Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Choose what you focus on, choose how you feel, choose what you get

"Where your attention goes, energy flows and results show"
- T Harv Eker
The Reticular Activating System is the part of the brain that filters out what we detect via our senses. We filter out based on what we've trained our minds to notice and if we constantly see the negative, then that's what we'll see more of, and this will ensure that ours is a life of struggle. If we instead focus on gratitude, positivity and energy then that will be how we view the life and this will in turn yield results in terms of how we feel about life.
This video helps to explain how the many ways of observing the same scenarios can indicate where our focus is and can indicate where we'd be better served to train ourselves to respond more appropriately.
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Thanks and have a great day!

Divorce after 50: What I wish I had known beforehand

Advice for navigating a late-in-life split

Divorce is never easy, but couples over 50 who end their marriages face particular hurdles. Below, people who went through a late-in-life divorce share six things they would tell their younger selves, offering ways others can learn from their experiences:

“I wish I had known how the divorce would impact my oldest children even more than my youngest still at home.”
Gail Konop, a 57-year-old yoga studio owner whose 2011 divorce ended a 25-year marriage, said her son who lived at home slowly got used to her new reality, which wasn’t as easy for her adult daughters. “He got to see us as individuals living in his life. He saw how there was less stress, and he got used to it. But my daughters are coming home periodically and they couldn’t keep up with the changes.” At one point, Konop says her daughter announced, “I don’t want to come home anymore — it’s so weird.” If you’re considering a divorce and kids are involved, don’t assume you are sparing your children by holding on, only to divorce once they’re out of the house.

“I wish I’d explored the job market before I separated; I think I would have worked harder to try to keep the marriage together if I’d realized just how bleak things are out here.” For older adults, especially women who have been out of the workforce, re-entering it can be more even more challenging than they expect. Look into getting advice from financial and career counselors to consider your options for long- and short-term planning post-divorce. Beth Hodges, a family law attorney at Horack Talley in Charlotte, N.C ., says the input of those experts can be helpful when negotiating the amount of alimony and property settlement.

“Sometimes when we’re negotiating, I have a client who wants to get her degree to increase her earning capacity. We’ll find out what the cost would be to go back to school and get statistics on what type of income my client can expect to receive once she finishes,” which then gets figured into the settlement package, so the main breadwinner will pay for her education instead of alimony.

“I wish I had known how painful it would be.” Kelly James, a ghostwriter who was 50 when she divorced after 19 years of marriage, was surprised by how long it took her to adjust to the loneliness of living alone.

“Even if you don’t have the happiest of marriages, there’s something comforting about having someone in your home, your bed. I’m lonely sometimes and miss being part of a twosome,” says James. “It’s also difficult to not have my kids with me all the time — their dad and I do a good job of co-parenting, but I miss them when they’re at his house.”

In addition to suggesting the pursuit of new hobbies and volunteer opportunities, Hodges recommends therapists to her clients as a way of helping them adjust to their new life. “[Divorce] is a very traumatic, life-rattling experience, especially if you’ve been married for 25 to 35 years,” says Hodges. She reassures her clients that in time, they’ll not only recover, but emerge stronger. “[Divorce] can be transformative,” says Hodges. She tells her clients, “‘You’re going to survive and feel better about yourself and about your future.’ Almost to a person they’ll come back to me and say, ‘You were absolutely right.’”

“I didn’t think my friends would actually bail on me, but I was wrong.” Lynn Cohen, a Chicago-area divorce attorney who serves on the board of the women’s divorce support nonprofit The Lilac Tree, sees it all the time with her older female clients: “A lot of their friends cut them off — even their best friends. You might keep one or two close friends, but that whole crowd is not going to be there. They’ll help you while you’re going through [the divorce] but not after it’s done.”

She advises her clients to get ahead of this social shift and be proactive about expanding their networks by joining groups that set up travel opportunities for single people, and by volunteering. “If you’re not active in your community and giving back, you’re kind of by yourself,” Cohen notes. She also cautions against relying too heavily on divorced friends. “Every divorce is a different set of facts and circumstances and must be viewed individually. They’ll say, ‘When I was divorced, I was able to get everything in the house.’ That’s unnerving and usually bad advice. I tell people that they’re going to have to make their own life,” says Cohen.

“I wish I had known how expensive it would be.” James was shocked that her uncontested, relatively conflict-free collaborative divorce still cost nearly $35,000.

“In retrospect, a ‘traditional’ would have probably been a lot less expensive,” she says. Collaborative divorce eschews adversarial strategies and litigation. Cohen advises consulting a divorce attorney as soon as a client suspects she or he may need one to get a jump on figuring out how to pay for the divorce and life after. Alimony may be sparse if a couple already living on retirement savings splits, so would-be divorcĂ©es may need time for their exit strategy.

Hodges has a simple tip when it comes to saving divorce attorney fees: stay off the phone. “Sometimes clients run up their bills because they’re constantly calling us and engaging us in half-hour consultations. We’re there to counsel and provide guidance to a client, but there is a cost,” says Hodges.

The first thing you should do when hiring an attorney, she says, is “Ask questions about the attorney’s billing practices, how the lawyer charges. If there are things you can do for the attorneys, like gathering financial information, you can save money by doing that yourself.”

“I wish I had known how liberating it would be — and how that can be a little scary.” Says Konop: “Being only responsible for myself (and my kids) has let me make decisions based on what I want. From little decisions like what to hang on the wall of my house to bigger ones like where to travel and what kinds of projects to do on the house, is all up to me. That feels good but can also be overwhelming. It was like I had a second adolescence. I had so much fun, I knew myself so much better. At first, it was really nerve-racking and the dating world had changed. It was energizing (until it got exhausting.)”


Tuesday, 13 November 2018

The Six Signals of Divorce

Divorce should not be a surprise. Here are signals to watch.

On many occasions I have written about the issue of mutuality in divorce. In few cases do both partners reach the decision to divorce at the same time. Invariably, one of the partners, perhaps the one with a lower pain threshold, decides that she just can't live with the marriage any longer, and notwithstanding all the loss and dislocation of divorce, decides that it would be better than continuing the marriage. Although the initiator can be and frequently is the husband, it is the wife in about seventy five percent of divorces who initiates the ending of the marriage. The non-initiating spouse may be close behind and may quickly agree that divorce is the best option. Or, he may be resistant, arguing that the marriage can be salvaged if only they try one more time and a little harder. In some cases the non-initiator is completely thunderstruck arguing that they have an acceptable marriage and is she out of her mind to want to put the family through a divorce?

The issue of mutuality is very important because the way it is managed generally determines whether the divorce will be amicable or bitter. As I have explored the reasons for this elsewhere I won't go into depth here.

All I want to do is to set the stage for a discussion of how one tells if a divorce is imminent. My goal is to educate the otherwise oblivious spouse who is surprised by the divorce even though the warning signs have been evident for a long time. It is not my mission here to explore why marriages fail. My goal is limited to helping people recognize the warning signals as early as possible.

Marriages don't break; they erode over time. Each time a sarcastic or hurtful remark goes without repair or apology some of the bond that holds a couple together washes away. Each time a spouse fails to identify an emotional need of the other and attend to it, a little more glue disappears. Each time a conflict is avoided because the couple despairs of constructive discussion and resolution there is more erosion. And each time sex is refused or avoided because one of the partners feels emotionally disconnected the process accelerates.

There are numerous other sources of erosion including the displacement of time and attention to the marriage by obsessive concerns with career or children. And even though there may be some explosive precipitating event such as an affair revealed, most of the time there is severe erosion by the time of the discovery. So how does one tell that the erosion has brought the marriage to the point of divorce?

The next time you are in a restaurant look for the sad couple eating dinner in silence. They make little or no eye contact and have little or no conversation. They are completely disengaged and are simply enduring the meal until they can finish and leave. That's a couple on the verge of divorce. It may not happen soon and may not happen at all because there are couples who are held together by nothing but inertia and fear. But at least one or both of these unfortunates are thinking about divorce.

There are six signals of impending divorce. There are probably many more but these are the big ones.

1. No Conflict Resolution

The noted researcher John Gotman has argues that it is not lack of communication that sinks a marriage but, rather, lack of effective conflict resolution. Couples who have not evolved a way to resolve differences without injury to the relationship end up avoiding disagreement and conflict. One or both has arrived at a point of despair that it is pointless to try to resolve a difference with his/her mate. It may be that one or both are simply conflict avoidant. Or one or both may regard every conflict as a fight to be won by bullying the other into submission. What matters is that someone has given up. Differences are submerged resulting in a loss of respect, increasing distance and gradual withdrawal.

2. Emotional Disengagement

Emotional engagement is a minimum requirement for the development and maintenance of intimacy. Willing discussion of feelings, one's own feelings and the other's feelings are a part. Interest in the emotional life of the other and empathic engagement of each other's emotional life all constitute the required elements for an intimate relationship.

3. Disaffection

Emotional engagement is generally accompanied by the withdrawal of affection. If your wife has disengaged emotionally from you she probably doesn't feel much love for you. Divorcing people commonly say that "they have fallen out of love." And depending on how sour the relationship has become one or both probably don't like each other very much.

4. Lack of Sex

Sex both expresses and reinforces emotional connectedness. When a couple has not had sex in a long time it is usually a reliable indicator that emotional disengagement is advancing steadily. It is yet another indicator that the partners take no pleasure in each other and that the bonds are rapidly eroding if not already in a terminal state.

5. Increased Focus outside the Marriage

Empty marriages are very boring. Some couples compensate by pouring themselves into their children so that child centered activity becomes the sole content of family life. Others pour themselves further into careers working late every night so the time with the other is minimized. And as emotional satisfaction is sought exclusively outside the marriage the probability of an affair soars. The majority of affairs I see in my practice have started with a coworker who takes an interest and is fun to be with.

6. Preparation for a Single Life
I recall a couple I worked with many years ago in which the husband, as part of his planning for the coming divorce, took a second mortgage on he house to pay for a hair transplant to improve his dating prospects. Although this was a bit extreme it is typical for the initiating spouse to begin preparing herself or himself by getting in shape, losing weight, attending to hair and wardrobe and other things to enhance appearance. And particularly with women who have stayed home we often see a new interest in refreshing or acquiring a career to be less dependent on the earnings of the husband. We also will often see the initiator taking up an activity such as tennis or golf without involving the other spouse and generally beginning to build a social network as a single rather than as a couple.

What to Do?

If you see yourself in this scenario it would be understatement to say that your marriage is in serious trouble. I would not try to prognosticate about the precise tipping point beyond which a marriage is absolutely doomed. But I can say that these signals, or at least most of them, are present in almost every divorcĂ© I mediate. At a minimum it is time for a long and honest talk with your spouse. If you can't have that talk without it deteriorating into blaming and recrimination, suggest an urgent session with a marriage counselor or family therapist. 
Because if you are heading for divorce, the sooner the two of you face the issue and plan for an amicable separation, the better your chances of achieving a good and non destructive divorce.


Monday, 12 November 2018

The Myth of the Amicable Divorce

Some of the most damaging divorces are the most amicable ones

You can divorce well or you can divorce badly and like with most things, there's a front and a back to both scenarios. How better to ameliorate our shame of our failure than to posture a divorce as a constructive motion toward benevolence? This is a lie you can't live with. In amicable divorce, someone is either compromising too much or they're hiding their animosity. "We've grown apart. No one's to blame." This is yet another lie. Growth, by virtue of itself, is new and different. It is neither predictable nor certain. You enter into marriage with the knowledge that you will traverse growth and navigate your changes as partners. Growing apart means you have stopped partnering. Someone has let go; lost their edge, and now the two parties are in a free fall...separately. So then, how can it be authentic for them to come to the business of divorce as one; unified and together?

When two people enter the ring of divorce with smiles on their faces and a song in their heart, the world around them is left confused and unsure as to what is expected from them. Lawyers can't do their jobs, mediators feel useless. Parents and children are completely bewildered and friends just want to fade away rather than manage this ambivalence. The divorcing couple wants an amicable divorce for the sake of the family, but they are actually making things harder for their families and confusing their children.

Some of the most damaging divorces are the most amicable ones, where the high ground respect and friendship of the Switzerland like ex-couple infiltrates both or either party's future and current relationships. These seemingly benign, friendly divorces create a hostility, jealousy and rancor that often percolates below the surface until it creates its own seismic shift in the landscape of any new, soon to be old, relationships; not to mention the current relationships with friends and families. The friendly divorce is too often based on the rejected party hoping to regain the love of the whistle blower. "I will always love him. He is the Father of my children." Is this meant to be consolation to families or a line of seduction to a prospective paramour? The fact that "the Father of your children" dumped you and gave seed to another woman's child while you were still under the illusion that the two of you were "working it out" is irrelevant. What you are clearly not "working out" is him out of your system, your heart and your rejected self. And until you do, you will be unlovable and unacceptable. You may be divorced, you may be unmarried but you are not available. You are just alone.

Except for your children, who are completely baffled by how their lives got turned upside down while their parents seem to be peachy keen. Taking the high road has taken on new stratospheric heights. Everyone is uncomfortable, except for the un-couple who bask in their "superior" amiability. How well children weather divorce has more to do with how their parents manage their conflict than the actual conflict or breakup itself. But it is simplistic to think that that means Mommy and Daddy should be best friends in order to insure the well being of their children. If they're such good friends, why didn't they stay married? What is marriage, then, is it not friendship? Is it not love? Is it really just about sleeping together? Because that seems to be the only thing that's changed in Mommy and Daddy's relationship. Is this the message about love and marriage that you want to teach your children? An honest relationship post-divorce is hard to attain but it is more important to self and others than any other aspect of the dissolution. Being best friends is not the answer any more than being arch enemies is.

No matter how or why two people come to the divorce table, one thing is for certain. At least one of the two are dissatisfied. And even if they both agree to disagree, in the words of Bob Dylan, "One of us cannot be wrong." There is a big difference between handling disagreement maturely and pretending there is no disagreement. Divorce does not have to be about hate, but it cannot be about love. Divorce is a business deal that is afflicted and compromised by the emotional instruments of the marriage. It is a beginning and it is an end. But it is not something that two people can accomplish while holding hands any more than it can be accomplished at gun point. You can't be afraid to be angry any more than you can be afraid to be kind. Marriage at its best is about love. Divorce at its best is about business. And while one is a union and one is a dissolution of a union, they are not opposites.


Friday, 9 November 2018

5 Tips For Dealing With Anger During Divorce

After a divorce, most people go through a myriad of emotions. Hurt, disappointment, and grief are some of the more easily recognized emotions, but underlying all of these may be anger.

Anger is a fact of life, especially for most people experiencing a divorce. Because anger is a human reality, what can you do to deal with and use proactively the anger you feel during divorce?

Strategies for Dealing With Anger During Divorce

Below are 5 strategies that will help you understand and deal with anger in a positive manner.

Don't Give In
Anger is a legitimate emotion, it is your heart trying to tell you something hurts emotionally. 
Stuffing anger to avoid dealing with it can result in depression which, in some cases is your anger turned inward. Allow yourself to explore the reasons for your anger and to express the anger in a proactive manner.

Learning to respond in a healthy manner to emotional pain isn't easy. It's the first step you have to take if you are going to keep the anger you feel from becoming destructive. Our first response to being hurt or feeling powerless is to lash out. To attempt to get revenge and regain a sense of control. When that is your response, you're feeding your anger instead of exploring and attempting to understand it.

To lessen anger and fully understand what you are feeling, you need to allow yourself to feel vulnerable and hurt. Anger gives a false sense of empowerment, vulnerability causes feelings of helplessness.

Anger is an emotional fraud. It's there to trick you into not fully understanding what lies beneath the anger, a lot of hurt and vulnerability. Anger hardens your heart and, if fed, keeps you from ever getting in touch with what you are truly feeling.

There is no shame in admitting you are hurt and feeling out of control.

And, doing so softens your heart, leads to being in touch with your feelings and staying open to new relationships and a healthier life after divorce. Choosing pain over anger is hell in the short-term but, healthy in the long-term.

Don’t Fear Your Anger
Women especially may have been brought up to think that they should be “nice and agreeable” and not get angry. Everyone gets angry, and it is a healthy emotion, not something to be feared. Journal or talk to a friend to vent your angry feelings, so you can work through them.

Feared anger leads to stuffed anger which leads to you one day blowing like Mount Vesuvius and leaving a path of destruction in your wake.\Get in touch with the feelings causing the anger and explore appropriate ways to express the anger you feel.

Don’t Worry About Losing Control of Your Anger
One fear many people have is, if they let their anger out they won’t be able to control the rage that may be inside them. This is usually a fear with no basis in fact. Find a safe place to vent your anger.
Punch a pillow, scream, or do whatever makes you feel the release you need without harming anyone. And, that is the key, stop fearing your anger, express it in a way that leads you to a reduction in the anger you feel without it causing or exacerbating conflict and harm.

Don’t Worry About What Other People Think
If you feel anger, you have a right to your feelings. Individuals may think that it’s acceptable to express grief or sadness, but anger may bring on feelings of embarrassment or shame because it is generally frowned upon.

Anger can be an early warning system that something is wrong. Is someone mistreating you? Is someone trying to take advantage of you? Use your anger to build healthy boundaries and distance yourself from those attempting to do you harm.

Get Regular Exercise
If you are having a hard time processing the reasons for your anger, it may be resulting from your overall situation and the frustration you feel from dealing with stress. Taking a walk, doing aerobics or finding stress-relieving yoga poses, or even kickboxing can make a person dealing with anger feel much relief.

According to, "exercise acts like a drug, protecting against angry mood induction, almost like taking aspirin to prevent a heart attack." So, instead of working out to burn calories, work out to burn off those feelings of anger.

Do an exercise that you know is safe for you, and give it your all. Check with your physician if you have any questions about whether or not exercise is appropriate for you.

Nothing contributes more to divorce turning into all-out war than anger. Get it under check, explore what it is trying to tell you, and when needed us your anger appropriately to protect yourself during the divorce process.


Thursday, 8 November 2018

The secret to an amicable divorce or separation

Divorce is never easy. But if you can find a way to come to an amicable agreement with your partner, you can save yourself a lot of time, money, stress and heartache. You’ll also make it a lot less painful for your children.

Divorce and separation is likely to be one of the most stressful times of your life. When you separate from your partner lots of changes happen at once, and you’re faced with so many as-yet-unknown factors, such as what will happen with your finances? And where will your children live?

The key to a less stressful and more amicable divorce (which is easier on everyone, and much less expensive) is to approach it in the right way. Keeping the process non-confrontational is likely to lead to longer lasting solutions.

To help you and your partner reach a more amicable agreement, Family law solicitor Angela Lally shares her advice.

An amicable divorce is better for everyone

The more that you can agree on with your partner, the better. If an agreement is reached between you about how the finances will be divided and what arrangements will be put in place for your children, you’ll retain control over your own lives without having the decision made for you by a court.

While an amicable approach may not always be possible and certainly there can be a lot of anger and anxiety involved in separation, if you are able to identify the issues and work towards an amicable solution this is more likely to result in a less painful separation.

If you have children together, you’ll remain a part of each other’s lives going forwards (you may be separating from each other, you do not cease being parents and being involved in decisions regarding your children’s future) so the more you are able to get on and agree, the better.

If your children see that you are getting on, it will make the process easier for them to cope with and come to terms with too.

Get your emotions in check first

One of the first points to consider is the emotional aspect of the separation. This is not dealt with by the legal process, but if you can come to terms with your emotions, it will help you to deal with the other aspects of your separation, such as finances and children, more easily.
Without your emotions clouding the issues, you can make more practical and informed decisions.

It’s a good idea to get help from a counsellor early on. A professional who is experienced in dealing with relationship breakdowns will help to guide you in the right direction, before things become bitter.

The three parts of separation

The process of separation can be broken down into the following parts:

  • Divorce.
  • Children.
  • Finances.
1) What are grounds for divorce?

If you decide that the marriage should be brought to an end, either you or your partner can issue a petition for divorce in the court.

It’s not possible to end your marriage simply by saying there are ‘irreconcilable differences’ – you need to prove that it has broken down irretrievably by relying on one of five grounds set out by the law. These are:

  • Adultery.
  • Unreasonable behaviour.
  • Two years’ separation with consent.
  • Five years’ separation.
  • Desertion.

So the only ‘no fault divorce’ is based on two years’ separation with consent, or five years’ separation.

You may feel that you cannot move on with your lives until you are divorced. Also, if you want to have a final financial agreement (or to ask the court to make a decision about finances) then there would have to be divorce proceedings underway.

If you have to rely on the ground of unreasonable behaviour, try and keep matters amicable by attempting to agree to the wording of the particulars of behaviour with your partner. The allegations could be kept as mild as possible.

2) How can you make it easier on your children?

Sit down and explain the situation to your children in language they can understand. Reassure them that you’ll continue to be their parents, and that they should not feel that they are in any way to blame for the separation.

Try to agree where your children will live, and how often they will see the other parent. Sometimes a shared care arrangement can be put in place.

The idea is to decide what works for you as parents, and what’s in your children’s best interests. No two families are the same so what works for one family may not work for you.
There are other factors such as work, child care and so on to factor in. The more you can agree on, the better. Also bear in mind that there needs to be flexibility. What works for your children when they are young may not work as they get older and as their commitments with school and friends changes.

If you agree the arrangements, there is nothing else you need to do – the court doesn’t need to approve them. You can record what you’ve agreed in a parenting plan which can help set out your expectations regarding the arrangements.

Advice from a relationship coach

Relationship coach Danielle Barbereau has the following advice to help minimise the impact of your divorce on your children:

Divorce is difficult for children. Do not use them as pawns or messengers. Never make them take sides, no matter how you feel about their father or mother. (This applies to children of all ages, including adult children.)

When children are young, they are likely to feel that the divorce is their fault. It is absolutely essential to reassure them that it is not the case and this comes before your own needs, at all times.

It’s okay to show sadness, but remember who is the adult and who is the child and behave accordingly. Not doing so does not attract any respect from anyone; neither will it solve anything, but it is sure to stress the child.

Even if teenagers look (and think they are) grown up, they are still children and you are responsible for their welfare, not the other way round. Always remember that children are the innocent party.

Keep the high ground, and make sure that you speak of your former partner with respect and facilitate access and contact (this does not apply if there has been domestic or sexual abuse, or if you have definite knowledge that your children are frightened of them).
Work on your self-esteem, learn to steady yourself when you feel upset (a relationship coach can help you through the worst).

Answer all your children’s questions according to their age.

And finally for you – retain a sense of gratitude and fun, don’t jump into another relationship and trust that the bad times will pass.

You can read more tips on how to handle children when you’re getting divorced here.

3) How should you separate your finances?

During your marriage you may have acquired assets such as a house, pension or savings. And when you separate, these assets are usually divided up.

The most stress-free way of dealing with matters is to agree between you who will have what. If you can’t then you may need someone to help you reach an agreement, such as a mediator or a specialist family solicitor.

There’s nothing set in stone stating who should have what, but generally speaking the longer the marriage, the more the law looks towards an equal division.

If you reach an agreement directly between yourselves or with the help of a mediator or solicitor, it’s a good idea to put the agreement in writing. This is called a Consent Order and once it has been approved by the court, there’s no going back on it (except in very rare circumstances). It finalises financial claims. Divorce itself does not end financial claims.

What if you can’t agree on a financial split?

If you are unable to agree, then you can ask a judge to decide. This is when it can become more costly. The judge will want to know what everything is worth (the value of the house, pension, business etc). Once all the figures are known, the judge will help you to negotiate a settlement.

Even when the court is involved, there is an emphasis on encouraging the couple to settle. Ultimately the judge can make a decision at a final hearing.

How to divide up your assets

So what things should you consider after you split up and are trying to divide assets? Start by making a list of what you’ve got, both jointly and in your sole names.

You should also take into account debt you have and decide whether this is ‘marital debt’ (debt you have accrued jointly during the marriage).

Try to agree on a value for the house and work out what is outstanding on the mortgage (if you’re unsure of value of your home, you could ask a local estate agent for an informal market appraisal).

Pensions are more complex. The value of the pension pot is the starting point but this does not always accurately reflect what the pension is worth, so often a pension expert is required to give an opinion as to how the pension should be shared and, if there are multiple pensions, what’s the best way of sharing them.

And finally, there is the issue of income. The person with main care of the children is entitled to child maintenance, but may also be entitled to spousal maintenance if there is a difference in your incomes.

Using mediation or collaborative law

If you’re struggling to agree then you can try mediation or the collaborative law process. This helps open up the channels of communication and facilitate an agreement. Court is the last resort and should only be used if you are unable to agree.

Family mediation is a process of resolving legal issues in a non-adversarial way. You negotiate your own settlement with the assistance of a mediator. This is based on the assumption that a decision to separate and/or divorce has already been made.

Don’t confuse mediation with counselling or marriage guidance. The aim is to help you reach an agreement in relation to issues arising out of the breakdown of the relationship.
Collaborative law allows you to meet together with your respective solicitors to discuss things reasonably and come to decisions together around the table.

Meetings usually take place at the solicitor’s office but with sufficient notice alternatives can be arranged – perhaps at a more neutral place. In this environment any issues can be discussed and hopefully resolved with future plans and division of assets being talked through in a calm and reasonable way.

When should you get legal advice?

It can be a good idea to get advice at an early stage to help clarify the issues and point you in the direction of a settlement.

If you’ve had legal advice from a family solicitors shortly after separation, you may feel more able to reach an informed decision about the arrangements for the children and the division of the matrimonial assets.


Wednesday, 7 November 2018

The Difference Between Estrangement and Parental Alienation Syndrome

Have your children been alienated or did you behave badly?

Parental Alienation is defined as the deliberate attempt by one parent to distance his/her children from the other parent. An example would be the mother who shares too much information about the father's affair with the children in a covert attempt to cause the children to harbor ill will toward the father.

A mother or father may wish to alienate the children to pay back for the pain experienced due to an unwanted divorce.

They may attempt to alienate the children due to mental illness that keeps the parent from putting her/his children's best interest before their own. The reasons parents participate in Parental Alienation are numerous and costly.

On the other hand, estrangement follows multiple conflicts and blowouts between parent and child, says relationship expert Irina Firstein. "There are extremely hurt feelings," she says. "There are feelings of betrayal and of disappointment." It's those hurt feelings due to the behavior of a parent that leads to estrangement.

The father who leaves the family for another woman and neglects time with his children and dismisses the harm done to his children is likely to become "estranged" from them. It is fair to say that no one responds positively to poor treatment, least of all children.

Parental alienation results from a parent actively working at causing hard feelings between a child and the other parent.

Estrangement results from a parent behaving badly toward his/her children which, in return causes the children to cut off contact.

It isn't uncommon for a parent who is estranged from his/her children to blame the other parent of parental alienation. It is easier to blame others for bad behavior than to accept and acknowledge bad behavior.

How does one tell the difference between a parent who is a victim of parental alienation and one that is estranged due to bad behavior? The behavior of the parent during the period of alienation or estrangement is a good indicator of what is truly going on in the parent/child relationship.

Behaviors Common to an Alienated Parent
A parent who has been alienated from his/her child will continue to pursue a relationship with the child. The parent will attempt to communicate on a regular basis, will send emails and cards. The same parent will use the court system to fight the alienating parent and retain their legal rights to a relationship with their child.

The alienated parent is not a parent who gives up or gives in. David Goldman is a good example of what an alienated parent will do in response to the alienating parent. His son was taken to Brazil by the mother who refused to return to the United States and pursued a divorce in Brazil.

The Brazilian courts gave the mother custody of the son and David's ex-wife remarried and her, her family and new husband used their status and influence to keep David away from his son. David spent five years fighting in the Brazilian courts and finally regained custody of his son.

No battle was too big, no expense too great for this father who had been alienated from his child.

Behaviors Common to an Estranged Parent
The parent who is estranged from a child due to his/her own bad treatment of the child has a "wait and see" attitude. They don't pursue a relationship with the child because in their mind the child is the one responsible for mending the relationship.

The estranged parent will find it hard or impossible to view the situation from their child's perspective. They don't see their own behavior as playing a role in the problem; they feel entitled to behave badly with no repercussions.

More often than not it is the estranged parent that I come into contact with in my business. These are people who go months at a time without contacting their children because they are wrapped up in an affair and spending time with the other man/woman or busy building a new life post-divorce.

They don't understand why their children aren't waiting with open arms when they do find time to fit them into their schedule.

One man, in particular, comes to mind. He never went to a school function, refused to enter into counseling with his children when the therapist suggested and spent six years with minimal contact with his children. According to him though, his ex-wife is guilty of parental alienation.

His words when asked about his children's anger toward him were, "It is what it is, I can't change it, I can only hope they come around one day." The truly alienated parent would be jumping through hoops to try and reconcile with his/her children. The estranged parent can't do such a thing because doing so would mean admitting and taking responsibility and the relationship with the child is not worth the discomfort that would come from acknowledging the damage they did to the parent/child relationship.

Parental Alienation Syndrome is dangerous to the emotional well-being of children and the continued parental bond with a parent. It is too often used as an excuse by bad parents to justify to themselves the results of that bad parenting and hurtful behaviors toward their children.

In both cases innocent children suffer
 due to the inability of a parent to put the needs of their children before their own needs and if, as a parent you can't do that then maybe you don't deserve a relationship with a child who is only looking for what any child has a right to expect, love, consideration, and valuation from a parent.


Tuesday, 6 November 2018

How To Divide It All Up?

When my ex-husband and I split in 1994 we were both 26 years old.

I had just taken the CA Bar Exam and was waiting for my results. Despite a lovely (and expensive) wedding fourteen months earlier we thought that cutting our losses, going our separate ways and chalking the whole affair up to a “starter marriage” was likely the best option. Notwithstanding some necessary and sophisticated wedding gifts (which according to Emily Post need not have been returned as we had made it past the one year mark and had already sent literally hundreds of hand written thank you notes), a financed Jeep Wrangler, our Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Raul and a futon that had travelled with me from Berkeley after college, we did not have much in the way of assets to divide. In terms of debt we had some credit cards to pay off and we each took one and the airline mileage plan miles that came with it and called it a day.

Prior to moving out of our rented house in Laurel Canyon we each inventoried the items we wished to take with us to our new, smaller, rental residences. Having taken a community property course in law school and being the daughter of a divorce lawyer I knew a bit about the character of our belongings.

Anything one brings into the marriage (i.e.: my futon) is separate property and stays with the person who brought it.

The separate property characterization also attaches to anything which is given to you alone as a gift, an inheritance or earned after the parties separate but before the division of assets or divorce is final (for example, if parties separate and one party writes a song filled with sorrow, despondence and heartbreak about the breakup that song (melodramatic or not) is separate property and if it hits the Billboard charts the person who wrote it receives the spoils as opposed to the one who inspired it simply based on the timing of when pen was put to paper. In CA, community property is defined as anything produced or procured, during the marriage with funds earned during the period.

So back to the point, how to divvy it all up? In the case of my ex and I, for better or for worse, we didn’t have much. Our bank accounts were sparse and beyond the Jeep we were still paying off, we had no real assets of monetary value. Completion of the necessary court forms on which we listed the few assets we did have didn’t really take specific furniture, furnishings, appliances and personal property into account.

I knew he had his eye on our dining room table and six chairs. I wanted our bed and luxurious Frette sheet set (a wedding gift from one of his parents’ European friends and nothing I was likely to be splurging for on my own anytime in the next decade). We alternated taking turns with our stuff like picking teams for a game at recess. As we chose items we tagged them with post it notes, blue for him, yellow for me so that we could keep track and make it easier for the movers who would be there later that week. Each of us kept our own clothing and jewelry/watches. I kept my mother’s china (which I have still never used) as it fell into the separate property category and we had a minor setback in the amicable division when we came to the fancy espresso machine received as a wedding gift but never used. This was resolved by a coin flip (he won) and double item pick on the next turn by me.

The general rule is that each party receives property valued at the same amount.

List all of the items you are keeping on one side of a balance sheet and all of the items your spouse is keeping on the other (IOE provides our Community Property Balance Sheet as a part of the platform to make it easy) calculate the value of each party’s column and figure out how close to equally you have divided things up. If an adjustment needs to be made you can move an item or two, equalize by a cash payment or….here’s a novel idea…. let it go.
Important to note is that the value of an item is what you could get for it at a garage sale or on Craig’s List not what you paid for it.

I have seen couples take photo/video inventories of their household items, furniture, furnishings, appliances and art and resolve the division that way. Many insurance companies insist that you keep a list of your personal property so that is a good resource as well. Remember, it is just stuff and the vase or candle stick you are fighting for today will likely not bring you nearly as much joy as you think it will. Let it go and buy another, newer, all-your-own version to enjoy. Almost everything is replaceable and with the money you are saving by not having to pay expensive attorneys to write $100 letters regarding $75 dollar decorative pillows you will have more to buy new furnishings.

For one of a kind items like memorabilia, photos and what I call “kid-art” there are amazing replication sites and services where I have seen clients reproduce full photo albums and walls of elementary school art projects. There is no need to fight over these items when you can each have your own version of Madison’s 5th Grade Still Life of Pear, Baguette, Bird and Wine Bottle. Books, DVDs and vinyl – what can I say, do these even get divided anymore in the age of downloading and streaming? If so, same premise, be cool. If you guys do this well, you can always call up and ask to borrow the Metallica, Master of Puppets album later in life.


Monday, 5 November 2018

Embracing Freedom: Reinvent Yourself After Divorce

Divorce has a lot of negative connotations. Heartbreak, emotional turmoil, financial uncertainty, etc.

While the process isn’t necessarily pleasant, it is important to keep in mind that for many guys divorce is actually a good thing.

Your marriage has probably been on the fritz for some time, and now you can finally put all of that behind you. No more arguing and bickering. No more wondering whether or not you guys can work things out.

You’re divorced. You’re free. And you’re starting the next chapter of your life. That’s exciting!
The period immediately following a divorce can be an opportune time to reinvent yourself and take advantage of this new freedom by checking off some items on your post-divorce bucket list.

Update your wardrobe

One great way to give yourself a confidence boost after divorce is by investing in some new threads.

Maybe shopping for clothes is not exactly up your alley and was always more your wife’s domain, but there are some simple purchases you can make that can help you stand out in a crowd.

Another option is to purchase a monthly clothing subscription. By paying a monthly fee, usually between $60-$75, you receive a couple articles of clothing that are tailored to your own personal style.

Get back in the dating game

Although it is wise to avoid rebound relationships immediately after divorce, there will eventually come a time when you can get back into the dating scene.

This can be a little intimidating for a lot of guys who probably haven’t dated in years, but with somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of people divorcing there are millions in the same boat as you.

You might give some online dating sites a try, or go the old-fashioned way and ask your friends to set you up with someone.

Whatever you do, have some confidence and trust that there is someone out there for you.

Reconnect with your crew

When you’re married, you understandably spend the majority of time with your wife and kids. Unfortunately, that causes a lot of guys to drift away from their friends.

Now that you’re divorced, you should have time to hit up your old buddies and get back in touch.

Call up that college roommate you haven’t seen in forever, relive your old memories, and maybe make a few new ones.

Take a vacation

Although it is critical to budget responsibly after divorce, if you have some extra disposable income it can be refreshing to take a vacation.

You’ve likely spent the last few months working through the details of your divorce, and that’s after all the stress that led you to divorce in
 the first place. Take a week and head somewhere to recharge your batteries.

Again, the beauty here is in the freedom you have to do what you want. Head to Cooperstown to finally check out the Baseball Hall of Fame if that’s what you’re into. Or sip a couple margaritas on the beach. It’s totally your call.

Fix up your man cave

Maybe your spouse had very particular tastes in decorating, or maybe they were messy and always had junk cluttering the place up.

You don’t have to worry about that now. Your house or apartment is yours and you can add your own personal touch to the decorating.


Thursday, 1 November 2018

The Divorce Gap

There’s a common perception that women siphon off the wealth of their exes and go on to live in comfort. It’s wrong.

A 38-year-old woman living in Everett, Washington recently told me that nine years ago, she had a well-paying job, immaculate credit, substantial savings, and a happy marriage. When her first daughter was born, she and her husband decided that she would quit her job in publishing to stay home with the baby. She loved being a mother and homemaker, and when another daughter came, she gave up the idea of going back to work.

Seven years later, her husband told her to leave their house, and filed for a divorce she couldn’t afford. “He said he was tired of my medical issues, and unwilling to work on things,” she said, citing her severe rheumatoid arthritis and OCD, both of which she manages with medication. “He kicked me out of my own house, with no job and no home, and then my only recourse was to lawyer up. I’m paying them on credit.” (Some of the men and women quoted in this article have been kept anonymous because they were discussing sensitive financial matters, some of them involving ongoing legal disputes.)

She is far from alone. Despite the common perception that women make out better than men in divorce proceedings, women who worked before, during, or after their marriages see a 20 percent decline in income when their marriages end, according to Stephen Jenkins, a professor at the London School of Economics. His research found that men, meanwhile, tend to see their incomes rise more than 30 percent post-divorce. Meanwhile, the poverty rate for separated women is 27 percent, nearly triple the figure for separated men.

Women like the mother in Washington, who leave the workforce for several years, will likely see their earnings stunted when they resume working. The main reason women suffer the brunt of divorce’s financial burdens, according to Jenkins, is that during marriage, they are more likely than men to stop working in order to raise kids. “The key differences are not between men and women, but between fathers and mothers,” he told The Guardian.

On top of that, divorce proceedings alone can pose a serious financial burden. According to Divorce Magazine, a trade publication, the cost of divorce varies wildly, from as little as $8,500 to well over $100,000. An accurate average is hard to nail down, but estimates usually fall within the range of $15,000 to $30,000. And if the split is relatively amicable, costs can sometimes be as low as $250 to $3,000, according to Lee Borden, a divorce lawyer in Alabama.

These burdens tend to fall disproportionately on women, and, in its usual way, the market has recognized that: A handful of firms have started providing loans—some of them for hundreds of thousands of dollars—to women so that they can properly argue their case in court. The loans’ interest rates can be high, but one firm estimates that applicants typically win assets worth three times the amount of their loan.

But without such outside help, many find themselves trapped, and it’s not just women who can experience divorce’s ill financial effects. Bari Weinberger, a family-law attorney working in New Jersey, says that while child support and alimony can cause hang-ups in court, it’s also the case that many people simply cannot afford what they’re ordered to pay, and end up defaulting because they are out of options. “You now have two households and one check to make ends meet. And it’s not easy,” Weinberger said. “When men come to us looking for advice on how to handle this support, we can’t create the funds that aren’t there.”

Weinberger says that because of the inevitability of alimony and child support, she advises ex-partners to make peace with paying for support before proceedings even begin. “The judge is going to order how much you pay and for how long, once you go to court, and that’s it,” she says. (If spouses choose to divorce via a settlement, she notes, they have a little more flexibility.)

And alimony and child support don’t always flow from ex-husband to ex-wife. Many men fear they’ll be ridiculed when others find out they’re receiving money from their exes, Weinberger says. Some would rather forgo their monthly stipends than swallow their pride, even if they are the stay-at-home parent bringing in no income.

Of course, the messiness of life can cause serious stress before there’s time to have a judge step in. When asked what she got out of her divorce, a mother in New Hampshire I spoke to simply says: “divorced.” Having been married to her husband for two years and having been the mother of their child, the woman found herself without any financial safety net when they split abruptly. “He would not contribute to any expenses,” she said. “He gave me 15 days to get off his cellphone plan, and expected that I wouldn't default on our rent, which was $1,600 a month. I sold my cellphone for food and got a prepaid number.”

To get out from under that debt, she needed to submit official divorce paperwork, which wasn’t cheap. “I managed to find a sympathetic lawyer to whom I still owe a ton of money,” she said. “I sold my car and all my furniture to afford the retainer. Then I prepared and filed the initial motion myself.”

Technically, though, even if this mother and people like her don’t know it, they might have access to some of their spouses’ money. Cotton says that because women are still legally married while filing for divorce, they therefore might have a legal right to their partner’s funds. “If someone calls me and says, ‘I need an attorney but I have no money,’ I remind them they’re not divorced yet, so they actually do have money,” he says. “In those cases, I file a motion asking for retaining fees and the other person’s lawyer will cut a check.”

But that route isn’t an option in every scenario. The mother in Washington suffers from several chronic illnesses and conditions, and while her health is currently on the mend, her savings have dwindled to nothing—having been used on house and condo payments, appliances, and basic necessities—since she separated from her husband. She says that when they were together, she even paid off her husband’s student loans. With shared money, they bought residences, but put them under her husband’s name. She has been left with no way of procuring income. Given her health, she said she would normally qualify for disability, but can’t because she didn’t have enough work credits in the past decade to get into the system, since she was busy as a stay-at-home mom.

Though she and her husband are not yet divorced, her spouse was ordered by a judge, after they entered a request for legal separation, to pay her $1,000 a month while the paperwork was finalized. But she says it’s not enough to live on, particularly because she still takes care of her two girls during the day. “Don’t get me wrong—I want my kids all of the time, but he uses me like free childcare. I watch the girls all day every day, but I can’t afford groceries and basic utility bills anymore. I’m really scared,” she says.
Mothers or fathers without income can make their cases to a judge, Cotton says, based on their contributions to the household. “One of the things they can say is, ‘I had these specific work skills but I took care of the child for our family, instead of going back into the workforce.’” Doing this increases the likelihood of receiving a livable amount of money from their estranged partners. Still, many spouses don’t know that, and the court system is often confusing and inaccessible to them.

And in some cases, women get manipulated by their partners. For instance, one woman was living in Missouri when she and her husband of three years divorced. While they had no children together, the woman said she agreed to unfavorable terms just to get the process over with. “I didn’t know what choices I had,” she said. “My ex scared me, and I felt I had nowhere to go. He was mentally abusive and sexually aggressive, and he threatened to drag it out in court until I lost the little savings I had left. So I cut my losses and ran.”
Why does divorce so often lead to situations like this, and is it possible that there’s another way to handle them? Bill Doherty, a professor of family social science at The University of Minnesota, argues that having the courts involved sends a cultural message that divorce is a contest—a relic of the old, fault-based system, in which people could only dissolve their marriage if they could prove their partner did something that in a judge’s opinion made cohabitation unbearable. “No-fault divorce was intended to take a lot of conflict out of the divorce process, but it has not lived up to that goal because court-based processes carry the baggage of being adversarial in nature,” Doherty says.

“The system makes a lot of money this way,” he adds. “The only way to curtail the divorce-industrial complex is to create an alternative pathway to divorce that keeps courts and judges out of the process.” Making the process of divorce cheaper certainly wouldn’t erase the post-divorce earnings disparity between men and women, but it could still help ease the shorter-term financial burdens that arise.

In that vein, Doherty helped write the Cooperative Private Divorce bill, which the Minnesota state legislature is expected to vote on during its next session, according to Doherty. The bill, if passed, would make divorce an administrative agreement, much like marriage. Under the bill, couples would have the freedom to craft their own agreements in their own language in as much or little detail as they want. Once it’s filed, they have the option to go back and amend the agreement down the line, should they see the need to. The forms will have guidelines and suggestions for language regarding property and child custody, as well as warnings to help make sure neither party is being coerced or manipulated during the agreement process. “We’ve developed a coercion self-screening tool, so that people who are likely to be coerced during the process by their partners will be steered away from this,” Doherty said.

To obtain a divorce under this bill, Doherty says, couples would first go through an online orientation educating them about the process. If they decide to go through with it, they would file an online form stating their intention to divorce. Minnesota’s Bureau of Mediation Services will have staff members to give personalized help to those who need it, but there would be no third-party or judicial review, according to Doherty, as the point of the bill is to leave the couple to come to an agreement themselves and then submit it to the BMS. After a three-month waiting period, they would file the finalized agreement and sign off on it. Then they would receive a certificate of divorce through the mail. No courts, no lawyers, no judges.

Right now, there are other options available to those who don’t want to enlist the services of lawyer. There is an option to handle it pro se, which means that each side represents himself or herself in court, filling out and filing the paperwork on his or her own, and showing up in court to arrive at a final agreement. One man I talked to from Gainesville, Florida, orchestrated his own divorce after four years of marriage in order to save on attorney fees. “I went to the courthouse on my lunch break most days. Each time, I asked the clerks questions and when they told me my lawyer had to file certain documents, I told them I was my own lawyer,” he said. “It’s not easy, but if you’re patient, you can do it.”

Doherty says the Minnesota bill is different from pro se because it prioritizes ease of use. “In pro se, people have to follow the arcane language and rules of the court system,” he said, “and the common person doesn’t have the background to do that without at least some confusion. So it gets tossed back to them because they’ve forgotten to dot some i’s or cross some t’s.”

But Cotton, the divorce lawyer in Boston, cautions that courts offer some benefits that more-streamlined divorces don’t. He says that most people who think they can part ways amicably are mistaken. Joint bank accounts, real estate, and child custody can prove to be more difficult to hash out than they seem. “One of the big problems we have in court already is that people think they can do this themselves,” he said. “By giving people an administrative option, you could be putting children at risk because people grow and evolve and change. The needs of a nine-month-old are very different from the needs of a nine-year-old and if you don’t have a contract with the courts to enforce how that child is to be raised, then you have no place to go with it.”

Another woman I interviewed, a mother and doctoral candidate living in Alabama, is discovering that what seemed to be a cheaper alternative—using mediation instead of litigation—may have only been a short-term solution. With this option, both parties sit down with a professional mediator to attempt to come to an agreement, and then bring in lawyers only to finalize that agreement and give legal advice during the process.

This can save thousands of dollars, but it only works smoothly if the parties easily arrive at an agreement. “For us, it was surprisingly easy, fast and cheap,” she says. “It cost maybe $200, all told. But the long-term ramifications have been much more difficult. Our custody agreement is very loosely defined as joint custody, but now that my ex-husband has a serious girlfriend in another state, I have to seek out a lawyer to protect my parental rights.” The woman says that in hindsight, the way she divorced simply delayed the inevitable litigation, and in the interim, she’s been stuck with what she feels is an unfair portion of living expenses.

“Mediators can sometimes make things better, but there’s no real licensing for it,” Cotton says. “There is no governing body that holds anyone to anything.” He adds that “your divorce is something you have to rely upon. You need to be able to go back to it. With a divorce, you can get in front of a judge within days if something isn’t going right. If you only have a contract, it can take six to nine months. In those months, if you need money for medication or heat or child support, you could actually die. The last thing you want is your divorce breaking on you.”


Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Help for Dealing With a High-Conflict Custody Dispute

How to respond when your ex provokes you

When you’re dealing with a high-conflict custody dispute, it’s important to remain level-headed and stand your ground. Here are some tips for coping when your ex repeatedly tries to antagonize you over your custody arrangement:

Practice self-awareness. You can’t change how the other person behaves, but you can change the way you respond or contribute to the situation. Especially if you’re dealing with an extremely high-conflict personality who’s manipulative or accustomed to getting his or her own way, focusing on what you know to be true about yourself and the situation will help you stay grounded.

Write it all down. Start keeping a journal where you can document not only your interactions with your ex, but also your own feelings. In particular, you’ll want to look for patterns that can help you create routines for dealing with the situation. And remember, your goal isn’t to change your ex’s behavior -- because you don’t have any control over that. What you want to do—and can do—is identify small changes that will make the situation easier for your children and yourself.

Surround yourself with positive influences. Think about who you listen to most. Is it your best friend? A family member? Make an intentional effort to surround yourself with positive people who will help you be more assertive without unnecessarily making you more upset or adding drama.

Set boundaries with your ex. Put limits on when you’ll answer the phone, text, and meet to discuss the situation. For example, let your ex know that you’re available until 8 p.m. to talk on the phone or text, but that your phone will be set to silent after that. And when you need to discuss custody and other issues in person, make a point of meeting in a public place where you feel comfortable.

Compromise when appropriate.
You don’t want to become a doormat or for one voluntary compromise to suggest that your ex can have his or her way all the time. However, it can be extremely effective to proactively offer up a compromise that is important to your ex but doesn’t cost you more than you’re willing to give up. When possible, try to be as flexible with you ex as you’d like him or her to be with you.

Work with a lawyer you trust. Don’t attempt to navigate a bitter custody battle on your own. Hire an attorney who knows the child custody laws in your state and has experience practicing family law. If money is an issue, contact your state Bar Association for referrals to pro-bono legal services and legal clinics in your area.

Develop a written parenting plan. Put your agreements down on paper so that you have something to refer to when either of you asks for changes or claims that the custody arrangement isn’t being followed. Some states require a parenting plan, but even if your state doesn’t, a clearly written parenting plan will make it more difficult for your ex to manipulate the situation or claim that you’re not following the plan you both agreed to. Be sure to include details like transportation, when each visit will start and end, and how you plan to handle school holidays, as well.

Most parents will see improvement with the steps outlined above. However, if you’re experiencing a particularly high-conflict custody dispute with an individual who’s become aggressive or unstable, it may be safer to back off. The following recommendations are for situations where safety may be compromised by continuing to use rational communication methods:

Seek counseling. Particularly if you’re trying to co-parent with a narcissistpersonality, you should consider speaking with a professional. This will give you a safe place to unload all that you’re dealing with while also providing strategies for coping and remaining differentiated from any drama your ex is attempting to stir up.

Minimize contact. If your ex frequently lashes out at you, take steps to minimize contact with him or her. While I don’t recommend zero contact, unless safety is an issue, it can helpful to limit contact to conversations that are absolutely necessary.

Stay on topic. Avoid venturing off into topics that could worsen the conflict between you. For example, don’t bring up old arguments that aren’t likely be resolved and don’t allow yourself to react when your ex tries to stir up trouble with accusations or inflammatory words.

Consider a restraining order. This is only recommended in situations where your safety or your children’s safety is at risk. Never exaggerate circumstances in an effort to secure a restraining order, as this will only work against you. To get a restraining order, contact your local police station or—in an emergency—call 911.

Finally, remember that the purpose of every communication with your ex is to facilitate his or her ongoing relationship with your children—a relationship that your kids have a right to experience. To the extent that you can, try to put your differences behind you and work toward developing a more healthy co-parenting relationship. And remember, your co-parenting relationship is still developing; with help, it won't always be as difficult as it is today.


Tuesday, 30 October 2018

A Diplomatic Divorce is the Only Way to Go

In an ideal world, all weddings would result in fairytale marriages and happy endings. No one would ever disagree, cheat, grow apart, lie or lose interest, and divorces would never happen. Of course, that world does not exist.

Divorce is an unfortunate reality of life for many people. It's not always a bad thing. People grow, mature and grow apart over time, and some marriages cannot sustain these changes. For some people, the divorce is sudden and unexpected; for others, it's a slow process of marital decay until the separation is inevitable. No matter why the marriage fell apart, the divorce itself is bound to be an emotional period that's difficult for all parties involved.

Some things will make the process easier for everyone, however, especially if there are children in the mix. By setting aside the hurt feelings and working through the practical aspects of getting the divorce finalized, you can both move on with your lives as quickly and painlessly as possible.

What is an Amicable Divorce?

For people in the throes of a divorce, it may seem anything but amicable. Many separations are preceded by months or even years of arguing, blame-placing, lies or other major issues. Even people who end a relationship on generally good terms may still feel hurt and overwhelmed, and it can be hard to see the divorce clearly and objectively.

An amicable divorce is one where both parties can agree to terms of spousal support, child support, custody and the division of assets without needing a judge to make those decisions for you. An amicable divorce is always uncontested, meaning both parties agree that the marriage is over and are willing to work toward bringing it to a peaceful resolution.
In understanding a diplomatic divorce, it may be helpful to understand what it's not:

  • It doesn't mean that you'll both be friends. Although some divorcees are able to maintain friendships with their exes, this is not the norm (certainly not the level of friendship as before) and it's not something that you should expect.
  • It doesn't mean that the divorce will be painless. You have the right to grieve for the loss of your marriage, and nothing can take that right away from you. Approaching the divorce with a clear head will simply help resolve it quickly and without adding more pain.
  • It doesn't mean that you'll get everything you want. A diplomatic divorce is fair, which means both sides will come out mostly even. Neither party really "wins" a divorce, so don't expect to leave the proceedings feeling triumphant.

Once you understand what an amicable divorce really is, it becomes easier to see why it's the best choice. If you can, you should always strive to end your marriage on a diplomatic note; this is doubly important if you have children and plan to share custody.

Why Get a Diplomatic Divorce?

One of the best reasons to try for an amicable divorce is so that your children's lives are as unaffected as possible. Divorce puts a huge strain on families, and children have an especially difficult time adjusting. If you can end the relationship in a way that enables you to communicate civilly, it will be easier for your children to adjust to their new lifestyle. It will also make sharing custody more bearable, and you won't have as much resentment every time you see each other.

Children aren't the only reason to have a diplomatic divorce, however. Even if you don't have children, you can benefit from an equal agreement about dividing your assets and arranging spousal support. Moreover, settling a divorce amicably will provide both members of the couple more control over the separation of property, custody and other important matters.

When a divorce goes to court, the judge ultimately decides who should be granted what. While the judge will attempt to divide assets fairly, the division may not be ideal for both parties. If you can come to an agreement outside of court, you will be better prepared for the terms of the divorce and have more freedom and flexibility than if a judge decided the terms of your divorce for you.

It will also make the divorce process itself much faster and easier. Uncontested divorces are settled quickly, and if you agree to things in advance, you won't have to spend as much time in court. This will save you time, money and frustration and allow you to begin building your new life without devoting so much time to divorce proceedings.

How to Have a Diplomatic Divorce

The first key to having a successful diplomatic divorce is to choose an attorney who can help you with the process. Make sure to choose an attorney who understands that you want to end the divorce easily and amicably. Some lawyers have a more aggressive approach that will make it harder to end the divorce diplomatically.

Once you've retained a lawyer, it's important to make sure that your ex is willing to end the marriage diplomatically and knows what that will involve. Try to have a discussion with them about your wishes so that you can set realistic expectations. Being in agreement about having an amicable divorce will make the rest of the process much easier.

In some cases, if you and your ex are on the same page, you may be able to resolve the entire divorce without going to court. Both members of the couple will fill out the necessary paperwork, exchange documents and work through difficulties as they arise. Generally one person will file for the divorce and the other will accept it. This is called a pro se divorce and requires negotiation and open communication, but you might find it worthwhile.

If a pro se divorce is too difficult, a collaborative divorce may make more sense. In this case, both members of the couple will retain lawyers and handle all communication through these attorneys. This allows the negotiation to take place outside of court, allowing a couple to resolve the marriage as peacefully as possible and retain more control over the divorce itself.

Using attorneys as negotiators is a good compromise for couples who want to end a divorce diplomatically but are unable to collaborate with each other to complete the process. This ensures that both parties are treated fairly in the divorce without requiring the individuals to do all of the legwork for the divorce themselves. Of course, this will only work if both attorneys are on the same page. If your spouse retains a cut-throat, aggressive lawyer, the negotiation may not go smoothly and you may end up in court after all.

No matter how you decide to handle your divorce, you may be required by the state to go through mediation. The mediator is a neutral third party who will help negotiate the divorce whether or not you decide to retain an attorney. If you both agree that mediation is unnecessary, the district will usually waive the requirement, but a mediator may be able to help you work out the requirements of your divorce.

A Diplomatic Divorce is the Only Way to Go

Whenever possible, it's best to have an amicable divorce. It may be difficult to see this at first, especially if there's a lot of anger about the situation, but it's important to separate the failed marriage from the divorce in your mind. Ultimately, a divorce is not about the relationship; a divorce is the separation of finances, property and activities. It's more like dissolving a business partnership.

By approaching the divorce rationally and treating it diplomatically, as if you were negotiating a treaty, you can arrive at a solution that will benefit both partners as equally as possible. What "equally" means will vary from one couple to the next; for some, it might mean that one person gets alimony payments until they're able to recover from the financial impact of losing spousal support. For others, it might mean simply selling all belongings and dividing the profits equally.

This is where keeping a level head and considering your future is vital to an amicable divorce. Rather than worrying about blame or punishment, you can focus purely on the task of dividing assets fairly and moving on with the least possible amount of pain for you, your ex and your family.

And of course, you can always ask your divorced friends (we all have them) what is the best way to go. Odds are all of them would have gone the diplomatic way if they had the time back.