MY DIVORCE

I was divorced a while back and now I’m the office manager of a family law firm that deals mostly with divorce, custody; etc. Interesting!

So when my wife Jennifer mentioned The Huffington Post blog today, she piqued my curiosity and some memories of my own divorce.

The Huffington Post has a divorce section: www.huffingtonpost.com/divorce No matter what you may think of Ms. Huffington’s politics, you may find her blog interesting if you’re in / thinking of / recently out of a divorce.

I can understand why people get so emotional about these things. One of the worst days in my life was when my soon- to- be Ex took the children off to Minnesota (as we had planned) and I was left alone in Texas. When we said goodbye, I stood in the now empty echoing and no-longer-ours house and implored them, “Please don’t go!” I cried. They went.

My Ex and I had just grown apart. The stress of her needing a heart transplant and of having two handicapped children was tremendous and I in particular had a hard time dealing with it. Furthermore I had just started on a new career (professor of history) and was in grad school doing great – and it took a lot of my attention and time leaving less than my children needed.

Then with a lot of misery on my part–and with a sudden jolt — I realized that I could choose either my children or my career. I chose the children and gave up my new career with a forthright letter to my favorite history prof.

I’ve always been a private person in my way, in many aspects that really matter to me. I had not really discussed the emotional impact of all this – career, children, political differences — with my wife – therapists, yes but at first that didn’t work either. This was a really hard decision and I could have used my wife’s help more than I could ask for. I knew the history work I was doing would be a boon to mankind but it had to go. I dropped my history writing project but not before writing out my conclusions and sending them where I thought they should go. This small part I am proud of.

I finally found a suitable therapist in Texas: “Mr. Bill.” I let myself enjoy life a but more — well maybe more than a bit – and came to understand more the arc of my life from southern white boy (born in Connecticut!) to labor organizer to family man and computer consultant and historian to divorce and fatherhood. I could not let my children go. When my job in Houston finished, as I knew it would, I had an epiphany: “If I’m doing the right thing staying in Texas, why do I feel so miserable?” Every day I cried and screamed and bemoaned my fate. These outpourings of emotions would not do – though for a while I had to do them. I did learn to “deal with” in other ways – therapy, taking more responsibility for the kids, meditation.

So I had my epiphanies. I packed up a rental truck in the warm rainy and green Houston spring (it was 70 degrees and January) and drove to Minnesota to be near my kids (it was so cold the diesel fuel froze in the tank). I got there just before my Ex’s heart transplant, which was a great success.

Don’t get me wrong. Things were still rough, especially on the children, and it took me years to figure out and get a grip on my anger and my hostility, but I finally did and I finally accepted that I had made the right, the necessary, choice.

So, if you’re going through something similar, know you are not alone. A divorce even when it is for the best is usually a great loss of pride, family, familiarity. Some may breeze through a divorce but I didn’t. You probably would not either. It took years to get back close again to my children – after an estrangement totally my own fault. I grew up in the process – finally reaching adulthood as a fifty-something male.

Which brings us back to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/divorce Try an article or two. Makes ya think. Especially the part about building and using a network of friends and professionals (investment advisors, therapists, mentors, fellow workers,) according to your needs.

And, don’t forget to cultivate, smell, and pick the roses along the way.

Tom Moore
Moore Family Law

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Marriage Rescue

April 29, 2010

I have a colleague who approaches his family law practice like a ministry. He ensures that his clients’ spiritual needs are being cared for as well as their legal needs. I usually refer spiritual matters to my clients’ respective churches, but that doesn’t mean I don’t inquire into the need for a divorce. Sometimes, people come to see me when they wonder what the grass is like on the other side. Sometimes, they wonder if they are going to be shocked with divorce papers. In those cases, my job is to provide a little legal information and a referral to a marriage therapist, if it seems like a good idea. I wonder if maybe sometimes we could avoid the whole drama by living in the moment a little more. This article in Slate.com suggests that we should maybe spend a little more time in our marriage, rather than with our therapist.

Is Divorce Contagious?

April 9, 2010

It’s an interesting question. Certainly, when I talk to potential clients, one theme of our discussion is often the others in the family’s social network that are going through or have been through divorce. You might be interested to read this article from www.slate.com discusing social contagion studies. Apparently, there is a study that will be released soon that addresses the question whether divorce is contagious within social networks.

By Jennifer Moore, Family Law Attorney

Parents do not always agree on the issue of child discipline. This is a major problem in custody cases.

Discipline May Affect a Child’s Preferences

Where one parent is permissive and the other parent is somewhat more strict, the permissive parent has an edge in a custody battle. Even though courts attempt to honor relationships with both parents, the more permissive parent will be favored by the children. This will be reflected in any custody evaluation, both in the children’s preferences, as well as in the evaluator’s observations regarding the children’s bond with each parent. As Arizona Judge Anne Kass states in her article, Divorce Pair Should Agree On Discipline, “the common way these quarrels over discipline methods will usually play out is that the children gravitate to the parent who is more lenient because children vote with their feet.”

Tools to Measure Discipline

It can be hard to win a custody battle if your argument is that the children need more discipline, even if it’s true. Psychologists have attempted to design tools, such as the “Discipline Index,” that measure the the level of discipline that each parent may use, without asking the child to take sides in the divorce. However, it is my experience that custody evaluators seldom use these tools.

Discipline May Lead to Allegations of Abuse

A greater problem is that conflicts over punishment styles can lead to allegations of abuse. I was chatting with a group of friends, ranging from age 25-50 the other day, and almost every one of them had stories of experiencing physical discipline as a child. Some of the stories would have raised significant issues in a custody dispute. Some may have given rise to a child protection investigation or criminal charge. In Minnesota, you can be charged with a crime if you engage in malicious punishment of a child. Minn. Stat. Sec. 609.377 provides that “A parent, legal guardian, or caretaker who, by an intentional act or a series of intentional acts with respect to a child, evidences unreasonable force or cruel discipline that is excessive under the circumstances is guilty of malicious punishment of a child.”

Malicious punishment is a subjective determination. For example, A few years ago, there was rigorous debate over the propriety of “hot-saucing”, where the parent puts hot sauce on a child’s tongue as discipline. The practice has led to day care sanctions and even criminal charges, and has been the subject of custody litigation.

Attitudes and Beliefs About Discipline Vary by Community and Era

Salon.com has published an article about bibilical chastisement that shows the divergent nature of societal attitudes about corporal punishment. It is an almost certainty that Minnesota Courts would not regard “biblical chastisement” as an appropriate method of discipline, and such discipline would severely hinder a custody case.

What Discipline Style is Right for You?

We recommend that parents attempt to agree on a parenting style, and apply it consistently throughout their children’s lives. When cases come to us with discipline conflicts, we advise that the more strict parent modify their parenting style towards lenience, without giving up important parent child boundaries or risking the safety of their children. We also advise parents to avoid physical discipline in all cases. Sometimes, physical contact is necessary to protect yourself or your child. However, such contact should be loving, and intended to protect with every effort made to avoid any harm.

Where the parenting styles have been different for a long period of time, we advise that families engage in therapy and education together so that parents can parent more effectively with fewer misunderstandings and no false allegations of child abuse. Classes are available through the University of Minnesota Extension Service, and The Storefront Group.

By Jennifer Moore, Family Law Attorney

The New York Times has published an interesting commentary about role reversals: whether current economic forces may lead to more stay at home fathers and whether societal norms support this. Personally, I’ve seen this in some of my most difficult cases, which tend to be role reversal cases.

Father as Primary Caregiver

Courts have sometimes had difficulty accepting the premise that the father has been the primary caregiver of the children. Where there is clear evidence that the father has been the primary caregiver, courts have been less accepting of the premise that it might be in the children’s best interest to continue primarily in the father’s care.

Husband in Need of Spousal Maintenance

Financially, courts have had even more difficulty with the premise that a man might meet the standards for an award of spousal maintenance, even where there is evidence that the husband has been unemployed for a long period of time and may not be capable of self-support without some retraining. Sometimes, the court will hang its decision against the non-working husband on the belief that he is voluntarily un- or under-employed. I have not always seen a clear emphasis placed on voluntary un- or under-employment in cases where the wife has chosen to remain unemployed for long periods of time.

If the purpose of spousal maintenance is to avoid any unfair economic consequence of divorce, I can only conclude that the Courts believe it is fair to hold both men and women to an outdated social contract.

By Jennifer Moore, Family Law Attorney

As part of your divorce, you may have decided to change your name. If so, there are several steps you should take after your divorce becomes final. Your first step should be to obtain a certified copy of your Judgment and Decree from the Court Administrator. Then, you will want to do the following:

  1. Notify the Social Security Administration.
  2. Obtain a new driver’s license or state identification card.
  3. Change your name on all bank and investment accounts and your safe deposit boxes.
  4. Change your name on all credit cards.
  5. Notify all of your creditors.
  6. Notify your utility companies.
  7. Change your passport.
  8. File a change of address with the post office.
  9. Change your car titles and registration.
  10. Notify insurance companies.
  11. Notify your employer and any retirement or pension accounts.
  12. Notify friends, relatives and co-workers.
  13. Change your email address if it contains your married name.
  14. Notify places where you have memberships and subscriptions, such as the public library, health club, or Netflix.

By Emily Matson, Family Law Attorney

If Tiger Woods and his wife Elin head for divorce, what will the final dissolution of property and assets look like?

The pair have a prenuptial agreement that reportedly only gives Elin a large award of assets after 10 years of marriage; they were married in 2004, which means they are not yet at the 10 year mark. However, there is talk that the prenuptial agreement may be in negotiation as the couple discuss a possible dissolution of marriage.

You don’t have to have a prenuptial agreement or over $600 million in assets to learn the value of negotiating an agreement in divorce. It is to both parties’ advantage to come to an agreement so that they can use unconventional terms and conditions to achieve what they both want. If they cannot come to an agreement, going to the courts means more conventional outcomes.

For example, the Yahoo! article talks about modifying the prenuptial so that Elin would start receiving payments after 7 years of marriage, but that she would have additional responsibilities, such as agreeing to nondisclosure of the parties’ marriage or the details of the divorce. That is not something that judges will usually require in a divorce decree; but it is something that Tiger Woods, in his understandable desire for privacy, may want to have. He will likely be willing to pay a substantial amount of money rather than have a court order him not to pay any, but allow Elin to sell her story and expose the intimate details of their lives.

By Thomas Moore, Office Manager

First of all, my thanks to attorney Steven H Silton, whose article, Counseling Clients in Financial Distress, in the August 2009 issue of Bench & Bar of Minnesota is the inspiration for this blog. Bench & Bar of Minnesota is published by the  Minnesota State Bar Association.

Here’s my personal reaction to what Mr. Silton says in his article. 

The financial crisis, and your personal crisis, is really about what you can do.

The global financial crisis is real and can be a rude awakening to someone who does not pay attention to the economy, or who does and who has, until now, enjoyed prosperity.  In fact, today’s circumstances can be particularly hard on you if you’re used to hard work, success, and success based upon your hard work.  Sometimes it seems that what you’ve done has been for naught.  But, understanding your limits, rethinking your life, and taking a holistic approach to life and work, can help — though nothing can guarantee that your investments, or your marriage, or your social position, or anything else for that matter, will keep on an upward curve.  We are all subject to market forces, nature, and social forces beyond our control.  We have to learn how to learn from failure; and we must learn how to best deal with the psychological and personal aspects of the situation we are in.  

You need experts, carefully selected, to work your way through this.

You should work with professionals, experts, to deal with what you cannot handle on your own.  There is no shame in this.  This could involve an attorney, a financial advisor, a life coach, a realtor, or a therapist.  You have to do your life work and engage others in this work as appropriate.  Getting depressed can be part of this but we have to learn to work through all the aspects of our situation.  To quote Mr. Silton, “Accepting responsibility is one thing, but there is no room for despair in a sinking ship…”  We must focus on how to get through the present crisis and how to build a better future.  Victories in these necessary struggles, instead of avoiding the struggle, are what build confidence and reduce anxiety. 

Stress and strain require you to be careful, ethical, and honorable.

If you are stressed, if those with whom you deal are stressed, you and they are inevitably being pushed in the direction of making distressed, even desperate, decisions.  Someone sinking into apparently hopeless debt and bankruptcy will not always make rational decisions about their finances or about anything else, for that matter.  Many examples could be cited of a party in a divorce who spends what he does not have on his bar tab, his ‘toys,’ and in other ways to avoid thinking about and dealing with what is inevitable.  Be careful in your dealings, guard yourself from those who are not and work at living your life as ethically and as honorably as you can.

Social Networking During Divorce

Divorce and Communication 

When parents divorce, they often have to find new ways to communicate with each other about their children.  Sometimes it’s a good idea to pass a notebook along with the children when they go for parenting time.  Sometimes it’s a good idea to set up an account at   Our Family Wizard    to to keep track of important dates on a shared schedule.  

Divorce, Child Custody, Alimony, Child Support and Social Networking

One thing that is NOT a good idea, however, is to use online social networking services, such as    Facebook      or    MySpace  as a soap box to talk about your former spouse in a negative way.  

Social networking sites allow you to share content with family, friends, colleagues, strangers, anyone with access to the internet.  There is great potential to help you keep in touch with people, but it also has great potential to help you alienate people and look like the worst possible parent.  

 From Where I stand as a Family Lawyer

I urge you to resist the temptation to find out where your former spouse is posting online, and even more, I urge you to resist the temptation to respond to anything he or she posts.  Do not start a passive aggressive flamewar by posting on YOUR site in reaction to something posted on his or her site. 

 

There is no good that can come of this.  If you need to vent, do so over the telephone or a cup of coffee to a friend or trusted family member.  Do not post it publicly and permanently on a website where people will see and judge you for it.  People do not know your whole history, and posting a one-word essay on the unfitness of your former spouse is not likely to make anyone agree with you – they are more likely to turn against you.

 Take the High Road

Social networking gives you the opportunity to practice taking the high road, and to make choices that are concerned with the best interest of your children.  That includes refraining from fighting or vilifying the other parent in a way that will only vilify yourself. 

 

Emily Matson

Emily.Matson@MooreFamilyLawMN.com

Moore Family Law, P.A.