This quote is a fan favorite on our Instagram channel, and we thought it was a perfect way to open our first episode with our favorite divorce lawyer, Erin Levine!
Erin does an amazing job of clearly explaining everything you need to know about the divorce process, and at the same time she’s so compassionate and thoughtful, it feels like you’re getting expert advice from a girlfriend. That combination is why she’s our favorite, and why we’re so excited to share this episode with you guys today.
On this week’s episode:
- Where to start once you’ve decided to get a divorce
- How the legal process of divorce differs from state to state
- Do you need a lawyer to get divorced?
- Alimony and spousal support
- Division of assets
- Divorce strategies- why they’re important and how to develop one
- How long does the divorce process take?
- What are the common landmines of divorce?
- What should you keep in mind while going through a divorce?
- Self-care and divorce
- How to tell friends and family about your divorce
- What to do when your divorce is finalized
Audrey: 00:00 Welcome to Divorce and Other Things You Can Handle a branded podcast from Worthy. I’m Audrey and I’m your host. “The best revenge is to have enough self-worth not to seek it.” This quote is a fan favorite on our Instagram channel and we thought it was a perfect way to open our first episode with our favorite divorce lawyer. Erin Levine. Erin does an amazing job of clearly explaining everything you need to know about the divorce process and at the same time she’s so compassionate and thoughtful and it just feels like you’re getting expert advice from a girlfriend.
That combination is why she is our favorite and why we are so excited to share this episode with you today. Divorce and Other Things You Can Handle is a weekly podcast so make sure you subscribe to keep up with new episodes for curating to help empower and uplift you as you embrace your fresh start. This podcast is for you so reach out to us at email@example.com to let us know what you think and that you want to hear. You can also learn more about us at worthy.com/podcast. We’re going to take a quick break and then we will be right back with Erin.
When you sell a piece of jewelry you can’t control how much it’s worth. But you can make sure that you’re selling smart with a team of experts and advocates behind you at Worthy. Your engagement ring can be a financial asset that allows you to embrace a new and fulfilling life after divorce. Let us help you get the best deal possible for the jewelry you’ve outgrown. Go to worthy.com/podcast to learn more.
I am very, very excited. We have a super special guest today on our podcast. You might know her from our blog, she’s written some amazing pieces about selling the family home after divorce, starting your next chapter after divorce, the checklist that you need for your new beginning, she is a divorce lawyer and the Founder and CEO of Hello Divorce. She has been practicing for 12 years with contested and cooperative divorces and she has this amazing respected boutique family law firm in the bay area. She was also on our panel to help select the winner of our Worthy Women’s Professional Studies Scholarship and she provides both expertise and sensitivity and a really fresh prospective on the divorce process. So I am so excited to welcome Erin Levine to the podcast today.
Erin Levine: 02:40 Ah, thank you so much, that was such a beautiful introduction. I am a huge fan of Worthy. Both the service and the blog. It’s really remarkable and I’m so happy to be involved with it and happy to be talking to you today.
Audrey: 02:55 Oh thank you so much I am so glad that you feel that way. It’s totally mutual, we just love you and we love Hello Divorce. And I thought it would be great if we started, maybe you can tell our listeners a little bit about Hello Divorce.
Erin Levine: 03:07 Oh sure, so Hello Divorce was formed out of my desire to make a really complicated process a lot easier on people. In California alone nearly 500,000 people are thrown into the divorce legal process every year. We really only had two viable options before Hello Divorce. We had the traditional lawyer or mediator and then we had these divorce document preparation services. But there wasn’t really an option that sort of melded the two. What I found is while these document preparation services are wonderful, almost everyone, at least one point in their divorces needs, or would benefit from some legal advice. And so we set out to create Hello Divorce, which combines a do it yourself aspect with on-demand fix-fee legal help when you need it for your divorce.
Audrey: 04:14 Well that’s incredible. I don’t know of anybody else whose doing something like that and your website is so user friendly and I know that you’re practicing in California and we’re going to talk a little bit about how the process is different in different places but I think that your website and all of your social channels, your content is just super helpful for people who are going through a divorce anywhere. So one of the things that we’re going to do today is we’re going to talk a little bit about common questions that people send you guys and this basically just like a very easy overview of the divorce process for people who are thinking about it or who are wondering that could be ahead of them with this. We’re just going to jump right in to it. So if somebody is thinking about a divorce where do they start? What happens?
Erin Levine: 05:07 Well I think it’s different for everyone, but I do think that the one thing that we need to think about and talk about when it comes to divorce is that the prevailing media looks at divorce as an event. Right? As if you wake up one day and say, “I want a divorce and the next day it’s over.” One thing that your listeners know intuitively, but maybe don’t see on TV or in the media is that divorce is not an event but rather it’s a journey and it takes time and if you do it right, or if you do it in a mindful way where you put yourself first and you really strategically think about it then you can come out in a much better, much healthier and hopefully happier place when you’re finished.
So I usually say that the first step to take is to get a support system in place. To look around you and to try to find the people that feel like sunshine.
Audrey: 06:23 I love that, feel like sunshine, that’s nice.
Erin Levine: 06:27 Yeah, I think that’s so important, right. Like to have a community around you and it might not be a lot of people it might just be a couple people but to have some close friends or family members that you can go to when you have a tough moment along the journey, because all of us do and will and who you trust their voice. You know a lot of the time when we talk about divorce to our friends and family they get very defensive for us and protective and if they hear us talk negatively about our spouse they tend to jump right in and agree, yes you should get a divorce. That might not be the case. Maybe what you want is just somebody to listen to and emphasize with you and hear you and maybe not provide a solution. And so I would say get your support system in place and then talk to these people and tell them what you need in the moment.
Is it that you need help getting through your divorce? Is it that you’re just not sure whether you want a divorce and you’d like them to listen or provide real solutions here. And so I think number one is get that support system in place.
Audrey: 07:42 That’s very helpful. Between the Worthly blog and Hello Divorce and so many other places, I think some of your support can be crowdsourcing and finding this community of people who are going through some similar stuff. That can also be another form of support, right?
Erin Levine: 08:03 Oh I absolutely agree. I think that the first thing you don’t do is jump on Google and start typing what is spousal support going to look like? Or how much property am I going to have to give away. I think, when I say put your support system in place, I agree with you. That can also be your online community as well and you want to look for resources like Worthy, like Hello Divorce that really consider the whole self not just what the practical aspects of your divorce are going to look like, but how you can take care of yourself through the process and how you can move on feeling better than you ever have before. And so yes, I would absolutely agree with that. I know I’ve had clients and users through Hello Divorce that read the Worthly blog and have commented on them and then from there, drum up online friendships and that’s been remarkable, so I absolutely think that yes including an online support system and finding resources online that help support you through this time is key.
Audrey: 09:17 Great, so let’s take a step back and look at the legal process from a national perspective. So obviously these laws are different state-to-state. Can you give us kind of a general overview of what the divorce process is like?
Erin Levine: 09:33 Sure, I’m going to do my obligatory legal disclaimer and say that I am not giving legal advice even in California where I practice, but I am quite familiar with many of the laws in other states and in fact am looking to expand nationally so this is a really important topic to me and I really like helping people understand what they have in front of them. Kind of like a tour guide of sorts. Okay, so in every state divorce is a legal process. So the way our state, the way our country looks at divorce is not only about love but this financial contract that you and your spouse have entered into when you got married and now we need to dissolve that contact.
Audrey: 10:21 Okay.
Erin Levine: 10:21 So, every divorce starts with one, or the other party filing a petition for divorce, or the first legal document that tells the court and possibly your partner if you haven’t told them that you are ready to start this divorce that you are ready to move forward with the legal proceedings.
Okay if you want a divorce, you don’t need to start there. You don’t need to immediately file because there are several different ways to do your divorce and what I mean by that is through a lawyer or mediation or service like Hello Divorce, which we’ll get to in a few minutes. But really just from a purely legal perspective every divorce starts with this petition.
Then many people seem to think that means now that I’ve filed something in court, I’m going to have to go to court and that’s really not the case. So there’s going to point in your divorce, both of you are going to have to exchange financial disclosures, so meaning that everything is going to need to get on the table. We have to be as transparent as possible with information. So after the first couple documents that are filed in court and I’m not going to go into huge specifics around that because they do vary from state to state. But generally the next part of your divorce will be to exchange all these documents that explain what your general financial situation is in your marriage. And for many couples who’ve had joint accounts, who have always been open and transparent with their finances there’s not going to be any surprises here and the next step will be to try to work out an agreement for how these assets and debts are going to be divided.
For some couples they’ve always kept their finances separate, they’ve always had separate accounts.
Audrey: 12:30 And does that make it easier?
Erin Levine: 12:33 I tend to think that it makes it a lot harder. Sometimes there’s more distrust. When you’ve kept your finances separate for so long there’s tendency to think that what is mine, is mine and what’s yours is yours. And that might completely be the case but in most states it’s not the case. So regardless of how you held your assets, meaning if you put your income into one account in your name and spouse put her income or his income in another account in her name, most states say, “Well that doesn’t mean that what you have is yours and what the other spouse has is theirs.” What it means is that we need to figure out what the pot is, what everyone has and try to divide it. So I think that actually tends to be even more complicated.
Then sometimes the spouse that won’t share the information that’s necessary. There’re all sorts of legal avenues that we can go to get that information. But obviously that adds a level of complication to a divorce. So you’ve done your initial documents, you’ve exchanged your financial disclosures and at this point you have a couple options for your divorce. Some people jump to court because that is a very common practice and sort of what’s seen in popular media. Everybody divorces in court. Many couples do not. Many of them will work outside of the court process to kind of come to an agreement and there’re many things you need to agree on.
One is property and debt division which I just touched upon. If you have kids, you’re going to need to think about a parenting plan and some guidelines for how you’re going to raise your kids together but apart. There are legal fees. Who’s going to pay them and how much are they? And then there’s the financial support issues as well. Which in most states include child support and spousal support. But not every state in the United States has alimony or spousal support so it would really vary depending on what state you’re in.
Audrey: 15:01 Okay, so this is probably the first of many questions I’m going to have. What is the difference between alimony and spousal support?
Erin Levine: 15:11 It’s the same thing.
Audrey: 15:12 Okay, great.
Erin Levine: 15:14 Some states call it alimony and some call it spousal support, but it’s essentially the same thing.
Audrey: 15:19 All right, so we’ve touched on spousal support and now let’s keep going through the process.
Erin Levine: 15:26 Okay so once we have an agreement, or if we don’t have an agreement, once we have some court orders or decisions on these issues, then the next step is getting all of that down into a written agreement or written order that everybody signs and that will ultimately be submitted to the court. By submitted I don’t mean necessarily having to go in and show your face. Usually it means filing it, or just bringing it to the courthouse to have it filed, and then at that time your judge will review the agreement and review the documents and hopefully and most case scenarios will approve your divorce judgment, stamp it, sign it and file it, and then it will be returned to you with the date that your divorce is final.
Audrey: 16:18 Okay great. So you mentioned that not everybody goes to court, some people do mediation. Do you need a lawyer to get divorced?
Erin Levine: 16:31 So that’s a really good question, and it really depends on where you are emotionally in the process meaning if you don’t feel like you can advocate for yourself or you’re just really in the grieving piece of ending a long time relationship then certainly that might be an important time to think about having an attorney so that you can focus on you. So when deciding whether to have an attorney we need to look at the emotional piece, we need to look at the …
Erin Levine: 17:00 Attorney, we need to look at the emotional piece. We need to look at the relationship dynamics, so if there’s some big issues with power and control, or domestic violence, in that case I certainly also recommend having an attorney.
Audrey: 17:14 Right.
Erin Levine: 17:16 And then the complexity of the estate. So if you have some really complex assets, or division issues, or you have a major dispute around child custody such as one spouse wanting to move to another state, or out of the country with your children. Things like that, really complex issues, you would certainly benefit from a lawyer. My suggestion is this, I think everyone should spend at least 15 minutes to an hour with a seasoned divorce attorney.
Audrey: 17:52 Okay.
Erin Levine: 17:54 I think that for that amount of money, you will really be able to determine whether or not you need a lawyer through the process, and if not, at least you have someone on your team, on your side, if you do run into some issues along the way because sometimes that happens. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re fighting with your ex.
Audrey: 18:18 Of course, right.
Erin Levine: 18:20 So as an example, one of you might have some stock options that you acquired during the marriage, and you just want to know how to divide them fairly, and what the law says in terms of how to divide them. And in that scenario, it might be a really good idea to consult a lawyer, or a forensic accountant, and knowing that there’s one there that you trust, and that you like is a really good idea. But in general, I saw that most people don’t need to hire a traditional, full representation lawyer, on retainer.
Audrey: 18:57 Okay, what does that mean?
Erin Levine: 18:59 So in this country, when we think of a divorce lawyer, or how to hire a lawyer for divorce, we think about paying a retainer, usually in the neighborhood of five to $10,000 and that retainer guarantees that divorce lawyer’s availability.
Audrey: 19:17 Okay.
Erin Levine: 19:18 And usually what happens, is then this divorce attorney represents you, and handles all the legal aspects related to your divorce, so everything from the filing of the documents, to the advocating on your behalf, to going to court, and so on and so forth. There is no guarantee what your total fees will be. So you might start with a $5,000 retainer and end up spending 17, to 20, to 30, maybe even $50,000 for your attorney. In California alone, the average cost per person of attorney’s fees for even only one person without children, is $17,500.
Audrey: 20:10 Wow.
Erin Levine: 20:10 So before you run out and hire an attorney, and I recognize to a certain extent, I’m negotiating against myself her because I do have a law firm.
Audrey: 20:18 Right.
Erin Levine: 20:19 In the Bay Area, but before you go out and hire an attorney, I really want you to talk to one you trust, to do some research on the law, and to come to that meeting really prepared to ask some of those hard line questions as to … to determine whether or not it makes sense for you to hire a lawyer full-time. I also have noticed that when people lawyer up, meaning when they hire a full representation lawyer, that generally puts off the other spouse, or can make them really nervous and can drive conflict up.
And then, the third piece is when you hire on full representation, most attorneys expect to litigate in court. That’s what we’re taught in law school, and that’s what the legal profession sort of does in general. So while you want to have an attorney who can advocate, and be a really good litigator if necessary, you certainly don’t want to hire a more traditional attorney who is just going to run to court every time there’s an issue that can’t be resolved by one phone call, or short email.
Audrey: 21:31 I think going back to something that you said in the beginning of the episode, about how it’s really important to have your support network set up. I think that this initial meeting with a lawyer is an important piece of that because you want to have somebody who you can rely on. It’s an incredibly overwhelming experience, and you want someone who you trust, who has your best interest in mind, and who has the expertise to get you to the other side. And your website has a lot of useful questions that people can ask lawyers, and the right steps forward to forming that relationship, right?
Erin Levine: 22:08 Oh, absolutely. So we have a lot of blogs and articles about how to get started and what you should be doing to prepare for your divorce in terms of the practical aspects of things, like gathering documents, and what questions to ask a potential lawyer or mediator. And then of course, if you’re in California, we offer 15 minutes free so we can get to know you a little bit better.
Audrey: 22:34 That’s so wonderful.
Erin Levine: 22:35 And give you like our preliminary view as sort of a plan that you can take with you. Now, plans change, but a plan as to how you can get started.
Audrey: 22:43 I imagine that that really helps people feel that support that we were talking about, and we’re talking about the average cost of a divorce, I know this can get so, so overwhelming and finding somebody who can help you feel safe and supported throughout the process is really, really important.
Erin Levine: 23:03 Right, and the costs can be overwhelming, and I know I jumped to that. But I just want to let your listeners know that as we continue to talk through today’s podcast, I’m going to give you a lot of different options other than hiring that traditional attorney.
Audrey: 23:17 Right.
Erin Levine: 23:17 A lot more cost effective options.
Audrey: 23:20 But, our Worthy listeners also know that are Worthy, we’re not going to give them bullshit. We’re going to tell them truth, and we’re going to talk about it no matter how hard it is.
Erin Levine: 23:31 Absolutely.
Audrey: 23:31 So we’re going to take a quick break, and then we’re going to dive back in with Erin Levine.
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Audrey: 24:12 Okay, we are back. So Erin, one of the things that I love about your approach, is you talk about your divorce strategy, right?
Erin Levine: 24:24 Yes.
Audrey: 24:25 So I want you to tell our listeners a little bit about strategy for divorce, what you mean by that, and why it’s so important?
Erin Levine: 24:33 Well, I think that most of us, most of our community who gets divorced, the hardest part is not actually imagining, for a lot of us, what life will look like post-divorce. It’s really trying to live in this transitionary state between marriage and divorce. How will my kids feel when this is all said and done? How will my spouse react when I tell her or him I want a divorce?
Audrey: 25:04 Right.
Erin Levine: 25:05 That space of time between marriage and divorce, when you’re working on all the practical aspects that come up with divorce. To me and to a lot of people I know, it seems very overwhelming and stressful. And so, I felt and feel that it’s very important that we develop a strategy at the start of our divorce so that we can feel more comfortable living in transition, facing the unknown, and then have a much higher likelihood of turning this chapter of our life into a new one with like a better, stronger, healthier version of ourselves.
Audrey: 25:42 That’s so great.
Erin Levine: 25:43 Thank you. Yeah, partially inspired by many of the articles written on Worthy, especially Stacey Freeman’s which I just think are phenomenal.
Audrey: 25:53 Oh, that’s so sweet. She’ll be so happy to hear that. We actually are doing an episode with her next week.
Erin Levine: 26:01 Oh, I’m so happy to hear that because she has a really interesting perspective, both a legal perspective, but then also having gone through a divorce, and been so transparent about that experience, and what post-divorce life looks like, I think it will be an incredible episode.
Audrey: 26:18 Yeah, we’re very excited. So you also talk a lot about the importance of self-care during divorce, so tell us a little bit what you mean, and what you recommend?
Erin Levine: 26:31 Sure, I definitely believe that self-care, and self-love, and self-knowingness is a huge part of that strategy that is important to have at the start of your divorce. So it doesn’t mean that your strategy isn’t going to change throughout the course of your divorce, it might.
Audrey: 26:50 Okay.
Erin Levine: 26:51 And that’s totally fine, but we want to get you started out on the right foot, and we want to do it in such a way that if your strategy has to change, it’s not going to devastate your legal action, or your personal life. So let me talk a little bit about what I mean by establishing a strategy. So first of all, if this is possible and recognize it’s not with everyone. But if it’s possible, I highly recommend that you establish some ground rules with your spouse. So what I mean by this, is either sitting down together in a neutral location, or a park, or with a couple’s therapist if you have one, and talking about the ground rules that the two of you are going to follow while navigating your divorce.
So a lot of our users sit down, sometimes even with a wellness coach, and they’ll discuss when they’re going to get divorced, if it makes sense to do it this year or the following year. How they’re going to go about it, whether they’re going to use a mediator, or service like Hello Divorce, or traditional attorneys. And what the endgame will look like, whether or not they want to fight it out in court and have a judge make decisions, or more likely, is the goal to work on an agreement that they both can live with that’s not a zero-sum game, but more of an agreement that has terms that they both feel good about. So that’s number one. I always say let’s establish ground rules if possible.
Audrey: 28:27 That’s very good advice, and of course, as you said, it’s not a super possible thing for a lot of our listeners, but I think it’s easier for everyone when you can establish those rules.
Erin Levine: 28:38 Certainly, yeah. So with Hello Divorce, many of our users can do that. At Levine Family Law Group, my law firm, that’s not usually the case. And so, in that scenario, what we do is at least try to have the parties encourage each other to pick lawyers that are settlement-minded.
Audrey: 28:55 Okay.
Erin Levine: 28:56 So that yeah, maybe we don’t agree on much or anything at all, but if we pick lawyers that at least will try to resolve this outside of court, outside that huge expense, then maybe that will help save on the time cost, and emotional exhaustion that can come with a highly contested divorce. So that’s step one. The second step is, my strategy, would be to learn the basics of what divorce looks like. So if you’re in California, or even outside of California but want a general understanding of what divorce will look like from a practical perspective, then you can certainly jump on Hello Divorce, and sign up for free membership.
But if you live in California, with Hello Divorce, you’ll really be able to get a good idea of what the process and the law looks like. So I strongly suggest that you learn the basics of what law looks like in your state. Again, whether or not alimony is an option. How the court decides parenting disputes. So you don’t necessarily need to get this information directly from a lawyer, you can reserve your time with a lawyer, and your money to spend it on a lawyer to really help you problem solve. But when it comes to learning the basic information, there’s a wealth of knowledge out there, and while it’s tricky to find good websites, there certainly are them out there, and I strongly encourage that you take a look at some of those, and just like learn the basics of what your divorce might look like.
Audrey: 30:48 Right.
Erin Levine: 30:48 So the third piece of the strategy is to determine your approach. So this is, how am I going to resolve the issues that come up in my divorce? And for some of you, you might not have an option. You might have to immediately jump to sort of a lawyer up mentality if your spouse is either playing games, or has gotten their own aggressive lawyer, and that’s one strategy, right? Certainly it’s not one that you get to choose, but you do get to choose who you hire.
And so, I’d strongly encourage if you go that route, to look for word-of-mouth referrals for people that have had positive experiences with a lawyer that you’re hiring. And I also encourage you to interview more than one lawyer because it’s an extremely personal decision, and you’re going to be sharing a lot of intimate details of your life, and you’re trusting this person to lead you through a pretty complex system. So that is probably a topic for a whole other podcast or article. But lawyering up is one way to approach divorce. There’s also mediation, which is a great way to resolve issues in a divorce, if you and your spouse are on the same page with sitting down with a lawyer, or certified divorce financial analyst and trying to resolve your issues in that form.
So many of our users are in mediation, if not through us, then with a separate party, but use our service to get some coaching along the way, maybe pay for one hour or two of our time just to sort of strategize mediation. Especially if your spouse is far more financially savvy, you’re definitely going to want to think about what you can do to advocate for yourself and negotiate your best result in mediation. Because in mediation, you’re generally not represented.
Audrey: 32:46 That’s good advice.
Erin Levine: 32:47 So there’s a couple other ways, and I know that we’re probably short on time, so I don’t want to go into too much detail, but one is a collaborative divorce. And this is expensive, but not as expensive as a highly contested divorce. This is where both parties do have their own lawyers, and experts, but everything is resolved outside of court. So there’s no litigating inside a traditional court room. And then finally, there’s the work it out on your own strategy, with some help along the way. So this is like the Hello Divorce platform.
Audrey: 33:19 Right.
Erin Levine: 33:20 Or even using a legal coach, so a lawyer in your community that offers limited scope assistance, or legal coaching. So this is where you do a lot of the work on your own, or the planning, and someone comes in either a paralegal service, or a lawyer, to help you process, and negotiate, and ultimately get your divorce finalized.
Audrey: 33:45 Okay, that’s all really interesting and helpful. I didn’t even know that last part was an option.
Erin Levine: 33:52 Oh, yeah. Absolutely. And more and more people are doing it, especially as information becomes more transparent on the web.
Audrey: 33:59 Right, that makes sense.
Erin Levine: 34:00 So there’s a fourth piece to this strategy, and that is-
Erin Levine: 34:00 … So there’s a fourth piece to this strategy, and that is to be patient. That’s where the self love comes in, and remind yourself that this is an aggravating process, and most of us want to push through your divorce as quickly as you can, but that’s not going to lead to a good result. And so this piece of the strategy is to really indulge in self care and self love, and pause, really consider the impact of your decisions thoroughly before making a decision. Really the only way to do that, the only way to slow the process down, is to care for yourself and have a really great support network as we discussed earlier. That would be the fourth piece of my strategy, and now I’m done. Sorry that was a lot longer, but I thought it was-
Audrey: 34:56 No, that was great. You know, step four that you were just talking about, we have this quote that we post every once in awhile because it’s by far everybody’s favorite. It’s, “Getting divorced sucks. Being divorced doesn’t.” I think that’s that little piece that you were talking about, about this is tough and it’s not gonna be easy, but it’s temporary and you can handle it.
Erin Levine: 35:23 Yes!
Audrey: 35:23 There’s a bright future ahead of you.
Erin Levine: 35:25 It’s so true. Nothing is permanent. I love that Worthy looks at it that way and that you guys enjoy those motivational and inspirational quotes, because for so long when we talked about divorce in social media and beyond, there was such a stigma attached to it.
Audrey: 35:25 Absolutely.
Erin Levine: 35:43 When we talked about divorce in the legal paradigm, there was so much fear and anger and aggression surrounding it. In fact, that is how many divorce attorneys motivate people is by that fear. “Hey if you don’t get some help, you’re going to lose X, Y, and Z.” I think it’s far more important to empower people with the knowledge and the support that they need so that they can make the decisions that work best for themselves, not having a third party do it for them.
Audrey: 36:16 I totally agree, and I also think, the truth is that the stigma is still very much in our society, but we hear from so many women every day that really are moving on after divorce and embracing their fresh start. There is life after divorce. There’s love after divorce. There’s happiness and healing. It doesn’t mean that it’s not hard, but it’s not forever, and there really is a bright day waiting for you.
Erin Levine: 36:48 Absolutely. Nothing is permanent. Whatever you’re feeling is not permanent. I’ve never had in my 13 plus years of practicing law, I’ve never ever had a woman come back to me and say, “I wish I was still married to that person.”
Audrey: 37:04 Yeah.
Erin Levine: 37:04 Because whatever was happening in that marriage that led to a divorce wasn’t satisfying, wasn’t working for them. It’s been really inspiring to see what some of our clients have done years later, the businesses that they’ve started, the communities that they’ve formed, the blogs that they’ve-
Audrey: 37:22 Yeah. You wrote this great piece for us. The next chapter is Sweet as Pie. Tell everybody about that.
Erin Levine: 37:29 Oh my goodness. Yeah, so Noreen is such a star. She reached out to Hello Divorce via Instagram, and wanted to share with me her story, which was remarkable. She was married very very young, and had a child quite young as well, and really felt that she had found her Prince Charming. Rather quickly into the relationship realized that there was some real power and control issues, but was willing to look past that to try to make her marriage work. I think that that was less about her being naïve and more about her just being young and romantic and wanting to see her relationship work. But in any case, her husband left her and it was a really devastating time for her. She started baking. She developed this new hobby that she really hadn’t done much of before. Her baking got better and better to the point where people were like, “You should sell your food. It’s amazing.” Ultimately, she was able to start a pie baking business in Los Angeles that has just become wildly popular.
Audrey: 38:43 It’s so cute. You know what, we’ll put a link to this at worthy.com/podcast, so if you haven’t read the article already you can find it there. It’s a great piece and it’s a great story. We’ve got a picture. It’s cute as pie too. It’s so great. It’s a really fun piece. So I know we’re running out of time, but I have just a couple questions. How long should somebody expect the divorce process to take? That’s an easy one right?
Erin Levine: 39:13 Right. I know. I have the typical lawyer answer. It depends. I can say that if your divorce is uncontested or moderately contested, meaning that there might be some issues, but the two of you can likely work it out together, then we’re looking at a three to eight month process. More complex divorces, depending on how proactive you and/or your spouse are, and the people that are supporting you through it, can be anywhere between six months to a year. I would say that highly contested divorces, which are not the norm, but certainly do exist, I see plenty of them every day. Those can be a year or two, or even more. One good question to ask your lawyer if you’re meeting with a lawyer is what’s the average length of his or her divorces in their office, because that is very telling.
Audrey: 40:14 Yeah, that’s very good advice. What happens when a divorce is final? What kinds of things does a woman need to worry about?
Erin Levine: 40:24 Well, I think that it’s really important once your divorce is final to make sure that you enforce all of the terms of your divorce agreement, or what we call divorce judgment.
Audrey: 40:39 Okay.
Erin Levine: 40:39 So as an example, if in your divorce judgment you divide retirement accounts, maybe there’s a retirement account in your name that needs to be divided or a retirement account in your spouse’s name, just by putting it in your divorce agreement that you agree to divide it, that’s not good enough. That doesn’t actually divide the account. So usually there’s some other step that you need to take to accomplish that. The first thing I would do after you celebrate that you got through a really really challenging time, would be to sit down with your divorce agreement and go through it line by line and determine what it is, if anything, that you need to do to make sure that you maximize the property and/or financial support that you’ve received via this agreement.
Audrey: 41:36 Okay.
Erin Levine: 41:37 So there’s other things too, maybe not quite as important to you, maybe more important. But if you want to legally change your name, by the mere fact that it’s in your judgment that you’ve returned to your maiden name, that’s not gonna be good enough either. You’re going to need to go to the Social Security office and the DMV and resolve that. We have explicit instructions and resources for how to do this via Hello Divorce, but you don’t need to do it right away. But if you do want to legally change your name back, then you’re going to need to take some steps to do that.
You may want to think about updating your emergency contact list either at work or your children’s’ schools. If the first person that people will contact is your spouse, or your ex spouse I should say, then that’s a problem. You’ll want to think about updating your estate plan, your will, or your trust. There’s lots of stuff that you want to do. I wrote a resource that I think will be beneficial to a lot of people, about what you need to do, what you should normally consider doing just after your divorce, from a legal and practical perspective. Divorce coaches and wellness coaches will have a variety of things that you should or may want to do after your divorce to celebrate you and to reclaim your whole self, but from a legal perspective, I did write a resource that’s published through Worthy that maybe we can link through this podcast.
Audrey: 43:09 Yep, you can find it worthy.com/podcast.
Erin Levine: 43:12 Okay, excellent. Thank you. All I was gonna say is that nothing needs to happen overnight, so once that divorce is final you can take a break. I would just say remind yourself or set an alarm or a calendar tickler just to remind yourself that there’s some housekeeping stuff that does need to be finalized before you can move on and put that chapter behind you.
Audrey: 43:37 Okay, that is really helpful. You can find so many other tips and really really helpful resources at Hello Divorce. Erin, do you want to tell everybody your social handles and the website and where they can find you?
Erin Levine: 43:54 Sure. So it’s really easy. It’s @hellodivorce. So you can find me on Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest @hellodivorce. The website itself is www.hellodivorce.com.
Audrey: 44:07 So Erin, we’re definitely gonna have to have you back soon, because we have to do this episode you mentioned about lawyering up and giving people more tips on a little bit of the nitty gritty, and all the other things that you have so much expertise and so many things that you can share with our audience. You have such a special way of approaching something that is so overwhelming and scary and hard, and making it cute like Hello Divorce, something easier to swallow. It’s something that every woman can get through and they don’t have to get through alone. I am so grateful that you were able to do this podcast, and I just have one more question for you.
Erin Levine: 44:48 Sure.
Audrey: 44:49 On your website, you say that you always eat ice cream with a fork and I have to know why.
Erin Levine: 44:56 I eat everything with a fork. I don’t like spoons, so cottage cheese, yogurt, ice cream, I love forks. I just don’t like spoons.
Audrey: 44:56 Okay.
Erin Levine: 45:07 So you’ll never catch me with a spoon unless it’s soup.
Audrey: 45:10 Okay, I thought maybe you’re a cookie dough lover or something. I didn’t know.
Erin Levine: 45:15 That too, definitely chocolate chip cookie dough, mint chocolate chip. Anything with chunks in it, peanut butter, so that is also very helpful to have a fork for.
Audrey: 45:26 That is fascinating. Okay, this is my real last question and it’s a quick answer. Is it okay for a woman to sell her engagement ring after divorce?
Erin Levine: 45:39 Absolutely.
Audrey: 45:41 Legally it’s okay to?
Erin Levine: 45:42 After the divorce is final?
Audrey: 45:43 Yeah.
Erin Levine: 45:44 Yes, absolutely. If the ring is assigned to you, which almost always it is because it’s a gift, so regardless of what state you’re in, it’s usually considered your sole and separate property. Assuming it is, then yes absolutely. I just had a woman who came in the other day to talk to me about another business venture, but she shared with me that her divorce had recently finalized and she sold her ring via Worthy. She’s quite young and her husband’s like 20 years older than her, and so she actually sold it because it was a gift and it’s hers. She sold it before the divorce was final to help fund her divorce and the next stage of her life, getting her security deposit for her new rental. But she said it was the easiest process-
Audrey: 46:33 Oh good.
Erin Levine: 46:33 And that it was really remarkable, and she only had positive things to say, which was so great for me to hear since I collaborate so much with you guys. I wanted to hear something positive. And yeah, she just volunteered that information.
Audrey: 46:48 Oh, that’s so great. Well that is a perfect place to end. So we’ll have you back soon and everybody should go check you out, worthy.com/podcast. We’ll link to a bunch of your stuff, and thank you.
Thanks again to Erin Levine for joining us and to all of you for listening. Next week we will be joined by Stacy Freeman talking about how she re-wrote her life story after divorce. Spoiler alert, it’s by writing for Worthy and many other places. You guys love her as much as we do, and you are not going to want to miss this episode.
Make sure you subscribe so you can catch every new episode of Divorce and Other Things You Can Handle in your feed weekly. If you like what you hear, rate and review us to help other women like you find us. Thanks for listening to Divorce and Other Things You Can Handle, a branded podcast from Worthy dedicated to celebrating women like you as you embrace a new beginning after divorce, separation, or whatever.
Worthy is an online auction platform designed to help you sell valuable items like an engagement ring or a wedding set. When you decide to send your ring in, we pay for the shipping and insurance to ensure that it arrives safely to our New York office. Once we receive the ring, we have it professionally graded and photographed, which helps it sell competitively in our buyer network.
One of the best parts of working with Worthy is that you get to set the minimum on your item. After the grading, our gemologist will give you a recommended selling minimum, but at the end of the day, you get to decide how little you’re willing to sell the ring for. If the highest bid comes in below that threshold and you decide not to accept it, we’ll send you your ring back and we’ll even cover the cost of the insured shipping again.
Let us help you get the best deal possible for the jewelry you’ve outgrown. Are you ready to embrace your fresh start? Us too! Go to worthy.com/podcast to learn more.
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