The year has flown by and the holidays are fast approaching. You may be newly single following a divorce or approaching the holidays as a single Dad who has suffered through the divorce process some time ago. Regardless of when your divorce occurred, time is afoot to make a pledge to yourself to create a happy holiday after divorce.
You Are In Control of Your Thoughts and Actions
There is no doubt about it – your life has changed following the divorce. You may have chosen to become more outgoing, more adventurous and more socially connected. Or, you may have chosen to spend more time alone, to concentrate on your thoughts and rebuild your life, from the inside out. But keep in mind. There is a strong correlation to your thoughts and your emotions. People who are more outgoing, positive and socially engaged and generally happier and healthier as individuals. These types of people are more likely to be positive thinkers, even through the worst of times and these people tend to experience emotions that are more positive (i.e. joy, contentment, peace, calm, etc.). Likewise, people who are more reclusive and entertain more negative thought processes often find themselves burdened with negative emotions (i.e. sadness, anger, jealousy, loneliness, etc.).
As the holiday season draws near, be more mindful of your thought patterns and resulting mood. If you find you are more in tune with how you are feeling emotionally, start there. You can then trace back to the associated thinking patterns. Challenge irrational, distorted thoughts and change negative thinking to uplift your mood.
Avoid making decisions when in the throes of negativity (thought and mood). Your opportunity to do things differently, and take control of your happy holidays diminishes when blinded by the cloud of negativity. Taking a pause and allowing a moment to thoughtfully consider the options can make all the difference between resolving to be miserable or joyful.
Embrace the Opportunity to Do The Holidays After Divorce Differently
While married, you and your partner had to make decisions about how the holiday would be done differently from when you were single. Whose house and when. Which invites to politely decline. How to share the gift of your presence across multiple families.
Who. What. When. Where. Why. How.
When those decisions were made, you may not have been overly happy, and it certainly took some getting used to, for both of you. The same holds true for holidays after divorce. You now have an opportunity to do the holiday differently…again…and with fewer details (i.e., people) to factor into the mix.
If you have children and know that you will be splitting time with their mother, determine how you will go about making your time with them extra special and amazing (see below for starting new traditions). Also, consider that the celebration doesn’t have to occur any certain day. Some families have opted to have a full-on Christmas celebration at Thanksgiving, and have admitted that while it felt strange at first, the tradition grew on them and they’ve come to enjoy their “Thanksgiving Christmas” even more than Christmas on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. The trick is to get your mind wrapped around the idea and fully embracing it so that the plan can take off. Toss aside all the ideas of how things ‘should be’ for a holiday.
If children aren’t part of your story, immerse yourself in festivities with friends and family. Assess what you might need to do for yourself, in the name of self-care, and take advantage of holiday time away from work to engage in these things. Maybe a trip with your buddies to the mountains, complete with a cabin and snowboarding is in order. Or if a tropical destination is more your style, get the trip booked!
The bottom line is there is no one way to make a holiday fabulous and worthwhile, particularly holidays after divorce. The possibilities are endless. Meditate on what will make you happy and go for it! Even if it means staying in, reading a book and having a hotdog for dinner (provided you aren’t secretly lonely and miserable) is an option. Society may try to convince you there are rules about what should and should not be done but the truth is you’ve earned your adult status.
Create Holiday Traditions with Your Kids
Most everyone can recall (most of the time with fondness) the holiday traditions from when they were young. Maybe you had hoped to carry some of your childhood traditions forward or had ideas of traditions you would have liked to have started once you married and had children of your own. Whether or not you had the opportunity to begin these traditions in your previous married life, holidays after divorce afford you the opportunity to plug in your ideas and carry them forward for years to come.
Unsure where to begin with holiday activities? Consider some of the following ideas:
- Tree Decorating: whether you seek out and cut down your very own fresh holiday tree, or opt for the pre-lit artificial variety, tree decorating, start to finish, can become a memorable activity done with your children. Allowing your kids to help gives them the opportunity to rediscover and enjoy the ornaments and decor they had long forgotten from the year prior. Tree decorating can morph into another project if you decide to engage the kids in a decor creation activity like stringing popcorn with cranberries as tree decorating garland!
- Decorating Gingerbread Houses: A pre-assembled house of graham crackers along with a table full of sugar-coated treats and frosting turns an ordinary afternoon into a marathon of creative bliss. Their work will proudly display until, over time, the candies have been picked away and consumed (hint: take pictures quickly! The decorated houses may not last long!). This tutorial will get you started on the graham cracker house build (the part of the project the kiddos may not have the patience to endure).
- Holiday Books, Movies, Cartoons and Music Countdown: The holidays bring with them books, movies, cartoons, and music treasured by all generations. Consider a schedule to introduce your children to some of your favorites from your childhood as well as squeezing in the latest and greatest in holiday entertainment. A fun countdown to Christmas (or Hanukkah, or whatever celebration is in store) can occur as movies, books, videos with cartoons, and music are wrapped up, numbered and set under the tree. Each passing day a new surprise awaits unwrapping and family fun!
- Giving Back: While need exists all through the year, there is never a more obvious time of year to give back to those less fortunate than the holidays. The timing is also never better to teach your children about giving back. Examine your options to engage in a holiday charity outreach event with your children. There are shelter meals to be made and served, opportunities to collect (sort and hand out) items for a food drive, and families with children in need of being ‘adopted’ through a secret Santa or gift giving tree program. Your generosity can also stretch over-seas with the Operation Christmas Child project.
Still in need of holiday tradition ideas? A quick internet search yields seemingly endless results and options to consider for all age groups.
Holidays after divorce, while different and something to adjust to, don’t have to be yet another reason to feel miserable. Resolve to change (and control) your thinking on the matter and set out to have it your way this holiday season. Let go of the ideas of how things are ‘supposed to’ be and avoid getting sucked into the storybook holiday scenarios. Treat this holiday after divorce like a blank canvas with endless opportunity to color it any way you choose!
(c) Can Stock Photo / VadimGuzhva
August. The dreaded time for kids to go back to school. Most kids hate it. But, you love it for the peace and relaxation that lies ahead. But, for many, August is the child support system Awareness month. Yeah, that’s right. The states have instituted a Child Support System Awareness month to educate and focus their efforts to collect child support arrears from what many believe are ‘dead beat dads’.
The Child Support System’s Child Support Awareness month was started back in 1995 by states and municipalities across this great land. But, the implementation of this plan was one more focused on funding the STATE than funding needy parents in want of child support arrears.
The truth is in the numbers, so leave your emotions at the door!
The Child Support System – Every State Wants A Piece of This Action
You can’t avoid the emphasis on deadbeat child support collections dominating the news this month, second only to the Olympics. Here are a few of my favorite headlines, filled with biased, emotionally charged wording:
– “Texas Cracks Down on Deadbeat Parents”
– “New Jersey Rounds up 1221 Deadbeat Parents Owing $25.4M”
– “New Mexico Governor Announces Crackdown on Parents Failing to Meet Child Support Obligations”
Even the Feds have a Deadbeat Parent Punishment Act to catch parents who move from state to state to avoid paying up.
News outlets revel in hyping the national tragedy of unpaid child support exceeding $100 billion. Very often though, they leave out the details behind these numbers – important details!
First, this is the total running tally of unpaid support since data was kept, meaning decades of debt. The children owed the first $1 million of this figure are likely parents or even grandparents themselves now!
Parents Can’t Pay From Behind Bars
The first article in this series covered how much of TODAY’s unpaid child support is actually accumulated by people in PRISON, who with their almost zero dollars income, are not likely to make those payments.
Even armed with this bit of common sense knowledge, the government is continuing to add up their debt while also piling on interest. Read the detailed article here.
The Numbers Will Blow Your Mind
Following the money, Part 2 of this series reveals how the National Department of Health and Human Services was responsible for the Enforcement Division of the collection effort. But wait! They also reported (through a separate division) who owed the child support based on annual income and the likelihood of collections.
Turns out, those making a livable wage owed only a small fraction of the total debt! The rest of the debt resided with those barely getting by, and this same federal agency labeled that debt as largely un-collectable! The shocking details are all here.
The Beatings Continue Regardless of Results
It’s terrible how so many parents out there are struggling to make ends meet at a poverty-level wages.
Both parents are struggling to provide for their children. Yet, instead of focusing on ways to educate parents to improve their job skills and wage potential, the authorities attack the parent who can’t keep up.
New Mexico, for example, as part of it’s annual crackdown on deadbeat parents, publicly lists the names of parents with delinquent child support.
Are banks allowed to list all those who are late with their payments? A bank would probably be slapped with a huge lawsuit, but I guess the government doesn’t have to follow the same rules.
Where’s The Money – According to Uncle Sam
So where are these agencies focusing their efforts? You can’t nail it down for all states, but the Department of Health and Human Services provides a clue about where recoverable money resides for those in arrears.
HHS reports suggest that once a parent with delinquent child support made over $20,000 per year, their debt was mostly collectable. But, only 17% of the “deadbeats” fall into the collectable category.
The rest – the vast majority- had little or no income.
The data shows that about three-fourths of the debtors have no reported income, or make less than $10,000 per year! This income group is also categorized by this same agency as one whose arrears are virtually “un-collectable.”
But hey, this is where the debt resides, so the agencies choose to focus considerable efforts towards collecting child support debt from those that can’t afford to pay it!
It’s pretty clear how bloated the budgets are for federal and state collection and enforcement agencies. The government collection agencies could pay off the total child support arrears in the country in just a few short years with only their fat annual budgets.
The government collection agencies could pay off the total child support arrears in the country in just a few short years with only their fat annual budgets.
But these agencies are getting results, and their results are widely publicized in the news. As an example, let’s look at New Mexico again.
The Poster Child For Child Support Collection
New Mexico proudly received a national child support enforcement award for the “Most Improved System”.
This year, they are on track to exceed $140 million in back-due child support collection. That’s a pretty impressive number – that leaves out the crushing impact to those who pay into the $140 million.
The New Mexico Division of Child Support Enforcement has an annual budget of $34 million, roughly 25% of the collections. So, for every dollar the tax payers put in, they received four. Sounds good, but there’s more to the story.
The problem with just showing the raw collected amounts is traced to the Bradley Act in 1986 that allowed states to add interest to arrears. So how much of that $140 million is actually money that was due to the parent versus interest that goes to the state? The answer is not advertised, but we have great examples from real folks.
A Payment Scheme Like You Wouldn’t Believe
Recently, a reader shared his story. Let’s call him Joe. His kids are now grown and out of the care of their mother. He made scheduled child support payments until he hit hard times and missed some. Eventually, Joe got back on track and made payments until his kids were grown. Now he’s making his payments for the overdue amount. Joe pays $100 per month.
Sounds good. He’s paying his debt. Right?
The story gets ugly though, when Joe shares the breakdown of his debt payments. About $25 of his payment goes to his ex. The rest? $75 goes to interest on his debt and goes to the state. Yeah, they can charge interest, remember?
Math time! 75% of that collection goes to interest…only 25% to the parent. Apply that to New Mexico’s success story.
Just Suppose …
$140 million in collections…outstanding! 75% back to the state, or $105 million. So $35 million goes to the parent that’s due. Considering that their annual budget, invested by the taxpayers, was, $34 million, the result was only $35 million to the parents and kids that needed the money, the kids that needed school supplies.
That’s pretty close to a 1 for 1 ratio, meaning the taxpayers gave the state $1 and the state gave $1 to the parent in need. After that, the state made over $100 million profit from interest. This is interest collected from people struggling to meet their child support obligations, struggling to make ends meet.
We aren’t talking about making $100 million from creating an industry that provides products and jobs for the community resulting in taxes collected on industrial revenue. This is money “taxed” on the poor.
Essentially, the states are cracking down on struggling parents to fund their programs. The states are publicly vilifying struggling parents, while crushing them with insurmountable interest and debt.
Wouldn’t the agency funds be better spent by educating parents, improving their income, and then taxing their income? The kids would have a better quality of life and the state would be funded to serve the people, not turn them into indentured servants.
There’s Gotta Be A Better Way
We must create a better system. The money invested is clearly wasted. Currently we are treating the symptom of the problem, missed payments, as criminal behavior. The state is spending countless taxpayer dollars to collect back due child support from those that can’t pay, as well as interest to pad the state’s bottom line.
We need a system to treat the cause of the problems. Unpaid child support is caused by low incomes, poor job skills, and skyrocketing child care costs.
Children of divorce will be better served if the funds budgeted for child support enforcement and collections are spent fighting the poverty cycle!
Are you fed up with the broken child support system? What is your child support experience? Share your opinion in the comments below.
Consider me frustrated, frustrated at ‘the system’ and its persistence in going after deadbeat dads and their alleged child support arrears. Don’t get me wrong. Real deadbeats are the scourge of the human race for not taking financial responsibility for their offspring. And, as the mid-term elections are grinding to a close these next couple weeks, I’m sure there will be many politicians proclaiming that the increase in households living below the poverty line is directly related to the increase in children raised in single parent households.
There are numerous websites that list and profile deadbeat dads in an attempt to identify them, expose them, find them and shame them into financially supporting their offspring. This is, among other things, no better than the public stocks located in the town square of our early American pilgrimage when those that broke the covenants of public reason and law were publicly displayed for rebuke and humiliation by the local citizens.
Many of these websites run public forums, and one such site run and supported by the Canadian Government has such a public forum as well. So, I joined in on the discussion about going after child support arrears.
Everyone was applauding the site and its goal when I arrived onto the forum. I chimed in and mentioned the first article in this series (which the forum managers removed shortly thereafter, but whatever) that plainly lays out the facts behind the myth that dead beat dads are the best un-tapped source of income for children living in poverty.
Note: Haven’t read it? No prob! Check it out here.
None in the forum knew how many so called “no-loads” were actually in prison with no chance at making an income. Even with that knowledge, many didn’t care. I received strongly-worded counterarguments about the many dads who hide income to avoid paying to support their children.
If you’ve read my work, you know how much I just love broad generalities and hyperbole! So, I moved the throttles to afterburner and asked about the moms who refuse to get jobs to artificially keep their incomes low to increase their child support award. My question also had no basis in fact, but since I was “discussing” grown-up topics with folks who weren’t, why not poke the bear!?
Cutting through the emotions, a real question emerged: What about parents with past-due child support arrears who aren’t in prison? Why aren’t they paying?
An excellent question, it turns out! And the FACT-BASED answer is the purpose of this article!
Breaking Down Child Support Arrears
The reality of over-due child support is shocking. In my previous article, I estimated the figure is at over one-hundred billion dollars!
Granted, that’s the total over decades, but armed with only that knowledge, it’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming we can go get that money and win the war on poverty.
The breakdown of the debt, though, crumbles the walls of that belief like a Christmas gingerbread house left out until May.
WARNING! REAL FACTS AND DATA AHEAD. IF YOU DON’T LIKE THESE, DON’T READ!
The US Department of Health and Human Services reports:
- 40% of that hundred-billion-dollar pie belongs to people with NO INCOME! No income, as in zero! It’s a difficult source from which to pull, at best.
- 30% is from individuals who make an annual salary anywhere from $1 (so that’s actually something) to $10K
- 21% is owed by those who rake in an annual sum of $10K to $30K
- And only 9% comes from people making over $30K
Remember that these individuals also need to sustain themselves!
Unfair Interest Rates on Child Support Arrears for Low Earners
I’ll save the debate on minimum wage for another series. But let’s at least consider the current system’s implications.
Some states have a higher minimum wage, but the federal minimum is $7.25 per hour. For a full-time, 40-hour-a-week job, that’s just over $15K per year or $1,257 per month.
Out of that comes food, lodging, health insurance, transportation, clothing, etcetera. There’s not much left after that. Most who live on that salary will tell you zero is what’s left over.
Our child support system is designed so that both parents are tasked with supporting their children. And both should!
For many reasons, our system built up an enforcement network over the past decades to seek out and collect child support arrears. The problem was only compounded by the Bradley Amendment of 1986 that allowed states to add interest to those arrears.
Think about that for a minute.
We have people out there struggling to get by on nothing (or almost nothing) themselves. When they fall behind in child support, we pile on interest to their debt? How do we expect them to dig out of that hole?
The Government has been very willing to attack predatory credit lenders that impose egregious interest rates on the poor. When the housing market crashed, the Government attacked banks to renegotiate the terms of the horrible loans that families struggled under.
This same Government, though, is charging interest to poor working parents who can’t meet their child support obligations. We all know what it’s like to struggle to meet our bills. For these parents, the pain never ends. It’s a constant shell game to keep creditors and bill collectors satisfied just to make it through to the next month, sometimes even the next meal.
Child Support Arrears Collection Forecast
Some parts of the Government recognize how unlikely these debts are to be collected. Ironically, the same organization, the Department of Health and Human Services, reports their estimate about how much of the outstanding child support debt will be collected after 10 years.
- 100% of the debt owed by those who earn >$30K annually will be collected
- 50% of the debt owed by minimum wage earners will be collected
- <25% of the debt owed by those making <$10K annually will be collected
I’m not presenting new math or even a new concept. The phrase “You can’t get blood from a turnip,” has been around for a long time. Yet we continue to bring up these parents as sources of income to solve the overall problem of children living below the poverty line in America. We spend a hefty chunk of change in tax dollars to go after these debtors.
How much does a federal enforcement bureaucracy cost per year?
Federal agencies don’t collect the debt themselves. Instead, they study the data and guide policy. The state enforcement agencies are actually charged with collections. So figure into your estimate another 50 collection and enforcement agencies in addition to the federal agency.
What did you come up with?
Remember how I told you the total child support arrears in America exceeds $100 billion dollars? Turns out, the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement works for the same federal agency I keep harping on, the Department of Health and Human Services.
That division’s annual budget is public record and has been pretty steady for the past several years, around $4 billion EVERY YEAR!
Take that number and add in an agency for each state!
Want an example? California’s child support agency’s annual budget: $1 billion. That’s a big state, so assume most are 75% of that number. You end up with an estimate for state fiscal commitments around $37.5 billion. Add in the federal agency and you get $41.5 billion!
Seems to me that if you eliminated these agencies, you could cover the decades’ worth of debt in just under 3 years!
What if you cut the enforcement side of all those agencies completely? Take a portion of those funds and apply them to education programs for parents to help them get better jobs.
The same federal department I’m annoyed with myself for repeating shows that if individuals can earn over $30K per year, they have an almost 100% chance of making their payments.
If the real goal is to end child poverty, let’s attack it from all sides! There are 2 parents and both need to support their child.
One is tagged with paying child support. For those who can’t make their payments, help them get just twice above the minimum wage so they can. At the same time, we can help the parent receiving the child support earn a better wage and get more affordable child care while working so they can work full-time.
The result would be greater income for BOTH parents, which only benefits the children.
Assuming we only had about 15% of that annual budget, or $6.2 billion, do you think we could stand up a good program with the goal of increasing employment and eliminating (or at least decreasing) child poverty? Or is it better to keep spending our tax dollars on federal and state agencies tasked with collecting debts that THE SAME AGENCY ruled un-collectable!?
Let me know in the comments!
So, you’re incarcerated. You’re in prison for crimes against the state and society in general. But, can the state ever believe that while incarcerated you could still pay your child support obligations to your spouse or ex? Frankly, it’s clear, the child support system is BROKEN. PERIOD. Who in their right mind can reasonably expect an incarcerated prisoner to pay their $100 per week child support obligation when they earn, on average, $0.86 per hour, down from $0.93 in 2001?
But, according to the Office of Child Support Enforcement, Division of Policy and Training, “about one quarter of states treat incarceration as “voluntary unemployment” and refuse to allow prisoners to seek adjustment of their child support obligation. However, a new ‘Final Rule’ prohibits states from refusing an inmate from modifying a child support order.
Thank God the other remaining states permit incarcerated individuals to request a modification to their child support order. Each state has different rules and standards for this, but, for the most part, one must only show a substantial change in circumstances. That alone should be a low hurdle for most incarcerated individuals. Of course, he must still take all the necessary steps through the bureaucracy to make it happen.
And, their obligation continues during the modification request process.
Still…Incarcerated? That’s their problem!
On the surface, having a limited concern over the child support induced debt buildup for those who can’t follow the law may make sense. However, when you look at the numbers, it really is shocking.
Because the child support system is broken, these men leave prison $20,000 in debt, with no job, and almost zero prospects. Incarceration is supposed to be the punishment. When the time is served, the punishment is over and the crime behind them. These fathers are trying to get back into society and rejoin the workforce. Where does that debt leave them? Look at the numbers:
- Minimum wage monthly income at 40 hrs a week (before taxes): $1,200
- Child support payment including arrears (5 yr loan, 6%): $387
To pay down their debt, they have to lose >30% of their income. After that hit, they still have to pay their current child support obligation. One can quickly see how they have no hope of meeting their living needs, paying off their debt, and meeting current child support obligations!
Factor in court-ordered wage garnishments of up to 65% to meet child support obligations (not counting your debt) and you can see how hopeless the spiral becomes. After the garnishment, they’ll likely have their driver’s license suspended, reducing their access to resources to get to work. After that, bank accounts get frozen
With all these obstacles, it is easy to see why most guys give up and never pay again. Eventually, they back away from their children.
So what? How does that affect a law abider like me?
It affects you by perpetuating the poverty of these children in our country. Government assistance for single parents was reduced in the 1990’s to shift the emphasis and responsibility onto the child support system and the non-custodial parent.
While it makes sense on the surface, but fathers in prison can’t pay child support.
Multiple studies have proven again and again that there’s a huge benefit to children from having both parents involved in their lives. The only solutions available to newly released dads are either taking on additional jobs or returning to their old criminal activities. Additional work greatly reduces the time they can spend with their children can create problems for the kids later when they are adults. Returning to crime clearly is not the solution, but studies show it is what’s most probable.
There is the third option which almost guarantees they will fall behind in current obligations, further exacerbating the struggles of the children.
If they can’t pay, who will?
There’s only one pot of money for these struggling families: State or federal support, so back to tax payer. As a tax payer, you are funding a huge government agency tasked with enforcing child support obligations. But at the same time you, like it or not, are also funding support to these families anyway.
This is the very support we were supposed to reduce or eliminate through child support enforcement. Instead, we just created another government agency that only increases the total cost of tending to the original issue.
There are new programs being developed and pursued by many states that recognize the problem with the current approach. These states are forgiving debt, offering employment assistance to the dads coming out of prison, and training for both parents to assist them in navigating the current job market. Maryland, as an example, offers a staggered debt forgiveness program. The actual amounts forgiven are calculated based on a series courses and training designed to help dads in these situations find and retain work. The results of are impressive and should be mirrored by the rest of the nation.
How much of the unpaid child support is this?
Incarcerated people fall into the category of those with no reported income up to $10,000 per year. A 2007 study by the Department of Health and Human Services estimated that about 25% of the no-wage earners in this category were incarcerated. No-wage earners account for 40% of the unpaid obligation debt in this country.
To put real numbers to the problem, there are 2.2 million people incarcerated this year. Half are parents, and a little over 1 out of 5 has a child support obligation, or 440,000 people. The zero wage earners account for around $40 billion of the total unpaid obligation!
Do we really think we are going to solve the poverty problem by leaning on that group to somehow come up with money they not only don’t have but are purposefully kept away from earning? What does it take to get the limited government resources shifted to groups that can actually help bring these dads back into working society and become active participants and fathers for their children?
It seems clear that when you hear the news media lament about how the total amount of unpaid child support in our country exceeds $100 billion that we could solve many of our poverty level, single-parent household woes by going after the deadbeats!
But what if the news media revealed the details behind the numbers and exposed the truth about how the bulk of this debt resides on the shoulders of American fathers who, themselves, exist below poverty standards?
In this three-part series, I’ll reveal the whole story to show the reality of life for these so-called “deadbeat” dads and how the child support system is broken on many levels that continue to exacerbate the financial problems of not just single-parented children, but also the support-paying parent as well.
Why Does this Matter?
There are three main reasons why we all need to be concerned about the state of children living in single parented households below the poverty level:
- This is the United States, a beacon of hope and prosperity in the world. The fact that statistics continue to rise in the wrong direction clearly identifies a problem. Here is an area where we are failing this group within our population. It’s a slight on our founding beliefs and a stain on our reputation throughout the world.
- Like it or not, the support and sustainment of these kids hits your wallet through welfare, school reduced lunches provided by local taxes, and the wide array of other programs in your area to help them.
- Their plight is pinned on the non-payment of child support which taints the opinions of lawmakers and enforcement agencies nationwide towards ALL child support payers, even those of us that always meet our obligations.
With single-parent child poverty on the rise, child support became the main focus to ensure the other parent assisted in paying for the children’s well-being. Over $24 billion dollars is collected and distributed annually in child support. Even with this large amount paid, the total unpaid obligations are estimated in excess of $100 billion.
The gap in child support obligations versus collections led to the Child Support Recovery Act in 1992, and then it’s emotionally labeled amendment in 1998, the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act (I’m not making that name up). The goal of these laws was to increase the likelihood of payment to reduce the drain on the welfare system.
The country was fed up with deadbeat parents and with having to pay for their kids through welfare. Emphasis was heavily placed on awarding child support in divorces and paternity cases, and laws were passed with strict punishments, including jail, for parents who didn’t keep up.
Decades later, we look back and wonder if these laws worked? No, the trend is still bad for these kids. The statistics for single-parent raised children are eye-opening. Almost 4 out of 10 children are born to unwed mothers, with a total of 17.4 million children raised without a father. Half of those children live below the poverty line.
If you aren’t especially saddened by the fact that this occurs in the US, and that isn’t enough to concern you, then the impact on your wallet, based on the second and third points I mentioned above, should.
Who gets impacted?
Everyone feels the pain to support children living below the poverty level through their taxes. For those who pay child support, the majority are the dads. Just over 82% of custodial parents are the mothers.
The child support-paying dads fall into one of three categories:
With these being the three categories of child support paying dads, they are also the three categories of deadbeats. Those in jail, not surprisingly, have a difficult time making their payments.
The Bottom Line
As my father, and many like him, always said, “You do the crime, you pay the time.” Piling worthless, noncollectable debt on prisoners for back-due child support, though, almost goes against the cruel and unusual punishment stance our Constitution outlaws very clearly. As this series progresses, you’ll see the vast majority of the remaining portion of the unpaid child support debt falls into a similar, noncollectable category of parents. It’s time to recognize the flaws and that the current child support system is broken. Once we do that, we can head back to the drawing board and come up with real solutions to help these kids.
Think our child support system is broken? Where do your stand on the matter? Let us know in the comments!
When you finally decide to seek a divorce, remember, whether you’re working with a lawyer or mediator, it’s important to realize that how you work with that individual will greatly impact the financial outcome of your divorce. You have power in the divorce process and that power lies in your ability to control your emotions and your actions. Doing both will greatly increase your effectiveness, will increase your awareness of what will be going on, and will give you greater control of your own financial well-being.
Hiring a lawyer is a process that should take time and due diligence on your part. During the screening and consultation, check out the attorney’s credentials, his/her past experience, how many divorces has he litigated/negotiated, and his/her experience with the specific divorce issues of your situation. This shouldn’t be his/her first rodeo, for if it is, you need to move on and find counsel who has the specific experience to handle your case.
Contrary to hiring an attorney, if you and your spouse can talk and can reasonably communicate, and you don’t want a long drawn out and expensive divorce, consider hiring a divorce mediator instead. A divorce mediator is someone who will drill down into the issues you and your soon to be ex are having challenges working through. They will then find reasonable alternatives that are agreeable to each of you to work through the process as reasonable and unemotionally as possible, while keeping your expense to a minimum.
Regardless of who you decide to hire, working with a lawyer or mediator has many commonalities and yet has some differences that should be understood.
5 Tips to Keep Billable Hours to a Minimum
- When working with your lawyer or mediator, provide all the necessary information when you can. The less time he or she has to spend tracking down records the cheaper it will be for you.
- Figure out the worth of your assets. If you can find out and document the full financial picture of your marital estate you will save your lawyer time—which will save you money.
- Increase your understanding of the divorce process. Knowledge is power and the more you know the more you can help yourself.
- Keep your lawyer or mediator informed with as accurate information as possible. The better the information you give your attorney the more they will understand the situation and be able to develop a winning strategy. When in doubt, go with providing full disclosure. Don’t worry, lawyers are trained to sift through information and evaluate what is useful and what is not. Also, if the information might harm your case, you can prevent your lawyer from being blindsided, giving him or her plenty of time to prepare defensive maneuvers.
- Respond promptly to requests for information. Again, time is money so don’t drag out the process by keeping your lawyer or mediator waiting on you to provide needed information. Lawyers are often under very tight deadlines and the more lead time you give your lawyer to go over the materials the better job they can do in preparing for your case. Another good tip is to stick to answering only the questions your lawyer or mediator asks and doing so completely but concisely. If your counsel needs a “yes” or “no” answer on something or a quick synopsis of a situation don’t include a long, verbose document that gives extra information. If you bog down your counsel with useless information they will have to bill you for the time they waste going through materials that are not relevant to what they need to represent your case.
Working With A Lawyer or Mediator
5 Things Your Mediator or Lawyer Needs to Know
Be prepared with the following information to grease the wheels and get your case moving:
- The reason you are getting a divorce. This includes: Causes of your breakup, the reasons behind your filing for divorce and the major issues of the failing marriage.
- Personal information for yourself, your spouse and your children. This includes: Names, ages, places of birth, home and work addresses and telephone numbers, Social Security numbers, and health information.
- Facts related to your marriage. This includes: When and where you were married, any prenuptial agreement (If so, bring a copy of the agreement with you), previous marriages (If so, provide details of your previous divorce(s)).
- Any issues involving your children. This includes: Custody arrangements, co-parenting agreements, special needs, etc.
- Financial information. This includes: Assets and debts each of you brought into the marriage, your incomes and expenses, employment information, shared property (e.g. home, cars), shared debts (e.g. mortgage, college fund for the kids) and investments (e.g. insurance plans, pension plans).
- Legal documents. This includes: copies of lawsuits, bankruptcy suits, judgments, and garnishments.
- Your divorce goals. Be specific about what you want from the divorce. Think beyond your current emotional state to long-term goals that include how you will co-parent children (if any) and continue to function as a family post-divorce. Think about the relationship you want with your ex and kids in one year, in 5 years and then 10 years into the future.
3 Things to Remember
- When working with a lawyer or mediator, remember, neither is not your psychologist. Do not expect them to be on call 24 hours a day or to listen to you rant about the latest injustice you’ve suffered at the hands of your spouse during an acrimonious divorce. Remember, every time your lawyer takes a phone call or returns an email you are racking a significant bill. Call a friend or get an actual therapist and you will save money and keep your lawyer or mediator focused on what really matters—the facts of the case.
- If your lawyer is giving you advice you disagree with, keep an open mind and consider the guidance carefully. Your lawyer isn’t concerned with your desire for revenge but with getting you the best possible outcome, so take a step back and evaluate whether you’re refusing your lawyer’s advice for purely emotional reasons. Don’t let your settlement suffer because you can’t see past your immediate feelings. You will end up suffering long-term consequences for temporary emotional satisfaction. Also, please remember, a mediator cannot give legal advice. They can only ask to seek a reasonable solution between you and your partner in the conflict.
- You will likely go through periods of frustration or disappointment as your divorce progresses, but don’t take it out on your lawyer or mediator. Some things will be out of his or her control. Remember that your attorney is on your side and it’s best to tackle the rough patches as a team. Your mediator, on the other hand, is on neither side. Staying positive and on good terms is your best bet at getting your lawyer or mediator to work their hardest to resolve your case.
While you are expecting the most from your lawyer—that he or she is skilled, hard-working and dedicated to fighting for your case—your lawyer is hoping you’ll be the ideal client: calm, professional, well prepared and easy to get along with.
When a competent client and a capable consultant team up and work well together, the odds are greatly increased for a good outcome. Hold your attorney or mediator to task in putting in the effort your case requires, but do yourself a favor by being a client that makes their job easier and more effective. The ideal client can control his emotions and focus on the logical facts of the case, is organized and prepared, treats his lawyer as a valuable teammate, and is willing to listen to the information that is presented to him.
When you get lemons, make lemonade. Ok, so you have a limited amount of time to spend with your child. Make the most of it when you can by bonding with your child.
Your visitation is limited by court order to every other weekend and Tuesday and Thursday. Cool, do all your chores and ‘must dos’ while he’s with his mom and have nothing to distract you when you’re with him. You might be surprised, but, you may have more time now to bond with him than ever before.
The keys words here are ‘quality time’. Bonding with your child is all about uninterrupted exchanges just between the two of you. Above all, always listen and ask his opinion. He has a voice and a lot to say.
Forget about trying to impress him.
Fancy places and expensive amusement parks are fine if you have the money for them. But, simple things like watching a movie or ball game on TV, while he’s sitting on your lap eating popcorn are more than a match.
Some ideas for bonding with your child:
- Teach him a sport and get him into it. Have his favorite snacks around the house. Don’t abuse this, but a little extra won’t hurt. Make this into a fun time that he will look forward to.
- Have a phone installed in his room so you can call him directly whenever you want.
- Take pics when the two of you are together and give them to him.
- When he is old enough, get him his own mobile phone.
- Volunteer to coach any of his sports teams.
- Agree to babysit when ever your ex needs you to.
- Don’t buy expensive gifts to impress, cheaper ones are just as appreciated
- Teach him sports, checkers, chess and judo
- Play ball with him
- Read to him.
- Cook with him.
And, don’t ever complain about your ex or express hostility towards her and especially don’t ever yell at her in person or on the phone.
Lastly and most importantly, love him and show him your love. Studies have shown that in a lot of cases, the child is better of when the parents divorce, than when they stay together and argue all the time, especially when you’re bonding with your child
Finding someone new to share your life with after a break-up is great. You’ve moved on, however hard it was, and now you’re ready to be in a relationship again. But what about your kids? How do you introduce your new partner to them and how do you ensure that everyone gets along?
The truth is, it won’t necessarily be quick and easy. But if you approach the situation carefully and thoughtfully, respecting everyone’s feelings, there’s every chance that bringing someone new into your family unit can be a positive and happy experience for everyone.
Think About Your Kids Point Of View
Introducing a new partner to your children will trigger a lot of emotions for them, which they won’t always explain to you. They have already dealt with your break-up and more change can be unsettling.
They may secretly be hoping that you and your ex will get back together one day. Seeing you start a new relationship will make them realize that’s unlikely. They might worry that you will love them less or that there won’t be room for them in your life any more.
Younger children, under 10 years old, may feel sad and confused. Children of any age can feel jealous, anxious, angry or threatened. They might perceive your new girlfriend as a rival for your attention and loyalty to their mother can make it difficult for them to immediately accept someone else into your lives.
Don’t punish them for bad behavior or acting out without fully understanding what’s behind it. Talk things through as much and as fully as you can and reassure them constantly. For some great communication tips, check out this piece of advice.
Take It Slowly When Introducing Your New Partner To Your Kids
One of the most important points when introducing a new partner to your children is to take things slowly. First of all, wait until you are certain that the relationship is a serious one. Don’t make the mistake of introducing your children to casual girlfriends; it will be unsettling for them to keep meeting new potential partners.
Keep your relationship to yourself for a while and see how things develop. Make sure that your new partner wants to become involved with your family. And ask yourself if you’re sure that she is likely to be a good fit for you all. You need to be unselfish here; don’t press ahead when you know, deep down, that a particular girlfriend isn’t going to be right for your children. If you’re not sure, introduce her to a couple of friends first and seek their honest opinion.
Talk It Over
Ideally the first person you should talk things over with will be your ex. Explain that you’ve met someone new and that you’d like the children to meet her at some point in the future. You don’t want your children to feel they have to keep something secret from their mother, particularly if it’s something they are likely to feel anxious about.
Try and discuss it calmly and listen to any fears your ex may have. Reassure her that you will take things slowly with the children and keep her updated on how they are dealing with it. Hopefully in return she will be able to give you honest feedback about how she feels they are coping.
As far as your children are concerned, introduce the idea gradually. Explain to them that you have a new girlfriend. Mention her from time to time and answer any questions they have. Then ask them if they’d like to meet her one day. If they’re resistant, leave it for a while, but continue to talk about her occasionally. Then ask them if they would come out with you and her. Let them choose the activity if possible, and do something fun, such as bowling, going on a picnic or to play at the park.
Keep The First Meeting Low-Key
Set a time limit for the first meeting. An hour or two is enough, even if everyone is having fun. In fact, leaving while things are going well makes it more likely that your children will want to go out with her again.
If she has children too, leave meeting them for another day. It’s fine for her to mention them, but introducing too many people all at once can feel quite chaotic and there’s a risk someone will feel overwhelmed or left out.
Make sure you do something casual and fun. A formal dinner where everyone has to sit still and behave well can be awkward and not particularly enjoyable. It’s better to let everyone get to know each other over a fun trip or while playing games at the park. Make sure things don’t get too competitive though, and look for signals that your children have had enough. Say goodbye to your new partner at the venue, avoiding physical contact at this stage, and go home with your children. This will allow them to relax and chat about her and what they thought on your journey home together.
Subsequent meetings should follow a similar pattern, building up to longer periods of time, but making sure you don’t overdo it. It’s important at this stage that your children look forward to the trips. Even if they’re not overly keen on being with your new partner, if they’re going to do something fun then hopefully they will still look forward to it.
For a few simple suggestions, check out this article on encouraging family bonding.
Listen To Your Children’s Concerns
Let your children talk freely about the new person in their lives and allow them to express exactly what they think, even if it’s not what you want to hear. If you tell them they’re wrong or tell them off, there’s a risk they’ll stop confiding in you.
Don’t ask them if they like her; it’s better to ask if they had fun and what they’d like to do next time. Ask them if they feel comfortable and safe with her but otherwise don’t fish for compliments.
Take on board what they’re saying and see if there’s anything you or your new girlfriend can do to help them adjust. Make sure they know that you’re considering their feelings and that they have input into the situation.
Remember, they may actively dislike her to start with. Trust and affection are built over time and they may have many concerns which aren’t immediately apparent to you. Don’t panic. As things progress they are likely to come to appreciate and accept her if you proceed kindly and thoughtfully.
Make sure you still spend as much quality time with your children as you did before. You don’t need to go out; time spent at home with them is fine, so long as you are focused on them and communicating with them. They need to know that your love for them hasn’t changed.
Bringing Your New Girlfriend Into Your Family Home
You’ve introduced your new girlfriend to your kids, now you’d like her to come to your home. Again, start slowly with this. A meal is an ideal first introduction with a brief play session before or after, depending on the age of the children. But keep it fairly short and once your girlfriend has left spend some quality time with your children so that they can chat over anything they want.
As things progress, visits can get longer, but stay sensitive to your children’s feelings and make sure they don’t feel invaded or pushed out. Even when your girlfriend is there, there should still be time for you and them to be together.
When you think your children are ready for your girlfriend to stay the night, talk things through with them first. Set ground rules with both them and her, such as locked doors, wearing appropriate clothing, privacy and time in the bathroom. Try hard not to embarrass anyone and keep displays of affection in front of your children to a minimum.
Hopefully your children will accept your new partner into your lives and come to enjoy her company. As things become more routine, make sure you discuss what is expected of everyone. For example, discipline when you’re not around and how much of a parenting role she will be taking on. It’s easier to set rules at the beginning before habits are established.
It can be a big ask for your children to allow someone new into their lives and at times it will be hard work for all concerned. Everyone will learn a little more about themselves during the process. With kindness, thoughtfulness and generosity, even difficult situations can resolve themselves and a family unit expanded to include one more.
Ultimately, for everyone to have someone else to love and be loved by is a wonderful thing. It really is worth the effort to add a new person to your family and learning to accept and like someone new will be a great attribute for your kids to have.
Is your ex stringing you along? Unfortunately, that’s what some exes do best. You may be on a that retractable bungee cord when you’re separated or divorced and the ex is pulling your chain. Either way, you’re the one getting played.
What is the Bungee Cord Phenomenon?
The bungee cord phenomenon—let’s call it “BCP” for fun—is a particularly diabolical tactic used by the wiliest of women. It’s worse than being on a string. When your ex has you on a string, at least you know where you stand. You know how long the string is, and how to keep your distance. But when you’re on that retractable cord, you have no idea where you are. Sometimes you’re up close and personal, like it was when you were a couple. The next minute, you’re flung far away into oblivion. You don’t know how far the bungee cord is going to stretch, what direction you’re going in, or when the cord might snap you right back into your ex’s grasp. The only thing you know for certain is that it’s painful to be snapped back and forth like that. It hurts when she pulls you in and worse when she flings you back out. It’s like going through your breakup over and over again.
Your ex uses the bungee cord phenomenon almost like a strategic military maneuver. She wants you to think you have all the freedom in the world. You innocently stretch away, not realizing that the cord is still attached. There’s a growing distance between you and your ex that feels healthy. You start to think maybe you can actually heal. Maybe you really are going to be able to make a life without her.
Your ex may even tell you during this time that she’s happy for you that you’re moving on with your life. She tells you that she just wants the best for you, she always has. This feels good. Who wants to have a woman mad at them? Not you. You comfort yourself at night knowing that your ex is not plotting against you. “She’s actually on my side!” you think.
Then, things get weird. Your ex hears a rumor that you’re getting close to someone else. It’s true, you have been dating someone you met at a party. This new girl is terrific, and you can see yourself starting a new life with her someday.
Suddenly, your ex calls you up out of the blue. “Can I see you?” she implores. “I need you.” Innocent lamb that you are, you go. You speed to her place and your ex is all over you as soon as you get through the door. “I never should have let you go,” she cries. “Do you still have feelings for me?”
Oh yeah, you do, and those feelings are creeping up right now. The two of you have awesome makeup sex. You decide it’s a whole hell of a lot easier to get back with your ex than to try and forge a new relationship with the new girlfriend, so you give her the bad news over text. The breakup doesn’t go well, but who cares? You’re back with your ex, and after a while things feel familiar and comfortable all over again. You may even give up your apartment and move back in.
Suddenly, things get a little too familiar. Your ex (now your current) is turning back into her old self. It feels like she freaking hates you, man. She’s constantly bitching at you and putting you down. Nothing you try to do to fix it is working.
Then one day, POW. She snaps on your on a bungee cord and sends you hurling. She screams“Get out!. I never want to see you again!” Off you go, back into oblivion, before you even realize what happened. All you know is, you feel like crap again. And confused. Very confused.
This next part is going to sound familiar, too. Just when you start to recover from the bungee cord experience, just when you’re starting to heal again, just when you’re starting to date again, you get that phone call….”Can I see you?”….and the whole cycle repeats itself. The question is, are you gonna go?
How To Get Off the Bungee Cord
First off, no one else is going to get you off the bungee cord. You’re going to have to gather the strength to do it yourself. Here’s how.
First, realize that maybe you don’t know your ex like you thought you did. If she can play you like this, clearly she’s able to manipulate you without your knowledge. So admit that you can’t read her.
Second, realize that people don’t change overnight. There were reasons why you two didn’t work out, and those reasons are still there. If it didn’t work the last two times you got snapped back, it’s not going to work the next time. Or the next.
Third—and this is a tough one—your ex is not on your side, despite what she’s led you to believe. She may say she wants you to find another love. She may even think she means it. But when it actually happens, it’s another story. Especially if you find love before she does. The only people who may be on your side is everyone in the world who isn’t your ex. (Plus your ex’s girlfriends. It’s highly doubtful they’re rooting for you, either.)
Now, the next time you start feeling that bungee cord pulling you back into your ex’s grip, resist. Run in the opposite direction. Run, not walk. In fact, run into your new girl’s arms. Tell her exactly what’s happening. Because if she’s savvy, she’ll be able to see right through your ex’s tactics, and there’s no way she’ll take it lightly. Your new girl can be a huge help in getting off the bungee cord.
Finally, work on your self-esteem. Because at the end of the day, you need to think highly enough of yourself to know you don’t deserve the bungee cord treatment. You deserve to be with someone who respects you and the decisions you make. And your decision is to move on with your life. This is true even if you were the one who got dumped. That’s right. Even “dumpees” get to decide to quit bad relationships and pursue healthy ones.
So do that. Quit the ex. And by the way, who cares if she’s mad at you? You aren’t here to please her. That’s the other thing you have to realize. Be okay with her sulking over your new relationship. And then, don’t give another thought to it. Because it isn’t worth it.
The thing is, your life is too short and precious to be manipulated by someone who doesn’t respect you. How long are you going to allow your ex to sabotage your efforts at healing through the breakup; to sabotage your new love relationships?
You know the last time your ex did that to you? Make damn sure that was the last time.
” – that could be very interesting as many women out there may not want their guy but they also don’t want anyone else to have them either. Just had a friend go through that issue – and the issue is not over yet.
So, I get it. You’re confused. You’re not sure what to do when contemplating divorce. Sure, life might be less confusing after divorce, but, are you giving up too soon? What of you and your relationship with your kids? Will it change? Will it be better? Or will it get progressively worse? Will your Ex go ballistic and start alienating your kids, thus destroying your relationship with them? And, will she go for the jugular, seeking to destroy you financially when you tell her that you’re contemplating divorce. Regardless of what happens, we’re here to help steer you through the craziness of the divorce process.
At The Beginning
Let’s start at the beginning. You met the love of your life; or maybe you didn’t, but you wanted to settle down after years of struggling to find your “plus one” at your friends’ weddings and work gatherings. Maybe you wanted kids and wanted the security of marriage and the stability that you expected would come along with marriage. And you thought you’d found a willing, compatible partner with enough common values to make it work.
You know as well as I that there were problems there from the beginning, but you ignored them because the truth is, life was good. The sex was great and married life expanded your social circle. Your boss took you more seriously, as did your friends. Your mom stopped haranguing you about grandkids. You two traveled, made plans and reached goals. You concluded that nobody’s perfect and that if other couples could figure it out, you could too. You reasoned that, given time, the conflicts would iron themselves out. They didn’t.
So, you read the how-to books, watched the YouTube clips offering relationship advice. You went along with using the stopwatch on your phone when airing out your differences, allotting three minutes of uninterrupted speaking time each. You tried arguing from the other person’s point of view for clarity. You agreed to counseling and weekend retreats with other couples struggling to work through their issues, opening up about your problems; surprisingly, you came away with a new understanding and a renewed sense of genuine bonding with your spouse. But a week or two later, you were both back to your old patterns.
Then Things Got Worse
You considered reaching out to family and friends for help but didn’t, afraid to involve those closest to you and raise flags prematurely. Tired of the constant conflicts at home, you avoided them, spending more and more time out with your single friends. You found yourself flirting with the barista at Starbucks and following random yet attractive strangers on social media. Maybe you went further. Maybe your spouse did, too.
So Now What?
Trust me, I’ve been there; after 10 years spent in a marriage that should have never happened in the first place, it took me seven long years before I started to examine the idea of splitting from my partner. And, it was then when contemplating divorce that I realized that divorce really was the only sane option left on the table. I was honest with my spouse from the start, which gave us both the time we needed to exhaust every conceivable option and accept the eventual outcome if we couldn’t improve the situation. Because we were both informed from the beginning, we were able to part ways in peace when it didn’t work out, with no animosity and little cost. This isn’t always the case.
The One Question to Ask When Contemplating Divorce
While there are many factors to consider when contemplating divorce, they all boil down to one question:
How Much Are You Willing To Give Up?
Legal Fees. Legal fees are no joke. Whether you’re using a court-appointed attorney or private counsel, if you’re not divorcing amicably, it’s in every lawyers’ best interest to drag the divorce process out for as long as possible. And they will.
Alimony. Many states require that the spouse with the most money continue to financially support their ex until they either increase their income or get remarried. Your ex can legally receive alimony even after they’ve started a committed relationship with someone else. It’s unfair, but it’s the law.
Child Support. Unless your children are going to be adopted by your ex’s new spouse, you’re going to have to pony up. They’re your kids and of course they have a right to your financial support but KEEP RECEIPTS. Of everything. If you work for a company, have your wages garnished ASAP so you never have to worry about missed or late payments. When you take your kids out or buy them anything, do not use cash. Keep a digital trail and set up a spreadsheet to keep track of expenditures.
If you own stocks and bonds, real estate, and/or a business with your spouse, you’ll need to get comfortable with the choice of either continuing to share these assets with your soon-to-be-ex or sell the assets and share the gains with them. This may include inheritances, so check with a lawyer.
If the divorce is amicable, there’s no reason you can’t continue a financial partnership if it’s working out for the both of you. If you can’t separate amicably however, splitting the assets will be tough, especially if you’ve spent years amassing financial security only to watch it disappear seemingly overnight.
If you’re not the custodial parent, you probably won’t get to see your kids as much as you’d like after divorce; come to terms with this as soon as possible. Life will go on whether you want it to or not; realize that either you or your ex (or both) may meet someone new or get offered a better career opportunity and might end up relocating to another state or country making it difficult for you to stay in touch with your kids, especially if they’re very young.
If your ex is hostile, you’ll be in court repeatedly for visitation rights. If you can afford it and your ex is cooperative, you could conceivably follow your kids around the globe; but if you remarry, have other children, or have a career that requires you to work out of a certain city, this scenario probably won’t be an option. If you can’t bear the thought of this reality, STAY MARRIED until you can.
- Friends and Family.
After years spent living with your spouse, you probably share good friends and have (hopefully) gotten close to some members of their family. Divorce sometimes changes that. You’ll probably get to “keep” your friends – the people you knew before your marriage – but friends you’ve amassed during your relationship will most likely take sides.
This can get tricky, especially if those friends are also business connections or have become an integral part of your life. And even if your ex’s family remain friendly, they probably won’t be there after you split up. While this is normal, it can cause loneliness and separation anxiety. Understand that their absence is necessary to make space for new people to enter into their lives and yours; it’s not a rejection of you.
- Peace and Happiness.
Divorce incurs loss, but so does staying in a relationship that works against you. If you decide to stay married, you might get to keep the money, the assets, the kids, and the friends and family, but not without giving up your peace of mind and self-fulfillment in return.
How Much Is Your Happiness Worth?
Understand that most anything can be replaced, while your time cannot; once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. Take a step back and realize that the losses you might think unbearable actually are; your willingness to let them go will help you make gains that you never thought possible.
Letting go isn’t a sign of weakness or failure, but a fact of life. Learn to let go without bitterness or contention, or the divorce will negatively affect the rest of your life. Like all baggage, it will hold you back from experiencing a happiness and will only recreate your past conflicts in the future.
How to Mediate Loss:
When contemplating divorce, speak honestly and openly with your spouse about the situation as soon as you can; don’t blindside them. Catching them off-guard causes hostility and will backfire. Explain why you’ve reached your decision and ask for their input; respect their point of view and try to come to some type of an agreement based on mutual interests. If you don’t think your spouse will be open to a civil uncoupling, or if they are and you’d like to avoid legal fees, hire a mediator. The more you can agree to before lawyers are involved, the smoother the process will be.
When contemplating divorce it can become confusing when you don’t know what you really want; identify this and the choice becomes clear. It’s not how you got here that matters most, but where you’re going next and how you decide to get there that will define the rest of your life.
Well, it’s finally over, the divorce I mean. But, way can’t you rest? What the heck is going on? You keep re-hashing the old tapes of the relationship in your head. And, a single thought can trigger your emotions to go back to those God forsaken times in your relationship when nothing seemed to go right, and everything you did was wrong, all of which culminated in your failed marriage and the bitter disputes that followed during the divorce. You’re still pissed off all the time and living with sleepless nights, stress, body aches and pains, headaches, maybe even migraines. Fact of the matter is, you may be suffering from PTSD after divorce.
What Causes Symptoms of PTSD After Divorce
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as “a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.” The Anxiety and Depression Association of America explains that PTSD is a reaction to a traumatic event, including experiencing or witnessing natural disasters, combat, sudden death of a loved one, violent personal assault or other life-threatening events.
If your marriage was a disaster, and the divorce was a long, losing battle, you may have experienced your whole life spinning out of your control. The sustained emotional trauma was real, and has lasting effects.
Let’s be honest, most divorces are not easy. You enter into a bond with someone who you plan on building a life with. The fear of things falling apart never enters your mind. Then the unthinkable happens: one day the divorce papers are signed, and life as you know it is over. While that thought alone is traumatic, it is the in-between times that leave lasting scars.
The arguing and fighting takes its toll. The mistrust, the understanding your marriage is ending, or even worse; it all buries deep in your subconscious. Then when these thoughts and feelings are pulled back to the surface, those reactions bring back some extreme emotions. When this happens and you are powerless to stop it, this might be a form of PTSD.
Signs and Symptoms Common to PTSD
While reviewing the signs, remember this is not an all-inclusive list. You may see yourself in some or all of these. Maybe you don’t associate with any but there are different symptoms for you. In either case, the things you are feeling are real, and deserve attention.
Recurrent Distressing Memories
If you’ve become consumed by remembering past upsetting events from your marriage and divorce, and you find yourself getting upset over and over again, it may be a symptom of PTSD.
Can’t sleep? Do you stay up all hours of the night even with an early morning alarm looming? Does your mind race into the wee hours of the morning with thoughts of what you could have done differently? Insomnia is linked to suffering from trauma.
Sustained or Uncontrollable Anger
After my divorce, I was angry constantly. There was little happiness or joy in my life outside of my children. Everywhere I looked I saw reminders of the life I once had and was now gone and every day the anger grew. I finally reached out because if I didn’t, the fire inside me would have consumed me.
How often do you feel defeated and alone? Depression is real. Your pain is real. Feelings of defeat and isolation can lead to severe depression after a tough divorce. There is no shame in accepting depression as a by-product of divorce. Understanding this as another sign of PTSD will lead you to recovery.
Body Aches and Pains
Body aches and pains tend to appear right along with depression or PTSD. Your body reacts to stress in different ways. One is chronic pain that can last until your stress is dealt with.
These are just a few of the many signs of PTSD. Others include: panic attacks, hyperventilating, flashbacks, and issues having or starting future personal relationships.
What You Need to Know
Whether or not you have developed full-blown PTSD after divorce, if you are experiencing many of these signs, you deserve to use every resource you can find to move on to a happy and stable life.
Now that I can look back and recognize many of these symptoms, I can say with certainty that I suffered with symptoms of PTSD after divorce. After many years, I have come to a place in my life where none of these bother me anymore. However, if I would have recognized these symptoms much earlier, I could have saved myself and my children a lot of struggling. This is why you are here, and we are understanding PTSD together.
I am not a psychologist. I can show you from personal experiences of my life and I can point you in what I feel are right directions. But, to beat this, you have to be willing to step outside of your comfort zone and get a little tough. Are you up for it?
Solutions for PTSD
So what can I do Dwight? I don’t want this to control me but I feel powerless to stop it. My friend, there is good news and greater news. You can, with a lot of hard work, overcome symptoms of PTSD after divorce. There is a life out there for you that is free from debilitating trauma.
It won’t be easy. There is nothing wrong with getting help, even at a professional level, and I encourage it. At the end of the day, you know what works for you.
Acknowledge the Stress
A good starting point is acknowledgment. You have seen the symptoms in yourself, it’s now time to accept them for what they are. By understanding what has brought you to this point, you can begin the process of healing.
Research-based ideas published by Psychology Today emphasizes the need to take care of yourself after a rough breakup.
I want to start with what you can do for yourself, before we get into what someone else can do. Taking care of yourself should start now. Here are a few ideas to get you going:
- Get active – Exercise releases endorphins which are natural mood enhancers and help with pain.
- Eat better – Studies upon studies have been done on the benefits of eating healthier. Bottom line: it will help the body while you are focusing on the mind.
- Connect with yourself – Whatever your preference: meditation, yoga, tai chi, fishing, take some time to connect to yourself and listen to what you’re saying.
- Be prepared to move forward – There is no going around this, you must go through it. Learn, understand, and be open to lessons learned
- Take it easy – Resting, getting extra sleep, and taking time out to relax are all positive steps to help you
Professional Help and Support
Getting off your butt and getting professional help can be a daunting task. Asides from the fact that we men are taught not to let anyone help us when it comes to problems, depression makes it hard to make the effort to do anything. Do it anyway.
Never take professional help for granted.
Military veterans return from war suffering from PTSD every day. They live with the terror and troubles it brings. Many have sought help, sadly many more do not. Traumatic events in our lives need not control us nor keep us from living productive lives. It is time for a change.
Do this for yourself – You’re Worth It
Divorce is rated right up there among the most traumatic events a man can face. Is it any wonder we now understand the impact it can have and the havoc it can cause?
Take some time to evaluate what you have gone through since your divorce. If you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD after divorce, admit it. Then take active steps to conquer what is holding you back. You’re worth it.
Does this sound like you? Tell us how you’re dealing with symptoms similar to PTSD in the comments below.
You’re not the only guy struggling with life after divorce. That’s why Real Men Join Divorce Support Groups. Maybe you never saw it coming? Check out How To Keep it Together When Divorce Blindsides You.
Don’t keep it to yourself.
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(c) Can Stock Photo / tashatuvango