Back to School Tips for Divorced Families

Back to school can be a breeze for divorce parents with these simple tips for success.
Back to school can be a breeze for divorce parents with these simple tips for success.

Back to school can be a breeze for divorce parents with these simple tips for success.

No matter how old your kids are or how many times you’ve been through it all as a parent, there is anxiety mixed with anticipation as kids head back to school this fall. Mixed feelings are natural at this time of year.

There is extra stress and brand new school-related issues to deal with if you are newly divorced. Who is paying for what? What activities will the child get to be involved in? Who keeps an eye on homework assignments? Who does the school call if there is an emergency?

These are issues that can be addressed in the Collaborative Divorce process. If you went through a more adversarial divorce, don’t let school turn into a battleground to establish who is the better parent. Don’t get into competition with your former spouse. Your child is struggling through your divorce while juggling the demands of the new school year. Let school be a place for him or her to have fun, learn, achieve and excel, and forget about the issues at home.

These tips from Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego member, family law attorney Myra Chack Fleischer of Fleischer and Ravreby, can help you navigate the process and earn an A-plus for your parenting skills.

 

 

Empower Yourself During Your Divorce

Debra N. Caliguri, family law and divorce attorney, Carlsbad

by Debra Caliguri, Law and Mediation Offices of Debra N. Caliguri

How many times have we all heard and even repeated the phrase “Ignorance is

Debra N. Caliguri, family law and divorce attorney, Carlsbad

Debra N. Caliguri

bliss”?  Itmay be popular, but ignorance is bliss is no credo to live by. One online dictionary defines “Ignorance is bliss” as “a term used to falsely justify apathy on the given subject in the form of a catchy cliche.”

In our knowledge-based society it is unlikely that choosing to be ignorant will bring you success in any of your life’s endeavors. This is particularly so when you are going through a major life transition like divorce.

Gone are the days when you and your spouse can afford to hire attorneys to take your case and leave the decision-making and thinking to the attorneys and judge to figure it out. Instead, you need to empower yourselves by gathering reliable information and becoming a savvy consumer of divorce-related services.

One of my clients recently concluded her divorce process in which I served as her Collaborative attorney. She and her husband had been married over 20 years, had children preparing for college, and with ten years or less to work before reaching retirement age, they were concerned with preserving their retirement funds.

Like many divorcing couples, both spouses felt wounded and found it difficult to trust the other. Their children were hurting as well, having witnessed the parental conflict over the years. The parties had disagreements over financial, legal, and even parenting issues.

The one thing they agreed upon: they wanted to stop the hurt, not only for their own sake, but for the sake of their children. This goal led them to seek alternatives to a knock-down, drag out fight in court.

The couple considered mediation, but decided they needed more information, advice, and support than the neutral mediator could provide. They found their way to Collaborative divorce after meeting with several attorneys and financial professionals. Through the Collaborative process, they were able to successfully reach a full agreement in under six months.

My client is extremely grateful she found the Collaborative divorce process and shared with me what she had learned to help going through a painful divorce.

My client found that for her, Collaborative divorce was superior to going to court, as the Collaborative process fosters an environment of creative problem-solving. This is strikingly different than what happens in court where a judge makes decisions in an atmosphere of mud-slinging advocacy.

The team approach was key to providing the parties with the right information, financial analysis, legal advice and emotional support to reach a mutually agreeable conclusion. My client said the time spent on the Collaborative process was productive time in which the parties were directed and engaged with the team to identify issues, define their interests, and the issues at hand.  The Collaborative team members facilitated the couple’s discussions, which led to their finding a path to agreement on all their issues.

The presence of legal counsel, the financial expert and coaches resulted in the parties feeling safe enough to talk to each other directly about their goals, concerns, and needs for their individual futures. They found common ground in wanting what is best for the children.

Collaborative divorce may not suit those people who prefer blissful ignorance. But it is the wise choice for those who choose knowledge, even in a difficult and painful life transition.

 

Stress, Divorce and Down Dog

Yoga is one of many methods you can try to manage stress during a divorce.

By Win Heiskala, Certified Family Law Specialist
Attorney-Partner, Beatrice L. Snider Family Law Group

Stress. That is one word that comes to mind for most people when they think of divorce. Either their own or someone else’s divorce[1]. How to manage that stress? Obviously, the best way to handle any stress is to remove it, but that is not possible if you find yourself in the middle of a divorce process, either as the initiating party or responding. The divorce will happen and you need to be involved in important decisions affecting you and your family. Even if you think you are “in control” and have come to terms with the decision and the outcome, it is still one of the most emotional processes of your life.win-heiskala-photo

I am not a medical expert, nor is this a medical/mental health article, but it seems fairly well documented that stress is hazardous to one’s physical and emotional health. And, based on experience and observation, your stress (anxiety, anger, fear) can be very hazardous to those around you. Your children can be irrevocably damaged by your inability to control the negative emotions of a divorce, your workplace will only tolerate so much, and your friends can be quickly exhausted.

So, what to do? You are already overloaded to make time for attorneys, accountants, therapists, and the inevitable repair people for those appliances that always decide to break down during this upheaval. But there must be space for some time for you. Find the time.  I recommend you spend that time at the closest Iyengar[2] yoga studio, and begin lessons at whatever level is recommended to you.

Focusing on your mind/body connection, through methodical, specific instruction can result in a calmer, more centered you.

Meditation in yoga is experienced, not by sitting staring into space, but by concentrating on the movement of specific parts of your body with awareness and attention. It is difficult to think of one’s problems when you are attempting to remember the multiple points it takes just to stand straight (let alone on your head – but you won’t be asked to do that in the first class). And you are the arbiter of what you will do in class – it is your body. The alignment of your body, in and of itself, provides calmness and clarity of thought. A backbend can provide joy (that won’t happen first class either).  The release of tension can be immediate and lasting.

Yoga is one of many methods you can try to manage stress during a divorce.

Yoga is one of many methods you can try to manage stress during a divorce.

In the Iyengar discipline of yoga, you are encouraged to ultimately establish your own “home” practice as well as attend classes. Yoga is good for any body, at any age, regardless of any physical limitations. Obviously, there are no guarantees and much depends on the time and effort expended. This is not an ad for yoga. I am not a paid representative of Iyengar yoga. There is no contract to sign. It is a pay as you go system. No commitment is expected except your own commitment to your own mental, emotional and physical well being. Try it!

[1] As an attorney I do feel obliged to make reference to the legal terminology of Dissolution of Marriage, but it is still commonly called Divorce by most.

[2] My yoga experience (of over 20 years) has been exclusively with this discipline of teaching. So I am not comfortable making a recommendation for any other method, but that is not to be interpreted as a negative for any other yoga discipline or course of study.

Don’t Divorce Alone: It Takes A Village

It takes a village to get through a divorce.

by Myra Chack Fleischer, CFL-S, Fleischer & Ravreby

As we start a new year, it is natural to take stock of your life and look for ways to improve your situation. Sometimes, this means facing the reality that a divorce is necessary for your emotional and sometimes financial health. January is the month with the most new divorce filings all year.

Attorney Myra Chack Fleischer, Fleischer & Ravreby, Carlsbad California

Attorney Myra Chack Fleischer, Fleischer & Ravreby, Carlsbad California

When a person makes the decision to get divorced, there are a lot of questions and concerns. Some are practical: Will the legal business be a nightmare? Will it cost me a fortune? Some are more personal: How will I ever get through it without breaking down?

Divorce is the most common legal matter that people try to handle by themselves, also referred to as “pro per.” A 2013 study found nearly three-quarters of all people getting divorced in the U.S. do so without an attorney.

Why does this happen? Many people think hiring a lawyer will be expensive, or stressful. They don’t anticipate any big arguments, and the paperwork looks simple enough. Just fill it out, pay the fee and you are done, right?

Not exactly. Often, people get started and discover a divorce involves a whole lot more than just legal paperwork. Court cutbacks in many states means less personnel to help you work your case through the system if anything is confusing or unclear. Mistakes can delay getting the divorce finalized for months while you are in limbo.

Divorce is never simple. It involves complex financial decisions that can affect you and your children for years to come. It involves emotional turmoil for most people: Anger. Grief. Fear. Anxiety. It makes the rest of every day life that much tougher.

Perhaps you think it’s self-serving for a family law attorney to advise people to hire a lawyer to handle your divorce. You should not stop there. For many divorces and any with children or significant financial assets, you need three key experts looking out for you.

First, find a family law attorney with expertise in divorce cases. Your attorney should hold family law specialty certification in your state. In California, look for the initials “CFL-S” for “Certified Family Law Specialist.”

After you have checked legal qualification, ask direct questions about his or her fees and how they work. You are entering a business agreement and you are hiring someone to work for you. Yes, it may get emotional, but this part should be handled as matter-of-factly as you can. Be honest and open about your finances. It will make things easier on everyone.

Attorneys aren’t quite as individual as snowflakes, but you may need to interview several before you find a good fit for your circumstances. Find out your attorney’s amount of experiences. Does your attorney tend to go to court or does he or she settle most cases outside of court? Some attorneys are better negotiators that litigators. Does the attorney represent mainly husbands or wives, or both equally? If you have a same sex marriage, find out how comfortable and experienced your attorney is with these new types of divorce cases. How much of your case will he or she handle personally? Meet any other professionals such as junior attorneys or paralegals and feel comfortable with them as well.

Next, it’s crucial to seek the services of a divorce financial planner. You may not be able to rely on your regular CPA or financial advisor. Find one specifically qualified to advise you on key aspects of the divorce process and how this will affect your assets. Look for a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) certification. This person will work with your attorney to oversee critical financial tasks outside a lawyer’s area of expertise. This individual will review the impact of your legal choices in the divorce on your financial and tax situation, especially in regard to a divorce settlement offer. This will strengthen your attorney’s ability to negotiate from a position of strength on your behalf.

Finally, don’t neglect your mental health needs. Long after the divorce is over from a legal and financial standpoint, you and your children will be feeling the effects of the emotional fallout. It is wise to bring in a mental health professional with training in family counseling. Divorce is an emotional experience unfolding in the midst of what is essentially a business deal. It can overwhelm you while you are struggling to focus on practical decisions about legal and financial issues. A therapist or divorce “coach” can help you cope with strong feelings while the divorce process unfolds and provide a safe place to express yourself. This allows you to avoid drama with your attorney and your financial planner.

It takes a village to get through a divorce.

It takes a village to get through a divorce.

What about the cost? It’s true hiring three professionals is more expensive than filing the paperwork on your own. But consider the risks you face on many levels. If you have any children or property, you can end up making mistakes or bad decisions that have a negative impact for the rest of your life. You could end up paying an attorney or other professionals down the road to fix the problems you created after the fact. Your kids could suffer emotional damage later that could seriously effect their future. Consider it an investment in yourself and your children for the long term. What is more important than this?

With the expertise of highly qualified, experienced legal, financial, and psychological professionals on your side, you will have all of the help you need to get through your divorce with a bright, secure future ahead of you and your family.

One way to find this kind of team to work with you is to consider the Collaborative Divorce method. Collaborative divorce is an alternative dispute resolution process to the typical adversarial divorce. A divorcing couple agrees that they will work together with family law attorneys, financial specialists, divorce coaches and child and family therapy specialists as a team outside the court system to resolve their differences. This team will help guide you through a divorce. These professionals often work together on a regular basis and can rely on each other’s specific expertise. You can still have significant disagreements with your spouse when you start this process, as long as you pledge to keep working and remain civil as much as you can until your situation is resolved.

The Collaborative Divorce process depends on the level of cooperation between the parties, their willingness and ability to commit to a healthy divorce, and the complexity (emotional and financial) of the case. It takes work. But it preserves the well-being, diginity and relationships of parents to children and even extended family. Collateral damage is minimized.

Copyright © 2014 by Fleischer & Ravreby, Attorneys at Law

Is Mediation or Litigation the Right Choice for My Divorce?

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

by Julia Garwood, Attorney at Lawjulia-garwood-photo
Family Law, Mediation and Collaborative Divorce
Garwood Family Law and Mediation

When heading toward the end of a marriage, many people ask what the difference is between divorce mediation and litigation. And beyond that, which one is right for them. There are numerous differences between divorce mediation and litigation, however the primary three include cost, decision-making and privacy.

Cost

Mediation is often much less expensive. Litigation can cost as much as six times the amount as mediation.

Decision-Making

A judge makes all the decisions in the case of litigation. This includes decisions about your children, division of property, alimony and even pets. However, through mediation, you and your spouse make the decisions together.

Level of Privacy

Mediation occurs in a private conference room and details never have to be disclosed publicly. Because of the public nature of the courtroom, when your divorce is litigated, all information is public record. That means all the details, including your finances and “dirty laundry,” are available to the public.

In order to help you decide whether mediation or litigation is right for you and your personal situation, below is a list of frequent situations when mediation and litigation are used.

Mediation is often used when:

  • You and your spouse mutually have decided to get a divorce.
  • You and your spouse can have a rational conversation in the same room.
  • You both realize that divorce is happening and you’re able to rationally approach the outcome.
  • You’re both willing to try to agree on issues like alimony, child custody, division of assets and child support.
  • Cost is a factor and you and your spouse want to incur as few costs as possible.
  • You both want to be active decision makers regarding the details of your divorce and don’t want to leave the final decisions for a judge to make.

Litigation is often used when:

  • One or both of you aren’t open to mediation.
  • One or both of you have difficulty conducting reasonable conversations.
  • There is a history of domestic violence or child abuse during the marriage.
  • Either you or your spouse has a drug or alcohol problem, impeding rational thinking and decision-making.
  • One or both of you is stalling or gathering information on the other spouse and don’t have any intention to settle. Sometimes spouses agree to mediation to stall the process or to gather information for later use against the other spouse during litigation.

While we’ve included some basic guidelines above, every situation is different. Consulting with a divorce attorney who is trained in Collaborative Family Law and/or a Certified Family Law Specialist including members of professional associations such as the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego, is the best avenue.

Discover Your Divorce Options at Workshop Oct. 22

Lessen the stress of divorce by learning about your alternatives 


September 26, 2014
Media Contact: Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR
619-997-2495 or gayle@falconvalleygroup.com

(SAN DIEGO) – 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. Learn about your alternatives at “Divorce Options.” The first “Divorce Options” workshop in San Diego takes place on Wednesday, October 22, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Hacienda Building, located at 12625 High Bluff Drive, Suite 111 in San Diego.

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.

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 presents a unique opportunity for the public to learn about resources they can draw on to plan an effective transition that respects the needs and interests of all family members,” said Shawn Weber, attorney and Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego member.  “It puts you in control of your own divorce instead of someone else who doesn’t know you or your family circumstances.”

Weber said the Divorce Options program is useful to 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.

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

By learning about divorce and the different process options available you can maximize your ability to make good decisions during the difficult and challenging time. Divorce Options is a workshop designed to help couples take the next step, no matter where they are in the process. It identifies strategies to help you stay out of court, and helps you identify the social, emotional, legal, and financial issues that are most pressing for you. There is no solicitation of business. The cost is $45 for materials. The materials fee is waived for mental health professionals to attend.

Questions? Call Divorce Options at (858) 472-4022 or email at sandiegodivorceoptions@gmail.com

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.

CFLGSD is online at www.collaborativefamilylawsandiego.com, and on LinkedIn.

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).

 

Collaborative Divorce Method Mirrors Reality, Replacing Fear With Relief

by Meredith G. Lewis, Esq
Certified Legal Specialist-Family Law
Certified Divorce Financial Analyst
Lewis, Warren & Setzer, LLP

For the first several years of my family law practice, I represented clients who were looking to the judicial system to make decisions regarding their children, finances and property.  These clients felt it appropriate to provide a judge who didn’t personally know anything about them with complete control over their future and that of their family.

A release of such control never seemed natural to me.

As I slowly transitioned my practice to only Alternate Dispute Resolution (“ADR”), I saw a much higher rate of satisfaction with the dissolution process among my clients.  Until 2013 my ADR practice focused mostly on mediation. At the suggestion of my friend and colleague  Shawn Weber, CFLS, I took the Collaborative training.

The training showed me that the Collaborative process and its outcome better reflected reality.  In the artificial environment of a courtroom, a judge is limited in his or her decisions by the Family Code and case law.  However, these code sections and court opinions often do not allow a judge to mirror reality.

I instantly realized during my first Collaborative case that it is a process which understands the needs of the parties.  The key moment of this realization was during the meeting addressing the issue of spousal support. Instead of plugging in numbers into a computer program to come up with an artificial support payment, we reviewed in detail each individual’s monthly budget, and allocated the combined net income appropriately.

This process insured each spouse’s necessary expenses were met, and even allowed some discretionary expenses to be covered.  The spousal support number was based on reality, and each person walked away from the meeting feeling confident he or she could financially survive post dissolution.

Best of all, their fear about the future was replaced by a sense of relief, which resulted in having control over how their lives would progress.

The team approach of the Collaborative dissolution was an invaluable tool for working with this family. As in any case, each had their own attorney for legal advice, but both also had the benefit of a financial expert providing knowledge and insight, and a mental health professional to address their emotions during the process. These are two key components which are often missing from the traditional divorce process.

The ultimate agreement and outcome of the case was one that in fact mirrored reality, allowing each individual to have control of his or her future – control that was never handed over to the impersonal judicial system.