Back to School Tips for Divorced Families

Back to school can be a breeze for divorce parents with these simple tips for success.
Back to school can be a breeze for divorce parents with these simple tips for success.

Back to school can be a breeze for divorce parents with these simple tips for success.

No matter how old your kids are or how many times you’ve been through it all as a parent, there is anxiety mixed with anticipation as kids head back to school this fall. Mixed feelings are natural at this time of year.

There is extra stress and brand new school-related issues to deal with if you are newly divorced. Who is paying for what? What activities will the child get to be involved in? Who keeps an eye on homework assignments? Who does the school call if there is an emergency?

These are issues that can be addressed in the Collaborative Divorce process. If you went through a more adversarial divorce, don’t let school turn into a battleground to establish who is the better parent. Don’t get into competition with your former spouse. Your child is struggling through your divorce while juggling the demands of the new school year. Let school be a place for him or her to have fun, learn, achieve and excel, and forget about the issues at home.

These tips from Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego member, family law attorney Myra Chack Fleischer of Fleischer and Ravreby, can help you navigate the process and earn an A-plus for your parenting skills.

 

 

Don’t Divorce Alone: It Takes A Village

It takes a village to get through a divorce.

by Myra Chack Fleischer, CFL-S, Fleischer & Ravreby

As we start a new year, it is natural to take stock of your life and look for ways to improve your situation. Sometimes, this means facing the reality that a divorce is necessary for your emotional and sometimes financial health. January is the month with the most new divorce filings all year.

Attorney Myra Chack Fleischer, Fleischer & Ravreby, Carlsbad California

Attorney Myra Chack Fleischer, Fleischer & Ravreby, Carlsbad California

When a person makes the decision to get divorced, there are a lot of questions and concerns. Some are practical: Will the legal business be a nightmare? Will it cost me a fortune? Some are more personal: How will I ever get through it without breaking down?

Divorce is the most common legal matter that people try to handle by themselves, also referred to as “pro per.” A 2013 study found nearly three-quarters of all people getting divorced in the U.S. do so without an attorney.

Why does this happen? Many people think hiring a lawyer will be expensive, or stressful. They don’t anticipate any big arguments, and the paperwork looks simple enough. Just fill it out, pay the fee and you are done, right?

Not exactly. Often, people get started and discover a divorce involves a whole lot more than just legal paperwork. Court cutbacks in many states means less personnel to help you work your case through the system if anything is confusing or unclear. Mistakes can delay getting the divorce finalized for months while you are in limbo.

Divorce is never simple. It involves complex financial decisions that can affect you and your children for years to come. It involves emotional turmoil for most people: Anger. Grief. Fear. Anxiety. It makes the rest of every day life that much tougher.

Perhaps you think it’s self-serving for a family law attorney to advise people to hire a lawyer to handle your divorce. You should not stop there. For many divorces and any with children or significant financial assets, you need three key experts looking out for you.

First, find a family law attorney with expertise in divorce cases. Your attorney should hold family law specialty certification in your state. In California, look for the initials “CFL-S” for “Certified Family Law Specialist.”

After you have checked legal qualification, ask direct questions about his or her fees and how they work. You are entering a business agreement and you are hiring someone to work for you. Yes, it may get emotional, but this part should be handled as matter-of-factly as you can. Be honest and open about your finances. It will make things easier on everyone.

Attorneys aren’t quite as individual as snowflakes, but you may need to interview several before you find a good fit for your circumstances. Find out your attorney’s amount of experiences. Does your attorney tend to go to court or does he or she settle most cases outside of court? Some attorneys are better negotiators that litigators. Does the attorney represent mainly husbands or wives, or both equally? If you have a same sex marriage, find out how comfortable and experienced your attorney is with these new types of divorce cases. How much of your case will he or she handle personally? Meet any other professionals such as junior attorneys or paralegals and feel comfortable with them as well.

Next, it’s crucial to seek the services of a divorce financial planner. You may not be able to rely on your regular CPA or financial advisor. Find one specifically qualified to advise you on key aspects of the divorce process and how this will affect your assets. Look for a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) certification. This person will work with your attorney to oversee critical financial tasks outside a lawyer’s area of expertise. This individual will review the impact of your legal choices in the divorce on your financial and tax situation, especially in regard to a divorce settlement offer. This will strengthen your attorney’s ability to negotiate from a position of strength on your behalf.

Finally, don’t neglect your mental health needs. Long after the divorce is over from a legal and financial standpoint, you and your children will be feeling the effects of the emotional fallout. It is wise to bring in a mental health professional with training in family counseling. Divorce is an emotional experience unfolding in the midst of what is essentially a business deal. It can overwhelm you while you are struggling to focus on practical decisions about legal and financial issues. A therapist or divorce “coach” can help you cope with strong feelings while the divorce process unfolds and provide a safe place to express yourself. This allows you to avoid drama with your attorney and your financial planner.

It takes a village to get through a divorce.

It takes a village to get through a divorce.

What about the cost? It’s true hiring three professionals is more expensive than filing the paperwork on your own. But consider the risks you face on many levels. If you have any children or property, you can end up making mistakes or bad decisions that have a negative impact for the rest of your life. You could end up paying an attorney or other professionals down the road to fix the problems you created after the fact. Your kids could suffer emotional damage later that could seriously effect their future. Consider it an investment in yourself and your children for the long term. What is more important than this?

With the expertise of highly qualified, experienced legal, financial, and psychological professionals on your side, you will have all of the help you need to get through your divorce with a bright, secure future ahead of you and your family.

One way to find this kind of team to work with you is to consider the Collaborative Divorce method. Collaborative divorce is an alternative dispute resolution process to the typical adversarial divorce. A divorcing couple agrees that they will work together with family law attorneys, financial specialists, divorce coaches and child and family therapy specialists as a team outside the court system to resolve their differences. This team will help guide you through a divorce. These professionals often work together on a regular basis and can rely on each other’s specific expertise. You can still have significant disagreements with your spouse when you start this process, as long as you pledge to keep working and remain civil as much as you can until your situation is resolved.

The Collaborative Divorce process depends on the level of cooperation between the parties, their willingness and ability to commit to a healthy divorce, and the complexity (emotional and financial) of the case. It takes work. But it preserves the well-being, diginity and relationships of parents to children and even extended family. Collateral damage is minimized.

Copyright © 2014 by Fleischer & Ravreby, Attorneys at Law

Is Mediation or Litigation the Right Choice for My Divorce?

Julia Garwood, Family Law attorney and Certified Family Law Specialist, San Diego, Collaboartive Family Law Group of San Diego

by Julia Garwood, Attorney at Lawjulia-garwood-photo
Family Law, Mediation and Collaborative Divorce
Garwood Family Law and Mediation

When heading toward the end of a marriage, many people ask what the difference is between divorce mediation and litigation. And beyond that, which one is right for them. There are numerous differences between divorce mediation and litigation, however the primary three include cost, decision-making and privacy.

Cost

Mediation is often much less expensive. Litigation can cost as much as six times the amount as mediation.

Decision-Making

A judge makes all the decisions in the case of litigation. This includes decisions about your children, division of property, alimony and even pets. However, through mediation, you and your spouse make the decisions together.

Level of Privacy

Mediation occurs in a private conference room and details never have to be disclosed publicly. Because of the public nature of the courtroom, when your divorce is litigated, all information is public record. That means all the details, including your finances and “dirty laundry,” are available to the public.

In order to help you decide whether mediation or litigation is right for you and your personal situation, below is a list of frequent situations when mediation and litigation are used.

Mediation is often used when:

  • You and your spouse mutually have decided to get a divorce.
  • You and your spouse can have a rational conversation in the same room.
  • You both realize that divorce is happening and you’re able to rationally approach the outcome.
  • You’re both willing to try to agree on issues like alimony, child custody, division of assets and child support.
  • Cost is a factor and you and your spouse want to incur as few costs as possible.
  • You both want to be active decision makers regarding the details of your divorce and don’t want to leave the final decisions for a judge to make.

Litigation is often used when:

  • One or both of you aren’t open to mediation.
  • One or both of you have difficulty conducting reasonable conversations.
  • There is a history of domestic violence or child abuse during the marriage.
  • Either you or your spouse has a drug or alcohol problem, impeding rational thinking and decision-making.
  • One or both of you is stalling or gathering information on the other spouse and don’t have any intention to settle. Sometimes spouses agree to mediation to stall the process or to gather information for later use against the other spouse during litigation.

While we’ve included some basic guidelines above, every situation is different. Consulting with a divorce attorney who is trained in Collaborative Family Law and/or a Certified Family Law Specialist including members of professional associations such as the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego, is the best avenue.

Don’t Trash Talk Your Ex: Staying Civil After Divorce

Family conflict and stress

Among the many significant benefits of collaborative divorce is providing a framework for respectful, civil discussion between spouses about difficult issues. By remaining civil, emotional stress is lessened on everyone in the family, especially the children.

Once the divorce is final, parents need to continue those respectful communication practices as they work together to raise their children. The positive aspects of collaborative divorce can be unraveled quickly when children witness their mother and father speaking harshly about one another, even if the conversation isn’t directed at the children. Conflict and the family stress it creates benefits no one in the long run, no matter how justified you may feel at the time.

Marina Sbrochi  is a dating coach who works with people returning to the dating scene after a divorce. She offers her advice about refraining from “trash talking” your former spouse. Sbrochi’s endorsement that reinforces our collaborative divorce philosophy of respectful communication continuing well after all of the legal details are final. Read Sbrochi’s sensible advice here.

 

Your Brain on Collaborative Divorce

Your brain and Collaboraive Divorce

By Garrison “Bud” Klueck

Americans of a certain age likely recall a memorable TV commercial.  The TV image is that of someone breaking an egg.  The voice-over announcer says “This is your brain.”  It then cuts to a very hot frying pan sizzling.  The egg is dropped into the pan, where it rapidly fried.  The voiceover says “This is your brain on drugs. Get it?”  In other words, taking drugs fries your brain.

Your brain and Collaboraive DivorceThe services offered by the professionals in a Collaborative divorce team have the opposite effect on clients going through the divorce process.  Collaborative divorce “unfries your brain.”  The client’s “unfried brain” then has the capacity to make the important decisions that a divorcing person needs to make.

Brain science tells us that there are parts that are basically the source of all the emotions that we experience.  These brain parts are known by the term “amygdala.”

While emotions are important to living a full and satisfying life, almost everybody has experienced how our emotions can sometimes become overwhelming.  Modern brain scans tell us why. Those brain scans show that, when the emotional parts of the brain are activated, the higher-reasoning parts show little or no activity.

The divorce process generates intense emotions.  Meanwhile, those divorcing spouses have to make very important decisions by weighing the costs against the benefits of various options.  In other words, the usual way people get divorced demands that they make important life-affecting decisions at a time in their lives when their emotions make them least likely to make sound decisions.

As a Collaborative attorney, I have witnessed that the very valuable services rendered by our well-trained divorce coaches have the effect of “turning down the heat” of the emotions of our clients.  When you lessen the activation of the emotional centers of our brains, it lets the decision-making centers become activated; then the divorcing persons are freed to make the very important decisions that will affect their lives and their children’s lives for years to come.

Over my more than a quarter-century of family law practice, I have witnessed people in the traditional court-based divorce process make some very bad decisions which affected their future and their childrens’ future.  To protect against this almost inevitable problem, there must be some process to prevent those very powerful emotions of the moment affect long-term planning.  The involvement of mental health professionals to help divorcing people process their emotions not only lets those people feel somewhat better during the process, it empowers them to make the decisions they will need to make.

Your brain “on collaborative divorce” will not be a fried brain, like on drugs, but a healthy brain ready to make good choices for a healthy future for you and your family.

Author Garrison “Bud” Klueck has received training as both as an attorney and as a mental health professional.  As an attorney, Bud has been practicing law for over 27 years and is a certified legal specialist in family law.  He was among the first group of San Diego professionals to train in the collaborative process in 2001 and has, over the years, participated in many collaborative cases. As a mental health professional, Bud has a Master’s degree in counseling psychology (MACP) and has internship status with the California Board of Behavioral Science (BBS).

 

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.

 

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.

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.

Collaborative Divorce Offers Alternatives to “Divorce Corp.” Documentary

January 20, 2014
Contact:
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR
619-997-2495 or gayle@falconvalleygroup.com

 

(SAN DIEGO) – The release of the new documentary film “Divorce Corp.” has generated renewed attention and focus on family law court proceedings involving divorce, child custody and child support issues across the United States.  While the film offers a critique of the way that divorce is commonly handled in the United States, it does not discuss a critical and viable alternative for many families: the Collaborative Divorce process.

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.

Julie Mack, CFLS, attorney and President of CFLG San Diego, says the film presents the opportunity for fresh dialogue, which will allow couples, especially those with minor children, to learn more about Collaborative Divorce.  “Long before the film ‘Divorce Corp.,’ many couples, discouraged by the prospect of an expensive, adversarial divorce, started looking for an alternative way to address their family law issues that did not involve confrontation or handing over decision-making regarding their lives to family law courts. For many, the alternative is Collaborative Divorce.

“Thanks to the attention generated by this documentary, we have a new platform available to introduce the many benefits of the Collaborative Divorce process. When people learn that going to court is not inevitable, they eagerly embrace this positive, respectful approach to resolving issues in a way that avoids litigation, including the time and expense, to say nothing of the lasting emotional turmoil,” said Mack.

“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.  “We urge divorcing couples or parents wrestling with child custody or support 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.

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.

See the trailer for the documentary “Divorce Corp.” here.