Can I Be Divorced Yesterday? Or is Slower Faster?

Photo: Camera4U/Creative Commons License

by Shawn Skillin, Esq.

I get calls all the time from one spouse who is in a great big hurry to get divorced. And that’s OK. But, the other spouse is often in exactly the opposite frame of mind. Why is that and how do you deal with it?  What does the law say?
Shawn Skillin
Let’s deal with the law first. In California, there is a mandatory six-month (181 day) waiting period before the court can terminate your marital status and make you single again. This is a mandatory waiting period. The six months starts when the Respondent is served or otherwise submits to the jurisdiction of the court, by filing a response or making a court appearance. The waiting period does not start when the petition is filed. Therefore, it will be at least six months before anyone can be single again.

In order to be divorced on the 181st day, you have to file your judgment package and your Marital Settlement Agreement with the court and give them time to process it. Because our California courts are backed up, none of this happens quickly and you should allow 8 to 20 weeks for your Judgment to be processed. That’s an additional two to five months!  In the meantime, you are still married. So as I always tell my clients, the wheels of justice turn, but they turn very slowly.

In addition to meeting the requirements of the waiting period, there is the issue of the “slow moving spouse.” In a divorce, it is not uncommon for one spouse to be in a bigger hurry than the other, who may be in no hurry at all.

The slower moving spouse is probably in a different part of the grief cycle than the faster-moving spouse. The end of a marriage is a great loss and both parties must grieve it.  The grief cycle is comprised of five phases: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Most people do not move through the process in this precise order. They move one step ahead, then two steps back, and will likely pass through one phase or another more than once.

In addition, everyone proceeds at a different speed and likely started the grief process at different points in time. The faster-moving spouse is likely to have already done most or all of their grief work and the slower moving spouse may just be getting started. The slower moving spouse may be stuck in denial or mired in depression. At this point, the slow moving spouse is not likely emotionally able to make the many significant decisions facing them in a divorce. They may seem unable to make any decisions at all. The spouse still processing their grief needs time, support, and maybe even some counseling to help him or her move forward.

If the faster-moving spouse tries to push the slower moving spouse ahead too quickly, the likely result is putting on the brakes and slowing down even more. The better plan: allow the process to proceed more slowly, so the other spouse is steadily moving forward. The slower moving spouse needs time to get to an emotional state of mind where he or she can take in, and process, information in order to make good decisions.

In other words, sometimes slower is faster when it comes to divorce.

The team approach of the Collaborative Divorce process works well in these situations. Divorce coaches can help each party in managing their own grief process and in understanding where the other party stands in his or her grief process. The attorneys can focus their attention on keeping the process moving forward legally at a pace agreeable to both parties.

 

Should You Treat Your Marriage Like A Business?

The New Love Deal is a helpful book and it strongly supports collaborative Divorce.

There are many new models for what used to be the traditional marriage. People are living together without getting married in the legal sense. People are establishing domestic partnerships. There are now legal same-sex marriages.

When couples break up, many times they end up in new legal territory. What isn’t new is The New Love Deal is a helpful book and it strongly supports collaborative Divorce. that any breakup can quickly turn contentious. Individuals are hurt and angry. They become emotional and lash out. The result: a stressful, messy, hostile, and expensive situation that causes lasting damage, especially if children are in the picture.

Chicago based family law attorney Gemma Allen, retired Cook County (Illinois) judge Michele Lowrence, and financial columnist Terry Savage have published a book calling for couples to have open and frank communication before, during, and after their relationship and strongly encourage prenuptial agreements. It’s called “The New Love Deal: Everything You Must Know Before Marrying, Moving In or Moving On.”

The authors present helpful information for all couples no matter their current legal circumstances as if having a conversation among friends. Their advice supports the Collaborative Law approach taken by the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego in encouraging open and respectful communication at every step.

If you are considering marriage, a civil union, domestic partnership, or a divorce, you may find this book helpful. It is available on Amazon. If you need help with your own family law issues involving marriage or divorce, custody, support, or settlements, contact the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego.

 

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.

Collaborative Divorce and Middle East Diplomacy

by Barbara Brown, CFLS
Brown and Brown, San Diego

What does Collaborative Divorce have in common with the Camp David Summit that led to the Israeli-Egyptian Peace treaty in 1978 and the successful release of American hostages from Iran in 1981?

Both the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty and the Iranian hostage release employed the technique of “principled negotiation,” a technique developed at the Harvard Negotiation Project led by Roger Fisher and taught in a workshop for lawyers at Harvard University.  Principled negotiation is a technique basic to Collaborative law as well.

Some years ago, I had the opportunity to participate in the Harvard Negotiation workshop. It was truly a life changing experience that gave me a new perspective on negotiating fair agreements both efficiently and amicably.
Getting to Yes
Roger Fisher, who helped negotiate the Israeli-Egyptian Peace treaty and the release of the American hostages from Iran, taught me that all successful negotiations are interest based.  As he described it in his best selling book “Getting to Yes,” “Principled negotiation is hard on the merits, soft on the people.  It employs no tricks and no posturing. Principled negotiation shows you how to obtain what you are entitled to and still be decent.”

Years later, when I trained in Collaborative Divorce, I would recognize this negotiation technique as basic to the concept of Collaborative Divorce.

Fisher and his co-author William Ury explained that their book started with this question: “What is the best way for people to deal with their differences? For example, what is the best advice one could give a husband and wife getting divorced who want to know how to reach a fair and mutually satisfactory agreement without ending up in a bitter fight?”  Because the book was published before the advent of collaborative law, they didn’t know the answer then. Now we know the best advice is to consider choosing the collaborative process to achieve these ends.