Friday, August 26, 2011

Try To Communicate Better

From the California Courts' Website:
Ways to Communicate
How you talk to each other and to your children can make a big difference. Try to think about the other parent as a business partner. Acting "businesslike" might help get your mind off the pain and stress so you can focus better on your children.

Here are some tips:

Be polite, just like you would be at work.
Stay on the subject. Focus on doing what is best for your child.
Control your emotions, just like you would do at work.
Be clear and specific when you talk to the other parent. Write things down and keep businesslike records of important agreements.
Keep your promises. Your children need to be able to trust and rely on you. This is very important right now.
Watch the words you use when you talk about divorce.

wife, husband, ex-wife, ex-husband, my "ex" children's mother, children's father
has visitation with stays with, comes over
custody and visitation agreement parenting plan

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

National Family Law Symposium

National Family Law Symposium: State of the Family 2011

The Impact of Twenty-First Century Science and Technology on the Family
The National Center for Family Law and Virginia CLE® present an all-star faculty of family law attorneys, judges, professors, and mental health professionals from across the nation, bringing you the opportunity to learn, discuss, and debate the law, the research, and social policies impacting children, marriages, and families — and the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful September getaway in historic Richmond.

For family law practitioners, judges, professors, mental health professionals, and others interested in the law and social policies impacting families and children.

This symposium will provide:

A unique opportunity to learn, discuss, and debate the law, the research, the technology, and social policies impacting children, marriages, and families
All-star faculty of attorneys, judges, professors, and mental health professionals from across the country
Opportunity to network with other family law professionals from across the country
Great location and great price (dinner, two lunches, and two continental breakfasts included with Symposium fee)

When: Sept. 12-13

Where: Jepson Alumni Center, University of Richmond

MCLE credits: 12.0

Cost: Tuition for the Symposium is $475 ($239 for law professors). This fee includes continental breakfasts on Monday and Tuesday, lunches on Monday and Tuesday, and a cocktail party/buffet dinner on Monday night. Space is limited.

For complete details, and to register, visit Virginia Continuing Legal Education.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

If The Buddha Divorced

If The Buddha Divorced- A First Aid Kit
By Norm Gibson

You may be saying:

“This is not happening to me!”
“I can’t believe she wants a divorce.”
“I finally had to leave. It was awful!”

Newly separated, moved to my friend’s basement, I needed concrete help, not platitudes. I found I was dealing with death, relationship death, the ending of a life. I discovered that concrete help– for the long haul but also First Aid, for here and now. Let’s begin with the First Aid Kit Instructions:

Respire. Use mindful breathing to relax and calm your mind. Start by sitting comfortably on a chair or cushion with your spine straight (off the chair back). Take a nice, big breath and slowly exhale. Now all that’s left to do is to notice your simple in-breath and out-breath, just as it is. When thoughts begin to crop up, that’s natural. Just silently label them “thinking”, and bring your attention back to your breath. Continue this process for 5 or 10 minutes, taking a break and then repeating again. This basic meditation powered the Buddha’s teaching for 2,400 years.

Replenish. Relationship stress can take the mind out of the body. Get serious about drinking 64 ounces of water daily– it’s the quickest way to combat anxiety and depression. Stop reading this now, fill a glass with cold water and drink all of it before setting the glass down. Eat 5 nutritious meals per day. Take a good multi-vitamin. Walk or run mindfully 30 minutes per day. By “mindfully” we mean knowingly, in the present, and with awareness.

Round-up the support of friends. Isolation is the major risk behavior after a break-up. Remember, were the roles reversed, you would be there for a friend. Make a list of friends, family and helping professionals, dividing them up into the categories, 1) To Listen to Me, 2) To Spend Time With, and To Avoid– friends that drain you. If you’re helping others too much, it’s just another form of isolating.

Realize that the strong emotions you may be feeling—anger, grief and fear– are temporary, and are based in the past or future. Your work is to get more and more free from them by living more and more in the present. The tools in this kit will help you do that. You can also consciously begin a positive future by marking your calendar with some enjoyable plans for this month and next month.

Relieve your stress and confusion by journaling. Pick up a good quality journal and a fast-writing pen. Your Inner Critic is not invited. Let the words flow. Try timing yourself for 10 minutes, writing without stopping for spelling or cross -outs. This can be a great release, and great learning when you come back to read it later on.

Rinse and Repeat. Make a pact with yourself to repeat one or more of the above daily for 2 weeks.
Good luck and good healing!

-Norm Gibson, LCSW.

How Lawyers Charge In Divorces

Financial Matters: Dealing with Legal Fees

by Joseph Warren Kniskern

Regardless of which attorney you select, you must understand fee arrangements and be aware of how to keep your legal costs reasonable.

Negotiating Fee Arrangements

How fees are set.
Attorneys' fees are often negotiable, although most experienced lawyers do not want to lower their fees. Most lawyers set their rates based upon these factors: time, labor, novelty, the difficulty of the legal issues involved, and the legal skills necessary to work the case properly; the likelihood that acceptance of the case will prevent other employment, either because of time or conflicts of interest; the customary fees usually charged in the area for similar legal services; the amount involved and results obtained; the time limitations imposed by the client or circumstances; the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client; the experience, reputation, and ability of the lawyer performing the services; and overhead (library costs, secretarial help, office rent, and costs of equipment, etc.). The lawyer will be very familiar with what can and cannot be done in setting a reasonable fee for your case. Even so, negotiate for lower fees. Above all, make sure fees are in line with what other local lawyers charge for doing the same type of work.

Most attorneys realize that the practice of law is no longer just a service profession but is also a business. No one can ignore business considerations and practice for very long. Therefore, many attorneys are diligent in advising their clients up-front what they charge. You should expect regular bills during the case, as well as a collection system for late payments.

Types of fee arrangements.
There are three traditional methods for setting fees: fixed fees; hourly rates for work of uncertain duration; and contingency fees (a percentage of whatever a lawyer wins for the client).

Fixed fees are unusual in litigation cases because no one can reasonably foresee when and how the case will end. Although fixed fee arrangements may force the lawyer to work more efficiently and prevent misunderstandings about the final bill, lawyers know that clients can take advantage of them by excessive calls and conferences. Consequently, the lawyer may lose interest in the case and assign it a low priority.

Contingency fee arrangements in dissolution of marriage cases are illegal in most states. Such arrangements create many conflicts of interest at the expense of shattered marriages and broken lives. Therefore, you should expect your lawyer to charge a negotiated hourly rate for your case.

Many lawyers want an advance retainer or deposit against your fees and costs. You should receive full credit for this retainer against your legal expenses. Negotiate now for a refund of all unearned portions of the retainer when your lawyer's representation ends.

Legal representation agreements.
Fee and representation requirements are usually written into an agreement or letter signed by you and your lawyer. Carefully read this agreement. It will control how you and your attorney work together in handling your case. If you have any questions or concerns about the lawyer or the work involved, have your understanding written into your agreement. These agreements help avoid misunderstandings and assure effective communication about mutual expectations.

Billing statements.
You have a right to know about work completed on your behalf in enough detail to be sure that fees are reasonable and comply with your fee agreement. If you do not ask for a detailed bill, many attorneys will simply send a short, one-page statement that states "For Services Rendered" and list a lump sum fee due. This saves time for the attorney, but even the most honest of lawyers can make mistakes in figuring fees. Without a detailed bill, you cannot correct those errors. Therefore, always ask for a statement with a daily accounting of tasks performed, hours per task, individuals who did the work, and the hourly rate for each.

In examining your fee statement, be aware of a few overbilling problems like these: overuse of conferences among lawyers in the same office about your case; repeatedly passing your file on to new lawyers who will bill you for reviewing your case; overstaffing your case by having more than one person attend hearings and depositions; over-researching issues and padding legal research hours; charging a high hourly rate for existing computerized form documents usable in many cases; charging for services at improper rates such as billing secretaries as paralegals, paralegals as lawyers, and lawyers not yet admitted to the bar as admitted lawyers; billing for work product that cannot be produced to you; markups on fixed costs such as computerized legal research, photocopying and facsimile charges, meals, and airline tickets; and summarizing depositions to an unwarranted degree. If you prohibit these matters in your fee agreement, you avoid many expensive misunderstandings during your case.

Billing frequency.
Most lawyers bill on a monthly cycle under the theory that regular billing helps assure regular payment. It also reduces your shock in receiving one enormous bill at the end of your case. However, billing at the end makes it easier to talk to your lawyer about adjusting the bill if the result is worse than expected due to decisions he or she made.

Payment of fees.
Most lawyers have a precise system for collection of fees. After 30 days, the lawyer may send out a second statement. A letter follows after 45 days, with a personal telephone call after 60 days. Slow-paying accounts receive low priority for the lawyer’s time if other clients pay promptly. Also, although lawyers do not like to arbitrate or litigate fees with clients, they will do so if the potential loss is large enough to warrant it. Be wise and promptly pay your bills within 30 days. Your lawyer will appreciate you as a client and work harder for you.

How to Cut Your Legal Fees and Costs

Developing a strategy and budget.
Many variables are difficult to control in a divorce, such as whether your spouse and opposing attorney will settle, fight discovery, or use delay tactics. Developing a strategy and budget for your case -- and updating it before major hearings or conferences -- will provide you and your attorney with a clear understanding of the proper level and limits of the work.

Try to set a maximum fee cap on the case that should not be exceeded without prior written approval. This helps you monitor expenses and avoid surprises in your final bills.

Your lawyer should watch fees and expenses to make sure you are billed fairly under your fee agreement. Before your budget for legal expenses in any phase is exceeded, you should be notified promptly so that you can decide whether to revise your budget or modify the strategy. Then you can give your prior written approval of the excess amount.

Encourage your lawyer always to be alert for a creative or less expensive way to proceed -- even if the work is within your budget -- and to discuss these matters with you promptly. Above all, in developing a strategy and budget, use a laser rather than a shotgun in addressing your issues and problems. Be precise and efficient.

Cost limitations.
Ask your lawyer to be sensitive to the costs of multiple representation at meetings and hearings, high staffing levels, rotating persons onto matters with which they are unfamiliar, and training young lawyers on your case.

Since your lawyer can handle most of your case in the office, the need for overnight travel is slight. However, if out-of-town travel is necessary, have your lawyer agree that only one attorney should travel; expenses for lodging, restaurants, or transportation should not be extravagant; and charges for airfare should be at the coach rate only.

If you require extra or unnecessary legal work, such as excessive telephone calls or conferences or filing unwarranted court pleadings, you should expect to pay for these. Similarly, your lawyer should agree that if work completed is not budgeted or approved, is not properly done, or requires correction, you will not be billed. Find out what your lawyer's minimum billing increment is. Lawyers often charge in tenths or quarters of an hour. If you are charged a quarter-hour for a two-minute phone call, prepare for this call and use the full fifteen minutes to your benefit.

Does your attorney double-bill you and other clients for work benefiting everyone? If so, object to this and work out a fair fee allocation.

Assist your lawyer in finding documents or information to lower your legal expense. Offer to locate witnesses, secure property appraisals, and copy lengthy documents at discount copy centers.

Develop a friendly working relationship with your lawyer's secretary. You will receive information about your case at no additional cost, since time for secretaries is not usually billed to clients and they are quite familiar with cases. Happy secretaries will also work to keep your case a priority.

Hourly rates almost always include your lawyer's overhead, which should not be added separately onto your bill. Reimbursement of expenses to third-party suppliers should be at documented, actual cost.

Unless agreed upon in advance and in writing with your lawyer, try to avoid or limit paying for these costs:

Administrative time by the attorney;
Secretarial overtime, unless it is a legitimate emergency for your case alone;
Time spent preparing bills and discussing billing matters with you;
Photocopies made internally in excess of a good faith estimate of actual cost;
Internal office messenger expense in excess of the cost of comparable outside services;
Meal costs, except for a reasonable cost if a matter necessary to advance your case must be discussed with an outside party during the meal;
Auto mileage in excess of a reasonable cost per mile (AAA rates or IRS allowances).

When you meet or talk with your lawyer, be prompt. Organize papers and have information ready with a list of carefully thought-out matters you need to discuss. Avoid deluging your lawyer with information unless it is requested. Always listen carefully to your lawyer's advice. Promptly follow the instructions carefully.

Tell your lawyer you do not want "surprises". As the expert, your attorney should expect and warn you in advance of matters that may affect you or your case so that you can properly prepare yourself.

Make sure your lawyer does not negotiate away any of your rights or give away any personal information without your prior written approval.

Tell your lawyer that you will not call unless you have an important legal concern. (Remember, you are not your lawyer's only client.) Your attorney should return telephone calls within 24 hours unless he or she is out of town or reasonably indisposed.

Keep your case files up-to-date. Ask your lawyer to copy for you significant memoranda or pleadings prepared on your behalf so that you can monitor your case progress. This also allows you to stop any activities that may be too expensive or overly combative with the other side.

Encourage your lawyer to alert you to anything you do that interferes with your case. Similarly, advise your lawyer that you want to discuss any of your concerns directly with him or her as well.

If your questions cannot be answered within 15 minutes by telephone, write your attorney a letter. This will give him or her time to focus on your needs and give you a more thoughtful response. Letters allow you to share more information with your lawyer in a shorter period of time while also documenting your concerns. Always keep a copy of your letter for your files. Use it as a checklist when your lawyer responds.

Disagreements and termination of representation.
If you have any disagreements with your lawyer, discuss problems directly without delay.

If you and your lawyer cannot agree on a fair settlement of the dispute, your attorney should agree to promptly secure court approval to withdraw so you can secure alternate counsel without jeopardizing your case.

Pay your first lawyer a reasonable fee to the date you change lawyers. To avoid disputes about fees in this instance, have your lawyer agree in advance to arbitration or mediation of the dispute. If this is not available, then you and your attorney can pursue whatever legal remedies are available.

If your lawyer has violated rules of professional conduct (such as missing filing deadlines or misappropriating trust account funds), you should consider filing a formal complaint with your state bar association. This association also may have a client security fund to reimburse you if your funds or property have been embezzled by your lawyer.

Joseph Warren Kniskern is an attorney in Raleigh, North Carolina with more than 32 years of experience, who has been cited in Who's Who in American Law. This article has been edited and excerpted from When the Vow Breaks: A Survival and Recovery Guide for Christians Facing Divorce (B&H Publishing Group, revised edition copyright @ 2008).

When Sharing Parenting Does Not Work

A few words of warning

by Jill Burrett and Michael Green

Shared parenting doesn’t work for children when:

1.There are very high levels of intractable conflict between the parents
2.The parents are more focused on getting their fair share of time than on the real interests of their children
3.It’s a regime imposed because the parents couldn’t come to an amicable arrangement, and they lack the goodwill to make it work
4. A parent has plenty of time technically with the children but is not really there for them
5.A parent’s inattention causes children to feel unsettled or like visitors
6.Children do not feel at home in both households
7.There is inflexibility about the arrangements over time

Shared Parending

This article has been edited and excerpted from Shared Parenting: Raising Your Children Cooperatively After Separation. Copyright © 2009 by Jill Burrett and Michael Green, Celestial Arts, an imprint of Ten Speed Press, a division of the Crown Publishing Group, Berkeley, CA.

Misconceptions About Court

10 Detrimental Misconceptions about What Really Happens in Court
By Judge Michele Lowrance

Preparing for trial requires superhuman strength. Many people try to simultaneously mobilize sufficient reserves of the required negative emotion while trying to remain on moral high ground. An angry confrontation can alter the course of negotiations and with the flick of a switch lead a lost couple into a nasty divorce.

When you find yourself at the end of your marital journey, it is excruciating to witness the brutality in the spouse you once loved, and to have a glimpse of your own brutal nature. You have shocked yourself with how easily, and even candidly, you revealed your spouse's personal secrets to your attorney and then published those private embarrassments in a public court record. There are rare exceptions, but in order to find yourself in court you have almost certainly had to align yourself with negative and often erroneous assumptions. Here are ten of the most detrimental misconceptions about what really happens in court:

1. Destruction of your spouse is an acceptable means for getting what you need.
2. Your goals can be accomplished and sure victory attained by putting on a good fight. However, unlike traditional battle, where you can destroy and walk away, you might have to deal with your adversary for years to come.
3. Once you ignite a match in the courtroom, you can control the direction and intensity of the flames.
4. Your attorney will understand and execute your goals and desires in a way that satisfies your sensitivities and needs.
5.Your concept of fairness will approximate that of the judge's. You believe there is a clear-cut, nondiscretionary standard of justice that is not dependent upon the judge's personal values.
6.Your habitual negative thought patterns, fueled by well-developed propaganda to "create the enemy," will cease once the trial is over.
7.It is your spouse's fault you are at trial.
8.The judge wields a wand, not a gavel, and can magically solve your problems, no matter how much damage has been done to the family.
9.The court process will not hurt you, because you are invulnerable. In any case, whatever pain you feel will go away once the trial is over.
10. Your attorney can be vicious to your spouse, because that is your attorney's conduct, not yours. And people who are abusively cross-examined in court never hold it against their spouse.

Too often, people end up in trial because they can't tolerate any more negotiations. You think you are at the end of your collective ability to problem-solve. But that is not true. You may not really be at a stalemate; you may just have stale negotiations.

This article has been excerpted from the book The Good Karma Divorce by Judge Michele Lowrance (HarperCollins). Judge Michele Lowrance spent 20 years as a domestic relations lawyer prior to becoming a Domestic Relations Judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois in 1995. She has been a guest on Good Morning America, The CBS Morning Show, CNN, ABC and other shows. She also appeared, produced and hosted radio shows and is a regular guest lecturer.

Can You Have A Good Divorce?

Can You Have a Good Divorce?
From Huffington Post Divorce

Are "good" and "divorce" in the same sentence an impossibility? I believe it is possible to have a good divorce. Following are some tips on how to have a good divorce even though you are going through one of the worst times in your life.

1. Are you sure that your marriage is over and cannot be saved? Have you tried counseling and exhausted all possibilities of saving the marriage? Divorce should be the last resort, not your first. Having counseling during the divorce as well can be very helpful towards a good divorce.

2. Can you treat your spouse with respect and dignity? Remember that at one time you loved each other.

3. If you have children, can you put their best interests ahead of your wants or needs? This is difficult, and too often people in the heat of emotion will do things to put children in the middle. Don't do this

4. Can you talk issues through? At one time you were able to communicate. It is difficult, but the more that you and your spouse can communicate, the better your divorce will be.

5. Can you stay out of court? The more that you go to court, the more you will lose control and the less input you will have over decisions impacting upon the rest of your life and the lives of your children.

6. Can you find an attorney who works for you, and is a problem-solver? For a good divorce you want an attorney who helps solve problems, is creative, and does not turn a good divorce into a war of the roses.

7. Can you be mature, even though you feel totally out of control and overwhelmed? This is where therapy is helpful. Also, it is important to think, and count to ten before you speak or do something. Be constructive and not destructive.

8. Can you be selfless instead of greedy? Remember that pigs get slaughtered.

9. Can you have a game plan? Set goals. What do you want? What is best for your children? Be realistic about your children, your property, and other financial issues.

10. Can you be honest and not play games? Too many spouses play games and do everything possible to manipulate and try one-ups-man-ship. This is not the way to have a good divorce.

Remember that divorce is a process. The better you make the divorce, the better you will feel about yourself and your spouse and your children. Your thoughts, experiences of your divorces, and comments are welcome.

How can I stop my wife from delaying divorce any longer? -

How can I stop my wife from delaying divorce any longer? -

What is the process for entering a divorce decree into local jurisdiction? -

What is the process for entering a divorce decree into local jurisdiction? -

How often does the person paying child support get to claim both children for tax exemption? -

How often does the person paying child support get to claim both children for tax exemption? -


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Are Cohabiting Parents Bad For Kids?

Study: Are Cohabiting Parents Bad For Kids?

by Jennifer Ludden, National Public Radio

August 16, 2011

As more and more U.S. couples decide to have children without first getting married, a group of 18 family scholars is sounding an alarm about the impact this may have on those children.

In a new report out on Tuesday, they say research shows the children of cohabiting parents are at risk for a broad range of problems, from trouble in school to psychological stress, physical abuse and poverty.

The study is put out by the National Marriage Project and the Institute for American Values, groups whose missions include strengthening marriage and family life. It suggests a shift in focus is needed away from the children of divorce, which has long been a preoccupying concern for such scholars.

Brad Wilcox, a report co-author and head of the National Marriage Project, says divorce rates have steadily dropped since their peak in 1979-80, while rates of out-of-wedlock childbearing have soared. Forty-one percent of all births are now to unwed mothers, many of them living with — but not married to — the child's father.

Wilcox notes that the iconic 1979 movie of the divorce revolution, Kramer vs. Kramer, is no longer emblematic of the drama facing families today.
Percent of Children Experiencing Divorce/Separation and Cohabitation (2002-2007)

By the time they are 12, children today are more likely to have their unmarried parents live together or with others than to have their married parents divorce or separate.
Children Experiencing Parental Divorce/Separation And Parental Cohabitation, by Age 12 (2002-2007)

Source: National Survey of Family Growth

Credit: Stephanie d'Otreppe, Sheela Kennedy and Larry Bumpass, 2011

"It'd be Kramer vs. Kramer vs. Johnson and Nelson," he says with a small laugh. "We're moving into a pattern where we're seeing more instability, more adults moving in and out of the household in this relationship carousel."

Wilcox says the children of the divorce revolution grew up to be understandably gun-shy about marriage. Many are putting it off, even after they have kids. But research shows such couples are twice as likely to split.

"Ironically," he says, "they're likely to experience even more instability than they would [have] if they had taken the time and effort to move forward slowly and get married before starting a family."

In fact, another recent study finds that a quarter of American women with multiple children conceived them with more than one man. Psychologist John Gottman, a co-author of Tuesday's report, says that kind of instability can have a negative impact on kids in all kinds of ways.

"Both in externalizing disorders, more aggression," Gottman says, "and internalizing disorders, more depression. Children of cohabiting couples are at greater risk than children of married couples."

This is true, says marriage historian Stephanie Coontz, "but the question is why it's true."

Coontz teaches family studies at Evergreen State College in Washington state and is research director for the Council on Contemporary Families. She says people are more likely to get married if they have the things that make a union strong: mutual respect, problem-solving skills and — especially — economic security.

That's something many working-class men have lost as wages stagnated in recent decades. In fact, Coontz notes that a huge marriage gap has emerged, with lower-income Americans much less likely to wed.

"Cohabitation and out-of-wedlock childbearing is as much a symptom of the instability of children's lives as it is a cause of it," Coontz says. Coontz worries that too many Americans who break up with a partner rush into another relationship, thinking this will provide more stability for their children. As Tuesday's report notes, the appearance of a new caregiver can also be traumatic for children, many of whom appear to fare better with a loving single parent.

To be sure, not all marriages are good, and some cohabiting couples create perfectly healthy families. But psychologist Gottman says for whatever reason — and it's a mystery to researchers — cohabiting partners are not as stable in the U.S. as in some European countries, where family-building outside marriage is more of a norm.

For Americans, Gottman says the evidence for marriage is strong. The institution's wide-ranging benefits — better health, longevity, greater wealth — are not conferred on those who cohabit.

"Because," he says, "they're basically saying, 'If you get into trouble, baby, you're on your own; I'm not there for you.' I think that's the big problem."

Gottman's advice, even if you decide not to tie the knot: pick a partner carefully, then hang in there — for better, or worse.
Related NPR Stories
Unmarried With Kids: A Shift In The Working Class Dec. 6, 2010

Monday, August 15, 2011

Back To School Tips For Co-Parents

A repost of an article by Jai Kissoon, of We recommend that all divorced parents explore the site as a possibility of making co-parenting easier and more effective.

The new school year is quickly approaching and its time to start preparing. If you and your co-parents both take part in the upbringing of your child than this can be a challenging task. Preparing your child for a new school year requires a lot of coordination and cooperation between you and your co-parent. This is an important time for your child to feel support from both you and your co-parent and to know that you both care. Here are some tips to remember to make going back to school as smooth as possible for you and your child.

Keep everyone on the same page

Some co-parents have implemented the use of weekly or monthly family meetings to keep everyone updated on what’s going on in everyone’s lives. This is a good way for children to get to talk to both you and your co-parent in the same room but it is more useful to keep both you and your co-parent updated on your child’s life.

Simple responsibilities, such as remembering to bring your son's soccer cleats for his after school game, can become a daunting task if communication with the other parent is poor. Communication hurdles can be difficult to overcome for parents with a good relationship, and separated co-parenting can become an even more challenging environment.

For family law professionals, the OurFamilyWizard website can provide an in-depth look into the parents' communications. This newly found accountability is giving parents a reason to get along with the other parent, because action and inaction are both documented. The end result is parents who communicate, children who are kept out of the middle and professionals who can spend their time more effectively helping the clients they serve.

We would add that parents should exchange schedules for school and activities.

Shopping is a job for both co-parents

It is extremely important to coordinate the back to school shopping with your co-parent. This is a big job and should not all be dumped on either one co-parent. Back to school shopping includes shopping for school supplies as well as clothes. If you and your co-parent are in a high conflict relationship try to remember to not sweat the small stuff. If you don’t agree on your co-parent’s choice of clothing or school supplies try to compromise as best you can.

Don’t bring up child support issues

Child support is a touchy subject and should generally not be discussed around your child. The beginning of a new school year is a time where kids show off all of their new stuff to their friends. This desire for the latest and greatest things can put a strain on your wallet. It’s important not to blame your inability to buy the most expensive things for you child on your child support payments or lack of child support. Do all that you can to avoid talking bad about your co-parent in front of your child.

Help your child with their daily schoolwork and projects

Regardless of whether or not your child is a fast or slow learner, when your child is residing at your home you should be sitting down with them as they work on their schoolwork. The same goes for your co-parent as well. The most important thing is to just be there for your child so that they can call on your whenever they need you. This will show them that you’re there to support them in whatever they are doing, not just schoolwork. Also try to coordinate with your co-parent regarding your child’s schoolwork. Let your co-parent know about important due dates and if your child did not complete something before it was time to switch between homes.

Attend important school events with your co-parent

This may not always be possible if you and your co-parent are in a high conflict relationship or if you have a no contact order by the court. If it is possible, it's much more effective when you and your co-parent are both able to sit down at school orientation, parent-teacher conference, or any other important event on behalf or your child. This is much better than one co-parent attending and relaying the information to the other co-parent.

Keep the focus on your child

Don’t get caught up in unnecessary competition or arguments with your co-parent. It’s important to keep the focus on your child during this time and to let your child know that both you and your co-parent are there for comfort and support. Be as civil as possible given the situation between you and your co-parent.

Have a backpack for the parents

Having a separate backpack for the parents to transmit items and forms is a great way to keep the kid out of the middle. This way it is the parent's responsibility to make sure the bag makes it to the other parent, taking the pressure off of the kids. Additionally, this takes possible inappropriate items from being seen by the kids.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

My fiancee wants to adopt my daughter. There is no birth father listed on her birth certificate. How do we do this? -

My fiancee wants to adopt my daughter. There is no birth father listed on her birth certificate. How do we do this? -

Insider's Guide to Divorce Blog

So here's the inside scoop. I've been a divorce attorney for 23 years and as a result, every single one of my friends (both actual friends, and Facebook friends) ask me for my advice when they're facing a divorce.

When I have friends who are getting divorced, and they ask me for advice, here's what I tell them. The real deal, the confidential, back-channel skinny. Beyond legal advice, which they can get anywhere.

These are my top tips for staying out of trouble:

Ignore Legal Smack Talk from Your Spouse: I love that spouses try and give each other legal advice. Really? Since when did your spouse go to law school and become a divorce lawyer? And you're listening? Heck, even if they're dishing out good advice, it pays to double check.

Question "My Friend Said": If your spouse talks about friends' divorces or what the lawyer plans on doing to you legally, ask:

• How many years did that friend's divorce take?
• How much did it cost?
• How much did your lawyer say that taking me to the cleaners would cost in legal fees?
• Is your lawyer willing to put it in writing that they guaranteed that their result will be better than what I'm prepared to offer voluntarily?

You're safe with that last one---no lawyer would guarantee anything or put fees in writing so this will force your spouse to have an honest discussion with the lawyer about the pros and cons of pursuing any given action.

Watch Out For Non-Monetary Games: Keep an eye out for your spouse manipulating the kids. Make sure your bond with them remains strong. Don't bad-mouth your spouse---your kids will figure that out later and hate you, so keep the long term in mind.

Your spouse may think he or she is plotting and being strategic like some sort of Divorce 007. But at the end of the day, it's a business deal and a parenting plan. It is what it is. So don't let your imagination run away with you.

You can keep costs (and suspicion, and plotting) down by:

1. Being organized. Make a notebook with labeled dividers with all of the financial records (recent ones, at least) and tax returns (as many as you have copies of), a comparative market analysis (free from any realtor) of the value of your house, your most recent pay stub...and ideally you'll make your spouse a notebook, too.

I know that might sound crazy (making your adversary a notebook) but your spouse's attorney will charge for making a notebook and getting the records together (which could run up the bill by several thousand dollars) so if you can take the wind out of those sails from the get go (your spouse is entitled to all that info pursuant to law anyway) and all of the mystery out of your financial situation, you're ahead of the game.

Don't get paralyzed by your emotions. It's easy to sit down with a hole punch and a notebook and put stuff in by date. You don't need all your faculties to do that, so it's a good activity for when you're feeling lost.

2. Staying Sane. Make appointments with your therapist, make time for your kids (and don't talk about your spouse), play golf or ride bikes (ideally with your kids), make time with friends. Take care of yourself. Eat right and work out.

3. Don't taking the bait: Your spouse will say stuff to you just to get you riled up. Ignore it. "Obviously, this is a hot topic for both of us, so I'm not going to respond at this point. I do hope we can work all of this out, though, at some point." Then change the subject. Say that as many times as you have to.

Eventually, your spouse will get bored when it's clear you aren't going to fight back. This will freak your spouse out a little, particularly at first, so feel free to chuckle. When you start to behave differently than you have over the last eleventy-million years they're going to wonder what's up and watching that might be a little amusing as the old tricks don't work on you anymore.

4. Find that Special Someone--Quietly: If you decide you want to date or get laid, don't let anyone find out about it. Not under any circumstances. Your spouse will go bananas if you're with someone else, so avoid that at all costs. It doesn't matter if it's your spouse who suggested the divorce or found a new lover first. They still go nuts when they see you've moved on, too. I'm not saying don't do it. I'm saying don't let anyone find out.

Diana Mercer is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Perigee 2010). Join the conversation and community on our video blog and check out Diana's divorce blog on the Huffington Post

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Who Works for Whom?

Find a lawyer with your interests at heart. Read the blog post.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Picasso's Napkin

Picasso’s napkin
Picasso was sitting in a Paris cafĂ© when an admirer went up to him and asked if he would do a quick sketch for him on a paper napkin. Picasso politely agreed, did a quick sketch and handed back the napkin — but not before asking for a rather large amount of money. The admirer was horrified: “How can you ask so much? It only took you a minute to draw this!” “No”, Picasso replied, “It took me 40 years”

The reason that I posted this is because there is a lot of talk in the cut-rate legal community of their lower hourly rates. There is a good reason for that. They are worth less money. The problem is that while they are fumbling around trying to figure out how to do it, they are charging the client by the hour. The end result of the greater hours spent is a bigger bill. Often a bigger overall bill-not to mention result issues-than you would have with an experienced attorney. Think about Picasso when you are looking at lawyers.

A Consultation May Be All You Need

There are many things that can be done in the legal system which are lawyer-optional. Sometimes, it is unclear which things really require a lawyer and which do not. Other times, you just need some guidance to get the process going in the right direction or some follow-up advice as the case goes on.

There are other things that are just not a good idea to do at all, with or without a lawyer, even though they are possible.

In these instances, the advice of a lawyer for a consultation can be invaluable. You have one session, but can return, if needed. You do not have to commit to any Retainer Agreements. You get the advice you need and are on your way.

Be aware, however, that generally the "free consultations" do not provide much legal advice. They are marketing devices to get you to commit to hiring the lawyer.

If you have questions, consider scheduling a consultation.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I have a child support court order dated 2007. My ex has filed to have support reduced based on his reduction in salary. -

I have a child support court order dated 2007. My ex has filed to have support reduced based on his reduction in salary. -

Who has jurisdiction? -

Who has jurisdiction? -

Is there any way to avoid jail? -

Is there any way to avoid jail? -

How Do You Stay Sane?

I was talking with a psychiatrist this week (we won't go too deeply into the reason why). I was just casually discussing a call that I had with another lawyer about a case just before our meeting. It was a fairly routine case with clients engaging in what would be totally socially unacceptable behavior in the real world, but behavior that is not unusual in divorce cases. The case involvolved threats of physical violence, infidelity, tug of war over the children and the usual he said/she said. The doctor said to me in all seriousness-How do you stay sane? I will not reveal my answer .

If a psychiatrist wonders how a family law attorney can remain sane handling these cases, the even more important question is how can the parties who are actually living this remain sane. Your greatest chance of retaining some semblance of sanity is to use alternative dispute resolution and avoid court like the plague. Litigation encourages mental illness.

People also need to evaluate what is worth fighting about and what is not. Most tangible pieces of property are not worth fighting about. Children are not property. You do not divide them. You determine what is best for them, not for you.

You get help from the professionals that you need. If you have financial problems, you get financial help. If you have mental health issues, which can include just the pressure of handling this situation, you get mental health help.

You do not play games or participate in games that the other person starts. Sometimes you have to act like you just did not hear what they said to you. It takes two to play tug of war!

You also need to do what your lawyer tells you. This will help keep both of us sane!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Too Much Fact or Fiction

Some parents feel the need to include their children in all of the family discussions and traumas. Their position is that all that happens has an impact on the child so the child should be aware of everything-in detail.

Other parents take the directly opposite approach that children should be shielded from everything that could possibly upset them and told that there is nothing wrong in their world. They should be kept completely in the dark until one day one of their parents is no longer living in the house any more.

Still other parents take the approach that it is important for the children to think of that parent as blameless in any problem and to view the other parent as the "bad" one. They create fictional parents.

While it would seem like these must be three extremes, and you would think that that most cases would have some of each, the reality is that the extremes are the norm in contested family law cases. The reason may be because people who have those type of cases also have those types of parenting styles. Winner take all. Black or white. My way or the highway.

In parenting, in law, in life, few things are all or nothing. There are times when there can be too much fact. Everyone does not have to know everything all of the time. There are even times when there should be some "fiction"- not lying, but at least pretending to get along for the sake of the children during visitation exchange; times when you say a good word about the other parent or at least, say nothing at all.

Children should not be privy to the minute details of their parents' domestic problems. They should never become a parent's confidante or ally. They are the children of both parents. If you need to vent, talk to a professional. They are paid to listen and have the expertise to actually help you through the situation. Children are damaged by this conduct. It takes its toll on them personally and in their future relationships. They are not equipped to handle the fact or the tell them what they need to know as children and keep the rest to yourself.