August 7, 2014

Kane County Divorce: Co-Parenting Strategies

In my practice there are many cases where a co-parenting outcome is not appropriate. Behavioral issues, parenting deficits, or mental health issues require that the fit and healthy parent be awarded the primary custody of the minor children, for the children's own developmental wellbeing. However, in some cases a co-parenting or shared parenting model is appropriate, and I have developed, in consultation with some excellent clinical co-parenting models, some very beneficial shared parenting agreements for parents.

From tiem to time, articles come along that discuss strategies for shared parenting, and Rosalind Sedacca, CCT, recently posted the following article:

" If you’re a parent, divorce doesn’t end your relationship with your former spouse. It only changes the form in some specific ways. It is still essential to create a working relationship focused on the optimum care and concern for your children. Every co-parenting relationship will be unique, affected by your post-divorce family dynamics. However, there are guidelines that will enhance the results for children in any family. Here are some crucial points to keep in mind to maximize your co-parenting success.

Respect your co-parent’s boundaries:

Chances are your former spouse has a different parenting style than you, with some conflicting rules. Rather than stress yourself about these differences, learn to accept that life is never consistent and it may actually be beneficial for your kids to experience other ways of doing things. Step back from micro-managing your co-parent’s life. If the kids aren’t in harm’s way, let go and focus on only the most serious issues before you take a stand.

Create routine co-parent check-ins:

The more co-parents communicate with one another about the children, the less likely for small issues to grow into major problems. Select days/times for phone, email or in-person visits. Discuss in advance visitation transfer agreements. List who’s responsible for what each day, week or month. Food, homework, curfews, health issues, allowances, school transportation, sport activities, play dates, holiday plans and more should be clearly agreed upon, when possible – or scheduled for further discussion. Once you have a clear parenting plan structured – follow it to the best of your ability. But allow for last-minute changes and special “favors” to facilitate cooperation.

Use an online co-parenting scheduling tool to reduce possible conflict due to misunderstandings. These tools also simplify planning and scheduling throughout the year.

Encourage your child’s co-parent relationship:

Regardless of your personal feelings about your ex, your children need a healthy connection with their other parent. Keep snide comments to yourself and don’t discuss your parenting frustrations with your children. Encourage your kids to maintain a caring, respectful relationship with their other parent. Remind them about Mom or Dad’s birthday and holiday gifts. Make time in the weekly schedule for phone calls, cards, email and letters to keep the children’s connection alive when your co-parent is at a distance. Your children will thank you when they grow up.

Be compassionate with your in-laws:

Remember that a Grandparent’s love doesn’t stop after divorce. If your children had a healthy bond with your former spouse’s extended family, don’t punish them by severing that connection. Children thrive on family attachments, holiday get-togethers and traditions they’ve come to love. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins can be a great source of comfort to children during stressful times and a sense of continuity with the past. Dissolving those relationships is hurtful to both your children and the other family. Think long and hard before making such an emotionally damaging decision.

Above all, be flexible. When you allow calls from your co-parent when the kids are in your home, they will be more receptive to your calls when the tables are turned. Remember, you are still a parenting team working on behalf of your children. That commonality should enable you to overlook the thorns in your co-parenting relationship and focus on the flowering buds that are the children you are raising."

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Rosalind Sedacca, CCT is a Divorce & Parenting Coach, founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce?

July 11, 2014

Shared Parenting Challenges and Benefits

My practice centers, in part, on complex custody litigation, sometimes involving psychological issues, addiction issues, domestic violence, and negative parenting behaviors. In some cases, I need to aggressively manage a custody case for my clients to ensure the optimum result for the client and the children. This may mean sole legal custody and restricted visitation for the other parent. In other cases, where the parents are loving, competent, and willing to cooperate, a shared parenting plan can really work out well. I have developed a number of shared parenting models that I can apply to specific family situations. While Illinois custody law does not support presumptive shared parenting (as other states do), if this is good for my client then I am going to be aggressive about creating an optimum shared parenting plan for my clients. Shared parenting can be advantageous for parents and kids, as well as challenging in some respects. The following article from a clinician discusses some of the reasons why:

" As a therapist and writer specializing in divorce, I’m often asked, “When does co-parenting get easier?” While there is no simple answer to this question, most experts probably agree that while families usually adapt to co-parenting over time, it never really gets easier. Most co-parenting arrangements, especially after an acrimonious split, can be exhausting and exasperating. Put simply, the challenges change as children grow and develop. Consequently, it’s key for parents to keep in mind that the tools necessary to succeed need to be modified considerably as children age and mature.

Clearly, research by child development experts demonstrates numerous benefits to children when their living arrangements enable support from both parents. One reason is that parents who co-parent tend to experience lower conflict than those who have sole custody arrangements. Studies show that conflict is what creates the most pain and anguish for children after parents’ split, and that keeping parental disagreements to a minimum is a key aspect of helping kids become resilient.

Co-parenting, at its best, is a wonderful opportunity for children of divorce to have close to equal access to both parents – to feel it is okay to love both of their parents. Dr. Joan Kelly, a renowned psychologist reminds us that the outcomes for children of divorce improve when they have positive bonds with both parents. These include better psychological and behavioral adjustment, and enhanced academic performance.

However, few authors mention that while co-parenting is the best decision for children, it takes two special parents to navigate this arrangement over time. Interacting with each other at drop-offs, making shared decisions, or even speaking to an ex who you’d rather forget can be a challenge.

In order to succeed at co-parenting, it’s wise to be realistic about the difficulties that may arise as your kids go through childhood and adolescence. For instance, it might be hard to differentiate between the impact of your divorce and normal adolescent rebellion.

For instance, my two children spent close to equal time with both myself and their father until they reached adolescence, when they both protested their schedule. When my daughter was thirteen, after her father’s remarriage, she choose to spend most overnights at my home, while her brother started spending more overnights at his father’s house because it was located near most of his friend’s homes. Fortunately, my ex and I agreed that it was in their best interests to revise their schedule. As a result, our kids thrived as they felt their needs were being respected.

There are numerous benefits of co-parenting for kids:

Children will:

Feel a sense of security. Children who maintain a close bond with both parents and are more likely to have higher self-esteem.

Have better psychological adjustment into adulthood. My research shows that adults raised in divorced families report higher self-esteem and fewer trust issues if they had close to equal time with both parents.

Grow up with a healthier template for seeing their parents cooperate. By cooperating with their other parent, you establish a life pattern that they can carry into their future.

Have better problem solving skills. Children and adolescents who witness their parents cooperate are more likely to learn how to effectively resolve problems themselves.

The key to successful co-parenting is to keep the focus on your children – and to maintain a cordial relationship with your ex-spouse. Most importantly, you want your children see that their parents are working together for their well-being. Never use them as messengers because when you ask them to tell their other parent something for you, it can make them feel stuck in the middle. It’s best to communicate directly with your ex and lessen the chances your children will experience loyalty conflicts.

The following are suggestions based on my own experience and advice from experts. First of all, it’s paramount that you gear your parenting plan to the age of your children and that it is consistent. Try to develop routines for them leaving and coming home when they are young. As they reach adolescence, strive to be more flexible and adapt to their changing needs.

Tips to help kids live happily in two homes:

For children under age 10:

Reassure them that they have two parents who love them. If they balk at going to their other parent’s home, you can say something like “Even though mom and dad aren’t married anymore we both still love you and are good parents.”

Maintain a cordial, business-like relationship with your ex so that your children won’t feel intense divided loyalties. It’s important not to express anger at your ex in front of your children so they don’t feel stuck in the middle

Help your kids anticipate changes in their schedule. Planning ahead and helping them pack important possessions can benefit them. However, keep items to a bare minimum. Most parents prefer to have duplicate items for their kids on hand.

Encourage your younger child to adhere to their parenting time schedule – being consistent with their schedule will help your kids feel secure. Younger children often benefit from avoiding frequent shifts between homes.

Show enthusiasm about their visit with their other parent. It’s important to put your differences with your ex aside and to promote your children’s positive bond with them.

For children over age 10 – to young adulthood:

Allow for flexibility in their schedule. At times, teens may have difficulty juggling their busy life with school, extracurricular activities, friends, and jobs if they start working.

Encourage them to spend time with their friends and extended family (on both sides). Avoid giving them the impression that being with their friends is not as important as spending time with you.

Plan activities with them that might include their friends at times – such as sporting events or movies. Encourage opportunities for them to bond with peers at both homes.

Respect your teens need for autonomy and relatedness. Dr. Emery writes, “Teenagers naturally want more freedom, but they also want and need relationships with their parents, through your adolescent may be unwilling to admit this."

Keep in mind that communicating with your former spouse is going to be necessary for the length of your children’s childhood into young adulthood. This may include special events, graduations – and perhaps even weddings. It’s important to keep clear boundaries so that your children wouldn’t harbor fantasies that you will reconcile. For the most part, this means less personal sharing and focusing on exchanging information, cooperation, and make good decisions about your children.

Finally, modeling cooperation and polite behavior set a positive tone for co-parenting. When children are confident of the love of both of their parents, they will adjust more easily to divorce.

Keeping your differences with your ex away from your children will open up opportunities to move beyond divorce in the years to come. Ask yourself this question: how do you want your children to remember you and their childhood when they are adults? "

Do The Struggles Of Co-Parenting Ever End?
By Terry Gaspard, Featured Columnist - July 07, 2014

July 2, 2014

How to Spot a Narcissist: Illinois Divorce

Marriage and Family Therapist Holly Brown has written a spot on article about identifying and avoiding a long term relationship with a narcissist. If you are in a marriage with a narcissist, and need counsel as to how to end a marriage that is causing you and the children emotional suffering, contact our offices. Michael Roe is one of the country's leading lawyer specialists on personality disorders and divorce. In the meantime, here are the signs of the narcissistic personality to be aware of:

How to Spot a Narcissist
By Holly Brown, LMFT

A lot of people assume narcissists are easy to spot, that they talk obsessively about themselves, for example, or never seem to care what you have to say. Those are the obvious narcissists. This post is about the charming narcissists who can fly under the radar until you feel like you’re in too deep to get out.

I’ve written before about how to know you’re involved with a narcissist, and on strategies for handling the narcissist in your life. This post, hopefully, will help you avoid entanglements with people who could cause you a lot of pain down the line.

It’s the kind of post my characters Rachel and Marley might have benefited from, in my novel “Don’t Try to Find Me” (due out next Tuesday!) And it might be particularly useful for those of you who are currently dating and trying to find a partner. Maybe you’re on the fence about someone, and this could help you make a decision one way or the other.

When it comes to narcissists, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Getting out early might be your best move. Okay, on to the tips:


I can’t stress this one enough. If your gut is telling you that something is off, if another person inspires some sort of anxiety that you can’t quite comprehend–then look deeper. You might feel like, “Hey, there’s no reason for me to be uneasy, it’s all going great, he/she is such a good catch!” But ask yourself why no one has caught them.

When you’re talking to a bright, witty, charming, interesting narcissist, you will feel swept up. You might feel a certain exhilaration, a loss of control, even. Temporarily, this can be a positive feeling.

Long-term, though, what it means is that YOU ARE NOT PARTICULARLY RELEVANT. The narcissist is merely looking for an audience. The reason you don’t feel entirely present is because you don’t have to be. You’re a prop, a way for the narcissist to feel temporarily good about himself/herself. Essentially, you’re being used.

2) You don’t feel truly listened to or empathized with. It all feels somehow…surface.

That’s because narcissists often learn over time that in order to get the approval they seek, they need to give the other person something. But it’s almost like the expression: His smile didn’t reach his eyes. There’s a sense that something else is going on, or being withheld. Again, this is largely something instinctive.

And the reason you are questioning yourself is because it is on this subterranean level. On the surface, you’re not being disrespected. But you’re not being valued either.

3) Consider whether self-involved people often seem drawn to you.

If this is the case, then think about whether this is another person in a long line. You might want to think back to your family relationships while you were growing up. Did one or both of your parents train you, on some level, to be appreciative of others to the exclusion of your own needs? Was an important person in your early life a narcissist as well? Might be time to recognize (and break ) a pattern.

4) You notice that somehow, you’re always ending up doing it the other person’s way.

This might mean that you’re always at the restaurant of their choice, or doing the activity they like. You might find you drive to his/her house much more than the reverse occurs. And you might not even know why this has happened, because the (suspected) narcissist seems nice enough, and willing enough, to do it your way.

But not really. Essentially, they are saying they are open to your ideas, suggestions, and preferences, but then there’s always some reason why that doesn’t exactly work, or why the (suspected) narcissist’s way is actually better. It might be that there’s a subtle pressure to go along in order to please the narcissist–perhaps he/she radiated very subtle disapproval through a variety of cues, and you’re picking up on these and it’s activating some anxiety, and so in order to relieve that anxiety, it’s just better to give in. Which leads to….

5) You tend to want to please people, and this new person in your life seems to feed on that.

While he/she may seem to be validating you (for example, giving you affection and compliments), there’s always something held back, perhaps the suggestion that the relationship can be damaged or lost.

A narcissist can often recognize a people-pleaser, almost like a homing pigeon. A people-pleaser and a narcissist fit together like a lock and a key, often forging a very dysfunctional but enduring bond.

That’s why it’s key to examine your own motivations, reactions, impulses, intentions, and self-esteem. Because narcissists can spot you, so make sure you can spot them back. Then you can get out before the bond solidifies.

June 28, 2014

Divorce Financial and Retirement Asset Planning

The article below highlights some of the issues and concerns that attach to a divorce after a lengthy marriage. Under Illinois law, retirement assets are divisible between the parties; there is a common practice that IRA's, 401(k)s and pensions are to be valued as of the date of the divorce, and allocated between the divorcing spouses equitably.

A person's retirement plan is a lifeline to the future. For many, it is their most important asset, even more emotionally valuable than a house or investment account. With this in mind, it is critical that the identification, valuation, and allocation of all marital assets in a divorce be accomplished properly. Law Offices of Michael Roe has on many occasions, with higher asset estates, worked with skilled and cost effective Divorce Financial Planners to effectuate an allocation model that can be submitted to the court. A properly presented plan that is beneficial to our client can often drive the resolution of the case in the right direction. The article states:

AFTER enduring a divorce four years ago, Mike Miller’s vision for a golden retirement got an unexpected makeover. Mr. Miller had been married for more than 30 years, and now he was single. His longtime dream of a shared retirement was shattered. He was also facing another unwelcome outcome: living in a smaller home and taking fewer vacations.

“The financial belt needed to be tightened,” said Mr. Miller, now 61 and managing director of Integra Shield Financial Group in Minnesota. “It doesn’t go around as well.”

Like Mr. Miller, more Americans are going through so-called gray divorces and the downsizing that follows.

Besides causing depression and dashing dreams, these divorces can sabotage retirement plans as assets are cut in half and expenses as a divorced single rise. For some older people, emerging from divorce with retirement plans intact can be challenging.

“There isn’t much time left to enhance portfolios post-divorce,” said Susan Brown, co-director of the National Center for Family and Marriage Research. “So you have to be careful to get the best settlement you can. Some people may have difficulty recovering.” One solution, she added, is “having a really good attorney and fighting for your fair share.”

The lesson in gray divorce, Mr. Miller said, is realizing that the ship isn’t sinking. “You’re just steering a new course.”

From New York Times CONSTANCE GUSTKE JUNE 27, 2014

June 20, 2014

Kane County Divorce: Women and Financial Life After Divorce

Studies confirm that women can suffer economically much more, over time, than men after divorce. You may be receiving child support and spousal support (maintenance), or a combination of the two called in Illinois "unallocated support," but maintenance is sometimes periodic and reviewable, and you likely cannot rely solely on both these income sources to sustain you and your children. Men that have careers tend to, over time, increase their incomes and save more for future years, while women tend to struggle to maintain an adequate financial roof over their heads over time. Because Illinois' Supreme Court put a premium on forcing courts to "break all entanglements" after divorce, this has lead some judges to terminate spousal support after but a few years post divorce. At that point, the woman is on her own, financially, in the world. Being mindful of this fact, and preparing for it, is important.

If you are working part-time, see about converting to full-time if your child care needs can be met appropriately and economically. If you need to, update your credentials at a local university or community college. Other suggestions include:

-Positions with work hours during school hours
-Join a Chamber of Commerce to network within your community
-Make a strict budget and try not exceed it
-Do not take on new unnecessary debt
-Update your existing skillsets with Excel or Powerpoint classes

Some years ago, I posted a video on this Blog about the empowerment for women that comes along with seeking or keeping employment after divorce. Not only can the additional earnings be very useful, but the emotional and psychological benefits of daily work, daily interaction with people, and the rhythm of having a home life and a work life are important, too.

Judges are increasingly looking to sever all ties to parties that have divorced, and that includes spousal support in many cases. Women that have been in shorter or intermediate term marriages must prepare for the fact that one day, spousal support will end. When that day comes, the savvy woman will be ready, and it is my job to counsel her during the divorce process along this path. As her lawyer, I must seek and gain the best financial outcome in the divorce case as is possible for her, but even the best outcomes usually require careful planning for the future.

June 20, 2014

DuPage County Divorce Lawyer: Kids and Divorce

Many complex divorce and custody cases involve mediation sessions, appointments with custody evaluators and guardians ad litem, along with stressful court hearings. Sometimes neglected in the process of divorce is consideration for how the children in the family are faring while the divorce is being processed. In my practice, I want my clients to be actively attentive to the emotional and psychological needs and changes that appear in the children, and to be responsive to those needs and changes. Sometimes a good clinician, such as a counselor or therapist, can be very beneficial for children in divorce; if the kids can weather the divorce well, the family as a whole has a better outcome.

So, what kinds of behaviors or appearances should a parent be looking for in their child? Rosalind Sedacca, CCT, has just written on this issue and her checklist is very useful. Check to see if:


1. They look, behave and talk as they always have.

Divorce can be devastating for kids, often resulting in anxiety, fears, hurt, anger, guilt and other negative emotions. If your children are interacting with you and moving through their days pretty much as usual, that’s a good sign. Look for any noticeable changes in mood and behavior and address them early on.

2. They still smile, and react positively to time spent with you.

Angry kids find it hard to hide their emotions and try to avoid contact with their parents. They may get spiteful, aggressive and belligerent or withdraw into their own space and try to ignore you. Happy kids welcome your attention and enjoy being with you — as they were before the divorce.

3. They ask questions about the divorce and changes ahead.

Depressed kids don’t talk alot and seem disconnected from daily reality. It’s okay for your kids to be concerned about what’s ahead, how their other parent is doing and other issues during and after divorce. Encourage conversations with your children and answer their questions honestly – but in an age-appropriate manner. Never bad-mouth their other parent no matter how justified you may feel.

4. They feel comfortable talking about experiences with both parents.

Well-adjusted kids are not intimidated or afraid to share stories about time spent with either parent. That’s because their parents keep communication open, don’t compete for their attention and never fill them with guilt or shame about loving their other parent.

5. They maintain momentum at school.

Dropping grades or school aggression are signs of problems that may not be apparent otherwise. Talk to your child’s teachers and school counselors. Also talk to your children directly to find out what’s going on with them and how they feel about the changes in their lives. Listen and let them vent so you learn how you can help.

6. They maintain healthy relationships with their friends.

When children lose close friendships after a divorce it’s often due to feelings of embarrassment, shame, guilt, anger or confusion. They feel helpless at home and express their frustrations with friends who may not be able to understand and support them when they need it most. A child therapist can be a big asset for them.

7. They continue with sports, classes or other activities.

Happy children enjoy their after-school classes, clubs, sports and other programs. If they drop out of activities they used to love, that’s a red flag that they aren’t coping well with challenges at home. Time to check with a counselor and/or support group for assistance.

8. They show empathy and compassion for others.

Well-adjusted kids express caring emotions when others are hurting. Disturbed children will act out with siblings, friends, pets and others showing little concern about their feelings. Kids upset about divorce lose their ability to be caring and compassionate, a warning sign that they may be in distress.

9. They talk about the future.

Children who are excited about events ahead: birthday celebrations, holidays, vacations, future school activities and learning new skills are in a positive mind-set about their world. If they’ve lost their enthusiasm for life, that’s a sign of depression and something to look into immediately.

10. They welcome signs of affection from their parents.

Well-adjusted kids are happy to give and receive hugs, kisses, words of encouragement and other signs of affection from their parents. If they avoid contact and don’t respond to your words and expressions of love, they’re sending a distress message you need to address.

When parents have a healthy attitude about life after divorce their children are more likely to move ahead in a positive way. If you’re having issues that are affecting your children, seek professional assistance as soon as possible. Attending to their needs early on can make the difference between short-term snags and long-term problems that impact your children emotionally and psychologically for decades to come.

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Rosalind Sedacca, CCT, is a Divorce & Parenting Coach and author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love!

June 4, 2014

Kane County Divorce: Toxic Narcissists and Divorce

Most people have a general sense of what a narcissistic personality is. We meet these types of people in everyday life, from neighbors, to co-workers, to relatives. However, when narcissistic personalities are involved in divorce and custody cases, I often see a toxicity, a malignancy, to these personality types that affects their ability to function as parents, to function under the stress of litigation, and to function without being abusive or toxic to the other spouse. Narcissists can make false allegations, act as parental alienators with children, and take positions in a divorce case that defy fact and logic. My job as an attorney in these cases is to assess the level of dysfunction, and manage the case appropriately so that my clients and the children, are protected.

So, what are narcissists? Melissa Schenker is a writer and consultant that offers some general background on narcissists. Melissa is the author of "Sweet Relief From the Everyday Narcissist."

Have you heard someone be accused of being a narcissist, but realized that you don't really know what that means? You know it's negative. You may think that it probably means someone is egotistical, or self-absorbed. But how do you really know if someone is a narcissist?

Here are the basics you need to know:

A narcissist is a person with a personality disorder. A personality disorder is when a limited range of certain behaviors are applied to all of life's situations, and the result is unsuccessful long term relationships. Narcissism is not the only personality disorder. Narcissism is part of a few other personality disorders (particularly sociopathy/psychopathy and borderline personality disorder).

There is a specific definition and diagnosis used by the mental health community, but most narcissists are not officially diagnosed. Those of us who live and work with narcissists need to know how to recognize them. For most of us, it's more useful to know the basic patterns of behavior relied on by a narcissist. You can use this list to help discern patterns that likely indicate the presence of narcissism in people you wonder about.

An everyday narcissist relies on these common, basic patterns:

• Initial charm; chameleon like ability to adapt in order to please people
• Quick cementing of personal relationships
• Need for attention: Prefers positive, will provoke negative
• Brings conversations back around to self
• Likes to associate with those s/he (or others) admire or finds useful
• Attempts to control people and situations
• Emotionally not attuned to others
• Lacks emotional self-awareness
• Lacks curiosity about others; is a poor listener, doesn't remember things
• Doesn't handle disagreement well
• Unskilled in navigation of complex social/emotional situations
• Sensitive to feedback; may hear criticism where none is intended
• Blames others when things go wrong, claims credit when things go right
• Makes agreements to please people in the moment, doesn't keep them if the situation changes and it no longer suits him/her, neglects to inform others of change
• Seems to feel superior to others, to disrespect them.

This is not a complete exhaustive list, but it is a useful set of behaviors that are pretty easy to recognize. If you notice these behaviors in a person that matters to you (at work or home) then you probably want to dig a little deeper into narcissism and the other basic personality disorders. Rather than jump to conclusions based on this information, it's wise to keep your hunches to yourself while you do more homework. Never call a narcissist out as a narcissist, and don't spread gossip around your workplace or family -- doing so is likely to backfire on you.

Here are a couple of other facts about narcissism that are important to know:

-- Narcissism in adulthood comes from attachment issues in early childhood. An adult narcissist is a person who did not feel safe separating from their caregiver, and who did not fully individuate. As a result, they are merged, enmeshed, with the people in their adult lives. To a narcissist, you are like that original caretaker and your purpose is to help the narcissist navigate the world, and to help them get what they need. To a narcissist, you exist as part of them, not as a separate being of your own.
-- A narcissist is not aware of having an internal framework of the world that is different from other people. (Most other people are unaware of this too, and so get confused and aggravated when dealing with narcissists.) A narcissist is not purposefully being disrespectful, aggravating or manipulative; s/he doesn't realize the effect s/he has on other people.
-- People can be temporarily narcissistic when under a lot of stress. If the behaviors listed above happen for awhile, but aren't really the person's basic way of being then it could be due to stress or a medical condition.
-- To some extent, these behaviors are developmentally appropriate during the maturation process -- even into the early/mid-20s as a person completes the work of individuation.

It can be relieving to know the source of trouble in a difficult relationship -- recognizing the patterns is a first step toward figuring out how to take care of yourself. It's useful to be aware that you are very limited in your ability to change a narcissist. Change even be elusive when narcissists engage in therapy. Once you recognize the basics, it's helpful to learn more before deciding how to handle the long-term future of the relationship in question. You may react by wanting to flee, but thoughtfulness will serve you. Give yourself the gift of learning and skill building as you consider your options. What you learn can help you in this and all relationships.

June 2, 2014

DuPage Divorce Lawyer: Valuing Business Interests in Divorce

One of the benefits of practicing Divorce and Custody Law is the opportunity to try cases that involve complex issues, the valuation of a spouse's business interest in a closely held business being one of those complex issues. Along with my work through the years in the areas of psychology, family systems and custody law, I have utilized my experience from MBA school and working in and with businesses to develop skills in managing business and financial issues in divorce litigation.


Law Offices of Michael F. Roe has maintained strong relationships with some highly competent Business Valuation experts, that work as consulting and testifying experts in valuation cases. These experts are skilled at assembling the correct financials, and employing valuation protocols that are generally accepted in the business valuation industry. The goal of the use of such an expert is to provide the trial court with an expert opinion as to the appropriate value of the client's company or shares as of the time of the divorce trial.

Just as important as having a good expert in a case is the ability of the trial lawyer to cross examine the other spouse's expert (if there is one) as to that expert's valuation opinions. In that sense, it is my job as a divorce trial lawyer to become as expert in that business valuation approach as the experts I am working with. My goal: optimizing my client's outcome.

In summary, here are the primary valuation models that most experts use in valuing a business:

Income approach: This approach calculates the business’ value based on the current benefit stream, often after a cash flow statement adjustment and the application of a discount rate.

Market approach: simpler than the income-based approach, this compares the business to others in the same industry and region with similar sizes.

Asset-based approach: the simplest (and usually least appropriate) method, this approach adds up the values of all assets possessed by the business, and then adjusts the assets based on historical values to current market value.

If you have questions regarding the treatment of your closely held business, corporate stock interests, or partnership interests in divorce, contact Michael Roe for a discussion of how courts tend to treat valuation issues in divorce, and what solid preparation and expert work can do to optimize your financial outcomes.

June 2, 2014

Kane County Divorce; Collaborative Divorce and Saving Money

CPA Ginita Wall has some sound advice for strategies for separating out the emotion in a divorce from the financial outcomes. Attorney Michael Roe has seen, from years in practice interfacing with judges in cases with complex financial issues, that judges are more interested in well managed facts, organized information, and persuasive arguments supported by case law in favor of my client's positions on allocating cash flows and the marital estate. In other words, strong emotions and allegations of fault play no role in how judges decide the financial aspects of a case. Ms. Wall discusses well, below, some of the advantages in a collaborative process with financial issues in divorce.

" Five Tips for Separating Emotions from Economics in Divorce"

In divorce it is important to focus on the real problems to come up with real solutions. If spouses are at war, they are likely to see each other as the problem and the divorce as the solution. But they won’t get to true resolution until they recognize that simply isn’t true. The real problem is how to divvy everything up in divorce, and divorcing spouses won’t arrive at the best solution for their family until they collaborate on resolving their issues by working together, not against each other.

The job of the professionals in collaborative divorce is to help clients figure out how to divvy up the assets and debts so that each spouse emerges from divorce with a fair share of the pot that will let them begin anew. Here are five tips the divorcing spouses can use to separate emotions from economics:

1. Don’t let guilt rule you. “Please release me, let me go,” pleads the country song, but don’t give up everything to buy your freedom. Your spouse will still be unhappy that the marriage is ending, and you’ll be unhappy when you find yourself impoverished by your foolish gesture. The needs of each person are important, and the goal is to reach the best agreement possible as you balance those needs.

2. Don’t give in just to get it over. When going through divorce, carefully consider your current needs and your needs in the future. You can’t depend on your soon-to-be-ex have your best interests in mind, and you can’t depend on your attorney to know exactly what is best for you and your family. Don’t try to shortcut a divorce. The only way out is through, and it will take your conscious involvement to reach a resolution that will work for you.

3. Leave revenge at the door. Legally, it doesn’t matter who did who wrong. Revenge is costly, and funding a wild rampage by not giving an inch is bound to turn out badly. You won’t win every battle, no matter what, and if you stubbornly stick to your guns despite all reasonable offers to settle, who knows, you might even end up paying part of your spouse’s attorney fees.

4. Don’t succumb to threats, or threaten your spouse. Money and power are emotionally linked, but in divorce it isn’t smart to try to use money to control your spouse and get your way. If you launch a full-blown court battle and argue every financial issue, be assured that most of what you can’t agree on will end up being split between your attorneys, with a sizeable amount going to the financial professionals. That is money that could be used to fund your family’s future if you stay out of court.

5. Focus on problem-solving, not fighting. Don’t let meetings with your ex turn into posturing to show who is in control or how smart you are. Settling your divorce is the problem you confront, and it won’t get solved through fighting. You can’t get everything you want in divorce, so figure out what is most important to you and let the rest go. You’ll end up with a better agreement, a less tumultuous relationship, a happier family, and a healthier future.

by Ginita Wall, CPA, CFP®, CDFA

May 22, 2014

DuPage Divorce Attorney: Forensics in Custody Litigation

I was pleased to have been invited by one of our area's most competent child custody evaluators to attend the recent "Forensic Forum" in Chicago. Forensic Forum is an invitation-only association that brings together child custody experts in the form of evaluators, judges, guardians ad litem, and custody attorneys. The subject for the meeting was Parental Alienation, and two experienced Cook County judges spoke about their experiences in dealing with Parental Alienation in divorce and custody cases.

How are forensics used in custody cases? Child custody evaluators must employ methods of assembling forensic data including but not limited to: (1) interviews of the parents and children; (2) interviews of those relatives, friends, therapists, teachers, et al., involved with the children determined to be of relevance to the case by the evaluator; (3)Interviews of those collateral witnesses involved with the children determined to be of relevance to the case by the parties; (4) review and assessment of all relevant past and present medical, psychological, and other relevant records; (5) the use of standardized measures of behavioral health, including psychometric tests, structured measures of children’s perceptions of their parents given under standardized and non contaminating conditions; (6) the use of standard measures of psychological health, personality, and parenting capability; (7) close consultation with other experts as conditions dictate; (8) the careful assessment of substance abuse possibilities through all appropriate means including drug testing; (9) the use of all relevant and useful screening measures, where there are allegations of domestic violence, including assessment of police reports, review of CPS reports and determinations; review of hospital and medical records; and careful interviewing of involved mental health professionals; (10) the use of all relevant and useful screening measures, where there are allegations of child sexual abuse, including assessment of police reports, review of CPS reports and determinations; review of hospital and medical records; careful interviewing of involved mental health professionals; and where appropriate, the use of such measures as the Abel Assessment for Sexual Interest.

It is through collaboration between custody evaluators, judges, and attorneys that a community of experts develops to more appropriately manage difficult issues in custody cases such as Parental Alienation, Child Abuse, and other forms of pathology that directly impact the developmental well being of children. Law Offices of Michael F Roe is pleased to be a part of this community.

April 22, 2014

Kane County Divorce Lawyer: Difficulties for Men in Divorce

From Michael Roe: every so often I will post an interesting commentary on divorce issues here at Illinois Divorce Lawyer Blog. I'm not convinced that men have a necessarily worse time adjusting to divorce; I see in my female clients high levels of stress, grieving, and anxiety. I feel the case can be made that the stressors imposed on men can be different in some ways than those imposed on women, generally. Certainly, men start out a child custody case with the unwritten presumptions in place that child residential custody usually goes to the mother, though the law requires that the Court determine best reason I'm a shared parenting advocate in many cases. As an aside, I see that both the men and women that I represent in my practice do benefit, along with my work on the legal side of the case, from having a competent therapist to help process issues that arise in divorce.

From the article:

It turns out that in the age-old comparison of the sexes, men seem to be having a more difficult time coping with the dissolution of a marriage. According to a recent study from the Journal of Men's Health, divorced men are more susceptible to heart disease, high blood pressure, and strokes than married men are — in addition to being 39 percent more likely to commit suicide and engage in risky behavior. Why does this finding exist?

Men Lose Their Sense Of Identity

"My key breakthrough was realizing that I was defining myself with respect to my marriage," said one man. Even with multiple degrees and a successful career, he found himself lost in the process of his divorce. "I made the marriage the be all and end all, and when I saw that crumbling, I felt like my identity was crumbling."

So what do you do? In order to rebuild confidence post-divorce, experts suggest getting involved in a new activity or organization. "One really powerful thing for me was joining a non-profit group called the Mankind Project," he said. There, he found his way to the New Warriors Men's Organization, where he would meet weekly with groups of men going through hard times, coming together to listen and help each other in "a non-judgmental way."

Their Paternal Instinct Is Challenged

"For me, family has always been important," says one man, now divorced. "I grew up in a happy family, and I never doubted for a minute that I would get married and raise one of my own. I think just as there are maternal instincts in women, there is a paternal instinct in men." He describes part of this paternal instinct as a longing to belong with the status quo, and to be a provider.

"If a man is feeling distraught or shameful [because of the impact his family is feeling from divorce], he might disappear from the picture" "Which is why most post-divorce men need to remain connected to their children, if they have them."

When men maintain relationship with their kids, it eases those feelings of shame, and can re-instill that lost sense of belonging. "The love that can flow back and forth between you and your children is very healing in itself," he said.

They Don't Allow Themselves To Grieve Properly

"Bottling up feelings with no outlet leads men to experience feelings of depression." "As someone with no biological predisposition, I definitely think that the breakup of my marriage brought me to experience physiological problems like high blood pressure and mental ones like my battle with depression at the time."

Rather than following this level of stress into a no-way-out mentality, D suggests that men see marriage counselors, regardless of the current state of their marriage. "I started seeing a marriage counselor on my own, before my divorce. My then-wife joined in for a while, but I continued on my own, even after the divorce was finalized, he said.

"Men have to break though the 'I've got to do it myself and go it alone' attitude," he said. "Women are so much better about relying on one another, and this whole 'big boys don't cry' mentality has had an entirely negative impact on men's well-being."

By Tiffany McHugh for Post originally published on

March 22, 2014

Kane County Divorce Lawyer: The Impact of Parental Alienation on Children

The Impact of Parental Alienation on Children

Every child has a fundamental need for love and protection.

Published on April 25, 2013 by Edward Kruk, Ph.D. in Co-Parenting After Divorce

I offer the first installment of a three-part series examining (1) the impact of parental alienation on children, (2) the effects of parental alienation on parents, and (3) programs, services and interventions that combat alienation and seek to reunite estranged parents and their children.

What children of divorce most want and need is to maintain healthy and strong relationships with both of their parents, and to be shielded from their parents' conflicts. Some parents, however, in an effort to bolster their parental identity, create an expectation that children choose sides. In more extreme situations, they foster the child’s rejection of the other parent. In the most extreme cases, children are manipulated by one parent to hate the other, despite children’s innate desire to love and be loved by both their parents.

Parental alienation involves the “programming” of a child by one parent to denigrate the other “targeted” parent, in an effort to undermine and interfere with the child's relationship with that parent, and is often a sign of a parent’s inability to separate from the couple conflict and focus on the needs of the child. Such denigration results in the child’s emotional rejection of the targeted parent, and the loss of a capable and loving parent from the life of the child. Psychiatrist Richard Gardner developed the concept of "parental alienation syndrome" 20 years ago, defining it as, "a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child's campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent's indoctrinations and the child's own contributions to the vilification of the target parent." Children’s views of the targeted parent are almost exclusively negative, to the point that the parent is demonized and seen as evil.

As Amy Baker writes, parental alienation involves a set of strategies, including bad-mouthing the other parent, limiting contact with that parent, erasing the other parent from the life and mind of the child (forbidding discussion and pictures of the other parent), forcing the child to reject the other parent, creating the impression that the other parent is dangerous, forcing the child to choose between the parents by means of threats of withdrawal of affection, and belittling and limiting contact with the extended family of the targeted parent. In my own research on non-custodial parents who have become disengaged from their children’s lives (Kruk, 2011), I found that most lost contact involuntarily, many as a result of parental alienation. Constructive alternatives to adversarial methods of reconnecting with their children were rarely available to these alienated parents.

Parental alienation is more common than is often assumed: Fidler and Bala (2010) report both an increasing incidence and increased judicial findings of parental alienation; they report estimates of parental alienation in 11-15% of divorces involving children; Bernet et al (2010) estimate that about 1% of children and adolescents in North America experience parental alienation.

There is now scholarly consensus that severe alienation is abusive to children (Fidler and Bala, 2010), and it is a largely overlooked form of child abuse (Bernet et al, 2010), as child welfare and divorce practitioners are often unaware of or minimize its extent. As reported by adult children of divorce, the tactics of alienating parents are tantamount to extreme psychological maltreatment of children, including spurning, terrorizing, isolating, corrupting or exploiting, and denying emotional responsiveness (Baker, 2010). For the child, parental alienation is a serious mental condition, based on a false belief that the alienated parent is a dangerous and unworthy parent. The severe effects of parental alienation on children are well-documented; low self esteem and self-hatred, lack of trust, depression, and substance abuse and other forms of addiction are widespread, as children lose the capacity to give and accept love from a parent. Self-hatred is particularly disturbing among affected children, as children internalize the hatred targeted toward the alienated parent, are led to believe that the alienated parent did not love or want them, and experience severe guilt related to betraying the alienated parent. Their depression is rooted is feelings of being unloved by one of their parents, and from separation from that parent, while being denied the opportunity to mourn the loss of the parent, or to even talk about the parent. Alienated children typically have conflicted or distant relationships with the alienating parent also, and are at high risk of becoming alienated from their own children; Baker reports that fully half of the respondents in her study of adult children who had experienced alienation as children were alienated from their own children.

Every child has a fundamental right and need for an unthreatened and loving relationship with both parents, and to be denied that right by one parent, without sufficient justification such as abuse or neglect, is in itself a form of child abuse. Since it is the child who is being violated by a parent's alienating behaviors, it is the child who is being alienated from the other parent. Children who have undergone forced separation from one of their parents in the absence of abuse, including cases of parental alienation, are highly subject to post-traumatic stress, and reunification efforts in these cases should proceed carefully and with sensitivity (research has shown that many alienated children can transform quickly from refusing or staunchly resisting the rejected parent to being able to show and receive love from that parent, followed by an equally swift shift back to the alienated position when back in the orbit of the alienating parent; alienated children seem to have a secret wish for someone to call their bluff, compelling them to reconnect with the parent they claim to hate). While children’s stated wishes regarding parental contact in contested custody should be considered, they should not be determinative, especially in suspected cases of alienation.

Hatred is not an emotion that comes naturally to a child; it has to be taught. A parent who would teach a child to hate or fear the other parent represents a grave and persistent danger to the mental and emotional health of that child. Alienated children are no less damaged than other child victims of extreme conflict, such as child soldiers and other abducted children, who identify with their tormentors to avoid pain and maintain a relationship with them, however abusive that relationship may be.

In the second installment on parental alienation, I will examine the effects of parental alienation on targeted parents, and suggest a range of strategies for preventing and intervening in these cases in the third.

Baker, A. (2010). “Adult recall of parental alienation in a community sample: Prevalence and associations with psychological maltreatment.” Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, 51, 16-35.