Anyone who’s ever seen a romantic comedy knows there’s a surfeit of wedding planners and marriage counselors out there—but not a lot of divorce planners or counselors, outside of $1,500-an-hour divorce lawyers. Who should all the soon-to-be-single ladies turn to? Divorces cost a lot more than weddings. And they’re even more overwhelming.
Enter UNtied, a “Thinking Woman’s Divorce Resource,” the brainchild of Elise Pettus. It is an idea born from necessity: her own divorce from a 16-year marriage. Since its 2013 inception, the former magazine scribe’s grown UNtied into a full-service consulting agency that matches the newly nullified with time-tested lawyers, negotiators, money managers, and online dating coaches. The agency also offers frequent panels like “Splitsville Health Coverage” or “Grief & Gratitude,” along with streaming advice videos, blogs, and a full listing service of professionals to help even out the rupture roller coaster.
Now at year’s end, Pettus is offering help with the maze of the new incoming 2019 divorce tax laws. “In January, federal tax-law changes and alimony will no longer be tax deductible for the payee. This is a huge deal. Payouts will shrink. But—you can really mess up your agreement if you race to settle. A lot of attorneys are under pressure to settle before December 31—but it takes one to three years to divorce. The paperwork process is maddeningly slow. But there are some advantages: For instance, if your husband has a business, your share will get a higher evaluation.”
“I see women walking in the door glum, then they change so much. I get letters. ‘I had nothing left to live for—and now I’ve got a new job, a new boyfriend.’ Women are inclined to connect in times of duress. Women reflect, men replace.”
“Divorce is a scary ride,” acknowledges Pettus. “I know firsthand. The breakup of family is always traumatic. But it’s a bit of a release, too— the turning point to start anew. When I found myself there, I thought, ‘I can probably do this if I talk to other women who went through it.’ So, I went looking for educated people who could share valuable information. I blogged about the divorce process, then realized a need for us to connect in the same room. The consciously uncoupled need community.” In 2013, she began to gather together friends of friends to bond over their mutual broken bonds. “Everyone left stronger, more confident, having a network to share forensic accountants and how to set up two households. People outside the experience mean well but they’re potentially pitying. I don’t have leprosy! A lot of us are happily re-singled. I love these women! So much so that I don’t really miss the couple friends.”
Membership into this exclusive club is inclusive: $375 annually for full membership for panel events, social events, and access to experts via video or phone; or there is livestream-only annual access for $125.
Now, the whole venture could come off a little depressing—but not for Pettus. “I see women walking in the door glum, then they change so much. I get letters. ‘I had nothing left to live for—and now I’ve got a new job, a new boyfriend.’ Women are inclined to connect in times of duress. Women reflect, men replace.”
After putting a toe back into the dating pool, Pettus, like her constituents, has learned how to float. “Sometimes it’s a little weird. Because I’ve blogged about it, it’s all out there—one guy asked, ‘You did therapy for 22 years?” Another one said, ‘You’re a little divorce-centric.’ It’s not like I’m carrying around a lot of anger. I’m actually carrying around a lot of healing. In fact—I don’t know anybody who says afterward, ‘I’m really bummed that I’m divorced.’”