Choosing the Right Divorce Lawyer For Your Situation

Besides fighting a traffic ticket, divorce gives most people their first and perhaps only exposure to their state’s legal system and the need to hire an attorney. This article explains how best to approach the selection process given your particular situation, needs, and goals, and is guidance from the noted Philadelphia divorce lawyers at the Schwartz Law Firm.

Start your search by taking the following four steps to find the right divorce lawyer for you.

Know What Your Goals Are in Retaining a Divorce Lawyer

This is likely an emotional time for you, so approach choosing an attorney methodically. The first step is to write down what your goals are in retaining a divorce attorney. They might look something like this:

  1. Negotiate the property settlement agreement.
  2. Deal with your ex and your ex’s attorney.
  3. Be by your side in court.
  4. Negotiate the child custody agreement (if applicable).
  5. Negotiate the child support agreement (if applicable).
  6. Negotiate spousal support or alimony (if applicable).

Having made a shortlist of your goals, think about how you would like your jointly-owned property to be divided and write that down. Think also about whether you require child or spousal support. Be prepared with your financial information so that when you meet with attorneys, they can give you an idea of what you may be entitled to in terms of support.

Do Not Expect an Attorney to Listen to You Rant About Your Ex

You are not hiring an attorney for emotional support. As much as you will come to rely on your attorney, expect your relationship to be purely professional. You should not expect them to indulge you in complaining about your ex or the underlying issues leading to the divorce. Save that talk for a sympathetic friend, or, if you are having trouble functioning because of your anger or grief over the end of your marriage, consider seeing a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist for help coping.

You may become fond of your attorney after they help you through the divorce, but it is best to consider your relationship merely transactional. Time IS money when your attorney bills you by the hour, so don’t waste either by forcing them to listen to you complain.

Interview at Least Three Divorce Lawyers

Just as with hiring a contractor to renovate your kitchen, you need to interview more than one divorce lawyer to compare and contrast different candidates.

Identify Potential Family Law Attorneys

First, ask any local friends or family members who have divorced if they were satisfied with their divorce attorney, and if so, why, and if not, why not? Their answers may surprise you, and they probably will introduce you to issues that may not have occurred to you.

Only ask people about their divorce lawyers who live near you because family law is jurisdictional. You’ll want an attorney who has experience appearing before the family law judges in your jurisdiction.

If your poll of friends and family does not give you at least three potential lawyers, google “divorce lawyer in [your area]” and see who comes up.

Google the Candidates You Have Identified

Once you have identified at least three potential candidates, google them. Often there will be client testimonials you can review, and their websites will give you an idea of how long they’ve been practicing divorce law, what other areas of law they practice, and how big their firm is. There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to these issues. It will come down to how comfortable you feel with how these divorce attorneys are portraying themselves publicly.

Visit the State Bar Association and State Court Website

You should be able to inquire with the state attorney ethics committee online about each candidate and find out whether they have faced any ethics complaints or disciplinary actions.

Also, visit the state court’s website. There you should be able to search for the candidates’ names as a party defendant to any malpractice lawsuits.

Be very wary of an attorney who has a history of ethics violations or has been a defendant in a malpractice suit. This is not to say that a candidate should be eliminated on this basis, but you should be prepared to ask the candidate about that part of their professional history if you find anything.

Be Prepared with Questions

Obviously, ask about any ethics complaints or sanctions or malpractice suits you may have found. If a candidate has a blemish on their record, be sure to bring it up in your initial consultation and ask what happened. Whether or not you are satisfied with their explanation is up to you.

Other than that, you should ask questions about how they expect the attorney-client relationship to work. This way, you will get to know the candidate a bit better and find out what to expect from them and from the process of getting divorced.

Attorney-Client Communications

Ask about the time they will take to answer communication from you, and how best to contact them, either by phone, email, or text?

Timeline and Cost Estimate

Ask them about the timeline of a divorce, given your situation, how the process usually unfolds, and how long the process will take. Also, ask how much they expect your divorce to cost. They should be able to give you a ballpark figure, barring any unforeseeable complications.

Be on the Lookout for Red Flags

In addition to unsatisfactory explanations for malpractice lawsuits or sanctions for ethics violations, look out for the following red flags:

  • Being late to your initial consultation;
  • Refusing to give or avoiding giving you answers to your questions;
  • A feeling that you are being told what you want to hear;
  • An artificially-low cost estimate;
  • A sense that you are being treated as a commodity, not as a person;
  • A feeling that the attorney is not taking you seriously or is condescending.

Besides getting competent representation, you want someone you think you can work with comfortably. It is okay not to retain someone you just don’t care for. Respect your instincts.

About the Author

Veronica Baxter is a legal assistant and blogger living and working in the great city of Philadelphia. She frequently works with Lee A. Schwartz, Esq., a busy Philadelphia divorce lawyer.

 

 



5 Reasons Why It’s Not a Good Idea to Keep Secrets

By Terry Gaspard, LICSW

When people keep secrets from their partner they often rationalize their behavior to themselves and others.  Usually, they lack confidence in their ability to confront unpleasant topics – such as money troubles, or issues related to past or present errors in judgment or mistakes. They simply don’t trust their partner enough to believe that he or she will be there for them if they’re vulnerable and tell the truth. In reality, keeping secrets from your partner is a form of betrayal and signifies a toxic relationship.

I used to believe that a breach of trust was something that couples could bounce back from quickly but I’ve gained insight about the ways this isn’t usually the case. For instance, most marriages don’t survive big betrayals or even a series of smaller ones. My current view is that finding healthy ways to be vulnerable, express your thoughts and feelings, and be honest with your partner, is the best way to build a trusting relationship. Vulnerability is the glue that holds a relationship together over the long run.

But is lying by omission or keeping a secret the same as lying? First, you want to consider how your partner would view your secret if he or she found out and you failed to tell them about it. Also, if you feel guilty or uneasy about not disclosing information to him or her, it’s a red flag you need to be honest or forthcoming about something you’ve kept a secret.

For instance, Claire neglected to inform her husband Jake that she had an emotional affair with Ryan, a male co-worker, and that it lasted a few years.  At times, she would confide in Ryan and fantasize about having sex with him daily. She explains: “I didn’t really see a reason to tell Jake because we just had lunch together but looking back it was bad for my marriage. I see now that I was becoming more emotionally detached from Jake and we stopped having sex and being intimate. But I just didn’t want him to judge me harshly or leave because he is very jealous and possessive.”

When I attempted to explore with Claire the reasons why honesty is essential to a trusting relationship, she put it this way: “I guess I never saw myself as being dishonest but I do feel guilty.” At this point, I asked her to consider that mistrust erodes the quality of any relationship and that keeping crucial information secret from Jake isn’t a way to build trust and intimacy with him. During our sessions, Claire realized that keeping secrets is a form of self-sabotage because she loves Jake and wants to build a future with him and keeping secrets was driving a wedge between them.

Like Claire, many of my clients tell me they keep secrets from their partner because they believe telling the truth will make things worse. Or they’ve convinced themselves that their significant other simply can’t handle the truth and might abandon them. While it is true that some partners will feel angry, hurt, and betrayed when they learn their love interest has done something unacceptable to them, honestly confronting issues is the best way to foster trust and intimacy with a partner.

In fact, recent research shows that one in five people are keeping a major secret, such as infidelity or money troubles, from their spouse in Brittan. Surprisingly, a quarter of respondents in this study said they kept this secret for more than twenty-five years. Further, one in four of those people who kept a secret in this study said that it was so big; they worried that it would destroy their marriage. Common secrets reported include money troubles, viewing pornography, and various forms of betrayal such as infidelity.

When your partner withholds important information from you regardless of their reasons, it’s normal to feel betrayed. Experts agree that trust can be easily broken and hard to repair.  For many people any form of deceit can be a deal breaker.  For example, Karen, a thirty-nine year old teacher explains: “Trust is a huge issue for me. It takes a lot to rebuild my trust and if it’s broken, there’s a chance it may not be earned back.”  Karen is a daughter of divorce who watched both her father and step-father betray her mother – leaving her without crucial financial supports.

According to author Kristen Houghton, relationships are made up of many components and people will put up with many quirks to keep a relationship going. How much will you put up with before throwing in the towel when you feel betrayed?  Houghton writes: “But if you are consistently made to feel uncomfortable or uneasy because you feel as if you cannot trust your partner, then making the decision not to take him or her back is the logical one for you. Life needs quality and a sense of security.” In other words, by keeping secrets or lying to your partner, you run the risk that you will lose their trust and put your relationship in jeopardy.

5 reasons why it’s a not a good idea to keep secrets:

  1. Keeping secrets is the same thing as being dishonest. Honesty is always the best policy and most of us have a moral code which tells us that keeping secrets is akin to lying. For most of us, being dishonest is only acceptable when we are in dire straits – like trying to save someone’s life. Yet some people rationalize that they need to keep secrets or their relationship will end.
  2. Often keeping secrets creates more problems in a relationship. The more time that passes, the harder it is to fess up. When people keep secrets or tell lies, they often have to tell other lies to cover up the first lie. They dig deeper and deeper into a hole of dishonesty.
  3. Keeping major secrets is a form of deceit and it breeds mistrust. Further, once a person loses trust, it is hard to regain it – especially for those who have been betrayed by a parent or former romantic partner or spouse.
  4. Keeping secrets is a hotbed for betrayal. Leaving out important facts can lead to further deception or betrayal, according to author Lisa Firestone. Whereas being open with your partner will promote trust and honest communication.
  5. People are hurt by secrets and lies and this can destroy a relationship. It’s hard to feel emotionally connected to someone when you catch them in a lie or find out that they’ve kept a secret from you.

Mistrust is a lingering feeling in the back of your mind that your partner does not truly love you, or may abandon you. So much about trust is walking the talk. Your partner may tell you he/she loves you, but do his/her actions support that? All too often, when people aren’t feeling safe enough in a relationship to be honest and open with their partner, it’s because they don’t believe that their partner truly loves them or they are overly protective of their own interests.

Let’s end on the words of Dr. John Gottman: “Despite how dangerous and widespread betrayal is, I can offer couples hope. By analyzing the anatomy of this poison, I have figured out how to defeat it. I now know that there is a fundamental principle for making relationships work that serves as an antidote to unfaithfulness. That principle is trust.”

Follow Terry Gaspard on Twitter, Facebook, and movingpastdivorce.com. Her book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website.

Terry’s new book, The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around, will be published by Sounds True in February of 2020 and can be pre-ordered here.
  • This blog was posted previously on this website.


3 Signs You’re Ready For A Divorce – Especially If You’re A Parent!

Divorce is usually riddled in drama. It’s not an easy decision to make, and it comes with a multitude of challenges. This is especially so if you’re a parent. We can all agree that   divorce should be avoided whenever possible. It’s not a solution to marital problems. In many cases it’s more like an escape hatch – with no guarantee of a happy ending.

If you don’t learn the art of fair fighting … if you don’t use effective communication skills … and don’t show empathy and compassion for the needs of your partner … divorce is not likely to be of value in your life. Chances are you’ll move on to another toxic relationship, bringing with you the same unresolved baggage and issues. And that, sadly, is destined to lead to new discord with your new partner.

There are signals, however, that divorce might be the best option for a couple. These include:

  • Irreconcilable Disrespect: If one or both partners reach a point of disrespect for their spouse there is little that can repair that damage. Sound relationships are based on respect. With awareness and work, relationship problems can be healed. But once the glue of mutual respect is gone there is little that can make a marriage work. And staying in a marriage in which you are feeling disrespected – a marriage in which your children are seeing that behavior modeled around them – is poor parenting, to say the least.
  • Dramatic Parenting Conflicts: No two parents are in agreement at all times. However, constant fighting and discord around parenting issues hurts everyone in the family, especially the children. In many cases, the family dynamics work more smoothly when there are two parental homes for the children — and reduced conflict around them. So first seek out professional guidance from an experienced therapist or coach. Find one who can help you master conflict management skills and better ways to express your frustrations and disappointment. Try an online anger management program that offers usable techniques for making better choices. If counseling doesn’t work out, divorce may be a better option. Children exposed to continuous conflict are negatively affected emotionally and psychologically – damage you don’t want to inflict on the children you love.
  • Emotional, Verbal or Physical Abuse: Abusive treatment on any level is a signal that the marriage is not serving or supporting your psychological needs. Put downs, threats, sarcasm, fear tactics, control strategies and other behaviors are all signs of abuse. Don’t wait for things to escalate to a physical level. Leave as quickly as you can. Or reach out for professional help immediately and create a plan of action for changing your environment and protecting your children from experiencing or watching marital or parental abuse.

You owe it to yourself and your spouse to do everything you can to resolve marital conflict before deciding to divorce. Seeking out professional support is always smart. An objective professional can provide insights that can inject new life into a marriage. However, that’s only IF both parties are on board to give it a chance. Once you’ve explored all avenues, then you can close the door on your marriage knowing there is no unfinished business left behind.

Of course, if you’re a parent, divorce does not end the relationship with your spouse. And, except in rare cases, it never should. For the sake of your children, it is important to make every effort to co-parent effectively and give your children the gift of love from both parents whenever possible.

That too takes skill. It also demands a commitment to put your child’s best interest first, even when you’re angry or hurt by your co-parent’s behavior. There are numerous online Co-Parenting courses available, which address better ways to handle parenting conflict and other challenges regarding divorce and successful co-parenting. Visit the Child-Centered Divorce Network for a free Post-Divorce Parenting ebook and many other valuable resources divorcing parents need.

***     ***     ***

Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce and Parenting Coach, founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide To Preparing Your Children — With Love! To get her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right!, learn about her coaching services and other valuable resources for parents facing, moving through or transitioning after divorce, visit: www.childcentereddivorce.com.

 

© Rosalind Sedacca   All rights reserved.

 



COVID-19 & Back-To-School Season: What Happens When Parents Don’t Agree?

Top Chicago Family Attorney Says A Contingency Plan Is A Must For Co-Parents

The stress and constantly changing information surrounding COVID-19 and back to school is enough to drive any parent crazy. But what happens if the parents are separated or divorced and disagree about what educational environment is best for the kids? What if one parent wants to homeschool while the other feels it’s safe to send them back to the classroom? Even for separated and divorced parents who have successfully cooperated in the past, this year’s back to school season will bring upon a new set of struggles as the two households face a new challenge. Shedding light on how to best navigate this uncharted journey is leading Chicago-based divorce and matrimonial lawyer Tiffany Hughes of The Law Office of Tiffany M. Hughes. As you, your ex, and your child prepare for the upcoming school year, there are a few things you should consider:

Does the child have any specific health concerns that could lead to them being compromised in a traditional school setting?

Some children are more likely to get very sick from coronavirus, specifically those with health conditions or weakened immune systems. If your child has a health problem or lives with someone in a high-risk group, weigh the risk of your child bringing germs home from the classroom and consult with a doctor to help you decide.

What is in the child’s best interest from an emotional and social perspective?

Schools provide more than just academics to children and adolescents. In addition to education, students gain additional benefits from a classroom setting that cannot be provided via online learning. The in-person model allows for children to have social and emotional skills, get exercise, and have access to mental health support and other services that may not be accessible in the household. It’s important to communicate openly with your child about and help them identify the positives of each learning experience.

What type of support could either parent / home offer in a homeschooling situation?

What is each parent’s work schedule like? Would new third-party childcare be needed? For many families, e-learning has turned the parents into teacher, counselor, cafeteria worker, and principal, all while attempting to do their own work and daily responsibilities. Children need safe spaces, reduced distractions, mental and physical breaks, social interactions, and basic needs like access to the internet and healthy meals to have a positive learning experience. Being a child’s parent and teacher can bring upon many mental, physical, and emotional stressors, and not every household is designed to function as a child’s learning environment. Conversely, home learning has given other parents the opportunity to spend more time with their child.

What specific safety precautions is YOUR school district taking?

Every part of the country is handling back-to-school season a little differently. It’s important to find out the details of your child’s local school system. There are a number of steps schools should take to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. A few of those steps include practicing social distancing, enforcing face masks and hand hygiene, routine disinfections, temperature checks, and strategic classroom changes.

If you choose to homeschool, should you hire a tutor or teacher?

For parents in a position to provide assisted learning and help for their child, hiring help to assist in education can help mitigate learning gaps and “falling behind.” Kids are also more likely to take criticisms from their parents as personal slights, and stress has proven to hinder effective learning. However, teaching style, dependability, cost, and safety need to be taken into consideration when hiring the right tutor. Some parents may alternatively turn to finding a suitable “pandemic pod”–a small group of families that agree to do supplementary learning or complete at-home coursework together by either sharing a tutor or supervision among parents.

Should your child participate in their usual after-school sports, activities and playdates with other children?

Studies show that interaction with other children, daily exercise, and routine can help a child’s development and mental health. Incorporating after-school sports and playdates, although beneficial for a child, can increase the risk of exposure. Those opting into after-school activities and sports should prepare their children by reminding them to stay mindful of the safety precautions such as social distancing, frequent hand washing, small group activities, and face masks (if feasible).

It’s unlikely that any co-parenting agreement would have stipulations regarding a pandemic so if the parents are unable to negotiate something between them regarding their child’s education path, it’s time for an officer of the court to step in.

If there’s one thing we know for sure about the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that we never know what could happen next. To that end, it’s recommended that co-parents who do decide to send their kids back into the classroom now come up with a contingency plan.  Consulting with an attorney who specializes in family matters now could save you a lot of time, frustration and difficulty down the road.  What if there is an outbreak in your child’s classroom?  What if the government shuts schools down again–as they did in the spring? Having an agreed-upon plan of action will help curb anxiety and make a complicated situation much easier.

About The Law Office of Tiffany M. Hughes: Located in Chicago, IL, The Law Office of Tiffany M. Hughes is an elite law firm that concentrates solely on Family and Matrimonial Law matters. Under the leadership of a renowned attorney and founding partner, Tiffany M. Hughes, the firm represents individuals in all aspects of Family law proceedings including divorce, mediation, parentage, child custody, orders of protection, and all matters that arise after the parties are divorced. A modern, tech savvy firm, The Law Office of Tiffany M. Hughes is a company built on passion, experience, personalized service, and innovative thinking.

Ms. Hughes has developed a stellar reputation for her ability to successfully manage High Asset Divorces. This niche typically pertains to clients with a high net worth, multiple streams of income and/or a complicated portfolio of holdings. Her expertise in this area has resulted in her representing numerous public figures, including professional athletes and CEO’s. Ms. Hughes has received many awards and achievements for her work as an Attorney in Family Law, including but not limited to, Top 100 Lawyers in the United States by Lawyers Magazine, Super Lawyer Rising Star, Top 10 Family Law Attorney in Illinois, Top 40 Attorneys under 40 in Family Law, Client Choice award on Avvo, Top Divorce Attorney on Avvo, and 10 best client satisfaction award.

Unlike many other law firms, The Law Office of Tiffany M. Hughes limits the number of cases they take on at any given time to ensure that all clients receive the utmost care, personalized attention and dedicated focus to their specific situation. Operating under the mantra “life is no rehearsal,” Tiffany M. Hughes and her team not only offer clients practical and effective legal representation but also help them move forward into a new, happier chapter of their lives. She also offers appointments via video.

The Law Office of Tiffany M. Hughes is located at 22 W. Washington St. Suite 1500 in Chicago, IL. For more information please call (773) 893-0228 or visit www.thugheslaw.com.

 



Why are Apologies Important in a Marriage?

Apologies are a key ingredient to a healthy, long-term marriage. They allow us to accept that no one is without flaws and to repair from regrettable comments and actions which are often displayed in the heat of an argument. In my marriage counseling sessions, I often ask couples, “Do you want to he right, or do you want to be happy.”

Often people equate apologizing with weakness and it’s widely believed that if you apologize to someone you’re making yourself too vulnerable. However, apologizing can also be seen as a strength because it shows you are able to show goodwill toward your partner and it promotes forgiveness. Studies show that forgiving someone is one way of letting go of your baggage so that you can heal and enjoy a better quality of life and marriage.

Apologizing and practicing forgiveness is about giving yourself and your partner, the kind of future you and they deserve. In The Science of Trust, Dr. John Gottman explains that couples who are emotionally attuned can fully process and move on from negative emotional events, forgive, and ultimately create a stronger relationship. In other words, couples who are able to give sincere apologies to each other can rid themselves of the toxic hurt and shame that holds them back from feeling connected and emotionally attuned with their partner.

You may stubbornly hold onto the belief that you have nothing to apologize for – especially is your hurtful behavior or words were not intentional. However, apologizing to your partner is a key aspect of a successful marriage because it allows you to let go of large and small transgressions.

If you do apologize to your partner, be sure to do it in the right way that does not include excuses for your actions or words. Not all apologies will be the same but most will contain some of the following elements.

Identify two reasons you feel sorry for the hurt that your behavior or words caused your partner. Gaining awareness of the emotions you experience about your own past hurt can help you feel empathy for your partner. Ask yourself: why did I feel the need to behave in a way that caused my partner pain or upset? Was my behavior intentional?

Accept responsibility for your hurtful actions or words. Acknowledge that you messed up by saying something like “I take responsibility for my actions and I’m sorry that they hurt you.” One person’s ability to do this can change the dynamic of the relationship. Dr.’s Julie and John Gottman write: “one person’s response will literally change the brain waves of the other person.”

Use the words “I am sorry” and “I was wrong” when you apologize. Your apology will more likely be heard and accepted if you use these words. Be specific about exactly what you did to hurt, humiliate, or embarrass your partner.
Explain to your partner how you plan to repair the situation (if this is possible). For example, if you said something to hurt your mother-in-law’s feelings, you might offer to apologize to her over lunch or by writing her a note.

Describe why you said or did what you did without making excuses or blaming your mate or someone else. Using “I” statements rather than “You” statements can help you avoid the blame monster. For instance, you might say “I yelled at you because I had an awful day and need to go back to work. I very am sorry for treating you this way” rather than “You promised to have dinner ready at 6 pm and it aggravated me when you didn’t keep your promise.”

Ask your partner to grant you forgiveness. Be specific about your actions and words that need to be forgiven. Be sure to do so when the setting is conducive to a private conversation and there aren’t any distractions (TV, cell phones, children in the room, etc.).

Don’t let wounds poison your love for your spouse. Be vulnerable and don’t let your pride cause you to hold on to being “right.” Discussing what happened with your spouse and taking responsibility for your actions will allow you to let go of resentment so you can improve the quality of your relationship.

Apologies are an essential ingredient of a strong, healthy marriage. Accepting that you and your mate do the best you can will help you be more understanding. This does not mean you condone his or her hurtful actions. You simply come to a more compassionate and realistic view of your spouse.

When you acknowledge your flaws – the things that make you human – it means that you can be vulnerable with your partner rather than allowing your fear of rejection or failure to overwhelm you.

Apologizing and practicing forgiveness are about giving yourself and your partner, the kind of future you and they deserve – unhampered by hurt and recycled anger. It is about choosing to live a life wherein others don’t have power over you and you’re not dominated by unresolved anger, bitterness, and resentment.

Follow Terry Gaspard on Twitter, Facebook, and movingpastdivorce.com. Her book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website.

Terry’s new book, The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around, was published by Sounds True in February of 2020 and can be ordered here.

This article appeared previously on HuffingtonPostDivorce.com



5 Tips for Finance Management After Divorce

It’s no secret that going through the process of a divorce can affect you mentally, physically, and financially. As you begin to navigate your new normal, perhaps the most important thing to lock down fast is your finances. Consider the tips below on how you can manage your finances after a divorce.

Update Your Accounts

Though going through the process of cancelling your joint accounts can seem like a tedious task, it’s important you take the time to do so as soon as possible. Most banks will be accommodating and understanding of your situation. Beyond transferring over certain accounts to your name, you should also consider your previous investments as a whole. Go through the entirety of your financial endeavors to be sure that what you’re investing in currently makes sense for you and your transition to a single income.

 Reassess Your Budget

Transitioning to only one source of income will naturally mean that you’ll need to do some budget reassessment. From utilizing an app to creating a spreadsheet of your own spending, make sure you run the numbers on every single expense. To start, make a list of every source of income you currently have. Should you have to pay or should you be receiving child support or alimony, don’t forget to add or subtract this accordingly. Determine what money you may be saving now that you’re on your own, and disperse it wisely. While there are some subscriptions that might end up costing you more by yourself, there are sure to be other expenses that you can eliminate from your budget entirely. Lastly, take a hard look at your monthly costs that fluctuate. Whether this be how much you spend on groceries or the cost of getting your nails done, these should not be overlooked.

Target New Goals

Though it may be difficult at first, try to see things as a fresh start. Starting this new chapter of your life also means targeting new goals. Start making plans for where you want to be in the years to come. Are you hoping to start your own business? Do you want to make the transition on your own from apartment living to home ownership? While they can feel far off to some, envisioning such goals will help you to maintain confidence as you navigate a single lifestyle and give you a greater sense of purpose though things may feel uncertain. If you do have your heart set on a side hustle, do some research on how to afford one on a single income. You can also look to friends and family members who have already reached such goals on their own. Discuss with them their advice on how they were able to reach a milestone of owning a home or starting their own business. Most aspirations like these require some sort of outside funding. However, there are plenty of financial options to look into. Research affordable small business loans, or look into the prerequisites of FHA loans if you have your heart set on a certain house. Don’t set your aspirations aside just because of a solo source of income. There are still plenty of ways to reach your goals and maintain financial stability after divorce.

Hire a Professional

If budgeting on your own is not something you feel qualified to do, you can always hire a professional to organize your finances for you. In some cases, your spouse may have been the one who handled the majority of your expenses to begin with, leaving you to feel overwhelmed at the prospect of doing it on your own. Should this be the case, hiring a financial advisor is a great option for you to set yourself up for financial success in the future. Professional advisors will be able to help you get a better understanding of your retirement plan, outstanding loan balances, and any past or future investments you might need extra assistance going over. Don’t be afraid to ask for help should you need it, and discuss with your lawyer who they might recommend. They may already have established connections with the perfect financial planner for you.

 Manage Your Credit

Lastly, having a plan of action to better manage your credit after your divorce is a must. Utilize free online platforms to determine where your score is currently at, and then develop a plan for increasing it accordingly. If your score is lower than anticipated, don’t get discouraged. It’s not uncommon for the financial setbacks of a divorce to negatively impact your credit. Tackle your credit one day at a time and set aside a specific amount each month to put toward any outstanding debt you may be currently dealing with. Taking the time to manage your credit first will better prepare you financially to tackle your goals and help you to be happy again after your divorce in all aspects of your life.

 Tackling the process of finance management after a divorce is no easy task, so make sure you’re taking the time to be proud of your financial accomplishments. As you move toward this next chapter of your life, look for ways to find enjoyment in outlining a solo budget and setting new goals. While it might not be the easiest journey, having your finances in order for your future will allow you to focus on rebuilding your life exactly the way you envision it.

 



Navigating Co-parenting Challenges During COVID-19

The entire world is facing numerous challenges during COVID-19, but those you encounter as a divorced co-parent may feel unique and sometimes even isolating. Parents right now are deciding how their children social distance, but what happens when you and your co-parent disagree?

In the early days of the pandemic, whether or not to distance was much easier for most co-parents as stay at home orders and work from home mandates gave them very few choices. As states are reopening, social distancing has become more complicated because personal levels of caution vary from home to home and person to person.

Initially, some co-parents quarantined to the extent that they had groceries and pharmacy needs delivered to their home. They did not have any interaction with others outside their homes, and only left for outdoor activities or to exchange their children as necessary.

Other co-parents continued to work on a daily basis at the office even if their employment was not deemed essential. They routinely left their homes to socialize with friends or families and for essential purposes.

Now with state regulations changing and, in many states, people becoming more relaxed, different factors come into play as the needs of children vary:
• Younger children may need socialization for development
• Older kids may feel left out from social events
• Mental health of children may be a consideration
• Health risks are still very prevalent
• Returning to school in September whether in person or virtual may feel like an impossible choice to make
• Losing a spot in day care may also be a concern

What do you do when you and your co-parent are trying to figure out how to navigate these uncertain times? Here are some common questions we have heard from parents and our best advice for them:

Q: What happens when one parent returns to work and the other is uncomfortable with this situation?
A: If the current executive order allows for the party to be working, then the parenting time schedule may likely be enforceable, unless there is a change in circumstances warranting a modification or harm to the child. The co-parents should attempt to find common ground so that one parent can return to work while making the other parent more comfortable.

Q: What happens if one parent needs to return to work and wants to hire childcare in their home?
A: Before hiring childcare, the parent returning to work should offer the other party parenting time when the parent is working. If neither parent is available to care for the children, then the parents should work together to try to find a suitable childcare solution that both parents are comfortable with.

Q: What happens if one parent is not adhering to the rules and is attending multiple functions that may put the child at risk?
A: If one parent is violating the Governor’s Executive Order, that may warrant an application to the Court to either place restraints on the parenting time (i.e., to ensure that the Executive Orders are followed) or to modify or suspend the parenting time.

Q: When one parent has parenting time in the summer and there is distance between the co-parents, will the parenting time which requires either the parent to travel or the child to travel (or both) be enforced?
A: It really depends on the specifics. In general, the parents should work together to find an alternative arrangement so that the child is not traveling by any public transportation means. If the parent is able to travel and get tested before the parenting time, that is preferred. Since some states such as New Jersey have asked people to quarantine after returning from so many states, the parents should consider where the other parent is coming from or where the child is supposed to go.

Q: Is it appropriate to take your children to dine at an outdoor restaurant, or take them to get a haircut?
A: Obviously state guidelines need to be followed. Co-parents should be working together and should be respectful of each other’s opinions and try to find common ground on what activities the child will partake in and what activities will be avoided.

Q: What happens if a parent wants to take the child on vacation/in or out of state?
A: It depends on where the vacation will be and how the parent and child will be traveling. Again, the co-parents should discuss and work together to find a suitable and reasonable compromise.

Q: When one parent is a high risk and the other parent is adhering to the new guidelines but is not taking extra precautions, should the other parent be forced to comply with stricter guidelines or should parenting time be suspended?
A: Suspension of parenting time is fairly severe. Unless one parent has a severe ongoing medical issue, a court would likely first attempt to place restraints on the parenting time or offer a modification of parenting time so that the parenting time can still occur. It is important, especially during times of high stress, for children to have support, love and affection for both parents.

If co-parents cannot come to a civil agreement on how situations should be handled, sometimes legal action needs to be taken. Here are some situations and examples where co-parents should consult their lawyers:
• An example of harm to a child is a child that is undergoing treatment which severely compromises the child’s immune system and one of the parents is taking the child to dine outdoors during the parenting time. This may be a situation in which the Court would modify the parenting time schedule or place restraints on the parenting time.
• An example of a change in circumstances would be a nurse parent whose work schedule has been changed due to the influx of patients to the hospital making the schedule impossible because the parents have agreed not to have third-party caregivers. This may require a tweak to the parenting time schedule.
• If you are making an application to force the other parent to adhere to stricter guidelines than the current Executive Order or to suspend parenting time for a specific reason, it may be helpful to offer suggestions about how the parenting time can continue or to offer make-up parenting time to show a genuine concern rather than simply trying to take away time from the other parent.
• In order to modify the parenting time schedule, you should first try to amicably resolve the matter. You may also attempt mediation with your co-parent. If you must file an application, you will have the burden to show harm to the child or change in circumstances which warrant a modification of parenting time.

COVID-19 has obviously thrown the world into a tailspin and people are having to making unprecedented decisions. And there is no one-size-fits-all formula for co-parenting during a pandemic. Each family, each child, and each circumstance should be heavily considered. However, it is important to know your rights, understand the legalities, and consult your attorney for any concerning questions.

# # #

By Christine C. Fitzgerald

Seiden Family Law



Make Parent-Child Communication A Top Priority After Divorce

By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC

It’s no secret. One of the biggest challenges a parent faces after divorce is having healthy communication with your children. All parents struggle with communication issues as their children grow. However, children who have had their lives dramatically altered by separation or divorce need even more attention. And diligent observation by their parents.

Children tend not to tell you when they are angry, resentful, confused, hurt or depressed. Instead they reflect their problems through their behavior. Often that means acting out or perhaps turning inward in ways you hadn’t experienced prior to the divorce.

That’s why you must do all you can to encourage positive and productive communication between you and your children. It’s easy to overlook what can seem to be obvious bonding behaviors. Or to forget to pay attention amid the challenges you are juggling in your own life on a daily basis.

However, this is crucially important: Take time to see the world through your children’s eyes before making any decisions. That process alone will help you to better meet their needs. Equally important, you’ll be better prepared to understand their confusion, sadness or aggression. And that will support you in finding appropriate ways to dissolve tension through your conversations and caring behaviors.

Here are some useful tips for improving your communication efforts …

• Be available and attentive when your child comes to talk or ask questions. That means turning off the TV, putting down the tablet and not answering the phone. Be sure to greet them with eye-contact and a welcoming smile. Sometimes their attempting to talk to you comes after considerable thought and risk on their part. Encourage these conversations when they happen.
• It is helpful to sit, kneel or in other ways get down closer to your child’s eye level when you talk. Towering over them is a form of intimidation that does not translate into safety or trust.
• Keep your conversations private unless they want to include others. Let them know they are safe in confiding with you. Remind them that their feelings matter. Show them you are interested and care about issues that affect them.
• Don’t dismiss a subject lightly if it is one bothering your child. Laughing, joking or teasing will create mistrust. Trivializing their feelings will discourage your child from sharing what is bothering them with you. This is a dangerous road to travel, especially as your children develop into their teen years.
• Equally important: never embarrass your children or put them on the spot in front of others. This will immediately close the door to honest, trustworthy communication.
• Avoid talking to your child when you are angry with them or upset with others. If you’re not at ease, suggest talking again in a half-hour or hour at a specific place so you can settle down and regain your objectivity.
• Be an active listener. Don’t interrupt while your child is talking. Listen carefully and then paraphrase back what you heard them say. Ask if you’re right in your interpretation. They’ll tell you. This process will help you more accurately understand what is really at issue.

Children who feel safe talking to their parents grow up as better communicators overall. They will be more likely to have healthy communication in their own adult relationships – with their love partners and children.

Some families tend to keep feelings repressed. They hesitate to discuss issues that come up. This behavior sends the message that it’s not all right to talk about things that bother us. The consequences of that can be seen in our media headlines every day.

You can open the doors to caring communication in your home by starting today. Your children may be a little resistant at first as they test the waters. But they will surely appreciate this opportunity once they know you are sincere. Start the process yourself – and see how valuable it is to “hear” what your children have to say!

* * *

Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach and author of numerous books, e-courses and programs on divorcing with children and co-parenting successfully. For instant download of her FREE EBOOK on Doing Co-Parenting Right: Success Strategies For Avoiding Painful Mistakes! go to: childcentereddivorce.com/book

Please share this article on social media!

© Rosalind Sedacca All rights reserved.



Children & Divorce: A Family Approach to Discussing Divorce

Your family is experiencing a transition. Divorce is difficult for everyone—parents, children, everyone is affected by the change. It’s new, and it can be scary. There are steps to be taken to make sure that the process is as smooth and painless as possible, and that the outcome can be good for all family members involved.

Family attorneys exist to make sure the divorce is handled with tact and care. Your child’s living arrangements, social life, day to day normalcy, education, and well being are incredibly important. When it comes to custody, everyone involved wants to make sure that the divorce is being handled for the best of the children. How do you maintain the feeling of family while the family is splitting apart? How do you make sure that the best interests of your children are being managed while dealing with the stresses of divorce?

Your Children Matter

Parental divorce nearly doubles the chances that children will grow up and see their own marriages end in divorce. It’s a difficult process, one that requires trust, intimacy, care, and thoughtfulness. Divorce is painfully personal, and when it comes to your family, they’re expecting the best of you. It can be profoundly difficult to be at your best under these circumstances, which is why family attorneys and counseling can work on your behalf.

Children soak up everything they see and hear. It’s important that their emotional and psychological well-being is met through every stage of your divorce. They are lightning rods for conflicting messages, conflict, and unintentional pain. Try and resolve conflicts in positive ways. Learn the art of compromise, and apologize when you do or say something wrong. Keep your children out of the middle of things, and praise them when they need it.

The Needs of your Children and Family Come First

As your children age, as people move, as education proceeds, it’s important to continue to listen to and work with your children on what’s best for them. If your ex-partner is difficult to work with on matters of parenting, listen to counsel and continue to strive towards working on agreements and resolutions whose outcomes benefit everyone, if possible. Avoid badmouthing your ex-partner in front of your children, even when frustrated. Children not only have terrific memories, but they internalize more than you might understand. Your children are intelligent and impressionable. Children innately feel like they are part of both of their parents. Criticizing or making sarcastic comments about your ex-partner can often lead to feelings of unworthiness or anxiety in your children. It can lead to low-self esteem and a sense that “something is wrong with me.”

If you can, take any issues with your ex-partner directly to them and avoid using your children as a mediation for your problems. Your children are their own individuals and must be nurtured and respected. They are not responsible for your divorce, or its outcomes. Be sensitive. It can be difficult, but do your best to monitor your own comments and leave your frustrations at the door when you are spending time with your children. Slip-ups can happen, but too many will lead to behavioral patterns that are difficult to change—and difficult for kids to recover from.

Take Care Of Your Family

When it comes to your family, it is your right to take care of those you love. Child support is a messy business, and it is important to let your attorneys find common ground so that you make work within the best interests of your family. Negotiating terms can be a difficult and arduous process, especially if you’re not on friendly ground with your ex-partner. Allow your attorney to do his negotiation for you so that you can focus on your family.

An important aspect of parenting is the plan of all those involved, the intentions and needs of doing what is best for your children. As children grow and your family changes, it becomes more and more important to make sure you change with them and do the best for your children. Parenting through a divorce is more than making sure your needs are met—it’s imperative to listen to your children’s wants and needs and to make sure they are being heard.

How To Make It Through Divorce

It can be a monumental effort imagining you and your family’s happiness again again after a divorce. Beyond seeking pleasure, seeking happiness, and pursuing joy are huge tasks. Your family needs you. This pressure can often add undue strain to your divorce but instead, look at the happiness of what you’re creating in your new family and focus on spending quality time with your children.

About the Author:

Jarrod Hays

Jarrod Hays is the founder of Skyview Law, a Family Law Firm in Richmond. He is licensed to practice law in Washington State and the Federal Court in the Western District of Washington. Jarrod earned his law degree from Lewis and Clark College in 2008. Jarrod is rated as one of the 10 Best Attorneys under 40 for Client Satisfaction in Washington for 2019



Resolving Issues After Divorce Through Mediation

Once a divorce is over, one of the many feelings a person feels is relief that the long, difficult and emotional process is finished. However, even long after a divorce is finalized, circumstances can still come up that require you and your spouse to revisit the terms of the divorce. These issues usually arise as the result of a change in circumstances, such as:

● A change in your job or income.
● A change in health insurance coverage.
● A change in your child’s education.
● An illness or other change in the medical needs of you or your child.
● A change in you or your spouse’s marital status.

Changes to the divorce agreement often have to be approved by the court. While changes can be made through traditional litigation, post divorce mediation is a quicker, less expensive, and more cooperative process that can help you and your spouse reach a mutually beneficial new agreement.

What is Post Divorce Mediation?

Divorce mediation is a process where two spouses meet with an impartial third party, a professional mediator, to discuss and resolve the many aspects of a divorce agreement, such as child custody and the division of assets, without the use of lawyers or a lengthy court battle. While an entire divorce can be resolved this way, mediation can also be used for any issues that arise after the divorce is finalized, even if the original divorce was settled through litigation. This is referred to as post divorce mediation. Mediation gives couples more control over the process and creates a positive, constructive environment. Many couples choose divorce mediation if they are amicable and able to work together to come to important decisions related to the divorce.

What Issues Can Be Resolved With Post Divorce Mediation?

Post divorce mediation can address any of the points that were decided on during the original divorce that now need to be adjusted due to a change in circumstances for either spouse or the couple’s children, including:

● Child Support Modification. Child support arrangements can be changed after a divorce if there is a change in one spouse’s income or the needs of the child. Mediation can help you and your spouse discuss the issue and come to a decision that is in the child’s best interest.
● Child Custody Modification. Child custody arrangements may need to change as time goes on, for example if one parent is planning to relocate or there is a serious issue with the current arrangement.
● Alimony Changes. Alimony, or spousal support, can be modified after the divorce if circumstances change for one or both spouses. For example, the receiving spouse might get remarried or no longer need the support.
● Modifying Parenting Time Agreements. Parenting time agreements, also called visitation, come in many forms. There is supervised and unsupervised parenting time, and a wide range of schedules that the parents may follow. For example the child can alternate spending one week at a time with each parent, or more. Depending on the family’s schedule and the needs of the child, the couple may want to alter the parenting time schedule through mediation.
● Relocating to Another State With a Child. As mentioned above, parent relocation is a complicated issue in child custody. The courts will typically examine the reasons for the move and whether it is in the best interest of the child. Mediation gives the couple a chance to weigh this important decision themselves.
● Allocating College Costs. Couples often seek mediation to decide who will contribute what to their child’s education, including tuition, books, room & board, transportation, and other issues.

Does Mediation Work for Changing a Legal Separation Agreement?

Legal separation, sometimes referred to as ‘limited divorce’ or ‘divorce from bed and board,’ is an alternative to divorce where the couple separates while still being legally married. Couples who believe they can still reconcile, want to remain eligible for healthcare and insurance benefits, or object to divorce for whatever reason often choose this option. Just like in a divorce, couples who opt for separation come to a legally binding agreement regarding all aspects of ending their marriage, and can use mediation to resolve any issues that come up after it is finalized.

Benefits of Mediation for Post Divorce Issues

For post divorce issues that need to be addressed, mediation has several benefits over a typical court proceeding, including:

● Time. Traditional court proceedings for post divorce changes can end up taking a long time, whereas mediation is a much quicker process. Usually, the more in agreement the couple is about the changes that need to be made, the quicker the mediation will be.
● Expense. Because mediation is faster, requires only one mediator instead of two attorneys, and usually does not involve retainer fees, it is a considerably cheaper option for post divorce proceedings.
● Atmosphere. Mediation encourages peaceful and cooperative resolution, and makes changing a divorce agreement a much more positive and less adversarial process that will be easier on your, your spouse, and your children.

Is Post Divorce Mediation Right For Me?

Professional mediators are trained in helping couples work through their issues in a calm, non-adversarial way. However, the mediator can only do so much for couples who cannot be civil or agree on anything. Mediation works well for couples who are organized, goal-oriented, and ready to cooperate and be respectful of each other. If you and your spouse are willing to work together to reach a decision on changing part of the divorce or legal separation agreement, post divorce mediation can be a positive and constructive process that benefits everyone involved.

By Steven B. Menack Divorce & Separation Mediation