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  • Divorce is the end of a relationship, but how soon should divorced dads introduce the next relationship to their children?

    While co-parenting with their former spouse, adjusting to a new routine and establishing a separate household, dads may meet someone new whom they want to share their life and family with.

    Children are adjusting too, and introducing a significant other too soon — or someone who is not a positive influence — can have damaging psychological and emotional effects.

    Every mental health professional underscores the same rule: wait.

    “Don’t hurry to introduce someone new to your kids,” says Aaron Welch, a licensed therapist with The Lifeworks Group in Winter Park, Fla. “The tendency is to be very excited that you’ve met someone you really like—especially after a tough divorce. Because of that excitement, people believe their kids will share that same feeling.”

    Welch explains that children become attached to new people in their life. If the relationship doesn’t work out, then the bond the children established is broken. Kids begin to expect instability and will lose focus and attention in school work and their own friendships.

    Welch is a firm believer in waiting until fathers and their new partners are committed for a long-term relationship.

    Even though it may take patience and time before children are introduced to a new partner, should divorced dads even talk about their dating life?

    According to Dr. Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. (aka “Dr. Romance”), licensed psychotherapist and author of “The Unofficial Guide to Dating,” children should not have any clue that their parents are dating.

    With 30 years of counseling experience, Dr. Tessina says, “Until the relationship is a serious one, children shouldn’t know about dad’s new partner.”

    She stresses to fathers that they need to really think about what they’re looking for in a new partner. Fathers are not only looking for a partner for themselves, she explains, but also a stepmother for their children.

    Dads need to learn as much as they can about their significant other before inviting them into their lives. And when dating, fathers should make it clear early on that they have children and they need to ask the right questions to learn exactly how their significant other feels about children.

    If a father knows he’s found someone he can trust around his kids and is certain they will be present in his life for a long time, most experts recommend waiting at least six months before coordinating a meeting between children and the new partner.

    Nancy Fagan, divorce consultant and owner of San Diego’s Divorce Help Clinic, says that six months is essential, but it must be six months of exclusive dating. For some families the time may be longer.

    “If any of the children are still in pain over the separation or divorce, dads will need to wait longer,” Fagan says. This is to eliminate confusion while kids process their pain and grieve the loss of their former family unit.

    Other situations prompt more time. Fagan stresses new partners who happen to be friends with the ex-wife, have a significant age difference, or are the first partner after a divorce are all very likely to upset children and the father’s former spouse. Relationships that share any of these features, more often than not, do not last.

    If a father identifies with one of these situations, but they know their new partner is committed for the long haul and will be a good influence on his children, it’s best to wait much longer than six months to test the relationship on its own.

    Tara Lynne Groth is a full-time freelance writer residing in Cary, North Carolina. Her work has appeared in places such as GO (AirTran Airways’ in-flight magazine), the Providence Journal and Chesapeake Family. Learn more about Tara by visiting her website www.taralynnegroth.com.


  • NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The overall divorce rate in the U.S. may be dropping, but according to a study by Bowling Green University, the divorce rate for those 50 and over has doubled in the past two decades.

    Pat, a 54-year-old Minneapolis resident, knows firsthand about empty-nester divorce. “Our two children had left home and we both just started going our own ways,” Pat says. “I think the empty nest triggered it. I was thinking that our marriage was over, but she finally said it aloud.”

    For Pat, who was the higher wage earner, there were a lot of questions about the house, retirement plan and taxes.

    What wasn’t in question was the first step in resolving those issues. Minnesota requires mediation before a judge will grant a divorce, a move Pat and his now ex-wife thought a good idea anyway.

    The process took several months and even with mediation and an amicable split, there are some things Pat says could have been even better defined.

    We talked to some experts and came up with the Top 10 things to be aware of when going through an “empty nest divorce”:

    1. Kids. Custody may not be an issue at this stage, but even if the children are of age, in college or even grown up and with their own families, experts say the kids should remain a major consideration during a divorce. Nancy Fagan, Owner of The Divorce Help Clinic LLC/divorce mediator in San Diego, says the more you plan and detail visitation with grandkids, holidays and birthdays, the less opportunity there is for conflict later.

    She suggests discussing the answers to a few questions: “What kind of relationship will you have with your kids and grandkids and how will that meet your former partner’s needs? If there are trips to see grandkids, you may have both paid when you were together, but who pays now?” Fagan says.

    Pat, the divorced father in Minneapolis, says that although holidays and birthdays have gone fine up to this point, he wishes those issues would have been discussed in more detail during his process.

    2. Family finances. You and your partner may have split the difference on college educations and family vacations and gifts, or those items may have come from a joint household budget. Who pays now that you aren’t together? “You have to ask yourself how much you plan on giving the kids and grandkids for holidays and birthdays and how that will be split,” Fagan says.

    3. Individual finances. Michele Lowenstein, an attorney, says each partner needs to evaluate where they will be without that other income. Will they need spousal support? Fagan says women, who may not have handled finances while they were married, should consider budget counseling to assess their situation.

    4. Important documents. Typically, a family will store copies of important documents in safes or safe deposit boxes and only one spouse may have access to that information. Make sure you have copies of everything, including birth certificates for each of you and your children, your marriage license, financial statements, bills and copies of deeds and wills. You never know when you may need these in the future, and if you wait until the divorce is in process, you may not get them.

    5. Retirement. No matter if one or both of you worked, most states recognize both spouses’ contribution to the marriage. In Pat’s case in Minnesota, he says the court typically will recognize only a 50/50 split of the assets, which includes funds in retirement and 401(k) accounts. Since these funds will most likely be split, both parties will have to reassess their retirement positions and act accordingly to have the money they will need.

    6. Real estate, cars, boats, recreational vehicles and other property. You may want to keep your home, but realistically, can you afford to maintain the payments and the property? “You may not be able to maintain your lifestyle, even if you’re awarded alimony,” says Lowenstein, who recommends being prepared to accept a buyout from your partner or to sell the property. Pat bought his ex-wife out of her share of their home but agreed to allow her to remain in it until she could buy a smaller place.

    7. Social Security and taxes. Both are complicated when an older couple splits up. Fagan simply recommends that people be aware of the implications of divorce on taxes and Social Security and who is allowed to collect from whom. Fagan says there is a 10-year rule, allowing one former spouse to collect off another if they were married for more than 10 years.

    8. Changing beneficiaries. Fagan cautions people to remember to change the names of their beneficiaries on retirement plans and insurance policies, since divorce may mean you don’t want your ex-spouse to inherit everything.

    9. Pet custody. While your human children may be grown up and on their own, you may have acquired some furry babies who still need looking after. Many states do not recognize pets as a custody issue, but because they are property, an agreement may need to be drawn up to ensure each partner gets their time, should they want to continue to see their pets. Amber Serwat, a divorce and mediation specialist in Brunsville, Minn., who also handled Pat’s and his former wife’s mediation, says she had one couple battle over the custody of their dog.

    10. Set time limits. Pat says the biggest issue for him now is that due to a real estate purchase delay, his ex-wife is still living in their house although their divorce is final. Pat says he travels a lot for business, but it’s still “uncomfortable” when he returns home. “We’re not fighting, but at this point, I don’t think the situation is healthy,” Pat says. “I would suggest people put a firm date deadline on these types of arrangements.

    Serwat, the mediator from Minnesota, also advises couples to research the divorce processes available in their states and, if possible, to speak with a mediator first and see if things can be worked out without an attorney. “Usually, the first thing people think of is hiring an attorney, but what they don’t realize is you’re also making a decision at that point of which process you want to use and you don’t even realize you had a choice,” Serwat says. “Many states have a mediation requirement anyway.”

    Mediation agreements are typically stronger because they represent a deal endorsed by both parties and are therefore typically followed more often, Serwat says.

    For more information about Babyboomer divorces, contact Nancy Fagan at (858) 863-3380

  • Newswise — COLUMBUS, Ohio – Both marriage and divorce can act as “weight shocks,” leading people to add a few extra pounds – especially among those over age 30 – according to a new study.

    But when it comes to large weight gains, the effects of marital transitions are quite different for men than they are for women.

    For men, the risk of a large weight gain increased most prominently after a divorce. But for women, the risk of a large weight gain was most likely after marriage.

    “Clearly, the effect of marital transitions on weight changes differs by gender,” said Dmitry Tumin, lead author of the study and doctoral student in sociology at Ohio State University.

    “Divorces for men and, to some extent, marriages for women promote weight gains that may be large enough to pose a health risk.”

    The probability of large weight gains following marital transitions increased the most for people past age 30.

    “For someone in their mid-20s, there is not much of a difference in the probability of gaining weight between someone who just got married and someone who never married. But later in life, there is much more of a difference,” he said.

    Tumin conducted the study with Zhenchao Qian, professor of sociology at Ohio State University. They presented their research Aug. 22 in Las Vegas at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

    While there have been many studies about weight gain after marriage or divorce, most of them look at average changes in weight and find very small increases in weight after marriage and often small decreases in weight after divorce.

    But these results may mask the fact that some people actually lose weight, while some stay the same and some have large weight increases, Qian said.

    “We estimated the effects of marital transitions on the likelihood of weight gains or losses for different categories of people, allowing for the possibility that not everyone who goes through a marital transition has the same kind of experience,” Qian said.

    Tumin and Qian used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth ’79, a nationally representative sample of men and women aged 14 to 22 in 1979. The same people were surveyed every year up to 1994 and every other year since then.

    In this study, the researchers used data on 10,071 people surveyed from 1986 to 2008 to determine weight gain in the two years following a marriage or divorce.

    The NLSY included data on Body Mass Index (BMI), a common health measure of weight relative to height.

    The researchers separated people into four groups: those who had a BMI decrease of at least 1 kg/m2 (about 7 pounds for a person 5’10” tall) in the two-year period after a marital transition; those who had a small BMI gain (7-20 pounds for the 5’10” person); a large BMI gain (more than about 21 pounds); or no weight gain or loss (net change of less than 7 pounds).

    The researchers took into account a wide variety of other factors that may influence weight gain or loss, including pregnancy for women, poverty, socioeconomic status and education.

    Both men and women who married or divorced were more likely than never-married people to have a small weight gain in the two years following their marital transition.

    “For most people, the weight gain we see after a marital transition is relatively small, not something we would see as a serious health threat,” Tumin said.

    However, most other studies have suggested divorce actually leads to weight loss, at least in the first years after the marriage ends. Again, this may be because other studies have not separated people into age and gender groups, and only used average changes in weight, Tumin said.

    The data in this study can’t reveal why men are more likely to have large weight gains after divorce, while marriage is more likely to cause large weight gains for women.

    However, these results fit with other research on how marriage affects men and women.

    “Married women often have a larger role around the house than men do, and they may have less time to exercise and stay fit than similar unmarried women,” Qian said.

    “On the other hand, studies show that married men get a health benefit from marriage, and they lose that benefit once they get divorced, which may lead to their weight gain.”

    The probability of weight gain become more pronounced for men and women who marry or divorce after age 30 and the changes only grow larger as people get older, the study found.

    “From age 22 to 30, the effect of marital transitions on weight is not very clear,” Qian said.

    “But both marriages and divorces increase the risk of weight changes from about age 30 to 50, and the effect is stronger at later ages.”

    Tumin said that it may be that people settle into certain patterns of physical activity and diet over time. “As you get older, having a sudden change in your life like a marriage or a divorce is a bigger shock than it would have been when you were younger, and that can really impact your weight.”

    The researchers noted that this study only looked at people for two years after a marital transition, and results may change over the years.

    “This study really looks at the shock of a marital transition and how it affects weight,’ Tumin said.

  • Nancy Fagan Interview with The North County Times

    The long lines outside the Vista courthouse that start forming before dawn on Thursday mornings may shrink.

    July 28 marks the last time the Vista court will host its long-running weekly divorce workshops on a first-come, first-serve basis, said Family Law Facilitator Susan Groves, who runs the court arm that helps people without an attorney face their divorce or child support cases.

    Starting in August, spots in the workshops for people trying to file for divorce without using an attorney are available by appointment only “so that people don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn and hope that they make it into the session,” Groves said.

    The workshops, which run about three or more hours each Thursday, walk divorce seekers line by line through the paperwork that allows them to file for divorce. In Vista, that means 20 to 25 people a week who are lucky enough —- and early enough —- to land a coveted spot in the workshop.

    “There is always more of a demand than we are able to meet,” Groves said. “But it occurred to me there had to be a better way.”

    Scheduling appointments for workshop attendees instead of handing out the spots on a first-come, first-serve basis may seem like an obvious solution.

    But the court has tried that before —- and failed. It used to set appointments for the popular workshops as far as five months out. But too many people were no-shows, leaving many classes nearly empty.

    The difference with the appointments this time around, Groves said, is backup plans and limitations on sign-ups.

    Now, the appointments will be set only a month out. And the court will still allow people to jockey for a standby spot to fill the place of a no-show —- similar to the way standby seating works for airlines.

    The stand-by feature, however, means that people who didn’t get an appointment will still have to line up on Thursday mornings —- some show up before sunrise —- and hope somebody misses his or her appointment.

    The workshops —- and other services of the Family Law Facilitator —- are available to everyone, regardless of income.

    The appointment system is a positive move, said Nancy Fagan, who runs The Divorce Help Clinic LLC in Carmel Valley. But she also warned against buying into the illusion that paperwork can be completed during the workshop. Most people, she said, don’t bring all the information they need to completely fill out the forms to file for divorce.

    “You have to expect to go back again and again and again,” Fagan said. “It is just a very long process. While it is free, it does take up time.”

    Last year, nearly 1,000 people attended the divorce workshops at the Vista courthouse. That’s about a quarter of the more than 3,900 people who filed paperwork in 2010 at the Vista courthouse seeking divorce, legal separation or nullification of their marriage.

    Grove’s department assists people facing family law issues —- primarily divorce, child custody and child support —- but who do not have an attorney on their side.

    Her office does not represent these folks, nor does it offer legal advice. The staff doesn’t strategize with people, and there is no attorney-client relationship. Employees with the Family Law Facilitator simply help make sure these self-represented litigants fill out the paperwork correctly and follow through on their cases.

    Last year, the Family Law Facilitator’s offices across the county assisted more than 103,000 people, including more than 20,800 in North County.

    “There is a really high volume of people who need assistance,” Groves said.

    To make an appointment, go to any of the Family Law Facilitator’s offices, including the one at the Vista courthouse. Appointments must be made in person, although there are plans to someday allow for appointments to be made online.

    Source: The North County Times, San Diego

  • Not every person feels in control of his or her emotions 100 percent of the time. In fact, during times of transition, such as divorce, it’s common for people to experience periods of severe weakness that feel insurmountable. Just because a situation feels overwhelming, does not mean it has to be endured to a crushing degree. Instead, paying attention to four specific things that trigger emotional swings is all it takes to help lessen intense times.

    One: Environmental Triggers (your things). Environmental triggers are changes that have happen in your environment because of divorced-related events. For instance, couples who are living in the house together but now have separate bedrooms is a constant reminder of the status of their relationship. Environmental triggers remind you that something negative has caused change in your life. The quickest way to combat the trigger is to deliberately create a mood in your environment that will stop the trigger (i.e. turn extra lights on to brighten the space, play music, turn the television on—anything to get rid of the quiet that triggers negative emotions.). To help, survey your environment for things that trigger your emotions. Put them away. Out of site, out of mind.

    Two: Mental Triggers (your mind). Mental triggers are negative thoughts that contribute to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness about your transition. It’s very easy to get caught up in a downward emotional spiral when you feed yourself negative thoughts. For instance, if you have not told your partner that you want a divorce, telling yourself you are a failure does nothing to help you move forward. To help, make a list of five positive statements regarding your situation. To retrain your thinking toward a more positive way of thinking, wear a rubber band around your wrist. Each time you catch yourself saying something negative, snap it and then replace the thought with one of the five positive statements on your list.

    Three: Physical Triggers (your body). When your body is worn down from lack of sleep, not enough sunlight, poor eating or lack of exercise, your mind is less able to cope with the excess stress during the divorce transition. When this happens, it makes it easier

    To help, pay close attention to what your body needs. If you need a nap, take one. If you’re not eating, force yourself to eat something healthy. If you’ve isolated yourself, phone a friend. Attending to your physical needs is the best way to give your mind the strength to make it through emotional times.

    Four: Behavioral Triggers (your actions). Behavioral triggers are actions or activities that cause your mood to change. For instance, doing things that result in a more depressed mood should be avoided at all cost (i.e. avoiding your support system, visiting places with negative reminders, looking at photos from happier times). To help, start paying attention to the times when your mood is extra low. Reflect on the possible actions that may have caused the dip. You will begin to see a pattern and learn to avoid behaviors that make you feel worse.

    Once you are able to recognize the ways in which your emotions are being triggered, you will be able to make small adjustments that will make a big impact on how you feel.

    Bio: Nancy Fagan is the founder of The Divorce Help Clinic LLC™ (divorce planning & divorce mediation services), a Huffington Post divorce writer and author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Romance” (Macmillan Publishing) and “Desirable Men: How to Find Them” (Prima Publishing). As a nationally recognized divorce and relationship expert, dubbed “The Divorce Reporter,” she has appeared on countless television and radio shows, and quoted in national magazines and popular On-line publications since 1997. In addition, she is considered a pioneer in the field of pre- divorce planning and frequently sought out to speak on the topic. Nancy holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology with extensive training in divorce mediation and alternative dispute resolution. To learn more, visitTheDivorceHelpClinic.com.

  • Divorce in and of itself does not harm children; it is the intensity and duration of the conflict-between-parents that negatively impacts a children’s adjustment.

    It is important to know that children’s behaviors are likely to change as a normal response to divorce. Divorce does, however, affect children’s behaviors and their reaction varies widely, depending on many factors, especially age.

    Divorcing parents usually do not know what is best for their children at this time. In fact, when their children exhibit what they consider to be negative behaviors, they frequently attribute those behaviors to the other parent’s bad parenting practices.

    Fairy Good Heart

    Divorce Book Recommendation: Fables of Fairy Good Heart: Divorce–A Parent’s Love Lasts, Forever

    The following information is provided for your own understanding and background to educate yourself about the changes you see in your children.

    Newborn to 6 Months

    In infancy, one of a child’s primary developmental tasks is to learn how to trust. Babies need a lot of nurturing, attention, care, and admiration from their parents. As these needs are met, babies respond with eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, and certain movements. They need their parents to provide consistency in the environment, to adhere to routines, and to develop an emotional connection with them.

    From birth to six months, infants need consistency in caregivers, the people they meet, and their routines. If parents must change their environment or the people around them, they should try to do so gradually. Babies this age need lots of physical attention, and eye contact, and talk that is kind and loving.

    Parents should try to avoid angry outburst and fighting in front of the baby. Optimally, each parent should spend time with the baby at least every other day; if they must have overnight exchanges, they should experiment first to see if the baby can tolerate such changes in environment and routines. Young babies may exhibit changes in their sleeping and eating habits as a reaction to the change.

    18 Months to 3 Years

    Children in this age group continue to need consistency in parenting, environments caregivers, and routines. They gradually become more independent and begin to test their limits. They need to learn about self-control without losing self-esteem, and they need to learn to deal with doubt and shame.

    As they learn these developmental tasks, they need continual reassurance of their parents’ love. Their parents need to nurture them and set reasonable limits on them in a respectful manner. All children of this age develop fears of being abandoned, and these fears are exacerbated by separation from parents. In a parent’s absence, a child may even fear that the parent has disappeared.

    At this age, children are also concerned about security and who will care for them. When there are changes in routines and consistency, parents need to assure the child, in words that the toddler can understand, that he or she will be cared for.

    What Parents Need to Know About Children 18 Months to 3 Years

    The important things for divorcing parents to know are the following:

    • Parents need to communicated frequently about the child’s needs and any changes in the child’s behavior.
    • Parents need to allow the child to express feelings and fears in words and behavior. Parents, however, must not fight or use angry expressions in front of the child, who at this age is very aware of the parents’ body language and how they treat each other. Parental conflict can cause the child to become distraught.
    • Children at this age are particularly sensitive to being shamed. Consequently, parents must avoid doing anything that may cause the child to feel shamed.
    • Children in this age group may cling to their parents and be attached to special objects such as toys or blankets. This is part of their normal development, not an indication that a child does not want to leave one parent and go with the other. Parents should begin to understand and respect this need, take time for nurturing during the exchange process, and not lose patience.
    • If the toddler is being exchanged from home to home, the parents need to ensure that the child always has photos and special mementoes as reminders of the absent parent.
    • The passing of time for a child at this age is very slow, so the child needs a schedule with more frequent exchanges between homes. Parents need to keep consistent schedules of exchanges and must help the child to understand when he or she will see the other parent.
    • At this age, children may react to divorce by regression in toilet training and sleeping habits. They may become more fearful or more aggressive. They may test the limits of their feelings and their security, especially in their parents’ presence. It is important for parents to understand that these reactions are normal, and not indications of poor parenting.

    3 Years to 5 Years

    The developmental tasks for children in this age group call for learning self-motivation and how to overcome guilt and development their own identities. They accomplish these tasks through play and exploration. Their parents need to set safe limits for them in a kind, understanding way.

    At this age, children fear being abandoned and rejected. They also develop imagination and fantasies. In the midst of divorce, their fears and fantasies translate into insecurity about their own lovability. They may believe that a parent left the home because they (the child) did something wrong or bad or because they (the child) were not “good enough.” These children may create fantasies and tell stories about their parents’ reconciliation. This is from their desire to have their parents back together. A parent who does not understand this may blame the other parent for “putting things in the child’s head” because the other wants to reconcile.

    These children may also have gruesome fantasies about some horrible demise of a parent as a way of explaining why hey believe that parent has disappeared. Children at this stage may react to the divorce by regressing in their sleeping, eating, and toilet habits and even their talking. They may be very clingy and have difficulty going from one parent to the other. They may also become more aggressive in their activity and play, or more withdrawn.

    What Parents Need to Know About Children Three to Five Years

    The important things for divorcing parents to know are as follows:

    • They need to be punctual when exchanging the child.
    • They need to avoid jumping to conclusions about the stories the child is telling.
    • They need to recognize the child’s need to be with the primary caregiving parent at least every three or four days.
    • They need to understand that their child is creative and will tell stories to alleviate anxieties about abandonment.
    • They need to develop a consistent parenting schedule in order for the child to feel secure and to adjust.
    • The child will naturally be on his or her best behavior when staying with the parent who moved out. This is because the child fears doing something that may make that parent disappear altogether. Then, when the child returns to the parent in the family home, he or she may feel more secure and may act out because the home is a safe place in which to do so. Sometimes parents misinterpret this behavior and suggest that the child just gets along better with one parent than the other. Parents need to understand that this is not always the case.

    6 to 8 Years

    The developmental task for children in this age group is to achieve a sense of competence by bonding with peers, by learning to compete with peers, and by trusting that their parents will be there for them when needed. At this stage, they are working on friendships, learning interpersonal and academic skills, and developing morals.

    When their parents divorce, they have a strong yearning for the absent parent and a strong interest in parental reconciliation. They have loyalty conflicts, because they know they are part of both parents; when their parents fight they feel torn inside. When one parent disrespects the other, they feel that half of who they are is negated or discounted. They sometimes become very concerned about their parents’ well-being and take care of a parent who is distraught or unhappy, even to the extent of denying their own needs.

    These children do not want to be in the middle of their parent’s conflicts and do not want to carry messages from one parent to the other. Consequently, the parents need to develop their communication protocols for separately parenting the child, without having the child carry any messages between parents.

    The reaction to the divorce for children at this stage is deep sadness, which may be revealed in crying and withdrawal. Children fear that they may lose their relationship with one of the parents, and they fear a loss of order in their lives. They are also afraid of being deprived of important things in their lives, such as food and favorite possessions; in their minds, if they can lose a parent, they can certainly lose other important things as well. They may show more anger than they did previously, become more aggressive, and have difficulty playing and experiencing physical symptoms of stress such as headaches or being sick to the stomach.

    9 Years to 12 Years

    Children at this age are just beginning to confront changes in their own identities when their world is upset by divorce. Their sense of identity is tied to what seemed secure—home, family, neighborhood, school, and friends. They are confused by divorce because it interferes with everything they depend on. At a time when they would normally be developing academic and athletic abilities, becoming aware of gender, and beginning to experience attraction to others, this development is threatened by the divorce.

    At this age, children may be ashamed or embarrassed by the divorce and may feel powerless to do anything about it. They may experience somatic symptoms based on their conflict about the divorce. They may complain of headaches, stomachaches, fatigue, and generally feeling out of sorts. They may experience intense feelings of anger and direct this anger at the parent perceived to be at fault for the divorce. They may side with one parent and shut out the other. Their school performance may deteriorate, and they may have difficulties with peers.

    What Parents Need to Know About Children 9 to 12 Years

    The important things for divorcing parents to know are as follows:

    • Loyalty conflicts are not unusual for a child at this stage. If the child chooses to side with one parent, that “chosen” parent must not use this behavior as an opportunity to reinforce a contention in a custody dispute that this choice shows the child’s preference. Children can be fickle and most divorce therapists warn against allowing children to choose between their parents.
    • Parents can assist a child at this stage by listening to the child’s needs, fears, concerns, and complaints without making judgments. Unfortunately, parents caught in a custody contest often use this intimate sharing by a child as an indication of parental fitness or unfitness. However, using the child’s words in this way fails to meet another extremely important need of the child, which is to know that the parents respect each other.
    • Speaking poorly of the other parent is one of the worst mistakes a divorcing parent can make. This negativity not only makes the child very uncomfortable, but also serves as a personal attack on the child’s self-image. (As the parents your child knows that he or she is a product of both of them.)
    • Each parent should encourage the child’s relationship with the other parent.
    • Parents must not send messages to each other through the child nor pump the child for information about the other parent or about the child’s relationship with the other parent.
    • The child may try to look “cool, “ to be very active, to make good impressions on friends, and to seem oblivious to the divorce. However, the parents need to know that this façade often masks the child’s intense hurt and pain. The child needs the parents to understand this pain and not simply see the child as “going through a stage.”
    • For the sake of security, the child needs consistency in the application of the rules and expectations that the parents have agreed to. However, at this age the child also may need more flexibility in the parenting arrangement if he or she is not coping well.
    • Parents are not only welcome in the child’s world but also necessary to the child’s survival.

    Teenagers: 13-18

    Years Just when adolescents are developing into adulthood and planning their eventual exit from the family, they are upstaged by their parents’ divorce. They need support from their parents when their parents are least emotionally available. Parent-adolescent relationships are normally tenuous, and a divorce makes them more so.

    At this age, children may accelerate their independence from the family or delay it because of the divorce. While they are working on developing their further individuality, the divorce interferes. Some children in this age group take on the responsibilities of the absent parent and side with the parent who is present. If the parent who is present takes the child’s side in this situation, the absent parent is alienated, and the child is damaged by the alienation.

    In reaction to divorce, adolescents begin to feel insecure about their own relationships. They often fear that they may never be able to have a happy marriage.

    What Parents Need to Know About Teenagers

    The important things for divorcing parents to remember are as follows:

    • The parents must put away their resentments and disrespect for each other for the sake of the adolescent. If the parents have difficulty in doing this, a therapist specializing in marriage closure therapy may be very helpful.
    • Parents often assume that adolescents can handle divorce, yet this is a very vulnerable time for children. They may retreat to their own rooms to hide their depression. They may turn up their music to drown out their crying. They need their parents’ care but will not ask for it; instead, they confide in their friends about what is happening. Some adolescents withdraw and become so depressed they need professional help. A few attempt suicide; some are successful.
    • When the adolescent sides with one parent against the other, the parents need to join forces to assist the adolescent in adjusting to the divorce and in confronting the loss of the way things (family, home, parents, and his or her own importance) used to be.
    • The adolescent’s room is not absolutely off-limits to either parent. Each parent should ask to visit the child in their room when the child is at home, overlook the disarray, and sit down with the child and talk heart-to-heart. It is even more important that each parent listen without interrupting, judging, or advising.
    • The parents need to open the communication between the adolescent and themselves and not expect the adolescent to initiate communication.

    Related Articles: Helping Your Child Express Feeings About Divorce

    More Articles–Custody & Visitation

  • More than half of all marriages end in divorce, and, aside from child custody battles, few decisions can be tougher than determining the custody of the family pet. The process of deciding what happens “Wags” or “Pal” does not have to be heart-wrenching if you follow the following four tips to avoid tearing the family pet in half.

    One: Don’t Leave the Decision up to the Court

    As silly as it may sound, working out the visitation and custody arrangements for your pet is crucial. It’s actually very common, yet one area people don’t put a lot of thought into until problems arise later on. During divorce discussions, the details of all family members must be thoroughly discussed. This includes the detailssurrounding “Fido.” If you cannot come to an understanding regarding your pet, then using a neutral mediator to help you decide is the smartest thing to do. If not, you could end up in court with a judge deciding the fate of your furry loved one.

    As wrong as it is, children are and pets are sometimes used as pawns to hurt each other in a heated divorce. It only takes one person to start the “game” and, also only one person to put a stop to it. By drawing up an agreement about your pet that gets included in your marital settlement agreement, your choices become legally binding and must be honored.

    Three: What is in the Best Interest of your Pet

    When it comes to pet custody cases, there is a lot of irrational emotion involved. Disagreeing couples need to do what’s best for the pet. Each person needs to ask pet-focused questions such as, “Where will the pet be the most happy?” or “Who has the time to play, walk, care for the pet.” By answering questions like these, the pet’s well-being will come through and a mutually acceptable solution will easier to reach.

    Four: Pets Have Feelings Too

    Just because your pets can’t talk or cry does not mean they don’t feel emotion. In fact, they are sensitive to the mood of the family living in the home. For instance, fighting in their presence will cause them to withdrawal and feel depressed. Remember, if you are feeling sad, your pet is also feeling upset. As a rule of thumb, give your pets as much comfort and affection as possible. This will comfort you as well.

    Recommended Reading

    • The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You To Know, by Tracie Hotchner
    • The Cat Bible: Everything Your Cat Expects You To Know, by Tracie Hotchner
    • Pet Custody issues are covered in some detail by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, www.aldf.org.

    Learn More about Pet Mediation

  • “This Is Divorce At…” is a HuffPost Divorce series delving into divorce at every stage of life.

    Joelle Caputa, a HuffPost blogger shares what it was like to divorce in her 20s The twentysomething divorce.

    My 14-month marriage ended when I was 28 years old. It was simultaneously the most terrifying and exhilarating experience of my life. By the time I was 29 and the papers were signed, my embarrassment had turned to rejuvenation.

    Twenty-something divorcées are like members of an underground society. You know young divorce exists, but you don’t realize how many people are in the same situation until it happens to you.

    Women divorced in their 20s initially view themselves as failures because all their friends are getting married and having babies while they are starting their lives over from scratch. They feel like they let down their family who paid for the wedding, etc.

    It’s so awkward explaining to potential love interests why you’re divorced at such a young age and even harder for divorcées with children. This demographic often feels like they’ll never find a man their age willing to deal with all their “baggage.”

    [But] divorce is the end of life as you knew it, not your life as it was meant to be. The end of your marriage is a beautiful opportunity to get everything in life that you want and deserve. We were all blessed with a clean slate and are making the most of our lives. Women should pat themselves on the back for being courageous enough to embark on such a journey at young age, whether or not the divorce was their decision.

    What to do if you are Contemplating Divorce

    If you are in your 20s and thinking about divorce, it’s important to know that most couples your age can divorce for as little as $375. This is because married couples can qualify for the most simple divorce called a Summary Dissolution (See below to see if you meet the Court’s qualifications).

    Remember, when calling around to get quotes from divorce professionals, if they are telling you it’s going to cost you more than $375 to divorce, ask why. Ask them about a Summary Dissolution.

    If you are still confused, give us a call and we’ll answer your questions. We also have a free Divorce Information Drop-in Clinic every Wednesday from 11:30-1:00 pm. This is not a class but an open time to just come in and meet privately with a divorce mediator for 15-20 minutes. It’s enough time to get the information you need. Feel free to e-mail us, Info@Dyvorce.com or call (858) 863-3380.

    Also visit, www.StudentDivorce.com

    Do you Qualify for the $450 Divorce?

    Below is a checklist of criteria you MUST meet. Check this list very carefully. If even ONE of these statements is not true for you, you cannot get a divorce in this way.

    • Do you know where your spouse resides? If so, is your spouse willing to participate in the divorce with you? This process is a joint process and requires both spouse’s signatures in order to file.
    • We have been married five years or less.
    • No children were born to the two of us together before or during our marriage.
    • We have no adopted children under 18 years of age.
    • The wife is not pregnant.
    • Neither of us owns any part of any land or buildings.
    • Our community property is not worth more than $38,000.
    • Neither of us has separate property worth more than $38,000.
    • Debt: The total of our community obligations/Debt that we owe (other than vehicles) is $6,000 or less.
    • At least one of us has lived in California for the past six months or longer and has lived in the county where we are filing for dissolution for the past three months or longer.
    • We have prepared and signed an agreement that states how we want our possessions and debts to be divided between us (or states that we have no community property or community obligations).
    • We are both willing to sign the final document.
    • We both understand that after the divorce is final, neither of us has any right to expect money or support from the other except that which is included in the property settlement agreement.
    • ***Do not count cars or count car loans in this total.

    If you agree to all of the items above, give us a call and we can get your complete divorce done

    Our Fee: We charge only $450 for a simple divorce.

    Court Fee: Aside from our fee, the Court charges you a fee to process and file your divorce documents ( $435). A check in this amount is written out directly to the Court. We attach it to your completed documentation and submit it for you. As a student with limited income, you may qualify for a fee waiver.

    What it’s like to Divorce at Different Ages

  •  “This Is Divorce At…” is a HuffPost Divorce series delving into divorce at every stage of life. Want to share your experience of divorcing at a certain age? Email us at divorce@huffingtonpost.com or tweet @HuffPost Divorce

    Below, Aimee Vlachos, a single mom who split from her husband a little over a year ago, shares what it’s like to be a divorce thirtysomething.

    I like to think of myself as a highly functioning crier. Although I have spent most of the past few months crying off and on at random times, I always seem to do it while in the midst of something else. I have learned to wear my sunglasses while running just in case a particular song on my iPod sets me off again. It sometimes hits me when I am driving home from work or cooking dinner.

    A little over a year ago, after my 35th birthday, I moved out of the house my husband and I bought right after our wedding. My son and I moved into a small rental down the road with what little furniture and possessions I had. My 10-year relationship had been filled with dysfunction and unhappiness. But it wasn’t the discovery of the hidden bank account, the fling with the college girlfriend (reconnected thanks to Facebook), or the separate bedrooms that led to me leaving my entire life behind. It was the day that my 2-year-old son asked me to hug daddy the way that I hugged him, when I realized that I had to go — we had to go. Our dysfunctional relationship was now affecting the most important person to me, our son.

    The funny thing is, my son was the reason I had stayed for so long. As a child of divorce, the last thing I wanted to do was repeat the pattern with my son. I was willing to stay in an unhealthy relationship just so my son could have mommy and daddy in the same house. I thought that I could pretend that we were a happy family and he would believe it. I forgot how intuitive children are, how observant. I knew I had to leave in order to show him what two happy parents look like, and in our case, it was apart.

    Going through a divorce in my thirties is something I never thought I would have to experience. I felt like a pariah in my small seaside town. I was the first divorcé at my son’s preschool and suddenly moms were cancelling play-dates and not letting their kids come over to my new house. All of our couple friends from the marriage deserted me and began taking turns bringing dinners to the man I had left.

    Divorce is hard, no one can argue that. But going through divorce in your thirties adds a whole new level of conflicting emotions. You feel guilty going out on a Saturday night with your newfound single friends and having a good time. You go on a date and run into parents from your son’s playgroup. It really has taken me a year to feel OK with my decision and to try to stop worrying about what others think about me and the choices I’ve made. After all, this is my life, not theirs, and I deserve to be happy. Life does not end at 36, it only gets better.

    What it’s like to Divorce at Different Ages

  • As quoted in Forbes magazine and the Wall Street Journal, The Divorce Help Clinic LLC is unique in that we only take on non-litigation clients. We focus on finding out-of-court appropriate solutions for tough decisions like custody, support, and finances. When people leave our office, they leave with an agreement that they fully understand, one that they have crafted together with their spouse and feel good about.

    The Divorce-Help Clinic LLC™ caters to all-things-divorce. As San Diego Mediators, we offer 3 primary services:

    • Divorce Planning
      If you are one of the 50-68% who decide to leave your marriage, we help you strategize the most effective way out.
    • Divorce Mediation
      We are a full service mediation firm and do everything from filing your divorce petition, serving your spouse, assisting you and your spouse to make decisions on support, division of finances, debt as well as custody and visitation. In addition, we complete the legal documentation, notarize the final Marital Settlement Agreement and file everything with the court. Best of all, you never have to go to court.
    • Divorce Paperwork (Do-it-yourself Divorce)
      If you and your spouse agree on the details of your divorce and do not need someone to mediate the details, this service is the way to go. Not only will it save you money, the paperwork will get done correctly the first time, saving you the unnecessary hassle of dealing with the court.

    Company Overview

    Professional Divorce Mediator Qualifications: All of the mediators at The Divorce Help Clinic LLC all have their law degrees from ABA (American Bar Association) accredited law schools, strong experience in family law, and have specific training in DIVORCE mediation. These are three qualities that make us stand out against our competitors.

    Professional Memberships & Affiliations

    • San Diego County Bar Association, Family Law Chapter
    • Academy of Professional Mediators (Founding Member)
    • Institute of Divorce Financial Analysts
    • Alternative Dispute Resolution (Current President)
    • Many others