A conversation with Michelle Sarao: How to organize homes and lives after a divorce

A conversation with Michelle Sarao: How to organize homes and lives after a divorce

A conversation with Michelle Sarao: How to organize homes and lives after a divorce

In the Collaborative Divorce process, we build a team of professionals who can guide the divorce process in a fluid manner. Recently, I met a woman whose business fits so perfectly into this idea of a divorce team.

Michelle Sarao, through her business Divorce Rx, helps divorcing people organize their homes and their lives. Based in New York, Michelle recognizes that a divorce is a complete upheaval of a person’s life – emotional as well as physical.

Michelle Sarao

What better time than that to welcome an organizer into the midst of the unraveling, and let her guide you to a more methodical approach to the separation and rebuilding?

This type of organizing can focus on the divorcing people – helping them rearrange their physical space or divide up their shared belongings. It can also help the newly single adults get organized in their new life – manage their children’s schedules, learn how to be focused in managing all the activities and responsibilities as a solo parent.

Basically, Michelle helps people prevent the logistics of their life from falling through the cracks.

“When you are going through a divorce, the first thing you do is start assembling your team,” says Michelle. “Financial, legal, mental health, parenting coordinator, divorce coach. But then the physical space and coordination of what happens with your children, and the transition from one household to two, those details and ideas can slip through the cracks. That is where I felt there was a need to step in.”

Every situation has a unique imprint, says Michelle. She meets clients where they are, looking at what will be most helpful in this moment, right now, taking it one step at a time. A divorce can create confusion and stasis – she helps people move forward, one step at a time.

As an entrepreneur myself, I felt this concept was brilliant and definitely needed! In speaking with Michelle, I thought it would be helpful to gather some of her best tips in this blog to share with people contemplating divorce – or who have already been through one but still feel a sense of disorganization. Here’s what Michelle has to say:


Regarding your physical space, a divorce begins with dividing your things. “Oftentimes, even in the most amicable divorces, people are emotionally tied to their stuff,” she says. “You’re already experiencing loss. No matter what you’re feeling about the divorce, it’s a loss. People have a hard time letting go of things. To have someone work with you and your soon to be ex-spouse as a neutral party to help divide things can be helpful, to help you stay on track.”


Dividing up physical belongings can stall a divorce – and it’s senseless to pay lawyer fees to have them sit in your home while you divvy things up.


Whether moving to a new space or staying in your current space, going through what you have and purging can be cleansing.


Get rid of the storage unit idea. Not only is it another expense, it’s the place people put things and forget about them. You will eventually have to go through it all – and likely discard most of it – so why not do it now?


If you just can’t part with goods but you don’t want to go through everything, label your boxes and mark your calendar for three or five months later to actually go through the items.

Michelle Sarao

Organizing is not just for physical items, Michelle says. It’s important for financial documents as well as for calendaring.

“It’s often the women who have no idea where the financial stuff is that they’re asked to bring into the lawyers,” she notes. “They’re paralyzed; they don’t even know how to find it or what questions to ask.”

While divorce coaches can help with that part of the process, Michelle can support clients through it as well.

“The biggest thing I do with people is just have a plan that is realistic and broken into manageable steps.” Once someone leaves the marital home, there is empty space to fill. That’s part two of Michelle’s work. She comes in to help the person who stays rearrange the furniture and fill the space – and she helps the person who left fill the new space where they will start their new life. “If you were not the one who wanted the divorce, it smacks you in the face when you see the couch is gone,” she says. “It’s a reminder of your loss. There are a lot of physical empty spaces – a whole closet that’s empty, drawers where silverware has been taken, empty walls. I help that person reimagine and arrange what you have before buying new things.” It’s better to move around what you do have and live with it for a few months than quickly buy new items, she says. For the person leaving, “talking it through is the first step,” Michelle says. “Then, it’s about finding resources – realtors, designers, etc.”

A member of the National Association of Productivity and Organization and of the National Association of Divorce Professionals, Michelle has resources far and wide.

Divorcing couples don’t realize all the details of this split when they embark on it. As granular as the photo albums and shared photographs – who wants to let go of their baby’s earliest pictures, or that family vacation they took to Hawaii?

Michelle Sarao

Michelle finds solutions. “Both parents want all the pictures. I have someone who is fantastic and will scan the pics and set them up for both parents,” she says.

A divorce is a transition from one stage of life to the next, but it’s not without heartache and emotion, and those very heavy phases can cloud judgment, obscure clarity. Michelle works with people at a vulnerable time to make the details easier – and less painful.

“There are areas of life you might not have thought of – who has the kids’ passports, can you get a second passport, do the children have toothbrushes at both houses? You don’t know what you don’t know,” she says. “I tell you what’s coming, I can help you get prepared, save time and money, relax and exhale.”

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A Conversation with Brette Sember: How to Avoid Returning to Court & Other Family Law Kernels of Wisdom

A Conversation with Brette Sember: How to Avoid Returning to Court & Other Family Law Kernels of Wisdom

A Conversation with Brette Sember: How to Avoid Returning to Court & Other Family Law Kernels of Wisdom

Brette Sember has represented adults, children and adolescents in family law court. She offers a unique perspective on advocating for client needs, empowering them, and supporting their journey from one stage of life to another.

From Clarence, N.Y., Brette practiced family law and mediation until her second child was born. She then retired from law and began what has become a prolific writing career, staying home with her children.

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Brette Sember

The Transitions Legal team recently sat down with Brette to learn about her latest book, How to Avoid Returning to Family Court.

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What inspired your recent book?

(Brette is the author of 30 books, including Save Money on Your Divorce, The Complete Divorce Guide, How to Get Custody of Your Dog, The No-Fight Divorce Book and The Key to Your Custody Case: Win Over the Law Guardian.)

I worked as a family law attorney and law guardian in New York state. I noticed that many families returned to court over and over. They resolved one issue and a couple months later, returned with another.

It seemed as if the courthouse had a revolving door for them. I wanted to provide a guide to help families stay out of family court. The book is for anyone going to family court – whether for the first time or repeat visitors.

Why is it important post-divorce to avoid returning to court?

First, it’s expensive and time-consuming to return to court. And it’s hugely stressful – for parents and kids. Family court is not designed to help people end a cycle of conflict.

What happens when divorced couples do return to court? What are the risks or challenges?

You can get into a cycle where one dispute leads to another. It can be really hard to break out of a conflict-oriented approach to co-parenting. Often, it becomes a tit-for-tat situation.

When you return to court over and over, you never find a way to work together. You don’t learn to reduce conflict or how to prevent it. It becomes a cycle you can’t break.

It’s important to note that rarely do you achieve a perfect solution in court. Judges don’t know you or your family.

If there is a way to work together with your ex to solve problems, you’re more likely to reach a customized solution that really works.

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Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

It’s better for the whole family if you can find ways to solve problems on your own.

In this book, I offer techniques so readers can resolve custody problems and prevent them from recurring.

What is your perspective on family law?

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Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

When I represented adults, my goal was to help them understand the law (most people don’t) and advocate for what they wanted.

When I represented children, it depended on their age. For young children, I decided what I felt was in their best interests. For teens, I believed it was my job to advocate their position to the court.

I did a lot of law guardian work because I felt it was important for children to have representation. In that role, I guided families toward resources such as county mental health services, parenting classes and support groups.

I also acted as an informal mediator. Law guardians usually have access to both parents and the kids as well as school and medical records. They have a bird’s eye view of the entire family and can guide the adults to resolution.

I was good at that. So, I did formal training in divorce and family mediation and added that to my practice. It was rewarding to help families reach resolutions outside of court.

How did you transition from practicing law to writing about it?

I left my law practice when my second child was born because I wanted to spend more time with my own kids. A publisher asked me to write a book about how to file for divorce in New York, and that is how I got started.

Brette Sember writes often about law and is a writer for www.LegalZoom.com. Learn more at http://brettesember.com/books/.

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Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

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