When Is It Time to “Lean In” to Your Divorce?

By now, you are probably familiar with Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” philosophy.  You don’t have to be a feminist or even a woman to learn something from this philosophy.  Many of us could learn to Lean In with respect to many aspects of our lives.  It is basically the proposition that when it comes time to make decisions and take action to better yourself and your life, you should grab the bull by the horns and just do it!

This can apply to a work opportunity. It can apply to getting fit.  It can also apply to making the excruciating decision to get a divorce.  We so often meet people in our office who have had the foresight to come see us to inquire generally about the divorce process, but sometimes they still leave hesitant and reluctant to make a decision to move forward.  Sometimes they come back a week later.  Sometimes they come back five years later.  Sometimes not at all.  However, sometimes when you don’t make decisions, the decision isn’t simply “on hold” as you may believe. Sometimes the decision is being made without you and you don’t even realize it.

For instance, many people worry that getting a divorce will upset the children.  Sometimes that is true, but you have to consider the impact staying in an unhealthy relationship can have on the children.  Sometimes it can be worse than the pain of staying together.  Kids are most often very aware of the dynamic between their parents.  Staying together is not necessarily helping them. Of course, this is an individual decision for every family and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Sometimes you also need to be a bit selfish.  The best parent a child can have is someone who is happy and healthy.  If you are in a toxic relationship, it is likely you are neither.  If you have come as far as looking at this website, or maybe you have even met with an attorney or two, what are you waiting for?  It is difficult to take that first step.  However, if you have already taken these few steps, you already know what you need to do to secure your future happiness.  Nothing worth having comes easy.  There will be suffering and it will not be a fun experience. However, you will come out the other side.  The only way to get to the other side is to Lean In and go after what is yours.

Still not sure?  It’s okay.  You don’t have to make a life changing decision in one day. If we can be of any assistance to you in understanding this process and understanding what your life may look like on the other side, please contact us for a consultation.

Call 732-529-6937



Take Your Power Back!

So now you’ve identified that you’ve lost your power somewhere along the way.  How do you get it back?  Don’t expect someone to give it to you.  You take it back!  Remember this: No one can take your power from you without your permission.  If you’ve lost your power, it’s because you have given it away.  However, you and only you can take it back.  And you can take it back the very moment you decide to take it back.  Here’s how:

(1) Identify what decision-making you have abdicated to someone else.  Remember that one of the signs you have lost your power is that you’ve relinquished decision-making to someone else.  Whatever the reason, once you decide to take your power back, you must immediately start making decisions for yourself rather  than allowing someone else to do it.  This can be as simple as what time you go to bed, when you go to the gym and what you have for dinner.  We sometimes allow people to influence these decisions when we have abdicated our power.  (Some examples: Don’t eat that, eat this.  Are you sure you should be doing that? Do it this way).  So if you’re allowing this in your life, stop! You do you!

(2) Take pro-active steps to further your desires.  Identifying areas you are passively allowing others to make decisions for you is the first subtle change.  But you must also take affirmative action too!  That means taking direct measures to achieve your desires, however big or small they may be.  If it’s something as small as getting to the gym every day, YOU decide when, how, where, etc.  Do what you need to do to make it happen.  Carve out time on your calendar.  Make it as important as everything else in your day.

(3) Establish goals.  Whatever your desires are, write them down on a piece of paper or add a note on your iPhone.  Put the list someplace you can review periodically at least once a day.  Read your list daily.  Remind yourself of your goals every day.  Change your list as you fine-tune your goals.  Having desires is the first step but writing down clear goals helps you to really clarify them.  Desires should lead to results.  Goals = results.   A desire without a plan is just a wish.

(4) Do at least one thing every day to further your goals.  Just thinking about your goals every day isn’t enough.  We could think about the things we want forever,  but if we don’t ever take any action towards getting those things, we will never see any results. If your goal is to find a new job, what are you doing to reach that goal?  Here are some ideas: update your resume, upload it to various recruiting websites, research job ads on those websites, make a list of potential employers you would like to work for and check out their websites, send your resume to the higher-ups at those companies, research recruiting events you can go to.  These are just a few ideas.  When you commit to doing at least one thing every day to further your  goals, you will likely not just stop at one.  You will also come up with other ideas to further those goals as well.  Doing nothing breeds nothing.  So do something!

(5) Eliminate toxic people from your life.  As you continue to evaluate your desires and things you want in your life, and as you start planning how to achieve those desires, you will begin to see that there are people in your life who are constant obstacles.  These people are the ones who always seem to have something negative to say about the things you want to do.  Or they always seem to be at the center of everything that presents problems in your life.  Quite simply, you need to eliminate these people.  If you were driving and you had mud on your windshield, you wouldn’t continue to drive, right? You would have to clean off your windshield. It would be silly to think you could operate the vehicle with an obstructed view. Well, those toxic people are obstructing your view.  Some people are easy to eliminate.  That friend that never has anything nice to say – just call less (or not at all). Don’t text her back.  Don’t call her back.  Just be busy all the time.  For those people that you can’t simply eliminate for whatever reason, read on below.

(6) Establish appropriate boundaries with people.  Not everyone is meant to have the same role in your life.   You don’t have to give everyone – or anyone for that matter – “full access” to your life.  YOU decide what people have access to what information.  Just because someone is your sibling, parent, child, etc. doesn’t mean they have to know everything all the time.  YOU also decide how you wish to conduct those relationships and what role they play in your life.  Just because someone is your relative, or because you have known them a long time, doesn’t mean that you have any obligation to them to conduct your relationship the way you did in the past.  We’ve all had friends with whom we were inseparable at one time. But things change.  Life changes, circumstances change. Our desires change.  That means that the roles people in our lives play change too.  It’s perfectly acceptable for you to decide to place limitations on people’s roles in your life.  This may mean making certain topics off limits. Or limiting the personal contact you have to only occasional phone contact or limiting the frequency of the contact you have with them.  YOU decide on these limitations though.  And if you need to verbally communicate these limitations to someone, don’t be afraid to do so. Just make sure your actions are consistent with your words.

(7) Know what you want.  And ask for it. Last but not least, this is some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten.  Of these two components, knowing what you want can often be the most difficult part!  If you employ the other suggestions above, you will be well on your way to identifying your true desires and achieving them.  Part and parcel of getting what you want is asking for it.  I have found that very often people just don’t pick up on hints or cues.  Sometimes you just need to be direct and say what it is that you want.  This may seem difficult at first, but once you get accustomed to it, you will wonder why you didn’t do it sooner!

As always, be kind to yourself!  Once you start employing these measures to regain your power, try to be consistent.  Make it a priority every day.  Don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t have the best day on any given day.  Keep going.  Keep pushing forward.  The only way out is through.  Your inner powerhouse wants to come out!


Telltale Signs You Have Lost Your Power

This blog is all about people finding their power. But what does that mean?  And how do you know if you’ve even lost your power in the first place?

Unleashing your power is really just about making decisions for yourself – and acting consistently with those decisions – to support your true desires.  It’s about doing what you want, when you want, to further yourself without that nagging feeling (you know the one I’m talking about) telling you that you can’t – or that you shouldn’t – or any other reason that effectively holds you back.  Here are some signs that you’ve lost your power that you may be able to identify in your own life:

(1) Difficulty Making Decisions.  Do you often feel like you can’t decide what you want because you don’t even know?  Sometimes we get stuck in our own heads worrying about irrelevant factors (such as what someone else wants) that it clouds our judgment.  Waffling at making decisions is a sign that you have lost your power.

(2) Procrastination.  The inability to act on the decisions we have made – or the ones we think we have made – is a sign we have lost our power.  It’s like trying to drive a car that is bucking and backfiring.  It makes it difficult to get where you are going.  You want a full drive train in gear to motor you along toward your goals.  No one ever got anywhere standing still.

(3) Feeling depressed.  When we have stepped into our power, we feel a certain kind of energy to push forward with our goals.  When we’ve lost that, the chip that tells us to “push forward” isn’t working.  It can make us feel inactive and unmotivated.

(4) Personality changes.  Another sign, which can also be related to depression, is not quite feeling like ourselves.  The things we used to do or enjoy, or the manner in which we did them, are out of sorts.  The pep in our step that used to be present seems to be gone.

(5) Complaining.   Noticing the negative aspect of everything around you is a sure sign you’ve lost your power.  When we are exercising that power within us, we don’t focus on the negative things in our lives, because we know we can change the negative things.  When you don’t have the feeling that you have control over things in your life anymore, you’ve lost your power.   Powerful women feel in control of their lives, because they can control their reactions to change the things they don’t want in their lives.  Therefore, complaining becomes unnecessary.  It’s just a distraction.

(6) Not asserting yourself.  Not speaking up for yourself and the things you want, however big or small, and letting others make decisions for you is a symptom of losing your power.  Knowing what you want and asking for it are key components to exercising your power.

Sometimes these symptoms creep up on us so gradually that we don’t even realize it.  We just wake up one day and feel like we’ve fallen down the rabbit hole.  Don’t be too hard on yourself when this happens. The most important aspect of combating it is to recognize it.  Once you recognize it, you can be mindful of making changes.


What Your Divorce Lawyer Won’t Tell You

When you are going through a divorce, it’s important to keep in mind that your lawyer is not your friend.  While you may have a cordial relationship and it may seem like a friendship at times, it’s a business relationship.  That means if your lawyer sees you making a mistake or making a poor decision, they may not always tell you.  This is especially true if the divorce has been dragging on for months,  sometimes years, and the court is pressuring everyone to just get it done.  Here are some secrets your lawyer knows but may not share with you:

(1) Whether your spouse is getting along with his/her attorney.  Divorce lawyers are a relatively close-knit community traveling in the same circles.  They see each other in court, at bar events, etc.  They may even be friends, socializing with each other during their personal time. It’s not unusual for attorneys to vent to each other about their clients during phone calls and other events.  While they are still required to honor attorney-client privilege, they may sometimes make it known whether they like their client or despise them.  Your attorney may be saying the same thing about you!

(2) Whether the other side is more or less flexible than you.  Sometimes, in an effort to just get things done, lawyers (as well as judges and mediators) make a judgment about which party is more or less willing to compromise.  The one that may be more willing to compromise is typically targeted to do just that: compromise even further to get the case settled.  This is usually a quicker route to getting things done than trying to convince the more rigid party to be more reasonable.

(3) You are less of a priority if you are not paying your bill.  This may seem obvious, but it often seems that the clients who aren’t paying their bill are the ones who call the most and expect their attorney’s undivided attention.  While most lawyers take their responsibilities seriously, practicing law is still a business.  The people who are generating income for the firm get bumped up in line.

(4) What the judge is saying about you.  Sometimes judges give a sense of their perception of the parties.  Sometimes it is favorable and sometimes it is not.  This can have a great impact on the advice your lawyer may give you when encouraging a settlement.    Your lawyer may not encourage you to dispute an issue that he or she already knows the judge would not rule favorably for you.  However, the “code” is that a lawyer does not repeat anything the judge or the other attorney has said in confidence during meetings.  The attorneys and the judge ordinarily have a common goal of the getting the case settled.

(5) What the other party is saying caused the divorce.  Most states are now no-fault divorce states, which means there doesn’t really have to be a reason for the divorce other than the fact that at least one of the parties wants one.  This means that those reasons are largely irrelevant, but being human, parties often like to talk about these topics. The reasons could be anything from “we grew apart” to infidelity or a variety of other reasons.  Sometimes attorneys will discuss these emotional issues largely because it helps to resolve issues in the divorce when you can understand where the other person is coming from and what may be important to them from a psychological standpoint.  Very often, the parties have very different opinions about what caused the divorce.

(6) When the attorneys have conspired to move a court date.  Sometimes attorneys have other matters that have to take priority for various reasons.  Sometimes one of the attorneys has a personal matter that creates a scheduling conflict. Attorneys will sometimes conspire to move a court date to accommodate such events without letting the clients know so that the clients don’t get angry with the attorneys.

(7) If he or she is friends with your spouse’s attorney.  Clients often believe that opposing attorneys are supposed to hate each other in order to be effective.  However, it is quite the opposite. When attorneys are able to get along and work cooperatively together,  they are actually better advocates for their clients because they typically communicate more effectively without emotion muddying their judgment.

These are just a few examples of what your lawyer won’t tell you.  Keep in mind that although your lawyer has been hired to represent you, this is a business relationship that only requires him or her to give you legal advice and advance your position in court.  It does not require them to be your friend or tell you every minor detail about how they move your case along.  That’s why it can be helpful to have a coach who helps you evaluate not just your divorce, but how your divorce fits into your life from all angles. Lawyers can hold back for various reasons.  It’s not up to your lawyer to help you find your vision.

First Things First: The Top Five Things You Must Do When Divorce is on the Horizon

Whether you have made the decision to move forward with a divorce, or your spouse made the decision, there are certain housekeeping functions that need to be accomplished.  Doing these things will empower you with the knowledge and information that you need so that you can make decisions about your future.

(1) Locate all important paperwork relating to the family finances.  Whether you are the one who managed the finances, or your spouse did, you need to determine whether you have copies (or access to copies) of certain documents that give a snapshot of the family finances.  These are (at least) your past three years’ income tax returns.  If you filed separately, you need yours and your spouse’s – with all schedules and attachments, such as the Schedule C profit and loss statement (if applicable), 1099s, W-2 forms, K-1 statements. Find them.  If you had an accountant prepare them, go to your accountant and get a full copy of every tax filing.  You don’t need to provide an explanation. If you filed joint tax returns, they are yours too even if you had nothing to do with getting them prepared – and even if you don’t work.  Also obtain all monthly bank account statements for at least the past 3 years for all bank accounts, even if they aren’t in your name.  If you cannot obtain statements for the accounts that are not in your name, your lawyer can obtain that in the divorce proceeding.  This also applies to any retirement plans or investment accounts, such as brokerage accounts, stock accounts, etc.  Also get copies of monthly statements for all credit card accounts, even if they are not in your name.  You will also need documents relating to any other indebtedness, such as car loans, student loans, etc.  Get copies of mortgage statements so that you know what your mortgage payments are and the outstanding mortgage amount on the house.  This information will all be important relatively early when it comes time to talk about support and distribution of property and debts.

(2) Consult with a financial planner or advisor.  Whether you will be receiving alimony or paying alimony, and even if you think yours is not an alimony case, you will need to plan your finances going forward without your spouse.  This means you will need to know how much money you are earning, after taxes, and what your expenses will be when you figure out your new living situation.  This analysis will also help you determine how much alimony you need to support yourself, or how much you can afford to pay your spouse if you are the breadwinner.  If you have used a financial advisor with your spouse, use someone else.  You want to make sure this information is confidential and as well as any strategy you develop with your advisor.  You can find advisors who routinely do this in the context of divorce.

(3) Take steps to preserve any personal property of significant value.  Property has a strange way of disappearing when people are getting divorced. If there are any items of significant monetary value or sentimental value, you should preserve evidence of their existence just in case they go missing.  The other alternative is to immediately store the items, such as bonds, photos or jewelry, in a safe deposit box.  Sometimes your attorney will agree to hold such items in escrow pending final agreement on the distribution of the items.

(4) Get a therapist or coach to help you through the divorce.  The worst thing you can do is listen to your friends, relatives, neighbors, hairdresser, accountant, college roommate, favorite barista at Starbucks, etc. about what they think you should do or what happened to them when they got divorced.  Keep in mind that these people are not able to be objective because they know you and likely know your spouse too.  Their advice is also limited by their own biases, particularly if they had a bad experience in their own divorce.  You need someone neutral to talk to, whether it is just to vent or whether it is to get guidance on your own life planning.  Don’t use your attorney as a therapist.  They are too expensive and they don’t want to nurse you through your divorce.  Only use your lawyer for legal advice. And don’t use your friends for legal advice.  They are not qualified! Now is the time to figure out your next steps based upon what YOU want for yourself.  It’s a new beginning!

(5) Make sure you have access to money.  If you have cash around, take half of it for safekeeping.  If you have joint accounts with large sums of money and you don’t have access to funds anywhere else except in the joint accounts, consider moving half of the funds into an account in your sole name.  This will ensure that if the divorce gets ugly, your spouse can’t take all of the funds and leave you with nothing.  (Even if that did happen, it would take time for your lawyer to sort it out).  Even if you think your divorce will be “amicable” (and maybe it will), be prepared for it not to be. Sometimes even the most amicable spouses have different ideas about what is fair.  Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.  If you don’t have an account in your sole name, open one.  Even if you don’t think you need it.  If you do have access to the joint accounts, make sure you monitor them for any unusual spending or withdrawals. The same applies to credit cards.

These are just some initial steps to consider as soon as the “D” word starts to surface in your marriage.  Always have a plan!

Call us for a consultation and strategy  session.  732-529-6937