Knowing how to navigate the ins and outs of a divorce makes all the difference

Less than a month ago, I was walking on a beach on Martha’s Vineyard during a sunset with my dear friend and her daughter (who wasn’t an adult the last time I saw her!)

A gorgeous sailboat passed by and the people on board looked like they were having the time of their lives.

Sailing can be one of the most relaxing activities on dayslike these but, having been on the San Francisco Bay on a sailboat in hurricane force winds, I can tell you first-hand,
it can also be a harrowing experience. (That was the only time in my life that I happily paid a parking ticket!)

I’ll be the first to admit that I am a fair-weather adventurer. But, there are times in life when we don’t get to choose what kind of seas or weather we have to go out into.
Sometimes, we have to deal with the storms that come our way.

Divorce is certainly one of those times. In fact, divorce is often likened to a hurricane or an tropical storm due to its tumultuous nature.

But just as it’s not wise to set sail without checking forecast (the tides, direction of the wind and the storm watches), you shouldn’t go into divorce without understanding what to expect – that is, if you can help it. Going into unchartered waters leaves you at the mercy of the court system which can be pretty rough.

Minor Tweaks That Made a Major Difference

Bryan and Lora were over a year into their divorce proceedings before they stumbled upon my work.

Living in Colorado, they weren’t able to come into speak with me in person but we had regular Skype sessions. I assisted them in finding a better path just by normalizing what they were going throughand making some relatively minor recommendations. Their attorneys were battling out the issues but Bryan and Lora didn’t want to be embroiled in a battle. I suggested that they keep their respective attorneys but hire a mediator or private judge to help them negotiate the terms of their agreement. This enabled them to start making some headway toward a settlement.

I then recommended that they contact a colleague of mine who specializes in money matters to help them sort out their financial snarls.

Bryan and Lora were great about following through on suggestions because they were both exhausted from dealing with a very complex legal system.

The financial counselor guided them as to exactly what paperwork they needed and how to put their information packets together, and I helped them get the right resources.

They actually began to feel confident that they could get through where they had previously muddled along wondering if they’d ever reach the other side of the process.

These are the kinds of stories that have made me feel so wonderful throughout my 15-year-plus as a divorce expert. Divorce is difficult but it’s doable. The difference between a bad divorce and a better divorce has everything to do with how prepared you are for nasty weather.

Here are some of my thoughts on what to do if you feel like you’re unnecessarily stuck in a bad storm:

1. Do your own research about how to get divorced so that you’re not relying 100% on professionals to help you through.

2. Tell your professionals how you feel about the situation. Ask them to change to accommodate your needs (i.e., be more or less assertive);

3. Add other professionals to your roster and don’t make assumptions such as, “my attorney can handle all the financials of my case,” especially when they are complex. Hire a financial expert. Or if there are complex custody issues, hire a second attorney who specialisex in custody issues. These are great examples of how spending a bit more money can save you money (and time and angst) later;

4. If need be, change or fire your current professionals (This is particularly hard to do with attorneys because you have to start all over but in most cases, that’s better than getting railroaded or having a bad settlement).

5. Find safe, supportive people, who understand what divorce is all about to speak with.

6. Try to strike the balance between telling too many people (you’ll know you’ve done this because you’ll start noticing contradictions and you’ll feel confused) or too few (in which case you’ll likely feel heightened anxiety).

7. Expect that marital disoolution will be one of the hardest things you’ll ever go through but do all you can to make it manageable.

Divorce is overwhelming on its best day. You don’t have to go it alone…so why would you?

Author’s Books

© Copyright 2015 Susan Pease Gadoua, L.C.S.W., All rights Reserved.
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As a child of divorced parents, Susan knows first-hand how disruptive an unhappy marriage and subsequent marital dissolution can be. When her mother and father split in 1981 (on their 28th wedding anniversary), marriage counseling was unheard of and emotional divorce support virtually nonexistent. Her own experience, combined with years of working with couples in distress – both in striving to save their marriage or transition out of it – led Susan to become passionate about offering support to people at perhaps one of the most crucial junctures in their lives. In 2000, Susan founded the Transition Institute of Marin and began providing information and counseling to this underserved population. Books Eight years later, Susan wrote, Contemplating Divorce, A Step-by-Step Guide to Deciding Whether to Stay or Go (New Harbinger Publishing, Inc. © 2008), a book that provides objective guidance to those struggling in a rocky marriage as well as invaluable information on how to navigate the divorce process. Contemplating Divorce became a San Francisco Chronicle best-seller its first week in publication. In 2010, Susan completed a meditation book for those challenged by difficult emotions during and after divorce entitled, Stronger Day by Day, Reflections for Healing and Rebuilding After Divorce. Susan’s latest book, The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels, is a collaboration with journalist Vicki Larson. You can learn more about this project by clicking on The New I Do page. Susan has helped hundreds of people gain clarity in their relationships. Her private therapy practice consists of couples, individuals (local and distance therapy clients) and the many relationship or divorce support groups she runs. Susan in the Media As an often-featured writer for the Huffington Post Divorce page, Susan also writes a regular column for and Susan has been a guest on the CBS Early Show as well as numerous radio shows across the U.S. and Canada and has also been featured in: The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Psychology Today Magazine, Divorce Magazine, The View From the Bay and more.