Strategic plan family court
Strategic Plan Divorce Custody

Creating a strategic plan in business is a must if that business wants to increase its chances of success. Having one usually indicates that the business is serious about mapping its short and long-term goals. It also means that they are dedicated to putting measures in place to reach them. Having a detailed plan based on your values and beliefs is a win-win. So why wouldn’t you create one for any aspect of your personal life? Particularly where the goals are extremely important and significant, why not plot out a plan. A strategic plan in divorce or custody is brilliant.

Your divorce or custody is more than likely consuming a huge part of your life… right? I mean it does not matter who you are, where you are located, how much money you have it’s daunting.  The Family Court experience is full of surprises. And one of the best ways to prepare for the unexpected is to prepare for the unexpected. A strategic plan is certain to do just that.


Imbalance of Power Custody Divorce


What is a Strategic Plan?

A strategic plan in divorce or custody is a roadmap that sets specific goals for your case. It considers all the facts & information relevant to your issues, no matter the source. It then requires you to use this data to focus on your personal values and beliefs to create a vision. This vision is made up of your long and short-term goals for yourself and your family. Then, creating a specific layout to achieve those goals requires a deeper understanding of the information gathered. The layout incorporates your strengths and weaknesses, measured against threats and opportunities.  This results in you producing a course of action to reach those goals. It is a roadmap, diagram, course of action, game plan to achieve success in Family Court.

Why Should You Have a Strategic Plan for your Family Court case?

As I mentioned, having a strategic plan increases your chances of success no matter what area of your life. And the reality is that you want to get the results you want no matter which side you are on in divorce or custody. Having a plan helps you to map out your goals for your family.

These goals include-

All these goals might have a place in your short and long-term goals. It is for you to decide which ones do and how to prioritize them. Because how you approach them depends on how important they are to you. And the more aligned the two are increased chances of success.

How Do You Create Strategic Plan?

The first step is to take an honest look at your current situation. This is difficult to do, but it needs to be done with as much objectivity as possible. You must dig deep and look wide to assess your financial, personal, emotional/mental, and legal circumstances. It is best that you take your time with this part because any oversights can ruin your efforts overall. Also, it is important to ask trusted loved ones for their insight as well to ensure that the assessment is accurate.

Next, you will spend time creating a detailed list of your opposing party’s position.  Look at the things they are requesting, their current situation, their past behaviors, etc. You do not have to be 100% accurate, but the more you are able to the better.

Then you will need to look at both lists to help you to create your vision. Your vision should consist of what your future family life looks like. For example, what does co-parent look like, what is your future financial situation, and so on.

From there, you will need to identify your strengths and weaknesses. This means classifying those things you produced in the first step, as strengths or weaknesses. They can be physical, legal, practical, financial or anything that has a direct impact on your divorce or custody.

After that, you will need to go beyond your lists to gather information directly related to the legal aspects of your family law case.  This includes your opponent’s position, the court venue/jurisdiction, policy issues, the laws, the judges, basically anything that is outside of your control.

Once you have gone through all these steps, you are able to create a plan by applying these to your overall goals.

When Should You Create a Strategic Plan?

Right now! Contact me to discuss how I can help.

Results of Having a Strategic Plan

You are better able to circumvent the destructive practices of the Family Court. Not only are you more prepared to deal with the Family Court’s bias and unfair treatment, but you also build confidence as a result.

Choosing to be Pro Se, as opposed to having an attorney, can be strategic.  Although most jurists discourage Family Court parties represent themselves, there are times when it’s advantageous.

Being a victim of your opponent is also off the table. Having a plan in place helps to become empowered. The exercise of creating the strategy is itself is empowering.

Having a better understanding of the Family Court process is also an advantage of having a strategic plan. Every step of the process covers every facet of the Family Court journey, and that is by design. You will most certainly be able to highlight the issues that are most important to the judge, which is extremely important.

In Conclusion

So, if you want to increase your chances of “winning” this is an excellent start. There is endless data on the importance of having a strategic plan in place. Even though the data available relates to business strategic plans, there is no sound reason it would not apply in divorce or custody.

If you would like to see how I can help you create the best Strategic Plan for your specific case, please visit here.

Related Tag: Child Custody

It is not unheard of that parties in divorce or custody have unequal playing fields.  In several different family dynamics, one party can assert the decision-making authority or power to dominate the relationship.  Whether it be financial, physical, mental, or emotional, when one party has more to lose than the other, chances are there is an imbalance of power. The imbalance of power in custody or divorce can create a nightmare for all involved.  Most high-conflict cases stem from some unequal distribution of power or authority within the family.  Not to mention, contempt cases tend to happen more in instances.  Violating custody orders that came out of these dynamics is bound to happen.


Family Court Legal Terms, Commonly Used & Misused, Explained-PT I

Imbalance of Power Defined

During divorce or custody, an imbalance of power can exist in a few ways.  It may be something that pre-exists or that occurred as a result of turmoil associated with their Family Court Custody case.  Let’s take a look at situations where an imbalance was a part of the family unit before divorce or custody.   Many families have situations where one person is the breadwinner while the other stays home to raise the children.  And even though the parties’ contribution to the marriage is considered “equal” in a practical sense they may not be.

The breadwinner usually has the resources to hire a lawyer, move out of the home, give the children things out of the question for the other parent, and so on.  Having the means to do these sorts of things certainly puts that party in a more advantageous position concerning their case. This is an example of an imbalance of power in the financial sense.   But the imbalance can be mental, emotional, and physical too.  Anytime one party has substantially more to lose than the other, unfairly especially, there is an imbalance of power.

In relationships where there is physical, mental, and/or emotional abuse, an imbalance of power most certainly exists.  The victim of abuse almost always has no authority in the decision-making process or no power to exert authority in the relationship.

Sometimes an imbalance is created merely by using the children as pawns.  In parental alienation cases, for instance, one parent maliciously brainwashes or programs their child, resulting in hatred against the other.  This can lead to outcomes that are not based on the merits but on the power or authority one has over the other.

Why is Imbalance of Power Detrimental

Where there is an imbalance in power in divorce or custody, someone will undoubtedly lose.  The loss can be short-term or long-term, financial, mental, legal, or even physical.  The acquiescent party, for example, can be strong-armed into agreeing to joint custody knowing that that’s not what’s best for their child.  And in this case, the child “loses” too.  Unequal distribution of power can make negotiation difficult too.  In instances where the issues are pretty straightforward and ripe for settlement, an imbalance of power can unfairly shift things in the empowered party’s favor.

This happens often in Family Court and is major reason cases end catastrophically.  Principles like “the best interests of the child” don’t hold up because the power imbalance prevails instead.  This is disastrous because that empowered parent can shift his or her need to control to the child.

Not all situations are doomed in which there is an unequal distribution of power or authority.

Can You Level the Playing Field

In some cases, there is no leveling the playing field.  However, there are times when the parties (or others involved) can shift the focus.   In mediation, for example, the mediator is skilled at using tactics to shift the focus to the acquiescent party’s favor.  Mediators are trained to use specific methods to help bring important topics to the forefront.  These tactics don’t necessarily take the power away from the empowered party, but they certainly help to keep it at bay.

Another method is to become informed.  Knowledge is extremely important in shifting the focus or redirecting the control of the empowered party.  Arming oneself with all the information and relevant resources can help the acquiescent discover strengths they were unaware of.

A support system is crucial to shifting the imbalance as well.  Oftentimes, the party with the least authority or power builds confidence and strength just from having a supportive team around them.

In conclusion

Be mindful of your particular circumstances.  It is extremely important to be very honest with your intentions, your goals, and your present situation.  This will help you to prepare for what’s to come without losing out on what matters most.

This strategic action plan workbook is 27 pages of extremely useful tips & resources; exercises; worksheets and MUCH MORE!!!

About the Family Court Strategic Action Plan Workbook:

Family Court parties are usually the most overwhelmed, disappointed and victimized of any other court venue.  For several reasons, people that are embroiled in a Family Court, either divorce or custody, case often feel like they are at their wits end fighting for their families.  One of the main reasons parties feel disappointed and discouraged is because of the lawyers failure to provide adequate representation.  Another major reason, is because the Family Court system is destructive to families.  The laws are often overlooked, the procedures are applies arbitrarily and the judges are extremely biased.  So what are the parties to do when they are forced to litigate their case in court in spite of all of these flaws?  What they should do is not give up….NEVER give up! They owe it to their children to speak up for them, to ensure that their well-being is not overlooked and to protect their future.


Your Support System, “Village”: Key Part of Your Strategic Plan


There is a saying “if you can’t beat them then join them”.  This is definitely applicable and justified in Family Court.  It’s a system that can’t “beat” because they have the power and the authority.  So you can “join” them or align with the court by learning to “play” by their rules. How do you do that? I’m glad you ask.  You need to use something that IS on your side….STRATEGY!  The judge and court have the law and power and authority……………..but you have STRATEGY!

What is STRATEGY and how does it even apply to your Family Court case?  It is the practical and tactical steps you take to achieve your specific goal.  Strategy can apply to any aspect of life where you set goals, aspirations, missions, etc. It’s a matter of  deciding that you will do whatever it takes to achieve success by reaching those goals.  You do have goals in mind with respect to your Family Court case, right?  I mean you are not blindly going through the process without a desired outcome are you?  Well, even if you have been up til this point, it’s time to change that.  You need to approach this aspect of your life as if your life depended on it, because in all reality this is YOUR LIFE!

Strategy is where the practical and the legal overlap.   There is a practical path to get through the process in addition to the legal one.  The problem is that lawyers are only concerned with the legal path.  And the practical side is often overlooked or misguided because litigants need guidance here too.  So, what typically happens in this instance. The parties wind up being forced to settle or getting slammed at trial and feeling victimized by the whole ordeal.  No one wins in Family Court, but not everybody has to lose it all either. But had a solid strategy been developed, followed and revised when necessary, the outcome would have been different.

That’s what this Workbook helps the user to develop, strategy.  It provides information and exercises that will help the user develop a strategy using a step by step process.

It Includes:

This is ideal for ANYONE going through Family Court, divorce or custody case, that would like to approach the process from a proactive stance.   Whether self-represented or represented by an attorney, this Workbook will supplement anything you’ve been using to help you navigate your case.  As a first step or supplement to what you’re already doing, this is a very valuable resource for any Family Court litigant.

If you are interested in other services to supplement the workbook, i.e. consulting/coaching, Group/Membership programs or other Unbundled Services, please feel free to schedule a call to discuss them today.

Your Support System, “Village” in your Strategic Plan

One major component of strategic planning is having a support system or a “village”. Not just any support system but one comprised of people with various backgrounds or roles. Of course, having family, friends, support groups, etc. is important during divorce or custody.  Your friend who has never been married has a perspective that’s different than your great-aunt who has been for 50 years. The roles or positions each of them plays, particularly because of their life experiences, is even more critical.  The reason being, you are more able to anticipate your ex’s or soon to be ex’s moves when you have different perspectives to consider. As you know, everything for me is about strategy, so being able to foresee your opponent moves is key.

 


Using Cost-Benefit Analysis to Your Benefit in Family Court


 

Assess Your Values

Everyone has or should have a role in your divorce or custody situation and their role serves a purpose. Family/friends, mental health professionals, legal experts, financial services and so on. When you take a good long look at your values, you can use the members of your support system as a guide.  Your values force you to look at the things that matter most to you and how much you want to honor them.  That means, family, health, happiness, etc., these elements should not be viewed in a vacuum.

 

Know Your Mission

This requires a look at your life journey and purpose.  It includes those values you assessed earlier on, but now has you putting those in perspective.  You should have an overall vision of where you are headed in your life post-divorce or custody (although custody can go on what seems like an eternity.) Your village also plays a part in your vision.  They can help you get there in a theoretical sense, as well as a practical one.

Divorce and custody can…I’m sorry…it will, completely uproot your life.   Your financial situation drastically changes, your emotional state is forever distorted and your mental being is constantly challenged. Your mission for your life as a spouse or even before parenthood completely changes once you are enthralled in divorce or custody.

 

Your Analysis

You need to do a SWOT on yourself and on your overall case.  Yes, you took time to assess your values, dug deeper to come up with a mission, now you need to look at your personal self.  But here’s the thing, you shouldn’t do this on your own.  Your strong and diverse support system will be ideal in helping you in this phase of your strategy.   Your SWOT analysis requires you to look at your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Identifying your strengths, with respect to the divorce or custody, directs you (or your village) to look at the advantages you have over your ex or soon to be ex; the values that you have that they don’t; the resources you have and so on.

Your weaknesses, where it’s harder to be objective, looks at the areas you lack confidence; the limited resources available to you; your personality traits that make you vulnerable in this particular situation and so on.

The opportunities available to you include things like, the help and support your village can provide in the deficient areas; the ability for you to acquire skills to improve your limitations and so on.

Pinpointing threats forces you to look at obstacles that stand in your way; the potential for any change in your other positions to become a detriment and so on.

The SWOT analysis must be done very carefully, honestly, and methodically.  It can cause tons of discomfort and force you to step outside of your comfort zone, but the benefits are endless. Your village’s cooperation and participation are very important if the SWOT is to be effective.

 

Wrap it All Up

You should not go into your divorce or custody without a plan, theme, or a strategy.   Does not matter what you call it, the important thing is that you give some time and attention to developing a thorough, well thought out plan for every phase of the process.  You cannot, nor should you, do it all on your own.   It takes a combination of skills, talents, and traits to create the best strategy and that’s where your village comes in.

Take your time, get your emotions in check, and clear your mind.

 

In Conclusion

When facing divorce or custody, it is not unheard of to seek help from therapists, church, friends, family, etc.  But I wanted to show you a different perspective in how they can help you get through the process with a clear vision and plan.  You increase your chances of getting better outcomes when you take the time to cultivate a village of supporters who bring something different to the equation.

If you need help with strategy in your Family Court matter, feel free to schedule a FREE consultation here. 

A lot of people think stay-at-home moms are a thing of the past.  There are certainly tons of people who have no idea that dads stay at home too.  The decision to stay at home can be based on a variety of reasons but the main one is financial between the parents and divorce. The costs of daycare have skyrocketed in the past decade, making it more logical for one parent to stay home than pay. There are a lot of things that should be taken into consideration when the family makes this decision.

 

The Impact of Divorce On Stay at Home Parents

There are several things that come up in divorces, but particularly in one where one party was the stay at home or homemaker. Finances is a major issue in households with one wage earner when it comes to divorce.   Alimony or spousal support, child support and property division are all common topics that require attention when a divorce action is started.  The stay-at-home party usually needs some financial support to continue while the wage earner usually disagrees.

  1. Alimony or Spousal Support

Most states have a law that allows litigants to sue the other for financial support.  Each state differs in what it considers but some factors are pretty much across state lines.  For example, the duration of the marriage, the employability or work history of the parties, the financial resources, just to name a few.  Most states limit alimony to a set number of years based on the duration of the marriage, the age & health of the parties and the number of years it would take for the non-wage earner to become gainfully employed.  Some states, particularly community property states, do not have any laws for alimony.  Community property states that ALL property acquired during the marriage is subject to equal distribution.


Property Division in Divorce


The stay-at-home parent who was never employed or has no employable skills, due to being out of the workforce, has an advantage. The “employability” of that party is a major factor to consider in how long alimony should go on for.  As does their financial resources, the time it takes for them to find a job and the standard of living they enjoyed during the marriage.  These are all the factors specifically relevant to stay at home partners or homemakers.

  1. Property Distribution or Division

Property is subject to be divided in the divorce when it was acquired during the marriage. Property division laws follow one of two principles.  Some states have “equitable distribution”, while others are “community property” states.    Equitable distribution laws look at what is “fair” to the parties based on a few factors.   Those factors can include the contribution each party made to the acquisition of the property, the length of the marriage, an award of alimony (it is amount and duration) and the loss of health insurance benefits because of the divorce.  In community property states, however, the marital property is divided equally no matter what if it is considered marital (as opposed to being classified as separate property.)

  1. Child Support

Child Support is determined by the state’s guidelines (statute) and is therefore usually straightforward with respect to calculations.  The problems come up when the wage earner is self-employed, works “off the books”, gets high commissions and bonuses or something similar where income is difficult to determine.  So, with respect to stay at home party in the divorce, the only issue that is highly relevant is if the guidelines allow for deviation from the calculations.   Deviating from the state’s guidelines usually requires that certain elements be present in your case.  For example, in New York the courts are allowed to deviate from the Child Support Standards Act (“CSSA”) if the combined income of the parties is $154,000 or more.

So, if the wage earner in your case makes a reported income of at least $154,000, the court can look at each parent’s finances; educational needs of the parents; the income differences between the parents; the lifestyle if the family had remained intact-these factors are relevant in stay-at-home situations.   Although each state has their own guidelines, they may have similar provisions for considering the stay-at-home parent’s circumstances.

  1. Child Custody

When it comes to child custody, it is conceivable that the stay-at-home parent would be in the better position to gain custody of the children.   However, the best interests’ factors help the court determine who should have custody, physical and legal.  (Read here for the best interests’ standards.) The parent that stayed at home with the children is not automatically the more “fit” parent or the one that will be more likely to fulfill the children’s mental, emotional, physical, and intellectual needs. Parents who work outside of the home can be considered as “fit” or as suitable to provide a safe, loving, and nurturing environment as the homemaker parent.


Best Interests of the Child Custody Each State 


Only some states have specific best interests’ factors, while others have more like guiding principles. The states that have set out factors have implicitly left out the financial resources of each parent as a top of the list consideration.  However, some states have factors that have a more direct impact on the circumstances of stay-at-home parents.  Factors like, the need for continuation of a stable home, adjustments to school and community and parenting ability to provide a safe, nurturing environment.  These factors can have a negative or positive influence on custody since the financial means of the stay-at-home parent will be disrupted.   Maintaining a connection within the community the children are most familiar, staying in the home they are most familiar with, and parenting ability are all indirectly (or directly).  Stay at home parents must make huge adjustments, mainly because of finances, that will cause some inevitable disruptions for them and their children.

 

In conclusion

Deciding if either parent should stay home to raise the children and be a homemaker is a decision that requires the undesirable thought of its implication on divorce.  Although it might suit the family’s circumstances at the time, it can definitely create issues later on.

 

If you wish to discuss our services and how they can help you in your family law matter, please feel free to schedule a FREE 15min consultation.

Property Division in Divorce

One of the major issues that often comes up in divorce is splitting property or assets. Marriage is usually as much about economics as it is about emotion so how property is divvied up is key. Consequently, parties typically pursue their entitled interests in assets and/or finances as part of the divorce. How assets or property division in divorce when they are distributed and what each party gets are all important where the parties accumulated finances and/or personal or real property.


Part 1 – Family Court Frequently Asked Questions


The Economics of Marriage

One of the basic principles of marriage is that the union would improve the economic status of the parties, and the family. Traditionally, the wife was a homemaker while the husband was employed outside of the home. This arrangement did not necessarily increase the couple’s financial status but often it afforded the parties the opportunity to establish a reputable status. Since the late 70s, however, women working outside of the home while their husband worked became more acceptable. Financial success was the objective in most cases, even though for some it was a matter of necessity.

On the other hand, women choosing to stay home to raise a family was still a preference for many. As a result, many of these women were unable to accumulate any financial security on their own since they did not earn an income. When they divorced, they were left in a much worse financial state than when they married. So, the property division laws started to develop in various states to address this.

The Economics of Divorce

It was not until the early to mid-1980s that states started to see marriage as an economic partnership. Society finally started to accept the idea that marriage was as much about economic success as it was emotional. As a result, state legislators started to enact laws that addressed how financial and property accumulation during marriage should be split upon divorce.

First, property must be identified. Property acquired during marriage needs to be ascertained to ensure fairness.
Next, estimating time of acquisition of the property is important. Property acquired before marriage is usually considered separate property. Separate property (property acquired before marriage, by inheritance or gifts) is often excluded from division in divorce. (Although there are instances where separate property may be subject to distribution based on your state’s laws.) And last, a clear understanding of how your state splits assets determines the final award.


Part 2 – Family Law Frequently Asked Questions


Property Division Laws

States use one of two principles with respect to property division, either community property or equitable distribution.

Community property states are Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. These states laws indicate that property acquired by either spouse during the span of the marriage is considered marital property and subject to be divided equally. (This may not apply to separate property or property either party possessed before the marriage.) Each state may have exceptions what they consider marital, how it is to be split and so on.

Equitable Distribution states are the other 41 states. The equitable distribution states are of the belief that marital assets are to be divided “equitably” or fairly, which is not necessarily equally. In these states the parties may receive a percentage of the overall value of marital property as opposed to actual splitting down the middle. In addition, the parties can wind up with a variety of assets and liabilities as property division in equitable distribution states.

Scenarios for Property Division

A. Wife inherits a farm ranch a year before she marries Husband. The parties move onto the property after they wed. Husband works on the farm and increases its value over the course of their 14-year marriage. In the divorce he asks for half of the value of the property based on his contributions. In a community property state, he would probably not be entitled to anything. But in an equitable distribution state, he might be entitled to some percentage of the increased value that accumulated during the 14 years.

B. Husband receives a $120,000 gift from his parents during marriage to Wife. Upon divorce, Wife seeks to have this gift included in the property division part of the case. In either community property or equitable distribution, she would not be entitled to any portion of the money. However, if she contends that the money was meant as a gift to both, then she has a chance to prevail.

C. Take Scenario B, Husband deposits the cash into the couples’ joint account. In an equitable distribution state, this is considered “comingled” assets and subjects the money to property division.

D. Take Scenario B, Husband buys a vacation home that has both parties’ names on the deed. Again, this is considered “comingled” and subjects the property to division.

In Conclusion

It is important to understand the consequences of divorce upon financial success or property acquisition. Not that you should have these thoughts before marriage, although there is nothing wrong with this thinking that is what prenuptials are for. But keeping these things in mind before divorce can help you prepare better. In addition, for purposed of negotiating having some insight on property division is extremely helpful.

If you wish to discuss your divorce and how I can help please feel free to schedule a free consultation Consultation

Family Court
Family Court Frequently Asked Questions

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As many of you know, I am quite active in the online space with my audience.  This is very helpful for me personally and professionally, as it allows me to stay current on the issues like the family court matters that are most important to my community.  On a personal level, I am able to connect with people from all over the world, which is rewarding itself.

 

One of the things that I do daily is encourage my audience to ask questions.  As a result, what I have noticed is that there is a lot of misinformation being circulated.  In addition, I realized that people tend to have the same concerns regardless of their location, status or position (in their case).  So I have decided to dedicate this week’s blog to those common questions, providing some clear answers.


Parent Education in Divorce or Custody Matters

Frequently Asked Questions

 1. Should I file a divorce or custody petition first?

Read my blog on this topic but the short answer is, it depends.  If you are seeking divorce on specific “grounds” like adultery then you should file first.  However, if your circumstances meet the requirements for a “no-fault” divorce, then it may not matter.  In situations where there is property and you are concerned that your ex/soon to be ex will hide it, then you may want to file first.  However, filing first does not guarantee better success, it may just afford you the opportunity to better prepare.

  1. Is there a difference in shared custody vs. joint custody vs. 50/50 custody?

Shared custody can be anything where the child(ren) split their time at both parents home.  However, that split can be anything above or below 50%.  Joint custody usually refers to joint legal but can include physical too. 50/50 custody usually means that the child(ren) spend equal time between both parents homes. I covered this topic at length here.

  1. How should I prepare for filing for divorce?

Preparing for divorce, whether you are filing or waiting to be served, should start as early as possible.  This does not mean that you should rush to give up on your marriage but it certainly means that you should start to take the necessary steps the moment you’re convinced that divorce is impending. Gather documents, i.e. deeds/lease agreements, financial statements, credit card statements, receipts, etc.; contact all providers i.e. medical/health, schools, insurance, etc.; change passwords; inventory possessions; records, etc.

  1. Should I work with an attorney?

Having a lawyer represent you in your divorce or custody case is not an absolute must.  In certain circumstances you should certainly have an attorney represent you, but even in these instances the extent to which they provide representation should be considered.  If there is a dispute over custody, alimony &/or property distribution then having a lawyer on your side can certainly help.  However, be wise about whom you choose to work with and be sure they are familiar with the nuanced issues of your case.

Note: Visit here to read more about alternative options.

  1. Can I use text messages, emails, etc. as evidence in my hearing or trial?

This is a very common question and requires as much attention as possible.  Yes, text messages, emails, etc. can be used in court for evidentiary purposes.  Although each state has their own rules with respect to how these are admitted, they are generally allowed to be used to prove or defend your position in court.

Note:  I did a video on this topic on my Facebook business page.

Finding & Using Resources

Although there are tons of free resources on the internet, knowing which question to ask can make these resources useless.  When you are enmeshed in a legal battle, particularly in Family Court, it is critical to have the right information.  It is not advisable to trust your friends, family or even strangers to give you the appropriate answers to your legal questions.  Having gone through the process helps, but it does not qualify them to give you legal advice since each case is very different.

I always recommend getting at least three (3) consultations from qualified attorneys in your jurisdiction so that you have a solid foundation to start your journey.  Most family law attorneys will provide a free consultation so cost should not be a deterrent.

In Conclusion

 Always, always, always ask questions and seek answers.  At the same time, use discernment to decide if the source is reliable.  There is an overwhelming amount of information relevant to divorce and custody so filtering is important as well.

If you wish to schedule a consultation to discuss how I can help you please feel free to so here.

Parent Education
Parent Education

I’m a big advocate for parents improving their knowledge, skills, aptitude to be the best parent they can be. Parent education comes in various forms and numerous methods. Some are much more advanced than others, but it doesn’t hurt to participate in the basic ones.

What is Parent Education?

Parent education is the training, informing, or preparing parents for the challenges of raising children. Although parent’s education is available to any parent at any point in their parenting journey, they don’t typically seek help until they are embroiled in a custody battle.

Parent education can help parents learn to communicate more effectively; use positivity more often; discipline without harshness and so on. Parenting education can address everything from emotional/behavioral techniques to financial skills, they vary.

Parent education can be delivered in the form of in-person classes, live stream workshops, recorded webinars, even self-study programs. They vary in their duration as well, some are several weeks while others can be as long as three months. (Read more here on the different types of parents education programs.)


Divorce Therapy and its Implications


Parent Education and Divorce or Custody

In many states, the courts require that parents participate in parent education programs when a divorce is filed or a Custody proceeding commenced. Approximately seventeen states have mandatory parent’s education when divorced is filed, whether contested or uncontested. (NJ, for example, has enacted the Parents Education Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:34-12.1 to 2A:34-12.8).

The courts have an objective in mandating or encouraging participation in parents education. They want to minimize conflict amongst parents and to ensure that the children receive adequate support from the parents during the very emotional process.

From the court’s perspective, there are advantages to the parents and the children of divorce where parenting education is incorporated. For the parents, they learn to resolve conflict on their own and not involve the courts. In addition, parents get a better understanding of their respective obligation to provide for their child(ren)’s financial needs. As for the children, they usually do better academically, transition to their new life easier, and behave appropriately in their environments. The court has a vested interest in children dealing with the divorce appropriately. Again, it keeps the parents out of court for Contempt or Modification petitions.

In some custody battles, it is advisable to parent education courses whether it’s mandatory or not.  In a case where one parent has a history of questionable discipline tactics, for instance, presenting evidence of parent education completion can allay the court’s concerns on this topic.

The Mechanics of Parent Education Programs

There is usually a fee the parents have to pay for the parent education program. The fees typically range from $25 to $100. (These fees can be waived in some instances.) Nonprofit organizations and associations are most often the providers of these programs. Each state has its process of accepting or approving the parents education programs.  However, most of them have clear requirements that the programs must meet to meet the standards for approval.

There can be consequences for either parent’s failure to participate or complete the parent’s education. Of course, where they are mandatory the consequences are harsher. Failure to adhere to the court’s requirements, depending on the reason, constitutes violating a court order. Sanctions for such violations range from a change in parenting time to delaying the final judgment or order of divorce.

In conclusion

Parents education resources are not hard to come by. In all instances where parents feel they can benefit from the insight they provide they should be sought out. The advantages of the programs far outweigh the costs in almost every case.

If you wish to speak to me about your custody or divorce please feel free to contact me for a FREE 15 min consultation.

Divorce therapy
Divorce therapy

Are you looking for divorce therapy?

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

Therapy is something often recommended in divorce, and certainly custody matters. Therapy can take place in many forms and settings, but the focus should be on mental and emotional support. Whether you go to divorce therapy, family therapy, co-parenting therapy or individual therapy (for your and/or your children) it helps to have professional support along the way. (Divorce coaches are another option many are using to help get through the emotional and mental strife that accompanies divorce.)


Child Custody & Abandonment


Types of Therapy in Divorce

There are stages of grief in divorce that include anger, sadness, guilt, fear, depression and shock/disbelief.  (Read more about divorce grief here.)

Having an experienced professional can help you stay focused on the important issues while managing your emotions.  Furthermore, you’re more likely to accomplish your goals if you have someone to help you to see things for what they really are. A lot of truths about yourself are likely to be discovered in therapy.

Individual therapy is usually the route divorcing parties opt for. Individual therapy allows you address pre-existing mental health issues adequately.  Additionally, it allows you to concentrate on your own feelings without feeling obligated to consider your spouse’s needs. To many this is much more beneficial than trying to candidly  discuss feelings while the source of those feelings is present.

Couples therapy is another option in divorce. This route is more laser focused than individual therapy. However, couples divorce therapy can lead to individual therapy if the parties choose. Couples therapy entails both parties talking about and working through their concerns with respect to their divorce. Child custody, visitation, property distribution, as well as communication, disagreements, etc. are all valid topics to discuss here.

Both parties have the opportunity to express their feelings openly to help them understand what happened, to prepare them for post divorce and to help the children get through it successfully.

Family therapy provides a unique opportunity for intervention for the entire family.  Family therapy can take place during or after divorce/custody. It allows the children to express their own feelings and concerns about the break up of the family. Children usually have their own range of emotions to deal with, including guilt, fear, etc. and can benefit from dealing with them in a family therapy setting.

NOTE: This article is limited to therapy in divorce actions, not specifically for custody cases. The topic of therapy and custody will be explored in the upcoming weeks.

The Implications of Therapy in Divorce Court

Although therapy has its advantages, the courts’ perspective on therapy varies greatly. Therapy can a help or hindrance as far as the court is concerned.

Procedurally, having the parties actively involved in mental health services can place a burden on the court’s agenda. Most courts give their cases a time allotment for it to remain on its active calendar. Depending on the depth of Therapy services the parties receive, the case can drag on longer. Also, depending on what the parties are treated for, their ability to comprehend everything that is going on can be jeopardized.

Substantively, the parties receiving therapeutic services  may affect the court’s decision with respect to fault (or grounds), alimony (employability) and certainly custody. (Therapy and custody will be discussed in the upcoming weeks.) With respect to fault, if you are not in a no-fault state (most are no-fault) and use emotional distress or mental cruelty as the basis for Divorce participating in therapy can substantiate that. As for alimony, most states have factors that include the emotional &/or physical health to determine the amount and duration. Same with property distribution (especially in equitable distribution states) a factor that many courts take into consideration is the parties’ wellbeing.

Either way, these things should not deter you from getting help. If you are having trouble working through your emotions, or a hard time understanding what’s going on or can’t seem to focus on your objectives then you should certainly work with a mental health professional.

If you are interested in learning more about how I can help you prepare or defend your divorce or custody case for success in Family Court, feel free to contact me to schedule a FREE Consultation. 

Divorce Negotiations
Divorce Settlement

 

In divorce there is often a lot of pressure to settle cases instead of proceeding to trial. Judges, lawyers and even parties persist in attempting to get cases resolved in divorce negotiations.  Approximately 5-10%, of divorce cases make it to trial. (The proportion of custody cases is higher). The remainder of the cases are settled amongt the parties, attorneys, through mediation or at settlement conference with thr judge’s influence.


Parent Education in Divorce or Custody Matters


Divorce Negotiations 101

1. Analyze your position. This means understanding that your.

Best source of power is your ability and willingness to walk away and take another deal.

2. Know the process.

Try to carefully negotiate how you will negotiate in advance. Discussing these issues will help keep the focus on the important issues.

3. Listen actively.

Once you start discussing substantive jssues, resist the urge to prepare in your head the next thing you’re going to say next while your counterpart is talking. Instead, listen carefully to her arguments, then paraphrase what you believe she said to check your understanding. Acknowledge the other person’s feelings, emotions and thoughts.

4. Prepare your questions in advance.

You can gain more by asking lots of apprpropritate question. Try to avoid asking “yes or no” questions and leading questions. Instead, craft neutral questions that encourage detailed responses.

5. Be mindful of valuable tradeoffs.

Try to identify issues that your opposing party cares deeply about but that you value less. Then propose making a concession on that issue in exchange for a concession on the issue you value highly.

6. Stay away from anchoring bias.

Tons of research shows that the first things mentioned in a negotiation, has a powerful influence on the negotiation that follows. You can avoid being the victim of the anchoring bias by making the first offer and trying to anchor talks in your preferred direction. If the other side does anchor first, keep your desires at the back of your mind.

There are other valuable tips that help making negotiating settlement more effective. These are just a few that will make sure you are not cheated out of what is fair and equitable.

Waiving vs Settling

In divorce negotiations one key thing to keep in mind is to not give up more than you need to. In other words, it is important to maintain as much balance in what you forego and what you persist on.  There is a difference in surrender and submission in negotiations, the main one being you feel in the end.

In negotiations, surrender is when one gives a concession without receiving a corresponding benefit . Negotiation should be a two-way street, both sides giving up something while receiving something at the same time. When one surrenders they usually give up their power or authority to someone else. Oftentimes this power they give up is not voluntarily, but by some form of force.. Because of this giving up,, surrender can leave you feeling defeated, cheated and/or devalued. Even when you think you’re doing the “right” thing by avoiding worthwhile negotiations, giving in without a fight can render negative results.

Submission, on the other hand, is not about giving up power, authority or control. Submission is making an informed decision to give in. In negotiations when a party submits, it is with a knowing and understanding of all involved. The stakes, the benefits, the process etc. are all taken into consideration when one submits. The submitting party usually feels much more optimistic than one who surrenders because of the knowledge and awareness.

In conclusion

You should choose wisely in all divorce settlement negotiations. No one can make the decision for you but it can certainly help to have some skilled players to help you in the process.  If you follow the tips for negotiating you are more likely to gain valuable insight on what’s most important for you.

If you would like coaching through your divorce settlement please feel free to schedule a FREE consultation today.