Conscious Uncoupling: Useful Tools for Divorcing Couples

The shocking realization that your marriage is ending often elicits understandable rage and sadness. You can stay angry or you can start to move forward. People do have choices, and the 2015 bestseller, Conscious Uncoupling: Five Steps to Living Happily Even After, by marriage and family therapist Katherine Woodward Thomas, offers both useful life perspectives and practical tools for moving forward.  These perspectives and tools help divorcing couples to better manage the many inevitable conflicts during divorce, so they can make better decisions for themselves and their children, and then move forward with their lives more quickly and productively. 

The book’s jacket notes provide a good summary:

“Sometimes, for many reasons, relationships come undone; they don’t work out. Commonly, we view this as a personal failure rather than an opportunity. And instead of honoring what we once meant to each other, we hoard bitterness and anger, stewing in shame and resentment-sometimes even lashing out in destructive and hurtful ways, despite the fact that we’re good people at heart. That’s natural: we’re almost biologically primed to respond this way.

Yet there is another path to the end of a relationship — one filled with mutual respect, kindness, and deep caring. Katherine Woodward Thomas’s groundbreaking method, Conscious Uncoupling, provides the valuable skills and tools for you to travel this challenging terrain with these five thoughtful and thought-provoking steps:

Step 1: Find Emotional Freedom

Step 2: Reclaim Your Power and Your Life

Step 3: Break the Pattern, Heal Your Heart

Step 4: Become a Love Alchemist

Step 5: Create Your Happily-Even-After Life

This paradigm-shifting guide will steer you away from a bitter end toward a new life that’s empowered and flourishing.”

In addition to the book, the author offers a series of Internet-based courses for people who wish to uncouple consciously with new-found emotional strength.

The Message from Children to their Divorcing Parents

“Show us that you can work together even if you don’t’ like each other anymore!”

When you allege in a public court document that your spouse has had an affair, what does that do to your children? Even if it is true, children need to be protected from their parents’ emotional conflicts.  For some examples of how parental conflict adversely affects children, see these drawings from children of divorce.

Children (of all ages) want their parents to collaborate and not litigate to resolve the terms of their divorce. What children yearn for goes well beyond the usual method of starting out in court and settling “on the courthouse steps,” as the majority of divorce cases do. What they want even goes beyond hiring a mediator to facilitate a cooperative agreement.

See this page for more information on the Collaborative Divorce process.

When it comes to divorce, the collaborative model of dispute resolution is a unique gift to children, because it puts children’s needs first. In collaborative divorce, no matter how angry parents might be at one other, if they can keep their children in the forefronts at all times, and have a supportive team of professionals helping them do so, they can avoid the emotional damage to children that so often accompanies a non-collaborative divorce. Children, even adult children, can appreciate their parents working together, despite the deep and upsetting conflicts between them. Children can continue to see their parents as the good role models they once were as conflicts are resolved through collaboration rather than warfare.

Another distinction involves whether collaboration means giving in to the other person, or one person sacrificing for the sake of the children, while the more vocal parent gets his or her way. The collaborative process insures that both parties walk away with a mutually-acceptable agreement, not a lopsided one. Both parents are important to their children and children want to be free to love both of their parents without qualification. The two collaborative process attorneys are committed to this concept, as are the neutral coach and financial professional who are part of each case.

Parents who choose a divorce process that focuses on a positive co-parenting future and one that helps parents communicate about their children going forward provide their children with a gift that will last forever. Please collaborate, and don’t litigate, to resolve your marital issues. Your children will thank you.

How is Commission, Overtime or Bonus Income Treated in Tennessee Child Support?

All of these types of income are considered “variable income.”  Variable income gets averaged (e.g., over recent years, as applicable), and added to the monthly income under the guidelines.  But the inclusion of variable income has to be in line with the specifics of your case. If the company employing one of the spouses is having a bad year, or if overtime is no longer being offered, it would be unfair to include the extra income in the calculation.

What Does Child Support Cover? What about Private School?

Child support is expected to cover housing, food, transportation, clothing and entertainment, as well as the costs associated with a public education. The child support guidelines allow parents to subtract certain regular expenses from their respective gross income numbers before the child support amount gets calculated. Tennessee law includes a credit for work-related childcare expenses, for court-ordered child support paid to children from prior relationships, for health insurance costs and for recurring uninsured medical expenses.

Parents can decide to share any of these expenses, so that both would show credits on the child support guidelines worksheet. Special expenses and extraordinary educational expenses such as private school or special needs schooling can be discussed and the allocation of these expenses can be decided upon by the parents. Once the basic child support amount is determined, then parents can add in the costs of extraordinary educational expenses as a deviation from the guidelines.

So, if the guidelines give Mom $2000 per month in child support, but Johnny’s private school is $750 per month for tuition and books, then the parents can decide how to pay for those additional agreed to costs. Dad could pay the expenses directly or could give Mom an extra $750 per month, or the parents could share in the private school costs according to their proportional share of the overall support, depending on their respective incomes. Tennessee Law states that the special expense has to be more than 7% of the basic guidelines amount, which in this example it would be. In other words, the special expense needs to be financially significant.

Does Tennessee Have a Formula for How Much Child Support Will Be Paid?

Tennessee has child support guidelines and worksheets to help determine how much child support will be paid.  The state even provides a web-based tool called the “Child Support Calculator”  that uses the guidelines to determine a child support amount, given the assumptions entered.   

The Tennessee Child Support guideline amounts are not absolutely mandatory and the parents may choose to deviate from the guidelines in order to reach an agreement that meets their family’s specific situation.  Parents can agree to have the paying parent pay more or less than guidelines suggest. However, the law does require that parents who choose to deviate from the child support guidelines explain their reasons per the requirements of the law.  

In out-of-court settlements, such as in the Collaborative Law process, your lawyers will explain your reasons as part of the settlement paperwork submitted to the court, so that the judge can be sure that the best interests of the children are being met.

To access theTennessee child support worksheet and calculator, click here.

To access the Tennessee child support rules, click here.

How is Child Support Determined in Tennessee?

The goal of the Tennessee child support law is to make sure that, to the extent possible, children be afforded the same opportunities available to children of intact families consisting of parents with similar means to those of their own parents.

In other words, children deserve a certain proportion of the income available to both parents. If one parent has less income that the other, the higher-income parent will be expected to transfer funds to the lower-income parent. This is called the “income shares” model, because both parents share in the support of their children. It is based on economic studies of child-rearing costs and the model is followed in the majority of US states.

In addition to actual income, the actual expenses in raising the children are part of the calculation. So, if the lower income parent pays for the children’s medical insurance, those expenses will be fairly accounted for, in the child support calculation.