If you are not currently separated and are considering separation or divorce, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Why do I want this separation or divorce? Try making a list of all the reasons that you have for wanting to separate from your spouse. Place a star next to the top three reasons. Carry it around with you for a week and look at it over and over during that week. See how you feel at the end of the week about each reason. This does not apply to marriages or relationships where there is domestic violence, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, or child abuse (and you are the victim).
  2. If there are any good feelings left for your spouse, and particularly if you have children, consider couple’s or marital counseling. If you don’t know how to find a good psychologist or other therapist, ask you family doctor, OBGYN, your priest, minister, or rabbi. The other option is to call a university near your home. There is typically a counseling center at every university that provide a list of local psychologists or other mental health professional that specializes in marital or couples therapy.
  3. Have a consultation with a Family or Divorce Attorney. Again, doctors, and friends who have been divorced are great referral sources. The local Bar Association in the city nearest to you is another good referral source. Most Family Law Attorneys offer a free consultation. Ask about that before you make an appointment. The purpose of this appointment is for you to get a realistic idea of what your rights are, issues of spousal support, custody and child support (if you have children). Most counties have a web site for the superior court, which handles family law cases (as well as civil, probate, and other non-criminal cases).
  4. If you decide to go forward with divorce, try to be as respectful as possible to the other party. Mediation is a much cheaper and less stressful way to work out financial issues and at times, custody and visitation issues.
  5. If mediation is not a possibility, and you can afford an attorney, hire an attorney to handle your divorce and custody case. Make sure the attorney is knowledgeable in all areas of family law and ask if you can speak to 1-2 clients of hers/his just to hear their opinions about the attorney.
  6. The decision to handle the divorce yourself, is called “In Pro Per”. It is never advisable to try and represent yourself; it’s like walking into a courtroom with a big sign over your head “kick me”! Divorce laws are complicated and particularly if you’re soon to be ex-spouse has an attorney, PROTECT YOURSELF! If finances are an issue, many religious organizations have attorneys in every field that will volunteer their time to help people that can’t afford private attorneys.
  7. Make sure you have a good support system of friends and whenever possible family. If you don’t have a good support system, there are often free support groups through Churches or Temples. It may seem uncomfortable to join a support group, but take the leap of faith and go. They really do help!
  8. Read as much as you can yourself about divorce, custody and parenting plans (if you have children, of course)
  9. Take extra good care of yourself! This means – eat well, exercise, rest and do what you love.

About Alice R. Berkowitz

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Dr. Alice R. Berkowitz has been in practice as a Clinical and Forensic Psychologist since 1986. Her psychotherapy practice is currently located in Beverly Hills, California, after over 28 years at the prestigious Cedars-Sinai Medical Office Towers in Los Angeles, California.

Serving a wide variety of clientele, Berkowitz sees many high profile personalities in the Los Angeles area, is certified as an addiction specialist and travels doing consultations all over the country. Berkowitz is also trained as a neuropsychologist, and is well versed in the effects of addiction on the different areas of the brain.

In addition to her work as a clinical psychologist, Berkowitz has also worked as a Child Custody Evaluator, Expert Witness, Mediator and Reunification Therapist in Family Court since 1986. Her areas of expertise are in the area of parental alienation, parenting plans, parenting training and coaching, dealing with high-conflict families, divorce coaching, conjoint therapy, domestic violence, substance abuse, reunification therapy, PTSD, parent-child relationships, child sexual abuse and allegations of alleged sexual abuse.