The Smart Divorce® Weblog

Move forward with focus, hope, and confidence.

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Seeking Help in a Physically Abusive Situation

What to do when there is domestic violence

The issue of domestic violence is extremely serious and far too complex to be covered in a few short paragraphs in this blog. I do not want to treat it lightly, and I am not an expert on the topic. However, I do think it is important to know the available resources. If you are living in this terrible circumstance, then the stakes of your divorce are that much higher, the physical and emotional pain that you face is far greater, and the need for a support system to help you through this time and maintain your sanity is that much more urgent. You can reach out to mental health professionals, support organizations, and the courts for assistance in helping you seek safety.


 – Mental health professionals. Look for someone who has training and competency in working with the dynamics of domestic violence and abuse. You may find someone with the appropriate training and understanding through your lawyer or family doctor.

 – Women’s shelters. If you are in an abusive, violent relationship, you may seek refuge in a shelter for a period of time.

 – The court system. You can use the courts to obtain a restraining order or a no contact order.


Help for Victims of Domestic Violence


National Domestic Violence Hotline

(800) 799-7233

The National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) is a not-for-profit organization that provides crisis intervention, information, and referrals to victims of domestic violence, perpetrators, friends, and families. The hotline answers a variety of calls and is a resource for domestic violence advocates, government officials, law enforcement agencies, and the general public. NDVH serves as the only domestic violence hotline in the United States and has access to more than five thousand shelters and domestic violence programs across the United States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.



Shelternet is a Canadian national not-for-profit charitable organization committed to working toward the prevention of violence against women and their children. Shelternet is dedicated to decreasing barriers faced by women accessing help online, and to increasing the technological capacities of shelters for abused women and their children. The site contains special sections on topics such as understanding abuse, finding shelter, and abuse and children.

Other ways to seek help: To find help in your local area via the Internet, use a search engine such as Google ( to look up phrases such as “assaulted women’s hotline,” “domestic violence,” “family violence,” “abusive situations,” and “shelters” along with the name of your city or area.

Call 911 or your local police if you are in immediate danger.


5 steps to post divorce happiness

Achieving happiness postdivorce is possible. But, like most things in life with a positive outcome, it requires hard work. There are things that you can do as you move through the divorce process to prepare and enable you to move forward with focus, hope and confidence; upon closing your divorce file.

Please click on the link to read more about tips and strategies as to how to accomplish postdivorce happiness. 5-steps-to-post-divorce-happiness-more-magazine-12

I wrote this article for More magazine’s online edition. More magazine is a publication which celebrates women over 40. Men should also feel comfortable reading this article as it offers great insight into moving on – postdivorce; tips that apply to both men and women. If you would like to browse through this magazine click on the following link:

Life is like a book: some chapters are more difficult to get through than others. When I started living on my own again, I thought about how the new chapters of my own life were going to be written. I began to ask myself many questions. Can people actually be single and happy postdivorce? If they can, how do they achieve this? What is their secret? Is it like one of those new fad diets–just follow these few simple steps and, poof, a new you, easily transformed while you sleep? Or can you only reach that elusive goal of happiness when you find that perfect mate–your knight in shining armor or damsel in distress?

Think about how you would like your life to look like postdivorce and start doing some of those things now. You have choices and control. It’s up to you as to how this new chapter in your life is going to be written.

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Hear Deborah on the radio……

Hear Deborah talk about

The Smart Divorce

I will be interviewed on July 21, 2008 on AM800’s ‘Windsor Now’ with Melanie Deveau.

Tune in to AM800 in Windsor, Ontario at 5:48 pm. I’ve been invited to speak about The Smart Divorce. You can also listen live online by going to the following link:

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Custody and Access – what’s the difference?

The terms custody and access have been getting a lot of attention in the media recently because of the open court room of the Christie Brinkley/Peter Cook trial.

It’s amazing how many clients have come to my office questioning the difference between custody and access for their children. There is a significant difference and it’s important to understand what they mean to help you with planning your child’s best interests when it comes to decision making and visitation.

The Globe and Mail ran an interesting article today on the evidence parents use when it comes to a battle – which is something you would rather avoid.

Click on this link to read the article:exhibit-a-his-3rd-grade-diorama-tralee-pearce1

What’s the difference?

Parents have both rights and responsibilities concerning their children. They must make decisions regarding their children’s health, education, and religion; support their children financially; and provide their children with a home. During the divorce process, however, the terms used to describe these rights and responsibilities can get confusing. Concepts often get mixed up, and definitions vary. As a result, parental expectations can become unclear.

In addition, the legal terms used by the lawyers, judges, and other professionals can sound so cold and clinical that they are difficult to hear. The experts may not refer to you as “parents” but as your children’s “decision makers.” Instead of discussing the time you have to spend with the kids, they may talk about “access.” I have never ever heard parents refer to their parental authority or to time with their kids in such detached ways. Nonetheless, it is important to understand these terms.


Custody refers to who has the legal authority to make decisions regarding a child’s health, education, religion, and so forth. Generally speaking, custody does not establish residential status or access (visitation rights); those specifics are usually determined by the parenting plan (described below)

Joint custody means that both parents retain legal decision-making authority. If parents with joint custody have a problem coming to a decision about the child’s best interests, this can be resolved by a parenting expert such as an arbitrator or parenting coordinator.

Sole or full custody means that only one parent is given decision-making authority over the children, usually because it would be too difficult for the parents to make these decisions together. Needless to say, if you have sole custody, you must be especially careful to act in the best interests of your children.

The Parenting Plan

The parenting plan is an agreement between divorcing parents that clearly defines how each is to continue caring for his or her children following a separation. The goals of the parenting plan are to encourage the children’s relationship with both parents and to protect the children from parental conflict. It can also be used as an intervention tool to help parents disengage from one another. Parents often fear losing control or being controlled, and a specific, structured plan can help quell those feelings.

The parenting plan provides a comprehensive schedule of each parent’s access to the children, outlines his or her co-parenting responsibilities, and establishes his or her role in parental decision making. The particulars of the plan depend on the relationship between the former spouses, each parent’s relationship with his or her children, and, of course, the children’s needs. It can be very detailed, and it may address questions.

The parenting plan can configure the residential arrangement in a variety of ways. In some families, children split their time fifty-fifty between their mother’s home and their father’s. In other cases, the children live most of the time at one parent’s home, which is called the primary residence; that parent is called the primary residential parent. The other parent, called the secondary residential parent, may have the children on select weekends and perhaps one day a week, and maybe on alternating holidays. There are, of course, many different ways to configure parental responsibility, and there is no right or wrong method.

Divorce is the dissolution of the legal contract between a married couple. It means the transforming of a family, not the ending of a family. When parents separate, it is better to think of the family as reorganized instead of broken. Everyone still needs each other. How parents handle the changes that occur because of the reorganization will have a direct effect on how well the children and parents fare after the separation. While change is often difficult, it doesn’t have to be destructive. It makes sense to get psychological support during such trying times. There are a lot of mistakes that don’t have to happen if parents are informed of the best way to solve their issues.

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Working effectively with your lawyer

A smart divorce involves moving effectively through the divorce process and understanding the roles both you and your lawyer play during this time. Although you’re the one paying for the lawyer’s services, you must be involved and realize it’s a job for you, too. There are some strategies you can use for working effectively together in order to save you time and money.

Your lawyer’s job

  • Develop Realistic Expectations One of the first things you will do with your lawyer is to discuss what you can expect to receive or pay out in terms of spousal support, child support, custody of and access to the children, and division of matrimonial assets. Your lawyer can help guide you as to what a realistic outcome can be. Trying to obtain a result which your lawyer does not feel you can achieve will only cause you to incur more in legal fees, heartache and frustration.

  • Maximize the Economic OutcomeLawyers view their job as getting the best deal for their clients, but the best deal may not necessarily be the biggest number, because there are other issues as well. Sometimes a lawyer prefers a smaller deal to ensure that the client will collect what was agreed to be paid, or to avoid a trial that might further damage the relationship between parties who must continue to co-parent their children. For this reason, a lawyer’s idea of the best deal and the client’s idea of the best deal may be different, and sometimes lawyers must get clients to realize that what is best for them isn’t necessarily what they think is best.

  • Look Out for Your Children’s Best InterestsMany lawyers’ first focus with their clients is on working things out for the children. Unfortunately, some parents are still so emotionally distraught, or were such poor parents in the first place, that they do things that are in their own best interests, not the children’s. They attempt to hurt the other parent, which is ultimately bad for the children. Ethical lawyers will not deal with crazy agendas and destructive goals.

Your lawyer will advise and recommend, but will leave the final decision on any course of action to you, the client. If you want to work effectively with your lawyer, it’s as much a job for you as it is for him or her. Make sure you ask lots of questions, do your research and be informed.

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The Smart Divorce Workshops

New workshops have been added:

Limited space is available in The Smart Divorce® Workshops. These workshops are appropriate for individuals contemplating or already experiencing a divorce. Strategies for reducing financial costs and personal turmoil will be presented. Participants will learn what to expect legally and emotionally, and so be able to move through the process with confidence and focus while saving time and money. A subsequent session will address parenting issues, how to work with parenting experts more effectively, and available resources. Feedback from therapists and lawyers has indicated that The Smart Divorce Workshops have helped to prepare individuals for the process and make them better clients; while saving them time money – and their sanity.

Program details:

The Smart Divorce: Learning the Basics –

September 16, 2008

The Smart Divorce: Parenting Through Divorce –

September 23, 2008

Time: 7:30 – 9 pm

Location: 12 Lawton Boulevard, Toronto

(Yonge and St. Clair)

For more details, click on the pdf file below:


If you feel that you could benefit from these workshops or for more information please contact Deborah Moskovitch at 905 695 0270 or by email at

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All alone on a Saturday night?

Feeling like the fifth wheel?

Many people at the beginning of their separation or divorce often feel abandoned or sidelined by their married friends. I tend to think of it as the fifth wheel bug. Don’t worry, it’s not something you catch but, the discomfort is there. The dynamics of socializing often change upon separation and divorce. While the situation of being the odd person out in a Noah’s Ark society – a couple’s world, is not uncommon, it can be unnerving. Suddenly single, it’s at this time in your life when you need the love and support of your friends like never before. It’s not that you are not welcome as a friend, it’s that you are no longer part of a couple.

I not only hear about this situation frequently from my clients and friends, but experienced this first hand when I first separated. Now, not every couple excludes the single person, but there are many who do. I’ve learned that this situation occurs mostly because of discomfort. It is easier to fit four or six around a table then three or five. Balanced, even. What you need to understand is that this not about you, it’s about the way your friends feel about your situation. It’s not that your friends are afraid of you fraternizing with their husband or wife, it’s that they are used to socializing with you as a couple or they feel uncomfortable being confronted with divorce.

We all know how emotional divorce can be. And, because of your turmoil and grieving it can also take over how you express yourself in a social setting. So imagine then, a couple(s) going out for dinner on a Saturday night, wanting to keep the evening conversation light and easy. While I’m sure many of your friends are extremely supportive, the last thing this couple wants to hear after a long week of work and their own stress is your anger, bitterness or sadness.

So, what do you do about this to build your confidence and life and deal with this situation?

  • Make new single friends –ask your friends if they know of someone single to introduce you to, not for a romantic relationship but friendship.
  • Go to a therapist – venting about this situation to friends will only alienate you from your friends.
  • Build your support network – support groups, clergy, friends, therapist, and so on.
  • Go to lectures or programs which are of interest. You can find many things to enjoy advertised in the paper or at your synagogue or church.
  • Start doing things outside of your comfort level for entertainment; enjoy a movie on your own, go to the bookstore, enjoy an exhibit at a museum or art gallery. This can make you a more interesting person with experiences to share and have fun in the process.
  • Recognize that this is going to happen. Don’t take it personally.

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Making it Through Your Divorce

Take charge and you’ll feel better…..

I noticed in the early days of divorce, that if you behave passively, like a leaf that is simply tossed this way and that by the wind, you are taking away your own freedom to move forward with your life. A smart divorce requires you to do some work, not be passive. Once you truly accept this, you will have set your feet firmly on a path that can enrich you rather than diminish you.

Give your self the opportunity to explore and

consciously make choices about the

life you want to lead.

Here are the top 5 things you need to think about so that you can achieve control and avoid the pitfalls which can undermine you after divorce.

  1. Envision what you would like life to look like when you are ready to start moving on, and think about what you need to do to get there.
  2. Will you have to move? If you do, think positive, perhaps this will give you a fresh start and way to begin life postdivorce – creating your better life.
  3. Will you have to go back to work? If you have been out of the workforce for a while, consider retraining and look for opportunities which you are passionate about. What have you always wanted to do? Perhaps now is the time to break out and try something different. If you don’t need to work, consider volunteer work and/or pursuing some new interests and hobbies.
  4. Develop your support network of new friends, family, clergy, a therapist or support groups.
  5. Do what you can to have a positive outlook. By feeling good about yourself, you will be a better parent. Putting your children’s best interest first should be your first objective. Finding a way to manage your emotions privately, giving your children a sense of security and love will go a long way to help your children adjust though the divorce.

What happens when you can’t see beyond this stage of divorce and the possibility of ever finding happiness? You will be undermining yourself and unable to move forward. If you focus on the hurt you lose perspective; you lose a sense of the larger picture and how this new life can take shape. You need to develop a sense of purpose for yourself.

Don’t make the mistake of surrendering to your divorce by thinking, “It’s the end of life.” It may be the end of life as you know it, but the truth is you could actually develop a better life if you work at it!

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Do I Keep or Sell the Matrimonial Home

Do I Keep or Sell the Matrimonial Home?

The question of what to do with the matrimonial home is frequently asked by clients in my consulting practice. What do they do, keep it or sell it?

The family home is an especially difficult consideration. For many, there are emotional ties, fond memories and the feelings of security. And the world around you assumes that in a divorce, the winner takes the home and the loser moves out. The truth is we all know that in divorce there should be no winner or loser because being smart about divorce means we try to avoid a war. But, while the home represent so much emotionally, it may not be the best asset for your financial security.

Here are some questions you need answered to help factor into your decision:

  • Will your postdivorce income cover the costs to run your home?
  • What is the outstanding mortgage?
  • Why am I keeping it?
  • Is it too much space, or just enough?
  • If I decide to move, what are the associated selling and buying costs?

There is an interesting article I came across called “In Housing Slump, Breaking up is Hard to Do.” It refers to another consideration regarding the matrimonial home and that is, keeping the home in the divorcees hands until the slumping housing market recovers. For more details, see the article

Consider these factors and any other items which are important to you and discuss them with the right experts when developing your postdivorce financial plan.