More Women Are Paying Child Support and Spousal Support

When a female celebrity making big money paid out spousal support, it made headlines: Jennifer Lopez, Jane Fonda, Janet Jackson, Jessica Simpson. Now the trend is trickling down.

Jennifer Lopez is among many high earning women celebrities who have paid out spousal support. Photo: Fox/American Idol

Women are breaking professional and societal barriers at a tremendous rate today. Women professionals, entrepreneurs, military and organizational leaders are no longer considered unusual.

Just as gender stereotypes are breaking down in other areas of American life, they are breaking down in divorce outcomes. If the wife makes more money than her husband, she faces the real – and fair – possibility of paying spousal support. If a spouse of either gender gave up a career or worked less hours to be the primary parent, it doesn’t matter whether this was mom or dad, the stay-at-home spouse is likely to receive spousal support, and possibly child support if he or she continues to have primary or in some cases even shared custody.

In circumstances that are atypical of the norm, using the Collaborative Divorce approach to seek a fair and equitable outcome without preconceived assumptions can be a wise choice.

Read more here about this family law trend in a column published this week in Communities Digital News by CFLG San Diego member Myra Chack Fleischer, lead counsel with Fleischer and Ravreby in San Diego.
 

 

Five Tips For Successfully Negotiating Your Divorce

by Michele Sacks Lowenstein, Attorney, California State Bar Certified Family Law Specialist, Lowenstein Brown, A.P.L.C.

Trying to negotiate a divorce in a conference room with either a mediator or two attorneys is hard work. However, the result can be worthwhile if you bear in mind that you are a parent forever and the story of your divorce will, ultimately, be your child’s story as well.

An important component of successful negotiation is the use of language during these negotiations. Words express how we think about and see life. The words we use are symbolic of our perspective on life. Some people may wonder why the use of language factors so heavily into these negotiations. In my experience most people going through a divorce don’t want to end up in court. They do, however, want to feel that they have been heard by the other person and efforts were made on both sides to address each party’s issues and concerns.

Consider that when people have filed for divorce they are already at a point where they are unable to communicate effectively and are probably unable to communicate effectively about anything. Participating in divorce negotiations requires people to do something they probably haven’t done in a long time; they must listen to each other in a new way where they no longer jump to conclusions about what the other person is saying.

It’s not easy. In fact, it is hard. However, it can be done. And, it can be done successfully so long as each party is aware that they can each frequently press the other’s “hot button” without even meaning to do so.

So, here are five tips for the successful discussion and negotiation of a divorce.

1.         Stay Away From Polarizing Language.

Using the terms “custody” and “visitation,” while accurate, tends to draw battle lines. Expressing the child sharing plan in terms of “I want to have custody and I want you to have visitation” will certainly cause the other parent to begin to focus on the terms “custody and visitation.” The focus, in fact, should be on a parenting plan that works for the child and not on the terms. Parents who focus on working out the times the child will be spending with each of them rather than arguing over the terms “custody and visitation” will be more successful in their negotiations. And, being more successful in the negotiating process means that these parents will ultimately be more successful in their co-parenting post divorce. Ultimately, the parents are more likely to stay out of court, which causes less stress to the children and to them. So, everyone comes out ahead.

2.         Frame the Issues in a Non-Combative Manner. 

I have been in a number of negotiations where we have reached an impasse on an issue and have decided to move onto another issue. Unfortunately, someone may say “We can fight about that later,” when the non-combative way of phrasing this is “We’ll put this on our list to discuss later.” It may seem small, but framing issues in terms of having to be fought out later rather than discussing them makes a huge difference in the mindset of the parties who are experiencing the divorce. People have already had their share of “fights” and don’t need to be gearing up for another one.

3.         Engage in Interest Based Negotiations Instead of Position Based Negotiations.

Positional based negotiations are adversarial as the “other side” or “opposing party” is seen as an opponent. (Again, labels play a large part here). Reluctantly, a concession will be given. Reluctance leads to resentment and this, of course, results in either the negotiations breaking down or the parties litigating issues in the future. Also telling someone that you are not going to change your position is not conducive to reaching resolution as it only causes each party to dig in their heels. Interest based negotiations seek to find an outcome that is mutually acceptable to both parties. Of course, neither party can generally meet all of their goals and objectives but it is important that each party work  with his or her professional team to set forth realistic goals and objectives and see if a solution can be fashioned which will benefit both parties.

4.         Don’t Refer to Your Soon to Ex in the Third Person.

Sometimes a person will refer to his or her spouse as “he” or “she” rather than using the other person’s name. While it is understandable that doing this is part of venting anger and frustration, referring to someone in the third person as if they aren’t even the room only serves to create additional conflict because that person will feel they are being diminished. People who feel their feelings are being diminished are not likely to be able to act in a constructive fashion to resolve issues.

This  applies especially to lawyers who tend do this or, even worse, refer to the parties possessively as in “your client” or “my client.” This is very de-personalizing.

5.         Don’t Curse, Please.

It should be evident that using four letter words during a business meeting is unprofessional and disrespectful. However, it is amazing how many people actually do swear during negotiations. Using curse words will not bring resolution to any issues but will only serve to cause people to focus on the fact that “them is fightin’ words.” Learning how to express oneself not only allows for improved communication but also provides for a better understanding of one’s own feelings.

As Margaret Thatcher once said: “Watch your thoughts for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions for they become habits. Watch your habits for they become your character. And watch your character for it becomes your destiny. What we think, we become.” Good advice for everyone.

 

Collaborative Divorce Method Mirrors Reality, Replacing Fear With Relief

by Meredith G. Lewis, Esq
Certified Legal Specialist-Family Law
Certified Divorce Financial Analyst
Lewis, Warren & Setzer, LLP

For the first several years of my family law practice, I represented clients who were looking to the judicial system to make decisions regarding their children, finances and property.  These clients felt it appropriate to provide a judge who didn’t personally know anything about them with complete control over their future and that of their family.

A release of such control never seemed natural to me.

As I slowly transitioned my practice to only Alternate Dispute Resolution (“ADR”), I saw a much higher rate of satisfaction with the dissolution process among my clients.  Until 2013 my ADR practice focused mostly on mediation. At the suggestion of my friend and colleague  Shawn Weber, CFLS, I took the Collaborative training.

The training showed me that the Collaborative process and its outcome better reflected reality.  In the artificial environment of a courtroom, a judge is limited in his or her decisions by the Family Code and case law.  However, these code sections and court opinions often do not allow a judge to mirror reality.

I instantly realized during my first Collaborative case that it is a process which understands the needs of the parties.  The key moment of this realization was during the meeting addressing the issue of spousal support. Instead of plugging in numbers into a computer program to come up with an artificial support payment, we reviewed in detail each individual’s monthly budget, and allocated the combined net income appropriately.

This process insured each spouse’s necessary expenses were met, and even allowed some discretionary expenses to be covered.  The spousal support number was based on reality, and each person walked away from the meeting feeling confident he or she could financially survive post dissolution.

Best of all, their fear about the future was replaced by a sense of relief, which resulted in having control over how their lives would progress.

The team approach of the Collaborative dissolution was an invaluable tool for working with this family. As in any case, each had their own attorney for legal advice, but both also had the benefit of a financial expert providing knowledge and insight, and a mental health professional to address their emotions during the process. These are two key components which are often missing from the traditional divorce process.

The ultimate agreement and outcome of the case was one that in fact mirrored reality, allowing each individual to have control of his or her future – control that was never handed over to the impersonal judicial system.

Developing Diversity in Divorce Goal of Statewide Conference April 25-27

CPCal working to meet the needs of the modern family

Contact: Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR
619-997-2495 or gayle@falconvalleygroup.com

 

(SAN DIEGO) – Collaborative Divorce professionals throughout California will focus on broadening the reach of the Collaborative model to an increasingly diverse array of families at its statewide conference April 25-27 in San Francisco, California.

A team of ten members from the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego will take a leadership role in the conference, including attorneys, financial specialists, and mental health practitioners. They include Julie Mack, attorney/mediator and President of CFLG San Diego; attorneys Adryenn Canton, Hildy Fentin, Julia M. Garwood, Meredith Lewis, Frann Setzer, Nancy Taylor, Colleen Warren, and Shawn Weber; and financial advisor Ginita Wall.

“Our model offers a way to meet the needs of non-traditional families in the legal system,” said Mack. “It allows for flexible, respectful solutions to common family law challenges involving marriage and divorce. We strive to address the legal and psychological factors affecting a wide range of families.

“The Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego is eager to let people know we offer them a range of choices for legal, financial, and mental health services all with the ultimate goal in mind of preserving the health and well-being of the family, however the family model is defined for them. The Collaborative model is especially well suited to addressing issues that aren’t always typical and often prove challenging in the court system.

“We urge families struggling to address these issues to give the Collaborative Process a chance. Even if they are skeptics, they have nothing to lose by giving our alternative a try,” said Mack.

The collaborative process is being used in divorce and family law, domestic partnerships, same sex marriages, employment law, probate law, construction and real property law, malpractice, and other civil law areas.

The Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego (CFLG San Diego) is a non-profit group of legal, financial, and mental health professionals trained in the Collaborative Process offering an alternative to litigated divorce.

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, and LinkedIn.

 

 

Divorce (Without The Court): Reasons To Choose Collaborative Divorce

The Collaborative Law Institute of Texas recently held its annual conference in Dallas. As part of the conference, a panel of collaborative divorce practitioners participated in a discussion on KERA Public Radio in North Texas. It is an illuminating discussion we found worth sharing with you. The discussion identifies three main reasons people seek a Collaborative Divorce.

Please listen to the discussion at this link. Do you agree with the reasons presented in the discussion? What is your experience? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

How Divorce Affects Your Health

by Craig B. Grether, Ph.D.  
Clinical Psychologist, Collaborative Coach and Past-President of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego

The Stress Effect

Divorce ends what was supposed to be our most intimate life-long relationship. It is one of the top ten stressors on all life event stress scales, ranking close to the loss of a loved one and serving a jail term.

The stress of marital separation and divorce can be acute, (short-term) or chronic, (long-term: greater than six months). The health problems from separation and divorce are both psychological and physical. These effects are more severe for people who separate and divorce in their 30s and 40s and less severe in older adults.

Short-term effects may include:

(1) Difficulty sleeping
(2) Loss of appetite
(3) Inability to concentrate
(4) Digestive problems
(5) Decreased immune system functioning
(6) Increased secretion of cortisol (a stress hormone)
(7) Elevated systolic and diastolic blood pressure (hypertension in men)
(8) Smoking relapse among prior smokers
(9) Increased alcohol use/abuse
(10) First time cannabis use

Most adults are resilient and cope successfully with the stress of divorce and the short-term effects.

However, almost 20% of divorcing adults experience long-term effects without recovery four years post-divorce. In addition to the short-term effects, the long-term effects may include clinical depression and an increase in the number of diagnosed medical illnesses.

The incidence of psychological and medical illnesses are more prevalent for divorced people of all ages compared to those who are continuously married. Divorced men and women have the same overall number of health problems but men’s problems are more medically severe compared to women, while women have more psychological health problems.

A Healthy Divorce

Divorce does not have to take such a toll on the psychological and physical health of the divorcing adult. In the Collaborative Divorce process, the negative health effects of divorce can be reduced by working with Collaborative Divorce coaches.  These are specially trained licensed mental health professionals who provide a variety of coping strategies, some derived from behavioral medicine, to address the health effects of divorce.

These strategies include:

(1) Direct physiological regulation through mindful meditation and relaxation techniques
(2) Cognitive (mental) refocusing and reinterpretation of life stressors
(3) Reaffirming personal values and redirection of life energies
(4) Healthful life restructuring including exercise and proper nutrition
(5) Social support outreach to family, friends and community

For divorcing adults with children, a Child Specialist, another licensed mental health professional, is available to support the children and be their voice throughout the divorce process.

Collaborative attorneys can help reduce the stress on divorcing adults by ensuring that clients will not have to endure the cost and stress of legal proceedings and litigation. Financial specialists complete the Collaborative Team by empowering clients intellectually through an understanding of their current and future financial status.

Contact the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego at (858) 472-4022 with your questions about the Collaborative Divorce Process.

What to Expect When You Have Filed for Divorce

San Diego Family Law Attorney Nancy Taylor

by Nancy A. TaylorSan Diego Family Law Attorney Nancy Taylor, Esq. Hargreaves & Taylor, LLP
California State Bar Certified Family Law Specialist
Member of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers

As soon as your friends and family find out you have filed for divorce, the first thing they will want to do is tell you their horror stories and/or how you and your attorney should be handling your case.  They mean well, but the problem with their divorce stories is this: every case is different. You can’t expect to have the same outcome they experienced.

Based on years of working with divorcing couples with no two of them alike, there are a few things divorces have in common.

  1. Trust that what your attorney is telling you is more than likely closer to the reality you will experience.
  2. As much as you might want to discuss your case in detail with those who love you, these conversations may result in your second guessing yourself and the advice of your counsel.
  3. Going through a divorce is not something you want to handle on your own. It can become one of the most difficult journeys of your life. Instead of seeking advice from friends or using your attorney as a therapist, seek the advice of a mental health professional who is trained to assist you in this situation. It will cost you a lot less in the long run.
  4. There are NO stupid questions!  Experiencing anxiety is not uncommon and can easily be caused by the unknown.  Always ask questions of your attorney so that you know what to expect. The more you know, the less anxious you will become.
  5. If you have children it can be best for them to learn about your divorce together as a family. Go to a family therapist with your spouse to discuss the best way to address the divorce process with your children.
  6. Recognize the process will not be resolved overnight.  It takes a minimum of six months at the earliest to become divorced. The six month time clock starts ticking once your spouse has been served with the Summons and Petition for Dissolution.
  7. Getting divorced takes work and just doesn’t magically happen. In order to be divorced at the end of the six month period, you and your spouse must have either entered into a full written agreement or have gone to trial, with your Judgment of  Dissolution having been filed.
  8. The best way to work with your attorney is to be as organized as possible.  The more thorough you can be in providing them with the information they request, the more time and cost effective for you. Handing over a pile of papers, expecting your attorney to go through and organize it can be costly and a waste of your hard-earned money.

One well-tested way to avoid many of these conflicts and pitfalls is to proceed with a Collaborative Divorce.  In the Collaborative Divorce process, each spouse will have an attorney guide him or her through the legal process; a coach/child specialist to help guide them emotionally; and a neutral financial specialist to gather, organize and prepare a report outlining the marital estate.  It is an enlightened process that will allow for every one’s Happily Ever After, even if that means not living together under the same roof.

Nine Tips for Deciding Fair Spousal Support

by Robin DeVito, Attorney at Law

One of the more difficult issues facing people getting divorced is the issue of spousal support. For both parties, questions generally focus on how much support will be, and how long is it paid.

There are three types of spousal support orders.

The first: Money is paid for spousal support for a period of time.

The second: Money is not being paid for support, but the recipient spouse may go into court to ask for support. This is commonly called the court reserve jurisdiction over the issue of spousal support.

Spousal support decisions during a divorceThe third: The right to ask for spousal support is terminated forever. This means that the spouse may never ask the court to order spousal support.

Through my experience as a family law attorney, I have created a list of nine tips that will help you navigate this tricky area of your divorce.

For the party requesting spousal support:

  1. Be realistic when listing your needs. Your needs are your monthly expenses. A financial specialist can assist in preparing a realistic list of expenses.
  2. Determine if there is anything you can do to increase your income instead of relying on help from support payments.
  3. Put together a plan for school or training to increase your income.
  4. Be realistic about the changes that will occur with both your household and that of your spouse.
  5. Remember that spousal support is not a number generated by a computer. While we have “rules of thumb” for the length of time support may be paid, there are a number of factors that come into play under the law to assist in the calculation of spousal support.

For the party being asked to pay spousal support:

  1. Be realistic as to the time it will take your spouse to become self-sufficient.
  2. Remember that forcing a spouse into a low paying job is counter-productive.

For both parties:

  1. Each party must fully disclose their income from all sources. A financial specialist can assist in the identification of income.
  2. The goal of each party should be self-sufficiency within a reasonable period of time. If it means paying more up front to allow the party requesting support to complete training or education to increase his or her long-term income opportunities, think about it. It makes sense.

Couples who pursue a Collaborative Divorce work with a financial specialist as part of their divorce team. If you need to work through spousal support issues, you may want to consider the Collaborative Process for your divorce.

Contact the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego to find out whether a Collaborative Divorce is right for you.

Broken Trust: Advice About Estate Planning During A Divorce

by Meredith L. Brown, Esq.
Brown & Brown

Many couples prepare Wills and Trusts in connection with a happy life event, such as the birth of a child. Frequently these documents are placed in a safe deposit box, never to be updated or even thought about again.

When the unfortunate life event of divorce happens, couples often opt to defer consideration of their old estate planning. No one wants to think about their mortality on a good day, much less when divorce is on their mind. This decision is understandable, but it is probably unwise and potentially costly.

First, a note of caution: if a Petition to dissolve the marriage has already been filed, the law requires that specific steps be taken before changes are made to Wills and Trusts. Similarly, there is an automatic restraint against making changes to beneficiary designations on any insurance. Couples must be sure to comply with these rules.

Family law does not place restrictions on changes to your Advance Health Care Directive after you have filed for divorce. Most couples designate their spouse as their legal voice when it comes to treatment and end of life decisions. Even in divorce situations where couples are amicable, it may not be appropriate for a soon-to-be ex spouse to make these decisions in the midst of a divorce.

How do you decide whether to change your existing estate plan?

The first (and obvious) step is to read and understand your documents. Most couples prepare documents that leave the estate to the survivor between them. Then, ultimately, the estate goes to their children. But this is not always the case, particularly in second marriages.

If you acquired assets after your Trust was created (for example a new home), determine whether title was taken in the name of your Trust. If you hold assets outside of your Trust, you could have the cost of a probate proceeding.

Even if you haven’t done any estate planning but own real estate or other titled assets with your spouse, be sure to check the deed or other title documents. Certain forms of title such as joint tenancy carry with them an automatic right of survivorship. You should consider whether you wish to change the form of title to one without survivorship rights. But before you make any changes, be sure to comply with the notice requirements mandated by law.

Second, ask yourself:  if you were hit by the proverbial truck before your divorce is final, would you want your spouse to receive your share of the estate? If you have children, do you trust that your former spouse will preserve your share of the estate so that your children ultimately receive everything? Would you feel differently if your former spouse sold the marital residence? What if he or she remarried?

Keep in mind that even if you decide to change your estate planning by preparing new Wills and Trusts, your former spouse may still have control over assets you leave to your children, if they are still under age 18. If you do not wish for this to happen, you will need to designate someone else as the guardian of the estate of your children.

As you may guess, determining how your assets are distributed upon your death can be complicated like many other aspects of your life when you file for divorce.  But this is something you need to address for the well-being of yourself and your children. You don’t have to go it alone.  Investing in the advice of an attorney with expertise in estate planning as well as a skilled financial specialist is an investment well worth making.

If you pursue a Collaborative Divorce, a financial specialist is part of your divorce team.  This can be extremely helpful if you are also working through a complex estate plan. It’s another smart reason to consider the Collaborative Process for your divorce.

Collaborative Divorce Can Help You Capitalize on the Holiday Season Spirit

San Diego family law attorney Colleen Warren

by Colleen A. Warren, Esq.
Certified Legal Specialist – Family Law, LEWIS, WARREN & SETZER, LLP

San Diego family law attorney Colleen WarrenWhat did you do during the holiday season? Most of us enjoyed spending time with family and friends. Many people put their differences aside during the holidays and attempted to live together harmoniously for the sake of the children or their family, or to ensure no one else knows they are unhappy in their marriage.

Many people wonder, “Now that I have made it through the holidays, is it the right time to tell my spouse I want a divorce?” Those same people do not want to disrupt their family life by separating or divorcing.  However, now may be the best time to have this most difficult conversation and capitalize on the feel good spirit enjoyed during the holidays.

If you have children, Summer Break is still six months away, and the next holiday season is a little less than a year away.  If you are worried about how a divorce or separation will impact you financially, you are likely to know, or at least have a better sense of, what you and your spouse earned last year, or how your investments fared over the last 12 months.  Now is the time to resolve your differences, rather than waiting until quick decisions must be made.

Rather than start a divorce or separation with fighting, posturing, or all-out war, Collaborative Divorce can help you and your spouse capitalize on the holiday spirit, resolving issues in a manner where each party feels supported.  You and your spouse will work with a team of expert attorneys, coaches, and financial advisors, to reach agreements that are beneficial to both parties and their family, all without going to court.  Imagine resolving all the issues in your separation without seeing a judge, without exposing the most intimate details of your life in a public court? This type of resolution is promoted and highly successful through the use of Collaborative Divorce.

The professionals in the San Diego Collaborative Family Law Group are here to assist you to resolve the issues between you and your spouse without traditional litigation. See our “Contact Us” page to find someone to answer the questions you may have about whether Collaborative Divorce is right for you.