Graham Law Collaborative divorce, done differently Mon, 21 Jan 2013 23:30:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Should You Keep The House? Mon, 21 Jan 2013 23:30:24 +0000 Today, a post with some things to consider about the family home.  It’s still common in the part of the country in which I live, for more moms than dads to have primary physical care of the children after divorce.  Because they want to keep the children in the home they are used to, many moms decide to remain in the family home.

Financial problems can arise down the road, however, because moms still have, in general, lower income than dads.  I bet you already see where I’m going with this one, right?

I can’t blame anyone for wanting to keep the family home after divorce.  I understand why you’d want to provide a stable home for the kids.

But it’s super important to consider whether you can really afford the home in the long-term.

It may be best to move out if you do the projections and see that if your income does not substantially increase,  you’re headed for either forclosure or  inability to maintain the home.  Moms (and people in general) underestimate the amount of money it takes to keep a home going and in good condition.  Paint, plumbing, siding, new roof, new water heater, air conditioner, furnace, the ceiling needs repairs, the basement starts leaking and before you know it, you’re talking large amounnts of money that you might not have.

Renting a place might give you a better fresh start and be less expensive, even if it doesn’t seem to be, only looking at monthly rent figures.

I understand (believe me — I do understand, ask me how I know all this) that it’s very emotional to imagine leaving the home and having to move your children.  But sometimes it makes more sense and will be less stressful in the long term to leave.

Should you keep the house?  I can’t tell you yes or no, it depends on your individual financial circumstances.  But it is not always as simple a decision as it first appears to be.  Too many moms keep the home, only to have it sink them financially, and create more stress in their lives.  If you aren’t sure what to do, please see a financial counselor with a CDFA (Certified Divorce Financial Analyst) designation after their name. These are trained financial professionals that will run financial scenarios for you and show you in black and white where you’ll be financially if things stay as they are income-wise, and you remain or leave the home.  If nothing more, you’ll know you made the decision with eyes wide open, and that’s usually a better way to make decisions than uninformed and  in the dark.

]]> 0
The Day I Could Not Make It Down the Stairs or Why I’m So Wise (sometimes) Mon, 10 Dec 2012 02:29:13 +0000 Wisdom is nothing more than healed pain. Robert Gary Lee

The Day I Could Not Make it Down the Stairs

One day,

in the middle of my divorce,

I started to walk down the stairs,

from my bedroom

to the first floor.

It started out like any other

trip down the stairs,

with purpose and rhythm.

Suddenly, at about step 6, a memory hit my heart,

hit it hard, like an arrow in

The Last of the Mohicans,

and I fell to the ground,

but not in some dramatic or painful way.

I fell in slow motion, or rather,

I sat down, or crumpled.

I sat on the stairs of the house

that held us all,

that loved us all,

when we thought it would last forever.

My mouth fell open,

silent wails fell out,

my hand moved up to cover the cries,

and I shook from the loss

and the hit to my heart,

from the exhaustion of extrication

from a lengthy and magical dream,

from sadness.

and after a long time there,

I stood up, blew my nose,

and went on living again.

by Kimberly Graham, copyright 2012

When you’re in the storm of divorce or a relationship ending, pain can hit you at any moment.  That day, I felt ok until a poignant memory came out of nowhere.  One second I was Tiggerifically tra-la-la-ing down the stairs and the next second I sat, crumpled and crying, in the middle of the staircase.

I’d love to give you a nice long list of what to do when grief assaults you like that, but there are only two things that have ever helped me:  breathing and letting go.

Breathing, that’s fairly easy. I bet you’re doing it right now.  (Ok, couldn’t resist.)  When I’ve been in distress, breathing and keeping my focus on the breath as much as possible have made me feel more grounded and safe again.

Letting go, now that’s trickier, I admit. One of my favorite visualizations is this:  Closing my eyes and breathing, I imagine a clear blue sky above my head.  Maintaining normal breathing, I visualize large puffy white clouds slowly drift across the sky.  As thoughts come to me, I see words representing the thoughts on the clouds, like “worry” or the more mundane like “grocery store,” whatever it is.

I just watch and breathe as the clouds and thoughts pass by above my head.  Letting them go, watching them go.

Divorce is sometimes the source of jokes in our culture, but divorce is always near the very top of the “life’s greatest stressors” list.  It’s great to have a sense of humor but anyone who has been through divorce knows there are lots of days when you can’t find your laughter.

When it’s not joked about, it’s dealt with sometimes in ways that focus on revenge, anger or grudges, rather than compassion, healing and moving forward.  While I wish I could say I always behaved like some enlightened goddess, that was far from the truth.  I had moments of anger, moments of sorrow, moments I wanted to lash out.

And then moments of feeling crushed and full of grief.

Like the day I could not make it down the stairs, there will be days when you will stop dead in your tracks, and pain and sorrow will come to you.  It’s ok.  The more you resist pain and sorrow, the longer they remain.

By choosing to be with the pain, accept the pain, and to be mindful of it, I could move through it faster and with less suffering than I otherwise might have.  It’s ironic and true that diving into uncomfortable feelings brings us to the other side faster and more whole than when we try everything we can to avoid them.

Many years after my divorce, I still have moments, though rare, when a memory hits my heart and takes my breath away for a second or two.  Sometimes the memory makes me cry.  Sometimes it makes me laugh.  I’m thankful for those memories.

Divorce can not take them.  Those times really happened and they were really ours and they were really beautiful and complex.

I talk almost daily with people who are in the process of divorce.  Sometimes they’ll say that things are particularly tough at the moment.  And I’ll say something to help them move through the pain.  And then they’ll ask me how I got so wise.  “I’ve been there,” I’ll say.  And wisdom is just healed pain.

]]> 0
What Divorce Lawyers Do Wrong Sun, 11 Nov 2012 02:06:30 +0000 Today, something a little different.

Usually, I’m talking to people who are contemplating or in the midst of divorce or who have experienced divorce.

Today, I’m talking to the divorce lawyers. I have some important things to say. What I’m saying is more than important, it’s critically important.

You have a lot of power. Your clients come to you and look to you for leadership at one of the most emotionally difficult and pivotal times of their lives.

Many of those clients will have children. Children that did not ask for this to happen to their family.

Your stated job is to help your client and do what your client wants, I get that. But there is something more here than that. Your extra job, whether you admit it or not or like it or not, is to protect the children to the extent you can.

What in the heck does that even mean, in real terms?

It means when your client tells you that their husband was 10 minutes late bringing the kids back two times in a row, you say “I hear you’re upset, but in the grand scheme of things, 10 minutes doesn’t matter much. Take some deep breaths and understand that when you mutter under your breath in front of your kids about their father being late, it hurts your kids. Your kids are half your husband and half you. Anything you say that dogs their dad, dogs them.”

It means you do *not* say to your client “Oh, let’s file a contempt action against that a-hole, that is unacceptable!”

Protecting the kids extends to the property settlement, too. The more contentious and protracted that is, the more the kids get to hear about it and feel the tension surrounding it. And the more money the parents pay you to battle over tupperware, the less money is available for the kids’ benefit or to simply pay the bills.

It’s your job to tell your client that they won’t be fighting over $50 worth of kitchen stuff on your watch. They could replace all that stuff rather than paying you to create more drama and discord in an already messy situation.

That’s right, tell your client to forget about the blender and go buy a new one with the money they save by not paying you to argue over it. Might you earn less in fees if you discourage bickering over small stuff? Yes. There will still be plenty of work for you to do. Encourage letting go of small things and teach clients to stop and take a few deep breaths. It benefits them and their children.

Our clients do look to us for leadership and guidance during their divorces. They trust us to tell them the right thing to do. We have enormous power to effect the lives of their children with our advice. Never forget that.

]]> 0
New West Des Moines Office Location as of October 1, 2012 Thu, 18 Oct 2012 15:50:33 +0000 Second Location: West Des Moines!

I’m excited to announce that Graham Law Collaborative is now also located in West Des Moines! In addition to my Indianola office, you now have the option of meeting in West Des Moines at 5550 Wild Rose Lane #400  West Des Moines, IA 50266.

I’m in the West Glen Town Center, just northwest of Super Target on Mills Civic Parkway. It’s very easy to find, just take Mills Civic off I-35, from either direction, and head west on Mills Civic (toward Super Target). Turn north or right into the West Glen Center and drive straight ahead. It’s the 4 story building marked “Regus,” and I’m on the fourth floor. There is plenty of free parking right in front of the building.

The new space is beautiful and perfectly suited to divorce mediation as well.

I look forward to seeing you at the new location. If you’d like to stop in and check it out, email or call me, I’d love to show you around!

Have a great day!
Kimberly Graham
Attorney at Law

]]> 0
Beginning the Divorce Process: Finding the Right Lawyer or Mediator Sat, 08 Sep 2012 23:42:40 +0000 The Road

The first step towards getting somewhere
is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.
~ John Pierpont Morgan

Chances are, if you are reading this, you’ve decided that you aren’t staying where you are in regards to your marriage. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to either realize or decide to end your marriage. It’s not easy, whether you “want” the divorce or you were surprised by it. (Few people really “want” to divorce — it’s more like this: you’ve realized that you’ve tried to make it work for years, and it’s not working.)

What are the first steps to take when you need information about divorce? Who can you trust? How do you find a lawyer or mediator?

First, I recommend you download the free guide at It describes the 4 different ways you can divorce in Iowa. The guide will also provides 10 important questions to ask any lawyer or mediator before you hire them. Let me say that again: before you hire them.

Your choice of mediator or lawyer is critically important. Not all lawyers are the exactly the same. Some are interested in caring for you in a holistic way, and in talking about difficult emotions. Some aren’t. Some are interested in your children and truly care about them. Some have a lot of experience. Some don’t. Some of them have been divorced themselves, so they really know what you’re going through. Some haven’t. Some have children, some don’t. All of these factors can affect the way a lawyer works with you.

Take the time to talk with a few lawyers. See how you feel after talking to each of them. Ask about their experiences and goals for your case. And this is really important: Notice how carefully they listen to you.

Once you decide on a mediator or lawyer, you will be on your way to making positive changes in your life. The path won’t be an easy one all the time. Change is always a bit challenging. But if you have the right guide, it makes all the difference.

]]> 0
Is divorce “bad?” Tue, 24 Apr 2012 18:44:51 +0000 We like to label things. Either things are “good” or “bad.” Marriage? Good Divorce? Bad. Or . . .

There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. He needed that horse to work his farm. One day his horse ran away. When his neighbors heard the news, they said sympathetically, “such bad luck.”

“Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors said, happily.

“Maybe,” replied the old man.

The following day, the old man’s son tried to ride one of the wild horses. He was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors came to offer their sympathy on his horrible misfortune. “How terrible,” said the neighbors.

“Maybe,” answered the farmer.

The day after this, the military came to the village to draft young men into war. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they did not take him. The neighbors said to the farmer “How wonderful! Your son is saved!”

“Maybe,” said the farmer.

It’s extremely difficult to just be in the present moment, where things just are. Our Western minds and our microwave, gogogo, nownownow culture likes labels and speculation about whether this thing that has happened is good or bad.

What if we just breathe deeply and slowly. Again. Again. We take great joy at labeling “good” so why wouldn’t we also jump to label divorce “bad?” But the next time you want to do that, think for a moment about the old farmer. We don’t always know. And maybe we’re happier being in the now, where things are usually pretty ok.

Are you happier when you stay in the present? Did you ever realize that something bad turned out ok? Let me know in the comments below.


Share ]]> 0
Did you just find out your spouse is cheating? Thu, 05 Apr 2012 20:40:05 +0000 First, I’m so sorry.

Second:  Here is what you need to do right now:   Nothing.

Do not make any big decisions.  Do not throw her or his clothes on the lawn.  Do not call his work and tell his boss.  Do not call her friends and ask them for information.  Do not tell your children.

If you must tell someone, talk to a very well-trusted person like a pastor or priest, an old, trusted and very wise friend, or a therapist.  See a lawyer if you feel you must, just to get an idea of your options and rights.  But for this day, or the next few days, just take care and be very kind to yourself.

Focus on your breathing, slowly and deeply.  Take a walk.  Take a bath.  Go for a run.  Get in your car and drive to a secluded parking lot alone and scream your head off. If you don’t meditate yet, now would be the best time to learn.

Let things sink in.  When you feel a little more centered, decide how you want to proceed.  Divorce isn’t always the answer.  It can be, sure.  But it does not always have to be *the* only answer. Marriages can survive and thrive after infidelity.

People are so complex.  Few people are all evil or all good.

I often tell my divorce clients that divorce does not solve all your problems — it just gives you a different set of problems.  Now, you might look at the choices and decide you do want the divorce problems rather than the stay-married-and-work-on-it problems, but there are challenges either way.

It’s a **very** difficult time right now.  Just eating, sleeping, doing what you need to do, are likely difficult.  Please keep taking care of you.  Eat anything at all that sounds even remotely edible.  Sleep when you can, even if that’s naps.  Again, please reach out to a therapist, trusted friend, pastor or other spiritual advisor. Or email me. I would be honored to offer an ear and a shoulder.

Finally, visit a book store and pick up a copy of Pema Chodren’s book “When Things Fall Apart.”  It’s a life-changing book for those who are in pain and in crisis.  For my part, I’m sending love your way.  xo.
Please share this post, it may help someone today.

Share ]]> 0
Divorce & A Blanket of Peace Fri, 16 Sep 2011 14:12:47 +0000 I have a particular conversation with almost every new divorce client. The same conversation, over and over. It’s tailored to the specific facts of my client’s case, of course, but the core is the same:

After I listen carefully and with compassion to the things their spouse has done or is doing, and after they ask how to change the actions or feelings of their spouse, I say this: You can’t change ANYONE.  Ever.  You can only change yourself.  And you are only responsible for your actions and feelings.

Well, that isn’t something most people want to hear.  They want to hear:  “Yes, you can change him or her and here’s the fool-proof method for how!”  Too bad that isn’t true.  But the good news?  You can change your own thoughts and feelings. And when you do, you will finally be happy.  You will have peace.

I spent years in unhappy and miserable-ville because I didn’t know this or didn’t accept it.   Now, I get it most days, but I’m still sometimes learning the hard way. The fact that we can create our own positive, happy life, no matter what’s happening around us –not an easy concept to truly grasp, accept and live. We live in a reactive culture, not a creative one.  For instance, the email or text alert goes off and we lurch for the iphone to see who it is.  But we do have choices.  Turn the text alert off.  Where your spouse or ex-spouse is concerned, you also have choices, though you may argue with me for a while that you don’t.

Once you get it, you will be able to literally “change your mind” — to change your feelings about a situation pretty quickly. You can access feelings within that will feel like a blanket of peace on you, warm and soft. You can change your state of mind. Here are a few ways, I’m sure you can think of dozens more:

  1. deep and slow breathing, maybe even turning the corners of your mouth upwards.  It won’t kill you, I promise.
  2. repeating some soothing words
  3. listening to powerful music you love that inspires you
  4. calling or meeting up with a positive, forward-thinking friend and talking
  5. taking a brisk walk or a run, around your house, block ,or the beach or lake
  6. taking a shower or bath:  cleansing away the negative thoughts
  7. baking or cooking a really delicious meal for yourself
  8. watching a funny movie or searching YouTube for “inspirational videos.”
  9. If you have children, having a tickle-fest.  Kid laughter is the purest form of sunshine I know.

I have faith in you.  I know you can learn that you can only control you.  I know you can let go of your husband’s or wife’s reactions and actions…. when you do, there you will find your peace. Give it a try and let me know how it goes?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Share ]]> 1
Junk Food & Movie Night Mon, 09 May 2011 14:28:53 +0000 After my divorce, I knew I wanted to start or maintain some rituals that would benefit our son. I came up with Junk Food & Movie night. Every Friday night for quite a while, we’d get together and eat “junk food” (each person got to pick a candy or an ice cream) and watch a movie.

The movie didn’t matter. The food didn’t matter. What mattered was that for a couple hours a week, our son sat with us on the couch and we laughed at a movie. He saw that we could do that, and that things in his world were ok.

I read an article about a regular family dinner night and wanted to post the link to it here as well. Same concept: You get together and treat each other in a caring, civil manner in front of your kids on a regular basis. I hope more and more people will overcome their own hurt and pain from the divorce and realize that it’s not only healing for the kids, but healing to both people, to share a meal or a movie now and then.

Here is the link to Laurie David’s article about the family dinner.

What can you do today to show yourself and your children that you and your former spouse are being kind to each other? That is the best gift you can give your children.

Share ]]> 0
When you are feeling broken, please don’t break your child. Tue, 19 Apr 2011 18:13:03 +0000 Have you ever lost your cool on your kid? Yeah, me neither.

Now that we’ve closed on the bridge I sold you, let’s get real. Today I read a great article by a single dad blogger. It moved me to tears. He talks about how we as parents have the power to make or break our children.

Divorce is VERY hard and VERY painful. Please, please take great care of yourself during this time. Please ask family or friends for help and support. It’s ok to feel scared and weak. You’re human, congratulations.

If you take care of yourself, the chances of you having enough love and patience to give your kid will increase dramatically. You know that saying, “please put on your oxygen mask FIRST, THEN place your child’s on them?” Same dealie here. If you can’t keep yourself feeling ok, you can’t help your kid either. If I can help lift you up when you’re in the Valley of Divorce, or WHENEVER you’re at the parenting brink . . .please email me via my site here. I’ve got your back.

I could never write about this as well Dan at Single Dad Laughing did, so here’s the blog post.

Be well, much love,
p.s. Please share this post. Thanks!

]]> 0