Question of the Day

How do I tell my children that we are getting divorced?

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  • I saw a bill from a friend, and every time she talked to her lawyer she got charged. So how often should I talk to my lawyer? I don’t want to go broke.

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    Lawyers do bill by the hour and, therefore, every telephone call, e-mail and letter is a separate bill. I often recommend to my clients that they keep a notepad or an e-mail list handy and jot down questions as they occur to themselves and then contact me once a week with a series of questions to make the best use of my time and your money.

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  • Should I pay for one of those expensive personal dating services?

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    A friend of mine recently told me that she loved the service It's Just Lunch. Participants pay about $2,000 to use the service so everyone has skin in the game. You also know that people are committed because they have shelled out a substantial amount of money.

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  • How do you know you have a relationship that is worth saving?

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    If you can share in future dreams together. A powerful exercise that I do is called, “Wildest Dreams.” Couples arrive feeling stuck, negative, angry and hopeless. Asking them to share their wildest relationship dreams shifts them out of the “problem mindset” into the “possible mindset.” It’s like a relational re-boot. More often than not, couples are aligned in their dreams even when their current reality seems very out of sync. If your big picture life dreams align, then it means that the relationship needs support in realizing those dreams. If your big picture visions are out of sync, then all the work in the world might not help you save your relationship.

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  • How do I help the kids adjust to their new situation post split?

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    It's really important to spend one on one time with each of them to let them know you are there to listen and to focus on their needs.

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  • I have never met with a divorce lawyer or any lawyer before. What happens in the first meeting? What should I expect? How long will it be?

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    Generally, a first meeting should last approximately an hour but may last longer if there are a lot of unusual or complicated issues. The first meeting gives you an overview the process taking into account the specific facts of your case. We will review your concerns with regard to support, custody and the division of assets and liabilities. We may discuss whether experts will need to be hired. We will also discuss interim issues such as gathering documents, whether either party will or should move out of the house, etc.

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  • How long does a divorce take in terms of the legal aspects?

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    When it's an amicable split, things can move more quickly. If you and your ex can agree on the three main legal aspects of divorce--custody, equitable distribution, and support -- then hopefully you can move through the process faster.

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  • I have been with my ex for over 20 years and having the same sex--how do I approach it with someone new?

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    Here's your chance to let loose a little bit so go for it!

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  • What are the qualities that make relationships successful?

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    Respect, trust and vitality. Respect speaks to openness to our partner’s opinions, especially when they are different from our own. We are wired to feel threatened by difference. Successful couples have skill in staying open and curious to our partner’s differences. Anyone can develop this skill with enough practice-we are not born with it. Respect also speaks to honoring our partner for who they are-not who we want them to be. Trust: The three most important questions that all mammals have in relationship are: Do you have my back? Am I your priority? Are you there for me? The family dog requires the same confirmation every time we walk through the door. Why would we have less expectations for each other than our dog? Vitality: Successful couples are like successful people, they are resilient and align with habits, experiences and activities which foster growth, wellness and aliveness.

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  • What do I need to bring to my first meeting with my lawyer? I heard I need to bring all sorts of documents, like tax returns. Is there a list of the ones I need? What if I don’t have all of them?

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    It is very helpful to bring the most recent year or two of tax returns, any personal financial statements, copies of documents indicating assets, as well as liabilities. Also, if there is a Pre-Nuptial Agreement, sending a copy in advance can save a lot of time. Any proposed agreements or temporary orders that have already been entered or executed should be brought to the attorney's attention as soon as possible. Any document that you don't have, don't worry about. The attorneys can gather almost anything necessary during the normal discovery process. It is likely that you will not have access to all the documents that will be needed during the course of your divorce matter.

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  • Do I need to check my credit?

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    As soon as you know that you are getting divorced you should get a copy of your credit report. It is important to look for any loans or accounts that you do not recognize. Also, if possible joint credit lines should be closed. Be aware that closing accounts may have a negative effect on your FICO score, however debts incurred on joint accounts by either partner will be both of your obligation for repayment.

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  • Guys, my divorce was just finalized!!! Where should I go to celebrate?

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    When I got the news, I headed out to a fun bar with my girlfriends!!! What's wrong with a little Sex in the City action am I right??? Celebrating with a couple drinks is always called for at a time like this, not to mention some good company.

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  • For all of you, what was the most unexpected part of your divorce?

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    For me, it was all of the confidence I gained. At first I felt upset and disappointed, that my husband had cheated on me and was out the door, but then I saw all the ways I could be self reliant, and there for my kids. In the end I was surprised to feel empowered.

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  • How should I prepare financially if I know I’m going to get divorced soon?

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    The first thing to do when getting financially organized is to determine what you own and what you owe. Start collecting bank statements, mortgage statements, insurance information and the deed to the house. Make copies of these items and keep them in a safe place. You may also want to consider getting a post office box you can send any important, private or legal mail. Take inventory of any valuables you have such as jewelry, art work and anything stored in a safe deposit box. Keep a log and take pictures. This will keep you organized down the road when you are trying to determine the most equitable split of your assets.

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  • Who gets my dog if I get divorced?

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    As a guy, I think the dog should stay with the mom in the child's primary home (most likely mom's) ... and I say this as a dog lover.

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  • What is arbitration? Is it like mediation? What is it good for? When is it used?

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    Arbitration is used to resolve disputes between divorcing parties. It is a type of divorce trial, but instead of being in a courtroom, the case is heard in a private setting before an Arbitrator. Issues that can be solved in this way include child custody, support, visitation, parental relocation and other modifications to a divorce decree. The key with arbitration is that it is usually a binding decision that cannot be appealed. The difference between mediation and arbitration is that mediation is really only for couples who have a very amicable split because mediation does not lead to a binding agreement, while arbitration does.

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  • I see all these ads about mediation. Does it work? What is it? What if it doesn’t work after we try?

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    Mediation is a common method used in settling divorce where both of those seeking a divorce hire a neutral third party, called a mediator, to meet with you and your soon to be ex to try to resolve the issues in your divorce. This individual tries to help both parties work through the challenges they face. The main advantage of this approach is that it is less expensive, allows you to arrive at a resolution yourselves rather than having it be imposed upon you and former couples retain more control over the process. It is much more effective for people to undertake if their split is amicable. Also, it is usually not used in cases where there is a lot of money at stake as those are often too contentious for a mediator to resolve. Remember that mediation also does not lead to a binding agreement so that it may not be worthwhile for you.

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  • Where should I go on my first date?

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    Lots of people just like to go for a drink for their first date because they want to limit their time with this person who they don't really know, but some jump right into dinner. Try to have an email exchange first to feel out the situation beforehand and set up a date where you feel comfortable. Lots of people get together early in the evening and make other plans for later so they can always bail on the new date if it's not fun. Feeling relaxed is the most important thing so that you feel confident!

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  • I heard there are three parts to a divorce. Is that true? If so, what are they?

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    You are right-there are. The three parts are Child Support, Equitable Distribution, and Custody. Child Support is the most straightforward because it is a calculation based on income. Your divorce lawyer will give you that figure. In the Equitable Distribution phase, the marital assets are meant to be divided equally. Custody is of course regarding the children, and this is a tough area because it can always change. Either parent can request more time with the children at any time. My ex goes to his lawyer constantly so I feel like these issues can last for years even though it shouldn't take all that long to resolve them for most people!

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  • How should I handle retirement now that I am getting divorced? I know that over 50 these issues get really complicated?

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    Just remember: though you may not have “punched in”, and “punched out”, you are entitled to an equitable portion of your ex’s retirement benefits for the time you were married. When the receiving spouse is awarded a share of a qualified plan like a 401k, the spouse has two options: 1. Under IRS Rule 72T, the spouse can withdraw pursuant to divorce without any early withdrawal penalties (10%) prior to age 59 ½. However, ordinary income taxes, on the distribution, will need to be paid. When the payee takes a distribution, the plan administrator will often withhold 20% for income taxes.(this does not apply to IRA’s). 2. The payee can rollover the account to a new IRA, without incurring any penalties; though there are many reasons to keep the money in a 401(K), there are reasons to consult a financial advisor to weight the pro and cons of the two options.

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  • What are the goals of a therapist in working with couples?

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    My first goal is helping couples build the skill of creating a safe space between them in which they learn to be fully present to each other. Within that space of safety, they are able to do the deep work removing core blockages which have kept them stuck and disconnected. They develop effectiveness in syncing up to each other and as a result, they are able to make good decisions about the well being of each person and their relationship.

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  • What can couples gain from therapy?

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    Ultimately for couples to gain clarity about what they want and need and learn ways to achieve those goals without getting hijacked by old blocking beliefs and ingrained coping mechanisms. The work of becoming conscious and claiming the driver’s seat our lives and relationships can be very tricky to navigate without a skilled therapist who can help you through this process. I highly recommend seeing a therapist who specializes in a couples therapy model such as Imago Relationship Therapy, Emotionally Focused Therapy or Encounter-centered Couples Therapy. I’m partial to intensive sessions when couples are in crisis. This allows for an effective, clarifying and transformational experience for couples who have been stewing in uncertainty, confusion and have been lacking clarity about their relationship.

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  • I know that you need to hire a lawyer for actual legal advice, but I just want to know the basics about custody.

    Top Scoop

    It's best to discuss this issue with a lawyer because you can get a lot of free advice, but it may not be accurate. I looked up custody factors online, but still needed a lawyer to review my particular case.

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  • It seems like all the divorce lawyers in my area know each other and even worse, they all seem really friendly to one another. Isn’t that a bad thing?

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    Most often, divorce lawyers in a given area know each other. Some are friendly with each other, some less so. However, in my experience, you will almost always be better off with attorneys that get along, as opposed to attorneys who don't get along. You don't want your case to be about your attorney's personal animosity with regard to opposing counsel. You want people who can work together, who have experience with each other and can get to either a fair result or move the case forward to litigation, in the event that is necessary.

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  • What should you look for in a divorce attorney? Is hiring a woman a good idea? Should I look for someone that’s tough and can fight?

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    The key is finding someone you trust, connect with, has your back and most importantly, is competent. If it's a woman, that's fine. The gender of your lawyer is less important than your relationship with her or him. I had a woman lawyer who I really liked. You definitely want someone who can fight in court if necessary -- you may not want to go to court, but it needs to be an attorney with experience there. You don't need to hire a shark -- but you do need someone who is tough, and reasonable.

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  • Sometimes I feel overwhelmed. How can a divorce coach help me navigate this process?

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    It's overwhelming! Your life will change legally, financially, emotionally and socially. Most people haven't been through it before. How do you know what to do, when to contact your attorney, when to make a move, when to take a stand? A divorce coach assists in strategic thinking and planning.

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  • What are your favorite post divorce books?

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    I loved Heartburn by Nora Ephron. It was my absolute favorite because her ex was cheating on her and left her at the worst possible time, when she was pregnant with their baby. Despite this, Nora kept her sense of humor and always found a way to laugh during such a trying time. I figured my own situation wasn't so bad after all.

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  • I have no idea what assets we have. Should I hire a forensic accountant?

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    Each party will need to fill out a Financial Affidavit: A document to collect financial data, including all income, expenses, assets, and liabilities. Therefore, based on his information, you should learn more about your financial net worth. If your spouse owns a business, or a partner in a firm, then depending on how “open” the spouse is in revealing that information, you may need to hire a forensic accountant.

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  • What should my priorities be in terms of finances during a divorce?

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    Most retirement plans rank lower than other assets because withdrawals are taxed at the highest marginal tax rate and incur a 10% penalty until age 59 ½. Home sale proceeds always rank high on the list of desirable assets. However, you must be aware that any capital gains over 250,000/person will be taxed. Cash savings and checking accounts are the most liquid. Brokerage and investment accounts rank in-between home sale proceeds and traditional IRAs because they are available for withdrawal and only investment gains are taxed. Just remember: All dollars are not created equal.

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  • What happens when you see a good friend out with a date you already met through Match?

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    I just decided to play it cool -- smile at my friend, but not go over because I did not want to distract her and her date. Maybe it's the start of a great relationship for her!

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  • I'm so overwhelmed with my divorce, how do I carve out a little time for some fun?

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    I know it's easy to feel that way, but that is all the more reason to carve out some time for yourself. Many women feel that they cannot get a break from dealing with all of the difficulties of divorce, but try to get a babysitter so that you can go out with your friends. They can be your greatest support during this trying time. Relaxing with the ladies can make you feel so much better!

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  • I’m getting divorced. What tax filing status must I use?

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    If you are still legally married (as of the last day of the filing year) you have the choice to either file “Married filing jointly” or “Married filing separately”. There are some factors that may help you decide which option is right for you. If you and your ex are still able to work well together filing jointly could work for you, otherwise consider filing “married filing separately”. Filing separately is also critical if you suspect that your Ex is hiding assets or income since you could be held liable for any fraudulent information. As with all tax advice, seek a professional opinion for your specific situation.

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  • I’m just starting the process of getting divorced. My question is, should I keep my home?

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    Women think that if they don’t keep the marital residence, they are harming the kids. But this isn’t true and factors vary state by state. If your house is an ascending asset, then keeping it will be best for you. However, if you are located in a descending market, holding onto the residence could be a problem. You also need to consider the condition your house is in and how much money you will have to pour into it.

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  • How do I tell my children that we are getting divorced?

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    Talking to my kids about our impending split was one of the toughest days of my life. My heart was pounding as we sat all three of them down, ages 14, 12 and 8. Tears were flowing all around the room as soon as my ex husband began explaining that we were going to be separated. It was definitely the toughest conversation I have ever had, but it had to happen. As we explained the situation, my kids had questions too. My eldest daughter even asked my then husband if he was with someone else.

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  • Even though my husband cheated on me, a friend told me that won’t matter in terms of legal issues. Is that right?

    Top Scoop

    Generally, fault is not a factor, particularly with regard to asset division. In some jurisdictions, it may be a factor with regard to alimony. Also, depending on the facts of your specific case, it may be relevant to custody, but only if the misconduct directly relates to a parent's ability to parent their child. In general, the Courts are not equipped to hear the details of this conduct in every divorce case.

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  • How much money does it cost to get divorced? Really what I want to know is how much will I end up paying a lawyer when it’s all done.

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    It is impossible to say how much it will cost to get divorced. You can have a very large and complicated marital estate but work together with joint experts and an amicable resolution which is relatively inexpensive or you can have a relatively minimal estate with a lot of animosity, interim issues that take up a lot of time and cost, inability to reach an agreement on the most simple issues and this will end up being extremely expensive.

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  • What is equitable distribution?

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    Equitable distribution means a distribution of assets that may not be 50/50. There are numerous factors that are to be considered when determining what is "equitable" and dividing your assets. Amongst others, these include length of the marriage, whether one party has primary custody of minor children, what is the size of either party's non-marital estate, what is the income disparity, what is the size of your estate. All factors are considered, other than fault, which is not to be considered in determining the division of assets, in order to come to a fair resolution which may be 50/50, it may be 60/40 or it may be 80/20.

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  • Is there a formula for alimony in the state of Pennsylvania?

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    There is no formula for alimony in the state of Pennsylvania. However, there are numerous factors contained in the statute, many of which are similar to those considered for equitable distribution. One of the big differences, however, is that fault is a factor to be considered in determining alimony. However, there is more emphasis put on the disparity of incomes, what each party will receive in equitable distribution, the length of marriage, etc. Alimony is very factually based with regard to both duration and amount. In Pennsylvania, alimony is a secondary remedy.

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  • I've heard about divorce coaches, but I don't know anything about them. Why should I hire one?

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    The goal in hiring a divorce coach is to save you money and to help you plan and be strategic throughout your divorce. Although you pay a fee to hire one, your divorce coach is meant to provide you with insight about how to navigate the process so that you do not have to pay your lawyer each time you have a question.

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  • What should I consider in making my decision about getting a divorce?

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    Consider if you have expressed your biggest frustrations with your partner in a way that they can really hear you? Consider if you’ve been open and curious about understanding your partner’s biggest frustrations with you? If not, then positive change is clearly not possible. Couples who divorce tend to handle conflict by either going into attack mode or avoiding conflict altogether by fleeing or shutting down. These ancient survival mechanisms are built into us and override our ability to think clearly, stay grounded or feel compassion. Don’t assume that your partner isn’t capable of hearing you until you have successfully heard them with an open heart and mind. Building skill and effectiveness in how you exchange your feelings and thoughts can change the climate in a relationship from cold and emotionally unsafe and to warm and emotionally comfortable.

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  • I am worried about expenses during my divorce. Does having a divorce coach mean that I will have to pay more?

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    It shouldn't. Your divorce coach's hourly fees should be lower than your lawyer's so when you ask a question to your coach rather than to your attorney, you should wind up paying less. But look over the coach you are considering and try to get references so that you can find out just how helpful he or she can be.

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  • I can’t eat a thing since my marriage dissolved. I just don’t feel hungry. What do I do?

    Top Scoop

    Lots of women feel this way so you are not alone. As you regain your strength and start to be more at ease with your new situation, your appetite will return. Just take it slowly and know that you will be back!

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  • How do I keep my kids first throughout the entire divorce process?

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    Divorce can have a very negative effect on children. All too often, kids are used as pawns during the separation process and can become collateral damage if their interests are not prioritized. Even though your marriage is finished, co-parenting with your ex continues. Offering therapy to a child can really help ease the transition.

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  • I am at the very beginning stages of my divorce. We've agreed that he will keep the house and buy me out. Who do I contact to get a fair market value appraisal? A Real Estate Agency? A Bank?

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    When I was in that situation, my lawyer suggested an appraiser who specializes in real estate for me to use. I wound up getting two appraisals because I thought the first one was too high. My ex also got his own appraiser and we ended up averaging the two. You could also use a realtor that you trust.

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  • Where are some places to meet other divorced women who have found it to be an empowering experience?

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    Divorce has a way of bringing women together. One of the best avenues I have found to meet other divorced women is through shared interests, like in fitness classes such as Soul Cycle and through sports like tennis. There are also lots of local support groups and divorce clubs that can be a great source for making new friends. And finally, there are a bunch of online chat groups for single moms and divorcing women.

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  • I’m in the suburbs of Philly and worried about moving, but the house seems too big for us. Should I sell or just keep it for now?

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    I hate to see all of these women getting stuck with giant homes out in the suburbs. The trend is going from big to small here on Philadelphia’s Main Line. Women keep their homes because they think it will allow them to gain the upper hand during a divorce. Moving is really only chaos for a month, but some women are too intimidated by the process. Many of the people I work with move downtown and are much happier.

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  • How do I talk to my ex in a way that diffuses the situation. He always seems quick to blame me and is eager for a fight.

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    It's always wise to give it some time before you respond to your ex. Wait at least an hour so you can think about what you want to say and show him you won't take the bait. Use a businesslike tone. That way there is less emotion for him to feed off of and it keeps interactions calmer.

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  • I find it really hard to find things we can all do together as my kids age. How do I make it fun to be with me for each of them?

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    It's true that kids often have different interests as they get older. I enjoy doing specific things they each like. For example, I love going to sporting events and comedy with my son. And I really enjoy going to concerts with my girls. Luckily one of my daughters likes to do it all.

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  • I'm interested in spinning classes. What's the difference between soulcycle and flywheel and which one would you recommend?

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    I really love both! Soulcycle is a little younger and super high energy. There are no leaderboards or metrics so you can just focus on the ride. Flywheel offers a leaderboard and a tech pack that keeps track of your calories burned. Most people have a goal they are trying to reach so that's a nice feature. I go to both depending on my mood, and it's great to try each to see what you prefer.

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  • Can I stay on my soon to be ex’s health insurance plan following my divorce?

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    Sadly you cannot, but your children can. One of the first tasks you have to do after your split is to get your own health insurance plan. While you can get COBRA for 36 months, it is very expensive and you will probably want to find something else. Most health insurance experts can guide you at no cost as they get paid by insurance companies.

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  • I used to have an important job and position. How do I get back into it?

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    Let’s face it, companies are not necessarily looking for someone with a huge gap in their experience, so try to scale down a bit. Look into your former field and think about the value you can add today. Rework your resume., and start looking. Be confident that there are opportunities out there in this fluid job market.

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  • I’ve gained a ton of weight since my marriage crumbled – what can I do?

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    Sometimes fried chicken and ice cream are just about the best things to mend a broken heart. If you have been eating copious amounts of one or both, it’s time to hit the gym. It’s always hard to fit in a workout with a single mom’s busy schedule of work and kids, but try to make the time if you can because it is bound to make you feel better.

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  • What if I'm afraid to leave? And I still love my husband....

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    The most important thing is for you to be confident with your decisions. There is no right answer, only what is right for you. Try to imagine yourself without him -- would your life be better? Would it be better for your kids? You have to be happy with your choices.

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  • What are your favorite post divorce movie rentals?

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    The Other Woman is always fun because Jamie Lannister gets his ass kicked by 3 powerful women, and The Boss is just a fun girls movie. Bridesmaids never gets old, especially for tennis fans.

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  • Why do some couples not make it while others do?

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    Couples who view relationship issues as signs and signals that they need to stretch and grow rather than run, fight or hide. This requires courage, grit to go into uncomfortable places. It also requires the qualities I have already mentioned-respect, trust and a commitment to helping each other grow.

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