How to Find the Divorce Process That Works for You

by Mel Mackler, MA, LMFT
Coaching and Education for an Emotionally Healthy Divorce

Divorce: You have choices

When it comes to divorce, many people hire an attorney out of anxiety. They feel compelled to get advice or protection, often before they’ve discussed the situation with their spouse or partner.  Once the discussion is on the table, a spouse may feel compelled to seek immediate protection.

How do most people choose an attorney? It’s often by word of mouth: friends who have used an attorney, a friend who practices law, or a recommendation from a family member.  While the advice may bring quick relief by reducing anxiety, the advice is frequently biased and won’t necessarily take into account the individual needs of the person or their family.

Most people don’t realize that when they retain an attorney, they are not only hiring a personality, they are also buying a divorce process.

In California, there are four different methods that can be used to attain a divorce.  Typically, attorneys specialize in one of these processes although they may have experience working with more than that one specialty.  And each process has its merits and costs—financial as well as emotional.

If you’re considering divorce, become familiar with each of theses of processes before you retain your attorney. Think about which process fits the emotional make up of your family and which can offer the kind of emotional support you imagine your self, your spouse, or your kids needing.

Divorce is a process of negotiation and communication so you’ll want to think about the skills you and your partner share.  Are you able to have productive conversations when there are differences of opinions?  Do each of you have the capacity to manage your anxiety when tensions build so that you stay focused and can come to a rational agreement?  Is there a balance of power in your relationship or does one person tend to dominate?

In many communities there are divorce educators and divorce coaches who can lead you through the process of determining which process would best suit your family make up.  They will give you referrals to attorneys who specialize in the process you decide is going to be best for your family.  They can also help you to understand the financial costs associated with each process.

Become an aware consumer before retaining an attorney. If you and your spouse or partner can go through this process together and mutually choose a suitable divorce process, all the better.  This would be a great beginning to what I hope will be a cooperative and constructive future.  It may also help indicate what processes are compatible with your and your spouse’s abilities.

What Divorcing Parents Must Do When Spring Break and Teenagers Mix

By Julia M. Garwood, CFLS, Attorney at Law, Garwood Family Law and Mediation

Spring BreakSpring break will be going on across the nation for the next month.  Various schools will be getting out for one to two weeks.  What do parents do when one parent wants to say “no” to their son or daughter’s wishes to go with their high school or college friends to vacation paradises in the United States, Caribbean or Mexico?  The answer is: It depends.

In California, the age of your teenager matters. In California, when your child reaches age 18, the parents really have no legal say. The child is considered an adult. In other jurisdictions, the age of emancipation may be different.

If the child is under the age of 18, what does the order say, whether it was by agreement or a court order?  You don’t have to follow it if the two of you as parents agree, but it is enforceable if one parent wants to allow their child to go on the trip and the other does not.  Complicating this matter may be the opinion of the child.  After all, you are dealing with a teenager.

Will the child be coming to you for the cost of the trip? If so, you can decide if you are going to shell out for the airfare, hotel and miscellaneous costs…. but don’t think these costs will be a replacement for any Court ordered child support if the age of your child dictates that the order is still in effect.

Hopefully, you and your ex-spouse can work out the issues so that everyone is satisfied. Advance planning is the key. Whether your son or daughter goes on the trip or not, a spring break for your child should always be something special, fun – and safe.

Sperm Donor Being Pursued for Child Support

Family law attorney and CFLGSD member Myra Fleischer discussed a Kansas child support case making national news in this interview with NBC 7 San Diego. In the case, a man who participated in a private donation arranged via Craigslist to a same-sex couple is now being pursued for support after the biological mother applied for public assistance after being unable to work due to medical problems. Since the laws in Kansas and California are similar, while the case is unusual it could happen here. See Myra’s interview in the video window below.

Who Is A Parent in 2013?

by Frank X. Nageotte, CLS-FL

Faced over the last 30 years with rapid advances in the science of human reproduction and fertility, DNA analysis, and genetics, the equally rapid evolution of the legal rights of gay and lesbian individuals, and significant changes in social views regarding traditional marriage, same-sex couples, and families, the law throughout the United States has been forced to wrestle with the question of just exactly “who is a parent?”

The New Normal: Who Is a Parent

The New Normal: Who is considered a parent under the law in 2013?

The traditional “nuclear family” consisting of a married man and woman with children to whom they are connected by either biology or adoption is no longer the only family structure with which the courts must deal.  In some states, same-sex people can marry. Many other states have some form of Registered Domestic Partnership (“RDP”) for same-sex couples.  Of course, many couples (straight and gay) have children without being married or RDPs.  As a result, the definitions of “family” and “parent” have broadened significantly.

It is now legally possible in many states for a person who has no biological connection to a child, who has not adopted the child, and who is not married to (or an RDP with) the child’s biological parent, to nevertheless be found to be a “parent” of that child.  These cases often arise in connection with the break-up of a same-sex relationship.  However, disputes over parentage also arise between biological parents and stepparents, between surrogate mothers and the parties with whom they have contracted, and between sperm and/or egg donors and the recipients of their genetic material in cases of in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination.

In these cases, the courts are called upon to determine and evaluate the “intent” of the parties, the terms (if any) of their contract or agreement, the roles that they each have played in the child’s life, the existence and nature of a parental “bond” between each party and the child, and exactly what form of “family” will best meet the child’s interests and needs.

These cases are by their very nature extremely emotional and often heart-rending.  Resolving these cases through litigation can be quite expensive, especially since appeals are often necessary given the unsettled nature of the law in this area.  As is generally true with regard to all family law cases, our civil litigation system is very poorly equipped to handle these deeply personal issues.  Collaborative Family Law, with its team approach, use of appropriate experts, confidentiality, and focus on problem solving, is a much better process for these cases.

Taxes and Divorce: Six Tips For Women

Filing Taxes After DivorceCLFG San Diego member Justin Reckers, Director of Financial Planning at Pacific Wealth Management and Managing Director at Pacific Divorce Management, shares this recent article from Forbes Magazine with tips to help women (and men, too) who were divorced in 2012 or going through a divorce now that will help you avoid paying higher taxes than necessary or any potential penalties.

Read the article here.

The IRS offers a publication via its website for divorced or separated individuals, Publication 504. It covers filing status, exemptions, alimony, and property settlements among its topics. You may find it helpful: get it here

T. Boone Pickens Endorses Collaborative Divorce

T. Boone PickensThe latest endorsement for collaborative divorce comes from Texas oilman and billionaire T. Boone Pickens. Pickens recently chose the collaborative divorce process for his fourth divorce from wife Madeleine. Pickens discussed his experience at a private event for the State Bar of Texas. In an interview with the Dallas Business Journal published on March 1, Pickens said “Collaborative law keeps everything on a high level, and everybody cooperating.”

Pickens was so pleased with the process and the cost savings, he donated $100,000 to the Collaborative Law Institute of Texas.

Pickens also said he didn’t plan on getting married a fifth time. Imagine that.