How Divorce Affects Your Health

by Craig B. Grether, Ph.D.  
Clinical Psychologist, Collaborative Coach and Past-President of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego

The Stress Effect

Divorce ends what was supposed to be our most intimate life-long relationship. It is one of the top ten stressors on all life event stress scales, ranking close to the loss of a loved one and serving a jail term.

The stress of marital separation and divorce can be acute, (short-term) or chronic, (long-term: greater than six months). The health problems from separation and divorce are both psychological and physical. These effects are more severe for people who separate and divorce in their 30s and 40s and less severe in older adults.

Short-term effects may include:

(1) Difficulty sleeping
(2) Loss of appetite
(3) Inability to concentrate
(4) Digestive problems
(5) Decreased immune system functioning
(6) Increased secretion of cortisol (a stress hormone)
(7) Elevated systolic and diastolic blood pressure (hypertension in men)
(8) Smoking relapse among prior smokers
(9) Increased alcohol use/abuse
(10) First time cannabis use

Most adults are resilient and cope successfully with the stress of divorce and the short-term effects.

However, almost 20% of divorcing adults experience long-term effects without recovery four years post-divorce. In addition to the short-term effects, the long-term effects may include clinical depression and an increase in the number of diagnosed medical illnesses.

The incidence of psychological and medical illnesses are more prevalent for divorced people of all ages compared to those who are continuously married. Divorced men and women have the same overall number of health problems but men’s problems are more medically severe compared to women, while women have more psychological health problems.

A Healthy Divorce

Divorce does not have to take such a toll on the psychological and physical health of the divorcing adult. In the Collaborative Divorce process, the negative health effects of divorce can be reduced by working with Collaborative Divorce coaches.  These are specially trained licensed mental health professionals who provide a variety of coping strategies, some derived from behavioral medicine, to address the health effects of divorce.

These strategies include:

(1) Direct physiological regulation through mindful meditation and relaxation techniques
(2) Cognitive (mental) refocusing and reinterpretation of life stressors
(3) Reaffirming personal values and redirection of life energies
(4) Healthful life restructuring including exercise and proper nutrition
(5) Social support outreach to family, friends and community

For divorcing adults with children, a Child Specialist, another licensed mental health professional, is available to support the children and be their voice throughout the divorce process.

Collaborative attorneys can help reduce the stress on divorcing adults by ensuring that clients will not have to endure the cost and stress of legal proceedings and litigation. Financial specialists complete the Collaborative Team by empowering clients intellectually through an understanding of their current and future financial status.

Contact the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego at (858) 472-4022 with your questions about the Collaborative Divorce Process.

What to Expect When You Have Filed for Divorce

San Diego Family Law Attorney Nancy Taylor

by Nancy A. TaylorSan Diego Family Law Attorney Nancy Taylor, Esq. Hargreaves & Taylor, LLP
California State Bar Certified Family Law Specialist
Member of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers

As soon as your friends and family find out you have filed for divorce, the first thing they will want to do is tell you their horror stories and/or how you and your attorney should be handling your case.  They mean well, but the problem with their divorce stories is this: every case is different. You can’t expect to have the same outcome they experienced.

Based on years of working with divorcing couples with no two of them alike, there are a few things divorces have in common.

  1. Trust that what your attorney is telling you is more than likely closer to the reality you will experience.
  2. As much as you might want to discuss your case in detail with those who love you, these conversations may result in your second guessing yourself and the advice of your counsel.
  3. Going through a divorce is not something you want to handle on your own. It can become one of the most difficult journeys of your life. Instead of seeking advice from friends or using your attorney as a therapist, seek the advice of a mental health professional who is trained to assist you in this situation. It will cost you a lot less in the long run.
  4. There are NO stupid questions!  Experiencing anxiety is not uncommon and can easily be caused by the unknown.  Always ask questions of your attorney so that you know what to expect. The more you know, the less anxious you will become.
  5. If you have children it can be best for them to learn about your divorce together as a family. Go to a family therapist with your spouse to discuss the best way to address the divorce process with your children.
  6. Recognize the process will not be resolved overnight.  It takes a minimum of six months at the earliest to become divorced. The six month time clock starts ticking once your spouse has been served with the Summons and Petition for Dissolution.
  7. Getting divorced takes work and just doesn’t magically happen. In order to be divorced at the end of the six month period, you and your spouse must have either entered into a full written agreement or have gone to trial, with your Judgment of  Dissolution having been filed.
  8. The best way to work with your attorney is to be as organized as possible.  The more thorough you can be in providing them with the information they request, the more time and cost effective for you. Handing over a pile of papers, expecting your attorney to go through and organize it can be costly and a waste of your hard-earned money.

One well-tested way to avoid many of these conflicts and pitfalls is to proceed with a Collaborative Divorce.  In the Collaborative Divorce process, each spouse will have an attorney guide him or her through the legal process; a coach/child specialist to help guide them emotionally; and a neutral financial specialist to gather, organize and prepare a report outlining the marital estate.  It is an enlightened process that will allow for every one’s Happily Ever After, even if that means not living together under the same roof.

Broken Trust: Advice About Estate Planning During A Divorce

by Meredith L. Brown, Esq.
Brown & Brown

Many couples prepare Wills and Trusts in connection with a happy life event, such as the birth of a child. Frequently these documents are placed in a safe deposit box, never to be updated or even thought about again.

When the unfortunate life event of divorce happens, couples often opt to defer consideration of their old estate planning. No one wants to think about their mortality on a good day, much less when divorce is on their mind. This decision is understandable, but it is probably unwise and potentially costly.

First, a note of caution: if a Petition to dissolve the marriage has already been filed, the law requires that specific steps be taken before changes are made to Wills and Trusts. Similarly, there is an automatic restraint against making changes to beneficiary designations on any insurance. Couples must be sure to comply with these rules.

Family law does not place restrictions on changes to your Advance Health Care Directive after you have filed for divorce. Most couples designate their spouse as their legal voice when it comes to treatment and end of life decisions. Even in divorce situations where couples are amicable, it may not be appropriate for a soon-to-be ex spouse to make these decisions in the midst of a divorce.

How do you decide whether to change your existing estate plan?

The first (and obvious) step is to read and understand your documents. Most couples prepare documents that leave the estate to the survivor between them. Then, ultimately, the estate goes to their children. But this is not always the case, particularly in second marriages.

If you acquired assets after your Trust was created (for example a new home), determine whether title was taken in the name of your Trust. If you hold assets outside of your Trust, you could have the cost of a probate proceeding.

Even if you haven’t done any estate planning but own real estate or other titled assets with your spouse, be sure to check the deed or other title documents. Certain forms of title such as joint tenancy carry with them an automatic right of survivorship. You should consider whether you wish to change the form of title to one without survivorship rights. But before you make any changes, be sure to comply with the notice requirements mandated by law.

Second, ask yourself:  if you were hit by the proverbial truck before your divorce is final, would you want your spouse to receive your share of the estate? If you have children, do you trust that your former spouse will preserve your share of the estate so that your children ultimately receive everything? Would you feel differently if your former spouse sold the marital residence? What if he or she remarried?

Keep in mind that even if you decide to change your estate planning by preparing new Wills and Trusts, your former spouse may still have control over assets you leave to your children, if they are still under age 18. If you do not wish for this to happen, you will need to designate someone else as the guardian of the estate of your children.

As you may guess, determining how your assets are distributed upon your death can be complicated like many other aspects of your life when you file for divorce.  But this is something you need to address for the well-being of yourself and your children. You don’t have to go it alone.  Investing in the advice of an attorney with expertise in estate planning as well as a skilled financial specialist is an investment well worth making.

If you pursue a Collaborative Divorce, a financial specialist is part of your divorce team.  This can be extremely helpful if you are also working through a complex estate plan. It’s another smart reason to consider the Collaborative Process for your divorce.

Collaborative Divorce Can Help You Capitalize on the Holiday Season Spirit

San Diego family law attorney Colleen Warren

by Colleen A. Warren, Esq.
Certified Legal Specialist – Family Law, LEWIS, WARREN & SETZER, LLP

San Diego family law attorney Colleen WarrenWhat did you do during the holiday season? Most of us enjoyed spending time with family and friends. Many people put their differences aside during the holidays and attempted to live together harmoniously for the sake of the children or their family, or to ensure no one else knows they are unhappy in their marriage.

Many people wonder, “Now that I have made it through the holidays, is it the right time to tell my spouse I want a divorce?” Those same people do not want to disrupt their family life by separating or divorcing.  However, now may be the best time to have this most difficult conversation and capitalize on the feel good spirit enjoyed during the holidays.

If you have children, Summer Break is still six months away, and the next holiday season is a little less than a year away.  If you are worried about how a divorce or separation will impact you financially, you are likely to know, or at least have a better sense of, what you and your spouse earned last year, or how your investments fared over the last 12 months.  Now is the time to resolve your differences, rather than waiting until quick decisions must be made.

Rather than start a divorce or separation with fighting, posturing, or all-out war, Collaborative Divorce can help you and your spouse capitalize on the holiday spirit, resolving issues in a manner where each party feels supported.  You and your spouse will work with a team of expert attorneys, coaches, and financial advisors, to reach agreements that are beneficial to both parties and their family, all without going to court.  Imagine resolving all the issues in your separation without seeing a judge, without exposing the most intimate details of your life in a public court? This type of resolution is promoted and highly successful through the use of Collaborative Divorce.

The professionals in the San Diego Collaborative Family Law Group are here to assist you to resolve the issues between you and your spouse without traditional litigation. See our “Contact Us” page to find someone to answer the questions you may have about whether Collaborative Divorce is right for you.

Collaborative Divorce Offers Alternatives to “Divorce Corp.” Documentary

January 20, 2014
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR
619-997-2495 or


(SAN DIEGO) – The release of the new documentary film “Divorce Corp.” has generated renewed attention and focus on family law court proceedings involving divorce, child custody and child support issues across the United States.  While the film offers a critique of the way that divorce is commonly handled in the United States, it does not discuss a critical and viable alternative for many families: the Collaborative Divorce process.

The Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego (CFLG San Diego) is a non-profit group of legal, financial, and mental health professionals trained in the Collaborative Process offering  an alternative to litigated divorce.

Julie Mack, CFLS, attorney and President of CFLG San Diego, says the film presents the opportunity for fresh dialogue, which will allow couples, especially those with minor children, to learn more about Collaborative Divorce.  “Long before the film ‘Divorce Corp.,’ many couples, discouraged by the prospect of an expensive, adversarial divorce, started looking for an alternative way to address their family law issues that did not involve confrontation or handing over decision-making regarding their lives to family law courts. For many, the alternative is Collaborative Divorce.

“Thanks to the attention generated by this documentary, we have a new platform available to introduce the many benefits of the Collaborative Divorce process. When people learn that going to court is not inevitable, they eagerly embrace this positive, respectful approach to resolving issues in a way that avoids litigation, including the time and expense, to say nothing of the lasting emotional turmoil,” said Mack.

“The Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego is eager to let people know we offer them a range of choices for legal, financial, and mental health services all with the ultimate goal in mind of preserving the health and well-being of the family.  “We urge divorcing couples or parents wrestling with child custody or support issues to give the Collaborative Process a chance. Even if they are skeptics, they have nothing to lose by giving our alternative a try,” said Mack.

CFLG San Diego’s members work together to learn, practice, and promote collaborative processes for problem solving and the peaceful resolution of family law issues, with an eye toward preserving the emotional, as well as the financial, assets of the family. Its goal is to transform the resolution of family law issues through respectful, collaborative processes that protect the integrity and health of family relationships and eliminate the need for families to resort to litigation.

CFLG is online at, and LinkedIn.

See the trailer for the documentary “Divorce Corp.” here.

Ten Golden Rules for a Good Divorce

Is a good divorce possible? After 30 years of experience helping families cope with divorce and remarriage, Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego member Dr. Constance Ahrons believes it is possible.

Dr. Ahrons works with those navigating through a divorce and its aftermath as coach, mediator and/or therapist. She is among the earliest champions of collaborative divorce.

Constance Ahrons is a best-selling author of the books “The Good Divorce” and “We’re Still Family,” and co-author of the highly regarded book, “Divorced Families.” An acclaimed speaker, she he has been featured on numerous national television interviews.

Dr. Ahrons is deeply interested in the welfare of the entire family, particularly children, who are facing the challenges of divorce. If your divorce involves children, Dr. Ahrons suggests following these rules to help everyone cope and move forward in the most healthy way possible.

Ten Golden Rules for a Good Divorce


In fact, it is destructive.  Mediation and Collaborative Divorce are two choices that aim to reduce anger between divorcing spouses.


Remember, this is your divorce, not your lawyers.


Although adults often want to move on quickly, remember that children need time to adjust.


Even though you’re angry with your spouse, remember your children’s needs.


It’s one of the best gifts you can give your kids.  Ongoing conflict between parents increases children’s distress.


When you badmouth your ex to the kids you are telling your kids that the part of them that is like their other parent is bad too. It is bad for their self-esteem.


It’s important to your children’s well-being for them to feel like they still have a family.  Help them to understand that the divorce means that they are now a dual-household family.


This is key to helping to reduce your anger.


One of the big losses is the loss of future dreams. Just beneath    your anger is sadness over the losses of those special things you might have hoped for in your future.


Holding on to hostility and anger is self-destructive.  It keeps you stuck in the past and keeps you from finding new joys in life.


CFLG San Diego in the News: San Diego Daily Transcript: January 3, 2014

The San Diego Daily Transcript published a story about the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego’s outstanding membership growth in 2013 in its January 3, 2014 edition.

You can access the article at this link, or see a screenshot of the online version of the article below.

Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego Featured on “San Diego Living”

Representatives of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego appeared on “San Diego Living” on Monday, December 30 on San Diego 6 (CW6/XETV). Family law attorney Nancy Taylor, financial specialist Cinda Jones and psychologist/coach Dr. Robert Simon were interviewed by host Marc Bailey, who asked them to explain the collaborative divorce model and answer common questions that people might ask about the collaborative process.

You can view the entire informative interview at this link. Please feel free to share with others who might benefit from the information, or post to your own online pages.


Interview: Tips For Successful Holiday Co-Parenting

Divorce, Holidays and Children

Divorce, Holidays and ChildrenThe holidays aren’t always happy when you’re a single parent trying to work with your children’s mother or father to accommodate everyone’s schedule, see relatives, and spend special holiday time with the kids.

Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego members Shawn Weber, attorney with Brave Weber Mack; and Justin Reckers, director of Pacific Divorce Management, recently appeared on “Real Estate Radio” on AM1700 to talk about the holidays and divorce. The pair offered tips for successful holiday co-parenting in divorced and separated families.

You can listen to the podcast on demand at this link.



Tips for Handling the Holidays When Your Marriage No Longer Feels Like a “Gift”

Ginita Wall Divorce Financial advice San Diego 858-472-4022

by Ginita Wall, CPA, CFP®, CDFA

Holidays are usually a time for reconnecting, but if you are married — and not so happily — seasonal preparations and celebrations can put a major strain on relationships that are already teetering on the brink. So how do you celebrate the holidays when you don’t think your marriage will make it?  Here are some tips for getting through it all.

Ask for help from friends and family. If it looks like getting divorced will be one of your New Year’s resolutions, but you and your spouse are still together, you may want to confide your situation to a friend or family member. But limit what you share to just one or two people. If you blab to everyone, your spouse could hear of it, your marriage will suffer even more, and your holiday will explode into ruin for everyone – especially if you have children.

Curb holiday spending. Heading into divorce deeply in debt complicates everything, so don’t drown your guilt or sorrow in shopping. This may not be the most picture-perfect memorable holiday season, and that’s okay – right now, you are just trying to get through.

Lighten up your expectations. Holidays are about getting together, but divorce is about breaking up. Get through this pressure-packed time of year by focusing on others.  Maintain a gracious spirit and be grateful for every good thing you have. Consider what’s most important to yourself and your family, and pare celebrations down to just those things.

Don’t let marital storms destroy your joy. Think of your marital problems the same way you would a big storm during the holidays. You might have to change your plans a bit, re-arrange schedules and deal with some unpleasantness. But you can still figure out ways to celebrate without the downpour derailing your holiday. Find and share every little joy you can this holiday season.

Don’t squabble with your spouse. Keeping your emotions in check is key, so resentment doesn’t overcome you during the holidays.  If you act in anger now, you may ruin your chances to get to a peaceful divorce settlement with your spouse in the New Year.  And, fighting in front of the kids is never a good idea. Children learn what they see at home, and they will take to heart things you say in anger.

Take your time. When the holidays draw to a close, don’t rush headlong into divorce. Take as much time to plan your divorce strategy as you devoted to shopping and decorating for the holidays – this preparation will pay off for an entire lifetime, instead of just one season.

Think peace. The more peace you can bring into your life, now and in the coming year, the more centered you will feel, which will affect your entire family. You have many options available to you as you end your marriage: negotiation between you, mediation, collaborative divorce, and litigation. Choose the avenue that will bring the most peaceful resolution for you and your spouse.