Friday, June 25, 2010

Co-Parenting Therapy and New Guardian Ad Litem Needed

A potential client, who was already represented by another lawyer, came in for a legal second opinion in a child custody case. It is not unusual in such highly emotional cases for a client to need some reassurance that everything is fine. I did an evaluation of the case and made some suggestions and encouraged the client to meet with the child's guardian ad litem. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss co-parenting counseling, since the basic problem was obvious-The parents couldn't communicate. They were spending thousands of dollars fighting in court, which was doing nothing to help the problem. They were doing nothing, however, to address the REAL problem!

The client googled co-parenting therapy. She learned what it was about and was impressed that it could actually help with the parents' rapidly deteriorating situation. She then contacted the guardian ad litem who is supposed to be a trained specialist-who said that since she was not familiar with co-parenting therapy (and apparently did not want to go to the effort to google it), that she would not recommend it. This is a travesty. The legal system, at its best, can direct people to resources that actually can help them. At its worst, the legal system just keeps them churning in and out of court.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Children And Divorce-Do It Right!

AAMFT Consumer Update
Children and Divorce

Many families in the United States are touched by divorce. The current divorce rate is calculated to be between 40 and 60% for those recently married and up to 10% higher for remarriages. A majority of divorces occur in families with children under the age of 18.

Divorce propels adults and children into numerous adjustments and challenges. While great diversity exists in children’s adjustment to divorce, and a majority of children weather the transition and become competent adults, up to a quarter of children whose parents divorce experience ongoing emotional and behavior difficulties (as compared to 10% of children whose parents do not divorce).

Spouses divorce each other, but they do not divorce their children. A majority of former spouses are able to establish a relatively conflict-free parenting relationship for the benefit of their children. However, about a third have difficulty in establishing a workable parenting relationship, even years after the divorce.

In her research on divorcing parents, family therapist Constance Ahrons identified different types of post-divorce parenting relationships: "perfect pals," "cooperative colleagues," "angry associates," "fiery foes," and "dissolved duos." However, even when parents are "angry associates" or "fiery foes," there are ways they can develop cooperative or business-like relationships for the sake of their children. Parental conflict can hinder children’s adjustment and good coparenting skills are very important to a child's adjustment.

Most parents who have a difficult relationship with their ex-spouse but who want to coparent start out with "parallel parenting." In this arrangement, each parent assumes total responsibility for the children during the time they are together; there is no expectation of flexibility and little contact with the other parent. As time goes on and anger dissipates, parents may develop some version of "cooperative parenting." In this arrangement, parents communicate directly and in a business-like manner regarding the children and coparenting schedules. Marriage and family therapists can be helpful to families as they formulate or define their post-divorce parenting relationships.

How can you help your children?

* Tell children about the divorce together, if possible.
* Answer children’s questions honestly, avoiding unnecessary details.
* Reassure children they are not to blame for divorce.
* Tell children they are loved and will be taken care of.
* Include the other parent in school and other activities.
* Be consistent and on time to pick up and return children.
* Develop a workable parenting plan that gives children access to both parents.
* Guard against canceling plans with children.
* Give children permission to have a loving, satisfying relationship with other parent.
* Avoid putting children in the middle and in the position of having to take sides.
* Avoid pumping children for information about the other parent.
* Avoid arguing and discussing child support issues in front of children.
* Avoid speaking negatively about the other parent or using the child as a pawn to hurt the other parent.

How do you know when to seek help?

When your children show signs of stress:

* acts younger than their chronological age
* fear of being apart from parent(s)
* moodiness
* acting out
* manipulation
* sadness and depression
* guilt
* sleep or eating problems
* change in personality
* academic and peer problems
* irrational fears and compulsive behavior

When you or your partner begins to:

* use the legal system to fight with each other
* put down or badmouth the other parent
* use the children as message carriers or to spy on the other parent (children feel caught in the middle)
* experience high levels of conflict and children repeatedly try to stop the fighting
* rely on the children for high level of emotional support and major responsibilities in the home
* experience depression or anxiety

What help is available for divorcing parents and children?

* Court-connected divorce education programs for parents and children.

Programs for parents and, sometimes, children are recommended or required in over half of the counties in the United States. Call your local family court for more information.

* School programs for children.

Some school systems offer small groups for children during the day or after school. In these groups children learn that they are not alone in their experience of divorce and learn coping strategies.

* Family therapy (available through public and private mental health centers, university family therapy centers).

During separation and divorce, family members experience uncertainty, emotional upheaval, and changes in their family roles and rules. Family therapists can assist in the process of redefining relationships and addressing family members’ responsibilities and needs.

* Resources

Many resources exist for adults, parents, and children who wish to learn more about the process of separation and divorce. In particular, numerous books exist for children at varying reading levels. A few books for parents are mentioned in this brochure; check libraries and bookstores for other titles.

Consumer Resources:

Ahrons, C. R. (1994). The good divorce: Keeping your family together when your marriage comes apart. New York: HarperCollins.
The point of the Ahrons book is not that divorce is good, but that there is such a thing as a good divorce, in which couples part without destroying each other and their children. She concludes that about 50% of couples had cooperative coparental relationships one year post-divorce.

Blau, M. (1993). Families apart: Ten keys to successful co-parenting. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.
This book focuses on what separating parents need to know if they are thinking about coparenting. Blau identifies ten "keys" to good parenting after a divorce; chapters are organized around these keys. Blau lists many resources for parents and age-appropriate books for children.

Everett, C., & Everett, S. V. (1994). Healthy divorce. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
This book describes 14 stages of adjustment from marital erosion through separation, mediation, and remarriage. Helpful ideas given for coparenting and mediating.

Gold, L. (1992). Between love and hate: A guide to civilized divorce. New York: Plenum Press.
This hands-on guide to the divorce process provides assessments and exercises that help parents learn to resolve conflict, improve communication, and avoid costly legal battles.

Lansky, V. (1991). Vicki Lansky’s divorce book for parents. New York: Signet.
This inexpensive paperback book is a comprehensive guide that includes such topics as: telling the children, talking with your ex-spouse, dealing with support payments, dating, sex and the single parent, knowing when to get professional help, and handling holidays.

The text for this brochure was written by Karen R. Blaisure, Ph.D. and Margie J. Geasler, Ph.D.

Marriage and family therapists are mental health professionals who treat a wide array of disorders, working with individuals, couples, and families. Marriage and family therapy clients report that they are highly satisfied with the services they have received, and research shows that marriage and family therapy is a cost-effective, short-term, and results-oriented form of treatment.

The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), the professional organization representing marriage and family therapists, believes that therapists with specific and rigorous training in marriage and family therapy provide the most effective mental health care to individuals, couples, and families. This brochure is courtesy of:
the AAMFT.

Visit the AAMFT, a public service of the AAMFT. There you will find

Monday, June 21, 2010

The ADHD Brain

I have never met a lawyer who did not meet the ADHD criteria. It was a bad thing when we were kids. as adults, it gave us a career.
There was an interesting article in the Psychology Today Blog on "ADHD Brains" which follows:

Cowboys and sodbusters, the ADHD Supercomputer
Published on June 20, 2010

ADHD is not a disorder. It is a difference. The ADHD brain is a genetic adaptation found in populations that have had to adapt to difficult situations; migrate, survive. There is very little ADHD in sedate, bucolic agrarian populations that have done the same things for eons. There is a lot of ADHD in Jews, Gypsies, American Irish, and so forth. These are groups that have been assailed and attacked. And the survivors are the ones able to think on their feet, adapt, stay ahead of death. America has an unusually high prevalence of ADHD because it is to America that the firebrands, pioneers, resisters, and survivors went. From Europe, Asia, Ireland, England; everywhere. There is a clear and direct correlation between the great creativity, productivity and success of America and the nature of it's immigrant, melting pot society. After WWII it was described as "The Brain Drain" as the best and brightest scientists, artists and so on...came to America. The Jews who made it, the Irish who made it earlier, were the one's who wouldn't take it, saw the writing on the wall and moved on. Notwithstanding the politically motivated Nobel prizes for "peace" and literature exactly how many Nobels have come out of the Europe engulfed by the Holocaust. And how many have come from the Arab world?

The brain is the world's most sophisticated computer. In the parlance of cyberese the regular brain has 20 gigs of RAM, a modest, linear processor (speed of sound), and a methodical, one thing at a time desktop. Attempts to run too many programs at once slows it down until it freezes or crashes. Programs must be put to sleep and then closed on the hard drive, and tediously retrieved when needed.

The ADHD brain has almost a google of RAM, a splendidly fast non-linear processor (speed of light), and a busy, frenetic desktop. Dozens or hundreds of programs are open and running all of the time; the RAM buzzes along with stupendous amounts of data, often to a fault. It is internally as distracting as the continuous attention to all manners of external and extraneous sensory input. It can't "turn off" at night and go to sleep. Neither can it's owner. It can frazzle you into anxiety. It can keep you "obsessively" re-checking things.

It's the distinction between the Cowboys and the Sodbusters. One breaks new ground, explores and discovers. The other moves in and builds fences and makes rules and needs order and struggles for control. It's the difference between the Special Forces and the Regular Military. The former think the latter to be stupid bean counters. The latter think the former crazy! It's very difficult to make it in the Special forces without ADHD. They screen for it. You know; think on your feet, improvise, multitask, intuit, anticipate. You know; the irritating kid/adult who blurts out the solution to a problem before the teacher finishes the question/the committee administrator has explicated the conundrum. Infrastructure? We don't need no stinkin' infrastructure! Oh yeah.

Linear thinkers describe ADHD as an executive function disorder because folks with ADHD don't think as they do. Actually the ADHD brain is a true Executive brain; non-linear, super-fast, creative, decisive. It just doesn't count all of the beans, zips about and can't often tell you how it got there. That's why so many creative, inventive executives are forced out of their own companies when their success takes them to a critical mass (called the chasm by an author I can't recall) and there is a need for the dreaded infrastructure, organization and that most detestable of all, the administrative middle manager.

I'll enlarge upon this in future posts. Now I've got four other things going on. Cheers.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Hi there visitors to the Family Law Blog. I know from those of you who have actually made appointments to meet with me that you are reading these posts. Leave me a comment or a reaction. Also let me know if there are questions or topics that you want me to cover.

I have more topics discussed on my Facebook Page and my website,

I'm looking forward to hearing from you!


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Richard Warshak

Richard Warshak "Divorce Poison"

My spouse and I are separated but no PSA has been signed. Is is lawful for him to be engaged? -

My spouse and I are separated but no PSA has been signed. Is is lawful for him to be engaged? -

Choose Your Battles

In all cases in litigation, especially those that involve family issues, emotions run high. Everyone is hyper-vigilant and hyper-sensitive. Paranoia is common. The "fight or flight" instinct takes over the rational mind. As a result, there is a tendency to "be tough" and refuse to yield on anything out of fear that this sign of weakness will be exploited.

In reality, the only way to diffuse the unsustainable level of tension is to choose your battles. There are some things that are not emotionally or financially worth the fight. For example, people are tempted to fight over household furnishings. Once your furniture and electronics leave the retail showroom, they are yard sale material. In a divorce, a court looks at actual value, not what you paid for it and not what it will cost to replace it. I tell clients that it is not worth the fight unless it is over "Louis XIV's furniture" and Louis XIV himself sat on it! Cut your losses, and don't pay lawyers to fight over sofas.

Visitation is a touchy issue. Added to the other emotions that are present, there may be jealousy over one parent's new relationship. The temptation is to try to deny visitation to punish that parent for moving on. I call this the "I don't want him, you can't have him syndrome". Parents say that this is to protect the child. In some instances that may be the real reason, but usually it is not. Remember the parents are getting a divorce, not the parent and child.

There are issues that may require the fight, but before you go into battle decide whether it is worth the cost. Everything has a cost.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Adoption Resources

Adoption information is available from the Dave Thomas Foundation. Click on the link above.

Lawyers Like To Win

There is a certain type of person who completes law school and actually practices law. Some get to law school, see what it is and leave. Others get the degree but go into business or other non-law practice pursuits. Those who follow through are people who like (probably "love" or "need" are more accurate terms) to win. More importantly, we HATE to lose. The joy of victory is surpassed only by the agony of defeat.

We expect to win by force of our own ability to persuade. We are surprised when a judge does not agree with our reasoning.

We expect to win even when our client is caught lying. We expect to win even with the facts or the law against us, and even though we have fully advised the client of this and that the odds are against us.

Is this personal investment in every case a good thing or a bad thing? It is definitely bad when it leads lawyers to ignore the reality of the case or the client. You may take it personally but you cannot let that interfere with doing the job properly. You cannot turn the client's case into a personal vendetta. You also need to tell the client in a brutally honest way what the flaws are in the case and to tell them when it is futile to continue. It is a good thing because lawyers work incredibly hard for their clients. They give each case their complete effort. A good lawyer does not have "small cases". All cases are important.

There is great frustration when the client does not provide all-or accurate-information. This is magnified when a client lies in court. The lawyer and the client are a team. Even when the crucial player on the team (the client) fails to perform, we still expect to win.

Joint custody of daughter and want to let her see her grandfather for week vacation out of state. -

Joint custody of daughter and want to let her see her grandfather for week vacation out of state. -

Friday, June 4, 2010

me and my son both want to file custody. -

me and my son both want to file custody. -

Gore Split Up

Al and Tipper: We Hardly Knew Ye
Calling out the BS in the Gore Divorce Story Line
Published on June 3, 2010

I don't know what felt worse on Monday morning this week: the oil spill hitting Florida or the divorce announcement by Al and Tipper Gore. Married myself for 38 years and a marriage therapist for nearly that long, I thought I was above illusions about anyone else's marriage. But this divorce-and even more so the way it was announced-got to me.Here's a couple who survived the near death of a child, Tipper's depression, and Al's cliff hanger loss of the Presidency, and forged a believable public image of unity and passion (the famous convention kiss). They even wrote a book on family life titled Joined at the Heart. They were the baby boomer couple who could. At first sad, I became mad when I read their non-explanation of the divorce: they had come to a "mutual and mutually supportive decision that we have made together following a process of long and careful consideration." Family friends and former spokespersons were left to fill in a story line that went like this in the New York Times: The Gores "had grown apart after decades," and especially "after Al moved onto a global stage while Tipper seemed to move in a more personal direction." One close friend added that "there's not a lot of drama behind this...they remain very close friends." This, I submit, is either evasive bullshit or something worse: a lack of respect for marriage. Is this little whimper all that a 40 year marriage with children and grandchildren is worth? Sports teams and their home cities show more grief and anger when teams leave for better stadiums and tax benefits. The breakups of authors and long term literary agents come with more public emotion. Even candidates and campaign managers divorce with more feeling, for crying out loud. Without revealing details, would it be too much for the Gores to say something like "This is really hard and involves a lot of pain and regret." I'd almost settle for the classically evasive "mistakes were made" over "we grew apart but remain best of friends." My own hunch, after years of working with long term marriages threatened with divorce, is that there is more to the Gore story than growing apart. In my experience, when a 60 year old otherwise stable husband wants a divorce, it's usually because he's had an emotional or sexual affair. He's comparing how he feels being with a more admiring and gratifying woman to the more complicated way he feels with his wife of many years, and he believes he has fallen out of love with his wife. He says he that admires and respects her, that she's a great mother, and that he wants to remain friends, but he can't imagine staying in an empty marriage for the rest of his life. What's usually missing in his divorce narrative is his shared responsibility for the problems in the marriage and the notion that he could take leadership for calling on his wife to get help together and renew their relationship. When women over age 60 initiate a divorce, it's more often from a sense that they do not want to continue for 20 more years with a man who they see as controlling and mean to them. Unlike husbands, older wives generally do not anticipate that a new honey will take care of them after the divorce. Although these women usually have a better handle on what's going on the marriage than a fleeing husband does, what is usually missing is a sense of their own part in putting up with the guy's behavior and how they got back at him in countless ways. They also may not realize that their husband actually loves them and might change if confronted before she turns stone cold on the marriage. More than anything else, what concerns me about the Gore divorce is the cultural message it reinforces: that marriages, like leaking oil, drift over time in ways that we can't do much about, that people once mated for life get caught in different currents and wake up one day to find themselves in different seas, too far apart to be life partners any more. I do not accept this sophisticated story line for modern marriage. I do not accept the baby boom divorce mantra that "these things happen to the best of marriages; let's be civilized and not show how we feel about the end of a dream." When it comes to divorce, I'm with the poet Dylan Thomas: Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

From Psychology Today Blog