February 12, 2016

Illinois Divorce: High Conflict Emails

The article below was written by the author of "Splitting," the landmark book on divorcing a Borderline or Narcissist. I wrote the foreword to the first edition of "Splitting," and have admired the work that Bill Eddy has done since that time in the field of High Conflict Divorce. Here's an excellent article that discusses high conflict communications, and the BIFF response.

Hostile email, texts and other electronic communications have become much more common over the past decade.When people are involved in a formal conflict (a divorce, a workplace grievance, a homeowners’ association complaint, etc.) there may be more frequent hostile email. There may be more people involved and it may be exposed to others or in court. Therefore, how you respond to hostile communications may impact your relationships or the outcome of a case.

Do you need to respond?

Much of hostile e-communication does not need a response. Letters from (ex-) spouses do not usually have legal significance. The letter itself has no power, unless you give it power. Often, it is emotional venting aimed at relieving the writer’s anxiety.

If you respond with similar emotions and hostility, you will simply escalate things without satisfaction, and just get a new piece of hostile mail back. In most cases, you are better off not responding. However, some letters and emails develop power when copies are filed in a court or complaint process — or simply get sent to other people. In these cases, it may be important to respond to inaccurate statements with accurate statements of fact.

If you need to respond, I recommend a BIFF Response: Be Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm.



Keep your response brief. This will reduce the chances of a prolonged and angry back and forth. The more you write, the more material the other person has to criticize. Keeping it brief signals that you don’t wish to get into a dialogue. Just make your response and end your letter. Don’t take their statements personally and don’t respond with a personal attack.


The main reason to respond to hostile mail is to correct inaccurate statements which might be seen by others. “Just the facts” is a good idea. Focus on the accurate statements you want to make, not on the inaccurate statements the other person made.

For example: “Just to clear things up, I was out of town on February 12th, so I would not have been the person who was making loud noises that day.”

Avoid negative comments. Avoid sarcasm. Avoid threats. Avoid personal remarks about the other’s intelligence, ethics or moral behavior. If the other person has a “high conflict personality,” you will have no success in reducing the conflict with personal attacks. While most people can ignore personal attacks or might think harder about what you are saying, high conflict people feel they have no choice but to respond in anger – and keep the conflict going. Personal attacks rarely lead to insight or positive change.


While you may be tempted to write in anger, you are more likely to achieve your goals by writing in a friendly manner. If your goal is to end the conflict, then being friendly has the greatest likelihood of success. Don’t give the other person a reason to get defensive and keep responding.

This does not mean that you have to be overly friendly. Just make it sound a little relaxed and non-antagonistic. If appropriate, say you recognize their concerns. Brief comments that show your empathy and respect will generally calm the other person down, even if only for a short time.


In a non-threatening way, clearly tell the other person your information or position on an issue. (For example: “That’s all I’m going to say on this issue.”) Be careful not to make comments that invite more discussion, unless you are negotiating an issue or want to keep a dialogue going back and forth. Avoid comments that leave an opening, such as: “I hope you will agree with me that …” This invites the other person to tell you “I don’t agree.”

Sound confident and don’t ask for more information if you want to end the back-and-forth. A confident-sounding person is less likely to be challenged with further emails. If you get further emails, you can ignore them, if you have already sufficiently addressed the inaccurate information. If you need to respond again, keep it even briefer and do not emotionally engage. In fact, it often helps to just repeat the key information using the same words.

Here is an example:

Ex’s email:

“I can’t believe you are so stupid as to think that I’m going to let you take the children to your boss’ birthday party during my parenting time. Have you no memory of the last six conflicts we’ve had about my parenting time? Or are you two having an affair? I always knew you would do anything to get ahead! In fact, I remember coming to your office party witnessing you making a total fool of yourself – including flirting with everyone from the CEO down to the mailroom kid! Are you high on something? Haven’t you gotten your finances together enough to support yourself yet, without flinging yourself at everyone and anyone? …” [And on and on and on.]

Your Response:

“Thank you for responding to my request to take the children to my office party. Just to clarify, the party will be from 3-5 on Friday at the office and there will be approximately 30 people there — including several other parents bringing school-age children. There will be no alcohol, as it is a family-oriented firm and there will be family-oriented activities. I think it will be a good experience for them to see me at my workplace. Since you do not agree, then of course I will respect that and withdraw my request, as I recognize it is your parenting time.” [And that’s the end of her email.]

This response is brief and does not engage in an attempt to defending oneself. Since this was just between them, a response defending accusations was unnecessary. If the initial email copied friends, co-workers or family members (which high conflict people often do), then a response to the larger group with more information would be appropriate, such as the following:


Whether you are at work, at home or elsewhere, a BIFF Response can save you time and emotional anguish. The more people who handle hostile mail in such a manner, the less hostile mail there will be.

This article by Bill Eddy originally appeared on www.HighConflictInstitute.com.

February 1, 2016

Illinois Divorce Lawyer: Divorce Planning

2016 brings to Illinois a revised and amended Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. The new Act brings some substantive changes to the way that divorce and custody is adjudicated in Illinois, but the guideline advice for preparing for a divorce remains steady. If you find yourself headed for divorce, you should consider taking the following steps to protect and prepare yourself:

Know Your Assets & Debts – Make an effort to summarize your important assets and debts, and if you have been kept in the dark about what your marriage holds by way of assets and retirement plans, talk to my firm about the use of discovery at the beginning of your case to get at these items. If you have assets that you owned before the marriage, or that were acquired by way of inheritance or estate plan gifting, be sure to segregate these gifts or bequests from your "marital basket" of accounts.

Maintain Behavioral Balance – In other words, don’t make impulsive changes or purchases, or begin a path of active dating while the divorce is in process. Starting a divorce case puts each party under the view and control of the Court; this can be an advantage in gaining control over, for example, assets being wasted by the other spouse, but this change also puts a premium on good behavior. Don't use social media as a confessional or bully pulpit to bash your spouse. Check the security of your email and social media accounts, and if you have any doubts about the integrity of your email, talk with my firm about steps you can take to prevent keystroke logging ( see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keystroke_logging ) or email hacking.

Focus on the Children – the new Illinois Divorce Act now establishes "Allocation of Parental Responsibilities" ... no longer do we contest custody and visitation, but there will be equal, if not more, emphasis in 2016 on evaluating each parent's fitness and ability to have a shared or balanced parenting allocation (time and decision making). Keep the children at the center of your decisions and behaviors. Don't use the home as a forum for fighting or toxic behaviors. If your spouse won't act properly, please speak with my Firm to discuss options to address toxic behavior in the home that affects the wellbeing of the children.

Hire an Experienced Divorce Lawyer – By experience, I mean a lawyer that has actively and successfully invested years of trial and negotiation experience, and a passion for the craft of divorce and custody lawyering. Michael Roe practices only Divorce and Custody law, and has done so at the highest levels of practice. Contact our firm to discuss your important case.

March 4, 2015

Kane County Divorce: Approaches to Healing: the Unexpected Divorce

One aspect of my practice is helping my clients manage what can be one of the biggest traumas in life....an unexpected divorce. As a divorce and child custody attorney, I am not involved in the practice of therapy, but any experienced and dedicated lawyer in this filed understands that one has to be mindful of the traumas and difficulties our clients face in managing an unexpected divorce. Part of this caring and management involves coaching, support, caring, and, for some, a referral to a skilled clinician for therapy.

Canadian therapist Justice Schanfarber just published an interesting article on the healing process that can be undertaken when the trauma of a divorce arrives:

" The end of a relationship or marriage can feel like death. Grief is an appropriate response. This means anger, sadness, denial might all arise.

It’s visceral. Breathing is hard. You can’t sleep. For the person being left it can feel like the end of the world. You wonder if you’ll even survive. To say you’re hurt and confused or angry is too little. It feels much bigger; like everything has been turned upside down and shaken, like the ground has disappeared under your feet.

Along with negotiating urgent practical matters like finances, housing and parenting, you might also come face to face with abandonment, rejection and self-esteem issues, some of which may have been dormant and are arising for the first time.

This is a very, very tender spot to find yourself. It’s immensely uncomfortable. In my work as a counsellor I notice patterns and common tendencies in my clients. I’ve also identified opportunities and choice-points for moving forward in a healthy way. Here are five principles that can help –

1. Feel what you feel
Feelings aren’t negotiable. They can’t be wrong. They simply are. It’s important to feel what you feel. When we deny uncomfortable emotions they come back to haunt us, or they drive our behaviour from underneath consciousness, without our active consent. Rule of thumb – there’s no need to either encourage or deny feelings. Notice them, name them (“I feel sad”) and watch them change over time. Note – Anger is a feeling. Fear is a feeling. Sadness is a feeling. “S/He’s a control freak” isn’t a feeling. More on that later.

2. Take thoughtful action
We don’t necessarily choose our feelings, although we choose how we act on them. As much as noticing our feelings is important, it would be a mistake to act on them without consulting our rational, thinking self. The trouble is, when strong feelings are present we don’t have much access to the part of our brain that makes well-considered choices. Take some time. Let feelings settle before you make important decisions around child custody, financial agreements or emails to the inlaws. Breathe.

3. Get support, but not from your (ex)partner
The person who is leaving the relationship is almost certainly not the person to help you cope with the pain you feel. You might feel extremely needy or drawn to this person right now. Do not give in to the urge to seek comfort there, especially if it is not offered. If you are holding out hope for reconciliation, say so, but then get support elsewhere. Seeing you pick yourself up, brush yourself off and take support from others is the most attractive thing about you right now in your (ex)partner’s eyes. Turn to friends, family and community for support. Tell them what helps, and what doesn’t. Find a counsellor or therapist that you trust.

4. Stay open, even when it hurts
When we feel hurt and angry we look for an explanation. We want to understand. We assume we shouldn’t feel this way, that it’s a big problem. And so we search for a reason. The reason we find is almost always some version of I’m bad or They’re bad or The world is bad. What these three positions all offer is a way out of the confusion. Assigning cause (blame) does relieve some tension. The problem is that each of these three beliefs locks us into an adversarial relationship – with self, with other, or with reality (the world). I’m not saying that your relationship ending wasn’t caused by you or them or the unfairness of the world. But getting too fixated on any of those causes makes you rigid and closed to possibilities that might be just around the corner.

5. Help others
This piece of advice was given to me by a friend over a decade ago when a relationship was ending and I was in deep pain. His simple and wise words led me to the act of writing this for you now. Helping others gets us out of our own head and puts us in direct contact with the universal experience of suffering. Everybody hurts. Help someone. Share their pain, and feel your own soften. "

December 22, 2014

Divorce Loneliness during the Holidays: 10 Ways to Help

I have written in the past during the holidays on the subject of creating new traditions; the idea is that during or after divorce, creating new activities and places to celebrate the holidays with yourself and the children, versus lamenting the loss of past traditions. Trading lamentation for adventure takes work, just as working oneself out of a sense of post-divorce loneliness during the holidays takes effort. I found this article on PsychCentral today on 10 ways to combat the sense of loneliness...this article may be particularly useful during these holiday periods for people going through a divorce or separation.

" Have you ever been lonely in a crowd? Have you ever been perfectly content all alone? Me too. And I have also suffered from loneliness.

Loneliness is a complex mental and emotional phenomenon that has at its base a powerful emotion that has survival value for children. All of us have experienced some degree of abandonment, if only for a short time, and remember the painful and scary feeling that goes along with it.

Whenever we are reminded of this feeling or anticipate it in the future, we get a twinge of abandonment distress that we experience as loneliness. This can happen among a crowd of friends or even after making love. It can be pretty confusing and can put you off your game if you don’t know what’s going on.

Here are some tips for recognizing loneliness for what it is and dealing with it in the healthiest ways.

1. Realize that loneliness is a feeling, not a fact. When you are feeling lonely, it is because something has triggered a memory of that feeling, not because you are in fact, isolated and alone. The brain is designed to pay attention to pain and danger, and that includes painful scary feelings; therefore loneliness gets our attention.

But then the brain tries to make sense of the feeling. Why am I feeling this way? Is it because nobody loves me? Because I am a loser? Because they are all mean? Theories about why you are feeling lonely can become confused with facts. Then it becomes a bigger problem so just realize that you are having this feeling and accept it without over reacting.

2. Reach out because loneliness is painful and can confuse you into thinking that you are a loser, an outcast. You might react by withdrawing into yourself, your thoughts, and your lonely feelings and this is not helpful. At its best, anticipation of loneliness might motivate us to reach out and cultivate friendships, which is the healthiest thing to do if you are sad and alone. When you are a child, and your sadness causes you to cry, you may evoke a comforting response from others. If you’re an adult, not so much.

3. Notice your self deflating thoughts. We often create self centered stories to explain our feelings when we are young, it is not unusual for children to assume that there is something wrong with them if they are not happy. If they are lonely and sad, children may assume other people don’t like them when this is rarely the case.

Victims of bullying may well have fans and friends, but they often aren’t aware of it because the shame and loneliness get more attention. Habitual assumptions about social status continue into adulthood and if you are looking for evidence that the world sucks, you can always find it.

4. Make a plan to fight the mental and emotional habits of loneliness. If you realize you are dealing with an emotional habit, you can make a plan to deal with loneliness. Since healthy interaction with friends is good, make some effort to reach out to others, to initiate conversation and face time even when your loneliness and depression are telling you not to. Yes, it is work, but it is worthwhile, just like exercising is worthwhile even when you are feeling tired or lazy.

5. Focus on the needs and feelings of others, the less attention on your lonely thoughts and feelings. I can walk down the street thinking about myself, my loneliness and the hopelessness of it all, staring at the sidewalk and sighing to myself. Or I can walk down the street grateful for the diversity of people I get to share the sidewalk with, silently wishing them good health and good fortune, and smiling at each person I meet. The latter is more fun, even though I sometimes have to remind myself to do it on purpose.

6. Find others like you. Now days there are more tools than ever before to find out where the knitters, hikers or kiteboarders are congregating so that you can get together with those who share your interests. This makes it much easier to identify groups with which you will have something in common, a natural basis for beginning a friendship.

7. Always show up when meeting up with others. You don’t have to run for president of the knitters society at your first meeting. But you do have to show up. I have been telling others to practice yoga for 20 years and promising I would do it myself for just as long, but except for the occasional coincidental yoga offering at a retreat, I didn’t take the trouble of finding a class I could attend regularly until a month ago. Now I am enjoying it and it wasn’t that hard. I have put a reminder in my phone to resign from the procrastinator’s society.

8. Be curious, but don’t expect perfection or applause. Each time you show up is an experiment, a micro adventure in social bonding. If you are curious about and interested in others, they will be attracted to you because you are giving them attention. So you will get attention in return. Curiosity about others also takes your focus away from those painful feelings that tend to make you hide and sulk.

9. Kindness goes a long way. “There’s nobody here but us chickens.” This is one of my favorite lines from The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment by Thaddeus Golas. Underneath the impressive facades of the high fliers are the same set of emotions we all are born with. Celebrities suffer from stage fright and depression too.

You have the power to offer loving kindness and generosity of spirit to all you come into contact with. It isn’t instinctual to be kind to strangers or people who scare you. But it is a choice. It is a choice that Jesus and Ghandi used intentionally. And in the long run it is a winning choice. The alternative, being mean or stingy with those you don’t know well, can get you a reputation as a Scrooge.

10. Be persistent even if a particular group does seem to be a dead end for you, try another. AA and AlAnon recommend that everyone try six different groups to find one that suits you best. If you are persistent, challenging the assumptions and feelings that tell you to give up and resign yourself to a life of loneliness, and showing up and being curious and kind to others and more and more groups, the odds are in your favor.

And once you have a friend or two, nourish those friendships with time and attention. Don’t be too cautious about whether you are giving more than you are getting at first. If you make more friends and some of them are takers, you can choose to spend more time with the friends who reward your friendship.

Credit: Brock Hansen, LCSW – Visit his website at Change-for-Good.org

October 6, 2014

DuPage Divorce: Mediation

One of the interesting aspects of divorce litigation is the requirement that parents mediate their child custody issues, with the judge assigning a mediator in the initial weeks of the case should the parents not have an agreement as to legal custody (joint vs sole) and parenting time. In some cases mediation is beneficial. I am a trained mediator, but I can also say that mediation is not a panacea, it is not always a process that results in resolution. Many times, mediation fails. So, when the parents are bitterly oppositional, or when the issues are just not amenable to mediation, what should a parent do?


One piece of advice that I give my clients is to be, along with a good spokesperson for their views, a good listener. Many divorces feature parents that simply don't want to talk to each other, and avoid interaction at all costs. Even when mediation is not likely to result in global agreements on custody and parenting time, it can be a time to listen to what the other parent is verbalizing to the mediator. New facts might be learned. Partially hidden agendas might be revealed. Concessions might be explored.

Keep in mind...everything said in mediation is private and none of the matters discussed in mediation can be used in court.

Once you've stated your issues and concerns and goals, there's one more thing a parent might consider in mediation. Listening. Listen and learn, and if the case comes back to court, you'll be back in the court process empowered with a better sense of agendas, goals, what is in dispute and what is possibly resolvable.

September 25, 2014

Kane County Divorce Lawyer: Managing Children in the Early Stages of Divorce

I had a conversation today with one of my new clients about how to manage the emotions of the minor children during the initial stages of the divorce. An article from Dennis Ortman is helpful and I have cited it below. I do feel that along with parents learning how to manage the worries and questions from minor children in the first weeks of a divorce, parents can truly benefit from reaching out to support groups for children through local churches, or accessing a therapist that works with children in divorce.

Divorce can be an emotionally and psychologically difficult process for adults, leaving the parents with few resources to channel to the children. In these cases, it's best to reach out to other resources in the community to provide emotional and psychological support to children, as well as to give them a forum, independent of the family circle, to process their anxieties, worries and concerns.


By Dennis Ortman

Recognizing that the disruption of divorce is difficult on everyone—yourself, your partner, and your children—there are things you can do to help during this transition time:

1. Avoid fighting in the presence of your children. The conflict will only increase their anxiety. Certainly, you will have disagreements with your partner, but keep them as private as possible.

2. Assure your children that they are not responsible for the problems in your marriage. Younger children normally think of themselves as the center of the universe, creating an illusion of control over their environment to compensate for feelings of helplessness. They may believe that you are divorcing because of something they did.

3. Frequently assure your children that both you and your partner love them and will never abandon them, even if you live apart. Children need to maintain an emotional bond with both parents. It is important that you and your spouse assure them with both words and actions.

4. Resist the impulse to blame your spouse for the divorce or elicit your children as allies. Children experience an impossible bind if they believe they must take sides in your dispute.

5. Do not burden your children with too much responsibility. Let them continue to be children. During the transition you may feel overwhelmed and need more help from them. Be careful not to overburden them.

6. Do not lean on your children for emotional support. That will overburden them emotionally and divide their loyalties. Seek your support from family, friends, and therapy.

7. Do not let your children manipulate you. You may feel guilty for causing them pain and want to make up for it by overindulging them. Your children need to know that you are still the authority in the family, even if you are feeling distress.

From the book by Dennis Ortman

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.

*** *** ***

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!

January 28, 2014

Kane County Divorce: Divorce Mediation

Is Divorce Mediation for You?

Are you wondering:

• What is the most informed way, at the least expense, to get divorced?
• Would I do better in mediation or in court?
• What are the basic standards on parenting plans, child support, spousal support and property division (based on California law, although other states are often similar)?
• How are substance abuse, restraining orders, child alienation and other problems addressed?
• Could I make reasonable decisions with my spouse sitting in the same room?
• How does divorce mediation work?

This 1-hour nutshell video helps answer all of those questions. This dramatization of issues and controversies from real cases shows how a neutral mediator guides a controlled process and provides information. The parties raise issues, ask questions of the mediator and each other, make proposals and the final decisions. Disagreements, anger, surprise events, tears and significant progress are all highlighted.

60 Minute Video
90 day access - $29.00

order now from High Conflict Institute http://www.highconflictinstitute.com/books-a-products/vod

December 2, 2013

20 Reasons to be Thankful for Divorce

1. "I am thankful for becoming the person that I am. I've learned so much along the way. Even the pain served a purpose." -Amber L.

2. "I'm thankful for my self-respect." -Tom H.

3. "I'm thankful the two of us were able to rebuild our lives. We got out earlier instead of waking up 50 years later and asking, 'what happened to us?'" -Pilar G.

4. "I am most thankful for my divorce because my ex-husband found love in his current wife (we did not have love between us in our marriage) and she has been so wonderful to our sons." -Lori S.

5. "I'm grateful I don't have to look into my son's eyes when he says 'Are you two gonna argue again tonight?' He was 4-year-old when we divorced and four years later we are a happy peaceful family completed by a wonderful woman that talks things through." -Don J.

6. "I am thankful for a peaceful relationship with the ex, great co-parenting and the fact that we can all be adults. We're all having Thanksgiving dinner together this year, with the children, the ex and the new amazing man in my life." -Beth R.

7. "Divorce allowed me to find myself again, to not deal with mental and verbal abuse, to focus on loving myself, to have peace and dignity and to enjoy and appreciate my struggles. Most importantly, divorce has allowed me to show my son that respect and loving yourself is essential in life and that sometimes the actions you take in life are necessary to live a happy life, even if they hurt." -Ronald P.

8. "I'm thankful that God gave me the strength to take my three kids and leave a tough situation. And from that moment on, I grew stronger and stronger and became the kind of mom I never knew I could be." -Christine N.

9. "Instead of suffering day to day, and walking on eggshells every time that I came home from work, I now come home to a peaceful house where my children and I feel peace and emotional safety." Charles W.

10. "I am thankful I lost 30 pounds after the divorce!" -Mike W.

11. "Why am I grateful for my divorce? I have the opportunity to re-find my old, fun self. It got lost because I was the only adult in the marriage." -Mark B.

12. "I was able to reclaim my old self, which I had given up during my marriage in a completely misguided effort to please my spouse." -Maria D.

13. "I am thankful for my divorce because I was able to move away, finish my degree at a university like I had always wanted, made many new friends, and even have an amazing boyfriend now. My divorce has truly changed my life for the better." -Lisa M.

14. "I'm grateful to have the opportunity to have an authentic marriage with my second husband. Marriage is hell with the wrong person, complete heaven with the right one." -Amy G.

15. "I'm thankful because I learned that I can do whatever I set my mind to." -Lynnette B.

16. "I am no longer put down, screamed at, called names, or treated with hostility on a daily basis and for that I am thankful." -Edward B.

17. "I'm thankful for divorce because it showed me the true colors of friends, and even family -- but most importantly, it gave me the opportunity to be the person I've always wanted to become!" -Lisa H.

18. "I was able to start an organization that helps women go through relationship transitions with a support group. I am thankful for meeting new friends and helping others, all because of my divorce!" -Janette V.

19. "I have become a better mother to my daughters without the stress of a dysfunctional marriage on my plate." -Shelli K.

20. "I'm thankful we can both agree that the most important thing is our son so we can focus on him instead of our differences." -Nate C.

credit: HuffPost

May 4, 2013

Insider's Divorce Tips

Experienced divorce practitioners have come to develop ideas about certain issues or triggers that can cause the contested divorce process to spiral into chaos or high costs. I have my own ideas about these triggers, one of them involving the parties believing that more negative conflict and more "bomb throwing" leads to better results. "Pit bull" reckless behavior by litigants or lawyers only raises costs, elevates stress, and usually results in the judge developing a chip on her shoulder against the litigant. The art of divorce is much like the Art of War...employing experience, creativity, and sophisticated strategy is the pathway to good results. That's my opinion, and now let's hear from another lawyer's perspective:

By Diana Mercer

" When I have friends who are getting divorced, and they ask me for advice, here's what I tell them. The real deal, the confidential, back-channel skinny. Beyond legal advice, which they can get anywhere.

These are my top tips for staying out of trouble:

Ignore Legal Smack Talk from Your Spouse: I love that spouses try and give each other legal advice. Really? Since when did your spouse go to law school and become a divorce lawyer? And you're listening? Heck, even if they're dishing out good advice, it pays to double check.

Question "My Friend Said": If your spouse talks about friends' divorces or what the lawyer plans on doing to you legally, ask:

• How many years did that friend's divorce take?
• How much did it cost?
• How much did your lawyer say that taking me to the cleaners would cost in legal fees?
• Is your lawyer willing to put it in writing that they guaranteed that their result will be better than what I'm prepared to offer voluntarily?

You're safe with that last one---no lawyer would guarantee anything or put fees in writing so this will force your spouse to have an honest discussion with the lawyer about the pros and cons of pursuing any given action.

Watch Out For Non-Monetary Games: Keep an eye out for your spouse manipulating the kids. Make sure your bond with them remains strong. Don't bad-mouth your spouse---your kids will figure that out later and hate you, so keep the long term in mind.

Your spouse may think he or she is plotting and being strategic like some sort of Divorce 007. But at the end of the day, it's a business deal and a parenting plan. It is what it is. So don't let your imagination run away with you.

You can keep costs (and suspicion, and plotting) down by:

1. Being organized. Make a notebook with labeled dividers with all of the financial records (recent ones, at least) and tax returns (as many as you have copies of), a comparative market analysis (free from any realtor) of the value of your house, your most recent pay stub...and ideally you'll make your spouse a notebook, too.

I know that might sound crazy (making your adversary a notebook) but your spouse's attorney will charge for making a notebook and getting the records together (which could run up the bill by several thousand dollars) so if you can take the wind out of those sails from the get go (your spouse is entitled to all that info pursuant to law anyway) and all of the mystery out of your financial situation, you're ahead of the game.

Don't get paralyzed by your emotions. It's easy to sit down with a hole punch and a notebook and put stuff in by date. You don't need all your faculties to do that, so it's a good activity for when you're feeling lost.

2. Staying Sane. Make appointments with your therapist, make time for your kids (and don't talk about your spouse), play golf or ride bikes (ideally with your kids), make time with friends. Take care of yourself. Eat right and work out.

3. Don't taking the bait: Your spouse will say stuff to you just to get you riled up. Ignore it. "Obviously, this is a hot topic for both of us, so I'm not going to respond at this point. I do hope we can work all of this out, though, at some point." Then change the subject. Say that as many times as you have to.

Eventually, your spouse will get bored when it's clear you aren't going to fight back. This will freak your spouse out a little, particularly at first, so feel free to chuckle. When you start to behave differently than you have over the last eleventy-million years they're going to wonder what's up and watching that might be a little amusing as the old tricks don't work on you anymore.

4. Find that Special Someone--Quietly: If you decide you want to date, don't let anyone find out about it. Not under any circumstances. Your spouse will go bananas if you're with someone else, so avoid that at all costs. It doesn't matter if it's your spouse who suggested the divorce or found a new lover first. They still go nuts when they see you've moved on, too. I'm not saying don't do it. I'm saying don't let anyone find out. "

Diana Mercer is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life

March 5, 2013

Kane County Divorce Lawyer: Co-Parenting

Tips to co-parenting after divorce

Byline: Our Family Wizard Software

After a divorce, the idea of communicating with an ex may seem near to impossible. While dealing with that person is the last thing you feel like doing, trying to build an amicable relationship with that person is the best thing you can do for your children. Here are a few helpful tips to co-parenting after divorce:

Don’t let feelings dictate behavior. Emotions can easily get the best of even the most rational individuals. In contentious situations, they may dominate your actions, leaving you feeling regretful about something you said or did. Remember: always keep your child away from these kinds of conversations.

Mind your tone. To reduce the risk of instigating conflict with your co-parent, try and keep a professional tone when corresponding face-to-face or in writing. Think of your ex as a partner in parenting, and address them as you would address a work colleague.

Stay in touch. In order to build a more positive, working relationship with your co-parent, it is important not to ignore one another. Make a plan to consistently stay in touch with each other about your child. This will help you both to stay on the same page about how you are parenting your child, and it will hopefully make dealing with each other easier overall if you are used to talking.

Keep your child at the center, not in the middle. Your child’s well being should be your number one focus in every decision you and your co-parent make. While it is important to keep their best interests in the center, do not put them in the middle of your issues with your ex. You should not use your child as a middleman or messenger in your correspondence with your co-parent.

September 18, 2012

Kane County Divorce: 10 Factors to Consider in Divorce

If you are planning a divorce, here are a few items that my colleague, Bill Eddy, recommends be considered. Bill Eddy is the President of the High Conflict Institute and the author of “It’s All Your Fault!” He is an attorney, mediator, and therapist.

1. There's Hope

Divorce itself has not been shown to cause long-term negative effects on children. It is the way that people handle the divorce which makes a difference. Most (about 80%) of children have basically adjusted to the divorce within one to two years after the initial separation. While feelings and issues remain, basic healing and stability usually occur.

2. Nobody's perfect.

People are not trained in how to get divorced or how to be a parent. We live in a changing world and there is no one right answer for what to do, such that many ways work and each situation is unique.

3. The level of conflict is usually the biggest problem.

Research has shown that a high level of conflict between the parents is more disruptive to children's development than whether their parents divorced. This research shows that a high-conflict marriage is harder on children than a low-conflict divorce. A high-conflict divorce is even worse.

4. Stability is a key factor for children of any age.

To the extent possible, parents should try to keep or create routines that the children can count on. Children need consistency on which to base their growth. Therefore, firm rules, regular activities, special time with the child, etc. are very helpful.

5. Explain changes ahead of time, if possible.

Children and adults adjust to change more easily if we can prepare first in our minds. No one likes surprises of the upsetting kind.

6. Make time to listen to your child

Children need to process feelings and worries much like adults do. Listening with interest and without judgment is important. Avoid reacting to what the child says with your own issues or conclusions.

7. Avoid criticisms of the other parent in front of the child.

This is easy to say and hard to do, but very important. Your child needs to have a relationship with the other parent and children do better when they are not caught in the middle.

8. Move slowly introducing children to your new relationships.

Your child already has a lot to cope with. The more pressure to like someone new, the more negative their reaction.

9. Get adult support for yourself.

While you want to inform the child of what is going on, don't rely on the child for support. You need to talk, so find many people to talk to.

10. Do fun activities with your child.
By enjoying time with your child, you will both feel better and be healthier for it. These suggestions won't make all pain go away. They might just help make the decision to divorce manageable for you and your children. If you have more detailed questions or concerns, continue reading on the subject; ask for resources from your child's school counselor or teacher; or seek the help of a trained EAP or mental health professional. You might be surprised at how much help you can get to give you direction and quiet your worries.

August 10, 2011

Illinois Divorce Litigation and Social Media

facebook%20image.jpgIt's rare to run across someone that does not have a Facebook or Twitter account. While few teens these days exist without a Facebook account, Facebook has been especially popular among adult users, allowing the account holder to share family stories, photographs, and to reconnect with long lost classmates.

Facebook has also begun to have some interesting interplay with divorce and custody litigation. See this recent story about how a Facebook account was used by divorcing parties in a high conflict divorce case: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/the-hot-button/the-most-bizarre-use-of-facebook-in-a-divorce-case-ever/article2054594/

I observed only last week a hearing in one of our Illinois courts that involved an interesting (and probably not uncommon) use of Facebook. The Wife was on the witness stand testifying to her relationship, or lack thereof, with a gentleman whom the Husband claims is a paramour that has had contact with their couple's minor child. Wife denied any real relationship, and denied that the alleged paramour had ever been in their home.

Following the Wife's lengthy and detailed denial of the relationship, Husband's attorney produced a series of Facebook screenshots that Wife has posted on her account, her sitting with the paramour on the sofa in the couple's living room. The demeanor of the two suggested more than a casual acquaintance.

Facebook, in the end, proved the spoiler for the Wife's case. While the judge did not decide custody issues based on the Facebook information, the judge did find that the Wife had testified falsely under oath, and barred her from further contact with the paramour while she was with the minor child.

Social media have proven to be a huge benefit to teenagers and adults alike, allowing for connectivity and interaction between friends and distant relatives. In the context of divorce, however, all divorcing parents should be mindful that these days, with electronic discovery being a simple means toward illuminating potentially negative facts of a case, that Facebook "friends" may turn out to be evidentiary enemies.

If you're going through a divorce, be mindful that whatever you post on Facebook or Twitter may be printed and admitted as evidence into your divorce case.

May 25, 2011

Kane County Divorce: The Art of Negotiated Settlements

No one wishes to spend a lot of money on their divorce. This statement has always been true for most families, and it's even more true today as Illinois families struggle with houses "under water," and employment opportunities lessened by the economic collapse. One good way for litigants to avoid spending a lot of money on their divorce is to make a sincere effort to avoid contested court litigation and a final trial on the divorce issues. Trials, as you might imagine, take a lot of attorney preparation time and actual court time. Trials are expensive.

To avoid trial the effort must be made to negotiate a settlement. Reaching settlement is desirable, but many people find that when they are dealing with issues of custody, spousal support, and division of property, that reaching settlements is difficult.

Through many years of experience as a trial lawyer, I have developed some key points for success through negotiating settlements. Here are a few:

1. Know your true goals and be aware of what you really need from the settlement.

2. Know your opposition. No one knows your spouse and their predispositions and deal points better than you. As your attorney, I know the case, the law, the judge's positions on certain matters, and the negotiating abilities of opposing counsel. We work together as partners to set goals and achieve them in negotiation.

3 Prepare for the negotiation... point by point. Be ready to have command of all necessary financial and child custody facts.

4 Anticipate reactions, objections and responses. Be ready with counter-proposals to address objections or stalemates in the negotiation.

5 Prepare options rather than ultimatums. Successful negotiations usually do not include ultimatums. When negotiating, it is important not to set "take it or leave it" positions, as these positions psychologically set a benchmark that the opposing party then uses to negotiate off of. The best deals are made gradually, with concessions structured into the negotiation, with the end goal deal points firmly in mind.

Some parties in divorce end up in a costly trial only because their lawyer could not find a means to conduct a successful negotiation. My goal with my clients is to use the art of negotiation to help them achieve their goals, while at the same time, saving them the cost and expenses of a trial, when possible.

December 30, 2010

Are there Tactical Limits in Illinois Dvorce?

icon-DVD.png CNN is running a story today that discusses the use by a litigant of a "sex tape." The tape itself seems to be of the husband and the wife, and the anchor of the news program is taking calls to poll the audience as to how far the gloves need to come off, when a husband and wife are divorcing. One of the spouses wishes to use the private sex tape as "ammunition" in the divorce.

Part of my practice is aggressive litigation, and the other part collaborative practice and negotiated settlements. I am a trial lawyer, and have been since the first days I was a lawyer, in the 1980's. I am always comfortable employing any evidence that I feel will benefit my client's reasoned goals in a case.

Is having a sex tape useful? My guess is that, in most cases, it is not. Illinois does not assess the conduct of the parties in dividing assets and liabilities. Sexual behaviors of a parent may or may not be a factor with respect to a custody issue in the case. Certainly, a sex tape made by the parents, expected to be held private, likely makes the 'leaker' of the tape look bad. Revenge is a dish best served cold, as the adage goes, but revenge really has no place in a divorce case, unless as a litigant you wish to have more stress, acrimony, and spend more money on legal fees. No one wants that.

My view is that a 'sex tape" of one of the parents may be a factor in a custody issue. Certainly, a 'sex tape' made with a paramour is suggestive of poor judgment, poor impulse control, high risk behavior, and possibly psychological or personality disorder issues.

As in any litigated case, having evidence is just one consideration...the value and probative quality of the evidence is of more importance. So, if you're divorcing and angry, don't threaten to disclose a private sex tape made with your spouse. You won't receive any more assets from the judge, and you may earn his or her scorn by publishing something that most of us would consider a private, non-evidentiary item.

December 14, 2010

Newly Divorced at Christmas Holidays?

The end of the calendar year brings the holidays into view, and for newly separated and divorced parents, the arrival of the holidays brings anxiety, not cheer. This is all the more true for parents who will not be seeing their children on the traditional holidays. What approach can a newly divorced parent take now that the holidays are here? A few suggestions:

1. Try to see the changes in your life as opportunities, rather than challenges. I've suggested to clients through the years to buy the December issue of "Chicago Magazine" and find activities to do alone, if necessary, and new holiday activities that can be shared with the children. Visit one of the hotels in Chicago to see the holiday displays...do something, anything, that is new and different. The key is to let go of how the holidays used to be in the marriage and to create new adventures...for yourself and the children.

2. Establish new traditions, rather than lamenting the loss of old traditions. Instead of being sad that the children weren't with you to pick out the holiday tree, take a day that you do have the children, and ride the train into Chicago to visit the Daley Center's German Christmas Market. Buy an ornament that the children select from one of the Market's vendors, and take it home and place it on the tree.

3. Many clients report that during holidays the other spouse's family was the host family for most holiday activities. This holiday, reconnect with your siblings, or cousins that you lost track of during the marriage, and plan to visit with these family members. Take the children with you, if you can. Many parents find it easy to reconnect with family that may have been neglected somewhat during the marriage.

4. Project enthusiasm and happiness in these new activities with your children. Many kids are unsure how to feel in a new environment, and depend on their parents for "cues" as to how to perceive a new event. If you're in a new event or activity, don't lament how good things used to be; stay in the present, celebrate, and express happiness, and the feeling will be contagious.

5. Finally, take care of yourself. Use the time off during the holidays to reconnect with friends, or to make a list of new activities or places to see and experience in 2011. Not having your children with you every day is a terrible loss, but replace this feeling of loss with a sense of opportunity....use the "free" time to cultivate new opportunities for your physical, emotional, or spiritual growth. Plan new, "outside the box" ideas for yourself and the children.

Finally, keep in mind that greatest gift that you can give your children at the holidays is a sense of comfort and stability. Project a feeling of wellbeing when you are with them. Smile. Feel free to laugh. Let your kids know, through your smile and enthusiasm, that despite the changes, the holidays, and the future, seem worth celebrating.

February 9, 2010

The Pro Se Divorce, or Representing Yourself in a Complex Divorce

I talked recently with one of the clerks of the court in the west suburbs about the number of new divorce filings in Kane and DuPage Counties. I was told that the number of filings is slightly behind 2009 numbers, but that the number of people filing and representing themselves, without an attorney, has risen fourfold.

Now, I'm a believer and proponent of encouraging people to handle matters that they can handle themselves. I recently advised someone who called me that her DuPage child support case could be handled, pro se, at the pro se night court that DuPage has instituted, as a means of helping people get simple adjustments to child support without having to hire a lawyer.

I also feel that divorce and custody cases are often challenging for the litigants, emotionally charged, and complex. The issues presented in these cases really need an experienced attorney, much like the old saw about doing one's own dentistry.

Cathy Meyer, of About.com, writes:

"Before you take on the job of representing yourself in your divorce case consider the legal aspects, not only the emotional aspects of the divorce. If you are not able to keep the two separated, it is best to hire a divorce attorney. Issues such as dividing marital property, deciding child custody, negotiating alimony and determining child support can have long-lasting, negative consequences if not handled properly.

You have the right to represent yourself, to be a Pro Se litigant but, the divorce process can be complex and I highly encourage anyone who can afford representation to seek it, if at all possible."

The Law Offices of Michael F. Roe practices collaborative and cooperative divorce, two lower cost, efficient, low stress divorce models that keep the divorcing couple out of court, and keep money in the parties' pockets, and difficult emotions in check.

Call my office today to learn more about lower cost, lower stress divorce, and reconsider whether a pro se divorce is right for you and your family.

October 14, 2009

Kane County Divorce Issues

One of my valued clients, who happens to be an engineer by training and otherwise an interesting and dynamic person, made a comment at court today. She had been watching other cases taking place at the courthouse, and marveled at the amount of controversy over objectively small issues. She stated to me and a colleague that "I simply won't come to court unless the issue in dispute is over a substantial amount of money."

Now, my colleague and I have both worked hard to keep court costs for clients as low as possible; both of us practice this cost effective way. We both agreed that it pains us as legal professionals to see people exhaust precious family funds on wrongheaded legal disputes.

What my client was speaking to was this universal concern that litigants should be mindful of the costs of litigation, and that many disputes are amenable to resolution without the costs, uncertainties, and stresses of litigation. This same philosophy of cost saving and collaboration underlies the movement toward collaborative and cooperative divorce.

If you have a family law concern, be ready to embrace the cutting edge strategies that a few of us in the legal profession have embraced in the right cases. Collaboration. Mediation. Alternative dispute resolution. Sure, some cases need to be aggressively litigated, and some matters need a judge's active intervention. I am a trial lawyer by training, and know how to win a war. But many other cases and clients need only to find a more balanced, cost effective and practical means to solve their more minor or resolvable disputes.

What did Abraham Lincoln once say? "Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. As a peacemaker the lawyer has superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough."

September 15, 2009

Kane and Dupage County Divorce Coaching

Part of practicing family law involves, at least in my opinion, a measure of compassion for and understanding of each client's family system, and the family system and financial changes that a divorce will visit upon a family. Each family is different; each case is also unique. My firm applies creative approaches to each case, with a goal of shaping outcomes that are best for the client and the family as a whole.

In helping families adapt to the changes that a conflicted divorce brings, there are resources available that can provide a measure of comfort and coaching.

Rosalind Sedacca's 'How Do I Tell the Kids about the DIVORCE?' is a thoughtful template for parents looking for coaching in how to help their children manage the change that divorce brings to a family. Even if you don’t purchase her guidebook, http://www.howdoitellthekids.com, you need to make sure you share these essential messages with your kids again and again so that they never forget:

1. You are, and always will be, loved by Mom and Dad.

2. You are, and will continue to be, safe.

3. You are not to blame for any of this.

4. Mom and Dad will still always be your Mom and Dad.

5. This is about change, not about blame

6. Everything is going to be okay.