An interview with Ilyssa Panitz

Family Lawyer Sabrina Shaheen Cronin says the best possible outcome is when both sides are willing to bend on all matters on the table.

I recommend making sure you learn what helps you in terms of your “rituals.” Aside from therapy or counseling, I recommend working out, doing yoga, gardening, or some other form of exercise that gets your mind away from everything other than the task at hand. Take up a new hobby, such as dance or take a cooking class. Try to do something that you have always wanted to do. Invest in yourself. After all, we get no dress rehearsals in life, but we do get second acts.

Have you ever been in a car that got stuck in a pile of snow or in puddle of mud? You try to get the car to move forward by pressing on the gas pedal over and over, but the more you try, the vehicle just keeps spinning its wheels in the same exact position as it was before. In other words, you are going nowhere despite your many attempts to move forward and be on your way. It is the same thing when you are going through a divorce. The number one problem in a divorce is both sides are jamming up the process because no one is willing to meet halfway to work everything out. Remember, you are not going to get everything you want, and neither is the other side. But, I cannot stress enough, if you make a list of everything that is acceptable you may be able to avoid a lengthy and costly procedure. As parents we teach our children to compromise to avoid conflict and temper tantrums. It is the same thing here. You get half of your way and the other person gets half of their way, everyone wins! Sabrina Shaheen Cronin is a legal expert in this area and stresses to her clients the importance of negotiating so you can cross the finish line quickly.

Ilyssa Panitz: I would love to learn a bit about you. Tell me all.

Sabrina Shaheen Cronin: I am a single mom of three children who loves her kids more than anything in this world. I work tirelessly to provide them a good life, solid education, and the ability to explore the activities in which they have an interest. I am also someone who has been sensitive most of her life. When I was younger, I was criticized for being “too” sensitive, because I often took things personally and let others’ opinions and judgments have power and control over me. For a variety of reasons, I did not have much self-esteem and confidence, and as a result, I was not in the best relationships. I, like many, have had her share of challenges. For a very long time, I felt misunderstood, down on myself, extremely lost, and struggling emotionally. Despite seeking out the assistance of others, I still did not have the tools to know how to improve my circumstances. I was also shy when it came time to opening-up and talking about myself, notwithstanding my total devotion to piano and dance since the age of three. My passion for music and dance led me to pursue a career in the performing arts. I studied Musical Theater at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and always felt alive when I was on stage singing, dancing, and acting. Unlike my friends in the program who sang and danced everywhere they went I was very reserved when I was not on stage performing. Because of my insecurities, and not liking what I saw in New York in terms of how people in the industry were treated, I chose to go to law school to have a voice for those performing artists who were truly disrespected. Little did I know then that my wanting to be a voice for others, was truly a vehicle for me to be a voice for myself. Even while attending law school, and then working professionally as an attorney, I went on to have (what I can say confidently today) a successful career as a singer/songwriter, and continued to perform in stage performances, concerts, and independent movies. As a musician, I wanted nothing more than to touch others in a positive way with my music. Today, my desire to effect positive change in people is as strong as it has ever been. I know why I have been through the challenges in my life and helping people along the way has helped me to grow myself. Some of the most arduous cases I have had to deal with as an attorney have also challenged me not only professionally but personally as well. Standing in the shoes of thousands of clients, hearing their stories, witnessing tragedies, and seeing the worst in people, has also taught me a great deal about human behavior and personalities. Changing one’s propensities is not an easy task. It takes someone who is coachable and wants more for him or herself. It takes a strong enough “why” to be introspective and take responsibility for your life. As my life has unfolded, so too have my dreams and goals.

Ilyssa Panitz: Has all of this had an impact on you?

Sabrina Shaheen Cronin: I can sincerely say that as I have embraced life’s ups and downs, I have found the beauty in it all. If it were not for the difficulties in my life, I would not be who I am today and I would not be able to “reach” as many people as I can. My experiences have helped shape me and have given me the wisdom I need to understand people from all walks of life. I am grateful for all of it. Even looking back to when I was at my lowest and absolutely broken, I am humbled at how far I have come and proud for having found the will and the fortitude to persevere. I am a very spiritual person, and my faith has also grown stronger through the adversities. I was bestowed a grace unlike anything I have ever experienced before, and I am blessed to carry it still today. Despite the positive growth and changes in myself, I remain a very sensitive person; today, however, I see it as an advantage. My unique ability to sense and feel things in others that most people cannot, is a gift. This gift is what helps me serve others to the best of my ability. I strive to do excellent work and my passion is helping people. I am definitely an idealist, wanting everyone to be kind to one another and live their best lives. Knowledge is power, and I want to help others gain as much knowledge as they can so they can transform their lives to be fulfilled and happy! I do not want others to take as long as I did to make positive changes in their lives. I want to provide those who want it, the tools to live the happiest lives they possibly can!

Ilyssa Panitz: What made you want to become a lawyer given your background in the arts?

Sabrina Shaheen Cronin: I wanted to be able to stand up for what is right; be a voice for those who could not be that for themselves, and the actual “study” and learning of the law was interesting to me.

Ilyssa Panitz: Why family law, it seems so ugly, emotional, and nasty and why does it have to be like this?

Sabrina Shaheen Cronin: I did not choose family law; rather, it chose me. I practiced everything but family law for several years. After having been an assistant prosecuting attorney and handling juvenile matters, neglect, and delinquency cases, I had a natural affinity for the children who found themselves caught in the “system.” Once I opened up my own practice, and family law clients kept getting referred to me, I had a strong desire to do what was right for the kids involved in family disputes, custody arrangements, domestic violence, and divorces. Later, my own divorce and custody issues propelled and intensified my desire to do what is right for the betterment of children not only for me personally but for all my clients. Yes, divorce can bring out the worst in people. I say that challenging times usually exacerbate someone’s pre-existing tendencies. For instance, if a person is prone to be anxious, well then divorce makes them that much more so. If a person tends to be vindictive, then you know what you are going to get when divorcing that person. The same is true for divorce attorneys.

Ilyssa Panitz: Really?

Sabrina Shaheen Cronin: Many attorneys make things worse for their clients, not better. Clients mistakenly believe they want a pit-bull attorney, or one who stops at nothing to “win.” Meanwhile, if children are involved, the children are the ones who may suffer the most. They need to prove their point, win, or stop at nothing, may cause their children to be nervous wrecks and they then lose all hope of having a peaceful co-parenting existence after the divorce is final. It may take many years and a lot of heartache to bridge that gap. Many attorneys lose sight of the fact that these people must deal with each other long after the divorce is final. To me, it is not always about “winning.” To me, it is about compromise. A good result is when both sides may not necessarily get what they want, but they can live with what they get. It is about being reasonable. It is about doing what is in their children’s best interest. If children are not involved, and it is simply about splitting assets and debts, then once again, common sense should prevail. Clients and litigants need to put ego aside, stop throwing good money after bad, cut their losses, and move on. If someone is truly not getting what they deserve under the law, or their soon-to-be-ex has been abusive, has been hiding assets, has been alienating the children, or behaving in other unacceptable ways, then they need to fight and fight hard. The one who perseveres the longest in family law matters usually prevails. Do not settle if you do not think the settlement is fair or just; and never, ever let fear cause you to settle for something you do not want. A good attorney should help you cope or help you work through any fears you may have. A good attorney should help empower you. Once a judgment of divorce or custody order is entered, it is very difficult to change the terms afterward.

Ilyssa Panitz: What do you advise people to have with them when they first meet with an attorney?

Sabrina Shaheen Cronin: You do not necessarily need anything when you first consult with an attorney; however, the more information you do provide, the more information you may get out of that initial consultation. Before you schedule the meeting, make sure you ask if the initial meeting is free or if there is a fee. Sometimes, if there is a cost that initial charge may go to the retainer amount when you retain that attorney. During the divorce itself, it is important to gather all financial information, including assets and debts. If you want to do your homework ahead of this first meeting, you could bring proof of income for both parties, tax returns, mortgage statements, credit card statements, savings account statements, automobile payments, utility bills, etc. and if children are involved, then you should know the cost of daycare, educational expenses, a general idea as to your desired parenting time and custody arrangements, etc. If you do not know all this information, do not worry at all. A good attorney will help you sort through all of this and obtain it for you, if you cannot do so yourself.

Ilyssa Panitz: What are the top five questions a person should be asking a lawyer before they retain them to see if there is a good fit for their case?

Sabrina Shaheen Cronin: Typically, most of your questions should be answered during the normal course of the initial consultation, just by discussing your matter. If your questions are not answered, you could ask how familiar they are with the opposing counsel (if you know who it is) and whether they have a good rapport with the judge and their staff (again, if you know who it is). Otherwise, make sure to ask what you can expect both from them as your counsel and with respect to your matter; what their fees are; and what their experience level is. If you have a high conflict situation or one where abuse is involved, you should ask whether they have experience with such matters, and if so, how successful have they been. If it is a post judgment matter, you need to find out how likely they think you will succeed on the issues you are presenting and whether they have experience dealing with such issues. If you do not feel comfortable asking these questions during the initial consultation, then you certainly will not feel comfortable with this attorney during your legal matter. Sometimes it is not so much the answers you are looking for, but rather, the comfort level you have with asking those questions and communicating with the attorney. Effective communication with whomever you choose is crucial.

Ilyssa Panitz: Every case is different as is every attorney. How do you find the one that is right for you?

Sabrina Shaheen Cronin: As stated above, you must find someone with whom you have trust and a certain comfort level that meets your needs. Some people simply want to hire the most aggressive attorney they can find and do away with how comfortable they feel with that attorney. The problem that I find in those situations, is that the needs and desires of the client are often ignored. Many highly aggressive attorneys are not appropriately aggressive. They get side-tracked, sometimes even push their own agenda, and do not “hear” what their client wants, do not communicate timely or effectively, and the client’s expectations are not met. Sometimes, the client hires an attorney they feel uber comfortable with, but then that attorney is not aggressive enough. You must find a balance. A good attorney will listen to you, and do as you would like, but will also guide you and tell you what you should do, what you need, and educate you, coach you prior to hearings or your deposition, and counsel you as to that which you are entitled under the laws of your state. If you insist on pursuing a course of action that is not advisable by your attorney, then your attorney may or may not withdraw as your counsel, but at least you have been given solid advice and you can then make your decisions accordingly.

Ilyssa Panitz: How important is it to find someone local and entrenched to the court you will be going to, should your case require a hearing and possible trial with a Judge?

Sabrina Shaheen Cronin: Often, local court rules come into play, and sometimes so do local politics. Getting “home-towned” by a local attorney is quite common. This means that despite the law being on your side, the other side wins because they have more contacts within the community. This definitely happens (sometimes by the most well-intentioned judges and mediators), but I would not let this dissuade you from choosing a lawyer you prefer simply because he or she may not be as “connected.” You still need to remember the majority of your work with this attorney is outside the courtroom, so you want to make sure you feel just as comfortable communicating with your lawyer on a daily basis as you do with his or her capabilities in the courtroom. I have seen countless cases where the “seemingly” more connected attorney gets the higher paying client, only for that client to discover that it is the attorney who is better prepared and more tenacious who wins.

Ilyssa Panitz: For couples who want to get divorced, what are the biggest hold-ups in slowing down the process?

Sabrina Shaheen Cronin: Now unfortunately, the biggest hold-up is COVID, and the courts are being very slow in processing cases. When we are not in the middle of a pandemic, the speediness of a matter usually depends on how quickly the two sides can agree to the terms of settlement. Attorneys can hasten this process along, but remember, most attorneys get paid the longer a matter takes. If the two parties can agree on their own, then they save a lot of money and time. Do not agree to something, though, unless you are certain you can live with it. Trying to undo negotiations and agreements which the parties made between themselves can be difficult even when the attorneys attempt to re-negotiate those same terms. If you are uncertain, it is better to let the attorneys handle the negotiations. Sometimes the delays can be the attorneys, their schedules, caseloads; sometimes the delays are the judges and courts.

Ilyssa Panitz: What are some suggestions you can provide to keep cases flowing so legal costs will not skyrocket?

Sabrina Shaheen Cronin: Try to manage your expectations and be reasonable. Legal costs skyrocket when battles about custody are ongoing or when someone is fighting about spousal support (alimony) and/or a division of assets. Attorneys should do a better job of counseling their clients to show them the pros and cons of ongoing litigation. For instance, if it costs $10,000 in attorneys’ fees to “win” some assets worth $5,000, you would have been better off walking away from that asset and negotiating something else. Likewise, many people want to pursue more child support, and it costs money to do that. If it is not a significant difference, you may want to forego doing so until it warrants (in dollar value) hiring an attorney.

Ilyssa Panitz: What happens if your client is trying to divorce a narcissist. How does this change the game?

Sabrina Shaheen Cronin: This is a huge topic, one on which entire books are written! I have dealt with many cases involving narcissists, narcissistic personality disorders, borderline personality disorders, and sociopaths. Divorcing people with these personality disorders, or having a client with a personality disorder, is difficult at best. When children are involved, it is even more difficult. Managing these types of personalities is at the core of being able to handle these cases well. It takes a certain skill level in the attorney to be able to recognize these issues and understand what the client is going through. The worst thing an attorney can do is minimize the issues and not sympathize or try to empathize with their client. Suffering at the hands of a narcissist or sociopath is very real and the abuse is very real. A victim of this type of abuse needs to be with an attorney who can navigate them through these waters with grace. The ability to help these client’s draft emails, text messages, etc. is also crucial to their success. It is important to empower these victims with the skills and knowledge to learn how to negotiate with their soon-to-be-ex, gain newly set boundaries, and develop a level of confidence so they stop the patterns of behavior with the person they are divorcing and for future relationships, so it does not haunt them moving forward. Divorcing a narcissist does not stop the pain or turmoil for the abused, especially when children are involved. Many clients feel defeated and wonder why they even got divorced in the first place, because they see their children less and they now must deal with the continued harassment and hostility by their ex. Co-parenting with a narcissist takes a great deal of work on oneself, but I promise you it will be worth it. Your children will reap the benefits because you will be a more “present” parent, one who is stronger and has more self-esteem; and you cannot control the actions or behavior of another, but your reactions and your behavior may indirectly affect the “bad” behavior of the other narcissistic parent, or at least your perceptions will change which will empower you even more.

Ilyssa Panitz: Is it possible to negotiate with a narcissist?

Sabrina Shaheen Cronin: Yes, but you must make it seem like it was their idea!

Ilyssa Panitz: How are they supposed to co-parent with a narcissist? Is it possible?

Sabrina Shaheen Cronin: As mentioned above, it takes a lot of self-control, mental strength, and emotional fortitude. You must have strong boundaries, but you can also be kind. This type of behavior takes a great deal of work. To be kind in the face of adversity is the best armor you can have and the best possible co-parenting relationship with a narcissist will result. This is ultimately what you want for your children. You must strive for this, so your kids are as well-adjusted as possible. If a narcissist feels attacked, then they will retaliate ten-fold. Since you already lived through all that pain and agony, you need to do all you can to negotiate with your ex and be astute with your communication, so he or she thinks they have the upper hand, even though you are in control and are maintaining the boundaries you need to feel safe, secure, and confident. Over time, by practicing these strategies and gaining this mental aptitude, you will be absolutely certain that divorcing your narcissistic ex was the best thing you could have done. If you do not work on yourself, you may second guess the divorce especially if there are children involved and you may continue to live the nightmare while trying to co-parent.

Ilyssa Panitz: What happens if you find out the other side committed an ethical violation. What does or can that do to your client’s case?

Sabrina Shaheen Cronin: If you uncover something like this, depending on the severity, your attorney may discuss this with opposing counsel. If it is the attorney who committed the unethical behavior, once again, you can either discuss it with them directly, agree to certain terms and conditions for behaving the way they did (especially if your client has been prejudiced in some way) such as sanctions, attorney’s fees, a relief or remedy you want, etc. If the other attorney fails to cooperate and denies a violation occurred, or even if they do not deny it, you can always report them to the Attorney Grievance Commission of their state in addition to seeking relief in the court in which your matter is pending.

Ilyssa Panitz: Talk to me about how determining child support and alimony works where you practice?

Sabrina Shaheen Cronin: The Federal Child Support Enforcement Act has required all states to implement child support guidelines, but states have the right to choose which formula they will use. All states have adopted one of three different formulas, called models, to determine the appropriate amount of child support payments for each family. Most states use the Income Shares Model. The Percentage of Income Model (this Model has two variations, Flat and Varying, and depending on which state you reside will depend on which variation is used), and the Melson Formula are the other two models used throughout the United States. For Michigan, and states using the Income Shares Model, incomes, the amount of overnights the children spend with each party, childcare, medical expenses, length of marriage, number of children, etc. are used to calculate child support. Spousal support (alimony) is not necessarily mandated in every state. Alimony is court-ordered financial support from one spouse to another, after a divorce. Alimony laws vary considerably from state to state, and courts often have significant flexibility on a case-by-case basis in determining whether to award alimony, how much alimony to award, and how long alimony payments will continue. Usually, the longer the marriage, the more disparate the incomes, and depending on the state, the actions of the other partner, and who has primary custody of the children, all may impact the amount and length of alimony received.

Ilyssa Panitz: What about dividing marital assets?

Sabrina Shaheen Cronin: Different states have different rules relative to dividing marital assets. Some states look at an equitable division of marital assets, while others look at an equal division of marital assets. Personal assets are seen differently from marital assets, and of course, prenuptial agreements are enforceable depending on the state. Sometimes certain provisions of a prenuptial agreement can be stricken or nullified, however, usually a great deal of litigation must be had before provisions of a contract such as a prenuptial agreement can be voided.

Ilyssa Panitz: I am sure clients come to you and they are an emotional mess especially when they are face to face with the other side. What do you suggest they do to stay, calm, cool and collective during those moments?

Sabrina Shaheen Cronin: Firstly, make sure a divorce is absolutely what you want to do. Even in the best of circumstances, divorce is not easy. I make sure to advise all clients (who are not in a dangerous, abusive, or otherwise toxic relationship) to exhaust every option to try to make a marriage work. That being said, you cannot force the other person to do anything. Both people must want to work at the marriage. Both people must be invested. People usually divorce because of an affair (or sexual fling), money, or an addiction issue. Some people’s tolerance levels are higher and will stay in situations that others think are intolerable situations. Everyone is different. That being said, problems arise in most relationships, and sometimes, issues such as infidelity manifest as a symptom of a deeper issue such as a lack of communication or connection. Sometimes, it is simply the propensity of someone to cheat, and if you are with someone you know cheated on you, make sure they are remorseful and are willing to do whatever it takes to make you feel secure because if not, they will cheat again and again, and lie about it every time. Marriage takes work. Sometimes all it takes is the ability to see the other person’s perspective, and counseling or therapy can help with that if you are willing to seek outside help. When you leave a relationship without trying everything you can, you may have regrets, especially when children are involved. This all being said; however, everyone deserves to be in a loving and peaceful relationship; and, everyone deserves to be happy. Marital bliss, however, takes work and takes a commitment to the institution of marriage. The most fulfilled people in relationships are those who are invested and who allow themselves to be vulnerable. The most vulnerable one in the relationship is also usually the one who gets hurt or is “left.” This is the person sitting in my office usually, with a box of Kleenex, sad that their husband or wife is leaving them, after sticking by their side even after years of that person lying and cheating on them. In that situation, I tell them they deserve better. You get out of life what you believe you deserve. So, I then recommend several amazing therapists for them to try. It is important to gain strength from as many sources as possible. Sometimes even the most well-intentioned friend or family matter only makes matters worse, and heeding legal advice from the side-lines is also not recommended because no one truly understands the process and the nuances of your case like your lawyer does (unless of course you have reason to doubt what your lawyer is doing or you have concerns about something they are doing).

Two: I recommend making sure you learn what helps you in terms of your “rituals.” Aside from therapy or counseling, I recommend working out, doing yoga, gardening, or some other form of exercise that gets your mind away from everything other than the task at hand. Take up a new hobby, such as dance or take a cooking class. Try to do something that you have always wanted to do. Invest in yourself. After all, we get no dress rehearsals in life, but we do get second acts.

Three: If you are worried about custody and having to share your children, remember that children are adaptable and so too are you. Many people, especially the ones not wanting the divorce or the ones who felt they have been “wronged,” do not want to share their children. They have a difficult time giving up any time with their kids. Trust me, I know this fact intimately. As you settle into the new norm, however, you will soon learn that the time you have with your children is much more quality time, and the time you are away from them if you have time away from them, can be spent doing those “rituals” we talked about above, as well as going out with friends, going back to school, dating (when you are ready, have healed and grown from your experience!), etc.

Four: Remember that you will be an emotional roller coaster before, during, and after a divorce. Most people are, because you are human, and you have feelings. When you married the person you are now divorcing, you loved them, or you thought you did; regardless, they have been family to you and no matter how long it has been, it still hurts. Sometimes people confuse this notion of family as having to love “unconditionally.” This is where people tolerate intolerable and abusive behavior for far too long. However, even with abusive situations, and even post-judgment when children are involved, this other person is still “family,” it just looks different. This is when maintaining boundaries is crucial.

Lastly, to summarize everything, simply know that divorcing “family” is extremely hard. With the right lawyer, however, you will get through it gracefully and your life will soon be on an upward trajectory!

Ilyssa Panitz: Aside from working with a lawyer, who else should be on your team during the divorce process?

Sabrina Shaheen Cronin: It is helpful to have accountants or tax attorneys if the marital estate deems it necessary. It is also smart to consult with a realtor or broker for market appraisals and analyses when dealing with the division or sale of real property. Financial planners or the like are also helpful when one party may want to invest once their portion of the settlement is received, or when consultants or expert witnesses may be necessary. Estate planning attorneys may also be necessary to change any trust, wills, or powers of attorney once the divorce is final, or perhaps when attempting to look at assets contained within revocable or irrevocable trusts. Guardian ad Litems (attorneys who represent the children’s interests in a divorce) may be necessary in a contentious custody dispute, and mediators may also be needed to resolve divorces. Therapists or counselors may also be necessary for one or both litigants; and perhaps a family therapist is needed to assist with communication and co-parenting issues, parental alienation, or a host of other concerns that arise between the parties and especially with the children of divorcing parents.

Ilyssa Panitz: Why should people stay off social media while they are going through their divorce?

Sabrina Shaheen Cronin: Many people spend too much time looking at and comparing themselves to all the other couples and families on social media, thinking everyone else is so much happier when in reality every single person has his or her own challenges and struggles in life. Most people do not post the disagreements, arguments, or pain they may be going through especially if they are still married. Many married couples hide their inner turmoil and anguish behind fake smiles. If this were not true, then half of all married couples would not be getting divorced. Never compare yourself to others because you never know what anyone else’s life is like. Things are very different behind closed doors. Many people also want to tell their story to the world, and that will only do more harm than good. You should not attempt to get your validation from your “friends” on social media. You never know who may see it. It is never wise to air your dirty laundry to anyone other than a close friend or family member, trusted colleague, religious leader, therapist, etc. Too many people get caught up in needing to shout from the mountaintops how evil their ex was to them, what they lived through, try to get vindication, disparage their ex, harass or stalk their ex, or their friends and family members. Please show some self-restraint and respect if not for yourself, then for your children or family members you may have in common. The more someone talks badly about the other person, no matter how awful their treatment was of you, the worse it makes you look. The general public truly does not care what happened, and most will not take sides. If they do take your side in a public post, most likely when your ex-posts something and they are friends with him or her too, they may post something on their feed as well. Married couples have “friends” in common, and it takes a while, if ever, for those friends to “take sides.”

Ilyssa Panitz: What tends to be the general reaction?

Sabrina Shaheen Cronin: Some will sympathize and maybe even empathize with you, but once they leave the conversation, that is it. As harsh as that sounds, people have enough stress in their own lives to take on yours. Also, if you have friends in common with your ex, do not try to force them to choose. Most people want to remain neutral, especially if your children are friends with their children. Another important topic is your children’s team sports or other extracurricular activities. Posting anything on social media sites that involve your children’s activities, or speaking directly with other parents on the team, who are essentially strangers to you, about anything related to your ex, your failed relationship, what they did to you, etc. is never a good idea. I know it may be difficult seeing your ex gain friendships, or even the respect of the other parents, but never join in any gossip and try not to discuss anything other than the team’s activities, your children, the opposing team’s stats, etc. Once in a while you may have a close friend or someone you can trust, but usually, these other parents are not lifelong friends, and if any of these parents learn about your “mess” whether from you or anyone else, not only is there a high likelihood that you will be the next topic of conversation when you are not around, but there is a chance they could speak in front of their children about it and then you can be certain your children will hear about it also at some point. Do not allow your children to be put through any more pain. You do have control over your actions so make sure you maintain your dignity and class. Be strong mentally and emotionally in public. When you are alone or in the company of a trusted confidante, then you can break down, cry, blame, curse, or throw darts at your ex’s picture all you want. One last point about social media postings is that if you need to change jobs or careers down the road for whatever reason, speaking ill of anyone on the internet, no matter how warranted, will not serve you well in the long run. Remember, all postings once published, are very hard to retract. Be very careful as to what you post. After all, your reputation is at stake, and you want to make sure you are upholding a standard of excellence for yourself and for your family.

Ilyssa Panitz: What other advice can you share so people avoid the pitfalls of divorce?

Sabrina Shaheen Cronin: Try to remember that the pain you are feeling is only temporary. If you are the one who wants the divorce and may not be in as much pain, be as sensitive to the other person as possible. Also, try to see things from the other person’s perspective. This is very helpful both during and after the divorce, because it allows for better communication, without as much emotional baggage. If there are children involved, remember they did not ask for this situation. They do not want to be treated as pawns, put in the middle, see you argue, tear each other down, etc. You are still in the powerful position of showing your children what you are made of, and they see everything. Make no mistake that it is your actions they see, not just your words.

Ilyssa Panitz: What 5 things can you advise someone so they can survive and thrive during/after their divorce?

Sabrina Shaheen Cronin: One: You must first get clarity as to what you want. Keep a journal and write down anything that comes to your mind. You should do this daily. If you are unsure about anything, even about getting a divorce, then write it all down.

Two: Take some time by yourself to think about your life. Visualize your perfect scenario. How can you change to make your life better? Is staying or leaving the answer? If you have no choice in the matter, then make the best of the situation for yourself and your children (if any) that you can. Get a hold of yourself and your emotions. Be strong for your children. Take care of yourself mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, and financially. Arm yourself with knowledge so that you are empowered. Try not to focus so much on what your ex may be doing with his or her life.

Three: Focus on you and your life. Reverse engineer the best year of your life. What does that look like for you? Again, get clear on what it is you want. Then, take inspired action to get there. Start living your best life! Do not rely on anyone other than yourself for your happiness. You can do this! You have the power to set yourself free! You have the power to create an amazing, abundant, and prosperous life! You have the power to make your life better and better!

Four: Choose happiness! Choose abundance in all areas of your life! Do not get stuck in the “woe is me” mentality. Turn your challenges in your life into something that propels you to go farther. Courage is born by facing your fears. Show your friends and family just how courageous you are. Better yet, show yourself! Then be a beacon of light for others. You will gain so much confidence and self-esteem by helping others. You have so much to offer the world. Go out and live your life! And never, ever let anyone make you feel unworthy ever again.

Five: Remember, this life is not a dress rehearsal. For your Act II, how will you show up? You get out of life what you believe you deserve. Start believing you deserve excellence! It starts from within and your own thoughts. Once you believe in yourself, you can then be the change you want in your life. Act with integrity in all areas of your life. Be a symbol of excellence, treat everyone including your ex, as if you would want to be treated, no matter the history between you. Put that all to rest. Do not focus on the past, because then it will be recreated in the present and become your future. Let it all go. Holding onto the pain, the anger, the hatred, or the sadness will only affect you in a negative way. Do not let those poisonous thoughts take root and grow inside you, because then you will forever be changed in a negative way. Change your focus! People do not like to be around negativity, so force yourself to re-set. It is like working out your body and building muscle. It takes consistent work, over a longer period of time. Your patterns of behavior did not happen overnight, so change may take time; but you must not quit or give up hope! Be courageous and never let fear prevent you from overcoming obstacles. You can do this! If you ever need anything at all, I am just a phone call or email away. I care about your well-being and want you to be happy. You deserve to be happy! Isn’t it about time you believed that? Then do something about it!

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