One of the pleasures of my practice in managing only Family Law cases (primarily divorce and child custody cases, and post decree problems with financial and child related issues such a modifications to custody or support orders) is the opportunity to meet with some really fine, caring, and interesting people, and help them navigate through their family issues, develop strategies that work, and to offer some effective approaches to their complex issues, based on years of my experience in this work managing complex divorce and post-decree cases successfully.
What are some good questions to ask during an initial consultation? My approach is to take time in these first meetings, to listen carefully, and to provide solid recommendations that are both effective and potentially game-changing, along with cost effective approaches so that my clients are not affected by high legal costs. Being highly effective, and cost-effective, is a longstanding hallmark of my approach.
What are good questions for a client to ask during an initial consultation with a lawyer? :
I came across this podcast that features Megan Hunter, and offers some useful information about Personality Disorders and Divorce. A significant of my practice involves divorces and child custody issues that feature traits of personality disorders that affect the custody and wellbeing of children. Megan distinguishes between a situational aspect of divorce, where parents under high stress exhibit negative behaviors, and that of divorces that involve Personality Divorces, False Allegations, and potentially toxic levels of Parental Alienation.
Megan is an executive with my colleague Bill Eddy’s High Conflict Institute. Bill Eddy is the author of Splitting and I was privileged to work with Bill and Randi Kreger on the 1st Edition of Splitting, having offered the name of the book to Bill (it was a natural thought…splitting indicating a synonym for a divorce, and the psychological phenomenon that some PDs have), providing some limited content, and writing the foreword for the 1st Edition.
Megan Hunter is the CEO of Unhooked Media – a company focused on relationship and conflict resolution through print, digital, and the spoken word. She is the co-founder of the High Conflict Institute and currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Personality Disorder Awareness Network.
One aspect in my practice that I have always been proud of is the fact that I have never pushed anyone to file for divorce when I believed that a divorce was not in their best interests. I have met with some younger married spouses, disillusioned by petty arguments. and disagreements over finances, and I have often referred them first to see a marriage counselor or a financial planner to try and sort out the immediate stressful issue, and to work to preserve the marriage. In other words, a good Family Lawyer makes a good assessments of a family, and counsels clients correctly and carefully.
Today, I write with a good reason to consider starting a divorce as soon as is possible, for couples that need to separate and divorce for appropriate reasons. The new tax bill recently signed into law has created some tax advantages for some taxpayers, but for couples divorcing the long-established ability to deduct spousal maintenance payments ( also known as alimony in some states) is being ended. Illinois has a new maintenance statute that is a fixed formula for many divorcing parties, and it has always been the case that even with the new formula the tax advantage of the decuctibility of the payments has helped create settlements that work for both parties. My assumption is that when the legislature created the new maintenance statute, the deductibiity of maintenance was a factor in the way the formula was developed. The formula itself is already a bit heavy handed for the payor spouse (child support numbers tend to be lower, maintenance numbers much higher), and now with the loss of deductibility, new approaches will need to be taken in creating equitable support amounts. The excerpt below is from a financial planner’s article:
“Before new tax bill, alimony payments paid to a former spouse were treated as a tax deduction for the payer and income to the recipient. The payer received an above-the-line deduction, which decreased taxable income dollar-for-dollar by the amount paid. The recipient had to include the alimony payments as income, thereby increasing their taxable income by the amount received. As a result, income was often shifted for a recipient in a lower tax bracket, resulting in lower combined taxes paid.
I have touched on this subject before in some of my posts, but the theme does bear repeating. One of the pleasures of my work and mission to help people in toxic situations is that most all of my clients in marriages with NPDs or BPDs are very good people, Often, they are empathic, and caring, and are always wonderful people and parents to their children. Yet, they have suffered with emotional abuse for years and sometimes physcial abuse from the NPD/BPD spouse. My work has allowed me to be of service and help to parents and kids caught in a relationship with a toxic personality. Contact my office if the themes here resonate with you and you are looking for a way to create an intervention, and a new life free from a history of abuse and suffering.
An article today caught my attention, and it may be useful for readers caught in these relationships and needing a skillful plan in order to manage a divorce from a narcissist or someone with toxic and angry borderline traits.
These 10 things happen when a narcissist ends up in a relationship with an empath…
Many of the cases that I manage involve securing the involvement of a Guardian ad Litem, or as is typically done in Cook County, a Child’s Representative. Many clients have questions about the role of the GAL or Child’s Rep, and the function of these individuals in the contested divorce and child custody issues.
The GALs and Child’s Reps (CR) are attorneys with family law experience, who must undergo some minimal training in order to be certified to be on the “list” of GALs/CRs in each judge’s courtroom. Many judges have preferences to appoint certain individuals in their cases, as there can be a belief with some judges that certain GALs tend to be more successful settling contested cases. In my view, the goal in obtaining an appointment of a GAL or CR is to suggest to the court a GAL or CR that has deep experience, has shown good judgment and diligence with past cases, and can be trusted to do the investigation and reporting and recommendations to the court well. My experience working with many fine GALs and CRs over the past decades has provided me with an opportunity to know the competent GALs well, and to work to have the best possible investigation and recommendations that serve the children, in my cases.
Here is a definition provided, that describes the functions of these court appointed investigators:
Most of the posts on my Illinois Divorce Lawyer Blog concern important topics such as High Conflict Divorce, Parental Alienation, Personality Disorders in Divorce and Child Custody, or subjects involving complex financial issues in divorce. Yet, in the past issues have arisen in a few of my cases where the parties owned together a beloved companion animal, such as a dog or cat. Previously, the Illinois Divorce Act (IMDMA) considered companion animals owned by the parties as property, and normally judges would make no orders concerning animals beyond what might be ordered for furniture and the like. Touching on issues in a high conflict divorce, one of my cases last year did involve one spouse threatening to euthanize the family dog as a coercive threat to the other spouse to not to move out.
For 2018, the IMDMA is being amended as follows, to allow the Court to consider, in a sense, the best interests of a companion animal that is part of a marital estate:
Provides that the parties may petition or move for the allocation of sole or joint ownership of and responsibility for any domestic animals owned by the parties. Provides that in issuing an order concerning the allocation of ownership of or responsibility for a domestic animal, the court shall take into consideration the well-being of the domestic animal. Provides that the parties may provide for the allocation of ownership of or responsibility for a domestic animal by agreement.
In my practice, aside from managing my client’s important cases, I have some role as a “coach” to help my clients manage interactions with a former spouse with BPD, NPD, or traits thereof, that make communications with the former spouse toxic and stressful. My colleague Bill Eddy has introduced the BIFF technique of communications with a toxic ex-spouse: Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm. See: http://www.highconflictinstitute.com. Also helpful is this article that I found today, that discusses the approach called “Gray Rock.” Akin to BIFF, the idea is to be nonreactive in dealing with the narcissist. In other words, if you have to interact with them, understand that the narcissist feeds on conflict and chaos, and that you, in communicating with them (as you may be forced to do if there are children of the marriage) learn to disempower the NPD’s need for chaos and toxic control.
” If you can’t go “No Contact” with a Narcissist because you have children with them, or you are somehow unable to get them out of your life for whatever reason, you can implement a technique called “Gray Rock”. Gray Rock is where you become as exciting and interesting as, well, a gray rock. The goal is to blend into the background, and become the most boring, unreactive person they’ve ever met. The reason being is that if you can quit being a source of supply for their drama and attention, they will eventually leave you alone.
How to go gray rock?
A lot of the work that I do for my clients that contact me involves issues with Parental Alienation. Parental Alienation can take many different forms, from a low grade “gatekeeping” function where a parent fails to support the parentign of the other parent in a divorce, to more toxic kinds of cases, where a disordered parent targets the other parent with a campaign of false allegations, and/or conducts a campaign of “brainwashing” of the minor children to share the same hate and contempt that the alienating parent has for the targeted parent.
A case from the state of Maine came into focus this week, and involves a mother claiming in a very toxic and high conflict divorce that the father of the minor female child had sexually abused the child. The mother, with a Ph.D. and backed by financial resources, conducted a campaign to have her husband (then unemployed) found to be liable for both child sexual abuse and domestic violence. It should be noted that any claims of child abuse and domestic violence must be taken very seriously, and all forensic and legal tools employed to determine whether a child has been harmed. However, in some cases, the claims of abuse are false and are part of a campaign to destroy a parent’s relationship with a child.
One example of a claim made: ” On or about the week of June 13, 2011, H (mother) made yet another false claim with DHHS, claiming that M (father) was poisoning the minor child with methamphetamines andthat Malenko possessed child pornography on his computers. Just after this Order entered, H contacted DHHS and made claims that M had hit the child in the head with a frying pan. These claims were all false. As a result of these false claims, the then four year old child had an invasive medical exam conducted at Maine Coast Memorial Hospital with H’s consent.”
I received a call from another attorney, who is out of state, with questions about Parental Alienation. He has a case in which he represents a targeted parent, in this case a Mom who, despite having sole cusody of her child, has now seen the child refuse to visit with her or live with her. The court’s initial reaction was “kids vote with their feet.” The Child Rep in that case has no understanding of PA, and has told the attorney that he believes the Father to be innocent of wrongdoing, does not see ho this charming man can be causing this, and it must be a relationship problem between Mom and the child. I walked my distant colleague through some strategies, and discussed with him my methodologies for managing cases with alienation. At the end of the conversation, he was very thanksful and both of us omindful as to how challenging these cases can be.
I reminded him as well that it is my belief that Parental Alienation is a form of child abuse.
Below is an excert from a solid article from Dr. Michael Bone, with whom I have worked on a case in Florida soem years ago. I was asked by a Jacksonville, Florida lawyer to co-counsel with her on a very challenging case involving psychological issues and Parental Alienation. Dr. Bone was retained as a consulting expert, and did exemplary work on the case.
Criteria I: Access and Contact Blocking
Criteria I involves the active blocking of access or contact between the child and the absent parent.
Criteria II: Unfounded Abuse Allegations
The second criteria is related to false or unfounded accusations of abuse against the absent parent.
Criteria III: Deterioration in Relationship Since Separation
The third of the criteria necessary for the detection of PAS is probably the least described or identified, but critically is one of the most important. It has to do with the existence of a positive relationship between the minor children and the now absent or nonresidential parent, prior to the marital separation; and a substantial deterioration, of it since then.
Criteria IV: Intense Fear Reaction by Children
The fourth criteria necessary for the detection of PAS is admittedly more psychological than the first three. It refers to an obvious fear reaction on the part of the children, of displeasing or disagreeing with the potentially alienating parent in regard to the absent or potential target parent. Simply put, an alienating parent operates by the adage, “My way or the highway.” If the children disobey this directive, especially in expressing positive approval of the absent parent, the consequences can be very serious. It is not uncommon for an alienating parent to reject the child(ren), often telling him or her that they should go live with the target parent. When this does occur one often sees that this threat is not carried out, yet it operates more as a message of constant warning. The child, in effect, is put into a position of being the alienating parent’s “agent” and is continually being put through various loyalty tests. The important issue here is that the alienating patent thus forces the child to choose parents. This, of course, is in direct opposition to a child’s emotional well being.