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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...

Create a new tradition!

Create a New Tradition for Your New Family Dynamic This may be your first holiday season wearing your New Family suit, and it might  not feel as comfortable as you would like, so here are some ideas to help you find the joy in the season: New Family. You, your children, your coparent, and extended family on both sides are now part of a New Family. Treat each other with the care and compassion that you would treat your own family members (would you be snippy or sarcastic to your favorite aunt or beloved sibling?). Try to remember to approach all of your interactions while silently saying the words Compassion, Gratitude, and Harmony. It will help you focus on what’s important. Kids first. If you and your co-parent (notice, we don’t use the word “ex”) are focused on what will make the holidays best for the children, you will almost certainly do the right thing. That doesn’t mean competing to see who can out-spend or one-up the other. In fact, the best way to show your love may be to discuss and agree with your co-parent on what gifts the children will receive and then present them from both of you. You can also agree to alternate favorite activities, or attend together. For example, if a “sparkle tour” is a favorite Christmas Eve activity, rent a van and take along another family. It creates a sense of adventure for the children and gives you, as co-parents, a buffer zone of other people to interact with just in case things are tense. New Traditions. Memories of Christmas (or Thanksgiving, Hanukkah,...

Avoiding Financial Bedlam

In my last blog, I asked you to think about a question: Am I willing to turn over a significant percentage of my net worth in order to be divorced? Since you’re back to read more, I’m guessing you answered NO to that question and you’re ready to Avoid Financial Bedlam.  Here are a few ways to keep more of your cash when you’re getting divorced. Avoid litigation.  In my last blog, I introduced you to Tim and Kathy.  Even though they eventually reached settlement in their divorce, the path they took was pure litigation.  Their attorneys wrote rough letters and held long blustery phone conferences where nothing much was accomplished other than defending their clients’ polarized positions.  They filed motions and went to hearings, they argued over dishes and debts, they over-involved the children in their fights, and they both did so with the conviction that they were “right” and would have their “day in Court.”  They didn’t sit down at the settlement table until they were over a year into the process.  This is a sure path to Financial Bedlam. Reduce conflict.  Remember, Conflict = $$$.  The more conflict your attorney can create, the more money he/she will earn.  The more conflict you or your spouse create, the more money you will each pay to your attorneys to “resolve” your conflict.  If you solve your own problems, like responsible adults should, then you will reduce conflict and save money.  Make no mistake, even if it’s “the other side” causing the conflict, you’ll still be paying to put out the fires. Create a budget.  Tim and Kathy never budgeted their...

Financial Bedlam

Financial Bedlam.  That’s how one client described his divorce. Like many people seeking a divorce, “Tim” just wanted a short and simple divorce without a lot of fighting over “things.”  (No, it’s not really Tim. See Disclaimer.)  Tim, a small business owner, has the “entrepreneurial temperament,” which means that he is used to getting what he wants, when he wants it.  Divorce was no different, so Tim did a lot of pushing.  After all, he was being “fair” and his wife just needed to see his side of things. For “Kathy” (see Disclaimer), Tim’s wife of 17 years, divorce was not at all simple or easy.  At first, Kathy was devastated and in denial.  She was terrified of being on her own, grief-stricken that Tim would break up their family, and outraged that Tim had announced the divorce to her “out of the blue.”  Kathy felt that she was at battle with an unseen force (maybe another woman?), so she gathered the “troops” — her girlfriends, family, teachers at the children’s school, hair stylist, and anyone else who would listen — to let them know how Tim had failed the family.  Kathy got the validation she was seeking and many of those “troops” advised her to take Tim to the cleaners to teach him a lesson.  Their advice was well-intentioned, but the worst possible thing they could have said. So Kathy and Tim engaged the “best” lawyers they could afford.  Tim’s attorney made settlement offers, demands, threats, and filed motions, pushing Kathy and her lawyer to accept Tim’s offers “within 24 hours or else.”  Kathy dug in her heels and her attorney,...