Divorce: A Professional’s Personal Story

Divorce doesn't have to difficult. Learn more at the next San Diego Divorce Options workshop on Saturday, November 4.

Divorce doesn’t have to difficult. Alternative Dispute Resolution methods such as Collaborative Divorce can make a painful process easier for anyone.

by Mark C. Hill, Certified Financial Planner, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst
Managing Director, Pacific Divorce Management

It is not unusual for professionals who work in the divorce field to have been motivated in their choice of career by personal experience of divorce. Sometimes it is the memory of how their parents’ divorce was handled in childhood, while other times it is the experience of their own divorce that drove them to work in the field.

In my own case, it was the experience of my second divorce in the 1990s together with watching others struggle with the process that was the motivation. At first glance, this divorce should have been simple since we had no children and it was a short marriage lasting less than four years. However, it went all the way to an all-day trial that resulted in me saying these words to my attorney at its conclusion: “I feel violated by this process.”

Ironically, a conversation with my ex-wife years later had me learn that she felt exactly the same way that day — despite the fact that we both had very experienced, competent and caring attorneys working on our behalf. Additionally, as a financial advisor since the early 1980s, I had watched clients go through the traditional litigated approach with devastating financial consequences and yet still feeling compelled to share their stories of being disappointed, frustrated and angry at the outcomes.

As the years have passed, on many occasions I have thought back on my court experience and compared and contrasted it with the very different way my first wife and I chose to end our marriage. This was in the early 1980s and our financial and personal situation was very different from my second divorce. Our finances consisted mainly of debt, but we had a child, then a toddler, who we both loved dearly and were determined to be involved in raising.

At the time the concept of alternative dispute resolution when it came to divorce hardly existed in San Diego. But my wife and I both refused to go through the adversarial process. After a conversation with a non-family lawyer friend, I learned there was nothing inappropriate in a couple negotiating their own settlement if they both had full command of the issues involved.

The problem was that initially I could not find a family lawyer willing to work with us and prepare the agreement. Meetings with four lawyers resulted in the same pushback: “I must represent either you or your wife,” they would tell me. Despite this, I kept looking and eventually found a lawyer who did not say “no” fast enough! As a result, we were able to resolve all issues between the two of us and then, after signing disclosures for the attorney saying that she did not represent either one of us, have the Marital Settlement Agreement filed with the court.

Time passed, and by the time my son was attending college I was actively working in the divorce field and felt that the time was right to ask him “How was it growing up for you?” After getting this first comment off his chest, “You and mom are so different, I can’t imagine you guys ever being together!” he said “The good thing was that I never heard either one of you say a bad word about the other and I knew that you both loved me.”

So, despite the fact that his mother and I had challenging times, especially when both of us remarried, we were able to keep his needs above our fray. I doubt that we would have been able to co-parent so successfully if we had been through an adversarial divorce. I feel great relief that there were no children involved in my second divorce as the ending was so toxic that I cannot imagine it not having a negative impact on children.

Divorce is intrinsically difficult because very few marriages end unless trust has been broken, and it will always represents a loss of some kind. Usually we experience this as the loss of personal relationships and of financial resources. I believe that the underlying negative backdrop this provides is more often than not exacerbated by the traditional litigated approach.

Please know I understand there will be cases where avoiding this is impossible, and our court system is critical in attaining resolution. However, where both spouses show a willingness to try to work together, taking the alternative dispute resolution approach will usually result in more durable and better outcomes with less residual bitterness. Additionally, today couples have access to trained professionals in the legal, financial and mental health fields to offer support throughout the process that did not exist for my first wife and me.

As my own experience shows, this can result in better outcomes for our children. Isn’t that really what is most important?

Who asks for a divorce more often, men or women?

Researchers have a gold mine of data when it comes to studying divorce and divorce trends. Two recent studies looked at who initiates divorce more often, men or women.

Surprise – both studies, one conducted by Stanford University sociologist Michael Rosenfeld and another produced by the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for

Myra Chack Fleischer

Health Statistics (NCHS) found the vast majority of divorces in the U.S. were initiated by women. And the disparity is much greater than anyone anticipated.

According to the NCHS, about 80 percent of all divorces are legally filed by women. In the study done by sociologist Rosenfeld, a survey using data from 2009-2015 found 70 percent of marriages were initiated by women. In both studies, this applied to heterosexual marriages of all age ranges. It didn’t matter whether the couple was in their early 20s or in their 90s.

The important question to ask: why is this so? Can anything be done to affect it? Collaborative Family Law Group member Myra Chack Fleischer examines the issue in a recent column for Communities Digital News. Read more here. How does this match with your own experience among family, friends, or in your own circumstances?

Get Answers at Divorce Options Workshop Saturday, May 7

Find answers to your difficult questions at this free workshop

(SAN DIEGO) – San Diegans who are struggling with the difficult choices of a divorce have found the place to get their answers: the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego Divorce Options workshops.

The next Divorce Options in San Diego takes place on Saturday, May 7, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon at the Scripps Ranch Civic Association Community Center, 11885 Cypress Canyon Road (corner of Scripps Poway Parkway and Cypress Canyon, two miles east of Interstate 15).

Workshops take place the first Saturday of every month. Seminar leaders help people in a diverse range of situations and are able to take any questions. Divorce is difficult and stressful even under the best of circumstances. It can be especially hard if you have children or economic difficulties. Divorce affects people from all walks of life, and no two situations are alike.It is possible despite challenges to preserve the emotional and financial resources of the family while respecting everyone’s needs during a divorce.

For additional information or to RSVP, call Divorce Options at (858) 472-4022 or email at sandiegodivorceoptions@gmail.com

Led by volunteer attorneys, financial specialists, and mental health professionals who are members of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego, the workshop will cover the full range of choices couples have as they contemplate divorce, focusing on the non-adversarial, out-of-court options.

Divorce Options provides unbiased information about self-representation, mediation, collaborative divorce, and litigated divorce. The workshop deals with the legal, financial, family and personal issues of divorce in an informational and compassionate small group setting. There is NO solicitation of business.

Family with dogThe Divorce Options program welcomes anyone thinking about divorce or other relationship transitions including co-habitating couples with children or LGBT couples looking for a process aware and respectful of their unique needs. Divorce Options offers useful information adaptable to a wide variety of family circumstances.

“We could not be more pleased by the response to our workshops,” said Dan Martin, family law attorney and Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego member. “The Divorce Options program gives us an opportunity to help people become more knowledgeable about the resources they can draw on to plan an effective transition that respects the needs and interests of all family members. Taking time to become more knowledgeable can go a long way to ease the anxiety about your divorce, and allows you to take control of your future,” said Martin.

Topics include:

  • Litigation, mediation and collaboration – the risks and the benefits of each process
  • Legal, financial, psychological and social issues of divorce
  • How to talk about divorce with your children
  • Guidance from divorce experts

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).

 

Hildy Fentin named President of Southern California Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers

Contact: Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, Falcon Valley Group
619-997-2495 / gayle@falconvalleygroup.com

(SAN DIEGO) – Family law attorney and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mediator and collaborator Hildy Fentin has been named President of the Southern California chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers for the 2014-2015 term. Fentin is the first attorney named to this leadership role whose practice is limited to Alternative Dispute Resolution. Fentin is Immediate Past President of CFLGSD and a valued member of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego.

Hildy Fentin, Collaborative Family Law Group of San DiegoThe AAML, founded in 1962, is recognized as the most prestigious national family law organization in the U.S. with more than 1,600 Fellows in the United States. Academy Fellows are highly skilled negotiators and litigators who represent individuals in all facets of family law. To be represented by an AAML Fellow is to be represented by a leading practitioner in the field of family law.

Fentin has extensive experience in various alternative dispute resolution methods, including mediation, Collaborative Divorce, and settlement conference judging. She is often brought into cases to facilitate settlement because of her history of success in finding creative solutions.

“This honor is meaningful to me because it represents a significant shift in thinking about how best to resolve family law disputes,” said Fentin. “It was not so long ago that the only accepted approach to divorce was the traditional litigation model. Now divorcing couples have the option to engage in a consensus-oriented, collaborative approach which is a more dignified and respectful process for everyone involved. It reduces emotional stress and keeps decision making in the hands of the parties, rather than handing their future over to the courts.”

The mission of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego 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. That is why Fentin has devoted significant time and effort to the growth and development of CFLGSD.

“My goal in any legal matter is to educate and help guide parties to a fair resolution and avoid stressful, lengthy and expensive litigation,” said Fentin. “My reward is when they reach a comprehensive settlement in a peaceful and respectful manner.”

Fentin is a Certified Family Law Specialist by the State Bar of California; Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers; and immediate Past President of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego. Fentin is a recipient of the Judge Norbert Ehrenfreud Family Law Award (“Norby Award”) for dedicated and meritorious service to the Family Law Bench and Bar, awarded by Family Law Judicial Officers. She has extensive training and experience in negotiation, collaboration and mediation.

“My appointment to this AAML leadership role recognizes the significant impact of Alternative Dispute Resolution and its growing acceptance in the legal community.”

About the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego

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.

 

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.

 

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.