Why a Good Divorce Is Better Than a Bad Marriage for Kids

Anyone who is considering divorce knows that there is a lot of research demonstrating that divorce is difficult for children. If you’re considering divorce or in the process of getting one it can seem as though researchers are shaking their fingers at you, predicting the worst for your child. As a former divorce attorney, mediator, and Law Guardian, I worked with families going through divorce as well as those who returned to court for updates and changes to their parenting plans. I’ve also seen acquaintances, friends, and family members who have stayed together for the sake of the children. It’s time someone stood up and spoke the truth. While there is no question that divorce is hard for kids, it is a far cry better than raising your children in a violent, abusive, angry, or deeply resentful marriage.

If you stay married for the sake of your children, you expose them to daily arguments, negative undercurrents, shouting, possible violence, and an atmosphere that is in no way calm and peaceful. This has a huge impact on your child. When parents stay in a bad marriage, kids have to cope with the fall out from a never ending cycle of disputes, resentment, sadness, and even hate. A bad marriage is an open wound that can never heal as the scab is picked off again and again no matter how hard the parents try to keep things together for the sake of the kids. Children live in a volatile environment, which even if it is not violent, it is not nurturing and loving.

While the research is clear that divorce does have an impact on children, it fails to take into account the permanent emotional damage children suffer when they stay in one home with parents who can’t get along. A divorce frees everyone from this environment and offers many benefits to children:back to back

– Two homes where there is no constant arguing. This allows kids to just be kids without having to work around the complex negative emotions present in a conflict-filled home. Yes, having two homes is a change. It’s not always perfect but two homes without fighting is almost always better than one filled with arguments and marital tension.

– A calmer emotional baseline. Things are complicated in the months following divorce, but most families get through this transition and find a new normal. Children are no longer riding the waves of their parents’ relationship on a daily basis. Things settle down and everyone is calmer and less combative.

– Happy parents. The benefits of this are enormous. Happy people are better parents. Happy people create happy environments. Happiness rubs off on children. While it takes time to find your equilibrium after divorcing, it does happen for most people and is certainly a better outcome than living unhappily for years in a difficult marriage.

– Children learn that compromise matters. When they see their parents co-parenting and working through the issues in a divorce, children learn that compromise is an important and effective skill. While no divorce is without challenges, getting through it shows your child how to work through hard times to achieve a brighter future. Parents who choose to mediate their divorce show their children that working together to find a solution is preferable to fighting against each other.

– Parents who choose personal happiness teach their kids to do the same. While putting your kids first is often held up as the gold standard of parenting, deciding that your personal happiness is more important than having a nuclear family under one roof sends a powerful message to your children. It shows them that everyone deserves to be happy and that happiness is an important consideration in your life plan.

– Divorced parents can find their parenting mojo after divorce. This isn’t guaranteed, but if you have a reasonable parenting plan and are able to cooperate, each parent develops a unique parenting style from the ongoing one-on-one time with the children.

Source: “” Brette Sember, March 24, 2015.

Price of Divorce

The Price of Divorce has just Increased

Divorce might have just become more expensive for US taxpayers. In the US, alimony payments (otherwise known as maintenance or periodical payments in the United Kingdom), but not child maintenance, are deductible by the paying spouse and are taxable to the recipient spouse as income. In the small print of the widely heralded tax reforms approved by the Trump administration in January 2018, the tax break will end for all divorce financial settlements finalised after December 31, 2018.

This has led some to predict a divorce rush before the new rules take effect.

I asked Ed Rieu of US tax advisory firm Sopher & Co to explain the history and the impact of this change:

“The US originally allowed a deduction for alimony by the paying spouse equal to the amount included in taxable income by the recipient spouse. The rules evolved to the current rules that allow a deduction even where the recipient did not include any amount in income.

To be deductible, the alimony needs to be paid in cash, under a court order between legally separated persons and must end on the death of the payee spouse (or on a fixed date). Further, the order must not designate the payment as not being deductible by the payor or includible in income by the recipient. A lump sum prepayment can also qualify as deductible alimony. Fixed payments for child support, however, do not qualify as deductible alimony nor do lump sum payments in splitting marital assets.

As an aside, this non-taxation rule on lump sum pre-payments does not apply to transfer of assets to a non-US citizen spouse. Thus, where a US citizen or permanent resident transfers assets to such spouses, gain will be realised on the value of assets transferred in excess of base cost and income will be realised to the value of any pension or other deferred income rights transferred. This requires up-front strategic planning to identify what assets may be transferred with a minimum US tax exposure.

Because the spouse paying alimony is typically in a higher tax bracket than the recipient, the alimony payment usually results in an overall tax saving which is often split by the parties in the financial settlement. The US Congress recognised this and recently legislated that effective for court orders issued after 31 December 2018, no deduction will be allowed for alimony payments and the receipt of income will not be taxable. Alimony paid on court orders issued prior to 1 January 2018 will still be deductible (and receipt of alimony will still be taxable). While the overall savings gained by the couple may be lower given the reduction in US tax rates (from 39.6% to 37%), the net savings to be realised has nevertheless led to a current rush by couples to expedite resolution of financial issues by year end.”

Inevitably there will be pressure for US taxpayers to finalise divorce settlements over the next eleven months and for some, the loss of the tax break may even be a tipping point spurring them to divorce. Before taking any radical decisions, however, it might be valuable for US citizens seeking their divorce in England (perhaps because they are resident here) to consider how the changes will impact. Maintenance settlements here are awarded based on “need”. There is no principle of a “fair sharing” of income. The less well-off spouse (usually the wife) will present a schedule of her own and any children’s annual income needs. The schedule will be a comprehensive list, everything from bath salts to butlers, aiming to reflect the actual standard of living of the marriage. The needs, of course, must be affordable and reasonable, but the court will normally carry out a balancing exercise with the edge being given to the parent who has the primary care of children going forward.

Yet since the English court also looks at the net income available in prescribing maintenance payments, it is inevitable that some separated households will be impacted by the new tax hit and will find the future a good deal harder. One would like to think the new rules may create a short term financial disincentive to divorce but I suspect for wealthy US clients it simply means divorce has become more expensive.

Source: “”  Michael Rowlands Undated.


21 Mistakes NOT to Make When Getting a Divorce

Very few people are at their best when they are getting a divorce. That’s not surprising. It’s hard to operate at the top of your game when your entire life has just imploded and it feels like you’re walking around with an ice pick in your chest.

The irony, of course, is that, at the very time in your life when your emotions are raging out of control and you are the least equipped to make good decisions, you are expected to make one life-changing decision after another.

It doesn’t help that going through a divorce is like trying to find your way around a foreign country when you don’t speak the language. Even when you’re doing the best you can, it’s easy to make a wrong turn and get lost.

What is a Divorce Mistake?

Mistakes, like beauty, are often in the eye of the beholder. What you might think is a mistake (like giving up too much money in your divorce settlement), someone else might think is brilliant! (You might have lost money, but it helped to end your divorce months sooner than it would have otherwise taken.)

To me, a divorce mistake is anything that makes your divorce more painful or ugly. Anything that causes your divorce to take longer or cost more is also probably a mistake (unless you enjoy supporting your local divorce lawyer!)

A mistake is anything that hurts your children any more than is absolutely necessary. Finally, anything that violates your core values, or will make you cringe a few years from now when you think about how you acted is, in my opinion, a mistake.

While avoiding every divorce pitfall is next to impossible, if you can get through your divorce without making most of these mistakes, you’ll be way ahead of the game.

21 Mistakes to Avoid When Getting a Divorce 

1. Thinking your divorce lawyer will take care of everything for you.

Unless you have more money than Donald Trump, no divorce lawyer is going to do EVERYTHING for you in your divorce.  No lawyer is going to gather all of your financial documents, separate your personal property, find a new place for you to live, or talk to your spouse about the kids because you don’t feel like doing it yourself. Lawyers handle the legal parts of your case. Period. The rest is up to you.

2. Going through your divorce without a therapist.

Divorce is 80% emotional. While you might think you are perfectly capable of handling your emotions yourself, when you are locked in battle with someone who knows how to push every button you have, staying calm and thinking rationally is a challenge. The same thing is true if you’re so depressed that getting out of bed in the morning is now a crowning achievement. Having a therapist or a divorce coach on your team can help your divorce go more smoothly than you may imagine.

3. Getting a divorce without getting any legal advice.

DIY divorce may be all the rage these days, but it has some serious downsides. What’s worse is that you may not be able to repair the mistakes you are making now. Yes, divorce lawyers are expensive. No, not everyone needs full on legal representation throughout their divorce. But, unless you have nothing to lose, going through your divorce without getting any legal advice at all is risky, foolish, and usually a huge mistake.

4. Taking your spouse off of your health insurance plan as soon as you file for divorce.

Please don’t do this – especially if your spouse has any kind of serious medical condition that requires medication or regular care! Not only is cancelling your spouse’s health insurance wrong but it can also prove to be an expensive mistake. You may be held liable to pay your spouse’s uncovered medical expenses. Plus, if you can’t get your spouse back on your policy because it’s not an open enrollment period, you may be paying for this mistake for a long time.

5. Fighting over cheap personal property.

Almost every divorce lawyer has stories about couples who spent thousands of dollars fighting over some item of personal property (a vacuum cleaner, an ashtray, landscaping rocks, etc.) that was worth a few hundred dollars – or less! If you find yourself fighting with your spouse over the Tupperware, stop! Ask yourself: “What am I really fighting about? What matters here?” If you are being honest, I promise you that your answer will NOT be “the Tupperware.” (THIS is why you need a therapist or a divorce coach!) 

6. Not taking charge of (and responsibility for) your own divorce.

Whether getting a divorce was your idea, or whether your spouse wanted a divorce but you didn’t, once your divorce has started, you HAVE to engage with it. Burying your head in the sand will only make your divorce harder and more painful. It will also dramatically increase the chances that you will not get what is important to you in your divorce. No matter how upset or depressed you are, get up, man up, make some goals, and start taking action to achieve them.

7. Moving out of the house with the kids, without telling your spouse.

Unless you and the kids have been the victims of documented domestic violence, taking your kids and running is almost always going to come back and bite you. Even if you tell your spouse your address after you move, that still doesn’t mean that some judge won’t order you to return the kids to your home – quite possibly without you. That is not a position you want to be in. 

8. Not following court orders.

Court orders are ORDERS. They are not suggestions. Not doing what your divorce judge told you to do can get you held in contempt of court, thrown in jail, ordered to pay fines, ordered to pay your spouse’s attorney’s fees, or subjected to whatever other punishment the court believes is warranted under the circumstances. Plus, it does not endear you to the judge. Later on, when you need the judge to decide some other issue in your case, don’t think that the judge won’t remember that you blew him or her off before. 

9. Refusing to compromise about anything.

Divorce requires compromise. Period.  Full stop.  Unless your spouse totally caves in (which is not particularly likely) you are not going to get everything you want. You are going to have to give in on some things. The more you dig in your heels, the longer your divorce will take and the more it will cost. Plus, in the end, even if you go all the way through trial, some judge will still probably order you to give up things you didn’t want to lose.

10. Not verifying the numbers on your budget and balance sheet.

Even if you were the spouse who managed the money in your marriage, making a budget based upon what you “think” or “remember” your income and expenses to be, without taking the time to double-check your numbers, can cause your budget to be complete garbage. No matter how much of a pain it may be, verifying that your divorce budget and balance sheet are accurate can save you from making enormous financial mistakes in your divorce. 

11. Withdrawing large sums of money out of the joint account without your spouse’s knowledge or agreement.

Do you really think your spouse won’t notice? Really?! Unilaterally removing large sums of money from your bank account is the quickest way I know to get yourself slapped with an injunction that freezes all of your financial accounts. Plus, a judge will probably order you to return the money, and maybe pay your spouse’s attorney’s fees too. It doesn’t matter that the only reason you did this was to prevent your spouse from doing it first. Do things the right way. Talk to your spouse. Talk to your lawyer. Do what the court says. 

12. Telling your kids all sorts of horrible things about your spouse (even if they are true!).

Your children are products of both you AND your spouse. When you start bad-mouthing your spouse to your kids, you hurt your kids. It doesn’t matter whether you are telling your kids “the truth.” There are some things that children just don’t need to know about their parents. So, take the high road. Resist the temptation to over-share. 

13. Doing anything on purpose, just to hurt your spouse.

Yes, hurting your spouse (especially when s/he hurt you badly first) may feel good for a while. But it will almost always make you feel bad later. Who are you? What are your values? What kind of an example do you want to show your kids? As tempting as it may be to needle your spouse just because you can, resist the urge. Later on, you’ll be glad you did. 

14. Kicking the can on sensitive child-related issues.

If you and your spouse disagree on critical parenting issues, you need to discuss those issues, and find some way to resolve them, during your divorce. The same thing is true if you and your spouse have had fertility issues and have to decide what will happen to frozen embryos. Dealing with these issues now will be emotional and difficult. Putting off the discussion until after you are divorced, and expecting to deal with the issues then, will likely be worse. 

15. Not making a post-divorce budget before you settle your case.

You may think you’ll be fine after your divorce is over, but unless you actually run the numbers, you can’t know for sure whether the budget you have in your head will actually work in practice. What’s more, you need to base your proposed budget on facts, not feelings. For example, if you plan on moving out of the marital home after you are divorced, and you haven’t researched what a new apartment will cost – do it now! You don’t want to start your post-divorce life living on the streets or eating cat food because you miscalculated your living expenses when making your budget. 

16. Asking your kids to deliver messages or money to your spouse.

You are an adult. Be one. Keep your kids out of the middle of your divorce. If you and your spouse have issues, work them out yourselves. Don’t involve your kids. 

17. Not keeping a joint calendar for the kids’ during and after your divorce.

Keeping track of all of your kids’ activities, medical appointments, and schedules is daunting for intact families. When you are getting a divorce, or once you are divorced, it’s even harder. There are lots of digital parenting tools that can help you automate your kids’ schedule so that everyone knows what is going on with the kids all the time. The sooner you start to use that kind of a calendar, the more smoothly your kids will transition into their new situation, and the more you will lower everyone’s stress level. 

18. Not understanding the tax implications of your divorce settlement before it is final.

You don’t have to be a CPA. But, if you don’t understand some basic tax principles, you may find that the amount of money you actually get in your divorce settlement is dramatically different form the amount of money that you thought you would be getting. Before you agree to any divorce settlement, run the numbers by an accountant or your divorce financial planner. That will reduce the risk that you will be surprised later.

19. Hiding money.

Yes, this one is controversial. If you hide money and you don’t get caught, then hiding money (essentially stealing from your spouse) seems like a good idea. The problem is, if you do get caught (and most people do), you will usually end up paying way more money than what you would have paid if you had been honest in the first place. Plus, whether you believe it or not, karma happens. You may get away with stealing money now. But, some day, some way, what you do will come back to you. 

20. Not making sure your parenting schedule works BEFORE you enter it in court.

A lot of things that look good on paper turn out to be a nightmare in real life. Until you have lived with a parenting schedule for a while, it is hard to judge whether it works or not. You may find that your kids don’t function well with the schedule you and your spouse set up. Or, you may discover that exchanging the kids during the height of rush hour traffic makes everyone’s life miserable. The best way to make a parenting schedule is to set it up, start living with it, change it as necessary and THEN put it into your final divorce judgment. 

21. Assuming that you can change your divorce judgment later.

Many people include terms in their divorce judgment that they don’t really agree with because they assume that they can just change those terms later. That’s not always true! While the portions of your divorce judgment that pertain to your kids may be modifiable, other parts of your judgment may not be. Plus, changing your divorce judgment will require you to go back to court. It will cost you time and money. There is also no guarantee that the judge will allow you to make the change that you want. 

Avoiding Mistakes in Your Divorce 

Getting a divorce is fraught with potential pitfalls. These are just some of the most common mistakes that people make. There are more.

If you want to avoid making critical mistakes in your divorce, there are two things you must do: 1) educate yourself, and 2) put together the best divorce team that you can.

With the right knowledge and information, and the right professional guidance, you should be able to avoid making the most painful divorce mistakes. That, in turn, will put you in the best position to start a new life once your divorce is behind you.

Source: “” Karen Covy, February 10, 2017.

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