Member Constance Ahrons Delivers Keynote Address in Minneapolis on “Life After Divorce”

Dr. Constance Ahrons recently appeared at a Collaborative Law Summit held by the Collaborative Law Institute of Minnesota.

Psychologist Dr. Constance Ahrons of San Diego, a member of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego, delivered the keynote address at the recent “Life After Divorce” Parenting Summit held in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The conference was sponsored in part by the Collaborative Law Institute of Minnesota.

Dr. Ahrons shared her expertise on different methods of approaching the challenges of divorce, the advantages of Collaborative Divorce, and how to have a “good divorce” and move forward in a positive, productive way.

In an interview with the Minneapolis Star Tribune previewing the summit, Dr. Ahrons said her key takeaway message is “that divorce goes on for your lifetime. If you have children, you’re their parents for life. It’s so hard to get out of the place they’re stuck in, but if they look down the line, they realize that they are going to have to be able to relate to this person or they’re going to lose out.” Read the rest of the interview here.

While in Minneapolis, Dr. Ahrons also spoke to local Collaborative Practice professionals.

Dr. Ahrons has three decades of experience helping couples and families cope with divorce and its aftermath. She is a sought-out international speaker and expert, and the author of the bestselling books “The Good Divorce” (HarperCollins) and “We’re Still Family” (HarperCollins). She also co-authored the highly regarded “Divorced Families” (W.W. Norton). Dr. Ahrons’ books are all in print and available at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Dr. Ahrons is Professor Emerita of Sociology and the former Director of the Family Therapy Doctoral Training Program at USC.  Prior to teaching at USC she was a professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. To better understand how divorce impacts families, she conducted a long-term study of 98 post divorce families, interviewing them four times over 20 years. The research findings from The Binuclear Family Study have been published in three books and over 30 professional articles, and cited by numerous newspapers nationally and internationally. The original data are available in archives at Harvard.

The Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego thanks Dr. Ahrons for her dedication to Collaborative Practice and her participation as a valued member of our organization.

 

 

 

Divorce: A Professional’s Personal Story

Divorce doesn't have to difficult. Learn more at the next San Diego Divorce Options workshop on Saturday, November 4.

Divorce doesn’t have to difficult. Alternative Dispute Resolution methods such as Collaborative Divorce can make a painful process easier for anyone.

by Mark C. Hill, Certified Financial Planner, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst
Managing Director, Pacific Divorce Management

It is not unusual for professionals who work in the divorce field to have been motivated in their choice of career by personal experience of divorce. Sometimes it is the memory of how their parents’ divorce was handled in childhood, while other times it is the experience of their own divorce that drove them to work in the field.

In my own case, it was the experience of my second divorce in the 1990s together with watching others struggle with the process that was the motivation. At first glance, this divorce should have been simple since we had no children and it was a short marriage lasting less than four years. However, it went all the way to an all-day trial that resulted in me saying these words to my attorney at its conclusion: “I feel violated by this process.”

Ironically, a conversation with my ex-wife years later had me learn that she felt exactly the same way that day — despite the fact that we both had very experienced, competent and caring attorneys working on our behalf. Additionally, as a financial advisor since the early 1980s, I had watched clients go through the traditional litigated approach with devastating financial consequences and yet still feeling compelled to share their stories of being disappointed, frustrated and angry at the outcomes.

As the years have passed, on many occasions I have thought back on my court experience and compared and contrasted it with the very different way my first wife and I chose to end our marriage. This was in the early 1980s and our financial and personal situation was very different from my second divorce. Our finances consisted mainly of debt, but we had a child, then a toddler, who we both loved dearly and were determined to be involved in raising.

At the time the concept of alternative dispute resolution when it came to divorce hardly existed in San Diego. But my wife and I both refused to go through the adversarial process. After a conversation with a non-family lawyer friend, I learned there was nothing inappropriate in a couple negotiating their own settlement if they both had full command of the issues involved.

The problem was that initially I could not find a family lawyer willing to work with us and prepare the agreement. Meetings with four lawyers resulted in the same pushback: “I must represent either you or your wife,” they would tell me. Despite this, I kept looking and eventually found a lawyer who did not say “no” fast enough! As a result, we were able to resolve all issues between the two of us and then, after signing disclosures for the attorney saying that she did not represent either one of us, have the Marital Settlement Agreement filed with the court.

Time passed, and by the time my son was attending college I was actively working in the divorce field and felt that the time was right to ask him “How was it growing up for you?” After getting this first comment off his chest, “You and mom are so different, I can’t imagine you guys ever being together!” he said “The good thing was that I never heard either one of you say a bad word about the other and I knew that you both loved me.”

So, despite the fact that his mother and I had challenging times, especially when both of us remarried, we were able to keep his needs above our fray. I doubt that we would have been able to co-parent so successfully if we had been through an adversarial divorce. I feel great relief that there were no children involved in my second divorce as the ending was so toxic that I cannot imagine it not having a negative impact on children.

Divorce is intrinsically difficult because very few marriages end unless trust has been broken, and it will always represents a loss of some kind. Usually we experience this as the loss of personal relationships and of financial resources. I believe that the underlying negative backdrop this provides is more often than not exacerbated by the traditional litigated approach.

Please know I understand there will be cases where avoiding this is impossible, and our court system is critical in attaining resolution. However, where both spouses show a willingness to try to work together, taking the alternative dispute resolution approach will usually result in more durable and better outcomes with less residual bitterness. Additionally, today couples have access to trained professionals in the legal, financial and mental health fields to offer support throughout the process that did not exist for my first wife and me.

As my own experience shows, this can result in better outcomes for our children. Isn’t that really what is most important?

Divorce and Taxes: What You Need To Know

There are so many financial implications to divorce including tax obligations. Work with expert divorce attorneys and financial professionals to plan ahead and make thoughtful choices about your money.

by Ginita Wall, CPA, CFP®, CDFA™

Ginita Wall Divorce Financial advice San Diego 858-472-4022

Ginita Wall

 

Divorce is difficult enough. What could add to the anxiety that divorce brings? Taxes. If you are one of the many people who recently divorced, this year, as a result you will be

coping with new tax issues, and may even be filing your own tax return for the first time. Here are ten tips to help you handle tax issues now that you are divorced.

  1. Determine your filing status. Your marital status at the end of the year determines how you file your tax return. If you were divorced by midnight on December 31 of the tax year, you will file separately from your former spouse. If you are the custodial parent for your children, you may qualify for the favorable head of household status. If not, then you will file as a single taxpayer, even if you were married for part of the tax year. If you aren’t sure what would be better, you can ask your tax professional to project your taxes both ways to see.
  2. Consider the tax implications of support. Child support is not deductible to the person who pays it, but alimony is. Likewise, the recipient of alimony must claim it on her tax return, but child support isn’t reported as income. If you rolled your support together into “family support” in your agreement, that makes it fully taxable to the recipient and deductible to the payer, just like alimony. That often saves income taxes, though, because more income moves from the payer’s higher tax bracket to the recipient’s lower tax bracket, so there’s more after-tax income for them to split.
  3. Don’t run afoul of the special rules regarding support. If alimony payments are concentrated in the first year of two after divorce, the IRS may consider the money to be non-deductible property settlement. And if alimony is scheduled to end within six months of a child’s 18th or 21st birthday, the IRS may consider the alimony, in reality, to be disguised child support. Be sure you consult with a knowledgeable tax professional or attorney to review the support portion of your divorce agreement before you sign it.

    The status of child custody and child support could affect your taxes.

  4. Review your divorce decree to see who will claim the children as exemptions. If your divorce agreement does not specify who claims the children as exemptions, then the exemption for your kids goes to the custodial parent. If you have joint custody, the exemption goes to the parent who has the child the greatest number of days during the tax year. You can modify this by making a different provision in your divorce agreement. Again, if you aren’t certain where the exemptions would do the most good, on your tax return or your soon-to-be-ex’s return, see a tax professional and find out.
  5. Get signed Form 8332 if required. If you are entitled to claim the tax exemption for children who spend less than six months of the year living with you, then you will need your ex-spouse to sign IRS Form 8332 (Release of Claim to Exemption for Child of Divorced or Separated Parents). A copy of this form must be filed with your income tax return for you to claim the tax exemptions for children not living with you. If you are to claim the children year after year, your ex can sign a Form 8332 that grants you the ability to claim them as long as they are eligible dependents.
  6. File first if exemptions are an issue. If you are entitled to claim the children on your return, but you think your ex may try to claim them instead, file early in the year. That way, since you’ve already claimed the children, the IRS will make your ex prove he or she was entitled to the exemption. It’s rare that this type of disagreement arises after a collaborative divorce, since you make the decision together who should claim them. 
  7. Claim the child care credit if you are eligible. If you are the custodial parent and you incur work-related child care for children under the age of 13, you may be able to claim a credit for a portion of the cost. Unlike the exemption, which can be assigned using IRS Form 8332, the child care credit is available only to the custodial parent.
  8. Review legal fees paid during your divorce. Although most legal fees are not tax-deductible, fees you paid for advice concerning the tax consequences of your divorce can be taken as an itemized deduction on Schedule A of your tax return, as can fees incurred to obtain alimony. Other fees, such as the cost of preparing a new title for your rental property, can be added to the tax basis of your assets.
  9. If you are employed, change your withholding on Form W-4. You can claim one additional exemption for every $4,050 of deductions, including alimony payments. If you are receiving alimony, consider asking to have extra tax withheld from your paycheck to cover your new tax liability. If you don’t, you should make estimated tax payments (see #10).
  10. Make estimated tax payments if withholding isn’t enough. If your withholding won’t be enough to cover your taxes for the coming year, set up quarterly estimated tax payments so that you won’t owe taxes and underpayment penalties at the end of the coming year.

Divorce may not be as inevitable as taxes, but it certainly brings complications to tax filing. Follow these ten tips, and the process should go smoothly in the future.

 

Justin Reckers named President of Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego

Justin Reckers, Wellspring Divorce Advisors, urges caution before using a DIY divorce tool.

Media contact: Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, Fellow PRSA
619-997-2495 or gayle@falconvalleygroup.com

(SAN DIEGO) – Financial professional Justin Reckers, CFP, CDFA, has been named President of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego for the 2017 term. Reckers

Justin Reckers, Wellspring Divorce Advisors, urges caution before using a DIY divorce tool.

Justin Reckers, 2017 Board President

is the Chief Executive Officer of WellSpring Divorce Advisors, and the lead Financial Advisor at Fonte Financial Advisors, a Member of Advisory Services Network.

Founded in 2010, members of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego work together to learn, practice, and promote the practice of Collaborative Divorce for problem-solving and the peaceful resolution of family law issues, with an eye toward preserving the emotional, as well as the financial, assets of the family. Its goal is to transform the resolution of family law issues through respectful, Collaborative processes that protect the integrity, health and financial security of families and eliminate the need for families to resort to litigation.

Reckers is a graduate of The Ohio State University, a Certified Financial Planner™ and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™. He is a former board member of The Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts, Collaborative Practice California and the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego. Reckers is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Pacific South Coast Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

“It is my goal to guide people through what can be the most emotionally and financially devastating period in their life,” said Reckers. “Those of us who believe in Collaborative Divorce believe it is the best way for families to achieve a private, respectful divorce that preserves healthy family relationships and financial security for the entire family.”

“From my vantage as a financial professional, we help clients understand both the short and long term financial consequences of their divorce settlement options and gather information to make a fully informed decision. Financial professionals are part of a team that includes attorneys and divorce coaches, working together to help build creative settlement options and assist clients to transition successfully into their new financial reality with a game plan for success,” said Reckers.

“My goals for the coming year are twofold. First, increase public awareness of the existence and benefits of the Collaborative Divorce process; and second, to expand our successful ‘Divorce Options’ educational workshops throughout San Diego County. The workshops help individuals and couples learn about the different methods of getting divorced so they make an informed choice for their family,” Reckers said.

Serving with Reckers on the 2017 board of directors are Lynn Waldman, President-Elect; Ginita Wall, Treasurer; Meredith Lewis, Secretary; and Frank Nageotte and Anna Addleman, at-large members.

About the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego

CFLG San Diego’s members work together to learn, practice, and promote collaborative processes for problem-solving and the peaceful resolution of family law issues, with an eye toward preserving the emotional, as well as the financial, assets of the family. Its goal is to transform the resolution of family law issues through respectful, collaborative processes that protect the integrity and health of family relationships and eliminate the need for families to resort to litigation.

CFLG is online at www.collaborativefamilylawsandiego.com. Follow us on Facebook for the latest divorce news.

Want to Divorce Like Brad and Angie? Choose Collaborative Divorce

Angelina Jolie with her husband Brad Pitt, at the Cannes premiere of "A Mighty Heart" in May 2007. Photo: George Biard Collaborative Divorce in San Diego
Angelina Jolie with her husband Brad Pitt, at the Cannes premiere of "A Mighty Heart" in May 2007. Photo: George Biard Collaborative Divorce in San Diego

Angelina Jolie with her husband Brad Pitt, at the Cannes premiere of “A Mighty Heart” in May 2007. Photo: George Biard

After the initial news about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s divorce hit the headlines including accusations of angry episodes and plenty of gossipy accusations, the two famous actors realized their family, especially their six minor children, would be better off if they didn’t hash out their problems in public.

When the dust settled, the pair hired a private judge and will have their divorce paperwork sealed to protect the details from prying eyes including TMZ.

In a standard divorce, all records are public. But you don’t have to be an Oscar winning movie star like Brangelina to conduct your divorce in private. Collaborative Divorce allows you to keep your divorce private. Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego board president Justin Reckers explains some of the advantages in an inteview for CNBC.

Read the interview here. Visit our website home page for more information to learn whether a Collaborative Divorce may be right for you.

 

Top 5 Financial Moves If Divorce Is In Your Future

There are so many financial implications to divorce including tax obligations. Work with expert divorce attorneys and financial professionals to plan ahead and make thoughtful choices about your money.

If previous statistics are any prediction, a wave of divorce filings will hit courts across the United States including in San Diego County at the beginning of 2017.

Divorce is a chaotic time, but no matter how difficult it is, it is critically important to address your financial situation and take several specific steps before your divorce to ease the financial implications before, during and after your divorce.

There are so many financial implications to divorce including the date of separation. It is best to work with expert divorce attorneys and financial professional on your side.

There are so many financial implications to divorce including the date of separation. It is best to work with expert divorce attorneys and financial professional on your side.

Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego president Justin Reckers, CEO of Wellspring Divorce Advisors. Reckers is a Certified Financial Planner and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst and offers advice based on his practice working with individual going through a divorce. The key? “Budgeting is the most important thing to consider before, during and after a divorce,” he said.

Read the entire article here.

Your Pre-Divorce Holiday Season Coping Guide

There are many unanswered questions that you may face in the New Year, but for now coping with the reality is a challenge.

There are many unanswered questions that you may face in the New Year, but for now coping with the reality is a challenge.

by Lynn Waldman, LCSW

Have you been facing this holiday season with a mix of emotions; on one hand, hoping things will get better in your relationship, while at the same time dreading another holiday feeling stuck, empty, alone and wondering why you stay?

Suppose part of you has decided you are going to leave your marriage, but you need to get

Lynn Waldman, LCSW

Lynn Waldman, LCSW

through this holiday season for yourself and for the sake of your children. There are many unanswered questions that you may face in the New Year, but for now coping with the reality is a challenge. Staying calm in front of family, friends and children may be one of your goals.

Clients often struggle with how to make the best of things until they can leave their relationship. One coping strategy that works for clients begins with letting go of expectations. Letting go of hoping things will change or get better or that you will feel differently. Sometimes it is a relief to just accept things as they are. With acceptance comes a willingness to let things unfold and be as they are, as opposed to a sense of willfulness and of trying to change things we have no control over. To feel the willingness of accepting things as they are, try sitting with your arms slightly outstretched, palms up, take a breath, and repeat to yourself, “it is what it is.”

Another coping strategy is to check into your thoughts. When we have difficult feelings, it is often due to a difficult thought lurking somewhere in our minds. We may not even be aware of the difficult thought. With the difficult thoughts and feelings we often engage in behaviors we may regret. Try and identify those thoughts and feelings. Naming feelings often releases us from the overwhelm. Also, ask yourself, “what else may be true besides my difficult thought?” Focus on the facts of the situation, and if you need more information, seek out professionals who may be able to help. Remember, just because we have a thought or a worry, does not mean it is true.

In going forward with your divorce, the Collaborative process is one that takes into consideration, not only the legal and financial aspects of your marriage, but also your emotions and the emotions of your family. A Collaborative divorce coach offers assistance with coping skills to help you manage through the transition of divorce while focusing on the best resolution for everyone.

While this holiday season may be the last you will spend under the same roof with your spouse and co-parent, you certainly will have many more holiday seasons to come. Making the best of this season may be the best gift you can give yourself and your children this year.

What Is A Divorce Coach – and Do I Need One?

A Divorce Coach can help couples maintain caring and respect through the process to help the entire family move forward in a healthy way. Photo: Josh Kenzer, Creative Commons license

A Divorce Coach can help couples maintain caring and respect through the process to help the entire family move forward in a healthy way. Photo: Josh Kenzer, Creative Commons license

by Lynn Waldman, LCSW, and Tina Mears, LMFT

lynn2_md

Lynn Waldman, LCSW

Couples starting the Collaborative Divorce process understand they will be working with family law attorneys to help facilitate the legal requirements. They also recognize the advantages of working with a neutral financial professional such as a Certified Financial Planner or Certified Divorce Analyst, especially when there are important assets or property involved as part of the financial settlement.

But some couples don’t initially think they need a divorce coach. They say, “Well, we get along fine and we don’t need help,” or “I’m coping with everything OK, so why do I need to see a therapist?” Sometimes there are concerns, especially in Collaborative Divorce, about paying for “all these people” when they don’t seem necessary.

After many years of experience as licensed mental health professionals working with divorcing couples through the Collaborative Process, we can tell you that the investment in your emotional well-being throughout your divorce will benefit you not only today, but for many years to come.

What Is A Divorce Coach?

A Divorce Coach is a licensed mental health professional trained to assist clients with the emotional challenges of divorce, communication, parenting plans and preparation for the future. Through Collaborative Divorce, clients work on multidisciplinary teams with attorneys, fina

Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego with divorce solutions. Call 858-472-4022

Tina Mears, LMFT

ncial specialists and other professionals, sharing information through a transparent process with the goal of a family-centered resolution.

How Can A Divorce Coach Help During a Divorce?

A Divorce Coach can play a critically important role in helping couples work through the process by addressing challenges in communication, emotional coping skills, and parenting.

Communication

  • Identify underlying needs and wants and how to express these interests clearly.
  • Teach communication strategies around decision-making and problem-solving.
  • Facilitate the negotiation so that everyone feels heard and solutions are found.
  • Communicate with each other, with attorneys and financial specialists frequently.

Emotional Regulation

  • Offer skill based strategies for managing emotions.
  • Provide structure when facilitating difficult conversations and negotiations.
  • Facilitate client control of the process and maintain the client’s vision for the end result.
  • Help a client’s attorneys understand individual roles, the dynamics of the team and how both affect the Collaborative Process to work more effectively.
  • Help professionals understand how relationship dynamics affect the Collaborative Process and prevent or address stumbling blocks when they occur.

Parenting Plan:

  • Offer parents a safe place to propose and discuss possible parenting plan options.
  • Consider developmental stages of children in parenting plan proposals.
  • Allow difficult emotions to be present in working through child sharing arrangements.
  • Offer insight into developing a roadmap for the new dynamics of the family.

Sometimes by default, couples begin to see their attorneys as surrogate therapists or coaches. This is understandable but not productive. Attorneys are not trained mental health professionals, and their role is to provide their valuable legal expertise. It is not an effective use of time or money to try to work through mental health issues with legal professionals.

In the long run, you will work through your emotional challenges far more easily and effectively with a trained mental health professional who understands the Collaborative Process to work with you as you navigate this critically important chapter in your life, and help prepare you and your family for the chapters ahead.