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.

 

Tips on How to Find the Best Family Law Attorney for You

Attorney Frann Setzer

by Frann Setzer, Esq.
MBA/Certified Family Law Specialist
Lewis, Warren & Setzer, LLP

Attorney Frann Setzer

Family law attorney Frann Setzer

It surprises me how many phone calls I receive from potential clients whose first question is, ‘what is your hourly rate?’  While I appreciate that legal help is not inexpensive, my experience is that receiving advice from a qualified professional is invaluable.

My tax professional charges a similar rate to an attorney. While she is not the least expensive accountant, she has saved me thousands of dollars.

Remember when you are speaking with a family law attorney for the first time, you are in fact interviewing each other to see if it is a good fit.  Money should not be the only criteria in your hiring decision.  Rather than start by asking an attorney’s hourly rate, you need the answers to the following questions first:

  1. Expertise.   Does the attorney you are interviewing have solid credentials?  Is he or she certified as a Specialist by the State Bar?  Does family law comprise 100 percent of his or her practice, or does he or she practice in several other areas of the law as well?  Does the attorney have other degrees, such an MBA, a master’s degree in taxation or a financial credential? While well-credentialed, experienced attorneys invariably charge more than those who are not, the quality of the advice received is often vastly different.  As with my tax accountant, paying for good advice can translate into thousands of dollars saved.  Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish.
  2. Philosophy.  Attorneys are people too!  Some are more aggressive, some are more passive.  How often does the attorney you are speaking with litigate?  Is he or she trained in Mediation?  Is he or she trained in the Collaborative process?  When presented with a problem, would this attorney suggest filing a $5,000 motion with the court, or would he or she first pick up the phone and call opposing counsel or write a letter to try to solve the problem?  Certainly at times it is necessary to litigate, but litigation is usually the most contentious and expensive route to take to solve a problem.
  3. Chemistry.  Your family attorney is someone who you are going to be ‘living with’ for a period of time.  Do you communicate well with this person?  Does your attorney understand your concerns and suggest solutions with which you are comfortable?  Is your attorney able to explain the legal issues to you in plain English?  Having a certain amount of chemistry is necessary in order to create a feeling of trust that this person is acting in your best interest.
  4. Comparison Shop.  Quite a bit of information can be found on an attorney’s website.  Even more information can be gained through a personal interview.  While many attorneys charge for a consultation, it is money well spent.  You will gain a sense of who this person is, the type of office in which he or she works and most important, you will be able to assess whether the hourly rate quoted is a good value.  You should also receive an initial professional opinion about your case.  See at least two attorneys.  Remember that consulting with an attorney does not obligate you to hire that person.
  5. Billing Practices.  Should you decide to consult with an attorney, ask about his or her billing practices.  Exactly what does he or she charge for? Does staff complete some of the work? Staff work costs less money per hour than the lead attorney.  You should receive a retainer agreement from an attorney you are considering hiring.  Unless you have an emergency situation, take a day to read that agreement and be sure you understand the services provided and how they are charged.  If you do not, do not hesitate to ask questions. Attorneys vary more than you might think on how they charge for services and the services that they provide.

Selecting the right attorney to represent or consult with you can make all the difference in the experience you have during dissolution or other matters, the amount you spend in legal fees and in the outcome of your case.  Unless you have an emergency situation, take the time to make a well-considered hiring decision.

Interview: Tips For Successful Holiday Co-Parenting

Divorce, Holidays and Children

Divorce, Holidays and ChildrenThe holidays aren’t always happy when you’re a single parent trying to work with your children’s mother or father to accommodate everyone’s schedule, see relatives, and spend special holiday time with the kids.

Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego members Shawn Weber, attorney with Brave Weber Mack; and Justin Reckers, director of Pacific Divorce Management, recently appeared on “Real Estate Radio” on AM1700 to talk about the holidays and divorce. The pair offered tips for successful holiday co-parenting in divorced and separated families.

You can listen to the podcast on demand at this link.

 

 

Ask These Five Questions to Find Out If You Are a Candidate for Collaborative Divorce

by Adryenn Cantor, CFLS, AAML 
Law Office of Adryenn Cantor, San Diego, California

If you see the completion of your marriage as transition, instead of failure, then you can consciously decide how to move forward in dissolving your marriage with grace and thoughtfulness.

Instead of seeing the process as dividing assets, dividing time with the children, and each of you having your “own” attorney, using conscious transition means you can work together with the support of a Collaborative Team.

You may have no choice that your marriage is ending, but you have many chooses on how that ending is accomplished.

The team approach used in the Collaborative process allows:

  1. Each party to be supported by their own attorney, who works individually with their client and cooperatively with the team to assist the couple in getting to a win-win result.
  2. Each party, should they so desire, can have guidance from a well-trained mental health professional to help them with the emotions of transitioning.
  3. Children can have a mental health professional to be their voice during the process.
  4. The parties can have the wisdom and expertise of one neutral expert to assist with the financial issues; thereby getting the information they need at half the cost.

So, if this New Year you find your marriage ending, perhaps the Collaborative approach is the way to make this important transition happen with the help of a conscious and caring team.

Some thoughts about whether you are a good candidate to use the Collaborative Team approach. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you want to end your marriage with respect and integrity?
  2. Is taking a rational and fair approach to dividing your assets more important than seeing yourself as a winner and your spouse as the loser in this process?
  3. Are your children the most important aspect in this process?
  4. Is saving money, which could go to you or your children more important than spending it on protracted litigation?
  5. Do you want to model for yourself, your spouse and your children how mature adults handle significant challenges?

If your answer is “yes” to two or more of these questions, you should definitely consider having a consultation with a collaboratively trained professional to see if the Collaborative Team process is for you.