As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce” I had the pleasure of interviewing Erin Levine, founder of Hello Divorce and Levine Family Law Group.
Erin is a Certified Family Law Specialist and has spent the last 14 years advising clients, litigating, negotiating and mediating contested and cooperative divorces. She’s been featured in Entrepreneur, Brit+Co, mindbodygreen, Above the Law, Hey Mama and many other publications — sharing her expertise as both a lawyer and legal innovator. She believes that the law behind personal relationships should be more human and accessible, which is what prompted her to create Hello Divorce, an online platform designed to help savvy, diverse, outside the box thinkers navigate the divorce process when they want and where they want.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
The reason I’m a lawyer today stems from a disempowering, lonely experience with the legal system as a late teen. I felt trapped, scared, and clueless in my attempts to navigate the law while honoring my emotional well-being throughout the legal process. This moment in my life was pivotal, as I became clear that I never wanted anyone to feel the way that I felt. Today, I am given the chance every day to use adversity as an opportunity to support others in their growth.
Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority about “divorce”?
I’ve been practicing family and divorce law for the past 14 years and am a Certified Family Law Specialist in the state of California. While I have owned and managed a traditional law firm, Levine Family Law Group, for nearly 10 years, I also know the challenges of the traditional divorce model, particularly for those navigating the system without having a lawyer represent them. Approximately 80% of divorces involve at least one self-represented party. While people can represent themselves in divorce, there are very few resources for them to find trustworthy, approachable resources. I launched Hello Divorce to create an online platform that meets users where they are — honoring their personal experience while giving them the legal and financial help that they need. We empower California users to navigate the divorce process themselves by offering instant access to the information and tools that (some) lawyers don’t want them to have and by providing easy to follow strategic instruction and access to on demand, flat fee services.
I truly believe that one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves in this life is the chance to turn our obstacles into opportunities
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
When you litigate divorces (which I’ve done for over a decade), you collect of slew of interesting stories and experiences. Early on I learned how serious divorce is — not just the emotional component but the fact that people are dissolving what for many is the most complicated financial contract of their lives. When people are not forthcoming with information and/or are unwilling to “play fair,” things can get messy. I had one case where I had worked day and night to expose a fraudulent transfer of one spouse to a third party (in an effort to hide money owed to the other spouse). While questioning him at trial, he became more and more agitated. About 20 minutes in to cross examination, he leapt over the witness stand and came directly at me! Fortunately, the bailiff intercepted him before he got to me.
If you had a close friend come to you for advice after a divorce, what are 5 things you would advise in order to survive and thrive after the divorce? Can you please give a story or example for each?
- Give yourself permission to grieve. Divorce is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a process that will last for at least a few months, and things are probably going to get harder both emotionally and financially before they get better. Give yourself the space to process your emotions around your breakup so you can focus on staying the course to the finish line, and to your next chapter.
- Read Rupi Kapur. She’s a genius — she has a way of writing about heartbreak and hope that all of us can feel connected to. Even if you aren’t usually a fan of poetry, her Instagram and pinterest are truly worth checking out.
- Focus on the possibilities ahead. It may sound cliché but you now have the opportunity to create a whole new version of yourself. You get to gather the lessons you’ve learned from one failed relationship and move forward building a new life around your own unique core strengths.
- Don’t give yourself a list of ‘shoulds’. — I should be feeling better by now, I should be happy that the stress is gone, I should feel grateful that I get the opportunity to start my life over, etc. Try not to listen too closely to what your friends tell you that you “should” be doing or “should” be feeling based on their experience of divorce. Your divorce is your own experience and not a replica of anyone else’s feelings. Slow down. Stop and survey where you are, this minute.
- Make time for self-care. In my 14+ years of practicing family law, I can tell you that the clients who spent even 1–2 hours per week on themselves felt far more grounded, at peace, healthy and ready to love (again). Self-care isn’t just about traditionally female stuff (spa days, long baths etc.). There’s a ton of ways to prioritize yourself — guys and gals alike. The Hello Divorce Self-Care Worksheet walks you through a decision-making process that starts with booking — and committing — to time just for you, and then takes you through a series of questions to help you plan and choose an activity that feels right for you, depending on what you need in this moment and as you grow toward the next version of you.
What are the most common mistakes people make after they go through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?
Probably the biggest mistake people make is thinking that when the judge issues the final decree of divorce, they’re all done. Not necessarily true. In order to make sure you can access your share of the retirement account, you usually need to make sure you get a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. (I know — that’s legal speak — but readers can learn all about QDROs in plain language here.) Other things people don’t think to do right away include reassessing finances and savings plans, restoring maiden names, finalizing co-parenting plans, updating emergency contact paperwork, and a few other things. We’ve compiled a pretty handy checklist for the end of a divorce, that anyone can access.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources related to this topic that you would recommend to our readers?
Whether you’re starting the divorce process or are in the thick of it, I love the blog, the “Divorce and Other Things You Can Handle” podcast and Facebook group run by Worthy, a site that helps divorced women get a fair price for the wedding ring they may no longer want. I also love “Breaking Free: A Modern Divorce Podcast.” It’s hosted by two top-notch divorce attorneys and showcases others’ divorce and breakup stories. You’ll laugh, you’ll reflect, and you might even see yourself in some of the guests. But most of all, every episode is a terrific reminder that you are not alone. On the Hello Divorce site, I’ve also shared 9 websites that I think anyone going through divorce now should bookmark, as well as a list of recommended books for contested child custody issues and links to 5 co-parenting plan resources I love. The good news is that there are a lot of resources out there. The better news is that we’re compiling them and making them easier to find via Hello Divorce!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that helped you in this work? Can you share how that was relevant in your real life?
There’s a quote I came across online a few years ago. I don’t remember who said it, but I loved it: “I survived because the fire inside me burned brighter than the fire around me.” For me, that quote a reminder that making divorce more understandable, humane, and transparent is an uphill battle, because the divorce system itself has been set up to cause confusion and contention. But you know what? It’s an uphill battle worth fighting. We all deserve to live our best lives. And if we make the difficult decision to end a relationship to start our next chapter, it’s going to take a little fire in the belly to navigate the tough stuff — but the finish line is there, we just have to reach it.
I have so many favorite quotes but one more that I’d love to share was written by Nayyirah Waheed: where you are. is not who you are. — circumstances. I love to share with my clients — you are not your divorce, divorce is simply where you are.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes! We are launching an upgraded Hello Divorce platform soon and will expand to several other states outside of California. I’ve also been working on a project to empower women with the information they need to understand what laws will apply to them when they get married and give couples the opportunity to “opt out” of traditional marital law and create their own agreement (i.e. prenup) that takes into account their life and family goals. I want to help couples take smart financial steps. I’m also hoping I can help debunk the myth that cohabitation agreements and prenups are bad things! Because actually, it’s the opposite: having tough conversations when it’s easy — when you’re happily in love — can help keep a marriage or a cohabitation on track, because each person’s goals, values and finances are understood from the outset.
Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I truly believe that one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves in this life is the chance to turn our obstacles into opportunities — our breakups into breakthroughs. But divorce is complicated. The system is complicated. It’s a system set up to create conflict, to pit spouse against spouse. I can’t stand that about the divorce system.
If I could inspire a movement, it would be one that changes the culture of divorce. The process is broken, but we don’t have to let it break us. So, I guess you could say that creating Hello Divorce is my attempt to start a movement to change the experience of divorce itself — to make divorce so much more manageable by offering access to the information, resources and legal help they need and supporting people as they let go of shame and prioritize their relationship with their (whole self).
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I’d love the opportunity to have lunch (or happy hour?) with the original #girlboss, Sophia Amoruso and/or Bando Founder and mental health advocate, Jen Gotch. Both have pushed past divorce and other struggles to become wildly successful. And both inspire millions of people to live their best self — that we accomplish big things, be our authentic selves and have a sense of humor along the way. I’d love the opportunity to “pitch” my “modern break up service, Hello Divorce, and get as much feedback from them as possible on how to reach my target audience, modernize the divorce process and focus on wellness along the way.