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Couples starting the new year with a divorce may find untangling finances is no easy feat. Data from the University of Washington found that divorce filings start to pick up in January — a trend researchers theorized could be fueled by a rough holiday season. Filings peak in March and then again in August, they found, before declining in the fall. Many people try to time a major change like a divorce with periods in their children’s lives that are most stable. such as the start of a school semester, or the end of summer.

If you’re in the midst of a divorce, or thinking about initiating a divorce, here’s how — and when — to update your financial plan.

Remove your spouse from power

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In my divorce and child custody practice, I have represented a number of very good, intelligent people who have been victimized by a narcissist spouse’s  gaslighting campaign. Gaslighting is a term that is used to describe the abuse inflicted so as to damage the victim’s perception of reality, in the sense of who they are as a person, whether they are to blame (though they are innocent), and a means by the narcissist or borderline to control their victim spouse with emotional abuse. “Gaslighting is a form of manipulation through persistent misdirection, contradiction, and deception in an attempt to destabilize and brainwash a target (spouse). Its intent is to sow seeds of doubt in the targets, hoping to make them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Instances may range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. The term owes its origin to Gas Light, a 1938 play and 1944 film, and has been used in clinical and research literature.

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A recent article on PDAN’s site (Personality Disorders Awareness Network)  discusses gaslighting well. See:  http://narcissisticbehavior.net/the-effects-of-gaslighting-in-narcissistic-victim-syndrome/

From my experience representing victims of emotional abuse by spouses with personality disorders, some of the devastiting effects of gaslighting are found across the board in victims of emotional abuse by BPDs and NPDs. These are:

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In my law practice, a divorce with a narcissist involves unique issues and challenges. Many toxic narcissists, in divorce, use emotional abuse to denigrate and control their partners, and are notoriously difficult in the case to achieve settlement with, even on minor issues. In my view, boundaries need to be set with narcissists in the case, and I have years of experience understanding these traits of NPD in divorce and custody cases, as well as managing NPD personalities in the litigation. Again, boundaries are critical, as well as establishing control over the NPD in the case. In other words, I try to disempower the NPD, and then empower my clients, many of whom no longer feel they have any power or voice in the relationship.

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Relationships require give and take. They are built on mutual respect, love, trust, and compassion. When you are in a relationship with a narcissist, those components often cease to exist after a short period of time. Narcissistic people are not empathetic. They aren’t willing to hold another up the ladder of success. They need complete attention and expect their partner to put them up on a pedestal.

In a case study by Susan Heitler, Phd called Narcissism: A Redefinition and Case Study of Treatment, she points out the conflict-focus in couples therapy and how narcissistic personality disorder affects relationships. In her findings she lists,

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PsychCentral has an interesting summary for one of the more pervasive forms of personality disorder that some people face in a marriage or divorce, and yet this form of Personality Disorder is not well understood. There is a significant comorbidity ( co-existence) with other personality disorders. This personality disorder/trait exists in about 2.5 percent of the population, and like NPD and BPD, and the toxic behaviors can be aggravated by a marriage that is failing, or with a divorce. My firm has been dedicated for many years to a) understanding these traits and toxic behaviors, and b) managing them within the context of divorce and custody litigation.

” People with paranoid personality disorder are generally characterized by having a long-standing pattern of pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others.  A person with paranoid personality disorder will nearly always believe that other people’s motives are suspect or even malevolent.

Individuals with this disorder assume that other people will exploit, harm, or deceive them, even if no evidence exists to support this expectation. While it is fairly normal for everyone to have some degree of paranoia about certain situations in their lives (such as worry about an impending set of layoffs at work), people with paranoid personality disorder take this to an extreme — it pervades virtually every professional and  personal relationship they have.

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One of the primary concerns that parents have about an impending divorce is the question of the resilience and adaptability of the children to divorce. In my practice at Law Offices of Michael F. Roe LLC, there has been a history of successfully managing cases that sometimes involve complex issues, such as a parent with traits of a personality disorder, Parental Alienation, or a toxic parent that acts out in the family with a lot of chaos, threats, and aggression. Cases that have these features make the protocols put into place all the more important in order to protect my clients and the wellbeing of the children. I have spent the last 20 years focused on the clinical and psychological issues in divorce and custody, and make every effort to apply this experience in each and every case in my Firm; there are no “cookie cutter” approaches and each family’s case is different and requires different solutions and plans.

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One of the goals of managing these complex cases is to create a plan for the developmental health of the children, both in the near term and the long term. A recent article has reflected on outcomes in divorce cases with children, and the findings of the varied research are interesting. The research speaks to the idea that kids that emerge from low conflict divorces, with mindful and respectful parents, do better over the long term. Kids from chaotic families tend do do more poorly, but my belief is that with good planning and protection, these difficult outcomes can be mitigated:

” Divorce affects most children in the short run, but research suggests that kids recover rapidly after the initial blow. Most children of divorce also do well in the longer term. Researchers have consistently found that high levels of parental conflict during and after a divorce are associated with poorer adjustment in children.

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As the calendar year 2016 winds down, and as I approach another hearing on issues of child support next week, I am mindful that Illinois’ longstanding (and to some, draconian) child support statute is going to be replaced by a new and more modern “income shares” approach to setting child support for divorcing parents with minor children.

Under the new statute, child support is calculated by determining the gross income of each parent.Then, with appropriate calculations, the incomes of each parent are then tax affected to determine the individual and total net income of the family. These calculations are usually performed by implementing software programs such as “Family Law Software,” used by my Firm and by many judges on their desktop computers. Once that total number is determined, there will be a published chart that will allow the parties and their attorneys to cross reference the amount of total child support that is found to be applicable to a given family at that income level, and for a given number of children. That total amount is then allocated depending on the percentage of income that each parent contributes to the total.

Thankfully, the new statute also provides for an adjustment to child support for cases where the parties implement shared parenting.  Keep in mind that as of January 1, 2016, Illinois abandoned its old approach to “custody” and “visitation,” and implemented a fully updated law that provides for “allocation of parental responsibilities.”  If a parent has the physical residence of a child for at least 146 overnights a year, the court may  decide to employ the “shared care child support obligation.”  Then, the court determines the percentage of time that the non-primary residential parent has with the child or children, and makes a further adjustment downward in the child support obligation.

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The podcast below is one of the best opportunities to get a summary from Dr. Amy Baker about her work with Parental Alienation, and her efforts to mentor parents affected by Parental Alienation.

A large part of my practice involves complex and high conflict divorce and custody cases. Many of these involve one parent affected by a personality disorder, which can then involve active and damaging alienation of the non-disordered parent’s relationship with their children.

http://kprcradio.iheart.com/media/play/27301638/

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How can a parent that is dealing with a high conflict spouse have a more effective means to address disputes?

One of the more challenging aspects of creating Parenting Plans for my clients is creating a methodology in the plan for dispute resolution. Parents that generally see eye-to-eye on matters concerning the children are able to work together to solve issues or disputes that arise without any outside help. Other parents can benefit from taking the dispute to a court designated mediator, who works with the parents to help them find a middle ground solution for the dispute. Some years ago, the Illinois Supreme Court expressed a preference for using mediators to try to resolve disputes between parents. However, the panacea that mediation was thought to be generally didn’t work out to be as effective as was hoped. Mediation works with parents that have a middle ground solution as a goal, and who come to the table with a mindset oriented toward resolution.  However, that’s just a minority of litigants. Those of you with high conflict ex-spouses will know how ineffective, and expensive, mediation can be.

To help my clients deal with a high conflict ex-spouse, I have been utilizing in my cases Parenting Coordinators to act as dispute resolvers. Parenting coordination is described as a combination of mediation and arbitration, as the parenting coordinator decides or recommends solutions to the disputes the parents are unable to resolve. A skilled parenting coordinator must be adept at investigating, interviewing, managing conflict and disputes, making decisions, educating parents, coordinating/case managing, and overseeing communication between parents.

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Law Offices of Michael F. Roe manages a number of cases where traits of toxic narcissism are involved. These personality traits can cause a lot of suffering in a marriage and eventual divorce, and the suffering is compounded when children are involved. One simple distinction needs to be made: what is the difference between narcissism and high self esteem?

A recent psychological study explains the crucial difference between being a narcissist and having high self-esteem. Although narcissists feel superior to others they do not necessarily feel that good about themselves.  In contrast, people with high self-esteem naturally feel good about themselves but do not feel superior to others.

The difference is highlighted in a new paper which shows how narcissism and high self-esteem diverge.

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Throughout my decades of practice as a Divorce and Custody attorney, I have worked tirelessly to deliver the best results possible for my clients with respect to their complex child custody cases. As many of you are aware, many divorce cases with child issues also have significant financial issues, sometimes involving complex financial concerns such as business valuations and allocation of complex financial assets and liabilities.

I tried a case in 2015 and 2016 that had both complexities with the child issues and with the marital property concerns. The trial itself took two months to try, with the trial going nearly day to day for an extended period. Months after the trial ended, the Court returned with a judgment, but I can say that the Court’s conclusions on a number of property issues were seen to be incorrect. As a trial lawyer, I can say that despite the best efforts of both counsel and the Court, courts sometimes do not get it right the first time. This is why we have an appellate process.

Only last week, the Appellate Court ruled that the trial court, in rejecting some of what I considered to be very strong issues (ie: business valuation, allocation of retained earnings), evidence and arguments at trial, erred in doing so. In fighting for my client on every issue, we are now vindicated and the appellate court has sent the case back for retrial on the most important financial issues.