divorce can be better for the children, because the children won’t be exposed to as much conflict or the children will be shielded from the parental relationship problems or co-parenting strategies minimize the effects of divorce for children.  Yada, yada, yada. The ONLY scenario where it’s better for the children is when there is abuse; however if there is no probable cause against the perpetrator, there’s no guarantee of protection.   Any other excuse for the divorce being better for the children comes from rationalization which softens the blow of truth.

It’s a fact, relationships aren’t easy.  The people who’ve mastered relationships are good at recovery.  The people that have broken relationships struggle to master recovery. Any relationship without some level of conflict isn’t an example of a real relationship with real people.  Every person that starts a relationship has a point of reference.  Often the point of reference can get lost if you track the point of reference back to childhood.  When people experience extreme circumstances they often block it out; who wants to be reminded of bad memories?  Human brains don’t, at least not intentionally.  In some cases this blocking of memories is defined by psychologists as Dis-associative Amnesia.  These bad memories shape how you operate under stress and how you relate to others.  When you divorce with children, you are placing them into this dangerous arena.  Their brains are chemically changed during a divorce, because they are forced to experience ADULT emotions and deal with ADULT problems.  Divorce emotions are a thing to be reckoned with as ADULTS; most ADULTS can’t handle the emotions much less children.

It’s a fact, by divorcing you’re making it that much harder for your children to navigate relationships, plus facilitating a number of side effects.  Children that grew up with parents that kept things behind closed doors struggle immensely with conflict resolution as adults.  Children in a divorce struggle with the same thing!  Children learn by watching, hearing and experiencing.  Stripping your children of your relationship takes this opportunity away from them and maybe they will eventually see healthy conflict resolution if someone remarries and STAYS MARRIED; however, the statistics don’t look good for second marriages.

It’s a fact, there is NO WAY to shelter your kids from the divorce storm.  There are helpful resources like counseling, communication strategies and so on; however these are no substitute for a loving relationship between the people that your children love the most – you and your spouse.  Finding a good qualified counselor is critical.  If you don’t see results from going to counseling within the first month, find someone else.  Find a counselor that is educated in the Gottman principles of relationships. If you’re considering divorce, but haven’t taken the plunge; please consider counseling.  Take it seriously.  Act as though the counseling is the next step in a business deal, career advancement, self-actualization discovery, living life to the fullest, whatever it may be.  Be an active participant, instead of a spectator – you won’t regret it.

Uncle Sam Wants What’s His – 3 Questions to Ask Before You File Taxes in a Divorce

You must decide how you will handle taxes. Hands down, money will be saved if filing jointly.

Taxes are a chore.  I don’t think I’ve met a single person who enjoys this season, unless you are a Type A personality with extra time on your hands; you don’t look forward to taxes.  Going through a divorce is difficult enough and then on top of it the divorce is never finalized the same year unless there are zero assets and no kids under 18.  You must decide how you will handle taxes.  Hands down, money will be saved if filing jointly.  In some states, married filing separately you still must account for your estranged spouse’s income, community property and you’re still 100% responsible for taxes due.  Complicated, complicated, complicated.  It’s a chore, so you need to ask yourself, what are my options?  Disclosure, I’m not a tax expert or an accountant.


Are you the one filing the divorce and haven’t yet?

Try to avoid tax issues and time your divorce so you’re only having to deal with one year of taxes instead of two.  Dealing with taxes early in the process is such a headache.  It adds to all the stress and puts extra pressure on everyone.  One spouse must take the reins, bite the bullet and get it done.  That will be you or if you’re a bully or lazy you’ll make your spouse do it.  If you trust your spouse gave you everything you needed to file the tax return, married file jointly is the best option.


The next question to ask, is the divorce amicable or contested?

If your divorce is amicable, filing taxes as a couple is a no brainer if the divorce is not final.  Depending on what state you live in you get the full benefit of deducting the main residence, the dependents, child care, etc.  Filing as a couple is always better financially for both parties.  If your divorce is contested and the other spouse refuses to file as a couple, you have no choice, but to file separately.  When you file separately you must choose whether you’ll take the deduction or itemize.  Both of you have to select the same one.  This is extremely tricky.  Gotta love our government.  If one spouse doesn’t have income and the other is a straight up W2 employee, easy take the standard deduction.  If one spouse has a W2 and a business and the other spouse has nothing, that spouse can’t itemize effectively and still in most cases must claim the income, so it depends.  If one spouse is a W2 employee and the other is a 1099, it again depends whether there are enough deductions to equal the standard deduction; because the W2 employee will be swimming in taxes if they don’t itemize everything they need to.  There are so many combinations I can’t possibly cover them all.  Remember, going through a divorce makes everything topsy-turvy including taxes.   This could be different is some states, so be sure you do your research or talk to a CPA or tax preparer.


Final question, if you decide married filing jointly is the best option – How will you handle the return and/or taxes due?

This is a very difficult question to answer, especially if one spouse says here, you do it and the divorce is highly contested.  Try to get your spouse to agree how to handle it.  Write it down and make them sign.  If your spouse has been compliant with the money portion of your separation or divorce, then it is probably likely they will follow through with whatever you agree to.  If money has been an issue in the divorce, then filing separately is your best bet to avoid arguments and improper income reporting.

Taxes are just around the corner.  Remember to time the divorce so you don’t have to do taxes twice, decide what is better financially and understand your relationship dynamics and make a decision on how the return and/or payment of taxes will be handled.  If you need more general tax help, try researching more online Nolo.com is a good place to start.   If you have unlimited resources at your disposal filing separately with a professional is probably the very best option in a contested divorce.

5 Stages of Grief in Divorce – here’s the clincher, they’re still living

There is no way to grasp the concept of divorce until your entire person is submerged and it does in fact feel like DEATH within an emotional jungle; however, every hiccup in the process feels like they are continually dying.  This constant dying situation creates a sense of alternate reality.  There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for anyone involved which leads to difficulty moving from one stage of grief to another with bouts of despair in between (length of time in one stage varies by individual); and for others, there was so much turmoil in the relationship under one roof, the separation leads to immediate acceptance due to the stark contrast in daily living.  However, the acceptance people are not out of the woods; they end up experiencing every stage of the grief sequence as time goes on in a different order. Let’s jump in and talk about the 5 Stages of Grief from losing a loved one from divorce.

First Stage – Denial

It doesn’t seem real at first.  In some cases, it will never seem real; you feel like you are in a perpetual revolving door.  Some questions that you’ll ask yourself include: is this happening? Tomorrow I am going to wake up and things will be different, right?  He or she doesn’t really mean it.  How can this be happening to me?  It almost feels like an out of body experience or a bad dream.

 Second Stage – Anger

No matter what side you are on.  Whether you are filing for a divorce (petitioner) or responding to a divorce (respondent).  This is true for both sides.  Inside you feel like you are going to boil over or explode from the other person’s actions and words.  No matter what don’t be THAT person.  Take steps to prevent that from happening.  Find an outlet for your anger.  Sometimes it helps to scream at the top of your lungs when no one is around or put ten times the effort into your workout that day, when your lifting weights or when your jabbing and upper-cutting put all your energy into the action.  Anger stems from being out of control, could also originate from betrayal and/or the natural response to the instigating spouse.  The Family law system also triggers anger, because it is so incredibly broken and no one seems to care.

Third Stage – Depression

No one is immune to this stage.  There are so many reasons why this stage is unavoidable.  Your life as you know it gets turned upside down.  If you have children, they are extra irritable from the divorce and it is difficult to identify whether their behavior is from abuse or the instant transition which makes you even more depressed.  Your eyes glaze over.  You can’t sleep.  You sleep too much.  You can’t eat, because you have no appetite or you overeat to increase the feel-good hormones like serotonin. Your limbs at times feel like they each weigh a ton.  You don’t want to experience anything good, but instead want to wallow in your misery.  The sudden departure of your loved one leaves a void of presence, even if that presence was rarely good most of the time.  Holidays and birthdays are especially challenging at first, because your family and friends also must make the adjustment.  No one really wants to talk about the divorce, but it is looming in the background of everything you do which also contributes to the grey cloud that seems to hang over your head.

Fourth Stage – Bargaining

Someone in some relationships always wants the other one back (that’s not the case in my experience).  Spouses will make threats, they will beg, they will plead with you to change in the hope of getting back together.  I think of this stage as the optimist stage, because whoever goes through this stage wants things the way they used to be and will say or do anything to get the other spouse to comply or bend to accommodate their need to be together again.  They want to sacrifice something for the good of the relationship and are willing to put everything on the line at this point to make it happen.  If you’ve responded to a bargaining spouse, let me know what that is like in the comments.

Fifth Stage – Acceptance

You finally feel relief in this stage and a hint of sadness.  Some people may even feel a level of happiness and wholeness or resolve at this point.  You no longer feel like your spouse is controlling you and you are confident that you will no longer be manipulated by your spouse, because as time progressed you became stronger and resistant to their old ways.  At this stage, you come to terms with your divorce and know that the divorce happened for a reason.  You no longer want your spouse to be yours.  You no longer feel the need to continue arguments.  You no longer let your estranged spouse impact your state of mind.  At this point you are ready to begin life again, and holy cow, it feels amazing.

The most difficult part of the 5 Stages of Grief (denial, anger, depression, bargaining & acceptance) is reaching continuous acceptance, because the other person is still alive and well.  If you’re able to move or minimize encounters, this helps; however, if you have children it is almost impossible.  If the person changes and becomes civil and respectful there’s lots of promise that acceptance will be maintained.  Sometimes you hear of stories where the parents have this jaw dropping co-parenting arrangement that they even take annual pictures together like the CBS News story or live together; these people aren’t human, do not believe the hype.  In fact, the alternate reality scenario is even more relevant in divorce situations where the parents somehow stay active in each other’s lives and can’t seem to move on with their life.  Don’t be that parent, you’re not helping the children, but giving them false hope.  The emotional jungle is intense as you keep reliving the 5 Stages of Grief; this is normal, keep working through it each day is a new day.