The Law Offices of
Patrick A. McCall
Attorney for the Family
765 The City Drive South, Suite 350 Orange, California 92868
A Winning Combination of
Experience, Specialization and Compassion
Building your Case requires litigation be assured that few — if any
for an Optimal — family lawyers in the area have his proven
Outcome trial experience, reputation and record of success.
Divorce is a complex Personal Familiarity with a Blended
matter that contains Family
numerous legal intrica-
cies. To ensure that your For many years, Patrick was a single father with
divorce yields a favor- four daughters, and now he enjoys being part of
able outcome, highly a blended family, which includes three step-
experienced California children. This experience helps him support clients
family lawyer Patrick McCall thoroughly prepares who are dealing with a changing family structure.
your case on five proven principles from beginning With compassion, he’ll help prepare you for your
to end: studying your case inside and out to iden- new, post-divorce life so that you can confidently
tify the facts that will stand up in court; the attitudes move forward.
of the parties involved; the abilities of the oppos-
ing counsel; the judge who hears your case; and the Keeping your Divorce Costs Down
strategic approach that will lead to the best possi-
ble outcome in the least amount of time, and at Divorce can be an expensive proposition. However,
minimal stress and cost. Patrick looks out for his clients by striving to keep
his fees affordable and, typically, substantially less
Renowned Family Law Specialist and than other family lawyers. He is able to do this
Lecturer without compromising his high quality standards
by using a team of skilled associates and paralegals
Patrick accepts cases throughout California and who bill at a lower rate. He also uses cost/benefit
has earned a widespread reputation among his analysis to help clients choose strategies that are the
peers throughout the state and country. He is a most cost effective and financially beneficial in
Certified Family Law Specialist by the State Bar the long-run.
of California, Board of Specialization — a rare
distinction enjoyed by a very small fraction of “In every case, I work hard,
lawyers in California. In addition, Patrick has strategize from the beginning and keep
taught college-level courses on family law, and
my clients fully aware of all options."
over 60 continuing education courses in family
law for lawyers, judges and accountants. He has
also been consulted by the media on family law
issues. The Law Offices of
Unmatched Trial Experience
Since 1983, Patrick has successfully tried hun-
Patrick A. McCall
Attorney for the Family
dreds of cases in all areas of family law, especial-
ly in the areas of domestic violence and custody
applications. While he and his team are focused on www.patrickmccall.com
helping you quickly benefit from a fair and equi- 765 The City Drive South, Suite 350
table out-of-court settlement, if your divorce Orange, California 92868
The Divorce Process
A basic guide to the legal process behind ending your marriage.
By Jeffrey Cottrill
o two divorces are exactly a be important between the separation and
Check DivorceMagazine.com for in-
like. Every marital breakup has the final outcome. For example, if one formation on the grounds for divorce in
unique legal, financial, and/or spouse moves out of the home and the your state or province. Most states and
parenting issues that require their own other has no income, how will the all Canadian provinces, however, don’t
resolution strategies. But every divorce latter feed the kids and pay the bills? require fault as a prerequisite — so you
undergoes the same general journey For more information about tempor- don’t have to justify filing by accusing
from initiation to closure. Whether you ary orders, visit www.divorcemag.com/ your spouse of wrongdoing.
and your spouse make this journey articles/Financial_Planning/getting_
cheaper and faster is up to you, but the prepared_temp_orders.html. Collecting information and
destination is always the same: from discovery
shared to separate lives. You should hire a divorce lawyer
and/or mediator, and financial advisor, as Once you’ve hired your divorce
Here’s a basic primer of how the di- soon as possible. You’ll set your tempo- lawyer, you must gather all relevant in-
vorce process works in the United States rary order/agreement in a brief, relatively formation for your lawyer’s perusal:
and Canada. Bear in mind, however, that informal hearing before a judge — so • Full names, addresses, phone num-
I’m not a legal professional. You’ll want prepare a complete list of what you want bers, and Social Security or Social
to speak to a family lawyer to find out to request in advance. Among items you Insurance numbers of you, your
how the options vary in your state or can request: temporary custody and visi- spouse, and your children;
province, as well as how your own situ- tation arrangements; a restraining order • The date of marriage, date of cohab-
ation affects the process. so your spouse won’t contact you; child itation, county or region where the
or spousal support; and/or who gets the wedding occurred, the wife’s maiden
Temporary orders and filing the car and house. name, and any information about
divorce papers prior marriages of either spouse (in-
Next, you or your spouse files a peti- cluding the names and prior names of
One of the first things you and your tion, application, or complaint for divorce ex-spouses);
spouse have to do after you separate with your local family court. The person • A copy of your premarital agreement
is to get a “temporary order” or agree- who files, or plaintiff, serves a Summons (or other domestic contract) and
ment. This is extremely important, upon the other spouse stating that they information about any prior legal
because it could set the precedent for want a divorce and what they are seeking proceedings, separations, or marital
your final divorce settlement. A tempo- in terms of property, child custody, sup- counseling during the marriage;
rary order/agreement establishes quick port, etc. The other spouse, or defendant, • All available financial data, includ-
decisions about the children, property, must answer the Summons and, if they ing: income-tax returns from the past
bank accounts, and other issues that may wish, can make their own claim. several years; a recent pay slip; the
Divorce Guide |3
major assets and liabilities of both decide the outcome if you can’t come to lawyers representing you and your
you and your spouse; budget work- agreement on your own. In an uncon- spouse present their cases before the
sheets; insurance policies; credit- tested divorce, both of you agree on judge. In most cases, only the lawyers
card statements; wills; and any credit how to divide your assets and debts, are permitted to speak; however, if
or mortgage applications. who gets custody and pays child you are going the Do-It-Yourself route
support, and whether one spouse needs in your divorce (a path that’s only rec-
Unless you create a separation to pay spousal support to the other. ommended for very simple divorce
agreement, your lawyer will use this as Obviously, an uncontested divorce cases), you will be able to represent
a starting point for the discovery will be faster and simpler. But even a yourself in this hearing. Once the judge
process. The lawyer gets as much spe- divorce that starts with major disagree- makes a decision on the matter, the reg-
cific information about the marriage as ments can be worked out if you choose ular process continues as before.
possible, to work out the financial and to make it that way, and the majority of
children’s issues fairly. Most of dis- cases do settle. Litigation or negotiation?
covery involves financial matters, for
which your lawyer needs specific, ac- If you’re in the United States, ask If your divorce is contested, you and
curate details. From the value of items your lawyer if you’re eligible for a your spouse must decide how to resolve
you bought during the marriage to “summary” divorce. This is a simpler your divorce. Will you fight it out
stocks, pensions, and revenue from a and faster divorce process which through adversarial litigation, or can
business, you and your professionals involves less paperwork, fewer court you set aside personal feelings long
(e.g. lawyers, mediators, financial plan- appearances, and less time in negotia- enough to negotiate outside of court? If
ners, accountants, appraisers, etc.) have tion. However, this will only work you want to avoid the “divorce from
to retrieve documentation of every dol- if your marriage was relatively short hell”, Alternative Dispute Resolution
lar value — including that of premarital and if you have no children, little (ADR) methods, such as arbitration,
assets. For articles on preparing for a property, and no intention to seek mediation, and Collaborative Divorce,
deposition and separation agreement, spousal support. In Canada, the closest have become popular means of settling
visit www.divorcemag.com/articles/ would be an uncontested divorce or a divorce in a cooperative environment
Divorce_Settlement_Preparation. joint application. with reduced stress and expense. Some
states have made mediation compulsory
Contested vs. uncontested Motions in the divorce process.
If you need to readjust certain Talk to your lawyer (and your
There are two general types of arrangements during the divorce pro- spouse) about the different options.
divorce. If you and your spouse can’t cess — such as custody, visitation, or For more information on divorce medi-
agree on the divorce terms — or if one support — you can initiate this by fil- ation, go to www.divorcemag.com/
of you doesn’t want the divorce — it’s ing a motion with the court. Next, a articles/Mediation; for information on
a contested divorce, and a judge will short hearing takes place in which the Collaborative Divorce, please go to
w w w. d i v o r c e m a g . c o m / a r t i c l e s /
If you and your spouse just can’t
agree, then your case goes to trial. Di-
vorce trials can take many months or
even years, and they’re never pleasant.
Generally, you and your spouse each
tell your respective side of the story
before the judge (and the public). You
take the stand, and your own lawyer
asks you questions that prompt you to
explain your side — and then your
spouse’s lawyer has the option of cross-
examining you or challenging the
validity of your perspective. The same
goes for both sides’ witnesses (both
personal and professional): each of
you dukes it out through conflicting
4 | Divorce Guide
process is very quick, the waiting
period must elapse before the judge
Will you fight it out through adversarial litigation, or officially grants the divorce. Lengths
vary between states, but the average
can you set aside your personal feelings long enough waiting period is about six months.
to negotiate? Alternative Dispute Resolution methods The divorce judgment
have become popular means of settling divorce. After all the issues have been de-
cided (either by you and your spouse or
by a judge), a court clerk reviews all the
papers and sends them to the judge.
testimony and attempts to make your monthly amount of money that a finan- When the judge signs a document that
respective case look more believable. cially advantaged divorcee can be officially ends the marriage (a Divorce
Finally, the judge — a stranger who ordered (or agree) to pay their ex- Judgment Order or a Divorce Decree),
only knows you through what he or she spouse, to help maintain a lifestyle to you are legally divorced — and free to
has seen in court — weighs all the evi- which the latter has become accus- remarry if you choose.
dence and makes all the final decisions. tomed. Ask your lawyer whether you’re
eligible for spousal support — and if so, The divorce process is complicated,
The issues don’t be afraid to take it. The purpose and this brief summary doesn’t touch
of spousal support is not to punish your on what an emotional rollercoaster
Money and property: ex but to maintain your lifestyle. ride a divorce is. It’s a wrenching ex-
perience that can cost a lot of money
Who gets what? What items and ac- Child support is what a non- and upset your lifestyle in profound
counts legitimately belong to you? Who custodial parent regularly pays to the ways; it can also damage your chil-
should keep the marital home? Who custodial parent in order to support the dren’s psychological growth if you and
gets which car? How about the cottage? children from the marriage. This way, your spouse don’t consider their well
The family business? The pets? both parents can financially contribute being and act in a way that supports an
to bringing up the children, even if amicable divorce. But once it’s done,
Many states classify property owned one isn’t present on a regular basis. For you’re free to start over — so the
by the spouses as “marital” or “sepa- more helpful articles, go to www. sooner you get to the end, the better for
rate” — the latter meaning that the divorcemag.com/articles/Child_ all involved. Talk to the necessary di-
property belonged to one spouse be- Support. vorce professionals (family lawyers, di-
fore marriage or was a gift to one vorce mediators, Certified Divorce
spouse. The goal of property division is Child custody and visitation: Financial Analysts, accountants, thera-
“equitable distribution” — meaning an pists, etc.) to find out how to make your
even division of assets and debts. One of the most important decisions divorce process as quick and painless
If you negotiate asset division with your is where and with whom the children as possible.
spouse directly, be clear about which will live. Is joint custody in their best
items are high priorities to you and interests, or should they live with one Jeffrey Cottrill is the former Manag-
which ones you would be willing to parent full-time with regular visits with ing Editor of Divorce Magazine.
let go. the other? Unless your spouse is
abusive, both of you should work to-
The more financially complicated gether to create an agreement in which
your divorce, the longer this will you both get a fair share in raising your
take, and you’ll likely need an account- children. Custody battles in court are For more articles, and a more
ant, a business valuator, a Certified usually full of character slurs and accu- in-depth explanation of each of
Divorce Financial Analyst, a Financial sations that are emotionally traumatic the subjects covered in the divorce
Divorce Specialist, or a financial plan- for you — and more so for the children. process, visit www.divorcemag.
ner to make sense of all the assets For more helpful articles, go to www. com/articles/Separation_Divorce_
involved. For more helpful articles, divorcemag.com/articles/Child_ Process.
go to www.divorcemag.com/articles/ Custody.
Financial_Planning. For helpful tips on how best to work
The waiting period with your divorce lawyer, visit
Child and spousal support: www.divorcemag.com/articles/
There is usually a set minimum wait- Divorce_Lawyers.
Often referred to as “alimony” or ing period between the divorce peti-
“maintenance”, spousal support is a tion and the final decree. Even if your
Divorce Guide |5
Divorce Professionals You Need
Get the best possible advisors to help you during your divorce.
By Diana Shepherd, edited by Josh D. Simon
ivorce is a complex process that
court battle, you’ll probably save a
affects just about every aspect great deal of time, stress, and money.
of your life: financial, emo- • Is firm. If you end up going to court,
tional, physical and legal. Unless you’ve you don’t want your lawyer to crum-
been married for only a short time and ble at the first obstacle.
have no property, assets, or children, • Is reasonable. You want someone
you’ll probably need the advice of more who’ll advise you to settle if the offer
than one divorce professional to help is fair, and not have the case drag on
smooth the road ahead of you. You will to satisfy your lawyer’s need to
need expert services from one, some, or “win.”
all of the following professionals: • Is not in conflict with your best in-
lawyer, mediator, accountant, divorce fi- terests. Don’t share a lawyer with
nancial specialist and therapist. While your spouse, or hire your spouse’s
each of these professionals can help you best friend (even if this person is a
through a challenging transition period, friend of yours, too), business part-
finding the right ones can be stressful. ner, or any member of your spouse’s
family to represent you — even if
Here’s a guide to help you choose the you’re on good terms with them.
best possible advisors to support you Aside from the obvious conflict of
with your divorce. At the end of this ar- interest, you’ll likely create enemies
ticle, you’ll also find a list of useful and spark a family feud before your
questions to ask these professionals divorce settles.
when you interview them.
Choosing a Mediator
Choosing a Lawyer
With mediation, you, your spouse
Choosing a lawyer may be the most and a third-party mediator work together
important decision you’ll make during to negotiate how to live successful lives
your divorce. As in any profession, there apart. Mediation can save time and
are good lawyers and bad lawyers. It’s money, and is usually less emotionally
up to you to do your homework and to damaging than a full-blown court battle.
ask the right questions to determine Together, you and your spouse work out
which group your lawyer belongs to (a an agreement you can both live with
list of questions to ask a potential lawyer from the same side of the mediation
is provided at the end of this article). table, rather than opposing sides of the
Look for a lawyer who: courtroom.
• Practices family law. A lawyer who
specializes in taxation isn’t going to Mediation isn’t an option in all di-
be much help to you. vorce cases. However, when both par-
• Has experience. Make sure your ties are willing to look at the issues
lawyer has practiced family law for a instead of the emotions that cloud the is-
while, and find out if they have writ- sues, mediation is worth a try. Statistics
ten books or lectured/mentored other show that when a case is negotiated
family lawyers. through a mediator, the parties tend to
• Is a skilled negotiator. If your case stay out of court in the future. Another
can be settled without a protracted benefit of a mediated settlement is that
6 | Divorce Guide
you and your spouse will learn power- can also ask your personal accountant (if separately), and everything else from the
ful new communication techniques, you have one) to suggest someone who contents of a safety deposit box to the
which is particularly important if you has a matrimonial background, but be cars. And while you’ll be dealing mainly
have children or share business interests. sure to check his/her prior experience. with “big ticket items,” if something is
very important to you, make sure it’s on
Mediation doesn’t normally elimi- Choosing a Divorce Financial your list. If a business is involved, bro-
nate the need for a lawyer, and your Specialist kerage statements or corporate minute
lawyer will have to approve any agree- books will also be required.
ments made by you and your spouse be- When your marriage has dissolved,
fore they become legally binding. and even during the divorce process it- Basically, your accountant or divorce
However, the mediation process can self, you may want to employ a finan- financial specialist needs to see any
speed up negotiations because you and cial expert who has been specially major paperwork that involves the trans-
your spouse communicate directly in- trained in issues that pertain to separa- action of money for both you and your
stead of through a “broken telephone” tion and divorce. spouse.
chain from your spouse, to your
spouse’s lawyer, to your lawyer, and Certified Divorce Financial Analysts Choosing a Therapist
then finally to you. Many family law (CDFAs™) tend to be financial planners
practitioners are also trained mediators, or accountants who have completed the A therapist can help you deal with the
and so finding a mediator may simply be Institute of Divorce Financial Analyst’s various emotions that could get in the
a question of asking your lawyer about training. Equipped with the specific way of negotiating a divorce settlement.
his or her qualifications. training on handling divorce cases, a During your separation, you may expe-
CDFA can analyze settlements in the rience grief, anger or depression. Also,
Choosing an Accountant
A Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
can handle many of the financial matters When you first meet the divorce professional
of your case. His or her responsibility is
to calculate you and your spouse’s net
you may hire, you should be prepared
worth, and to produce figures that are with some well thought-out questions.
agreeable to both you and the courts.
There are a number of different accred-
itations given to accountants, and you’ll
find these designations after their name. context of your long-term financial situ- until you achieve an “emotional di-
Wading through the differences between ation and inform you of the ones that ap- vorce,” you won’t truly be free to create
pear fair and equitable on the surface, a fulfilling new life. A qualified thera-
someone who is a CFE (Certified Fraud
but will not stand the test of time. A pist can help you work through the is-
Examiner) or a BCFE (Board Certified
CDFA can also reduce future uncer- sues that are holding you back and
Forensic Examiner), or a member of the
tainty by forecasting the financial im- keeping you stuck in the past.
ASA (American Society of Appraisers),
pact of alternative settlement proposals.
or a member of NACVA, (National As- For instance, a CDFA can tell you what However, the process of finding the
sociation of Certified Valuation Accred- the financial consequences will be of right therapist can be a frustrating one.
itation) may seem a daunting task, but keeping your home instead of selling it. Anyone can call him or herself a “ther-
by doing a little research, you’ll come to A CDFA can work with your lawyer and apist” regardless of background or train-
understand what you need to know. If provide the financial data required to ing, so do your due diligence to find
you think your spouse is hiding assets, support your case. someone competent. A therapist with an
a forensic accountant could be helpful. “MD” after his/her name is a psychia-
If you and/or your spouse own your own Additionally, a CDFA™ can help trist; one with a “Ph.D.” is a psycholo-
one or multiple businesses, a business you with budgeting, or assist with tax, gist. If you see the letters “MSW,” it
valuator will be important to value com- estate, or retirement planning. He or she means this person has a master’s degree
pany assets and also to value company will help you organize your financial fu- in social work, while an “LCSW” is a
goodwill. ture by proposing a personalized plan Licensed Clinical Social Worker. If pos-
with a time horizon, and a solid invest- sible, choose a therapist who specializes
You could ask to be introduced to an ment strategy to help you move towards in marriage and divorce.
accountant through your lawyer. These financial stability after your divorce.
two members of your divorce team may Setting realistic limits and goals is an
have to work in tandem from time to You’ll also need valuations or other important part of the therapist’s services.
time, so it’s beneficial to find someone paperwork detailing property owned Good therapists are willing to listen, but
with whom your lawyer is familiar. You by you and your spouse (together or they don’t always have to agree with
Divorce Guide |7
you. A good therapist will encourage
questions that indicate you’re interested
in your own recovery. As you glance
around the therapist’s office, try to imag-
ine yourself coming here every week for
Remember, it can take three to five
sessions before you have a clear idea of
whether this therapist is the right one for
you. However, if after this period you
don’t feel right about the relationship,
then trust your inner voice, thank the
therapist for his/her time, and interview
the next candidate.
Questions to Ask when Inter- you think your case is extremely sim- an associate, or a combination of
viewing Divorce Professionals ple, but your spouse’s lawyer buries senior and junior lawyers and parale-
your lawyer in paperwork, you can gals?
When you first meet your the divorce expect your costs to increase. • Should I consider mediation?
professional you may hire, you should • What do you think the outcome will
be prepared with some well thought-out be? Remember, you’re looking for Questions Specifically for Your
questions. Here are some suggestions of truthfulness here, not to be told a Prospective Accountant, Finan-
what to ask: • happy story. cial Advisor, Mediator, and
• What is your training, experience, • If your spouse has retained profes- Therapist:
credentials and affiliations? sionals of his or her own (and you
• How long have you been working in know who they are), ask if they are • How many times have you been to
this field? familiar with any of them. court? These professionals may be
• Do you serve divorcing people ex- • How long will this process take? testifying on your behalf, so you
clusively? If not, what percentage Again, the answer will be an approx- want someone who has experience in
of your work involves divorcing imation. the courtroom. If possible, find out
people? • What are my rights and obligations how these cases turned out.
• How much direct experience do you during this process? • Have you worked with many law-
have dealing with cases like mine. • What are your hours? Do you work yers? Ask for a few references, and
This is an especially important ques- any evenings or weekends? call them.
tion if there are aspects that make • How accessible is your office (close
your divorce unique. to parking, public transport; wheel- Indeed, the path of divorce is typi-
• What is your approach? Do you have chair accessible; etc.)? Is it located in cally a challenging one on many levels.
any biases? We all have certain view- a safe neighborhood? The decisions you make now will affect
points, which cloud our judgment, • What happens next? Do I need to do your long-term future, and that of your
and professionals are not exempt. If anything? And when will I hear from children. By using the guidance and
you have children, you should ask if you? questions above to choose the right
this professional has any strong professionals, you’ll not only make your
views about the role of mothers or fa- Questions Specifically for Your divorce easier, less expensive, and less
thers, or about the care of children. Prospective Lawyer: stressful — you’ll also empower your-
• Will you keep our communications self to successfully start your new life
confidential? Can I call you between • What percentage of your cases go after divorce.
scheduled meetings? If so, do you to trial? You may want to choose a
charge for these calls? lawyer with a low percentage here: a Diana Shepherd is the former
• Do you require a retainer, and if so, good negotiator who can settle your Editorial Director of Divorce Magazine.
what is it? Is this fee refundable? case without a long, expensive court Josh D. Simon is a writer for Divorce
What is your hourly fee? What are battle. A good trial lawyer may be Magazine.
your payment terms? necessary if every indication is that
• Approximately how much will your nothing could possibly be settled out-
services cost? The professional will side of a courtroom. For more articles on working with
only be able to provide an estimate • Are you willing and able to go to your divorce lawyer, visit www.
based on the information you provide court if this case can’t be settled any divorcemag.com/articles/Divorce_
and your realistic estimation of how other way? Lawyers.
amicable you and you spouse are. If • Who will be handling my case: you,
8| Divorce Guide
Divorce is one of the most stressful life events
you can experience, but there are some valuable
ways — both physical and mental — you can
reduce your anxiety levels.
By Diana Shepherd
COUNT TO TEN. Find a quiet, com- the ability to reduce
fortable place to sit — perhaps a park stress. Make your
bench during your lunch break, or a walk extra-relaxing by
favorite chair at home. Don’t lie down listening to a soothing
unless you’re certain you won’t fall audiotape and/or by
asleep. Start to take slow, deep breaths. taking your walk in
Think “one inhale” as you breathe in, pleasant surroundings.
and “one exhale” as you breathe out; Keep your eyes open,
you’ll count the next breath as “two in- though: you don’t want
hale, two exhale,” up to “ten inhale, ten to walk into traffic or
exhale.” Then start again from “one in- other pedestrians!
hale.” If you lose your place, start again
from “one inhale.” The counting helps WRITE IT OUT.
to focus and quiet your mind, shutting You’ve probably heard
out intrusive, stressful thoughts. Con- about the power of journaling: writing
tinue counting your deep breaths for down your thoughts, feelings, and expe- sounds with music. Check out the “Re-
10 minutes once or twice a day. riences on a daily basis can help to un- laxation” section under “Discography”
burden both your mind and body. So for at www.solitudes.com.
LAUGH IT OFF. From a tiny giggle to the next couple of weeks, try to spend at
a side-splitting guffaw, laughter can help least 20 minutes a day writing in a jour- PRACTICE YOGA. Hatha Yoga can
to reduce stress. Research has found that nal. Jot down the details of a stressful help you release built-up tension and
laughter initiates the release of beta-en- day or an encounter with your ex. stress, strengthening the body while
dorphins — the same “feel-good” natu- You’re not looking for prizes for style or calming the mind. Once you’ve learned
ral relaxants that are released during grammar here: the point is to get as the poses (preferably from a qualified
exercise. Endorphins also block cortisol, much into your journal and off your instructor), all you need is a quiet,
a hormone that can affect your blood chest as quickly as possible. You can comfortable place and about 20-40
pressure, immune system, and weight. keep your journal(s) for future reference minutes each day to breathe and stretch
Rent a comedy video or go see a funny — so you can see how far you’ve come your stress away. “People who practice
movie; read a book that has you in — or you can burn them as part of a yoga and meditation report they have
stitches; subscribe to your local comedy “letting go” ritual. more self-confidence, sleep better and
TV station; and hang out with people eat better and that their stress and anxi-
who make you laugh. Or pick up a copy TUNE IT OUT. Slow music has been ety levels are greatly reduced,” says
of Health, Healing, and the Amuse Sys- shown to ease anxiety as well as lower Helen Goldstein, director of The Yoga
tem: Humor as Survival Training by blood pressure and heart rate. Try Studio in Toronto. “And 20 minutes of
humor-research pioneer Dr. Paul something from the Solitudes collec- meditation has the positive effects of
McGhee at www.laughterremedy.com. tion; some of their titles feature only two-to-three hours of sleep.”
nature sounds (waterfalls, babbling
JUST WALK AWAY. Any exercise, brooks, gentle surf breaking on the Diana Shepherd is the former Editor
even a leisurely 20-minute stroll, has seashore), and others combine nature of Divorce Magazine.
Divorce Guide |9
Tips for keeping your legal fees down and getting the best Financial information. What assets
and debts did each of you bring into
possible outcome. the marriage? What are your in-
comes and what are your expenses,
By Diana Shepherd, with notes from Josh D. Simon jointly and individually? What are
the names and addresses of your
employers? How much money do
ou and your lawyer will be- Why are you seeking a divorce?
Y come partners, for better or for
worse, during and perhaps for
years after the divorce process. How
• What caused your breakup? If
you’re secretly hoping for reconcil-
iation, then you and your lawyer are
both of you have invested: in the
bank, the stock market, etc.? Has ei-
ther of you invested in insurance or
a pension plan? What property do
well your partnership works can have working towards different goals.
an enormous effect on your divorce and • Personal data about you, your you own? Was the property pur-
how much you’ll have to spend in legal spouse, and your children (if any). chased before or after the marriage?
fees. Here are some tips on how to Write down your names; your home Do you have a mortgage? Prior
work with your divorce lawyer. and work addresses and telephone to seeing your lawyer, create a
numbers; your ages and places of budget detailing how much you
What Your Lawyer Needs to birth; your Social Security or Social spend every month on items such as
Know Insurance Numbers; your states of housing, food, clothing, personal
health, both mental and physical; grooming, gifts, vacations, etc. If
Once you’ve chosen a lawyer, you’ll your Green Card(s) and immigration you have children, make sure you
need to provide information. When papers (if applicable). include their expenses.
your lawyer requests information, re- • Facts about your marriage. When • Legal documents. Bring copies of
spond as quickly, completely, and con- and where did you get married? Did prior or pending lawsuits, bankruptcy
cisely as you can; don’t write a 24-page you sign a prenuptial agreement? If suits, judgments, and garnishments.
document when all that was required so, bring a copy. Have either of you Your divorce goals. Be very spe-
was a “yes” or “no.” The following been married before? Will there be cific about your goals in terms of
checklist will give you an idea of what issues involving your children, such realizing your future; make sure
you may need to disclose: as custody or access? your short-term goals for property,
10 | Divorce Guide
other assets, custody, visitation, and If you don’t abide by these tips, your from each other. Ask for a written
support are consistent with that lawyer may want to quit your case. agreement that details the terms of
future. This may also happen if you don’t your lawyer-client relationship. If he or
communicate properly, if you continu- she won’t provide one, find another
What Your Lawyer Expects ally don’t follow the lawyer’s advice, lawyer.
from You or if you don’t pay your legal bills. But
if you’re cooperative and reasonable, After learning about your case, your
Your lawyer hopes you’ll be calm, it’s more likely that your lawyer will lawyer should create a strategy. Be
businesslike, and well prepared. Ideal trust you and work hard on your behalf. aware that this plan may change along
clients can control their emotions, are the way, depending on what your ex
organized, willing to work together However, your lawyer may keep and his or her lawyer does.
with the lawyer, and listen to their representing you even if you inadver-
lawyer’s advice. tently annoy him or her — if only Your lawyer should clearly explain
because you’re still paying him or her all your options, and offer advice re-
Your lawyer will expect to be paid to work for you. Or maybe your lawyer garding the best paths to follow, but re-
on time and in full. If your financial sit- is just too polite. If you detect impa- spect your wishes if you strongly
uation is bad, your lawyer may be able tience or weariness in your lawyer’s disagree with a suggested course of ac-
to create some kind of payment plan. If tone or body language, consider tion. If you find yourself in constant
you’re broke because your ex cleaned whether you’re burdening him or her disagreement with your lawyer, either
out the bank account, your lawyer can with too many complaints about your you’ve chosen the wrong person or
file motions asking the court to grant spouse, or whether you’re wasting time you’re being unreasonable. Consider
temporary orders for child or spousal by asking a lot of obvious questions or your motivations and actions to see if
support, custody, payment of your by venting your frustrations. It’s also you’re refusing your lawyer’s advice
for purely emotional reasons.
Even a good divorce lawyer will
The optimal relationship with sometimes have bad news for you: that
your divorce lawyer is a two-way partnership. your spouse won’t budge on an impor-
tant issue; that you’ll have to give him
or her money or other assets; or simply
that your expectations are unrealistic,
lawyer’s fees, etc. And if you suspect possible that you did something to hurt illegal, or not financially feasible. Ex-
your divorce might get nasty, ask your your case strategy, such as mentioning pect to feel frustrated or disappointed
lawyer about filing orders to protect something to your spouse (or your from time to time as your divorce
you and/or your kids — financially and spouse’s lawyer) that should have been progresses, but don’t take it out on
physically. kept secret. Perhaps your last check to your lawyer! He or she can’t always
the lawyer bounced, or maybe you pull a great solution out of his or her
To get the best service from your were rude or unprofessional to one of metaphorical hat.
lawyer, it’s essential to be a good client. the firm’s paralegals or secretaries.
Here’s how to gain your lawyer’s You should expect your lawyer to
respect: If you think you may have annoyed return phone calls reasonably promptly
• Don’t call your lawyer outside of or angered your lawyer, ask if this is the (24 hours is reasonable if he or she
work hours unless it’s an emer- case. If you have done something isn’t on vacation), and to consult you
gency. wrong, apologize for it; if there has before taking any major actions.
• Don’t burden your lawyer with your been a misunderstanding, clear it up im-
emotional issues; hire a therapist for mediately. It’s important that you and Finally, if you want to ensure that
that. your lawyer maintain a strong, trusting your divorce agreement reflects your
• Always tell your lawyer the truth, relationship in order for you to get the goals — and doesn’t cost you an arm
even when it’s unpleasant or unflat- best possible representation — and to and a leg — then stay involved with
tering to you. achieve the best possible outcome. the process, and answer your lawyer’s
• Be realistic. Don’t expect your requests promptly and honestly.
lawyer to behave like the heroic What You Should Expect from
lawyers on TV or in John Grisham Your Lawyer Diana Shepherd is the former Edi-
novels. torial Director of Divorce Magazine.
• Don’t blame your lawyer for the From the day you hire your lawyer, Josh D. Simon is a writer for Divorce
system or expect him or her to you both should have a clear under- Magazine.
change it. standing of what you need and expect
Divorce Guide | 11
Getting Settled By By Nancy Kurn, CPA, JD, LLM, MBA, CDFA ™
What you need to know before
creating a settlement agreement.
ou’ve sat down with your feelings of anger or loss, so find a coun- your settlement agreement (unless it’s
Y spouse and hammered out what
you think is a pretty great set-
tlement: you get to keep all of the prop-
selor or a support group to help you work
through your emotions so you can be as
clear-headed and as practical as possible
something that you’re going to litigate
erty you really wanted, and your ex gets during negotiations with your spouse. You don’t necessarily have to list
stuck with all of the debt. But whether Some couples will be able to settle all is- every single personal possession in your
or not that agreement will hold up in sues; others will be able to settle some settlement agreement, but you should list
court depends on a number of factors, issues and have to litigate the rest. personal items that are important to you.
including how it is worded, whether or You should also list financial assets, in-
not there was full financial disclosure by This article will cover property issues cluding retirement assets and real estate.
both parties, and possibly whether both only; your settlement agreement will
parties had independent legal counsel. need to thoroughly address spousal or Your agreement should state who
child support as well as custody and vis- gets each asset or how the asset or
That being said, you should make itation issues. As always, you should the proceeds from its sale will be
every effort to negotiate your settlement consult with your lawyer and/or media- divided. Let’s take a look at the most
agreement rather than fight over every tor to make certain your best interests, common categories.
item in court. Such agreements have sev- and those of your family, are protected.
eral benefits over a judge’s ruling, Financial Assets
including: they take less time; they re- Your settlement agreement should be
duce the financial and emotional costs; very comprehensive — particularly with Financial assets include cash, sav-
and the parties are more likely to abide regard to how the property is divided. ings accounts, checking accounts,
by the terms of the agreement. Once you sign an agreement regarding Certificates of Deposit, money-market
property division, it cannot be changed accounts, stocks, bonds, Real Estate
If you’re able to put aside your emo- unless both of you agree to the changes Investment Trusts (REIT), mutual
tions and focus on the issues at hand, or unless there is some legal basis, such funds, and savings bonds. These assets
your chances of negotiating a settlement as fraud, for setting aside the agreement. may be more important to the
are extremely high. A courtroom is sim- It’s up to you to make sure that your non-working or lower-income-earning
ply not the right venue to express your lawyer doesn’t leave any assets out of spouse. He or she may need to use these
12 | Divorce Guide
assets to cover some of his or her take the percentage that is awarded and for each person. Not all pension plans
living expenses. roll it over to an IRA or perhaps main- permit division of the pensions. In any
tain it as a separate account in the same case, it is still important to have the pen-
Retirement Assets plan. The agreement should specify sion valued properly: dividing one
the percentage that you and your spouse pension into two is not a way to avoid
Not all assets have the same tax will receive. the cost of a valuation (or to avoid argu-
consequences; retirement assets are gen- ing over which value is the right value
erally before-tax assets. This means that IRAs or Roth IRAs are also easily di- for the pension).
in order to access the money, you have visible. Remember that distributions
to pay income tax on any distributions from Roth IRAs will generally not be Federal government pensions qualify
you receive. In some cases, you may also taxed, while distributions from IRAs will for division under the Pension Benefits
have to pay a penalty on the distribution generally be taxed. As a result, $10,000 Division Act (PBDA). This Act provides
in addition to any income tax that you from a Roth IRA is probably a better that the member may transfer a portion
pay. For example: Mary suggested to asset than $10,000 from an IRA. of the value of the pension to a retire-
Gus, “You keep your retirement assets, ment vehicle for the spouse. This is
valued at $100,000, and I’ll take the In Canada, there are two basic types known as the Maximum Transferable
money-market account, valued at of pension plans: “Defined Contribution Amount (MTA).
$100,000.” Gus agreed because it was an Plans” and “Defined Benefit Plans”. The
equal division of the assets. However, first type defines who is to make the con- The Canada Pension Plan (CPP)
when Gus retires in 2009, he will pay tax tributions to fund the plan, how much recognizes that married persons, com-
on the distributions. So if Gus paid tax at they are to contribute, and when they are mon-law couples, and same-sex partners
a rate of 25%, then he would end up with to make the contributions. The second share in the building of their assets and
only $75,000 versus the $100,000 that will also specify who is to make what entitlements, including their CPP cred-
Mary received. contributions, how much they are to con- its. When a relationship ends, CPP
tribute, and when. However, a defined credits built up by the individuals during
In the U.S., there are many different benefit pension plan will also have a the time they lived together can be com-
types of retirement assets, including de- formula for determining the amount of bined and then divided equally between
fined benefit plans, defined contribution annual pension that the member has them by means of “credit splitting”. As a
plans, IRAs, and Roth IRAs. It is impor- earned. It is the projection of these result, the person with fewer credits —
tant that you determine how defined future pension payments (which are not that would normally be the lower income
benefit plans, such as pensions, will be at all related to the amount of contribu- earner — receives some credits earned
divided between you and your spouse. tions that have been made) that must by the other — normally the higher in-
This is generally spelled out as a per- be valued. come earner — so that they both have
centage of the retirement benefit at the the same number of credits accumulated
time of the divorce. It is also imperative Depending on the type of plan and during the marriage or other relationship.
for the agreement to state if the em- which province you live in, a portion
ployee’s spouse will be entitled to of the pension (usually the portion You should be aware that there is
survivor’s benefits if the employee dies. accumulated during your marriage) may more than one way to value a pension;
It is important to make sure that the non- be subject to division like any other if the amounts are significant, you
employee in fact qualifies for survivor family asset. If one or both spouses should consider having an expert valua-
benefits; otherwise, he or she may be have Registered Retirement Savings tion done.
better off with another asset. Plans (RRSPs), the portion accumulated
In addition to retirement plans, many
Make every effort to negotiate your employers provide other fringe benefits
and incentives to their employees. These
settlement agreement rather than benefits include year-end bonuses, ac-
crued vacation time, accrued sick time,
health insurance, life insurance, disabil-
fight over every item in court. ity insurance, expense accounts, stock
options, and more unusual benefits such
as Phantom Stock, Stock Appreciation
Rights, and Restricted Stock.
Defined contribution plans include during marriage will also be subject
401(k) plans, profit-sharing plans, sim- to division. Some of these benefits may be
ple IRAs, and other types of contributory included in your list of assets; other
plans. Generally, these can be divided Some people will want to divide the benefits may be included as income,
today, and the non-employee spouse can pension into two separate pensions: one and some may not be included at all.
Divorce Guide | 13
Determining if a benefit should be and note how they are going to be di- as well as any business property. The
treated as a marital asset, income, or vided. This would include big-ticket properties should be listed, and the set-
nothing at all can be very subjective. Dif- items, such as cars, boats, and motor tlement agreement should address how
ferent jurisdictions and judges may view homes, as well as items such as jewelry, they are going to be divided.
the benefits differently. As a rule of furniture, photos, and personal papers.
thumb, if the benefit is guaranteed, then If the property is going to be sold, the
it should be included as an asset or as in- Keep the value of these assets in per- following issues need to be addressed:
come. A year-end bonus could arguably spective — and recognize when it’s time • Who is going to pay the expenses
be an asset, an income item, or nothing at to give up the fight. We’ve all heard of until the property is sold?
all if it is not guaranteed. For example: those cases where parties spend thou- • How will the proceeds be divided?
Barbara and Jeremy were married for 15 sands of dollars fighting over an asset • If one spouse pays the expenses, will
years. Jeremy, the employee-spouse, re- that’s worth less than $100. he or she be reimbursed, from the
ceived a bonus every year. Barbara could proceeds, before they are divided?
certainly make a reasonable argument Each spouse should keep copies of
that it is an asset or income for purposes joint tax returns. We recommend that Debts
of calculating child support and alimony. you keep at least the past five years; in
Vested stock options would also be an addition, you will need records to calcu- Generally, the person who takes the
asset; with the changes in the market, late the cost basis for any assets that property will be expected to pay the
they may not have any value, while un- you keep. mortgage or debt related to the property.
vested stock options, on the other hand,
Does this mean that the other spouse has
may not be an asset. Real Estate no financial obligation for a joint debt?
Absolutely not. Unless the spouse who
Personal Property Real estate includes your marital
home and any other homes, vacation takes the property refinances the mort-
List your personal possessions, par- properties, timeshares, and rental prop- gage, both spouses will still be obligated
ticularly those that are important to you, erties — commercial and residential — to pay the debt. The divorce decree can-
not terminate your financial obligation to
your creditor. For example, Bob and
TABLE ONE: Equity Value Bob Amy Amy are dividing their assets as shown
in “Table One”.
Cash and Checking $13,000 $13,000
Mutual Funds $17,000 $17,000 After the divorce, Bob would be li-
Amy’s Car $ 5,000 $ 5,000 able for the car payment and Amy would
be liable for the mortgage. If either failed
Bob’s Car $25,000 to make these payments, the other
Debt on Bob’s Car ($10,000) spouse would still be liable. But if Amy
or Bob refinance after the divorce, the
Car Equity— $15,000 $15,000
other spouse will no longer be liable for
Home $200,000 the debt.
Requiring the other spouse to refi-
Home Equity— $40,000 $40,000 nance after the divorce is something that
Total Value $90,000 $45,000 $45,000 should be put in the settlement agree-
ment. They could, for instance, allow a
certain time period to refinance. If they
do not refinance or do not qualify to re-
TABLE TWO: Value Mike Julie finance, then the asset could be sold and
Home (Equity) $ 40,000 $ 40,000 the loan could be paid off with the pro-
ceeds from the sale.
Cash and Checking $ 3,000 $ 3,000
Mutual Funds $ 7,000 $ 7,000 If only one spouse is obligated on the
debt during the marriage, then the other
Mike’s Business $150,000 $150,000 spouse cannot be held liable. This occurs
Total Value $200,000 $150,000 $ 50,000 most frequently with credit-card debt.
However, if you have a credit card that
Property Settlement Note ($50,000) $ 50,000 is a joint debt, then just like the mort-
gage, if one spouse is responsible for
Revised Total $100,000 $100,000 paying the joint credit-card debt pursuant
to the terms of the settlement agreement,
14 | Divorce Guide
this does not mean that the other spouse To equalize the division of assets, payments are made and that she remains
is no longer responsible for the debt. Mike should pay Julie an additional the beneficiary. Otherwise, she is at risk
Unfortunately, both spouses will remain $50,000. This can be structured as a note if he lets the policy lapse or changes
liable to the creditor. If one spouse re- payable to Julie in the amount of $50,000 the beneficiary.
fuses to pay, then the other spouse will at an agreed-upon interest rate. If Mike
have to pay off the debt. If you can af- and Julie agree that the note would be Other Assets
ford it, paying off credit-card debt with payable over five years at a 5% interest
liquid assets is the best way to deal with rate, then the annual principal and inter- Some other assets to address in the
unsecured debt. est payments would be $11,549. settlement agreement include: Frequent
Flyer Miles, lottery winnings or other
Closely Held Business A property settlement note has prize winnings, club dues and annual
some significant drawbacks, however, membership fees, inheritance and gifts,
A closely held business can be in including: and trusts naming one spouse as a cur-
the form of a sole proprietorship, corpo- If the agreement isn’t followed, it be- rent beneficiary.
ration, general or limited partnership, comes another issue to fight over.
or limited liability company. Before one What happens if Mike doesn’t pay? Keep in mind the assets listed here are
spouse agrees to take a business interest, • Should Mike pay interest on the note? not by any means exhaustive; you and
he or she has to make sure there are If the note is unsecured, it would your spouse may have assets in addition
no restrictions on owning the interest. • probably be discharged in bank- to those listed in this article. They can
There could be legal or contractual re- • ruptcy. make a huge difference in your post-
strictions on which spouse could own the • What happens if Mike dies or be- divorce life, so take the time to list them
business interest. comes disabled before the note is paid carefully and discuss them fully before
in full? you settle things, once and for all.
If the business, for instance, is a •
professional corporation, as defined by Life Insurance Nancy Kurn is the Director of Educa-
state or provincial law, then one spouse tional Services for the Institute for
may be legally restricted from maintain- Some life-insurance policies have Divorce Financial Analysts (IDFA) —
ing an ownership interest. For instance, if cash value. This means that the owner the premier national organization dedi-
Joe is a physician and Barb is an ac- could borrow money from the policy or cated to the certification, education, and
countant, in many states or provinces, trade the promise to pay a future sum at promotion of the use of financial profes-
only Joe could own his medical practice death for the current cash value, less any sionals in the divorce arena. For more
and only Barb could own her account- costs or charges. information about how a Certified
ancy practice. Another restriction may Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) can
exist if there is a liquor license or taxi- Other policies, such as term insur- help with the financial aspects of your
cab medallion that is only transferable ance, have no cash value. Term insur- divorce, call (800) 875-1760, or visit
with government approval. ance may still be valuable, though, www.InstituteDFA.com.
particularly if the insured person is now
A “buy-sell” agreement is an exam- uninsurable.
ple of a contractual restriction that may
preclude a transfer to a spouse. If the The settlement agreement should ad-
“non-owner” spouse is awarded the busi- dress who will own the existing life in-
ness interest in the divorce, then the surance policies. Naming an ex-spouse
spouse may be forced to sell the business or child as the irrevocable beneficiary of
interest at a substantial discount. For a group policy is minimally effective,
example: Joe owns 25% of a business since the designation can be changed
that has a total value of $100,000; his unilaterally by the employee when the
share is valued at $25,000. If the buy-sell carrier changes, or indeed at any other
agreement requires Barb to sell her in- time. If the non-insured spouse is sup-
terest at 50% of the value, and if she posed to be the beneficiary, then the best
were awarded the stock in the divorce, way to protect his or her interest is to
she would be required to sell her interest have the non-insured spouse own the
for $12,500. policy. Using the above example, if Mike
owns a policy and is the insured, and
Property Settlement Note they agree that Julie should be the bene-
ficiary, then he should transfer owner-
A property settlement note is gener- ship of the policy to Julie. She should
ally used to equalize the assets. For verify that she is the beneficiary of the
instance, Mike and Julie have the policy. They can structure it so that he
following assets (shown in “Table Two” pays her the premiums as alimony.
on the previous page). That way, she can be sure that the
Divorce Guide | 15
Managing ANGER By Jane Nahirny
nger is a very familiar emotion Divorce-related anger can
will ultimately leave you and the family
for all of us, and in healthy re- literally make you crazy, resources drained dry.
lationships, it can be an over-
whelmingly positive force in our lives. causing you to say and Using the court as a venue to vent
Healthy anger can tell us if there’s do things you’d never your anger is a bad idea for a couple of
something wrong, painful, or threaten- dream of if you were key reasons: it’s the wrong venue, and
ing that we need to take care of. It helps it’s very expensive (financially and
us protect ourselves and to know when
thinking clearly. Even emotionally). Unfortunately, the legal
people are crossing our boundaries. though it’s a normal part of divorce process itself tends to add fuel to
the healing process, anger the fires of anger. Dividing property
But for couples who are going (some of which has great sentimental
through separation or divorce, anger is
can become a destructive value) and trying to prove your case for
often anything but healthy. In her force in your life. custody and/or support can be very
informative book The Good Divorce, emotionally charged because these
Dr. Constance Ahrons defines divorce- or physical harm it will inflict on their issues underline what is being lost or
related anger as “an extreme rage, ex-spouse (even simply being a nuisance changed because of your divorce. Some
vindictiveness, and over-powering will do “in a pinch”) without seeing the degree of upset is inevitable, but driving
bitterness that is felt when a love rela- injuries they may be inflicting on inno- yourself alongside your ex into bank-
tionship is ending. It is a special kind of cent victims. Using children as human ruptcy is truly cutting off your nose to
anger that usually hasn’t been experi- shields in the divorce battle is a common spite your face.
enced before.” way to fan the flames of divorce anger.
Many scenarios are possible, all of which So how can you cope with this new
When anger is coupled with divorce, are damaging and punitive to the chil- and intense anger? The key lies in
it’s often used as a misguided means of dren: the custodial parent withholds vis- understanding its roots and in finding
hanging onto a failed marriage. After all, itation from the non-custodial parent; the constructive ways to express the hurt,
for many people, a bad relationship is non-custodial parent refuses to pay child disappointment, and loss that both you
better than no relationship at all. Divorce support; the custodial parent “forgets” to and your former spouse are feeling
anger allows people to punish their ex as pick the children up; or the non-custodial now as you proceed through separation
often as possible, all the while maintain- parent is hours late in bringing them and divorce.
ing an ongoing (bitter) relationship with back. “We forget what’s best for the chil-
him/her. It’s a situation that leaves both dren because we are so intent on getting Here’s some advice about coping
partners in divorce limbo, a perilous that other person,” writes Ahrons. But with your own and your ex-spouse’s
situation that obstructs growth and “getting back through the kids is hitting divorce-related anger.
self-awareness. If you wish to move below the belt.”
forward, you’ll need to learn to handle
your anger. Divorce anger is also often expressed If You’re Angry:
through the legal process itself. Here,
Some people hold onto their anger so it’s very important to remember that Write it out. Work through your
tightly — stoking the fires on a daily your lawyer is your advocate, not your anger by keeping a journal or by writing
basis — that their rage takes over their therapist or your best friend. Express- letters you don’t mail. By doing so, you
whole lives, coloring and informing all ing anger to your ex-spouse through can release your anger without engaging
their thoughts and actions. They weigh the legal process invariably leads to another person. Also, it is possible that
every action to see how much emotional prolonged, emotional proceedings that you maybe angry with yourself.
16 | Divorce Guide
Shout it out. Roll up the windows in Keep conflicts at a moderate level. “I’m not going to talk to you until you
your car, or put your head in a pillow Your ex will often match your level of calm down.” Put limits on what you’ll
and scream. intensity. And be sure to choose your take and how you’ll be treated.
battles carefully. Expressing every little
Talk it out. It’s important when irritation and disagreement provokes Get some assertiveness training to
you’re angry to develop your own resentment. Think about the most im- boost your self-esteem. “Anger is like a
personal support system. Instead of portant issues and let go of the small fire that must be burned up into the ashes
directing your anger at your ex-spouse, stuff. of forgiveness,” writes Ahrons. “If we
talk to a good friend (or two), or find are passive, it is like throwing more logs
a therapist who specializes in anger Use “I-messages” when expressing onto the fire.”
management. anger. Say: “I feel disappointed when
you don’t call,” not: “You stupid idiot, Try not to take your ex-spouse’s
Get some professional help. Anger you’re always late!” comments too personally. Remember
can suppress other emotions, both that anger is a projection of one’s own
positive and negative. Talking to a Give yourself time to recover from inner feelings and one’s own world.
professional can help you begin to feel the loss of your marriage. On average, Accept the fact that this person is angry
those emotions you’ve been suppressing experts say that the healing process takes because they’re going through turmoil.
and move past the anger. You could at least two years, and often longer. “It’s
also benefit from a support or anger- important to realize how sad you are,” Stay calm. It can really help
de-escalate the other person’s anger.
Relaxation techniques, such as deep
When someone pushes one of your buttons, breathing, can be effective when you’re
your response is going to be way out of listening to someone who’s really angry.
proportion to the offense. Learn to recognize your own hot
buttons. When someone pushes one of
your buttons, your response is going to
management group, where you can says Ahrons. “This won’t necessarily be way out of proportion to the offense.
share your story and help yourself and make you more vulnerable to your ex-
others move to a position of growth spouse; your successful handling of your Try to feel a little compassion — no
and development. emotions puts you in a more powerful matter how hard that may be. Your ex
position.” may be feeling fearful and threatened, so
Take responsibility for your part of try to hear what’s underneath the anger;
the marriage break-up. “It’s a rare cou- Forgive, let go, move on. Anger can quite often, it’s fear, pain, or shame.
ple in which both partners were become a comfort, a constant in our Showing empathy or compassion for
exactly equal in the breaking of the lives, but as long as you continue to your ex can go a long way to defusing
marriage, but it’s an even rarer couple nurse your anger against your ex, you his or her anger.
in which one partner was solely at will never have a happy, fulfilled, post-
fault,” writes Constance Ahrons in The divorce life. Own your responsibility for Be honest with yourself. Recognize
Good Divorce. the break-up, and realize that you have that when someone is angry with you,
the power to make the choice to forgive there may be something in what they’re
Do some personal growth work. and move on, or stay angry and remain saying. If your ex is yelling at you, you
Anger is a great motivator toward action stuck. It doesn’t matter what your ex can choose to think he/she’s a jerk and
and can propel you to take steps in your does; you can still choose forgiveness. start yelling back, or you can “dig for the
life to change situations.
gold” in what he/she’s saying. Keep the
Learn what “pushes your buttons”. If Your Ex Is Angry: gold; discard the dirt and rocks.
Try to understand your anger — and
Listen to and validate your ex- Value your safety above all else. If
what triggers it — before you express it.
Don’t be afraid to say that you need spouse’s comments. By really listening your former partner’s divorce anger
some time to think about your response. to his or her concerns, you may learn seems to be headed in a dangerous
where the anger is coming from and direction, put some boundaries in
Protect your children. Never make identify what you can do to help. It also place and communicate through a third
them part of your conflict with your really helps to defuse the situation by party. Threats should always be taken
former partner by withholding visitation saying something like, “I understand seriously: remove yourself from the
or support or poisoning their minds why you’re angry with me.” situation and refuse face-to-face contact
against your ex. “For the sake of the if you sense any danger at all.
children, if for no other reason, learn Don’t be afraid to take a “time-
constructive methods of expressing out”. Walk away from an anger attack if Jane Nahirny is the former Editorial
anger,” Ahrons says. you can’t handle it. You can try saying, Director of Divorce Magazine.
Divorce Guide | 17
The Art of Negotiation
How to reach an agreement that’s both acceptable and affordable.
By Marjorie L. Engel and Diana D. Gould
here’s a common pattern to all
spouses are going to create a mutually both the personal and the practical sides
negotiations: a cycle of initial satisfactory separation agreement in our of negotiating.
contact, planning (research, family court system. • Request that negotiations be held
goals, strategies, and tactics), and one or where the atmosphere is quiet and
more negotiating sessions that lead to a Be concrete in your ideas and remain professional.
signed agreement, complete with provi- open to reason. Ask questions until • Be prompt in attendance.
sions to ensure its implementation. you’re satisfied about your spouse’s • Dress the way that will make you feel
basis for reasoning. Be prepared to an- the most comfortable for the setting
There are two basic components to swer questions that clarify the integrity of the meeting.
any divorce negotiation: what is afford- of your position. Be as tough as you want • Make sure you have a written agenda
able and what is personally acceptable. where a problem needs resolution, but be from your lawyer.
The objective is to find a reasonable and soft on the people involved. • Be prepared to take notes and check
legally acceptable balance between them. off each item as it is completed.
If you haven’t already done so, you • Be sure to have copies of whatever
Your first experience in negotiating need to analyze and formulate your ob- documents you have been asked
starts with your own lawyer. The two of jectives in order to actively participate in to bring.
you must work together until you your own future. You must gather to- • Sit tall and use direct eye contact as
achieve a meeting of the minds so that gether the facts about what you have, much as you can. Body language
what you want can be spelled out in the what you want now, and what you wish “speaks loudly”.
first draft of the separation agreement. to accomplish by the time you’ve • Speak in your normal tone of voice.
When you’re ready for the first negotiat- changed the marriage vow “I do” to the (You’re not on stage, even though
ing session with your spouse and the divorce disclaimer “I don’t anymore.” you may feel like it.)
other lawyer, how will you approach it? • Listen quietly and patiently to what is
The sooner you learn to put yourself being said.
Thinking logically into your spouse’s shoes and ask, “What • Make sure that you have equal
would I do if I were you?”, the sooner opportunity to voice your opinions
When women use accepted business you’ll be ready to arrive at a mutually ac- or disagreement.
logic in preparing for a divorce, they ceptable separation agreement. • Try to stay in the first person when
may be perceived as ruthless, calculat- you speak. (Present all of your feel-
ing, and manipulative. When men use Entering negotiations ings, facts, and observations in the “I”
accepted business logic in preparing for mode, for example, “I think we ought
a divorce, they are usually perceived as Bargaining for the future welfare of to...,” and “I defend this issue on the
being practical, logical, and direct. Re- yourself and your family is no picnic. basis that...”)
gardless of clichés and biases, the reality Here’s a collection of tips offered by • Try not to be defensive about your
is that organized and rational thinking is some divorcing couples that will walk ideas and be open to advice — even
a must for both men and women if you through the process. They refer to constructive criticism.
18 |Divorce Guide
• Refuse to discuss business and When you reach a stalemate, the lawyers to summarize the situation. If
personal matters in the same conver- lawyers should be able to provide new issues come to light through an
sation. information about how a similar situa- emotional outburst, they will require
• Don’t succumb to pressure for an im- tion has been previously handled within discussion and verification. Then a
mediate response. (Request a minute the judicial community where your case decision can be made about how this
to think, or a “time-out”, to discuss is being processed. new information will affect the develop-
the matter with your lawyer.) ing agreement.
• Never be forced into a decision — The bargaining table is only used to
even if it’s one that your lawyer ap- resolve previously undecided issues. As When to be reasonable
proves. (If you aren’t sure, table the you reach agreement on each issue, con-
issue so that you have time to review sider that topic closed. Agreements never Not all divorces are adversarial. Not
come together if you keep rehashing all agreements are structured from long
your material and to think.)
what was supposedly already settled (in and bitter disagreements over who gets
When you need to release the ten-
fact, they’re more likely to fall apart). what. Just because you’re getting a di-
sion/frustration/irritation that builds
Every agreement must adapt to new vorce doesn’t mean you can’t continue
up during negotiating sessions, take
circumstances or information, but too to work together.
a couple of deep breaths from the many new issues late in the game cast
diaphragm and let them out slowly. doubt on the good faith of what was Be open to brainstorming. If you’re at
previously settled. an impasse or seem to be totally dead-
The bargaining table
locked, you can always flip a coin. Seri-
Avoiding a free-for-all ously, the very idea that you have only a
Everything is negotiable, and any-
50-50 chance of “winning” usually re-
thing can be used as a tool for Divorce negotiations can be trau- vives the interest in negotiating. If the
negotiations. Go to the bargaining table matic. In addition to the business at other side won’t negotiate, don’t attack
prepared for promises to be exchanged hand, it’s very easy to get trapped into his or her position — look behind it to
and deals to be closed. old emotional patterns when your spouse try to determine the motivation for the
begins to act in predictable ways. Either refusal to negotiate.
It’s not a matter of simply putting a one of you can become overly defensive
value on everything when you are work- or hostile. Six deadly obstacles to
The sooner you learn to put yourself into your spouse’s The deadly sins can never be seen or
imagined more clearly than in the
shoes and ask “What would I do if I were you?”, process of divorce. When any of the neg-
ative patterns of a marriage are brought
the sooner you’ll be ready to arrive at to the negotiating table, the battle will be
long and difficult.
a mutually acceptable separation agreement. • Greed will make any reasonable
financial negotiation impossible.
• Anger will waste time and energy.
ing out what you want or what you’re How do you respond to threats or de- • Lust will fire up old memories that
willing to give in a separation agree- fuse anger? What happens if the meeting might get in the way.
ment. The bargaining process requires starts to get ugly? • Jealousy will get you nowhere — it’s
setting three different basic values: not your relationship anymore.
• The least you would be willing to When you and your lawyer discussed • Pride causes stalemates.
give or give up. your divorce files, especially the profiles • Fear is perhaps the greatest sin of all.
• The most you would be willing to and information on extenuating circum-
give or give up. stances, you anticipated the danger Fear can be the worst enemy of good
• The bottom line you would be willing points and prepared suitable ways of negotiation: fear of rejection and loss of
to agree upon. coping. However, when both spouses position, property, or place in the
are wound up, something totally innocu- community. There are also the fears of
Divorcing couples tend to think in ous can trigger an outrageous response. loneliness and of having to start all
terms of things they want (assets) and How can it be dealt with right then over again; of personal and financial
frequently forget about what they don’t and there? hardship; and of not being able to handle
want (liabilities). Remember: ownership all that is ahead. The more dependent
of items such as debts, a bad piece of First of all, there should be a time-out you have been upon your spouse —
property, and lawyer’s fees must also to cool down the emotions before re-
be negotiated. turning to the facts. Then allow your ../CONTINUED ON PAGE 24
Divorce Guide | 19
Here are some of the most common warning signs that you need help before your children
become casualties of your divorce.
By Elissa P. Benedek, M.D. and Catherine F. Brown, M.Ed.
Children sometimes behave in ways
typical of an earlier stage in their devel-
opment in reaction to their parents’
separation and divorce. In the same way,
a keenly unwanted or brutal divorce has
the potential for throwing an adult back
into an earlier stage of development or
leading to behavior that is unusual for
that person. Some adults may go so far
as to become helpless, depending on
others — including their children — to
take care of them.
After a divorce, some parents experi-
ence a specific type of regression in
which they become too dependent on
he process of separation and • be aware of some of the problems one or more of their children. In essence,
T divorce sets up an almost impos-
sible situation for parents. At the
same time that they need time out for
that divorced parents commonly
encounter (as described later in this
a role reversal takes place in which the
children become the parents’ caretakers,
confidants, and counselors. These par-
themselves — to deal with the emotions ents are most often troubled, depressed,
and stress accompanying the loss of Common Problems and lonely; they are unwilling or unable
their marriage and to decide a new to take responsibility for themselves.
course of action — their children have When a husband and wife first Sometimes, they are alcoholics or drug-
the greatest need for reliability and separate and divorce, they experience addicted. The result is a form of mental
assurances of love. Absorbed in their the gamut of emotions from sadness, bondage and skewed development in
own problems, parents may become less anxiety, guilt, shame, and shock to the child and a faulty sense of reality
affectionate with their children or fail to elation over believing that all their in the adult. In its most destructive
discipline them consistently. The more problems are now solved. The spouse (but thankfully rare) variant, some adults
parents pull back to regroup after a who didn’t want the divorce may feel go so far as to commit incest, using the
divorce, however, the more fiercely chil- worthless and unlovable; the spouse child as a replacement for the lost mari-
dren show their need for attention. who wanted the divorce may have sec- tal partner. More commonly, they have
When both parents and children have ond thoughts. There is no one order for the child sleep with them to alleviate
lost their emotional equilibrium, they these emotions; each may come and go their loneliness.
exacerbate each other’s problems. again and again.
The temptation to become too de-
The keys to breaking this cycle are for It’s vitally important that parents pendent on your children is always there
parents to: overcome these reactions and, for if you don’t have another adult to whom
• take control of their lives the children’s well-being, learn how you can turn when you need advice or
• create a nurturing, predictable envi- to handle the stresses brought about just someone to talk to. Although there’s
ronment for the children by the divorce. The children’s adjust- nothing wrong with soliciting your chil-
• learn to deal with the children ment is directly linked to the adjustment dren’s opinions in matters that concern
authoritatively of the parents. them (in fact, doing so helps build their
20 | Divorce Guide
sense of responsibility and family com- are unrealistic from the parent’s point of Some parents, however, use their
mitment), avoid relying on them for view and do a disservice to the child. work and/or their children as a handy ex-
advice that affects only you or that should Being assigned and expected to carry out cuse for avoiding interaction with others.
be offered only by adults. For example, age-appropriate tasks creates a sense of They may still be sad and upset about the
it’s all right to ask your children to help accomplishment and self-discipline in divorce — unable to put it behind them
pick out the family’s new car, but you children. It’s a training ground for and take the first few shaky steps to
should not ask them whether you should handling increasingly more difficult de- reestablish their lives. They show no in-
date someone you just met at work. mands that will be placed on them by terest in dating, and may deny having
school, other institutions to which they sexual feelings.
Overburdened vs. Idle belong, and eventually, paying jobs.
Some people, overwhelmed by de-
For many harried, overworked single Studies have shown that children pression, may feel unable to make the
parents, it’s sometimes all too easy to fall with divorced parents reap unanticipated effort to meet new people or take on new
into a routine in which they depend on benefits from assuming a greater amount challenges. Such behavior often fosters
an older child to care for younger of responsibility at a young age. Many of over-dependence on the children, since
siblings, or assign chores that require an these children report that they have a they become the parent’s only focus in
unrealistic degree of responsibility. greater sense of strength, independence, life. What will become of such a parent
and capability as a result of their experi- when the children break away and estab-
Although it’s not unreasonable for ences in a post-divorce family. They are lish their own lives? In its worst form,
single parents to expect their children to clearly proud of themselves and of their isolation may lead to severe depression
carry some of the weight of household ability to assist their parents at a time and other psychological problems.
duties, such responsibilities should be when the family’s future was seriously
assigned with certain limits: jeopardized. Children whose parents are At the other end of the social spec-
• The chores should be appropriate to divorced — like all children — need to trum are those parents who are any place
the child’s age. feel needed; thus, parents should not but home. With a full schedule of night
• Generally, children under the age of try to protect their children from the classes, church activities, outings with
ten should not be left unsupervised. vagaries of everyday life. The danger friends or dates, these parents leave their
• Older children should not be given comes when the children are robbed of children with a round of babysitters and
total responsibility for the care of their childhoods, forced to grow up far relatives (including the children’s other
younger brothers and sisters. They are before they’re ready. They can never re- parent). Some may go so far as to replace
siblings – not substitute parents. capture those years. the former spouse with a serious new
• Chores should not interfere with love interest before they are emotionally
schoolwork or sleep, or preclude time Isolation vs. Activity ready, or they frenetically engage in in-
with friends. Schoolwork is a child’s discriminate dating and sexual relation-
most important job, and an active so- In the immediate aftermath of di- ships. Sometimes, such parents are
cial life is a necessary ingredient of vorce, many people follow one of two (subconsciously or not) trying to blot out
healthy development. patterns: they either isolate themselves the fact that they even have children,
from others or pursue an overly-hectic who are reminders of their failed mar-
Instead of overburdening their chil- social life. riage or a responsibility they wish they
dren, some parents go too far towards the didn’t have.
other end of the responsibility scale. To People who choose isolation may do
assuage their guilt over the divorce, so for may reasons: they may not be able Obviously, the children suffer greatly
these parents exclude the children from to afford a babysitter, or they may feel by missing out on the consistent parent-
household tasks and try to do everything guilty about leaving their children with ing and love they need, particularly in
themselves. Or they may use such faulty a sitter after being away from them at the first few months after their parents’
reasoning as “I had to do too many chores work all day. Although their motivations divorce. Children’s distress is com-
when I was a kid. I don’t want to put my are different, both types of parents may pounded by the antics of an out-of-
kid through that.” Such selfless intentions come to resent their children. control parent and, not surprisingly, they
often come to mirror that behavior back
to the parent.
The temptation to become too dependent on Moving On
your children is always there if you don’t have another In the first months to a year after sep-
aration and divorce, your life can be in a
adult to whom you can turn when you need advice. state of upheaval. When the dust finally
../CONTINUED ON PAGE 24
Divorce Guide | 21
Mediation can be a viable
alternative to standard
divorce litigation. Here’s
what you need to know.
By Brad Marcoux
hile death and taxes may be
make suggestions when roadblocks regarding support, asset division, and
the only guarantees in life, are encountered. visitation).
acrimony and financial woe
almost always accompany an adversar- The focus for both parties is on con- Next, information-gathering begins:
ial divorce. It isn’t surprising, really: trolling their own divorce, not on giving your mediator will need documentation
after all, the legal system by its very control to a judge. Unlike in litigation (in for property, assets, and debts, as well as
nature pits people against each other, which the lawyers speak on behalf of tax returns, bank and pension statements,
seeming to offer the possibility of only their clients), in mediation, mediators act and any other paperwork relating to your
one “winner” and little opportunity for as advisors while the spouses speak for marriage and finances. Based on the
compromise. The search for a way to themselves based on their own individ- initial assessments and this documenta-
make the process of divorce less painful ual needs and priorities. tion, a decision is made as to whether
has led many to mediation — also financial, legal, or emotional experts
known as “assisted negotiation” and it is The stages need to be consulted, and the actual
a form of alternative dispute resolution. process begins.
While mediators handle each case
Unlike traditional divorce proceed- differently depending upon their per- While individual cases vary, most
ings, mediation takes the approach that sonal style and their training (an attor- cases can be resolved in a couple
individuals who were once able to or- ney-mediator might handle things very of months.
ganize their lives together can also differently than a therapist-mediator)
arrange to live them apart. It’s a different there are generally a few common The big plus
way of viewing divorce, and one with stages. An initial meeting with you and
many advantages. But there are a few your spouse is arranged to assess the dy- This short duration highlights one of
concerns that need to be addressed before namic between both of you, explain what the most appealing aspects of the
you can be sure that mediation is for you. you can expect, and discuss costs. Some process: although mediators generally
mediators may also have you fill out a charge between $150 and $450 per hour
What is it? questionnaire or come in individually, — about the same as a lawyer — the
based on what kind of relationship you speed can make it tens of thousands of
Mediation is a negotiated agreement currently have with your spouse and the dollars cheaper than fighting it out
between divorcing spouses on the issues mediator’s personal preferences. in court.
of children, finances, and property. The
key word here is “agreement” — you Once this initial stage is complete, There are other advantages as well:
and your future ex create an agreement you’ll set meeting times (usually weekly, since you’re the one who is crafting your
that both of you can live with. The me- but you can arrange any schedule that own agreement, you can arrange for all
diator is simply there to keep you on suits you), ground rules (no degrading or of your concerns to be addressed to your
track, assure negotiations are fair, and insulting language), and goals (usually satisfaction before the process ends.
22 | Divorce Guide
Because of this, you’re more likely to be
happy with the final result, and be more
willing to follow through with your com- Unlike in litigation, in mediation, lawyers act as
mitments than if your settlement had
been decreed by a court. No one likes advisors while the spouses speak for themselves
being told what to do, after all. And you
can arrange visitation and support that’s based on their own individual needs and priorities.
beneficial to your kids — a massive plus,
considering how harmful a disputed
divorce can be for children. And there
aren’t any worries about your agreement • What is your training and experience? separate arrival and departure times can
not being legally binding, as the final Most organizations require mediators often effectively deal with the fear
agreement is drafted by the mediator to complete at least 30 hours of train- of psychological or physical violence.
into a “memorandum of understanding” ing (and, in some cases, extra hours More general fears of a gender advan-
that is then hammered into legalese by of schooling in domestic violence tage can usually be balanced out by a
your lawyers. awareness), several hours of negotia- trained individual mediator.
tion, and several cases. You should
The perfect process? be looking for someone who has done Subtle power
at least ten divorce dispute resolu-
Saving time, money, and perhaps tions. Ask if they have experience The mediator has a vested interest not
your dignity are all wonderful; these po- with cases like yours (especially if in taking sides but in keeping the process
tential advantages may make mediation you have some unique circumstances balanced and fair. Because a mediator’s
seem like the perfect way to end your to negotiate) and what training business can rely heavily on word-of-
imperfect relationship. But, as with any- they’ve had. mouth, crafting an unbalanced settle-
thing else, there are complexities that • What organizations are you affiliated ment would likely cost them both
you should be aware of before you dive with? You can follow up with phone business and reputation. And there’s also
in headlong. calls to find out some information an incorrect assumption made here: that
about those organizations. the mediation process will be less em-
One of the biggest bricks to be hurled • What is your approach? You should powering to an individual than a legal
at mediation is that of power imbalances. get as much information about the battle.
It’s felt by some that if one person in the process as the mediator gets from
relationship has dominated the other in you about your case. Some mediators Those who voice concerns about
the past, the weaker party is put at an im- hold individual meetings, while power imbalances, however, tend to
possible disadvantage when trying to others use questionnaires or other worry less about cases where the prob-
represent themselves. It’s a valid worry, methods of screening. Ask questions lem has been identified than a scenario
especially if you feel that you’re the and be sure you’re clear and comfort- where a mediator is oblivious to it. While
weaker party — and even more so if able with everything you’re told. each mediator’s methods of searching
there is or has been abuse in the past. But • Do you have any biases? It’s a blunt for both subtle and overt power imbal-
it’s also a problem that a good mediator question, but a valid one: everyone ances may be different, a good mediator
should be able to correct. Power imbal- has viewpoints that skew their per- will take the time to inquire about po-
ances — from resource possession to spective. Ask them how they feel tential imbalances and formulate a plan
intimidation or even outright physical about the role of mothers or fathers or to compensate for them.
abuse — does not have to rule out about the care of children.
mediation as an option. Training for • Should our children be involved in There are cases in which mediation is
mediators in recognizing and dealing the mediation process? If so, how? inappropriate, of course. Most mediators
with power imbalances is the key. • Should new partners be involved in agree that if there is active and continu-
the process? If so, how? ing violence, or a fear of violence,
Questions to ask • What is the cost? mediation is inappropriate — but all
• How much time do you feel the stress that each case must be individually
In your initial interview with the me- process will take? assessed, and broad generalizations can-
diator, they will be looking for specific • Should other experts be involved? not be applied.
signs that your case is appropriate for • What role will my lawyer play in
dispute resolution. You should take ad- the process? Legal fears
vantage of this initial consultation to
assure yourself that the mediator has all When used by a skilled and sensitive Even though the final agreement is
of the qualities necessary to bring your mediator, techniques such as shuttle me- subject to lawyers’ approval, there is still
marriage to a fair and balanced end. Here diation (where the parties are separated a danger of your ex-partner not making a
are some of the essential questions you and the mediator “shuttles” messages be- full disclosure of assets. But such con-
should ask: tween them) and precautions such as cerns are rare, and, since mediation can
Divorce Guide | 23
be abandoned in favor of a trial at any recover from such a devastating trauma, person. Try to find a different approach
time, any apparent dishonesty can be such reactions in their adult lives may to the same problem; reframing a seem-
dealt with in the old-fashioned manner. be avoided. ingly insoluble problem may solve it.
Besides, as with domestic violence
cases, if you don’t trust your ex in the Attaining an inner peace about your It’s not necessarily all the things you
first place, you’re unlikely to seek a ne- divorce partly depends on the quality of know that will help you during negotia-
gotiated settlement. the relationship you and your ex-spouse tions; it’s what you can think of at the
are able to build as co-parents. If seeing right moment to back your issues and
Final thoughts or thinking about your ex-spouse is emo- arguments. This is where your files of
tionally charged for you, you may need prepared information can be invaluable.
Mediation offers many significant to monitor your attitudes and behavior
advantages to the traditional divorce towards your ex in front of your children. Recognizing coercive tactics
process. It can save time and money, Remember, although the two of you
and allow two people who have decided were unable to continue your marital re- What’s fair and what’s unfair in di-
they no longer wish to share all of lationship, this has nothing to do with the vorce? What does it mean to step over
their lives to negotiate how they will co- right or ability of each of you to be a the bounds of common decency? What
operate, and how they will work out good parent to your children. kind of tactics are allowable? What one
the details of living apart. Although spouse considers good strategy might be
there are some concerns — the lack of This article has been edited and ex- seen as deceptive to the other, depending
government regulation and the possibil- cerpted from How to Help Your Child upon the motives of negotiation.
ity of an unrecognized power imbalance Overcome Your Divorce by Elissa P.
leading to an unfair agreement — gen- Benedek, M.D. and Catherine F. Brown, An early step in predicting what your
erally speaking, mediation can let you M.Ed. Dr. Benedek is leading child psy- negotiations will be like is to try to
and your soon-to-be-ex make arrange- chiatrist and forensic expert. www. recognize the tactics being used. If your
ments that you can live with today and newmarketpress.com/title.asp?id=531 divorce is adversarial, you’re likely to
in the future. If nothing else, alternative face tactics designed to wear you down
dispute resolution is an alternative For more articles on parenting, such as:
worth investigating. visit www.divorcemag.com/articles/ • Deliberate deceptions
Parenting_and_Step-Families. • Misrepresentation of facts
Brad Marcoux is a former Editorial • Less-than-full disclosure
Assistant for Divorce Magazine. • Psychological warfare
NEGOTIATION / CONTINUED FROM PAGE 27 • Stressful situations
For more articles on divorce media- • Personal attacks
financially, personally, or emotionally —
tion, visit www.divorcemag.com/ • Silent treatment
the deeper the roots of fear. The fear of
articles/Mediation. • Withholding money or children
negotiating with a spouse who is more
powerful, more prestigious, or more • Playing on spouse’s sense of guilt
“important” than you creates problems, • Body language
PITFALLS / CONTINUED FROM PAGE 29
particularly if the spouse is well- • Black-hat/white-hat designations
begins to settle, however, there is the connected or has a prominent family. • Threats
business of building a new life. • Dependency and helplessness
Under these circumstances, sitting • Positional pressures
Your first task in this reconstruction down at a bargaining table seems like • Refusal to negotiate
is to put your failed marriage behind you risky business. When there are signifi- • Unreasonable demands
and deal with any residual feelings cant emotional or practical inequities, • Escalating demands
of grief, anger, or guilt. In addition, you you must do whatever you can to change • Calculating delays.
need to realize that your role as spouse the expected patterns of your position.
is separate from your role as parent. Use all available resources: books, coun- This article has been edited and ex-
Although your marriage has ended, seling, and so forth. If you can avoid cerpted from The Divorce Decisions
your parenting relationship goes on. succumbing to predictable old ways and Workbook: A Planning and Action Guide
if you have a lawyer who isn’t easily im- by Marjorie L. Engel and Diana D.
That the children come to terms with pressed or intimidated, you’ll be able to Gould. Designed to help individuals pre-
the divorce has important consequences balance the pressures against you by pare in advance for every phase of the
— not just in the period following the using strategies that are different from divorce process.
divorce but in their adult years as well. those expected from you.
Children with divorced parents some-
times rush into relationships for which Whatever the obstacles, the basic rule For more articles on divorce and
they are ill-prepared in an effort to prove is to understand what options exist for negotiation, visit www.divorcemag
they are lovable and to fight their fear both of you. Insist upon realistic objec- .com/articles/Mediation.
of rejection. If they see that you can tives. Focus on the problems, not the
24 |Divorce Guide
More Helpful Information Available
THE POWER OF LISTENING REASSURING YOUR CHILD
Family Law Attentive, intentional listening helps Strategies for alleviating your child’s
divorcemag.com/articles/Divorce_Law reduce resistance and opens your think- feelings of fear and insecurity.
ing to creative solutions.
ADVICE FROM A JUDGE
A family court judge talks about effec- Health/Mental
tive preparation for court and how to Money Matters divorcemag.com/articles/Health_Well_Being
achieve results. divorcemag.com/articles/Financial_Planning
THE CHILD’S BILL OF RIGHTS CHARTING YOUR EXPENSES Some valuable remedies to help you.
A set of guidelines that must be pre- Help with budgeting for your family’s
served in any custody arrangement. past, present, and future expenses. FEEL BETTER NOW!
You must identify and eliminate toxins
COMMON KNOWLEDGE DIVIDING MARITAL PROPERTY from your body, mind, and soul to
What are the rights and obligations of How to deal with complex financial or reawaken your capacity for joy.
common-law relationships? property issues in a divorce.
MOVING BEYOND GRIEF
DIVORCE GLOSSARY DROWNING IN DEBT? Failing to deal with your divorce-related
Legal terms you should know during the Strategies for ending your post-divorce grief may wreck your chances for a
divorce process. credit woes.
ORDERLY JUSTICE LOVE, MONEY, AND THE BLENDED
The phases of a divorce trial. RECOVERING YOUR SELF-ESTEEM
Your breakup may have left you with
Divorce and the economics of love.
negative feelings, but you have so much
Mediation WHO GETS WHAT? more value than your marriage led you
divorcemag.com/articles/Mediation Deciding what is “yours”, “mine”, or to believe.
THE BENEFITS OF DIVORCE MEDIATION “ours” can be a difficult process, but
there are some guidelines to follow. THINK POSITIVE!
How the mediation process can diffuse Use the magic of optimism to create a
the conflict and improve communication positive future for yourself.
in your divorce. Children/Parenting
EMOTIONAL ISSUES AND NEGOTIATION Parental Alienation
SKILLS COPING WITH A DIFFICULT EX divorcemag.com/articles/Parental-
Two mediators answer some FAQs. Strategies for reducing conflict and Alienation-Syndrome
increasing respectful communication
IS MEDIATION FOR YOU? between divorced co-parents. FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Mediation allows you to make decisions A renowned parent educator answers the
about your own future, but it isn’t for CREATING CLARITY FROM CHAOS most common questions about Parental
everyone. How to bring structure back into your Alienation Syndrome.
MEDIATION BARRIERS PARENTAL CONTROL
We asked prominent mediators how to MOM’S HOUSE; DAD’S HOUSE Stop parental alienation by separating
overcome some of the most common How to set up two homes for your fact from opinion when discussing your
barriers to a successful mediation. children. ex with your children.
Divorce Guide | 25
Relationships Get the Latest News TEN great ways
divorcemag.com/articles/Relationships and Articles DivorceMag.com
BREAKING THE NEWS • www.twitter.com/divorcemagazine can help you through
How to minimize damage when telling • www.BlogsOnDivorce.com
other people about your divorce. your divorce
THE GOOD DIVORCE Frequently Asked
1. Find a divorce professional.
The “good divorce” is not an oxymoron. Questions Browse our extensive, regional list-
It’s never too late to have one. divorcemag.com/faq ings and find a qualified lawyer, me-
HOW TO STAY MARRIED FAQs BY DIVORCE PROFESSIONALS diator, Collaborative Practitioner, or
Tips from divorce lawyers on keeping Certified Divorce Financial Analyst in
the home fires burning. Divorce professionals (including your area.
law-yers, financial planners, and media-
LOOKING FOR LOVE tors) answer frequently asked questions 2. Connect with others at our
Opening yourself up to new scenes will such as: Forums.
help broaden your soul-mate search. • “My spouse wants a divorce. I don’t. The online community gives and re-
How can I fight it?” ceives support from others who are
• “What if I don’t like my divorce experiencing divorce.
Experts share their advice on social con-
duct in post-divorce relationships. lawyer’s tactics and strategies? Can I
3. Ask an Expert.
get a second legal opinion without fir- Get answer from judges, divorce
Women and Divorce ing my lawyer?”
• “Can one divorce attorney represent
lawyers, and financial advisors.
Divorce both my spouse and me? I think it 4. Cast your vote.
would save us time and money.” Take part in the online polls, or just
HONORING THE TRUTH • “If a divorce involves complex issues, review some of the results.
How a divorced woman can see all sides can you still use a mediator?”
of her marital breakdown. • “Is going to court the only way to 5. Find support in your area.
ensure you’ll get your fair share?” Divorce Resources listings can
ILLUSIONARY ICONS • “Should I tell my divorce lawyer guide you to local support groups or
More women should learn how to be services.
everything? There are certain things
comfortable in their own skin.
I’d like to keep to myself.”
• “Can I make modifications to my
6. Subscribe to our Divorce
MOVING BEYOND DIVORCE eNewsletter.
Eleven steps to help a divorced woman Divorce Decree? My circumstances
A free monthly e-mail newsletter of-
move on with her life. have changed, and I’m going to need
fers articles and news.
RECOGNIZE EMOTIONAL ABUSE • “What should I consider when choos- 7. Subscribe to Divorce Magazine.
When you love someone, it’s easy to be ing a divorce mediator?” Published twice a year, full of helpful
blind to the effects of emotional abuse. • “Should we stay together for the sake divorce articles and resources.
RELEASING THE TOXIC EMOTIONS of the kids? If so, how long?”
The ways for a divorced woman to let go • “Is it better to give or receive one 8. Browse divorce web links.
of negative thoughts and feelings. large lump-sum payment up front Useful links to sites offering divorce
than monthly spousal-support pay- information, products, and services.
Spirituality and Divorce ments?”
9. Read about celebrity divorce.
• “How is custody and visitation of
divorcemag.com/articles/Spirituality_and_ Learn how not to end your
Divorce our child(ren) determined?”
marriage from the latest Hollywood
• “How do we arrive at the right par-
JESUS ON MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE enting plan for our children?”
A Christian divorce lawyer analyzes • “I’ve been ordered to pay an amount 10. Laugh!
what Jesus says in the book of Matthew. of child and/or spousal support that I Comic relief from the Humor
can’t afford. What are my options?” section.
TOUGH LOVE SURVIVAL STRATEGIES • “If you live in a common-law mar-
Some practical ways of being loving yet
riage, are you entitled to the same www.DivorceMag.com is one of the
firm with our spouses.
support and property division as if leading divorce-related websites on the
IS IT OKAY FOR CHILDREN TO BE SAD? you were legally married?” internet. Visit it today for its online
The tender, compassionate way God • “Who should consider using Collab- community and for information and
cares for us and shares in our sorrow. orative Divorce?” advice that will help with your divorce.
26 | Divorce Guide