Women's Divorce Blog

Life After Divorce?

The hurt and disruption caused by a divorce can make you question whether there can be life after divorce. How can I pick up the pieces and how good will the quality of life be after a divorce?

Breaking the ice

We often see someone we would like to chat to and perhaps get to know but we have no idea how to break the ice. Whenever someone brings this up, I always think about a friend who had been interested in a girl for several months but never found a way to talk to her.

One day I was with him in line behind her in the cafeteria and I kept nudging him to do something. He pretended to trip and dumped his tomato soup all down the front of her shirt. Luckily it was not very hot. He then made it worse by grabbing some paper tissues and wiping down the front of her wet blouse.

About a week later, we were having a pint in the pub when she came in with some friends. My friend decided to buy her a pint to make up for the "tomatogate" and brought it over as a peace offering. A year and a half later I attended their wedding.

While I wouldn't recommend dumping soup on someone as an ice breaker, there are often opportunities where there may seem to be embarrassment or awkwardness. Keep an open mind and you may end up with your own version of "tomatogate"

Photos of kids on the internet

This is probably a pet peeve of mine but I hate to see photos of parents with their kids on dating sites and other web-pages.Would you post a picture of you and your kid in the middle of a train station? The Internet is open to all and you have no control over the type of person who views your photos in many cases.

There have been cases of sexual predators combing dating sites looking for single parents. They strike up a relationship with the parent to have access to the child. An example of such a case can be seen here: sexual predators on dating sites.

Dating websites are for adults to meet other adults and so kids should not be involved in any way until you are very sure of the person you are dealing with. This is also a good reason not to bring your kids on a date with you even if your date says they have kids of their own.

The best advice is not to post any photos with your kids online. Do not specify their ages or gender either on your profile or in emails or messages until you are very sure of the person you are talking to.

How do you feel about this issue? Do you think dating websites have an obligation to police their sites to remove sexual predators? Should they police the photos that are posted and remove any that include children in the photo?

Parents raging divorce battle over daughter's school

A recent article in the NY Daily News outlines how an eight year old girl and where she goes to school has become a major issue in her parents divorce battle. The battle is over whether the daughter should move to one of NYC top public schools or stay in the school district she has been attending.

Third-grader Grace Yang Carter is caught up in her parent's divorce battle about where she should go to school. Grace, 8, lives with her dad, Edward Carter, on Staten Island half the week, and with her mom in Manhattan the rest of the time. The father was also granted the final say on her education in their divorce decree.

The issue is whether a top notch school far away from the school district she was previously attending is better than a lower performing school in her local district. This is not an unusual case. Battles like this happen all around the US and around the world.

On the face of it, it might seem that the academically better school is a natural choice but the problem lies in the fact that she has friends and classmates already in her local school district. Is socialization more important than academics?

The continuing school battle

A ruling is due soon on the child whose parents are in a bitter battle to determine which school she goes to. Another article in the Daily News goes into more depth on the issue with the current school district.

I previously blogged about this case where divorced parents of an 8 year girl are locked in a bitter battle over their child's schooling. There were apparently serious failings in the school district near the father where the child, Grace Yang, goes to school. It is unclear whether those failing have been addressed or not as opinions seem divided depending on whom you ask.

Rather than go into the pros and cons of this case, I wanted to use it to highlight one of the most difficult choice I think a divorced or divorcing parent can make: when to stop fighting

As a parent, you feel you know what is best for your child and it quickly becomes a cause to ensure the outcome you want for your kid. As the dispute gets more and more polarized, each party gets locked more and more into their particular desired outcome. It is a mixture of feelings; the desire to win, to champion the rightful cause, to fight the good fight, to say to your kid that you never gave up on them.

The end of the battle?

Well the ruling on the Grace Yang Carter case is in. This case involved a bright 8 year old and where she should go to school. The appeals court has rejected the mom's request to move the child to a top Manhattan school.

I have been following this case and blogging about it recently. It is not an unusual issue in divorce or post-divorce cases. This particular case has been much more high profile than many such cases but embodies many of the same arguments made in courts all over the U.S. and beyond.

A better school

The argument that a child should always go to a better school seems logical and is very common. Scratch the surface and it suddenly becomes a very complex issue. This argument probably has a better chance if there is no clear previous school district established e.g. where the child has been moving schools a lot or if the child is exceptional and the school cannot meet the educational needs of the kid.

Unusual custody arrangements

How unconventional can custody arrangements get? Is every other weekend the only option?

Custody arrangements with visitation every other weekend and perhaps one mid week evening is generally considered the norm. However custody arrangements actually vary quite dramatically from one family to another.

Perhaps the first place people look for strange behavior is among the Hollywood stars.

Britney Spears has certainly shown us what not to do in a divorce and custody case and her custody of her kids has suffered because of it. 50 cent is reported to have his son for one year at a time then swapping with his ex for one year. He says this works for them. Sharon Stone is also reported to have the same arrangement for her adopted son, Roan.

Some parents who swap their kids back and forth a lot have decided to keep the children in one house and each parent then moves in and out according to an agreed schedule. This is a rather expensive option but it shows the length to which parents will go to put their kids and family first.

Halloween or Oiche Samhain

Halloween Harvest

For those of you with kids going trick or treating this year, you may like to know that in the U.S you are not alone. In fact according to the U.S. census bureau, 36.1 million kids are between 5 and 13 years old in 2006- the prime age for trick or treating. This is down by 45,000 from 2005.

Halloween Parties

There has been some concern about safety going door to door and accidents due to costumes tripping up youngsters or not having the visibility to see obstacles. Many costumes are dark colored and so visibility crossing roads has been an issue too. However 93% of households consider their neighborhood safe and 78% were not afraid to walk alone at night according to the Census Bureau.

Some parents are turning to Halloween parties instead of going door to door. This in fact brings the kids closer to the origins of Halloween as a Celtic harvest festival. In Ireland, where I grew up, we would bob for apples in a basin of water, trying to grab onto it with our teeth, no hands allowed. Also we would tie an apple from a string and again try to take a bite without using our hands.

The BFFLs and your kids

Texting has become the norm for many kids to communicate with each other. I have tried to join in but my texting skills leave a lot to be desired. Who decides that "wolf" should come up in T9word before "woke"? My daughter didn't know what on earth I was saying when i texted "I just wolf up".

All this brings me to BFFL or text shorthand for Best Friend For Life. (BFFL is pronounced biffel). I was recently introduced to some of my daughter's BFFLs when I took them to the mall.

I make the big mistake of thinking they were just friends and was quickly introduced to BFFLs. At 13, these girls are very chatty and the conversation hopped around from topic to topic.

In among the talk about makeup, fashion and the scandalous thing John texted to Kate yesterday, they talked about drugs, cutting and saying no to boys. I realised suddenly how important BFFLs are and how much they can help or hurt your kid. BFFLs with a value system similar to your own can really back up everything you are teaching your kid.

St. Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day or St. Valentine's Day as it was known when I was growing up in Dublin, Ireland, has become a major industry with cards and gifts being exchanged. For me, it brings back memories of visiting the relics of St. Valentine in Dublin when I was a child.

For teens, it is both exciting and embarrassing as they test out the new world of relationships. For couples in a commited relationship, it is a time to reflect and celebrate the love that brought them together.

For the divorced, it has a mixed message. If you are newly divorced, it can be painful or you may just dismiss the day altogether. If you have ventured into a new relationship, it is a time of excitement and romance.

For me, it brings back memories of going to see the relics of St. Valentine in Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin when I was a kid. The church is in the heart of the city and on a busy street. The silence inside the church is quite a contrast. Pope Gregory XVI is said to have made a gift of relics of St. Valentine to this Irish Carmelite church in1836 after the visit to Rome of a famous Carmelite priest, Fr John Pratt from Whitefriar Street church.

The Devil Child

Now my daughter has entered her tweens, I have warned her it is my turn to embarrass her. When she was younger she used to embarrass me quite a bit.

When she was five, I dressed her up in her Sunday best and headed off to Mass. This is the really long mass a week before Easter. Of course she wouldn’t sit still through the long mass and i kept having to whisper and sign to her to be still. Eventually she had enough and when i whispered her to be quiet, she yelled “NO!” at the top of her voice. Unfortunately this also coincided with the priest asking “Do you renounce the devil and all his works?” Everyone turned to see the devil child and the priest stared down from the pulpit and yelled back “YES!”

I had to pick up my devil child and take the walk of shame down the aisle and out of the church. It took me a couple of weeks to pluck up the courage to return to that church. Being a single dad is interesting at times.

Now revenge is sweet. A tween sensitive to whether a father goes and stands outside her school so her friends see her getting picked up is an easy mark! The worm has turned.

Sexualization of our kids

What ever happened to “kids will be kids”? Why are we afraid to let our kids play in the street or walk to school? The truth is that our kids have become sexualized at a much earlier age. The tweenagers are now targeted by marketers and being pushed to look older and sexier than their age. These are the very kids that are going through puberty and highly sensitive about their bodies. They haven’t developed the inner strength to fight the marketing and peer pressure that drives them to buy clothes and accessories to make themselves look older and fit in.

Take a look at the styles in the “popular” shops and see the miniskirts, tiny shorts and padded bras being marketed to our kids. Kids at school ask each other where they got the clothes they are wearing and often go together to malls to shop. The “junior” versions of stores try to capture this segment of our youth so that they will remain “brand loyal” as they grow older. Tweens have become a powerful market segment

Now remind me again why we are nervous letting our kids out on the street or in public by themselves? Is sexualizing our youth making them more vulnerable to sexual predators or date rape as they grow older? Is there a mixed message going to our kids when we allow them to dress in sexy clothes but tell them to abstain from sex?

Divorce Rituals - The Phoenix Ritual

We have rituals for birth, for coming of age, for entering long term relationships and for death. For divorce though, we have no mourning period, no ritual and none of the closure and support that comes with rituals for other life events. Does the couples day in court serves as the ritual for divorce? For most couples the answer appears to be no. They are often surprised to find little emotional closure after the judge declares them divorced. This is especially true if the couple have kids.

What would be a suitable ritual for divorce?

Families are brought together to mourn a death but divorce divides families. Some friends and relations find they need to side with one spouse or the other and so support is divided also. The common thread is in defining an end to a phase of life and a definition of self. A divorced person can no longer be part of the married couples club. It is as if they have caught a disease that married couples are afraid of catching.

How do we use a ritual to define an end to a phase of life and to redefine ourselves as single?

Some people take photos and cut them up or burn them. The same can be done with letters. The destructive process seems to allow them to vent their anger and frustration. The key may well be in recognizing and acknowledging the emotional turmoil going on inside us and giving that some voice. To do that we need some socially acceptable way to give those emotions a voice.

What can kids learn from Christmas?

Faceless giving does little to teach our kids the true meaning of giving. 

When did the spirit of giving turn into the spirit of consumerism? Our kids of all ages are targeted by advertising aimed at raising the “nag factor”. The nag factor is the effort kids put into persuading their parents to buy them a particular product. Advertisers want to raise the kid’s desire for their product to the point where they will get the parent to buy it for them or to get the money to buy it themselves. It is also concerning that we are giving kids allowances and advertisers target that money too.

Are the gifts our children receive or give driven by this advertising? Of course they are. We as adults are not immune to advertising but our children are especially vulnerable. How can we counter this?

Helping charities at Christmas is one way many parents try to show their children the true gift of giving. Kids collect toys or coats or food for charities and can really learn a lot from the experience. However our children are still insulated from the consequence of their giving. They do not see the children who benefit from their charity. Not seeing the impact of their giving has to dilute the positive effect on a child.

The Irreconcilable Differences Bandit

A bank robber in California approached a teller and asked for help in wiring money without letting his wife’s attorney know about it since he was going through a divorce. He then produced a note demanding money and saying he had a gun and a bomb.

The fear of losing everything is very common in divorce. The house, retirement accounts, your business, savings, all the things that give us some security in life suddenly are now on the table to be carved up. It comes as a massive shock and a feeling of loss of control. The judicial system is intimidating and does nothing to bring back that sense of control. If anything, you feel like you are now at the mercy of the court.

There are stories of people coming home to find the house cleaned out of everything, of bank accounts found empty and assets hidden away. What do you do now when you are going to get remarried? How do you preserve that financial security the second time around? Is a pre-nup unromantic? Does it show a lack of trust in the spouse and the marriage?

 

Making memories

After divorce, we are often focused on picking up the pieces, dealing with the emotional fallout and trying to find a new routine. While all of these are important and necessary, we can’t let ourselves miss the highlights of our lives as we move forward.

Technically we have no excuse with digital cameras, home DVD creation software and email and web to share the photos and videos but are you really enjoying and storing away those moments in your brain? There are a number of things that interfere with the enjoyment of those moments after a divorce.

The Ex Factor

Going to your kids recitals, birthday parties etc can be stressful as you may have to face your ex and your ex-relatives. There can be tension, uncertainty, nervousness and embarrassment involved. The trick is to refocus yourself constantly on whats important. This is your child’s moment and one you don’t want to miss or not enjoy because of distractions. Life is too short and moments like this are fleeting. Get the camera out and wave and laugh and enjoy the moment. If something goes wrong, it’sOK. Lo ok for the humor in the moment. Read my post on how my daughter embarrassed me but in the end, humor won out and now she loves to hear the story. An embarrassing moment has become a treasured often retold memory.

Experiencing life after divorce

Covenant Marriage

Is divorce too easy to obtain? So say the proponents of covenant marriage.  Covenant marriage is an optional more restrictive form of marriage. It may require premarital counseling and usually limits the reasons for divorce to abuse, felony, adultery, abandonment, or long periods of separation. This option is only legal in three states in the U.S. namely Arizona, Arkansas, and Louisiana despite being proposed in many other states.

It seems to me this is a way to counter no fault divorce and returns couples to the position of proving abuse or adultery. This can be difficult to prove, cause more hostility and be very intrusive. If a couple feel they need a greater commitment, then I think this is better accomplished throughout the marriage such a renewal of vows, lay or religious marriage counseling or marital retreats.

It seems that this option hasn’t interested many couples with only about 1-2% of couples getting married signing up for a covenant marriage.  It is also possible to bypass this restriction by filing for a divorce in another state that does not have covenant marriage.

What do you think? Should couples be able to restrict the conditions under which they can file for divorce? Will this truly result in a more committed marriage?

The Divorce month

January is the busiest time for divorce lawyers. Many couples postpone their divorce plans until after the Christmas holidays. Many others see the new year as an opportunity to get a new start in life.

A surge in filings for divorces early in the new year is a recurring theme. The reasons for this are varied.

The last "happy" Christmas

Those initiating the divorce often have feelings of guilt. Disrupting a time that is publicly seen as a happy time and involved family and relatives and general Christmas cheer, is not a burden many people want to take on. Who wants to be the divorce humbug? Breaking the news to family and friends at Christmas is not appealing either and neither are the attempts to cheer the person up. Letting the holiday period slide by and putting a brave face on it is quite a common strategy.

For the kids

If a couple have kids, especially young kids, Christmas is supposed to be a magical time of year for them. Avoiding initiating a divorce until after the holidays avoids the guilt of disrupting the kids happiness. Even for couples that have already decided to get divorced, the holidays are the least likely time to initiate divorce proceedings.  The routine of school is often seen as an anchor for kids during a time of change and so waiting until the kids are back in school is a common strategy.

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