February 23, 2013

DuPage Divorce Lawyer: The 5 Mistakes Divorcing Parents Make

byline: Dr. Jeff Gardere:

Divorce can be one of the most stressful events in life, second only to a spouse dying. In fact, a divorce can become such a complicated and nasty affair that many people have joked that a spouse dying is a less stressful event because at least you don't have to fight the deceased in court!

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The point to be made here is that during this time of stress and duress we are no longer thinking with our brains, but instead with our hearts. Normally a pure heart will win the day, but a heart which is ruled by the pain, sadness and anger of a divorce will exhibit pure emotion -- often in an illogical and dangerous fashion.

In the lead-up to a divorce, many people fail to prepare themselves emotionally and focus mainly on the legal side of the process. This, in turn, makes it difficult for them to control their emotions, setting the stage for even well-intentioned partners to make serious mistakes during the divorce process. With that in mind, we now turn to a quick survey of the five worst mistakes we make in a divorce.

1) Refusing to throw in the towel
You should make every attempt to save your marriage. That may include going on another honeymoon, re-engaging in romance, making love much more often, going to dinners and talking and getting couples counseling. But after having made these attempts, if your soon-to-be-ex insists on the divorce, and even refuses to go to couples counseling, then you must let go! It takes two to tango, and certainly takes two to try to save the marriage. You just can't do it alone.

2) Giving in to withdrawal pains
It's very hard to start a new chapter without a partner that has played a large part in your life, either positively or negatively, for quite a while. We are creatures of habit and it can be difficult to live without that person. We use the term "withdrawal pains" because the habit-forming properties of an intense relationship are similar to those associated with a drug habit. An individual experiencing these withdrawal pains will send constant e-mails, texts, or make repeated phone calls to their ex. This is very ill-advised, though -- while it may not be your intention, your former spouse may view this as harassment. Courts don't like harassment.

3) Dating too early
While going through the divorce process, some people medicate with alcohol, some with drugs, and many more through sex and dating. You will certainly feel either lonely or liberated after a divorce, but either way you will want to hook up with someone to get you through this very difficult time, or just to plug the emotional void your partner once filled. It is only natural to get out there and shake your moneymaker. In reality, though, it is simply much too soon to begin dating; you are experiencing too many emotions, and that new person will most likely be collateral damage. You may also put yourself in more emotional peril by making decisions while you are in a state of emotional imbalance.

4) Putting the kids in the middle
Everybody needs to have someone on their side, especially during a divorce. One of the biggest mistakes we make is dragging our kids into the divorce conflict, by either bad mouthing the other parent or making it difficult for the other parent to see the children. You know who wins here? No one. Everyone loses, especially the kids who may experience everything from parental alienation to depression and anger.

5) Neglecting to get help
Divorce is a difficult process, but it does not have to be a dirty word. The major reason that people find divorce to be so challenging is that they are unprepared for the tsunami of stress and emotion that comes along with it. As I wrote above, people tend not to put enough of a premium on their own emotions, instead choosing to focus on that of their children or their family. By consulting a professional or even opening up to a close friend, we can avoid the emotional anguish that is often associated with divorce.

Credit: Dr. Jeff Gardere

February 7, 2013

Kane County Divorce: Fathers Seek Shared Parenting Statute

Sydney Morehouse, 13, of Omaha cries in Lincoln, Neb., Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, as she tells the Associated Press how hard it is to only get to see her father every other weekend and Wednesday nights following her parent's divorce.

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Omaha resident Gary Owens pounded the table and raised his voice Wednesday as he testified before Nebraska lawmakers, demanding they pass two bills that could allow him to spend more time with his son.

A coalition of fathers, doctors and family-law attorneys is asking lawmakers to change a Nebraska parental custody law that they view as unfair to men.

The Legislature's Judiciary Committee had to open an overflow room to accommodate the advocates who testified in support for two parental custody bills.

"Men should have a right to have custody of their children just as much as their mothers," Owens said.

Sen. Russ Karpisek of Wilber introduced the first measure that would create a legal presumption that both parents are entitled to at least 45 percent of the total parenting time. If the parents disagree on this, one parent would have to prove with a preponderance of evidence that parenting time should shift in favor of one parent. He said studies show children who spend less than 35 percent of their time with a parent have diminished physical and mental health.

The legislation is modeled after a measure recently passed in Minnesota but later vetoed by the governor. The bill would have increased the amount of time each parent gets with a child from 25 percent to 35 percent.

Karpisek grew up in a divorced family and is a recently divorced parent. He said he and his wife share parenting time and that his children are doing well because of it.

The second bill, introduced by Kearney Sen. Galen Hadley, would change provisions of the Parenting Act to say it is in the best interest of the child to have substantial parenting time with both parents, and that both parents should be equally involved in making decisions involving the child. This bill is modeled after Arizona legislation that went into effect this year. Ten states have provisions that say joint custody is in the best interest of the child.

"The time has passed when the sex of the parent is the determining factor," Hadley said.

However, a legal group for Nebraskans, attorneys and advocated for domestic violence victims opposed the bills, saying they would create more family fighting, reduce child support most mothers receive and could reduce public benefits for poor households. Advocates for domestic violence victims worried women in such situations would have a harder time protecting themselves and their children.

Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln worried about the impact Karpisek's bill would have on child support payments. Karpisek said he didn't introduce the bill to help dads get out of paying child support.

Hasting family law attorney Chris Johnson said judges would take into account the number of days the child spends with each parent and the parents' income to decide who should pay child support and how much should be paid.

"I don't care about the child support," Owens said. "Take all my money. I don't care. I want my son."

Omaha 13-year-old Sydney Morehouse asked the lawmakers Wednesday to pass the bills that would help her spend more time with her dad. Before the hearing, she burst into tears when she talked about how hard it is to only get to see her dad every other weekend and Wednesday nights. She hates shuffling between two households and not feeling settled at her dad's house.

Her dad, Curt Morehouse, said he has been fighting to get more time with her since she was a baby. He also heads a father's rights group to help divorced dads gain more time with their children.

"I'm not a bad person," he said. "There's no reason I shouldn't be able to see her more."