Photo of Cynthia Brown

Cynthia Brown is a founding shareholder with the Brown Law Offices, P.A., a northwest Twin Cities divorce and family law firm. She is an honors graduate of the University of South Dakota and William Mitchell College of Law. Cynthia is a former prosecutor, who is uniquely qualified to advocate for clients accused of “wrongdoing” in the family court setting. She publishes a monthly family law column for the Minnesota Lawyer newspaper, and writes for Divorce Magazine and The Family Law Forum.

When you’re going through the pain and difficulty of a divorce, the last thing you usually want to think about is forgiveness. Unless your break-up is especially amicable, you are likely nursing more than a few offenses against your ex right now. However, once the divorce is complete, the last thing you want to do is hold onto that excess baggage. As we’ll see from some of the inspirational quotes below, extending forgiveness after divorce can be a key to moving on with your own life.

1. Sometimes our demand for justice turns into self-inflicted pain:

“If you spend your time hoping someone will suffer the consequences for what they did to your heart, then you’re allowing them to hurt you a second time in your mind.” ― Shannon L. Alder

2. Putting your divorce into perspective can help you forgive. See it as a correction, not a punishment:

“Your relationship may be “Breaking Up,” but you won’t be “Breaking Down.” If anything your correcting a mistake that was hurting four people, you and the person you’re with, not to mention the two people who you were destined to meet.”  ― D. Ivan Young

3. A wise word of caution against being vindictive in divorce court:

“Divorce is one of the most financially traumatic things you can go through. Money spent on getting mad or getting even is money wasted.” –Richard Wagner

4. This quote reminds us that forgiveness doesn’t enable the other person; it enables yourself:

“Forgiveness is not the misguided act of condoning irresponsible, hurtful behavior. Nor is it a superficial turning of the other cheek that leaves us
feeling victimized and martyred. Rather it is the finishing of old business that allows us to experience the present, free of contamination from the past.”
–Joan Borysenko

5. Wise words from Tyler Perry about moving on:

“When you haven’t forgiven those who hurt you, you turn your back against your future. When you do forgive, you start walking forward.” –Tyler Perry

6. Finally, how do you know when you’ve forgiven? Here’s a clue:

“You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well.” –Lewis B. Smedes

Under Jewish tradition, a man and a woman are married forever, even if they get a civil divorce from a secular court. However, their own biblical literature allows for a man to divorce his wife if he finds anything “unseemly” about her (Deuteronomy 24: 1-2). For that divorce to be recognized by Jewish authorities, the man must give his wife a written divorce paper, which is called a get.

By tradition, the get is written in Aramaic, and it also contains 12 lines of text. Another unusual aspect of the get is that it is tailored to the specific condition of the couple using it. In other words, there is no “form,” or formula, for writing the document, but a professional scribe for the husband usually writes it.

The get must be given to the wife by the husband in front of two witnesses and in the presence of a special rabbinical court called a beth din. The court then issues a certificate of divorce and hands that to both parties. If either party can’t make the appointment, however, they can choose an agent to stand in for them.

Other Interesting Religious Divorce Rituals from Around the World

An ethnic minority group in China, the Jing, writes a divorce certificate, but they are careful not to write it inside the home. Once it is signed, the pen and inkstone are thrown away, because they represent bad luck.

In Japan, one zen temple allows women the opportunity to literally flush their marriages down the toilet. In this ritual, the woman writes a list of post-marriage aspirations on a piece of paper and flushes it down the toilet.

Unitarian Universalists celebrate their divorce in a Ceremony of Hope. The couple gathers in front of family and friends and a minister to apologize to each other for any pain inflicted during the marriage. Family and friends vow to support the couple in their divorce just as they did in their marriage.

Divorce is arguably harder on children than it is on adults, particularly when the divorce necessitates a move. If the children of divorce are forced to switch schools, they must leave behind their friends and favorite teachers. This can be a challenge for even the most outgoing children. Thankfully, there are many ways you can help your kids navigate this difficult transition:

1. Enroll your kids in activities and sports outside of school.

Sports teams and other extracurricular activities are great for introducing your children to their potential new best friends. Little League, for example, will allow your kid to meet a whole new group of other kids who share the same interest. By the time school starts in the fall, your kids will have a group of friends eager to help them transition to their new school district.

2. Introduce them to the school during off hours.

A new school environment can be very intimidating for kids. Ask one of the school’s administrators if your kids can visit their new school when no other children are there. This will prevent them from feeling lost and helpless on the first day of school.

3. Avoid the bus for the first few days.

The school bus can be a scary place for kids, especially when they don’t know anybody on their route. Skip this anxiety-inducing orientation by dropping your kids off at school in the morning and picking them up in the afternoon. If this is not possible, try to get in touch with other families on the bus route before school begins.

4. Help your kids keep in contact with their old friends.

Thanks to social media and the internet, it is easier than ever to stay in contact with loved ones from afar. Encourage your kids to communicate with their friends online, and if possible, arrange for them to get together during the weekend.

5. Talk to your kids about the transition.

Sometimes, the easiest way to help your children is through simple communication. Listen to any issues they may have, and work with them to find the best possible solution.

You’ve filed for divorce. It’s a process that can take plenty of time, even when uncontested. Your lawyer will likely advise you to avoid contact with your ex at this time, but checking in on them on social media can be tempting. Resist the urge to check his or her Facebook page; it’s unproductive emotionally, and it may even affect your case.

Social media is a useful tool for many things, but it’s made divorces more difficult. It means we have to see our ex’s posts every day. Lawyers may even scour your Facebook page for incriminating information. For example, say you’re in the negotiating stage of spousal support, and you’re posting information about your latest shopping spree. Lawyers could use such posts as evidence of disposable income.

Use the following good social media habits during a divorce:

Watch What You Post

If you’re feeling frustrated about the latest blip in your divorce proceeding, it can be quite tempting to vent on Facebook. Such an act may negatively affect your case. Join a private support divorce group, or talk to friends privately. It’s healthy to talk through your emotions but not in a public medium.

Keep your soon-to-be ex-spouse and children out of all your status updates. Refrain from commenting on your days in court or any communications from the other side. Post about other things. Save your arguments for your lawyer and the courtroom.

Check Your Privacy Settings

Block your soon-to-be ex-spouse on Facebook and other social media outlets to avoid temptation. Such an act will prevent you from seeing his or her status updates. It also prevents him or her from finding you. Check your privacy settings on all social media outlets to see who can find your page and what information is available to the public—and lawyers.

Step Away From the Computer

Divorces are emotionally-trying proceedings. Checking Facebook constantly won’t help you feel better. It may actually make you feel worse. Get away from your virtual friends, and start spending time with your real world ones. Get out of your house for a night: see a movie, get dinner, or organize a game night. Socializing with others will take your mind away from your current situation. Sitting at home and posting on social media will make you yearn for what you’re missing.

Getting married these days is expensive enough, with some even modest weddings costing six figures. Divorce can likewise be expensive, uncomfortable and messy. Understandably, many people want to shortcut the process to conserve resources and speed things up. In light of these economic realities, it’s probably not that surprising that a strange new phenomenon is gaining traction – the online divorce.

Can couples really dissolve a marriage by getting it done online?

Unfortunately, yes.

The process is often much cheaper than using an attorney (at least in the short term). It’s also faster. But it also carries tremendous risks and can, ironically, backfire and lead to months or years of expensive legal fighting.

If you and your partner agree on everything regarding your separation – division of assets, child custody arrangements, spousal support, etc. – then it is at least theoretically possible that you could get an online divorce and get through the process without bad repercussions. According to reports, you simply tell the divorce service what you want, and they draw up the paperwork.

Why Using an Attorney is Generally Much Better Than Relying on an Online Divorce Service

If you and your spouse disagree on financial matters, child custody arrangements, or basically anything, then you will almost certainly want to discuss your situation with an attorney. As a skeptical article in the Financial Times put it: “Would you do your own plumbing, pull out your own teeth, or self-diagnose an illness?”

The article continued with a cautionary tale from across the pond:

“A case in point is Andrew McLeod-Baikie, a 52-year-old father-of-four, who paid £600 to get an online divorce
from his wife Susan in 2011, according to reports of a magistrates’ court hearing. Mr McLeod-Baikie, however, did not obtain the decree absolute, which makes a divorce official, before marrying again. His first wife alerted the authorities when she saw pictures of his second wedding on Facebook.  Mr McLeod-Baikie, of Cresselly, Pembrokeshire, pleaded guilty to bigamy. Magistrates at Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, fined him £400 and ordered him to pay £400 in costs, according to a report of the hearing in the Daily Telegraph.”

An attorney can fight for your rights in the divorce and seek to get you a fair outcome. With an online divorce service, meanwhile, you may never even speak to an attorney. Your paperwork will simply be a cookie-cutter form that may have been prepared by an attorney, but it will be in no way customized for your unique situation. By hiring an attorney to handle your divorce, you ensure that you have an advocate who will speak for you in the legal system.

The myth that half of all marriages today end in divorce is a throw-back to the 1980s, when the divorce rate was at its highest. Since then, the divorce rate has steadily dropped. Recent statistical analyses offer insight into the factors that indicate the likelihood of divorce – or happily ever after.

The Education Factor

The divorce rate for men with a high school degree or less is 39%. For women with a similar education level, the divorce rate is 37%. For people who have obtained at least a bachelor’s degree, the divorce rate drops to 28% for men and 29% for women.

The Race Factor

Native Americans have the highest divorce rate: 44% for men and 45% for women. Black Americans are next – the divorce rate in that community, according to relatively recent data, is about 42% for both men and women. Among white Americans, 36% of men and 38% of women divorce. Hispanic-Americans have an even lower divorce rate: 27% for men and 30% for women. Asian-Americans have the lowest divorce rate: 16% for men and 18% for women.

Reasons for Divorce

Every couple faces challenges, but just a handful of problems cause most divorces. These include:

•    Marrying for the Wrong Reasons. Many people get divorced because their reasons for marrying never added up in the first place and/or because these reasons ultimately stopped inspiring progress and growth in the relationship.

•    Losing Individual Identity. Married people who sacrifice or ignore their own interests often end up feeling as if they don’t know themselves. The resentment and other negative emotions that flow from this fundamental problem break down the relationship.

•    Having Different Concepts of Success. For some people, success means acquiring a big house, an expensive car, fine clothes, country club memberships, boats and other worldly goods and social status. For others, success means security to travel freely and pursue artistic ambitions. Debates about the fundamentals of “a good life” – for instance, arguments over when or whether to have children – can lead to the end of a relationship.

•    Dwindling Intimacy. Exhaustion from work, childcare, and other obligations can understandably have a negative impact on a couple’s intimacy. A lack of physical connection can degrade the couple’s sexual relationship, paving the way for dissatisfaction and divorce.

•    Struggling to Resolve Conflicts. Couples who learn how to fight constructively – that is, who know how to resolve disputes effectively and let go of annoyances that are beyond control – tend to stay married longer than do couples who react in passive aggressive fashion or who hold grudges.

This may seem odd coming from a divorce lawyer…but there are many resources throughout the Twin Cities for those who are aiming to reconcile, or avoid divorce. Church groups, individual pastoral care, counseling, marriage courses, books and podcasts may be beneficial to you.

What happens when a married couple in Minnesota files for divorce, and one of them receives disability benefits? How will spousal maintenance, child support and the disability benefits themselves be affected? The outcome depends on the definition of marital property, how that marital property will be divided and the nature of the benefits.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is considered household income under Minnesota law, while Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is not. This distinction comes into play in certain circumstances regarding spousal maintenance and child support.

SSDI, SSI and Marital Property in Minnesota

Since Minnesota is not a community property state, how disability benefits are split when a marriage dissolves depends on a number of factors. These include:

•    Both spouse’s financial standing;
•    Each spouse’s sources of income;
•    How long the couple was married; and
•    Who ends up with custody of the children

Other factors may also come into play – for instance, if these are any special needs children in the family who also receive benefits.

Disability Benefits and Spousal Maintenance

A spouse receiving SSI benefits may see a reduction in benefits if they receive spousal maintenance. SSDI is generally not affected by alimony. For that reason, you might consider other equitable distribution options, such as adjustments to other property awards.

On August 1, 2016, a Minnesota law went into effect that reduces or terminates spousal maintenance if the receiving spouse cohabitates with another partner after the divorce.

SSI, SSDI and Child Support

Child support offers its own challenges. For instance, let’s say a child receives SSI, and the spouse with custody is awarded child support. That arrangement will affect the child’s SSI benefits. As an alternative, you could ask that child support be placed in a special needs trust (SNT). If a child receives SSDI based on a parent’s disability, the court will likely take that factor into account when establishing child support.

Divorce can get ugly without the complications of travel. However, if you travel a lot for business, and you find yourself involved in a divorce, you could find yourself under heavy stress. Here are five ways you can deal with your divorce and extensive business travel.

1.    Plunge ahead – If there are no children or pets involved, you could easily get away with traveling for your job. Whether you are an entrepreneur or business owner, a high-level executive, or you simply work in an occupation that requires travel (airline pilot, for instance), there is no need to change your lifestyle if your divorce won’t affect anyone but you and your spouse.

2.    Cut back on the travel – On the other hand, if you could lose custody of your children, or you are afraid your spouse may end up with custody more often, then you could strategically curb your trips. This is the course of action many entrepreneurs have taken. Being the owner of a business can be an advantage. If you’re an employee, check with your boss to see if this is an option.

3.    Change careers – If cutting back on the hours is not an option, and you want to ensure that you have joint custody of the children with your spouse, consider making an abrupt move, like changing careers or radically rethinking your position. Look for something that doesn’t require travel.

4.    Change your travel destinations – If possible, try to alter your travel destinations so that you aren’t away from home as often or for shorter periods of time. If you’re a truck driver, for instance, you might ask to make shorter runs or handle more local routes.

5.    Negotiate with your spouse – Many spouses will work with their former partners for the benefit of future relations and the sake of the children. Talk it out.

Story 1: Two Biological Sisters Adopt Two Biological Sisters

One birth mother, Lyndi, had a baby girl in 2012. She decided to place the child with a loving couple, Amanda and her husband, Jared, whom she met through a mutual friend. They had an open adoption, and she was involved with the family and in the baby’s life, even spending time on vacation with them and getting to know the extended family.

About two years later, Lyndi became pregnant again with another little girl. This time, she decided to turn the baby over to Amanda’s sister, Celeste, and her husband, Josh. This adoption is open as well.

Story 2: Nia Vardalos: Hollywood Star Receives the Surprise of Her Life

Nia Vardalos, the writer and actress who penned “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” along with the sequel, recently revealed that she was on the list for foster adoption for years with no success before finally getting a call. The social worker on the other end told her that the agency had a 3-year-old girl for them who would be there the next day. Her husband, Ian, also an actor, was just as elated as she was. The following morning, he took off to buy a few things and returned with a vehicle loaded down with all kinds of dresses, toys, blankets and assorted things — most of them in pink.

At night, their new daughter was afraid. So Nia and Ian took turns holding her until she fell asleep. She has since grown up to be secure and happy. Nia has now become a spokesperson for National Adoption Day to dispel some of the myths surrounding foster care and adoption.

Story 3: Family Adopts Boy with No Arms or Legs

The moment she saw his photo, Bowen’s adoptive mother fell in love with him. Bowen had been abandoned at a Serbian orphanage in 2009. His adoptive parents flew there to adopt the 18-month-old little boy, born without limbs. He had been left in his crib 23 hours a day and only removed to be fed or have his diaper changed. He was still an infant, and he couldn’t chew, sit up, talk or roll over. They had to teach him everything.

Even so, his two older brothers welcomed him with open arms. His parents push him, so he’s willing to try anything. He’s in a mainstream class, and he’s become one of the top students. His mother emphasized that he was full of joy and that he brought joy to everyone he knows.

Story 4: Adopting a Baby at 41

After struggling with infertility and several miscarriages, Mike and Kim adopted their baby boy when she was 41. When her father-in-law first suggested adoption, she still held out hope for becoming pregnant. But the last infertility treatment failed, so she was ready to submit the paperwork, preparing for a possibly long wait.

But it wasn’t long before she got the call from the social worker, instructing her to attend a meeting the next day during her normal work hours. When she pressed for more information, he dropped the bomb: She would be meeting with the birth mom, soft-spoken Joan, 14 years old.

The birth – and the adoption – went through without a hitch, and Mike and Kim welcomed their newborn son into their home a short time later.

If you plan to divorce, you will face numerous concerns. One of the greatest will likely involve how to manage your money. Whether you initiated the divorce or not, chances are your finances will take a huge hit: data show that income drops by more than 40 percent for women and by about 25 percent for men during divorce. Couples who divorce in their 40s or 50s also face the problem of fewer years to prepare for retirement, and with life expectancy lasting into the 80s for women, people need to stretch their dollars further than ever. The following budgeting dos and don’ts for newly separated couples can help you prepare.

Tip #1 — Do Plan Ahead – Don’t Overspend

Sit down with a financial planner, and take a hard look at your finances, including your retirement plans. Consider the timing of your retirement and what it will take to set up a comfortable future. Don’t assume that your ex will plan for your future or keep your best interests at heart.

Tip #2 — Review All Debts and Assets – Don’t Take Your Partner’s Word

Minnesota is not a community property state; instead, the courts divide property based on a legal idea called equitable distribution. In other words, the judge will determine what’s fair when splitting up assets and debts. Nevertheless, you could still be responsible for some of your ex’s debt, even if the debt was incurred under his or her name. Keep track of all records, and make copies of all relevant documents, including taxes, banking information, credit card statements, deeds, car registrations and anything else that your attorney suggests. If you have separate property, track the paperwork to verify that it is solely your property.

Tip #3 — Do Assess the Value of the Home – Don’t Refuse to Sell the House

A house can be a money pit, and it might make better sense to sell it, instead placing the money into something like a retirement account.

Tip #4 — Do Consider Social Benefits – Don’t Forget Your Spouse’s Earnings

Even if you worked for much of your life, you might be entitled to your spouse’s Social Security benefits under the following conditions:

•    You are at least 62;
•    You were married at least 10 years;
•    You did not remarry; and
•    Your spouse’s earnings qualify you for a higher benefit than your own earnings.

Even if your spouse remarries, you are still eligible for these benefits.

Tip #5 — Do Review Tax Consequences – Don’t Necessarily Take a Lump Payoff for Alimony or Retirement

With the help of a tax consultant, consider which option makes more sense for you. Tax considerations can affect the sale of the home, the division of assets and the establishment of alimony and child support payments.