Sunday, March 28, 2010

Virginia Putative Fatherhood - Virginia Department of Social Services

Virginia Putative Fatherhood - Virginia Department of Social Services

Virginia has a Putative Father Registry. Basically, this is a mechanism to avoid having to serve birth fathers in adoption cases. It requires men who might have fathered children to register so that they are entitled to notice.

Saturday, March 27, 2010



Steps to Adoption - Virginia Department of Social Services

Steps to Adoption - Virginia Department of Social Services

The Virginia Department of Social Services Website contains voluminous information about Adoptions in Virginia.

Family Law - Relocation with Children -

Family Law - Relocation with Children -

Virginia requires 30 days advance written notification of a proposed relocation to the other parent and to the court.

Approval of a relocation requires proof of an independent benefit to the child from the relocation if it interferes with the other parent's contact with the child.

Adoption And Safe Families Act

What is the Adoption and Safe Families Act
By Christina Pomoni Platinum Quality Author
EZine Articles

Reauthorizing the Family Preservation and Support Services Program of 1980, the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) was enacted to improve the deficiencies of the previous Program in an effort to ensure safety and permanence for neglected children. Before the enactment of the Act, many children were abandoned in foster care agencies waiting for years to be placed for adoption. At the same time, numerous efforts to reunite children with their birth parents had failed and many children had been placed for adoption without proper assessment of the adoptive families. This had resulted in wrong placement decisions that, by no means, had reassured child safety provisions.

Appreciating the importance of childhood, the Adoption and Safe Families Act favors children's rights stating that it does not tolerate multiple placements, needless continuances, and deferred permanence plans. This bit of legislation does not accept abused and neglected children of 2 years old to grow into defiant teens with separation anxiety.

The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) focuses on imposing stricter guidelines for adoption placements in an effort to achieve successful adoptions in a timely manner. Promoting health and safety for children on foster care, the Act requires States to identify and monitor situations that foster placements put children's interests at stake. By establishing appropriate measures to monitor the accountability of the child welfare system, each State should document reasonable efforts to place neglected children into adoptive families.

In this context, the Act focuses on ensuring safety for abused and neglected children. Defining the health and safety provisions that should be taken into consideration in each State for placements of abused and neglected children, the Act requires regular criminal record checks for adoptive parents to ensure children's safety.

Furthermore, the Act places the acceleration of permanent placement for children on the forefront of its processes. If a child had been waiting for adoption for 15 of the last 22 months, then parental rights are automatically removed, unless there are mitigating circumstances such as the absence of a close relative, or adoptive families that are not to the child's best interest.

With its implementation, the Act has supported and promoted adoptions by providing incentive funds of $20 million for the period 1999-2003 assisting States to increase the number of adoptions. $4,000 incentive was provided for a child in foster care, while $6,000 incentive was provided for a child with special needs.

In regards to its implementation, the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) is generally considered successful. Serving the purposes of creating stable and permanent homes for children in the child welfare system, the Act has enabled foster care agencies to complete the adoption procedures in expeditious times considering the children's health and safety provisions.

On the other hand, members of the African American community consider that the implementation of the Act has been detrimental for them. In many cases, single parent families, with the mother or the father imprisoned, could not keep up with the required guidelines, namely the "15 out of 22 previous months". Hence, according to the Act, their parental rights were automatically removed and they failed in achieving reunification with their children.

The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) was signed in November 19, 1997 by President Bill Clinton, after approval of the Congress.

Can I adopt my Girlfriends Son? - Adoption -

Can I adopt my Girlfriends Son? - Adoption -

Friday, March 26, 2010

Military Reimbursement For Adoptions

Of the many benefits available to servicemembers and their families, one of the most often overlooked is the Department of Defense Adoption Reimbursement Program. Currently, the reimbursement rate is $2,000 per adoptive child, but no more than $5,000 per year. This applies to national and international adoptions.
The fees that can be reimbursed are any adoption agency fees, counseling fees for the birth parents that may be required, medical costs, temporary foster care, as well as legal expenses including court costs.
This is in addition to any special needs subsidies or other benefits that may be available as a result of the adoption.
If you click on the title, you will be linked to DoD Insruction 1341.09.

"Open Adoption" Comes To Virginia

Effective 2009, by statute ( Virginia Code Section 16.1-283.1 ), the child's birth parent or parents can enter into written post-adoption contact and communication agreements with the adoptive parent or parents. This agreement may include provisions about sharing information about the child's health, education and welfare, as well as photographs. It is not, however, the adoption of this statute that is so significant. People have been making these agreements, formally and informally, for years. These agreements unfortunately were totally unenforceable in any court. They relied on the adoptive parents keeping their promise.
Also in 2009, the General Assembly enacted Section 63.2-1228.1 which provides a process for the circuit court to approve the post adoption contact and communication agreements (PACCA) to make them enforceable by the court. The court also will, unless otherwise provided, maintain jurisdiction to enforce or modify the terms of the PACCA.
The court can compel compliance by the adoptive parents. The court can change the terms if there has been a material change of circumstances.
Failure to comply with the PACCA will not undermine the finality of the adoption or the termination of parental rights, but it does provide enforcement power to back up agreements to keep birth parents apprised of information about their children.

Step-Parent Adoptions In Virginia -

Step-Parent Adoptions In Virginia -

How to get an increase in Support? - Child Support -

How to get an increase in Support? - Child Support -

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tips For Parents Seeking custody

S.P.A.R.C. Separated Parenting Access & Resource Center
"Keeping Families Connected"

Tips for Parents Seeking Custody
by Vince Regan

Generally speaking, there are some concrete things you can do when seeking custody of your kids that will better your chances. Note that doing these things has to become a "way of life" and must be sincere. By that, I mean you cannot merely approach them as a huge strategy that you execute only in an effort to get custody and forget about later on.

1. Educate yourself about the custody factors and process within your state. Nearly every state has a list of criteria in the state law that is used to determine custody. Find that list and research each item point by point. Factors might include: A.) The child's adjustment to his or her home, school, and community. B.) The love and affection and other emotional ties existing between the child and each parent. And the list goes on…….

2. Take the criteria you've identified above and see where you now stand and how you can impact it. This means looking at each point and honestly evaluating your strengths and weaknesses as they relate to that point. Your goal must be to build upon your strengths and eliminate your weaknesses.

3. You must document where you are and where you are going! This is critical and means you must write down notes about each point in the criteria. It wouldn't be uncommon to have several pages of notes about each point when you are done. The notes should include your thoughts on the specific criteria. Let's say it's from point "A" in number one above: "The child's adjustment to his or her home, school, and community. Your notes would elaborate on each of the three points within that item—notes on adjustment to home, notes on adjustment to school, and notes on adjustment to the community.

4. Evaluate your positives and seek factual information to back up your position. Take the strengths you have listed and seek ways to verify those strengths. If a strength for you is your involvement in your child's school, for example, then come up with ways to illustrate that to others. The goal is to be factual and objective. Below are sources of information, some factual and objective, and comments on their usefulness.

a. Concrete Evidence. This would include items you can touch that show your strengths in a given area. Using the school example above you must think of concrete things that could show your involvement. It might be evidence of being on the school board or a school committee (like meeting minutes). It might be photos of you coaching a school sport. It might be a thank you note from a teacher for helping out with a class party or field trip. The list of concrete items that illustrate your involvement in your child's school could be many things. The example we are using is your involvement in your kids school, but this principle of concrete evidence can be applied to any of the criteria. Concrete Evidence is one of the strongest items you can present to influence the custody decision.

b. Independent Third Party Testimony. Don't be taken aback by the word "testimony." This is really nothing more than getting other people to describe how you rate on a given criteria from the list. The key is that they are "independent third party" people. These are people who have no real vested interest in the outcome of your custody situation. They can be teachers, doctors, childcare providers, neighbors, school counselors, community groups, coaches, and others. The goal is to get these individuals to provide information they know about you. Ideally, in writing and sometimes via verbal court testimony. Again, using the example of school involvement this might be asking a teacher to write a note about how you have never missed one of your child's conferences, or seeing if the school counselor would give verbal court testimony about your efforts to see that your kids emotional needs were being met. The examples are limited only by your unique situation and should be applied to the entire spectrum of the criteria to determine custody. The value of Independent Third Party Testimony is very high. These individuals provide great insights into you as a parent and can also be questioned regarding their opinion on the prospects of future successful single parenting on your part. Sometimes the toughest part can be approaching the individual doctor, teacher, counselor, etc and having a discussion requesting them to get involved. Don't skip this step, however, as it's invaluable.

c. Friends and Family. The best way to use friends and family are for emotional support and to have them help you with ideas on the previous two points. Too often, parents rely only on friends and family to provide their testimony on how you interact with your kids and then have them rate you on the criteria. It just doesn't pack much punch to have this input. Having a brother or parent who testifies you enjoy going into your child's school and reading to the class one day a month doesn't have the impact of having the kindergarten teacher make the same statement. Judges and caseworkers expect family and close friends to say great things about you and that's why the things family and friends say doesn't carry great weight. On the other hand—and this next idea is not as rare as it may sound—if you can get a family member or close friend of your soon-to-be ex to provide testimony to your strengths, then this is a great thing! Think about it—It's very compelling to have verbal testimony or written comments from your soon-to-be ex's parents about how much time you dedicate to coaching your kids sports or helping your child get their homework done. In summary, family is invaluable in the overall process of divorce or a custody dispute—especially from the emotional angle. Just don't give their willingness to testify too much weight.

d. Your input. This begins with the notes of your strengths and weaknesses completed earlier. With both the strengths and weaknesses you should be able to elaborate on various items listed. You should have thought through (and even written down in many cases) how you would respond to a weakness that you recognize or might be a perceived weakness brought up by the other party. So, in our example, maybe you've never been to your child's classroom. That is likely to be a weakness you recognize or might be brought up by the ex. What will your response be? It's important to have thought this through and to be ready to respond. Not being prepared might make you respond with a "Yes, I haven't been in my child's classroom." Being prepared might allow you to say "Yes, I haven't been in my child's classroom as my employer is pretty strict about time off during the day. I have generally called the teacher, Mrs. Johnson, during my lunch break once a week to touch base with her on my daughter's progress and I usually spend one night a week working on my daughter's school scrapbook as I go through papers she brings home from school." It's your input that insures you have accurately and thoroughly addressed each of the custody criteria in your state law. As you can see from reading this far, addressing each of the state custody criteria points with just your words and thoughts is not going to be enough! You must focus on concrete evidence, the input of independent third parties, and friends and family.

5. Act upon your weaknesses. Every action item up to this point focused on how to frame your strengths for greatest impact. At least as important as that is how you handle your weaknesses. If you had no weaknesses or areas needing improvement in relation to the criteria, then you likely haven't done an honest assessment of your situation.

Review your weaknesses to see where you can make an impact. Again, it must be a sincere desire to do what's best for your kids that drives you to action. Don't allow spite, revenge, anger, competition, or other unhealthy motives to cause you to attempt to be someone you really don't want to be. By this, I mean you may have weaknesses that you are aware of and have no intent of changing—either because you don't value the particular issue or because the changes that would be necessary run counter to whom you really are as an individual. For example some state law custody criteria can touch on religion. If you haven't been a particularly religious individual you could list this as a weakness for that criteria and work to build it into a strength. If you are adamantly set against religion you might list it as a weakness and also recognize it's not an issue you can act upon—meaning it remains a weakness with your knowledge.

So, how do you act upon weaknesses? Essentially you take the weakness—-and for our purposes we'll now say "involvement in your child's school" is a weakness—and you examine steps you can take to make it a strength. Calling and arranging a meeting with your child's teacher, principal, school counselor, or other staff might be a starting point. Find out from them how you can be more involved in your child's education. Writing a thank you note to each one you met with and keeping a copy will begin to provide concrete evidence as was mentioned above. Responses you get from teachers will add to that concrete evidence. Over time, as you demonstrate you are working to be more involved in the school environment you may find a teacher is willing to provide a letter, or even verbal testimony about your efforts. Now you've taken a known weakness and have turned it into a strength. And something as simple as school involvement can actually go from a weakness to a strength in just a few months if you really apply yourself.

Generally speaking then the goal is to determine action on weaknesses by looking at the desired end result. One end result is to make it a strength, of course. The two other major end results are to generate concrete evidence and independent third party verification of your efforts. Below is a short example of what this means.

The weakness: You are not very involved in your child's healthcare.
If the other parent has been the only one to bring your young child to the doctor for sickness, you need to take action. One action: Keep a closer eye on your child's health care. Let's say there is a case of diaper rash or diarrhea/dehydration—-pretty common with young kids and often treated with items you can buy at the store. I'd suggest you take the child to the doctor instead. One result: You have something concrete—doctor's instructions or receipt—of the visit and of your concern for you child's well-being from an independent third party. Second action: Check to see if your child needs immunizations and be the one to bring him/her for them. Second result: Immunizations are often overlooked by parents and seeing that your child is current on shots provides that concrete record, the immunization card, that you were involved in meeting this need. It shows you are responsible and plan for your kids needs. And the list of things regarding health care can go on an on from vision screenings to dental cleanings, etc…Think of the items that apply to healthcare and then make a plan to address them with a goal of your child's well-being, concrete evidence, and independent third party testimonies.

6. Communicate! Doing the previous five steps in a vacuum will not help you. Using solid legal counsel and a good therapist/counselor you need to communicate with them about the self-evaluation you have made and the actions you are working on. Your lawyer needs the information to build your case. Your mental health professional needs the information to gauge your progress on coping with your emotions and helping to hold you accountable when times get tough.

7. Educate/Reach Out. You've educated yourself about your state's criteria for custody and made a plan. Don't stop there. You'll need to learn about much more than custody alone as you travel the road of an ended relationship. You need to learn about courts, attorneys, state agencies, counseling services, and more. Finding an organization, like Responsible Single Fathers, that holds local educational meetings could likely prove very helpful. You achieve all of this by reaching out within your local community—saying you could use help in this area or that area and asking for help in locating services that can make a difference during this new stage of your life.


* Learn the applicable law.
* Evaluate yourself honestly.
* Make an informed plan.
* Work your plan.
* Communicate with others.
* Ask for help.
* Keep learning!

Justia :: Employment Law Family and Medical Leave

Justia :: Employment Law Family and Medical Leave



All retirement plan beneficiary designations and insurance policy beneficiaries need to be made or changed after a divorce. Do not rely on the entry of the Final Decree of Divorce to take care of it.

Plans governed by federal law have their owns rules which may not follow your wishes. See the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Egelhoff above.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Would this be grounds for adultery? - Divorce / Separation -

Would this be grounds for adultery? - Divorce / Separation -

Your Kids And Your Divorce

There is a 100% correlation between how divorcing/separating parents behave toward each other and whether their children will sustain psychological damage from the break-up. Other than death and taxes, nothing else in this world is more certain. Yet even with this knowledge, and often in the name of behaving badly out of concern for the children, parents engage in a variety of destructive and harmful activities. It is vital for parents to remember that their child is NOT divorcing the other parent!

The parents should:

* Make certain the children understand they did not cause the divorce.
* Explain to the children the reasons for the divorce, using common sense as a guide. They should do it together at an agreed time and place. They may want to talk with a therapist about the best way to do this, if they have concerns.
* Allow the children to express their feelings about the divorce.
* Do not lie or withhold information from the children that will help them better understand the reasons for the divorce. Do not, however, go overboard on assigning blame, such as discussing dad's desire for a young girlfriend.
* Be sensitive to how each child is handling the divorce. Even in the same family, different children handle the situation differently. Because of this, you may even need to have different visitation schedules. Again, you may need to get a therapist involved for a child.
* Help the children feel secure by showing love and commitment to them.
* See that each child’s behavior remains appropriate to his or her current stage of development.
* Allow the children to adjust to the divorce at their own rates.
* Help the children maintain their usual routines.
* Set a good example for the children by handling the divorce in a mature and healthy way.Do not expose them early on to your new romantic relationships. This will confuse, and often anger, them.
* Determine custody based on a rational decision that meets the needs and best interests of the children.
* Maintain regular contacts between the absent parent and the children.
* Do not expect a child to fill the absent parent’s shoes.
* Do not tamper with the children’s love or loyalty to the other parent.
* Do not ask the children to take sides against the other parent and let them know that you and the other parent do communicate so they cannot play one against the other.
* Do not say bad things about the other parent, and do not let the children make such statements..
* Do not attempt to buy the children’s affections.
* Do not use the children as messengers or question them about the other parent.
* Spend time alone with each child so that he or she will feel like a special individual.

Your primary goal as a parent is to protect your children from harm. That should not change because of a break up with the other parent.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Alcoholism, Marriage And Divorce

Alcoholism and Marriage and Divorce

More than one-half of adults in the U.S. have a close family member who has abused alcohol or is addicted to the drug. When the drinker is a husband or wife, the effect of alcoholism and marriage can be dramatic and damaging.

Not only is the mental and physical well-being of the drinker at risk; the marriage relationship and family unit can be significantly affected.

The psychological and other health-related ramifications to each affected family member can be traumatic and long-lasting.

According to psychologist Neill Neill, Ph.D., if a spouse or partner shifts from enjoying a drink to compulsively needing alcohol to feel okay, the non-alcoholic spouse may also shifted from being giving and caring to being addicted to the partner’s care.

In other words, with alcoholism in marriage, compulsive caretaking often grows alongside the deteriorating self-care of the compulsive drinker. An alcoholic spouse may neglect or abuse his or her family, deplete financial resources, and create legal problems for the family.

Dr. Neill emphasizes that alcoholics, like all abusers and addicts, lie (bold faced lies, lies of omission, cover-ups, minimization), make excuses, blame others for their drinking, and continue to use alcohol regardless of consequences.

If there are children present, they copy the behavior they see modeled by the drinker and learn how to grow up and be alcoholics themselves.

The non-profit National Healthy Marriage Resource Center(NHMRC) offers answers to some frequently-asked questions about alcoholism and marriage. A sampling of these questions are below.

What are the effects of alcohol abuse on marital satisfaction and quality?

* Marital distress. Alcohol abuse increases the feelings of marital distress. Individuals in marriages in which one or both spouses is an alcoholic report higher levels of marital distress or trouble than do married individuals who are not married to alcoholics.

* Anger. Marital satisfaction is related strongly to a couple's ability to communicate effectively. But heavy alcohol use is associated with more negative and hostile communication, more expressions of anger, and less warmth and unity in the relationship. These factors decrease a couple's satisfaction in their marriage and create greater tension.

* Everyday family responsibilities. Alcohol abuse decreases marital satisfaction because it decreases the drinking spouse's ability to participate in everyday household tasks and responsibilities. This inability leads to greater stress on the non-drinking spouse and decreases satisfaction in the marriage.

* Psychological distress. Alcohol abuse increases the psychological distress of the non-drinking spouse. An adult's alcohol abuse also is related to children's increased social, emotional,behavioral, and academic problems, which, in turn, leads to more stress in the family and less marital satisfaction.

Does alcohol abuse increase the risk of divorce?

Yes. Some evidence for this is that divorced or separated men and women are three times more likely to be alcoholics or to have an alcohol problem than are married men and women.

* With alcoholism and marriage, alcohol problems are related to increased rates of marital violence, poor communication, and feelings of marital distress that lead to a greater risk of divorce.

* Differences between spouses in their drinking behaviors decrease marital quality and increase the likelihood of divorce. One reason for this increased likelihood is that drinking has an impact on the amount of time that partners spend together, especially if the alcoholic frequently drinks away from home. The more time spent apart, the less satisfied the nonalcoholic spouse becomes and the greater the potential for divorce.

How does alcohol abuse affect communication in marriage?

* Damaging communication. With alcoholism and marriage, alcoholic spouses tend to use more negative and damaging communication (e.g., criticizing, blaming, contempt), express more anger, and show lower levels of warmth when trying to solve a problem than do nonalcoholic spouses. This kind of negative communication discourages the use of positive problem solving skills such as open discussion and encouragement.

* Less problem solving. Couples in which one partner is alcoholic engage in problem solving less often than do other couples. Partners in such marriages may lose the desire to engage in problem solving and give up when alcohol is involved because they anticipate that the conversation will soon become negative.

As this pattern continues with alcoholism and marriage, important issues such as family finances, sexual intimacy, and childrearing decisions go unresolved because it is easier to avoid communicating than it is to deal with the stress and negative emotions that are associated with alcohol-related communication problems.

* Personality characteristics. Personality characteristics common among alcoholics also can affect communication. Alcoholics tend to be less conscientious, less agreeable, and more anxious and hypersensitive than are nondrinkers. These personality characteristics make effective communication and problem solving more difficult.

* Effects on the brain. Researchers believe that alcohol's effect on the brain may contribute to the increase in the negative communication. Alcohol appears to impair a person's ability to understand and properly interpret what a spouse is saying. Alcoholics tend to interpret things their partners say in a very negative way and this leads them to respond with greater anger and negative emotions.

Is alcohol abuse related to violence in marriage?

Alcohol abuse is frequently related to marital violence:

* Among battered women, 40-60 percent reported that their husbands were heavy or problem drinkers. Among married men admitted to alcohol treatment centers, 50-70 percent reported participating in partner violence, with 20-30 percent of these men reporting having engaged in severe violence towards their spouses.

* The more frequently men are intoxicated, the more likely they are to be verbally and physically violent toward their spouses. Alcohol abuse is connected to increased aggression and marital violence that tends to be more severe and more likely to result in injury.

* Spouses under the influence of alcohol tend to act more aggressively, perhaps because their ability to think rationally is reduced. Alcohol tends to make individuals more impulsive and to decrease their ability to restrain their aggression. This pattern is especially noticeable among spouses who are more aggressive even without alcohol.

How can therapy help couples struggling with alcoholism and marriage?

* Alcoholism is not simply an individual problem. Families often play a significant role in the "cause" and "cure" of alcohol abuse. For this reason, research shows that therapy that involves the spouse and possibly other family members is more helpful to overcoming alcoholism than is only treating the individual who has the alcohol problem.

In the end, a decision must be made whether the alcoholic can be saved or whether the family has to be saved from the alcoholic. This may mean a physical and emotional separation from the alcoholic.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Showing Off

Showing Off

What Is The Difference Between Mediation And Collaborative Divorce

What's the difference between Collaborative Divorce and Mediation?

In mediation, an impartial third party (the mediator) assists the negotiations of both parties and tries to help settle your case. However, the mediator cannot give either of you legal advice or be an advocate for either side. If there are lawyers for each of you, they may or may not be present at the mediation sessions, but if they are not present, then you can consult them between mediation sessions. When there’s an agreement, the mediator prepares a draft of the settlement terms for review and editing by both you and your lawyers.

Collaborative Divorce allows you both to have lawyers present during the negotiation process to keep settlement as the top priority. The lawyers, who have training similar to mediators (and in our Practice Group have actual mediator training), work with their clients and one another to assure a balanced process that’s positive and productive. When there is agreement, a document is drafted by the lawyers, and reviewed and edited by you both until everyone is satisfied.

Both Collaborative Divorce and mediation rely on voluntary, free exchange of information and commitment to resolutions respecting everyone’s shared goals. If mediation doesn’t result in a settlement, you may choose to use your counsel in litigation, if this is what you and your lawyer have agreed. In Collaborative Divorce, the lawyers and parties sign an agreement aligning everyone’s interests in resolution. It specifically states that the Collaborative attorneys and other professional team members are disqualified from participating in litigation if the Collaborative process ends without reaching an agreement. Your choice of mediation or Collaborative Divorce should be made with professional advice.

I am trained in both Mediation and Collaborative Divorce. I am a member of the International, Virginia and Local Collaborative Professional Practice Groups. Schedule a consultation to see whether either of these processes is right for your situation.

Can my husband sue the childs mother for childsupport. - Child Support -

Can my husband sue the childs mother for childsupport. - Child Support -

alimony and abandonment - Divorce / Separation -

alimony and abandonment - Divorce / Separation -

Monday, March 8, 2010

Change Your Mindset-Change Your Life

I just finished reading "Mindset: The new Psychology of Success" by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. The concept seemed simple. Some people have "fixed mindsets". They believe that we are what we are. We are as intelligent, artistic, athletic, moral and competent as we are, and we need to spend our lives proving it to the world. Each time that we fail to prove it, well, we are "failures". Other people have "growth mindsets". You start with basic assets and through effort, you improve on them. It is the trip, not the destination that matters. These people even have different brain waves in studies. People with a growth mindset thrive on challenge. Those with a fixed mindset run from challenge because it presents a risk of failure. Fixed mindsets opt for success over growth or improvement.
Teachers and parents can create fixed mindsets by telling kids that they are smart, athletic, etc. That things come naturally to them. So then, if and when they do not, the kids are failures. It is better to praise effort than aptitude. They can always try, but they can't always win. And rarely can they be flawless which is what the fixed mindset requires.
Relationships can suffer from a fixed mindset when one "friend" uses you as a vehicle to confirm their worth (e.g. the jokes at your expenses).
Fixed mindsets cause failed marriages when one or both parties expect instant communication and compatibility-without effort. After all, isn't that what true love is?
In break-ups, the one thought with fixed mindsets is revenge because they have been judged to be a failure, so the beloved now has become the enemy. They have to defend themselves by attacking someone else. They cannot tolerate the thought that they may be at fault.
The same happens with parents. If your parents didn't love you enough, were they bad parents or were you unlovable or bad?
The bottom line is that you have to recognize that your beliefs are holding you back, and that only you can change them. It's hard to do when you realize that your entire way of thinking and everything that your parents told you was wrong!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Difference a Good Judge Makes

Courts are very careful to have procedures set up to prevent lawyers from selecting which judge will hear their cases. The reasons are simple. Judges are human. They have their own biases and preferences. They also have their own abilities and limitations. After a time, these become known to all of the lawyers. For this reason, certain judges are preferred for certain cases; AND certain judges are not wanted for certain cases. Because of the random nature of judge assignments, both sets of judges will get these cases. One of them may be yours. Obviously, this could be a good or a bad thing depending on the luck of the draw.
On Friday, I had a very difficult case that had gone on for two years. It had been to a mandatory settlement conference. Nothing had worked, It was scheduled for a contested divorce hearing with custody as the only issue. Custody hearings never are a good thing, especially with young children involved. The judge met with the lawyers first and gave us her thoughts, then made preliminary remarks to the parties, and sent the lawyers out to talk with the clients with the benefit of the judge's insight. When an impasse was reached, the judge again met with counsel. Ultimately, a settlement was reached in what seemed to be an impossible case. The benefit of a good judge-in settlement or in trial-cannot be underestimated.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Co-Parenting After Divorce

Co-Parenting After A Divorce—Tips From A Mediator
by Brian James

July 2009

Co-parenting starts the day the decision is made to divorce has been made. Even the most amicable divorces need a plan for future co-parenting. Putting your children's best interests first, no matter how much you may dislike their other parent, is the key to co-parenting.

The first thing you must do is decide if you and your spouse are able to talk about co-parenting after the divorce. If you feel you can, that is great. The strongest agreements will come from the two of you. However, if you cannot talk about co-parenting, don't!! Let professionals such a mediators and therapists, assist both of you with co-parenting discussions. This is too important an issue to not be done the right way.

Here are a few tips to help ensure positive co-parenting:

1) Plan everything in your divorce decree - Do not leave any decisions to,"We'll work it out on our own". The more thorough and detailed you are now, the better co-parents you will be. Not detailing everything for your children now almost guarantees future parental disagreements, emergency court dates and lots of attorney fees.

2) Limit the exchange of $ to the bare minimum- try not to split children expenses 50/50. Instead each of you do your best to write out future expenses for the kids (possibly as part of the financial statement for the divorce) and each pick expenses they will pay for. Will this be exactly 50/50 every year, of course not. However, over the years, it will balance out. When things change, you sit down as parents and restructure who pay what, but remember, if you can't talk about, bring in a professional to help.

3) Plan ahead for the introduction of significant others. This is a very touchy subject, especially when the divorce is due to an affair. However, so as to limit future problems, this issue must be addressed now.

4) Plan meetings-whether you anticipate problems or not, it is a good idea to schedule future parenting meetings in you divorce agreement. They can always be cancelled if things are going well but are crucial when things are not.

5) Even though it been mentioned a number of times in this article, I cannot stress enough the use of trained professionals when any co-parenting problems arise. They can save you a lot of heartache, money and help ensure your children will continue to have the love and respect of two parents.

Lastly, co-parenting after a divorce is not easy. It takes commitment, flexibility and at times, giving in for the sake of your children. In my private practice, I have seen divorced parents come to me for the most insignificant issues. When I ask them why they cannot work it out on their own, I get three answers. "It is not our divorce agreement"," We thought we could work it out and we can not talk." Being good parents is about making sacrifices and doing what is best for you children.

Apology In Mediation

Apology In Mediation:


Apology involves the acknowledgement of injury with an acceptance of responsibility, affect (felt regret or shame - the person must mean it), and vulnerability - the risking of an acknowledgement without excuses. It is repair work - work that is often necessary, but difficult.

Apology is a ritual exchange, where what is offered in exchange for the injury done is, in Tavuchis' phrase, "nothing, except a...speech expressing regret."

Aaron Lazare has best captured the ritual exchange of apology: "What makes an apology work is the exchange of shame and power between the offender and the offended."


Apology is central to mediation: mediation regularly involves disputes in which one party feels injured by the other. An apology is an act that is neither about problem-solving or negotiation. Rather, it is a form of ritual exchange where words are spoken that may enable closure. In the language of transformative mediation, apology represents an opportunity for acknowledgement that may transform relations. Most of us recognize its role in victim-offender mediation and community conferencing, but it can play an equally critical role in other forms of mediation, including employment and divorce mediation.


People can authentically apologize in mediation, but they often need help in getting past the defensiveness and fear of blame that preclude apology. Apology can not be imposed. It is a moment of opportunity. Parties often need preparation and help with the words. An apology involves such vulnerability that often the only way it is safe enough is with the mediator's assistance in putting the apology in words.

Apology involves an exchange of power and shame. Apology is a form of non-coercive power-balancing enacted by parties in which the powerful offer their vulnerability and through recognition, the injured/humiliated are empowered.


Apology can be a critical element in the settlement of lawsuits. Many of us have been in mediations in which there is a palpable desire for - sometimes an explicit insistence on -apology from plaintiffs. Many of us have witnessed the enormous cost of missed opportunities for apology. The pairing of the law and the adversarial system, however, makes for a matrix antithetical to apology. The preoccupation of American jurisprudence with defending individual rights and fears of admitting culpability can function to preclude apology with its naked unqualified acknowledgement of responsibility. As Lon Fuller has noted, adjudication involves rational ordering of a complaint according to principle whereas apology is not an appeal to reason. The adversary system breeds defensiveness; apology requires vulnerability.

It is possible to have a legal system more supportive of apology. The legal system in Japan functions quite differently and there apology plays a major role as a social restorative mechanism.


When attorneys are present in mediation it is generally far more difficult to hold open the space for apology, since attorneys are habituated to their role as "watchdog, guarding against their client's unwitting forfeiture of legal entitlements" (McEwan). This creates a wariness of apology which is a moment where a client relinquishes all justifications, excuses, and counter-claims and instead faces the other with moral transparency.

Apology and the adversarial system resemble David encountering Goliath: the one is loaded down with protective armor, the other comes seemingly defenseless. Many mediations are centrally about a damaged relationship. Trust has been broken. When offered with integrity and timing, an apology can be a critically important moment in mediation. An apology, when acknowledged, can restore trust. As Wagatsuma observes, "There are injuries that can only be repaired by an apology." The past is not erased, but the present is changed.

In divorce mediation an opportunity sometimes occurs for clients to acknowledge they have acted in ways that have created injury and they are sorry for the damage inflicted on their marriage and their spouse. The mediator can help people face damaged bonds and sort through what remains. With the marriage vow broken and trust betrayed, does anything remain? Is everything destroyed?

An apology is an opportunity to say, "Yes, there has been a terrible wound here, for which I am truly sorry. My intention is not to destroy you. I am ending a marriage, but I would like to close that door gently, not slam it shut."


Lazare, A. "Go Ahead, Say You're Sorry." Psychology Today, January/February 1995, 40-43, 76-78.

Levi, D. "The Role of Apology in Mediation." New York University Law Review. 72, (5), November 1997. 1165-1210.

Moore, D. B. "Shame, Forgiveness, and Juvenile Justice." Criminal Justice Ethics, Winter/Spring 1993.

Scheff, T. J., Bloody Revenge: Emotions, Nationalism, and War. Boulder: Westview Press, 1994.

Tavuchis, N. Mea Culpa: A Sociology of Apology and Reconciliation. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1991.

Wagatsuma, H. and Rosett, A. "The Implications of Apology: Law and Culture in Japan and the United States." Law & Society Review, 1986, 20 (4), 461-498.

The Good and The Bad

Breathe in the good. Breathe out the bad.
By thepeoplestherapist 11 Comments

Gerald Lucas, a psychotherapist who runs an institute in New York City, used to tell his patients he regretted he couldn’t make the world a better place – he could only make them better able to handle it the way it is.

Sometimes the key to happiness is a little like the key to Weight Watchers – learning to stay away from things that are bad for you.

Luck certainly plays a role. My relatives fled to the United States from Poland and Lithuania because the Czar and other nasties were oppressive, violent rulers. Forty years later, Hitler rolled in and committed the worst crimes in human history. It could have been my relatives in those Nazis death camps, but for dumb luck and the determination to leave the bad behind and seek something better.

The world can seem like an unpleasant place sometimes. If you need evidence, open this morning’s paper and take a look.

As a psychotherapist, patients bring plenty more proof that evil exists. It’s a good wake up to some harsh realities. As with everything else in psychotherapy, awareness is all.

One of my patients was violently raped in her early twenties. Working with a rape survivor taught me a lot about human dignity and the process of recovery from trauma. It also taught me about rape. Knowing someone who has been victimized by violence introduces you the fact that it really happens, to real people, all too often.

This woman gave me a book to read about rape, “Lucky,” by Alice Sebold, the author of “The Lovely Bones.” It is a memoir of Sebold’s own experience of rape, and a book I shall never forget. My patient taught me another important lesson: if something like that happens to you, you will do everything in your power to avoid letting it happen again. She took a self-defense class, carried a can of mace, and never again walked home alone late at night. There are predators out there, and at very least, you can take all available precautions.

So this week, when a beautiful young female patient complained to me about what she’d been through recently, I wasn’t surprised. In the past year she’d had a guy slip a drug into her drink, an older man – a professor, no less – approach her inappropriately for sex, countless construction workers whistle at her, and a best friend fall victim to domestic violence, then return to the boyfriend who beat her up. It was quite a list, but I believed every word. We talked about how she could be careful – and stay away from people who mean her no good.

Another patient I saw recently had a run in with a sociopath, a person who lacks a conscience. A sociopath will tell you whatever you want to hear, take pleasure in lying to you and generally not give your feelings a thought as he pursues his own agenda. ”Sociopath,” or the technical term, “Anti-social Personality Disorder,” are arguably just mental health lingo for a criminal. Many of the people who populate our prisons – the hard-core law-breakers – are socipaths.

The sort of run-in that happened to my patient could happen to anyone, and all too often it does. It’s not a nice experience. This guy was very charming, and appeared to have a successful career. He moved in with her and said he wanted to marry her and have a child. What he didn’t mention was that he already had a family – a wife and children – who knew nothing about this other relationship. The “business trips” were spent with this family, 20 blocks away.

My patient asked what she could do now that she’d discovered the truth. I gave her my blanket advice for dealing with sociopaths: stay far away. She moved somewhere else, and hasn’t seen him since.

Obviously, women aren’t the only people who are victimized by evil deeds – although they do seem to receive more than their fair share. Children are victimized in terrible ways each and every day, and I’ve worked with adult men who have survived domestic violence, sexual abuse and other ills. Bad things can happen to anyone.

My point here isn’t that the world and everyone and everything in it are bad. There is plenty of good out there, too. It’s just that you need to keep what is bad far away – and, at the same time, pull the good nice and close.

In everyday life, that means more than just staying away from predators and sociopaths.

It also means:

Don’t date someone if he doesn’t treat you with kindness, consideration and respect. He should be grateful and appreciative to have you in his life – or you can find someone who will be.

Don’t work in a setting that is hostile or toxic. Your workplace should make you feel appreciated for the work you do. You should look forward to coming in to work each day – or you should work someplace else.

Don’t consider someone a friend unless he’s got your back. ”Friend” is a powerful term – it means someone you can say anything to and who can say anything to you. It implies loyalty, caring, trust and respect. Anything less is an “acquaintance.”

Breathe in the good. Breathe out the bad.

Sometimes it’s that simple.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Contacting "The Command"

Hampton Roads is a very military area. Because of this, many legal matters overlap with military matters. With issues like child and spousal support, the military has its own rules UNTIL there is an Order from a civilian court, After that, the court order rules.
Sometimes military spouses feel powerless because they are not receiving support; their ID card has expired or a myriad of other problems exist, and there either is not yet a court order or the servicemember is not complying with the Order or it is something so basic that you should not have to put it in an Order. In those cases, it may be helpful to contact the servicemember's command and politely request assistance. This is particularly true if the servicemember is a young person who may benefit from some mature guidance. The key is to be polite,not abuse the command and not make unreasonable requests. Some commands are more responsive than others, but remember that you are asking for their assistance so how you ask makes a difference.
Also, it is a big mistake to use this as an opportunity to criticize the servicemember or try to hurt his/her career. Their advancement (money) is your advancement. Losing their job costs you too. The temporary thrill of vengeance is hardly ever matched by the loss of insurance coverage and income. So seek help when you need it, but remember to think long-term.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Recession Hits Lawyers Too

No one is going to lose sleep worrying about how their divorce lawyer is going to pay her staff or keep her lights on, but the harsh reality is that the amount that lawyers charge is a direct reflection of what it costs to run a law office today. Lawyers are charging more and making less than ever before. They also have one of the worst collection rates of any other business, so from every dollar charged they can expect to keep very few cents as income. They are the first NOT to get paid...because "they can afford it." NEWS FLASH- We can't anymore. The recession has combined with the factors just mentioned to bring us to our knees. If you want legal services, you have to pay for them. Please.