Call Now: 1-480-951-6599

Blog


Mediation: Two Views

This month I worked with two very different couples in two very different mediations, and it occurred to me that if you are in the divorce process, you know nothing of other clients’ experiences, which might be helpful in making a decision about mediation. Here’s the back story:  Couple A (let’s call them Anne and Arturo) and Couple B (Ben and Barb) have more than a few things in common.  They are all working professionals, but at different levels of pay.  Both couples have one young child (Abby and Boris).  They both have moderate debt and assets.  They are all smart and capable, and they all want a divorce that preserves their sanity, resources, and relationship as co-parents of their children.  And both couples chose mediation as the vehicle for settling their divorce. Anne and Arturo have a very communicative relationship, even now, in the midst of divorce.  They share equal time with Abby and talk about her to each other all the time.  Anne tends to be more outgoing and decisive, while Arturo is more quiet and contemplative.  They have been working through their issues in mediation two hours at a time for several months.  We are almost at resolution, with only a few details left to hammer out, and Anne and Arturo both needed this time to fully process and absorb the agreements they were making.  They have thoroughly reviewed their settlement documents at least three times, and are giving them a final review before signing.  Anne and Arturo have repeatedly told me how much they appreciate the fact that we never rush or pressure them to agree to anything they don’t understand or...

How to Choose A Divorce Attorney

My cousin (who is also an attorney, but not in Arizona and not in family law) sent me a message a few days ago, on behalf of her friend who is getting divorced.  Jana’s question was, “how does Amy choose a divorce attorney and what questions should she be asking?”   By the time I was finished with the email, I realized that there are probably lots of “Amy” people in the world (both men and women) who are bewildered, confused, scared, and stressed, but still need to make a smart decision.  Here’s what I told Amy ~ First, you should decide what kind of divorce you want: do-it-yourself with legal consulting and/or drafting of documents, mediation, arbitration, Collaborative Divorce, negotiated settlement, or litigation. Those are listed in order of expense from under $2,000 to $50,000 and up.  There’s more information on our Services page that describes these options.  This is probably the most critical step in the process, because not all attorneys are suited to all types of divorce. Then, when you have decided what kind of divorce you want, you should call several therapists and NON-family law firms and ask for a referral to a family law attorney for (i.e.) mediation. If you get the same name twice, you’ll know that the person is at least somewhat respected by their peers. I don’t recommend asking friends for a referral because most people who get a divorce either think their attorney was the best or worst that ever lived with no frame of reference other than their own divorce. Now that you have an idea of what kind of divorce you want and have a list of attorneys to call, you should get...

Divorce Recovery = Prevention

We are all familiar with the horror stories about nasty divorces, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, taking years to complete, and leaving the family in ruins.  Unfortunately, that scenario (or one similar) is pretty much the norm in our society.  The emotion-fueled “intimate war” is promoted and glamorized by Hollywood divorces, daytime television, greedy lawyers, and unenlightened spouses who want to have their “pound of flesh” for sins both real and imagined.  Can you ever recover from such a traumatic and devastating experience?  Maybe, with a lot of counseling and inner reflection.  On the other hand, we are now seeing the fallout from those types of divorces in adult children — books and web articles abound and none other than Oprah has featured adult children of divorce on her wildly popular talk show.  If you are the divorced person, there are (according to Google) 1.36 million resources on the web, including support groups in every city, at most places of worship, and at community centers. From where I sit, I think the best recovery program is prevention.  Rather than having to experience and then recover from a bitter and harrowing divorce experience, why not nip it in the bud and avoid the mess in the first place? What?  Too difficult to bite your tongue and put aside your base instincts in favor of a peaceful divorce?  Well, here’s a news flash.   That’s what divorce litigators are counting on.  Want to drag out all the dirty laundry and make your spouse “pay” for their bad acts?  Yippee!  That means more (and more) billable hours!  Can’t bring yourself to have a civil conversation about exchanging...

Summer Vacation

Summer Vacation is just around the corner — only a few weeks away!  I know, it’s hard to believe, and that means trips, child care, and camp.  To make sure that you and your co-parent are on the same page, make sure to review your parenting orders and start planning now.  Here are some things to consider: Give timely notice of your vacation plans, if it’s required by your orders.  Don’t wait until the last minute to let your co-parent know your vacation dates.  Remember, holidays trump vacation, so pay attention to Memorial Day and Independence Day holidays. Provide a detailed itinerary, including mode of travel, route, flight numbers (if applicable), hotel or lodging information, phone numbers, and departure and arrival times.  No, it’s not too much information and it’s not about control or permission.  This type of information can be critical in the event of an emergency situation. Coordinate the child care or summer camp that your child will be attending so that there is no unnecessary overlap or expense.  One-sided decisions about where Joey and Suzi will be spending their summer days is not endearing to your co-parent! Extended family visits require additional coordination.  If you want the kids to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s farm for a month during the summer, consider how that may impact  your co-parent’s summer plans before you make a promise you can’t keep.  First, talk it over with your co-parent to find out if it’s feasible and then consider whether the two of you want to agree on some “make up” time.  Some co-parents simply agree that time away from both parents is “regular” parenting...

Sell, Hold, Short Sell, Foreclose?

Oh my, we are in a pickle here in Arizona.  Our real estate bubble burst with a bang and left many homeowners under water and holding real estate — and debt — without equity.  We’re not alone in that dilemma, but we are one of the hardest hit areas of the country and are regularly featured in national news stories about the mortgage lending and foreclosure crisis. If you are living in an upside down house, love it beyond reason, and intend to stay there the rest of your life, then it’s probably a good idea to hang onto it.  However, if you’re in the midst of a divorce or break up and one salary won’t cover the carrying costs, you are probably having a very different conversation.  And that conversation can be making you anxious, stressed, depressed, sad, angry, resentful, or all of the above!  While there are many opinions and theories about what you “should” do or “should not” do regarding underwater real estate, in the final analysis, it is a very personal financial decision.  It is not (or should not be) an emotional decision.  Houses are investments, in the form of real property, that you and/or your marital community made.  The investment is neither good nor bad.  The return on investment, however, has made millionaires of some and bankrupted many thousands more. Clients ask me all the time, “Should we sell, hold, short sell, or foreclose?”  While I don’t pretend to have all the answers to every issue that one simple question implies, I do have two answers.  One, please call on a professional to assist you in evaluating the issue.  I recommend...

Flat Fees Are Finally Here!

Billable Hours Lawyers are taught at the outset of our careers that the Billable Hour rules the world.  Coming from the business community, I always found the billing practices of law firms to be rather odd.  In most other service industries, the customer obtains a quote or bid or scope of work that outlines what you will pay for the work you want done.  Law firms (as well as accounting, and some other professions), on the other hand, almost always operate on an open-ended contract that often brings a frightful surprise to clients at the end of the month.  A common analogy is taking your car to the garage for repair and the mechanic informs you that he might be able to fix your car, but he’s not sure how long it will take and can only tell you what it will cost when he’s finished fixing it.  Another good comparison is hiring someone to paint your house by the hour.  Either way, an open-ended hourly system of billing invites inefficiencies and does not serve our clients as well as we should. Variable Costs of Litigation Legal fees can vary greatly from firm to firm and can increase exponentially with even a little bit of conflict between the parties.  It’s been very difficult for the Family Law bar to adopt flat fees because of the moving target of litigation.  For example, given two cases that have almost identical fact patterns, assets, and liabilities, Case A’s litigated divorce will cost around $30,000 each and Case B”s litigated divorce will cost in excess of $150,000 each.   And it’s hard to know, in advance, which case an attorney might...

What’s Your Everest?

I was inspired to blog about this topic from — of all things — a Champion sportswear ad that posed the question and went on to say, “The summit awaits each of us — and the symbolism of Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world, can help us achieve our own goals and dreams.”  I see their “Everest” on the faces of people who are struggling through a divorce, who have been climbing a long ascent with few resources and no summit in sight.  They are physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially exhausted and overwhelmed.  Just like a person climbing Everest, every step is a monumental effort, and they are constantly battling fatigue, depression, limited resources, isolation, and defeat.  Some people never make it to the “summit” of divorce — they never experience the relief of closure, resolution, and peaceful acceptance.  Recently, a friend told me about a couple who were about to appear for another (their 8th in 10 years) post-decree hearing in Court, this time regarding parenting time.  These two have not been able to attain their summit in the traditional divorce model.  Years (many years) after their divorce, they are still struggling to reach the “top” or at least the end of their climb, but — like many who attempt Everest — they ran out of tools long ago.  The only resource left to them was their “position,” which rarely serves the needs of the children or parents.  Here were two people that — individually — have so many strengths and talents.  But together, they are unable to climb that last mile to the summit of closure and resolution, so they just keep on trudging.  Their children...

Are You Insane?

Albert Einstein (a fairly smart fellow) said that the definition of insanity was “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  In that respect, it’s fairly simple to self-diagnose!  If you’ve been doing the same things over and over and still expect to see different results, you might be insane … or, you might be giving a conditioned response. Insanity needs attention from someone trained in psychiatry.  (Not my gig.) Conditioned responses need attention from you, because the only cure for the conditioned response is awareness and a willingness to change.  So what does this have to do with family law?  As it turns out, quite a lot.  You see, if you are repeatedly responding in an unhealthy way to conflicts or issues with your co-parent, expecting THEM to change, you’re probably going to be disappointed (at the very least). Here’s an example of conditioned responses (CR): You:  I’ll be there at 6 to pick up Andrew and Emily. Them (Pushing Your Button):  I told you that I needed to leave at 6.  Be here at 5:30 or not at all. You (CR):  You didn’t tell me that.  Besides, the orders say 6 and that’s when I’ll be there. Them (CR):  You heard me.  5:30 or don’t bother. You (CR):  I have to work for a living, so I’ll be there at 6. Them (CR):  Don’t bother because we won’t be here. You (CR):  Fine. I just won’t bother following court orders, but I’ll be calling my lawyer in the morning. Them (CR):  Fine.  Go ahead. But you still won’t see the kids tonight. You (CR):  Screw you!...

Are You Above Average?

Are you Above Average?  You might think so, but you’re probably not when it comes to divorce. Becoming Above Average is not nearly as hard as it sounds.  When it comes to family law matters, you don’t have to have a low percent of body fat, high IQ, big bank account or a lot of letters behind your name to be Above Average.  All you need is a little bit of knowledge and the will to use it.  In this blog series, I’ve introduced you to Tim and Kathy, a fictional couple who represent the Average Divorce.  They spent more than half their net worth and two and a half years of their lives litigating their divorce.  They depleted their savings, their available credit, and their health.  Their kids went through a traumatic custody evaluation and the family business is facing bankruptcy.  They are the poster couple for the Average Divorce.  If you don’t believe me, just ask around! So how do you avoid falling into the Average Divorce trap?  How do you become Above Average?  Here are a few ideas: Know Yourself:  Investing in some therapy will help you know yourself better, learn what your weaknesses are, and understand how to  communicate with your spouse around issues of co-parenting and finances. Know Your Money:  Engaging an independent divorce financial planner can save you and your spouse hundreds (even thousands) of dollars in legal fees, lost opportunity, and taxes. Know Your Kids:  Hiring a child specialist to help you understand your children’s developmental needs is less expensive and invasive than a custody evaluation, but can provide valuable insight into what’s best for the...