Four Tips for Making Divorce Easier on You and Your Family

by Myra Chack Fleischer, CLF-S, Fleischer & Associates

Making the decision to get divorced is never easy. If you have been there, done that, no matter when you file you know it can be consuming and is usually the result of a thought processing lasting weeks, months, even years. If there are children involved, it is even more gut wrenching.

This is why our group so strongly recommends the collaborative divorce process to mitigate the impact to your children and your family as a whole.

But once you have crossed that bridge in your mind, heart and soul, now is the time to be ruthlessly practical. Even if you choose collaborative divorce, you must also prepare yourself and your children. This is not selfish. This is healthy, this is smart and this is in your long-term best interests.

It is natural to feel overwhelmed, and there is a lot to do. As a family law attorney with experience representing hundred and hundreds of divorcing clients, there are some priorities you need to address BEFORE you break the bad news, hire an attorney, file any paperwork, or decide to avoid the court system entirely. This advice applies equally to men and women, straight or gay.

Gavel and Wedding Rings

  •  Make sure you get copies of all your financial records.

This includes bank statements, investment and retirement accounts, credit cards, loans and any other debts. You will also be able to quickly tell and later prove if there are significant changes or movement of assets, and this may help you make the decision about whether collaborative divorce is right for you.

  • Make sure you have a source of funds if you do not work outside the home.

Create a financial strategy with your attorney or a divorce financial planner before any formal filing for divorce.

  • Make sure you disclose anything damaging about you and your situation to your attorney.

The last person you want to be blindsided by any misbehavior or skeletons in your closet is your attorney. He or she cannot help you to mitigate the impact if he or she knows nothing about it. Sure, it can be some embarrassing stuff to admit to extramarital affairs, criminal acts, struggles with your physical or mental health, or tweeting racy photos.

But believe me, divorce attorneys, divorce financial planners and divorce coaches have heard it all and then some. We are not shockable, and we will not think less of you. Professionals involved with divorce proceedings are committed to confidentiality. Most of it can be handled. It’s entirely possible that by getting these issues acknowledged and out of the way, the healing process can begin and a collaborative divorce may be possible. But if not, it’s better to learn this early in the divorce process.

  • Listen to professional advice.

If your attorney, divorce financial planner or divorce coach tells you something or asks you to do something, there is a reason for it. Usually it is to protect your interests and make things easier (and maybe less costly) for you and your family in the long run. We know how to engage the legal system to your best advantage, and we have plenty of experience that tells us what works and what does not work. Don’t ruin the good counsel you are getting by ignoring it.

 

 

Cultures, Children and Caring: The Collaborative Model Puts Children First

by Robert A. Simon, Ph.D.

Concepts of what is best for children may seem obvious. But as I learned during the recent 6th World Congress on Family Law and Children’s Rights in Sydney, Australia, there is a surprising amount of variation.

This conference, held every four years, is attended by mental health professionals, judges, attorneys and educators from around the world who share a common interest  – the well being of children who face the breakup of their families or who are the victims of abuse, neglect or other forms of maltreatment. All of us at the World Congress are committed to protecting children and providing them with the opportunity to have a brighter future.

Concepts of what is best for children vary from culture to culture. When parents divorce in Japan, it is common for mothers to be given full custodial rights with fathers having access to their children just a few hours a month, often under supervision for no other reason than they are fathers and are thought to lack the skills and abilities to adequately nurture their children.

On the other hand, in many parts of India, when parents divorce, fathers have the presumptive right to custody of children with mothers being afforded whatever parenting rights the father chooses.  To those of us in the West, not only does this stand in contrast to what our cultural beliefs hold, it stands in contradiction to what we know from empirical research about the best interests of children when their parents divorce. This helps to demonstrate how powerful and deeply embedded traditions, cultural practices and social beliefs are intricately woven into how the best interests of children are interpreted.

Despite the differences, what seems universal are concerns about the national laws and legal procedures families must rely on when they cannot solve their own problems, whether these are problems associated with divorce or child protection matters. It is encouraging that cultures everywhere are working to better the lives of children.

What was also universal is that no system of laws is sufficient. When people can’t solve their own problems, any solution imposed on them is imperfect.

Every family involved in litigation that I’ve worked with as a forensic psychologist is unable to heal until the litigation ends and their personal “rules of engagement” for the family have been defined moving forward. Many families’ wounds become deeper until their cases are resolved.

No matter the culture, it is far better for everyone to take control of their family’s own future and work together outside the court system to solve their issues, guided and supported by professional. This is what makes the Collaborative Family Law model so successful. It may not work for everyone, but it is worth considering and discussing, particularly because the well-being of every member of the family is kept upper most in mind at all times.

The World Congress reinforced for me how important it is to respect one another and remember that the things we do and the work we do has lasting impact – at all levels. The variety of human culture and the interrelationships of cultures strengthens the human fabric and therefore, enriches each of us.

 

What We Can Learn About Divorce from Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes

by Frank X. Nageotte, CLS-FL

Katie Holmes, Tom Cruise, and daughter Suri

We will probably never know the details of the divorce case between Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.  That’s because celebrities and their advisors realize in ways the general public doesn’t always grasp that whatever is litigated becomes public record.  Experienced family law attorneys usually encourage their clients to try to resolve their family law issues outside of the court system, whenever possible.  All court proceedings are open to the public, and all court records (pleadings – including angry Declarations, filings, orders, etc.) are open to the public. The public includes the parties’ own children, who can go to court years later and read what their parents said about each other.

If the parties are able to resolve their case through mediation, negotiation, Collaborative Family Law, or some other alternative dispute resolution procedure, they can keep much more of their personal facts and circumstances private.

In addition to not keeping their personal information and issues as confidential as possible, perhaps the biggest mistake that divorcing parties make is putting their children in the middle of the divorce “war”.  All children need to have a good, healthy, regular, frequent and consistent relationship with both of their parents, and when the parties force their children to “take sides”, they can cause a lot of pain and long-term harm to them.

Parents should not focus on “winning” or “losing” custody.  If they truly love their children, they will set aside their personal needs, wants and emotions and find a way to work cooperatively with the other parent in their children’s best interest.  The focus should be on how the parties can best continue to jointly raise their children.

Collaborative Family Law is the best dispute resolution process for the protection of the children.  Parties who use the Collaborative process are supported in “putting the children first” and in finding a way to restructure the family so as to meet the legitimate needs of the parties and their children.

 

Illinois Legislator Proposes Measure Supporting Collaborative Divorce

As reported in the Northwest Herald newspaper of McHenry County, Illinois, two proposed measures backed by State Senator State Sen. Pam Althoff, R-McHenry and the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois aim to ease the emotional and financial burden that often accompanies divorce or separation.

Illinois Senate Bill 31 and House Bill 1029 would pave the way for the Uniform Collaborative Law Act, which would outline the process of using a model of conflict resolution known as collaborative practice.View Post

The newspaper has also published an editorial in favor of the legislation, stating in part “We think the ideas behind the legislation makes sense. We encourage thoughtful approaches to resolving such disputes. Any approach that would move divorce matters along more efficiently and with fewer court appearances is of benefit to all parties involved.”

It’s always positive news to learn about efforts no matter where they take place that helps educate people about the options offered by collaborative divorce and prompts them to consider collaborative divorce in their own circumstances.