You Have To Be Married In Order To Get Divorced

An interesting divorce case - was the couple even married?
By Lee Chabin

Usually, divorce actions involve financial matters, such as dividing property, and whether, how much, and for how long one spouse will pay money to the other. But occasionally, the issue is more complicated.

That was the situation for Supreme Court Justice Matthew Cooper, who heard the case of Devorah H. vs. Steven S. Devorah was filing for divorce and seeking alimony. However, Steven was denying the marriage was even valid, and arguing that, therefore, he shouldn’t have to pay.

The judge agreed that if the couple had never legally wed, payment could not be claimed.

“It is axiomatic that only parties who are married can divorce each other,” the judge noted. “Moreover, the … relief plaintiff seeks … in the divorce proceeding — equitable distribution of property and the payment … of spousal maintenance — can be granted only if the parties are legally recognized spouses.”

Judge Cooper had to consider the following in determining whether the parties were legally married.

Marriage license
The couple never got one; but this fact was not fatal to Devorah H.’s case. A New York statute about domestic relations states that a marriage is valid “in the absence of a marriage license if it was properly solemnized.”

Devorah, relying on that statute, argued that even without the license, “she and defendant are legally married because they participated in a … wedding ceremony.”

Steven, however, countered that the ceremony was not a real one, and therefore, they couldn’t actually be considered spouses.

The wedding ceremony was ‘bare-boned’
We tend to think of wedding ceremonies as lavish affairs attended by hundreds of family and friends. It is true, though, that many brides and grooms decide an understated city hall proceeding is more their style — and it’s just as legal.

In the case of Devorah and Steven, though, they were married in a rabbi’s office without any family or friends present.

“[The ceremony, in a rabbi’s office] lasted … minutes, and the only people there, other than the parties and the rabbi, were two unidentified … men who were recruited on the spot to be witnesses,” the judge noted.

There were no photos taken or video of the ceremony recorded, and Judge Cooper found that the only document presented by the couple as proof that a marriage had occurred “was incomplete and unsigned.”

Despite the simplicity of the wedding, the court found that it met the basic requirements of New York State law; however, the judge noted that while “the parties participated in a wedding ceremony conducted in accordance with the requirements of [the domestic relations statute] does not necessarily lead, however, to the conclusion that the parties are married. [I]t is necessary to consider the circumstances surrounding the ceremony, specifically, what brought the parties to appear in the rabbi’s office … and what transpired in the days, months and years that followed.”

Context of ‘wedding’
The judge noted that it was important to consider the circumstances of what brought the couple to the rabbi’s office. The two had actually gone to the rabbi’s office for his help in finding a larger apartment.

Once there, though, “the rabbi decided ‘on the spot’ that they should be married … [T]he rabbi … felt compelled to act swiftly because the parties were about to move into an apartment he had helped them obtain,” the court noted.

“I … wanted to … assure they are living together in a manner with the blessing of Jewish law,” he said. Otherwise, he explained, he would be contributing to a situation where Devorah’s children would be “exposed to living with a man in the house without matrimony.”

The judge also took into account that Devorah, now claiming to be married, was receiving public assistance benefits listed as an unmarried mother of dependent children, [and] filing her tax returns as “single” rather than “married.”

Time to reflect
The judge said he was concerned about how swiftly the couple agreed to a wedding.

According to the domestic relations statute, a marriage ceremony can’t be performed within 24 hours after the issuance of the license.

“By requiring couples to wait a full day to marry after they receive their marriage license, the statute reflects the value we as a state place on providing people with a window for reflection before proceeding to marriage,” said the judge.

Ultimately, the court decided that Devorah H. could not show that she and Steven S. were married.

New York City and Long Island-based divorce mediator and collaborative divorce lawyer Lee Chabin helps clients end their relationships respectfully and without going to court. Contact him at, (718) 229–6149, or go to Follow him on Facebook at

Disclaimer: All material in this column is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

©2015 Community News Group

Triumph During The Transition of Divorce

Triumph During The Transition of Divorce
By Shan White

There are intrusions and unexpected events that take us off our course from moving toward what we want in life, especially when experiencing divorce.

The intensity and duration of divorce can sometimes cause us to react with increased anxiety, anger and fear. This is only natural.

We all get derailed. Depending on the impact of the divorce, our ability to face what happened will vary. During these times, how can we align who we are with what we’re facing?

1. Acceptance: Tony Robbins says, “Change is inevitable. Progress is optional”. Accepting the reality of change is the key to gracefully dealing with change. Think of maneuvering through change like practicing the martial art of Aikido. When you move with the flow of what is coming at you, rather than retreat or fight, your resistance lessens and your ability to face it strengthens.

2. Choose a new mindset: A mindset is a defined as a way of thinking that determines one’s behavior, outlook, and mental attitude. What are some positive things that could come out of this difficult situation? One option is to view it as a wake-up call in order to cause us to ask ourselves if the course we have been on still has the same meaning for us. Consequently, does the unexpected change offer a new opportunity?

3. Annihilate your negative self-talk: Begin by challenging your thought life. Ask if what you are saying to yourself is even true. Suppose you tell yourself, “I never do anything right!” The truth is that you do lots of things right. What would your life be like if you no longer believed the lie?

4. Connect with others: The company and comfort of others who understand what you are going through can be a transforming experience. It is human nature to band together in times of crisis. Although it is natural to isolate and retreat, the best thing you can do for yourself is to reach out to another or join a group. When talking to those that have come through a challenging situation, they attribute a great deal of their success to the support of an individual or a group.

5. Focus on progress instead of perfection: Perfection does not exist; instead, focus on your capacity for progress. Progress is a goal that can be achieved each day. Work toward an outcome of progress, instead of a perfect one.

6. Practice Gratitude: EckhartTolle said, “It is through gratitude for the present moment that the spiritual dimension of life opens up.” In the presence of difficulty, what is the good that you can be grateful for today?

Shan is a certified life coach specializing in divorce recovery.
Contact her today to schedule a complimentary "Divorce Challenge" session.
Office: 719-388-8758

Top 3 Signs you Are in a Toxic Relationship

Top 3 Signs you Are in a Toxic Relationship Before or After Divorce

An excellent program focusing on recognizing toxic relationships, understanding co-dependency and learning about self-empowerment!

Having The Better Divorce

I don’t know about you, but I did not want to get divorced. Who wants to get divorced? It’s so heavy, traumatic, full of conflict, upheaval and ultimate failure. Who wants their children to come from a “broken home?” Nobody, that’s who. Getting divorced sucks. I would much rather get unmarried.

My own marriage ended with a bang. After two years of intensely working on our relationship with a life coach, it all exploded with an admission of infidelity, and an “I-don’t-want-to-do-this-any-more” proclamation. Though we were working on our issues, and the process wasn’t going smoothly, I was still absolutely stunned, shocked, floored, traumatized, angered, distraught, scared, and overwhelmed…it was all so intense, that I literally fled from the coach’s office and out into the street. My whole world went inverted. This was NOT the plan. We were fixable. Anything can happen if you put your mind to it, right?

Wrong. Oh, I was so wrong. (Or as I prefer to say: “seriously mistaken.”) The 20+ years we were together, unraveled in just 13 months. The promises we made to each other were tossed aside…lawyers were hired, nest eggs spent on unnecessary legal battles and astronomical fees. I didn’t recognize my ex-husband; I didn’t recognize my life. The whole situation was one big vortex of chaos.

I’m guessing this sounds familiar to you in many ways. Divorce is often crazy, out of control, mind numbing, and distressing. So how did I get a hold of it? How did I create clarity and compassion in a situation that was so beyond my control? I let go. I got familiar with my new reality. I worked on acceptance every single day. I stripped away all the layers of hope—the memories of what had been, and of the future that I had so lovingly planned would be… I paid attention to how my ex was acting, and tried to recognize that this man is who I would be co-parenting with…not the one I went to college with and married. I worked on my resilience, my communication skills, and my support system. I learned about conflict resolution, and came to terms with failure. And I won’t lie…it was hard, scary, and sometimes dreadful. You don’t want to do this alone.

My personal experience led me to my life’s work, teaching other women (and some men too!) how to end their marriage with as much dignity, compassion, and cooperation as possible, and to move forward—redefining their lives with intent, direction, and positive energy.

Getting unmarried is a choice—a conscious one. Many people have no choice in whether or not to divorce, but you absolutely have a choice in how you “get unmarried.”

There are huge decisions to be made in divorce that will absolutely affect the rest of your life. You cannot just rush through the process, no matter how painful it is, and I know you just want it to be over. Slow down, take a breath. Give yourself permission to pause, think, and reflect. This is your life we’re talking about, and the lives of your children, if you’re a parent.

Getting unmarried takes considered action. Think about when you were getting married. You probably spent months (maybe even years!) dreaming about your wedding day. You read bridal magazines, and scoured the wedding websites. You thought carefully about your ceremony, and who the best person would be to marry you. You planned the type of celebration you wanted: large and lasted for days, small and intimate, or a dream destination. You searched for the perfect venue, caterer, florist, dress, musical entertainment, décor, favors, invitations, etc. The thought, research, and intention that went into the planning of your wedding was significant, as was the expense to put it all together and have it go off without a hitch (or with a hitch! Please excuse the pun…). 

I recommend you apply the same amount of consideration, planning and energy to getting unmarried.

Think about these questions:

  • How do you want the divorce to go—do you want to do it yourself or use a mediator, a collaborative law group, or an attorney?
  • How will you divide your assets?
  • What’s important to you when it comes to co-parenting?
  • How do you want your children to see you as you move through this process?
  • What do you want your life to look like when you are finished?

These are just some of the issues you will face when you are getting unmarried. And you want to know the answers to them. I’m not saying that your divorce will go exactly as you would like it to…chances are your wedding didn’t either, but without a road map, without careful thought, there is a good chance that things will fall through the cracks—and you will find yourself reacting frantically, rather than responding carefully. Get educated. Write your thoughts in a journal. Talk with family, friends, and other people who have been through a divorce. Surround yourself with the proper support, and the best experts. Be clear, and kind to yourself, and you will get through this. You and your life will not be the same, but with conscious choices, and determined efforts you will absolutely find happiness along the way.

Kira Gould is a Certified Divorce Coach® and the founder of Getting Unmarried: Redefining Happily Ever After.

Source: Divorce -

Go From Divorce To Happily Ever After

Ending a relationship can be a difficult and devastating process. when children are involved, it gets even more complicated.

When divorcing, the desired outcome is usually to separate physically, financially and mentally. However, parents are ultimately bonded and connected to each other for the rest of their lives, at least through their children, making "moving on" delicate and challenging.

Here are a few things to think about for parents considering a break-up:

1. They Know.

Kids are sponges, soaking in all of the energy, interactions and unconscious communication around them.  Trying to hide conflict and bad feelings, only confuses children more, and makes them believe they should hide their feelings and thoughts.

Constructive open communication is important in a family, whether together or separated, as it increases trust, safety and self-worth.

2. You Can't Run, You Can't Hide.

When a marriage fails, it can be extremely painful, filled with feelings of anger, sadness, fear and shame. It often seems the only option to escape that pain, is to cut out the other partner and have no relationship with them.

However, there was, is and always will be a relationship.  Whether together or separated, it is important for both parents to work through the dynamics and underlying emotions that create conflict.  By defining the relationship you want to have with each other moving forward, you lay the groundwork for a harmonious environment for raising children.

3. You Matter.

Parents often feel enormous pressure to always put their children first, often at the expense of their own needs. However, just like being instructed to put your oxygen mask on first, should they drop down on an airplane, it is equally important to make working through your feelings a priority.

No matter what the circumstances, divorce is painful, and only by processing and understanding your feelings, can you help your children sort through theirs.

4. There is Support.

Therapy is for families of all shapes, sizes and configurations. Whether together, separated or divorced, a professional can help you sort through issues and create a structure for effective communication, boundaries and trust.

With a little work, it is possible for each member of the family to live "happily ever after", even after divorce.

Contact me to learn more about how we can work together here.

Source: Divorce -

5 Of The Most COWARDLY Ways To Break Up With Someone

By: Dia Darling

I’ve never heard someone refer to their break up as a fun conversation. In fact, I’m pretty sure we can all agree even in the worst relationships it can be hard ending things with someone.

No matter how you do it, it will be awkward and probably emotional, but just because you want to end a relationship doesn’t make you the “bad guy/girl”. It’s how you handle it that really matters.

Here are 5 common and horrible ways you should not break up with someone.

1. Ghosting

My generation has developed this nasty little trend that is done so much it’s even been given a name, Ghosting.

Instead of actually having enough respect for the person they are with to just break up with them, they “phase” them out. Hanging out less and less. Texting less. Missing date nights and then eventually just disappearing completely. 

This is so bad because all you are doing is dragging it out, making them feel more insecure and worthless because they feel like they aren’t even important enough for you to even address, until finally they take the hint and move on.

2. Online*

There are a couple of ways to break up with someone online and guess what… all of them make you a horrible human being who deserve to be kicked in your man/lady bits.

Email: I am a writer so I totally understand the desire to write down your feelings just to get them out and say what you need to say. I even believe it’s okay to send the email to start a conversation but if your email actually ends the relationship it’s not the adult way of handling it. A letter is a great way to express your feelings, not to break up with your partner.

Facebook: If you change your status from “In a Relationship” to “Single”, your S.O. will definitely take the hint… the hint that you are a shitty person. Finding out your “boyfriend” is no longer your boyfriend when a friend texts you, “Are you okay, I saw you broke up,” is not the way to go.

3. In a Text Message

Breaking up in a text message may not be as bad as an email but it’s still shitty.

Here is the biggest problem with giving any bad news via text message… in most cases, you don’t know where they are, what they are doing or who they are with. Right before a meeting with their boss, right after someone just cut them off and stole their parking spot, as they are about to walk into a final… if you’re giving them bad news at least be considerate enough to do it when they can talk to you.  

You may not be able to provide them with an answer that will provide instant closure, but at least they can feel like they got to say anything they needed to.

Also, what if they don’t see it right away? Then when they respond hours later looking for some kind of closure or information you may not be able to text back making them feel even worse.

4. By Cheating

If you want to act like a single person then be a single person. Don’t start living your single life before you’re actually in it.

Having your S.O. find out your relationship is over while you’re getting it on with your next, is a bad look. The biggest insult to injury is moving on before you’ve let the other person go.

Cheating on someone instead of breaking up with them doesn’t just say, “I don’t like you anymore” but also “I have no respect for you. I’m free to move on with other people but I’m going to hold on to you just in case.”

5. Forcing them to break up with you

One of the most cowardly ways to end a relationship is by forcing the other person to break up with you.

This is when someone decides they are over the relationship but doesn’t want to be responsible for hurting the other person. So they start being extra moody, extra neglectful and even mean. Treating them so badly that eventually they break up with you.

The sad thing about this one is a lot of time the person they are dating will hold on for weeks or months and make excuses for their partner’s behavior in hopes things will return to normal.

No matter what breaking up is hard on everyone, but try to make things a little better on the other person. Give them the respect of a face to face conversation. Once you know you’re no longer interested in being with them, let them go and set them free. Don’t waste their time or prevent them from being with someone who wants to be with them.

*If you are in different states and won’t see each other for months and you want out I don’t think skype or over the phone is that horrible (but that’s when face-to-face is nearly impossible).

This article was originally published at BlogHer. Reprinted with permission from the author.

Source: Divorce -

Raising your kids to have a healthy lifestyle

Story highlights

  • Telling your kids to clean their plate encourages them to request larger portions of food away from home
  • Get the whole family involved in a healthy routine to encourage your kids to join in

Don't tell them to clean their plate

You want your child to finish eating when she's full, not when she's finished every morsel in front of her. Research suggests that kids who are told to eat everything on their plates may be more likely to request larger portions of food when they're away from home. "Pushing kids to eat when they aren't hungry sets up a bad precedent," says Lauren Levine, MD, a pediatrician at Columbia Doctors Midtown in New York City. Adults consume almost everything they serve themselves, according to a study by Cornell University experts, but their research also shows that kids only tend to eat about 60% of what they put on their plates—a totally "normal" thing, they say.

Make exercise fun

As adults, we often equate exercise with the gym. But kids? They just need to get moving for about an hour a day. So kick a soccer ball in the backyard, take a family walk, or go for a hike one weekend. The key is to make sure they're enjoying it, says Alanna Levine, MD, a pediatrician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Once they're done, she says, take a minute and ask them how their bodies feel. (Spoiler alert: good. Thanks, endorphins!) That way, kids will keep connecting that happy rush with physical activity, which reinforces the physical and mental benefits of exercise.

RELATED: 25 Exercises You Can Do Anywhere

Don't let them eat in front of the TV

Sure, kids might not put up a fuss about breakfast when that meal just so happens to be served during cartoon time. But children who chow down in front of the TV won't be able to pay attention to the feelings of fullness that should signal the end of the meal, says Dr. Lauren Levine. Instead, "they'll just eat mindlessly." One 2009 study found that kids who snacked while watching television may eat more candy and soda, too. Plus, other research has found that the food advertising aimed at children reinforces the message that junk food tastes better—and can be linked to unhealthy diets in young adulthood too.

Better yet, set a screen limit

Fact: Children ages 8 to 18 now spend an average of 7.5 hours a day using media devices, according to a 2010 study by the Kasier Family Foundation. (That's up from about 6.5 hours in 2000.) And watching TV—whether that's on a flat screen, computer, or cell phone—takes up a whopping 4.5 hours a day. "You don't want your children to be sedentary," says Dr. Alanna Levine, "but watching TV all day also doesn't increase their creativity, which is important for them." Sure enough, this 2010 study found that kids who spend more time using media are more likely to get poor grades and are less likely to be content with themselves than those who aren't as attached to their devices. Consider capping your child's recreational screen time to no more than 2 hours a day. The AAP discourages any media use for kids under the age of 2 and recommends older children limit their non-education screen time—i.e., entertainment—to 1 to 2 hours daily.

Expose them to different foods, but be patient

And start early, if possible; research shows that kids' food preferences don't change much from ages 2 or 3 to age 8. If you're introducing a food like broccoli into your child's diet, go easy at first. "Just because they don't eat it the first time doesn't mean they won't eat it the second or third time," says Tindall. Just don't make your child sit at the table until that broccoli is gone. "Then it becomes a punishment food,'" she says. Instead, tell your child that she doesn't have to finish it now, but will have to eat it for a snack if she's hungry later. Another strategy: Arrange the food into a fun pattern on your child's plates. One study in the journal Appetite found that kids ate twice as much fruit when it was skewered onto cocktail sticks and stuck to a watermelon.

Stash the cellphones for the night

Easier said than done, we know. But the truth is, tweens and teens who keep their phones by their bedside might have more difficulty falling asleep, according to a study published in the journal PLOS ONE. One possible reason: The blue light emitted from screens can suppress the body's melatonin levels, which might throw off our circadian rhythms. Plus, when kids hear the ping of a text message, explains Dr. Alanna Levine, they get a rush of excitement, and that can interfere with sleep too. Since the bedroom should be a device-free zone, she recommends that families leave their cell phones in, say, the kitchen, to recharge for the night before going to bed. And yes, that includes parents, too.

Give them healthy snacks

The number of calories kids consume from snacks are on the rise: one 2010 study found a 27% increase from the late 70s to the early-to-mid 2000s. And desserts were the main contributor to that rise. But snacks shouldn't be synonymous with treats, says Dr. Lauren Levine. "Little kids are active and might need to eat small amounts throughout the day," she says. And that's why their snacks should be nutritionally similar to meals, with a balance of healthy fats, whole grains, and protein—not just refined carbs covered in artificial orange dust.

RELATED: 17 High-Protein Snacks You Can Eat On the Go

Don't make it all about calories

The goal is to boost your children's health (emphasis on the health), so talk to them about how certain foods are better at giving you energy or are good for your body, says Tindall. By focusing on the positives, your kids will develop an appreciation for produce or whole grains—not just a fear of sugar. (Another suggestion: Try not to stress about your own weight, since teens can pick up on food anxiety, says Dr. Lauren Levine.) As for younger children, try telling them that it's important to have a variety of colors on their plate. "They should know that a healthy meal has foods that are orange and green, not just beige," Dr. Lauren Levine says.

RELATED: 31 Superfood Secrets for a Long and Healthy Life

Don't reward good behavior with candy

It's not just because you're giving kids extra calories—it's because, according to one review, using sweet foods as a reward can reinforce children's preferences for these types of treats. For example, if a child receives a lollipop for answering a question correctly, she could associate that candy with doing well in class.

Get the whole family involved

There's strength in numbers: Whether you're gathering the extended family for a backyard volleyball game or a day at the lake, making events group activities can boost the fun. It works for meals too: Tindall recommends revving up some excitement by cooking a new food for dinner. (A little mystery goes a long way.) And one 2007 review suggested that if adults show enthusiasm toward a food, children may be more likely to mimic them. Or, if your child is old enough to help out in the kitchen, assign her some sous chef duties. One Canadian study in fifth graders found that kids who help their parents cook meals are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables than those who don't do any food prep. Plus, it's just fun.

Don't go crazy with the "no junk food" rule

In theory, all things are fine in moderation, says Tindall. Problem is, not everyone—adults and kids alike—has the willpower to stick to one serving of potato chips. "It's not good to over-restrict [foods]," says Tindall. "Kids are going to go to birthday parties and you don't want them to try to eat half the cake." It may take some trial and error, but try to find a balance that works for the whole family—whether that's having a small dessert a few times a week or dividing up items like cookies and chips into small baggies so your kids can learn smart portion sizes.

RELATED: 16 Easy, Guilt-Free Cookie Recipes

Lead by example

The most important rule is to be a good role model for your children, says Dr. Alanna Levine. "You can't drink soda for dinner and expect them to drink water or milk," she says. Same goes for making physical activity a priority during the week and for putting away your cellphone at bedtime. "You want to show your kids that you're setting these rules not to be mean," she explains, "but because these habits will help them feel better."

This article originally appeared on

Source: - Health

How to Look For Experts

Experts who may be able to assist you (in or out of mediation)

By Lee Chabin
Director of Training and Mediation Program Development, Community Mediation Services, Inc.

In my last post, I began writing on the subject of getting help during divorce when it comes to gathering and understanding financial information. I mentioned that family members , friends and neighbors may be supportive. But, they may not be aware that we need their help; it may be awkward, even for those who care about us, to bring up the divorce and related issues, and so we may have to take that first step and let others know what we need. In my previous post, I also suggested that enrolling in a class dealing with the basics of handling money may be worthwhile for some of us.

Now, I want to introduce the idea of looking to experts:

If you are stuck, a therapist or support group might be helpful.
A social worker or psychologist may be able to assist if you have unhealthy attitudes about money. If sadness, let's say, is the issue rather than money, help in dealing with your emotions may make it easier to grapple with other matters, such as the financial ones.
A support group can be a very positive environment. During my own divorce, I felt embarrassed, even ashamed. As if I was the only one in the world going through a marital breakup. Joining a support group made me feel much less alone.
Having trouble with some of the numbers? Perhaps your accountant can assist you. (Depending on your needs, there are also “certified divorce financial analysts", tax attorneys and others that may offer the services you need. Think about what questions you need answered, and who can do that job for you. Unsure about what a particular professional does? Go on the computer and search for “What is a certified divorce financial analyst?”
If you need someone to listen, help you consider and develop your goals, and then hold you to account on fulfilling those goals, a “divorce coach” might be right for you. A good divorce coach will be on your side, offer support and assist in focusing your thinking. Even when we know what we ought to be doing, having someone to keep us on track can make all the difference in getting things done.
Wondering what something is worth? Almost anything can be appraised, from jewelry to a home, to artwork or a business. (Some caution is warranted here; not everything is worth the cost of an appraisal. There are other methods of assigning values to items; something to be discussed at another time).
This isn't by any means an all-inclusive list of the resources; but perhaps it will give you an idea of who and what is out there to help you learn more and get through a separation or divorce.

Spouses in mediation often avail themselves of one or more of these types of assistance. But, of course, you don’t have to be a mediation client to get such help.

All blog posts are for information purposes, and should not be considered as legal advice.

Next time: Experts in mediation: they play a different role than they do in litigation.

Fed up moms create their own clothing for girls

Story highlights

  • 10 mompreneurs have banded together to expand clothing choices for girls
  • #ClothesWithoutLimits is clothing for girls and boys that defies gender stereotypes

There's nothing wrong with that, but shouldn't there be more options for girls?

The answer, according to 10 "mompreneurs" who have banded together, is an emphatic yes. Through their #ClothesWithoutLimits campaign, these mothers from around the country, many starting their businesses through Kickstarter, are hoping to raise awareness about the current limitations when it comes to clothing for girls and how clothing that bashes gender stereotypes can have an impact far beyond the outfits themselves.

Michele Yulo, founder of Princess Free Zone, and her daughter Gabi, 10

Michele Yulo, founder of Princess Free Zone, and her daughter Gabi, 10

"Clothes are such an expression of who we are and ... how we choose to go out into the world is so important," said Michele Yulo, one of the members of #ClothesWithoutLimits, who was inspired by her daughter, Gabi, now 10, to create Princess Free Zone back in 2009. Her company offers empowering T-shirts for girls emblazoned with images such as dinosaurs, hammers and soccer balls.

Too hot for tweens: Why some parents dread back-to-school shopping

"I just believe that the more options (girls) have and they can see ... the less limitations they will perceive that they have."

Yulo has now gone a step further. When Gabi, who loves baseball, basketball and playing the violin, needs to dress up for a family occasion, her mom's had to buy suits or tuxedos that are made for boys. Dresses are not an option, said Yulo, and try finding a suit for girls at any major retailer. "Impossible," she says.

Determined to change that, Yulo recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for Suit Her, with the hope of raising $90,000 to begin offering three different lines of suits for girls 5 to 12. (I can barely contain my excitement that my daughter, who dreads wearing dresses, can buy a suit for her cousin's upcoming bat mitzvah.)

Yulo hopes to offer suits made for girls through her new line, Suit Her.

Yulo hopes to offer suits made for girls through her new line, Suit Her.

Yulo believes options such as suits that are made for and fit girls send a clear message to the girls buying them and the rest of us as well.

"Kids shouldn't have to be brave to wear the things they like," she said. "This goes back to ... why is retail so important because that is how people are looking at you. That's how they're sizing you up. That is where the labels come from."

'Girl clothes without the girly'

Like Yulo, Sharon Choksi has a daughter who couldn't find anything to wear in the girls' sections of stores and for years would buy everything she needed from the boys' department.

Sharon Choksi, founder of Girls Will Be, and her daughter Maya, 10

Sharon Choksi, founder of Girls Will Be, and her daughter Maya, 10

"When she was younger, we'd hear kids whisper innocently to their parents, 'Is that a boy or a girl?,' kids at school saying, 'Why are you wearing boys' clothes all the time?' " she said.

Girl empowerment ads like GoldieBlox: Do they work?

Her daughter wasn't really bothered by it, but Choksi, another member of #ClothesWithoutLimits, thought of all the other girls and their parents who eventually would get tired of the comments, lose interest in dinosaurs and spaceships, and wear more gender-accepted clothing.

So she and two of her siblings (Laura and David Burns) started Girls Will Be, which offers a range of T-shirts and shorts for active girls with images ranging from dinosaurs to spaceships to math equations. It's tagline is "Girl clothes without the girly." (Full disclosure: My older daughter will only wear shirts from Girls Will Be.)

"Over and over, the message every season in every store is so consistent that children start to internalize that and say, 'Oh, OK, the rough and tumble sports or the wildlife and creatures or the outer space, that's always over there in the boys' section, and the sparkly penguins and kittens and rainbows are in the girls' section," said Choksi, a mom of two.

"It's on top of the other messages that they see in toys, that they see in the media and movies and books ... and so by the time kids are 4 and 5, they're assimilating all this information and coming up with very strong opinions, specifically on the math and the science side," she said. "To be sending messages to one gender that that's really not for them is doing those kids a disservice."

For girls who love dresses and dinosaurs

Rebecca Melsky's story is markedly different from Choksi's and Yulo's. Her daughter, now 5, loves wearing dresses, but Melsky, also a member of the #ClothesWithoutLimits team, wondered why she could never find one with a dinosaur or a spaceship on it.

"I really wanted to be able to show her and help her understand and feel that she can like all sorts of things, and also like all sorts of traditionally feminine styles and that those things aren't mutually exclusive," she said.

Mom to 'Big Hero 6' manufacturer: #IncludeTheGirls

Rebecca Melsky (left) and Eva St. Clair, co-founders of Princess Awesome

Rebecca Melsky (left) and Eva St. Clair, co-founders of Princess Awesome

So, back in April 2013, she and a friend, Eva St. Clair, started Princess Awesome, which offers dresses with motifs traditionally found on boys' clothing. At first, they started doing everything by hand, but based on the overwhelming response, earlier this year, they launched a Kickstarter campaign to move operations from their home and into factory production.

In all, they raised $215,000, blowing away the Kickstarter campaigns for previous children's wear.

"So many people have daughters or granddaughters or nieces or friends who are interested in our clothes for so many reasons," said Melsky. Some girls who don't like to wear dresses say these dresses speak to them. Other girls who like them are the ones who have been wondering why all the dinosaur clothes are on the boys' side, she said.

"Parents too ... want to encourage a love of math and science in their daughters and adventure and pirates and other things besides what is available," she said. "It's just wanting to show them all the options they can be."

The message that clothes send makes a difference, said Melsky.

"Kids, boys and girls, are sent a message when they walk through clothing stores or when they see what other kids are wearing and we think that ... by all of us doing our part, we can change that message and give kids more options."

Signs of change?

The mothers behind #ClothesWithoutLimits say there are signs major retailers are slowly getting the message, with all the women I talked to pointing to Target's recent decision to move away from gender-based signage in some departments.

But still, there is a long way to go before girls and boys can find clothing that doesn't cater to gender stereotypes in most stores, they conceded.

"Their pink and sparkly for girls has sold well and does well and there are a lot of kids who like that style and it works for them, and that's fantastic, and it is always hard, I think, to be the first one to step out and say, 'Nope, times are changing and we are going to offer kids something different' for fear that it won't sell,' " said Choksi of Girls Will Be.

Femvertising: Ads targeting women do plenty for brands

These women aren't doing this for the money, Yulo of the Suit Her line said. In fact, Yulo said she hasn't made a cent from her first endeavor, Princess Free Zone, and even had to sell her wedding ring to start the business six years ago.

"I don't think anybody's making a fortune off of this. I think that we're all authentically in it," she said.

They are driven by a passion to make life better for girls and boys, and a belief that their small companies can do more by working together than by competing.

"We all believe that the message that clothes send to kids matters and that we're all doing something about it and our voices could be louder together than they are just on their own," said Melsky of Princess Awesome.

What do you think of clothing that seeks to bash gender stereotypes for girls? Share your thoughts with Kelly Wallace on Twitter @kellywallacetv or CNN Parents on Facebook.

Source: - Health

What’s Your Style? Defining Style + Why it Matters

Khristian A. Howell

defining style


Whether you are a design professional, design enthusiast, or design novice we all have a sense of style. For some of us defining that sense of style may come more naturally than for others. Some of us have a very clear sense style that has stayed with us since we were very young. For others style is something that evolves and meanders as we grow and evolve throughout the course of our lives. Whether it is part of your defining essence or simply a representation of you at a moment in time, your style in many ways is your face to the world. More importantly your personal style says something about how you like to live.

defining style


When we take a moment to think about the things that make us happy and ultimately how we like to live we allow ourselves to be our truest selves. Feeling safe, inspired, relaxed, and ultimately your definition of awesome in your clothing, hair, home, etc. is absolutely essential to living our best life.

defining style


So that is the why as I see it – now on to the how. I do not believe any of us are one note creatures. We all have many things that will resonate with us and make us happy. There is just no need to pigeonhole yourself into one word like traditional or modern. You will find more truth in coining your own word or phrase that represents the many different facets of you! For example I define my personal style as simple, clean, fresh and chic. This is a really fun exercise to try. Go ahead, don’t be shy! It is amazing how considering this will make it easier to make design decisions.

defining style


Once you have your personal definition of your style you can use it to view everything through this lens. It will make it easier for you to avoid the sensory overload that happens when you have all those beautiful options in front of you on your next shopping trip. I invite you to consider and come up with your magic words or phrase. Close your eyes and think about your “happy place”. What does it look like? Smell like? What do you hear? What are you wearing? You’ll see the definition of your style will become pretty clear when you just think about what makes you happiest!

defining style



Who Pays The Taxes In a Divorce?

Are Both Spouses Responsible For Tax Debt In A New Jersey Divorce?

By Edward Weinstein, Esq.

During my many years as a New Jersey divorce attorney I have helped many people start fresh with new lives without their former spouses. Unfortunately I also know that sometimes the mistakes of our former spouses can continue to haunt us. Having to deal with the Internal Revenue Service and a divorce because of your ex-spouse’s delinquencies can be a nightmare. The innocent spouse rule is meant to bring relief for innocent spouses so that they don’t needlessly suffer for an indiscretion that was not their fault.

Many situations occur in which evasion of tax under a jointly filed return is attributable to one of the spouses, with the other spouse being wholly innocent of any knowledge of or participation in the evasion. Generally, when a wife and husband file a joint income tax return, each spouse is jointly liable for the full amount of tax on the couples combined income. This includes any additional tax, interest and/or penalties assessed by the Internal Revenue Service as a result of an audit. The Internal Revenue Service has the authority to pursue either spouse and collect the entire tax owed, not just the portion attributable to spouse’s income. The government may hold one spouse responsible for payment of all the tax due. Similar to a surety in which a creditor can seek payment from the surety without seeking payment from the obligor, the government can seek payment from one spouse without proceeding against the other or both spouses. The innocent spouse rule has been adopted to help solve this problem. To hold an innocent spouse accountable for the wrong doing of his or her spouse would be inequitable and unjust. There are certain common law principles and statutes that are designed to protect spouses from this possible injustice. Thus, an innocent spouse, who is forced to pay taxes, may request relief from the spouse who committed tax fraud. Unfortunately, for many tax relief under the innocent spouse relief may prove to be difficult to accomplish. The requirements are very specific and stringent. The Internal Revenue Service will only give innocent spouse status to a spouse who did not have knowledge of his or her partner’s tax wrongdoings, or if the spouse’s signature was a forgery or obtained by misrepresentation, fraud, mistake, or duress.

Under 26 U.S.C.A § 6015(b), a spouse may seek relief if the spouse establishes that in signing the return the spouse did not know, and had no reason to know, there was an understatement of tax attributable to erroneous items of the other spouse, and that it would be inequitable to hold the spouse liable. Liability for taxpayers no longer married or taxpayers legally separated or not living together is limited. Where relief is not available to an individual under those subsections, 26 U.S.C.A § 6015(f) permits equitable relief if, taking into account all the facts and circumstances, it is inequitable to hold the individual liable for any unpaid tax or any deficiency.

The Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 includes three provisions which lessen the severity of this tax obligation. The first provision eases the requirements for someone filing a joint tax return to qualify as an innocent spouse, and avoid liability for the other spouse’s tax deficiency. The second provision allows widowed, divorced, legally separated, or couples living apart for at least a year who file joint tax returns, to make an election to limit their liability for deficiencies on a joint return. The third and final provision provides equitable relief for people not meeting the criteria for obtaining relief under the other two provision. Under equitable relief the IRS will consider all of the facts and circumstances in order to determine whether it is unfair to hold you responsible for the understatement or underpayment of tax.

In certain circumstances, a spouse can choose to limit his or her liability for any deficiency on a joint tax return. If elected this limitation will correspond to that spouse’s allocable portion of the deficiency. However, this option can only be made if the spouses are no longer married, are legally separated or lived apart for at least twelve months before the election was made. If the election is made, the tax liabilities that resulted in the deficiency will be allocated between the spouses as if they had filed separate tax returns. To give an example, a spouse using such an election, generally will be liable for the tax on any unreported income only to the extent that he or she earned the income.

Relief in such circumstances is based upon knowledge. This election will not provide relief from a spouse’s tax items, if the IRS can prove that the person claiming relief actually had knowledge and knew about those items when he or she signed the return.

Under common law principles, a spouse can avoid tax penalties when the spouse’s signature was a forgery or obtained by misrepresentation, fraud, mistake, or duress. Misrepresentation is an assertion or manifestation by words or conduct that is not in accord with the facts. Fraud is a false representation of a matter of fact—whether by words or by conduct, by false or misleading allegations, or by concealment of what should have been disclosed—that deceives and is intended to deceive another so that the individual will act upon it to her or his legal injury. A mistake is defined as an unintentional act, omission, or error. Mistakes are categorized as a mistake of fact of a mistake of law. A mistake of fact occurs when a person believes that a condition of event exists when it does not. A mistake of law is made by a person who has knowledge of the correct facts but is wrong about the legal consequences of an act or event.

Duress refers to a situation whereby a person performs an act as a result of violence, threat or other pressure against the person. Black’s Law Dictionary defines duress as "any unlawful threat or coercion used... to induce another to act [or not act] in a manner [they] otherwise would not [or would]". Duress is pressure exerted upon a person to coerce that person to perform an act that he or she ordinarily would not perform. Duress has two aspects. One is that it negates the person's consent to an act, such as sexual activity or the entering into a contract; or, secondly, as a possible legal defense or justification to an otherwise unlawful act. A defendant utilizing the duress defense admits to breaking the law, but claims that he or she is not liable because, even though the act broke the law, it was only performed because of extreme unlawful pressure.

Furthermore, the Innocent Spouse Act of 1971 states that a spouse who filed a joint tax return may be protected from liability if he or she can show that: the joint tax return contains a substantial understatement of tax “attributable to grossly erroneous items” of the other spouse; the taxpayer did not know of the understatement when signing the joint tax return, or did not have reason to know; and it would be inequitable to hold the spouse liable because her or she did not derive any benefit from it beyond normal support from the income.

In practice innocent spouse relief is incredibly limited because of the difficulty in meeting the burdens of proof. The availability of statutory relief is also limited because the law’s stringent definition of “substantial understatement of tax,” and its failure to address situations arising from underpayment of tax.

If you or a loved one is facing a similar situation, I invite you to contact my office immediately.

How Divorce Therapists Can Help You

What Can A Divorce Therapist Do For You?

by Weinberger Law

working with a divorce therapist

You’re tired of carrying the weight of your divorce on your shoulders and emotionally, you’re drained. Is is time to see a divorce therapist? Here are four ways counseling can help you get through your divorce with most of your sanity intact, as well as pointers on the type of therapist that may best match your needs.

Why you should see a therapist specializing in divorce
Most therapists are trained to facilitate couple’s relationships. They get plenty of training in graduate school about how to help couples work through their problems, but virtually no training on what to do if they can’t. It may come as a surprise, but many therapists may be nervous when one or both members of a divorcing couple come to see them, often because they’re afraid of being dragged into a legal battle. On the other hand, a therapist trained to work with divorcing clients is less likely to be overwhelmed by the intensity that often emanates from people going through divorce, and may have experience in court proceedings, or at least be knowledgeable about the divorce process.

So what will a divorce therapist do for me, exactly?
– A divorce therapist can provide realistic advice about how to emotionally cope with the end of a marriage, including how to help children adjust. Contrary to what conventional wisdom would have people believe, not everyone “gets over it,” and not every couple can co-parent. For anyone going through high-conflict divorce, it’s essential to learn about personality traits and disorders that contribute to ongoing conflict. A divorce therapist can help you understand what kind of divorce you have so you can make strategies for how best to navigate it.

– A divorce therapist will teach you to disengage emotionally. It’s common for someone going through a dissolution to get mired in resentments towards the other person, or concern over an ex’s parenting. Staying focused on your ex, however, prevents you from moving on. A good therapist will help you shift your focus from your former partner back to where it belongs – on you.

– A divorce therapist will give you communication strategies. One of the top stressors for divorced people is communication. E-mails and texts make it easy to use an ex like a punching bag. Targets of acrimonious communication may unwittingly fuel hostile contact by responding defensively, trying to prove they’re right, or retaliating in kind. Or, they may go into “flight” mode and spend hours reacting — feeling angry, scared, and queasy – without getting anything accomplished. A divorce therapist will help you learn how to decrease the time you spend corresponding with your ex (or agonizing over corresponding with your ex) and improve the effectiveness of your communication.

– A divorce therapist will help you learn to co-parent. The main obstacle to effective co-parenting is when parents try to control what goes on in the other parent’s household. Meddling happens ostensibly because one person doesn’t trust his ex to care for the children, but more likely, because he or she has control issues and hasn’t learned to let go of the reins. This kind of intrusiveness will not only damage your ability to co-parent, but it will also encourage children to pit you and your ex against each other. A divorce therapist can help you focus on what you can control – your own parenting! In extreme cases, where the conflict and meddling is so toxic that attempts to co-parent are destructive, a divorce therapist can coach you on parallel parenting, a paradigm that limits communication and interaction.

Dealing with a divorce, especially if you have children, is a bit like dealing with a chronic disease. You need to educate yourself about what to expect and come up with strategies to manage your symptoms, whether those are infrequent, mild flare-ups, or near-constant barrages. Hiring a divorce therapist is an investment in your mental health, your children’s mental health, and the quality of your life. Even a few therapy sessions can help you achieve what should be the end game of any divorce: making peace with the past and moving on to something better.

Your peace of mind matters. For legal support in your divorce, our caring and trusted Weinberger Law Group attorneys can help. Please contact us to schedule your free consultation.