Reflecting On What Matters

Reflecting On What Matters

An essential first step when people decide to divorce is figuring out what matters most to them.

 In fact, I decided to offer my new workbook package, Our Family in Two Homes, to help people articulate their priorities before starting the actual divorce process. It’s that important!!

I’ve lost count of how many times the adult children of a divorcing couple field hurt and nurse wounds from their parents’ split – and the older couple did not realize this could happen because their children were already grown!

For couples with children, I hear time and time again that their kids matter most. Often, they’re not worried about money or property because their primary concern is their kids. And people are willing to give up a lot for what they perceive as their kids’ well-being.

But that can only get you so far. There are child support guidelines in the state of Michigan (and in every state), and parties can deviate from the guidelines, but only if there is a good reason to do so. Ultimately, divorcing parents must be able to provide a home and everything their kids need, so making too many financial sacrifices during a divorce won’t help as much as it may hurt.

Also, your kids may be the most important thing to you, but it’s likely they are also top priority to the other parent and you want to be careful not to create a power struggle over your children.

When older couples divorce, they often also emphasize that their family is their priority, and that might include grandchildren, children-in-law and more. Again, preserving those relationships is primary, and if the divorce becomes bitter, that can be hard to do.

I’ve lost count of how many times the adult children of a divorcing couple field hurt and nurse wounds from their parents’ split – and the older couple did not realize this could happen because their children were already grown!

When adult children take sides, it really hurts because not only are you losing your child, but you may lose access to the grandchildren. Be careful not to burden your adult children with your woes or inadvertently make them take sides – it will only hurt everyone in the long-run.

It’s always wise to consider engaging in family counseling when going through a divorce. That way, all parties can have the support they need, and everyone can work toward preserving their prized relationships as they adjust to this new family norm.

Reflecting On What Matters

The end of a calendar year is a good time to reflect on what matters to you. Whether you’re going through a divorce or not, checking in with your priorities and how they inform your life decisions is always time well spent. I recommend doing so once a year at least, to make sure you are in touch with your inner needs and living your life to the best of your ability.

Trends in Gray Divorce

Trends in Gray Divorce

Trends in Gray Divorce

grey divorce

I’ve written before about how rates of divorce among couples age 50 and older are on the rise, and in fact they are continuing to increase!

Even as divorce rates across America are on the decline generally, this category of Gray Divorce, which is a specialty of our firm, is exploding.

It used to be that once you married and stayed with someone over several decades, it felt like you had to stick it out for the duration of your life. Not so anymore. It is becoming acceptable to divorce at any age, and people of advanced ages are finding that they have a lot of life left to live – and they want to do it the way they want it now.

The kids are grown. The parents are still young enough to do things, to travel, to have a new chapter to their lives, and so they are choosing to do so solo, if their partner is not at the same place of realization.

Even more so, in couples where one spouse battles mental illness, or even a physical illness, the going can get even tougher later in life. And, for couples who have endured an unhappy marriage, there may be a sense of obligation to take care of the ailing partner, but there may also be resentment for the idea of caring for someone who never really cared for them when they were in good health.

At Transitions Legal, we do not judge the reasons that a client comes to us wanting a divorce. We welcome them in and look at their case and if it is a fit for our practice, we take it on, without judgment. Our purpose is to support our clients to the fullest extent of our ability and help them transition from one stage of life to the next with ease and grace.

This trend of increasing cases in the Gray Divorce niche makes me wonder about how we look at marriage in America.

After a certain point, should we just stay together, even if the marriage has been disappointing, or lonely? Should we stay together despite bad behavior? Why do we put up with unhealthy situations?

Does the definition of marriage paralyze us from living meaningful and healthy lives? Even illness is not an excuse to stay and be treated poorly.

Later in life, it can be even harder for a person to make the decision to leave a marriage. They often take more time than younger people, but they may feel more secure in doing so because they have already been living on a retirement income and may feel confident about their financial future and dividing everything 50/50.

gray divorce
In younger divorces, the financials can be a great concern. In Gray Divorce, it’s more the emotional stuff that holds people up; the years of marriage weighs on people.

They often feel guilt for leaving after so many years. They wonder what their children will think, or how the split will affect their family.

It can be as contentious and complicated later in life as it is early on. There is really no easy time to end a marriage, but if you’ve decided it’s the right thing to do, the only way to go is forward.

Read more Collaborative Divorce Posts

Should You Divorce?

Should You Divorce?

Should You Divorce?

Michelle Sarao

How do you know when it’s time to end a marriage?

 Maybe you’ve been thinking about it for years and are leaning toward splitting up. Is there a point when you just know it’s time?

 That’s a great question, and there is no real answer.

The only way to know if you should end a marriage is by asking yourself questions and considering all the options.

Here are some good questions to ask yourself:

  • Am I happy? Followed by, Is happiness the goal? If you’re not happy, but you didn’t plan to focus your marriage on being happy all the time, that may not be enough of a reason to end it all. But, if you are just miserable in your daily life, then maybe it is. Consider how much happiness weighs into your well-being and your personal pursuits, and then weigh that against other factors.
  • What am I unhappy with? Get specific and honest, and then determine if these are things that will exist beyond the marriage, that you need to work on, or if they are truly a result of the merging of the two of you.
  • Are there things I can do within the relationship to make it work? What are they? Are you willing to do them?
  • Have I done everything that I possibly could to make this marriage work? If not, do those things because you never want to look back and regret your decision.

Some other questions to ask include…

  • Am I in love with the person or in love with the idea of being in love?
  • Am I afraid of the effect on the children, of being alone, of what other people will think about?
  • Am I afraid of losing friends?
  • Do we still share the same values?
  • Am I able to share my thoughts and feelings, and are they accepted?
  • Do we have fun?
  • Am I ok having fun in other relationships and seeing the marriage as a partnership? And will my partner be ok with that, too?

Read more Collaborative Divorce Posts

Know Your Divorce Options

Know Your Divorce Options

Know Your Divorce Options

Clients often wonder which path to take when divorcing, as there are many routes to go – litigation, mediation, Collaborative Divorce, or a DIY online quickie. Here’s a way to understand each option and when you should opt for one over the other.

LITIGATION

If you and your spouse have agreed on the details of the divorce and are just ready to file and get it done, litigation may be the way to go.

Litigation is a court-based way to divorce, where the case goes before a judge, who has to sign off for it to be final. Litigation does not always mean a trial!

But sometimes it does. There are other reasons to go the litigation route, such as when one partner is narcissistic and there’s no agreeing to anything. The only choice in such a situation is to take it to court – get in, get out, and know there will be no compromises with such a person.

 Another reason couples opt for litigation is when they cannot agree on anything and they need a judge to make a decision for them. It’s definitely not the best thing for a family, but sometimes you have no other choice. In such situations, neither person will be happy, and a judge will never know your family the way you do. Litigation basically stops the bleeding.

COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE

This is my favorite way to practice because it’s out of the court system and driven by the needs and desires of the couple and the family.

 In Collaborative Divorce, you must listen to the other person and agree to a resolution. It’s a method that can be good for every type of case because it’s not a kumbaya situation, but it does take everyone and everything into account.

 Collaborative Divorce can be tough, but it’s always humane. Underlying problems would blow up in court, but in Collaborative Divorce, your team will guide you through emotions to the rational side for negotiation and resolution. The team makes a difference.

MEDIATION

Mediation requires compromise. This is a good format for two people who are comfortable communicating with each other and both have a good idea of the marital assets.

Michelle Sarao

Opt for mediation if neither of you is afraid to speak up. While you might not be that comfortable one-on-one, you’ll go through this in a room with a neutral trust third party who can say the things that need to be said.

Mediation is good for couples who understand themselves and will do individual work to bring back to the room with the mediator.

Read more Legal Process posts

Don’t Make the Same Mistake Twice

Don’t Make the Same Mistake Twice

Don’t Make the Same Mistake Twice

When people get out of a relationship, they vow to never make the same mistakes in the next relationship.

They think they have such clarity, such vision about what went wrong and what they won’t do or tolerate again. They vow to never divorce a second or third time, to not have similar fights, to choose a different kind of partner.

But let’s be honest – how often does that happen?

mistake

The key to avoiding subsequent divorces and bad relationship choices is taking time to be alone before rushing into your next relationship. Give yourself time to know yourself after the first breakup, and really ponder what your part was in the dissolution of the marriage.

You are more likely to repeat the same mistakes, in your next relationship, if you don’t gain that clarity and insight. It takes time to really think about.

Plus, it takes relationship mistakes to understand what you need in a relationship. So, what do the mistakes of the past tell you about what you need in the future?

The other thing about new relationships post-divorce is that, once you’ve committed to someone and spent a good number of years together, your needs and desires change and evolve. You aren’t the same person at 25 as you are at 45.

travel work
Photo by Mikhail Nilov from Pexels

In early adulthood, we look to build a future with someone. Later in life, we look for different things in a relationship – like companionship and understanding.

I help a lot of clients through what is known as Gray Divorce – ending a marriage after age 50. At that point, they’ve amassed property and assets, they’ve likely had kids and raised them, and so what they want in a new relationship is a sense of peace and stability – not complication or tumult.

Family might still be important in those relationships, but you’re not looking to build a family together the same way as when you’re younger. You do, however, want your kids and their kids to like each of you and each other. There are a lot of details in subsequent relationships and time is required to make sure you’re in the right one.

The only way to not make the same mistakes over and over is to know yourself and take your time. There is no way around it. After all, a relationship is a marathon, not a race – and you surely want to reach the finish line, don’t you?

Read more Family Law posts