Can I Be Divorced Yesterday? Or is Slower Faster?

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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.

 

Do You Need A Child Specialist For Your Divorce?

Working with a Child Specialist through the Collaborative Divorce process can help your children move forward without lasting emotional damage.
Working with a Child Specialist through the Collaborative Divorce process can help your children move forward without lasting emotional damage.

Working with a Child Specialist through the Collaborative Divorce process can help your children move forward without lasting emotional damage.

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

The holidays can be a stressful time of the year, but for those going through separation or

Attorney Frann Setzer

Family law attorney Frann Setzer

divorce that stress can be magnified. This is especially applicable for children, whose reactions to changes in holiday and family traditions may be difficult to measure. Perhaps this is the right time to add a Child Specialist to your divorce team.

Along with their attorneys and a financial neutral working with clients during the Collaborative divorce process, clients also have their coaches to lean on. Coaches are licensed mental health professionals who help clients identity intense feelings and play a key role in keeping emotions from derailing the process. While clients have strong feelings tied to finances, in my experience as a family law attorney, it is often the parents’ emotions surrounding the children that result in the most intense feelings and correspondingly, the most intense conflict, during the divorce process.

Parents worry about how their children are dealing with the divorce. They worry about establishing a routine that will work for their children. They worry about differences in parenting styles. Situations where the children might have special needs or where a child has a troubled relationship with one parent can cause particular concern. A Child Specialist is a licensed mental health professional with special expertise working with children.

A child specialist can help with these issues in a number of ways:

  1. Resolving differences in parenting styles or skills. A Child Specialist can help parents understand the impact of the divorce and their children’s developmental needs. While the Child Specialist will not make recommendations, he or she can convey the potential risks and protective factors unique to their children. This information can help you make parenting decisions and adapt your parenting style to the situation.
  1. Establishing an optimal schedule. The Child Specialist can also help parents by meeting with the children and then conveying to the parents an understanding of their children’s stress tolerance, developmental needs, as well that their hopes and wishes. This information can be used to help parents craft a parenting plan that works for their children, taking into consideration various factors such as how often the children should transition, whether the children stay together on the same schedule, how flexible the schedule should be. The specialist can also provide examples of schedules that might work well for the children.
  1. How are the children doing? Children often will open up to a neutral trained Child Specialist- someone who is focused on their needs and has no bias. The specialist can assess how the children are coping with the divorce. If the children need further support, the Child Specialist can make referrals to therapists in the community who specialize in divorce-related child therapy.
  1. Working with children who have special needs. Children with special needs such as autism, chronic illness, or learning disorders may benefit from the input of a Child Specialist. The specialist can help parents understand the unique needs of their child and how to structure a parenting plan that will keep the child stable and safe.
  1. Some children may have a difficult relationship with one parent. Sometimes children are drawn into loyalty conflicts and feel they must choose to align with one parent. These children are caught in the middle of their parents’ conflict. The Child Specialist can meet with the children, assess the situation, and help the parents understand the dynamics that are harming the child, the emotional needs of the child, and how the parents can co-parent successfully to support their children. The specialist can help develop a plan to heal or reconnect the estranged child and his/her parent and can make outside referrals as appropriate.

Working with a Child Specialist to address your childrens’ needs during a divorce is one of the advantages of the Collaborative Process. By recognizing and addressing the impact on your children and the outcome moving forward, family relationships can be preserved and everyone can emerge from the experience with a healthy outlook toward the future, avoiding the pain and conflict of a contentious litigated divorce. Contact the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego to learn more.

Collaborative Divorce Gaining Ground in New Jersey

Collaborative Divorce is an option in California and now in New Jersey. Collaborative Divorce saves time and money.

The state of New Jersey already has one of the lowest divorce rates in the United States. For those couples who do make the decision to divorce, they will be better informed about Collaborative Divorce as an option thanks to a new state law signed by Governor Chris Christie. New Jersey is one of 11 states in the U.S. where Collaborative Divorce is an ‘official’ method of divorce along with litigation, mediation, or arbitration.

The high cost of divorce was the reason Assemblyman Holly Schepisi (R-Dist. 39) introduced the New Jersey Family Collaborative Law Act in the first place. The cost of a litigated divorce, she said, can range from $10,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Significantly, New Jersey’s new law extends the privilege of confidentiality to all the professionals on the collaborative team.

The Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego applauds this development and we look forward to a day in the near future when Collaborative Divorce is commonly used in all 50 states and the U.S. territories. Read more about the new law here.