Good Things Can Come From Divorce

Good Things Can Come From Divorce

Let’s face it. Change is tough for many people and divorce changes just about every facet of your life.  Divorce can often test one’s ability to handle change to an extreme.   Some people struggle more than others with change. They fight it, avoid it, fear it, and sometimes feel guilty about it. These notions would make anyone want to keep things as normalized as possible. One would think only adrenaline junkies and dysfunctional people would want to disrupt what could be a perfectly normal situation.   However, change can be very positive and powerful, especially if you have been in an unhappy or abusive marriage.   Here are five truths in my life I’ve experienced with change.  Hopefully this will help readers cope with their own life changes.

1. Change is inevitable

While divorce may not be inevitable, relationships will evolve. Whether you cling to what you have or long for something more, change is unavoidable. Nothing can or will stay the same. You have power when it comes to change. Your actions or reactions to change will determine how positive or negative the change is. Get comfortable with the notion of change as part of the evolution of life and stop resisting.

My divorce meant not only losing a spouse, but losing his entire family, the life I had envisioned and dreams I had of being a stay at home mom.  Oddly, I have a relationship with my ex-spouses family today.  It’s different than it was, but it’s good.  I also had the chance to be a “stay at home” mom for a year, and I found I really didn’t like it.   I love to work and I’m a better mom because of it.  I own two businesses today which I never would have had the chance to own if I had stayed in my marriage – he would not have given me the freedom to explore these opportunities.  What was the absolutely worst thing in 2007 is a gift today.

2. Change helps your brain stay healthy

Science suggest our brains need new and varied problems to work on. When our minds aren’t working out problems, solving mysteries, or figuring things out we can become weak. Change is one of the best ways to keep our brains healthy. This means our lifespan will be healthier, and our mind will not be as susceptible to diseases like dementia. It’s good for your brain to embrace the change in your life as a puzzle you can solve.

I certainly fought the divorce in the beginning, and I went through the stages of grief for at least a year if not longer.  No doubt, there was a grieving process to walk through.  However, my divorce also brought about new changes which were fun and unexpected, like meeting new friends and having a fun, loving social environment.  I was also able to thrive with my career after the divorce which meant learning a lot of new things and experiencing new challenges.  When I was no longer subject to emotional abuse I was able to really thrive and grow.

3. Change creates maturity

Sometimes change comes with a price tag. Sometimes change comes with a penalty. Sometimes change requires risk, and sometimes change is forced on us. No matter how change occurs, it causes us to grow. From learning we are tougher than we realized and having to do some difficult things – change creates maturity.

When my divorce was over I made a list of gifts.  To my suprise, I had three pages of small, single spaced gifts.  Many of them had to do with personal strength and fortitude.  I’m so much stronger today.  While I certainly would not have chosen this path voluntarily, I’m so grateful today for it.

4. Change teaches you to overcome fear and anxiety

Whether stepping out towards change in doubt or being pushed into the unknown without your consent, change can be scary. The devil we know is easier to manage than the one we don’t. Once the fears are faced, they are often scarier in theory than reality. Change teaches you to overcome fear and anxiety as you learn new coping skills or how to talk yourself through fear.

I was a single mom of a 2 year old child when my divorce was final – that is big change.  It was scary.  Looking back I’m convinced there is no stronger force than a parent protecting their child.  Being a single mom of a young child drove me to bigger and better things with my career.  It also lead me to be a better mom and person.   I no longer fear financial insecurity (for the most part).  I no longer fear being alone. I no longer fear many things – all because of what I went through.

5. Change gives you choices

Once the spirit of change is validated and embraced, change can become part of your normal routine.  If you choose something and don’t like it, that isn’t the end of the line. Change things again! From changing your coffee order to the brand of cereal your family eats this week, change can be fun. From picking a new wall color to a new genre of book to read, change can be exciting. From changing where you volunteer your time or which organization you donate to, change can matter to more people.

When my divorce was final I made big changes to my house – I repainted rooms, moved furniture around, rearranged the cabinets and made changes to the yard.  These small changes made a big difference.  Small things like which cabinet your plates are in can help facilitate change in your head and heart which can give you courage for more change.    In my first marriage I really wanted multiple children.  As a child I was much younger than my siblings and as a result raised as an only child.  I did not like it.  I decided very young I would have no children or multiple children – but not an only child!  Even though my first husband and I had decided on two or three children when we married, after our first (and only) child was born he decided he didn’t want any more.   Well, guess what.  When I remarried it was to someone with three young children, and now we have five!! Talk about an evolution of change.  It is a beautiful blended crazy mess which this extrovert absolutely loves.

There are many truths about change – some scary and some not so much. Embrace the concept of change, and it will lead to enjoying the realities of change.   We at Divorce Strategies Group are here to help you navigate changes from married to single.  Schedule a strategy session or call us at 281-210-0057 to schedule your first mediation session today.  No matter what your situation we strive to help our clients walk through divorce with confidence, strength and courage!

Co-Parenting Teens: Helping Your Teen Through Divorce

Co-Parenting Teens: Helping Your Teen Through Divorce

If love is a battlefield, then co-parenting teens is a battlefield with landmines. Teenagers can swing from adolescent to grown-up feelings (and back again) in the snap of your fingers. This confusing age is hard enough already for them to navigate. Throw in the challenges of being a teen with divorced parents and watch the fun multiply!

Luckily, it doesn’t have to be fraught with turmoil and anxiety all the way. Knowing where some of the landmines are hidden, or what to do to avoid them outright, will make this period smoother for everyone.

The thing to remember is that right now, teens are becoming independent and striving to express themselves. They will have their own ideas about how things should be, and those ideas may go against what you’re thinking. At the end of the day, I know you want to keep them safe and happy. With these suggestions, you can navigate the challenges you may face as you co-parent your teen through divorce.

Co-Parenting Teens

3 Things to Remember when Co-Parenting Teens

It’s important to recognize that teens are trying to figure out what they want and who they’re becoming. With that comes lots of hormones. Sometimes it’s easier for teens to mask shame, sadness, and loneliness they could be experiencing with anger. Other times, kids think they’re angry when really they’re feeling those deeper, more vulnerable feelings. At any rate, it’s your job as a parent to be there for them with support and compassion.

Home is where the safety is.   Home should always be a safe haven for teens. Yes, they want independence, but that doesn’t mean they don’t also need safety and stability. Make sure you establish a family-first feeling. Let them know whatever is happening in the outside world, their parents both will support and love them.

Teens will have a different idea about how things are going to work.  Teens, especially the ones on the cusp of having more independence with access to a license, job, and friends or activities outside the home (ie: that sweet spot of 14-16) will have a lot of ideas about how they want things to work. It’s important to listen to them and meet them where you can.  Work as a team with your teens and your ex as you co-parent so they feel respected and heard. If you tend to blanket them with your opinions, they could feel like you have no regard for their wishes and act out. They want to know you’re working with your ex to support and nurture them, even though they seem to be pulling away.

Teens just want to be heard.  Sometimes, it could be a challenge to decipher between normal teenage angst and when your kid is really in trouble. Add to that the reality that your teenager may not want to share their feelings with you for whatever reason. Perhaps they wish to avoid confrontation or they don’t know how to express themselves. When you co-parent your teen through a divorce, remember that your kid just wants to be heard. When they talk, listen.

4 Things to Consider in your Parenting Plan as you Co-Parent Through Divorce

It’s challenging to tell your teen what they’re going to do, but you are doing this for a good reason (safety, making sure your teen becomes a self-reliant adult, and so on). Communicate that with them! Let them know you aren’t just making rules because you’re power-hungry; you have a good reason behind that.

Having a parenting plan will help with this. It could also be a struggle at first as you establish new routines for your kids as they turn into teens. Remember: your teens don’t want to be told what to do.

Make them feel like they have a say in it, especially as they get older. Once they hit a certain age, they can communicate their wishes with both of you instead of you telling them what they want. Respect those wishes and honor them as much as you can.

Kids will have time constraints and want control over their own schedule.
In your parenting plan, consider that your kids will have new and different time constraints. Teens are busy bees between work, school, friends, and other activities like jobs and volunteering.

Have a plan in place for time for handling scheduling conflicts. When possible, make sure both you and your ex show up at events like sporting games, rewards ceremonies, and the like so your teens can see you’re both showing up for them. Not only will your teen still feel like an important member of the family, but you’ll also get to spend time with your teen and not miss out on activities that are important to them.

How will you navigate chores and other household responsibilities?  When kids who are younger experience a divorce, it’s very important to keep a consistent routine between both parents’ households. That gives them a sense of stability and normalcy. Things like bedtimes, chores, and time outs or rewards should stay the same.

As kids get older, their responsibilities will change and they may not need that consistency between both houses. However, what they do need is to know the rules so they can play by them. Communicate your expectations clearly if there is a difference between households. Make sure they understand what happens if they break curfew or get in trouble.  I’d recommend that the basic structure remains the same between households (ie: expectations, consequences, and rewards), while the specifics may vary.

What happens when your teen starts to become more involved with friends and begins to date? You may not want to think about your kid growing up and leaving the nest, but they will. As you’re co-parenting teens, you have to realize they are teens. They will have friends and they will want to date.

What happens if their boyfriend or girlfriend wants to sleepover (or they want to stay at their house)? This is another area I’d advise consistency. That way they can’t play you and your ex off each other. No one wants to hear, “Dad lets me!” or have them take advantage of you because the rules around friends and paramours are more lax at your house.

Who will have the final say? Teens will fight you on things, plain and simple. That said there are important considerations to make, like what happens if your teen is sick, wants to get a piercing, decides to join a branch of military service, wants to purchase a car, claims they’ll drop out of school… the list goes on, really.  In that instance, these are big discussions that should be considered carefully. When you’re co-parenting your teen, it’s assumed that decisions are mutually agreed upon with both you and your ex involved. The reality is that some parents may think they should have the final word, especially if they are the ones paying for most of it.

Having a discussion about whose decision is final before these issues come up (in other words, when the tensions aren’t running high) will help you stay cool and focus on the matter at hand when it occurs.  Will there be times when mom has the final say over dad or vice versa? In what situation does your teen get to make their own decision?  Just like who has the final say, think about who pays. You may be sharing financial responsibilities, but what about your teen’s input? If they want a car, do they pay for it or do you? Whose responsibility is it to replace a broken iPad? What if they want a cell phone? Put that language in the parenting plan.

A Final Word About Parenting Plans

As your teen is navigating their own changes (and at times feeling like the center of the world), you, too, must navigate changes. It’s different when you’re co-parenting teens than when you’re co-parenting adolescents. Parenting schedules will have to be addressed. Discussions about school, friends, and time conflicts will have to take place. Consequences, structure, and what you present a united front on will be a point to consider.  As you’re co-parenting teens, these issues (and more) will come up. So, the more clarity you can provide in your parenting plan, the better. Make sure you actually look at your parenting plan, too. It won’t do any good if you never use it.  Help your teen take you seriously by giving them new structure and boundaries as they get older. It will make a huge difference when you have to make decisions for your teen on behalf of you and your ex.

We understand co-parenting teens because we have navigated co-parenting 2 who are grown and 2 more who are almost ready to leave the nest.  We, personally, have sought after the help of professional counselors and therapists. For a list of who we recommend call us at 281-210-0057 and also visit us regularly to check out our latest blog on various divorce related issues.

 

WHY SECOND MARRIAGES FAIL

WHY SECOND MARRIAGES FAIL

Is this your first marriage? Or your second marriage? Maybe your third marriage?   Studies show the rate of divorce for first marriages has dropped to 40%. But the alarming statistic is the rate of failure for second marriages is 67% and for third marriages, it’s a whopping 74%!

What Most People Do

About 70% of people who walk through divorce will wind up remarrying once again at some point in their life. If cohabiting couples are included in this figure, the statistics show over 80% of people take the chances on another relationship. About 29% of all marriages in the United States involve at least one person who has been married at least one time before. Men generally remarry faster than women do after a divorce. Caucasians are more likely to remarry faster than any other racial demographic in both genders. The median amount of time that it takes someone to get married after a divorce is 3.7 years, which has been fairly stable since 1950.

Sadly, the average length of time for second marriages ending in divorce will typically just under eight years.  Why do you think this is happening? Wouldn’t you think we would’ve learned from our mistakes? Wouldn’t you think we would be smarter, older, more mature and should know better and know what we want in a new partner?

What We Are All Looking For

Feeling lonely or afraid of being on your own is terrifying and can lead to jumping into a new relationship. Rebound relationships are quite common. Having someone adorn you with attention and praise can be intoxicating – especially if you were the one who was left. We’re just human beings and it’s natural to want to feel loved and desired.   So here are what the experts say are the 3 biggest reasons why second marriages fail at such a high rate:

Money

Money is a big issue for many couples, but it’s even more troublesome in second marriages due to child support or alimony payments. When there are children involved, it gets even more complicated financially. I’ve seen many clients who are resentful about how much money is going out to their new husband’s children. It can become a real challenge if it is not discussed openly and honestly.

We highly suggest having a conversation with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst or CDFA. This person is a financial planner with a focus on divorce financial planning.  This professional will likely understand how divorce in your area works and understand advanced financial planning concepts. They can help you find common ground in your new marriage and work through financial issues long before they lead to divorce.

parenting children after divorce

Children

Many couples stay together “for the children.” Where natural children might keep a marriage together, step-children can be a divisive factor in second marriages. Many parents deal with the frustration of having step-kids. The biggest issue here is partners not supporting each other when it comes to dealing with each other’s natural children.  This can be extremely difficult and frustrating – especially when two families blend together.

A good therapist or parent facilitator can be invaluable.   We suggest finding one in your area to help create a parenting plan for the blended family and to help walk through kinks and issues as they arise.

Exes

This really depends on the circumstances of the divorce. Typically, the person who was left, especially because of an affair, may be resentful and angry. They may be terribly unhappy that their ex is so quickly in a new relationship or remarried. They may even try to sabotage things to create emotional or financial tension for the new partners.  Again, a good therapist is invaluable in this situation.  Whether you are the ex struggling with your former spouse finding ‘love’ so soon or you are the one feeling sabotaged, having an unbiased third party trained in these issues helping you is critical.

Hope

If you’re struggling with a divorce – whether it’s your first, second or third marriage, let us help you work through this so that you can feel confident moving forward into the next chapter of your life.  We also work with many therapists in the area and can help you find the right one for you.  Contact our Divorce Strategies Group today to help you find your new you.

Resources:

https://www.michaelagardner.net/blog/2018/10/09/divorce-statistics-in-the-united-193973, https://brandongaille.com/52-fascinating-divorce-and-remarriage-statistics/

Oh No… the Holidays are Here

Oh No… the Holidays are Here

In the month of November thus far, we have had no less than 15 new consultation meetings with clients who know their marriage is over and are wondering when to start the divorce process. Many of them decided to wait until after the holidays for the children or so that their extended families would have one last holiday together. Mix that with the number of couples we are currently working with who are in the divorce process and the multitude of couples we helped walk through divorce and are finalized so far this year. In our little universe that is a lot of people dealing with sadness this holiday season, I can only imagine the numbers outside our little bubble. Add that pain to the stress and strain of trying to maintain the status quo and all the extra pressures of the holidays – that is tough! Although there are no magical solutions to cure the holiday blues, here are 10 things you can do to make it easier to cope.  I used many of these tools during my own divorce which extended through a holiday season and the first year after the divorce.

1. PLAN AHEAD

Plan to do something that is fun, relaxing, and as stress-free as possible with people you really care about. When I was in the midst of my divorce I planned a Christmas trip to my brothers’ house in northern Vermont. That was literally the best holiday I had experienced in years. It was magical. I was away from my home and the stress of the divorce. I had my child that year for Christmas and was surrounded by people who loved me. I had to plan that with my family and my attorney prior to December 25. Even if you don’t have your child this year, plan to be with family or friends whom you love.

2. DO SOMETHING TOTALLY DIFFERENT

If the holidays are just too painful and the reminders are everywhere, consider a vacation that allows you to “escape ” the painful triggers. If you have never been on a cruise for Christmas or been to the Bahamas – this may be the year. I had a friend who starting going to the Grand Canyon each year for Thanksgiving and then Vegas each year for Christmas (the family-friendly part of Vegas and they were out by New Years). If travel is not an option, volunteer someplace for people who have nothing. That will not only help you forget your situation for a while, but you’ll also feel good about the help you are giving to others.  We have made dollar store Christmas stockings before and handed them out to the homeless.  Anything to help others will help you!

3. CREATE NEW RITUALS AND FAMILY TRADITIONS

While you may want to hold on to some of the past traditions, it’s a good idea to create some new rituals with friends and family. We started going to see different “wonderlands” with holiday lights and we took a second trip back to my brothers’ house in Vermont. We also started going to a new church and celebrating with their traditions.  We adopt a child through the church each year and shop for them.  We still go look at holiday lights but we added a Starbucks stop for hot cocoa along for the tradition.    We created new Thanksgiving traditions by blowing off the traditional food options and eating Chinese every year with friends.  You could even do something around each family member’s favorite foods and let the kids help cook.

4. REASSURE KIDS THAT HOLIDAY CELEBRATIONS WILL CONTINUE, BUT IN A DIFFERENT WAY

Children can help create some of the new holiday rituals and traditions. Take time to brainstorm with your children about new ideas for celebrating. I googled holiday traditions and tried out several with my daughter and we found a few we both enjoyed. Invite them to be a part of the new experience and let them find new traditions. Try different things – just stay positive in front of them.

5. ASK IF YOU ARE ACTING “IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD”

Decide ahead of time how holidays will be divided. Talk to your attorney about this if you are in the midst of the divorce. This is one area where you want to speak to your attorney as soon as possible and solidify plans for pick up/drop off and days and times you have with minor children so there are no surprises.  The structure of knowing when I had my child the year we were separated provided me a lot of comfort and the ability to plan.   Your attorney will know how to make that happen, just talk to him or her as soon as possible.  I think it also helps to reassure kids that you will be OK while they are with the other parent.

6. ASK FOR HELP FROM SUPPORTIVE FAMILY AND FRIENDS

Rely on a healthy support system if you are feeling isolated, lonely or depressed. Tell your support people what you need from them (companionship, understanding, compassion, listening, etc.) My family was so helpful during this time and my friends were even more so. I could not have survived that first year of “firsts” without them.  I also love Divorce Care.  This group of understanding, compassion people helped me tremendously during my divorce and after.

7. BE REALISTIC

“Picture perfect” holidays are usually just an illusion. Have realistic expectations about the holiday season, especially the first year.  Hallmark movies may not be the best viewing options either!

8. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF

Get the proper amount of sleep and exercise and eat healthy in order to maximize your ability to cope. It’s easy to overeat or party too much to medicate your pain, but in the long run, it creates more problems. Walking daily if you are not already working out can also do wonders for you.

9. SCHEDULE TIME FOR REST, RELAXATION AND NURTURING

Give yourself a break. You deserve it!  A bubble bath, a long-overdue facial, a hair cut – anything to pamper yourself and nurture yourself.  We have a client who recently took a woman’s only weekend spiritual retreat and it was life-changing for her.  If that’s not possible, at least a good pedicure where you are not rushed and can enjoy the “me time” and the pampering.   For guys, a guilt-free afternoon of golf with your best buds or a long overdue fishing trip.

10. ONE DAY AT A TIME – ONE HOLIDAY AT A TIME

It will get easier. It will get better. It will hurt less. Right now, just concentrate on one thing at a time and the next right action.  Just one foot in front of the other, one step at a time.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, or stuck, GET PROFESSIONAL HELP. Therapy can provide a safe, supportive environment in which you can gain insight, learn problem-solving skills and find solutions to dealing with the anger and pain of separation and divorce. If you need help finding a therapist that works well for you, contact us for a referral at www.divorcestrategiesgroup.com or 281-210-0057.

Dealing with a Divorce: Simple Coping Tools

Dealing with a Divorce: Simple Coping Tools

When I was walking through the divorce process, I felt a wide range of emotions – everything from sadness to shame to relief to anger and back again. Sometimes in a matter of minutes. On my best days, I wasn’t being very kind to myself and on my worst days, I was my own worst enemy. I definitely didn’t have coping tools for divorce.

When you are facing a divorce, some days are just rough. Maybe you didn’t sleep well, and you start the day off grumpy and things only get worse from there. Your kids are upset and it’s difficult to get to school, you spill your coffee in your car or traffic is terrible. You feel pressure and stress with your full-time job and now you must add another full-time job, your divorce process, to the mix. It’s a lot to deal with!

When you are already emotional from the changes in your life, every little thing that goes wrong can feel much bigger than it is. If you’re having a terrible day, stop for a minute, take a deep breath and take some time to be kind to yourself. You can’t undo the bad things that have already happened, but you can turn around your bad day right now. Here are simple things you can do to be kind to yourself and stop that rough day in its tracks.

coping tools for divorce

Take a Break

When everything seems to be going wrong, you can stop that negative spiral by taking a break. Get out of the office if you can, go and do some deep breathing in the park or even look out of the window for a few minutes. A change of scenery can often work wonders. Practice some deep breathing and maybe have an herbal tea or a glass of water. If you have the time, adult coloring books are a great way to calm and focus your mind. Implement anything that makes you feel better and more in control.

Meditation or Prayer

When I was going through this process I used a lot of spiritual tools – specifically mediation and prayer. I used these tools often throughout the day and any time I had to deal with a divorce issue or my soon-to-be-ex-spouse. It was one of the most important tools I had. In fact, several times when I should have been losing my mind these tools provided a peace that surpasses all understanding – I have no other way to explain it. Meditation can be as simple as turning your back to your computer at work and breathe deeply while concentrating on your breathing for just two minutes.

coping tools for divorce

Plan Something Nice for Yourself

If your day is going from bad to worse, give yourself something to look forward to. Plan to do something luxurious and relaxing. You might take a long bath with the good bath oil, splurge on takeout for dinner, book a weekend away or set up dinner with a friend. I met with my Divorce Care group weekly on Tuesday nights and then dinner was always after. This was my weekly solace and something I never missed. I also met with my girlfriends weekly for lunch – just one of many coping tools for divorce I needed to help get through the process. Whatever it is for you, put it on the calendar and let nothing change those plans! You need to take care of you in order to better take care of those who rely on you.

coping tools for divorce

Be Your Own Best Friend when Dealing with a Divorce

Take a moment to consider how you’re talking to yourself. Are you beating yourself up about your divorce? Everyone has bad days, you need nurturing, not beating up!

Do you believe the terrible things your former life partner is saying about you? I can relate to that. However, once I was on the other side of the divorce I realized very few of the accusations or ugly words he spoke to me were true. People say crazy things when they are scared and in divorce specifically. Don’t buy it!! More so, don’t reiterate it in your own head with your own voice. Getting an outside perspective from a friend or counselor can also be very comforting.

Gratitude and Celebrating the Wins

Sometimes it can feel like an achievement to get through the day at all when you’re dealing with a breakup. If you’re having a bad day, write down all of your wins, big and small. Focusing on the positive and being grateful can change your perception. If you took the time to eat lunch, went for a jog, had a family meal with your children, or walked the dog, you are on a winning streak! Make it fun and pat yourself on the back for all the checks on your list. I also created a gratitude journal. At the end of my divorce, I had more pages than I ever expected of things I was personally grateful for. I was stronger, I had survived and I was better for it, I was out of a loveless marriage, I was free to start over, I was healthy, and my most memorable – I had the entire closet to myself, etc.

coping tools for divorce

Enlist Help

By embracing these coping tools for divorce you’ll find a happier, healthier you. If you are struggling with your finances as it relates to your divorce, though, we highly recommend calling in a professional. Contact Divorce Strategies Group today for help navigating one overwhelming part of divorce – your finances and your financial future.

College Planning for Divorced Parents

College Planning for Divorced Parents

This year marks the first year one of our 5 children march off to college. Wow! It happened fast. This particular child is my stepson. I am paying 100% of his college costs. Sound familiar? Scared of having this happen to you? While I love him deeply, and am honored to be able to participate in this for him, a little planning prior to our big day would have been helpful 13 years ago during divorce proceedings.  What I am personally facing is very common with others who pass through our office. Many, unfortunately, are not prepared to pay for these costs.

5 FAFSA Tips for Divorced Parents

Applying for and paying for college can be very stressful for many parents. Co-parenting is hard enough without the stress of supporting your kids through the college application process. Often, divorce settlements don’t detail how college expenses will be handled. In fact, it’s outside of the jurisdiction of many states’ domestic relations courts. If college expenses are detailed in the agreement, they’re often vague with limited concern around the details adding additional stress.   Enter the FAFSA. FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA is used to determine federal financial aids such as grants, work-study, and student loans. About two-thirds of students attending college are eligible for some form of aid.

The key to maximizing the financial aid your child will get is understanding and completing the FAFSA correctly. Providing too much information is actually the most common mistake that divorced parents make. If you report the income for too many adults, you could seriously hurt your chances of getting financial aid for your child.

1. Collaborate with your ex

Work together with your ex to maximize the financial aid opportunities for your child. I know that co-parenting is hard. I co-parent my kids with my ex and I really do understand the ups and downs of this situation. If you can really set your differences aside and put your kids’ education first, there are opportunities to work together to maximize the financial aid available to your child.
If you are not able to do this on your own, consider working with a mediator to work through how you will maximize your child’s opportunities for financial aid.

2. How the FAFSA identifies the custodial parent

The custodial parent for the FAFSA does not have to do with who has legal custody. For the FAFSA, the custodial parent refers to the parent who has the child for more than 50% of the time. If a child lives with each parent an equal amount of time, then the parent who provided more financial support over the last 12 months should be identified as the custodial parent. If the custodial parent is remarried, the income of the stepparent is also reported on the FAFSA. Below is an infographic that the U.S. Department of Education provides to help you to determine who should be listed as the parent on the FAFSA form.

3. Remember the custodial parent criteria when creating your parenting schedule

Consider college financial aid when making your parenting schedule, particularly if there is a substantial difference in income between the two parents. If the child is with the lower-income parent more than 50% of the time then the child will report the lower-income parent as the custodial parent. This is a common occurrence since the higher income parent tends to work more than the lower-income spouse. This could decrease the expected family contribution and increase how much aid they’ll get. It’s worth considering as you prepare your parenting schedule.

4. Get prepared ahead of time

The FAFSA will ask for the date of your divorce and other basic information such as the child’s social security number, parents’ social security numbers, etc. Having tax returns, bank statements, and investment account statements handy will make completing the application easier.

Don’t wait, either. While the deadline for filing isn’t until June 30, you can complete the process as early as October 1. Keep in mind that the earlier you file, the more likely it will be that your child will receive grants and scholarships, as those tend to be allocated early on.

5. For the recently divorced

If you are recently divorced, take the time to contact the school directly. If your change in marital status happened after your FAFSA was filed, there may be additional aid available to you. You never know unless you ask.

Contact a Professional

For more information about FAFSA tips for divorced parents, or to get started with your application, visit https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa.

If you are struggling to navigate co-parenting your children when it comes to your finances, it might be time to reach out to a professional for guidance. Contact Divorce Strategies Group for a consultation today.