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Non-Communication Can Cost You

This is a risk of “traditional” divorce that doesn’t come up often. Traditional divorce doesn’t teach you to communicate with your ex spouse, but rather to have an adversarial relationship, where non-communication becomes the norm. If you think that’s fine, think about the following situation, involving two parents, two sets of lawyers, and one wise old judge.

The custodial parent moves and enrolls their child in a new school, but fails to communicate the details with the other parent, who comes to believe that the child would be walking home along dangerous, busy streets and coming home to an empty house. That parent files a temporary restraining order to prohibit the enrollment. The truth is that the custodial parent had in fact taken all concerns into account, and the child was at no risk. The non-custodial parent based their fears on hearsay, and the restraining order had no merit – so, after reviewing the evidence and the custodial agreement, the judge threw it out.

But, and this is a big one, he didn’t grant attorney’s fees to the custodial parent. Why not? The restraining order had no merit, after all. The judge decided that court was a poor substitute for a simple conversation. In effect, he punished the custodial parent, who was acting within their rights, for not pro-actively communicating with the other parent. Mediation or collaborative divorce can help avoid expensive and wasteful litigation not just at the time of the divorce, but years down the road.

On October 18th, The Law Collaborative is offering Tips, Tricks & Strategies for Divorce, a seminar that will provide tools for moving a stuck case forward, how to communicate effectively with a former spouse, tricks for negotiating even when negotiation seems impossible, and more. The workshop is $25 in advance or $35 at the door. Licensed attorneys who attend will earn 1 MCLE credit. Anyone contemplating or going through a divorce is invited to attend.

Register online at www.thelawcollaborative.com or call us toll free at (888) 852-9961.

The Big Lie About Co-Parenting

photo by greekadman via PhotoRee

Joseph Nowinski, PhD, has written a compelling article for the Huffington Post about whether or not co-parenting is actually in the child’s best interests. This is something I think about whenever I hear fathers of breastfeeding infants demand equal parenting time. While I appreciate the desire to be an integral part of your child’s life, I can’t help but wonder how the father plans to breastfeed his infant during his custodial time.

The idea of co-parenting between ex-spouses who are able to treat each other with respect, communicate in a healthy and adult manner, and work together to raise their children is brilliant.But what about a four-month-old breastfeeding infant? Is it in that child’s best interest to spend 50% of the time with dad? Probably not. What if, during marriage, Dad was responsible for 75% of child care while Mom worked full time and supported the family? Does it make sense, in the wake of major life changes (such as one’s parents divorcing) for the children to suddenly find themselves in Mom’s care 50% of the time? I can’t answer that question because it really depends on the child, the child’s age, the parents and their relationship after the divorce. From the article:

My personal bias is to try to roughly match initial visiting and custody arrangements with each parent’s level of parenting experience. For example, if reality shows that one parent has had 75 percent of the parenting experience described in the above questionnaire, while the other has had only 25 percent, after the divorce children should divide their time between the parents in roughly the same proportions, at least initially. Such an arrangement can easily be written into a divorce agreement, which might place a time limit on the 75/25 split.

Over time the less experienced parent should be given opportunities to “catch up” in the day-to-day parenting; for example, by taking the child or children to pediatrician appointments, by cooking family meals, and by supervising bedtime preparation. Then, as the less experienced parent begins to catch up, living schedules can gradually move toward a true fifty-fifty split. This gradual increase avoids making the child or children anxious and avoids having to separate a great deal from the parent who early had done most of the parenting.

What do you think? Would co-parenting work in your family? Have you tried it and had success? Or have you tried it and discovered that it’s not all its cracked up to be? Read the rest of the article here and share your opinion – we want to know what you think.

Pssst: Tomorrow is the last day to RSVP for our complimentary retirement seminar, Retirement Illusions: Where do we go from here? Click here to RSVP now!

What About the Children?

When the topic of divorce surfaces, the first thought of many is, “What about the children?” Divorce is thought to traumatize all children involved, and with fair reason. A family splits, lives are altered, and people must adapt to their new circumstances, whatever they may be. Stephanie Dolgoff, author and divorcee, watched peers gasp when they heard she was divorcing her husband with whom she had children. She felt terrible whenever she would receive this reaction to the news, understandably, as if she had failed her children by not working harder to save the marriage. As time went on, however, she began to feel more comfortable with how the situation turned out, as her children became more at ease with the new living arrangements. She and her husband tried to handle the divorce as maturely as they could, in the hopes that things would turn out better for everybody. They did.

I’ve learned that I’m in many ways a better parent than when I was anxious and unhappy and I was distracted by the tension in my marriage. Having gotten my divorce legs, I’m present and peaceful and able to give to them. Aside from plain wanting to leave a situation that wasn’t bringing me joy, I wanted to show my girls what a happy woman who took care of herself and her emotional needs looked like. It will serve them well.

If you’re interested in her full article, you can read it here.

When The Cat is Away

Can you control what your kids do when they’re spending time with your ex?

Generally speaking each parent gets to make decisions regarding a child’s activities during their period of physical custody. The State of California, represented by the judicial officer, is not the “super parent” entitled to make the usual decisions regarding how to raise children. When parents disagree about some activity (I’ve seen things like riding on motorcycles or scooters, flying in a private plane, sailboat ride, playing certain sports, eating certain foods, etc.) the limitation on the judicial officer is finding some solid evidence of actual danger to the child. To see just how high that burden is take a look at In re Marriage of Mentry, 142 Cal. App. 3d 260 (Cal. App. 1st Dist. 1983). That case was always my touchstone when these issues were brought to me. — Honorable Judge Robert Schnider (Retired)

Family Dinner

Family Dinner

Last week Robert came across an article by Laurie David and Grace R. Freedman, Ph.D., for the Huffington Post. It explored a possible link between childhood obesity and the near absence of the traditional family dinner. With most parents working outside the home these days, families have complicated, busy schedules, so more and more kids are eating on the go – fast meals with little nutritional value. David and Freedman write, “Regular, routine meals add structure to a child’s day (and to that of the parents), and from this structure stems a myriad of health and social benefits, including better relationships with peers and adults, better grades at school, and less likelihood of using drugs, alcohol or cigarettes… Children (and adults) who have regular mealtimes, with the television turned off and conversation turned on, are also far less likely to be overweight, less likely to have eating disorders, and are more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables than are those who eat alone or on the run.” (Read the full article here…)

This got us thinking about the incredible value of a routine family dinner for families in transition. If a routine family dinner can help kids and parents develop healthier eating habits and better social skills, then it must be of paramount importance for a family experiencing a breakup to adopt this simple ritual. Children of divorcing parents are often frightened and confused. Even when they say they’re fine, they’re unsure of their future, uncomfortable with changes they have no control over, and sorely in need of comfort and consistency from both parents. What better way to grant them that than for you (during your custodial time) to sit down with them over dinner and talk about their day, the best parts, the worst parts, and everything in between? It’s a no-frills idea that could have a hugely positive impact on your relationship with your children, while at the same time helping them (and yourself) heal from the divorce.

We’re Moving!

The Law Collaborative is thrilled to announce that we are moving to a new location this Friday, April 8, 2011. Please take a moment to update your address book:

The Law Collaborative, LLP
21051 Warner Center Lane, Suite 100
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
T: (888)852-9961
F: (888)852-9962

Our new suite offers lots of additional space for our growing firm, in addition to two beautiful new conference rooms. For photos and updates on our new suite, visit our blog at RonAndRobertOnDivorce.com.

The timing of our move is such that we have to cancel our April Second Saturday Workshop, but we’re very excited to host the May workshop out of our new space. If you or someone you know would like to register and get a 50% discount, visit TheLawCollaborative.com/SecondSaturday.htm.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our weekly podcast, Ron and Robert on Divorce on iTunes! You can be our friend at Facebook.com/TheLawCollaborative and you can follow our tweets at Twitter.com/TLC_Law. If you enjoyed this newsletter, join our newsletter list here.

Best wishes,
Ron Supancic and Robert Borsky
Partners at The Law Collaborative, LLP

Themes of Experience

Nearly every child whose parents split up experiences fear. Many children worry that their parents will abandon them. After all, if marriages can be dissolved, why not parent-child relationships? Fears like these can lessen a child’s trust in their parents and in human relationships in general, which is why must take care to put our children’s needs before our own during this difficult time.

Another common theme in a child’s divorce experience is sadness and yearning. Sometimes the sadness is so deep that children experience sleeplessness, inability to concentrate, disinterest in play, deep sighing, compulsive overeating, and various aches and pains. They yearn for the absent parent. A five-year-old who’s father has moved out will say, “I need a daddy. I don’t have a daddy.”  It doesn’t seem to matter at all how good a relationship the child had with the absent father. The child misses him and wants him back because his presence is important; what he represents in the child’s own mind and imagination is important. And the kid wants him back because that would heal the pain of their sense of loss and rejection. Substitutions, no matter how well intended, will not fill the great emptiness they feel.

Divorce is also a time of worry for children. They often — boys and girls alike — fret about their absent parent and the details of his or her life. But they also worry about the parent who didn’t move out — both in terms of that parent’s permanence for them and their needs, and in terms of their compassion for that parent’s own suffering. Kids also worry about money, about changing schools, about moving, and about their parent’s new friends.

Very often, children take the departure of a parent personally. He or she is rejecting them. In addition, some children, will identify with their departed parent so that they personally feel any criticism leveled at that parent by the other parent as if it had been meant for them.

Loneliness is another common theme. Children feel that both of their parents are slipping away from them — which is not unreasonable, since the remaining parent might be either off at work or hiding in the bedroom in a pit of depression. Adolescents are sometimes able to escape this torment if they are especially well adjusted so that they have an already-devleoped capacity to rely on their friends. But the reliance of teenagers on their equally immature friends can also lead to difficulties at home, at school, or even with the law.

Divorce can be confusing, frustrating, frightening and stressful for everyone involved. Click here to revisit our Checklist for Divorcing Parents, so you can help your kids get through this tough time.

Out of the Mouths of Babes

M. Marcy Jones is a Virginia family law attorney, author, speaker, coach and advocate for change. She founded Graceful Divorce Solutions for many of the same reasons Ron and Robert founded The Law Collaborative and Ron and Robert on Divorce — to provide tools, information, and education to separated and divorcing people.

Ron and Robert often talk about the rights of children in divorce. You can read some of their articles on the subject here. I just discovered Marcy’s Top 10 List of Do’s and Don’ts for Parents Going Through Divorce, and I thought it fit so beautifully with The Law Collaborative’s 12 Inalienable Rights of Children, that I had to share it with you.

    Check out Attorney M. Marcy Jones Top 10 List of Do’s and Don’ts for Parents Going Through Divorce. Her article has some wonderful insight for parents, divorcing or not.

    Creating a Dialogue

    Over the years we’ve had many many people tell us that divorce is worse than death.  And in some ways it is a death.  It’s the death of an identity.

    When people come together in a marriage, they create a third entity.  He’s not who he was anymore, he now becomes what she adds to him.  She’s no longer who she was, separate and apart from him, she becomes who she is with him.  The two of them create this third relationship, and the success of the marriage, the longevity of the marriage, the durability of the marriage is a direct function of the amount of time that people put into cultivating, creating, adding to and enlarging that third entity.  When that entity dies, when it is destroyed, when it is broken through a breach of trust or a horrible misadventure, it’s devastating.  It’s devastating to the person who has put their everything into the relationship and it’s devastating to the children.

    There is a legal divorce and there is an emotional divorce. The key is to understand that what you’re going through is different than what the legal process is.  But you have to understand the legal process to be able to get through it.  The purpose of this blog, and of the Ron and Robert on Divorce Podcast, is to provide tools, education and information to people who are going through the crisis of a divorce.

    How do you know if you need a lawyer?  What are the proper forms to file to get a divorce started?  Can you do it yourself?  How much does it cost?  What are the rules for fair fighting?  What if your spouse is hiding money?  What about the kids?  What is collaborative law?  Do you have to go to court?  We’ve answered all these questions on our blog and in our podcasts, and now we want to start a dialogue with you – what do you want to know?  What are your questions?  Send us an email and we will answer your questions on our radio show or on our blog.  We won’t use your name, your identity will be protected, but it’s important to know that there are remedies, there are solutions, there are steps you can take, precise protocols you can follow to make your entire divorce easier.  You are not at the mercy of the California Divorce Industry.  You can take this opportunity to empower yourself.  Write to:

    Ron@TheLawCollaborative.com
    Robert@TheLawCollaborative.com

    Please keep in mind that we cannot give legal advice without a signed Retainer Agreement, but it is our mission to provide information, education, knowledge and support.  Thank you for allowing us to be of service.

    Click the play button below to listen to Ron and Robert’s latest podcast:

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    The Inalienable Rights of Children

    I have the right to love whom I choose without guilt, pressure or rejection.

    I have the right to love as many people as I want; stepparents, relatives, and extended family, without guilt and without being made to feel disloyal. The more love I give, the more I have to give, and the more I receive.

    I have the right to a regular, daily and weekly routine; one that is not filled with alternating patterns and disruption.

    I have a right to visit both parents, regardless of grownup wants or wishes regarding convenience, money, or their feelings. I own visitation, it is my right, it is not the right of my parents.

    I have a right to be angry, sad, and fearful, and I have a right to express these feelings.

    I have a right to be protected from being exposed to the anger of my parents, to not be punished because they are angry at each other, or to see them punishing each other.

    I have a right to like both my parents, since they are both a part of me, and I have the right to be reassured that this is OK.

    I have the right not to blame or choose sides.

    I have the right not to have to make adult decisions.

    I have the right to remain a child and to not replace a parent in my duties, or to have to be an adult companion, friend, or comforter to my parents.

    I have the right not to ever have to choose with whom I live. This is a decision for wise adults. Having to make such a choice will always hurt someone else, and therefore myself. I have this right even when I’m a teenager and people wish I were able to choose, I can never choose between my parents.

    Helping Your Children Through Divorce

    1.  Tell your children the truth, with simple explanations.

    2.  Tell them where their other parent has gone and when they will see them again.

    3.  Reassure your children that they will continue to be taken care of and that they will be safe and secure.

    4.  Your children see that parents sometimes stop loving each other. Explain that a parent’s love for their child is a special kind of love that never changes or goes away.

    5.  See the wisdom in spending quality time every day with each child individually.

    6.  Children may feel responsible for causing the divorce. Reassure them that they are not to blame. They may also feel responsible for bringing parents back together. Let them know that your decision is final and will have to be accepted.

    7.  Divorcing parents often feel guilty and become overindulgent because their children have to go through a divorce. Give your child love and limits.

    8.  Your child is still a child and cannot become the man of the house or the little mother. Continue to be a parent to your child. Seek other adults to fill your need for companionship.

    9.  Avoid situations that place children in the impossible position of choosing between parents.

    10.  Don’t use your child as a way to get back at your former spouse.  Avoid using your children as messengers between you and your former spouse.  Children can be terribly wounded when caught in the crossfire.

    11.  Throughout life, you and your former spouse will continue to be the parents of your children. Pledge to cooperate responsibly towards the growth and development of your children as an expression of your mutual love for them.

    12.  A divorce can be a time of loss for each member of the family. You are entitled to reach out for help and support.

    13.  Be patient and understanding with your child.

    14.  Be patient and understanding with yourself.