What About The Kids?

by Dr. Debra Dupree, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Relationships That Matter

Dr. Debra Dupree

You’ve made the decision to divorce. It’s been agonizing but a decision that had to be made. Now, what about the children? Never in your wildest dreams did you expect to bring children into the world so they could live in two different households. Where do you begin? What’s in their best interests? How will they be affected?

Tip #1: Even though you are at odds with the other parent, crafting a joint message is critically important.

Pull no punches here. There are plenty of websites that offer good sound guidance to parents on how to tell the children and what to expect at different ages. Here’s what Psychology Today has to offer.

The most important tip here is to assure them these are adult differences. Place no blame and never tell the children if there has been an affair or other adult misbehavior. Those are adult issues, not children issues.

Tip #2: Children respond differently to divorce depending on their age and maturity. Here is a breakdown by age:

Some common issues that surface for younger children include fear of abandonment, self-blame for the divorce, the need for reassurance, conflicting loyalties, and fantasies about parents reuniting.

Older school-age children are often angry, embarrassed about their parents’ chaos, often take sides, experience depression, experiment with drugs and alcohol to escape the home pressures. How you support and cooperate with the other parent in helping teens through the transition is crucial.

Regardless of the age, what all children need are consistency, stability and predictability.

And, don’t think the impact of divorce stops there! The young adult, ages 18 to 25, often have the most difficulty with their parents’ divorce as the life they’ve known is shattered through divorce. Studies suggest that adult children of divorce are less likely to attend or complete college, are more likely to be unemployed or on welfare, are more likely to have problematic relationships with parents and siblings, and have more trouble forming their own marital relationships. So do your homework and be prepared.

Divorce is difficult on children no matter their age. Photo: Michael “Mike” L. Baird/Creative Commons license

Tip #3: How parents handle their divorce is the single most contributing factor to how children adjust.

We’ve just taken a look at how children react to divorce differently at different ages. One of the most important things parents can do for their children is to develop a structured parenting plan that is predictable (no surprises or frequent changes) and consistent. There is already enough turmoil going on during the transition into two households. You are most likely frazzled and on edge. Having a schedule the kids can rely on helps stabilize the anxiety that can come with change. Using daycare and school as places for transitions, rather than directly from one parent home to the other, allows the kids to go through a normal day just like any other kid in school. It is also reduces the anxiety that comes from leaving one parent for the other.

It is critical that parents learn to disengage from what was their intimate marital relationship and re-engage in the business of parenting (like two professional partners working through business decisions). It might sound odd, but over 20 years of experience working with families in divorce proves this shift in mindset between the adults in the divorce is essential for minimizing the negative effects of divorce on children. After all, the divorce is ending the marital relationship between two adults, but it does not end the parent-child relationship that is intended to go on forever.

Now is the time for parents to get help through short-term counseling, educational programs, or coaching on how to parent in a post-divorce world. It is different! Children need structure and they need both parents in their lives, just not at the same time in a post-divorce world. They will adapt but much of it has to do with how the adults manage their lives and interactions with others, including new significant others.

The bottom line: divorce is a tough road to follow. Take a good look at ALL your options for recovery, both inside and outside of the marriage. And, if divorce is the only option, choose Alternative Dispute Resolution such as Collaborative Divorce or mediation as the route to follow, as this offers the greatest potential for recovery.

Dr. Debra Dupree is a forensic mental health professional, licensed as a Child and Family Therapist in 1986 and a Credentialed Mediator in 1994. She obtained her Doctorate in Psychology, specializing in Marriage and Family Systems, in 2014. Debra has an extensive background spanning more than 30 years helping people understand their communication dynamics, belief systems, and impact on those relationships that matter. She is a member of the Southern California Mediation Association as well as the San Diego Family Law Bar Association.

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.

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.

 

Desensitizing, Brutalizing, And Degrading: Is This the Effect of Divorce Court?

Learn about your Divorce Options at our October 7 workshop.

by Mark Hill, Certified Financial Planner, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst
and Ryan Fentin-Thompson, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst
Pacific Divorce Management

Divorce can be a dehumanizing experience, especially for children. Avoiding a court battle can help relieve some of the negative effects of divorce on the family.

Divorce can be a dehumanizing experience, especially for children. Avoiding a court battle can help relieve some of the negative effects of divorce on the family.

Oftentimes, a couple going through divorce is portrayed as angry, revengeful and resentful towards one another. While these feelings may be present we have found that the more prevalent sentiment for both parties is a feeling of sadness and sorrow. Despite any current animosity that may be felt towards one another, no one enters into marriage expecting to divorce, so there will always be some sense of loss.

From the outsider’s perspective, one might assume the hostility between the couple stems from the decision to divorce; however, more often, it is the process of divorce which produces these feelings. The litigation system drives people from sad to furious, furious to enraged, enraged to resentful. Open court is usually the worst place to negotiate the end of an intimate relationship. Not only is this a public forum but also it tends to place the focus on winning and losing which usually does not benefit the whole family.

mark-hill-photo-02One example I saw in my own practice was in a highly contested divorce where both husband and wife wanted to keep the family home. Since they could not reach agreement, the judge ordered the house sold, which had the result of taking the children away from their friends and requiring them to change schools based upon their parents’ new residency.

Even the best judges seldom have time to do more than render strictly legal based decisions which lack the creativity which families always need when facing divorce. I was struck by a recent TV commercial related to our current presidential election using the tagline “Our children are watching,” and thought how it also relates to divorce. Offspring of divorcing couples always learn a lot about relationships from how their parents behave throughout the process. My experience is that choosing the adversarial approach seldom improves such behavior.

It can be dehumanizing for the professionals involved as well. Most people go into this field from a desire to help families work through what is usually an incredibly difficult life event. Too often, we find the system forcing decisions that we know will not fit the needs of our clients. It undermines what motivates us to do this work and can distance us from our own sense of humanity and compassion. We in the field have all experienced cases where outcomes fall well short of what our hopes and expectations were at the point at which we were retained. Recent research has suggested divorce professionals pay an ongoing price for this, described as “vicarious trauma.”

Alternative dispute resolution allows many of the shortcomings of a traditional divorce to be addressed. Professionals are required to look for creative solutions that benefit the entire family rather than trying to advance the cause of one side. The clients are engaged and required to take responsibility for the decisions that are reached. In the case of Collaborative Divorce they do so with the resources of legal, financial, and mental health professionals together with them at the table. We have found that this provides the best opportunity for outcomes that avoid much of the negativity usually associated with divorce.

 

 

 

Not Your Parents’ Divorce: Hear Debra Caliguri on 1700 AM ESPN Radio

Listen to ESPN AM 1700 on August 4 for Real Talk San Diego with attorney Debra Caliguri about the benefits of Collaborative Divorce in San Diego

San Diego based family law attorney Debra Caliguri, member of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego, will talk about Collaborative Divorce and other family law issues when she appears on the ESPN 1700 AM Radio program “Real Talk San Diego” with hosts Ryan White and Karen Kaseno on Thursday, August 4, at 1 p.m.

Debra will discuss challenges during divorce dealing with its impact on children from toddlers to teens to adult children, who all suffer from the effects of their parents’ divorce; how to preserve family relationships; and how to navigate the difficult financial issues. Listen to ESPN AM 1700 on August 4 for Real Talk San Diego with attorney Debra Caliguri about the benefits of Collaborative Divorce in San DiegoYou can listen online on the Real Talk San Diego website.

Four Tips For Healing After Divorce

by Julia M. Garwood, Certified Family Law Specialist
Garwood Family Law and Mediation

Allow yourself time to grieve and reflect after a divorce. San Diego mental health professionals in the Collaborative Family Law Group can help.

Allow yourself time to grieve and reflect after a divorce.

The divorce process can be grueling and cumbersome. The best way to allow yourself to heal is by starting fresh in order to move on and start the healing process. The following are just a few tips that can help you overcome divorce.

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

1. Visualize what you want in your life.

When you have been in a long term relationship you may have put everyone else before yourself. It is time to change that! Put yourself first. Think about what it is you enjoy the most or what your interests are. Set new goals or simply work on old ones that you had set on the back burner. It is time to make those goals a reality. Decide what steps you need to take in order to achieve a goal and visualize yourself achieving that goal.

2. Open yourself up to new experiences.

Being independent can be a scary thought after committing yourself to someone and doing everything together as a couple. You are an independent man or woman. Let that inspire you.

You would be surprised at the amazing experiences that may come from saying “yes”. Open yourself up to a new hobby, a date with someone who may not be your type, a new cuisine, or even moving to a new neighborhood. The bottom line is allowing yourself to experience new things.

3. Allow yourself to grieve.

There is no handbook on how to approach life after a divorce. Everyone deals with it in their own way. Focus on yourself and make your well-being a priority. Your healing is the first step in rebuilding your life.

Too often, we deny ourselves the time to grieve. We allow everything to come in the way and bury the pain. Confront it. It is okay to be upset or hurt. It is part of the process.

Allow yourself the time to have those nights where you might just curl up with a pint of ice cream and cry. You are only human. These emotions are normal. Soon you will see the need to cry will fade away.

4. Reach out to other people.

You are not alone. There are others around you that can help. It may be a parent, a friend or even a co-worker. It does not mean you are weak. It shows you have the strength to acknowledge that you need help in order to heal and overcome divorce.

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).