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A quick note to discuss the art and science of managing complex divorce and post-decree cases for my clients.

For me, it is a privilege to represent men and women facing some of the most challenging life changes and decisions, whether they are facing a new divorce filing, or dealing with the aftermath of a divorce (often when the predecree case was handled by another attorney) and problems or issues arise that weren’t managed well in the predecree phase.

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Doing this work well for my valued Clients requires experience, insight into the best outcomes and solutions, as well as a passion for the craft of managing family law cases.  I feel that it is critical that to be successful in this work, a lawyer must approach this profession with a strong measure of empathy and passion; the ability to truly diagnose the problems that the case presents, and to provide creative, insightful and positive outcomes for the Client and their children.

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With my work as a lawyer on complex child custody cases, I have seen in many of these cases the phenomenon of “projection.” My work as a member of APA and a frequent researcher and contributor on issues concerning personality disorders in child custody and with Parental Alienation cases, brings my clients often into situations where they are being accused of behaviors that are actually resident in the disordered parent.

Psychological projection is a defense mechanism in which the human psychology defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others. These traits can be seen with some people with personality disorders, such as NPD or BPD. For example, a person who is habitually angry may constantly accuse other people, often their intimate partners or spouses, of being angry. In some cases, the abusive spouse will actually seek out domestic violence support, falsely claiming that they have been abused.

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Dr. Michael Bone, a clinician and consultant on PA cases comments this way:

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Working with high conflict personalities, I have always been open to approaches that can manage difficult issues with HCPs (High Conflict Personalities), without necessarily involving the courts every time there is a dispute, or transgression by a HCP.  One way of dealing with difficult personalities in divorce is to have a Parenting Coordinator involved in the case. What is a Parenting Coordinator (PC) ? Essentially, a PC acts as a middleman, referee, and dispute resolver.  The PC can make recommendations to a solution for a disputed issue.  In other words, the PC can act almost as a magistrate for the judge, and help the Court manage these difficult issues without court involvement.  Because the PC acts almost like a magistrate judge, some judges in the Family Courts do not like to appoint PCs, believing that they are essentially usurping the function of the judge.  However, for certain cases, it is my opinion that a Parenting Coordinator can be a valuable tool and resource in managing issues that arise with a HCP.

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Parenting Coordination began gaining recognition in the 1990s as a result of presentations and trainings first offered at conferences such as the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) and by experienced Parenting Coordinators. Initially there were variations in role, source and degree of authority, and practice in different jurisdictions, and different titles were used to describe this innovative intervention model, including Special Masters, Co-Parenting Facilitators, or Mediator/Arbitrators. In 2003, AFCC appointed an interdisciplinary task force to develop Guidelines for Parenting Coordination to guide mental health professionals, mediators, and lawyers with respect to training, practice, and ethics (AFCC, 2006).

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Reading up today on divorce planning, the reminder was made that the summer is often the time that many people postpone thoughts of divorce. The reasons for this are many. Business during the summer with activities takes the attention away from difficult subjects like divorce. For many parents, it’s just enough making sure that the kids are having a good summer, and that summer trips or vacations are being taken before the kids go back to school.

Even if you are already decided that you wish to file for divorce, there are a number of things that you can do to make the eventual decision easier. None of these steps are disruptive, and the you and the children will enjoy the summer without thoughts of disruption or change. Here are a few themes to focus on during the summer:

1. Understand your financial position. It’s important to have access to financial records during the divorce process. It can be helpful to try to assemble as much of this information as is possible, so that when you meet with our office. we can have a general discussion of financial planning in the divorce process. Take a look at http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/forms/approved/divorce/financial_affidavit.asp in order to review the form that is now universally used in Illinois divorce cases as a guide for the lawyers and judges is assessing the financial condition of the parties.
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One of the hallmarks of my practice is the ability over the years to manage, and aggressively attack, Parental Alienation cases.  In order for an attorneys to effectively manage a case involving HCPs (High Conflict Personalities), personality disorders, and PA ( Parental Alienation), the attorney should have years of experience dealing with these cases, along with years of experience interfacing with clinicians that not only understand PA, but that are also willing to bring that expertise to the case and create, along with my work, and effective strategy to deal with the alienated children (through both legal and clinical channels), to create reintegration plans for the targeted parent, and to devise court orders that set sanctions and appropriate boundaries on the alienating parent.
Dr. Bone is a reliable expert commentator of PA and the issues surrounding litigating these cases:
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My divorce and post decree clients that have people with traits of toxic narcissism often struggle with trying to explain or discuss what it can be like living with someone with such toxic traits, especially when the person is able to maintain a facade of normalcy on their work or neighborhood relationships.  Sometimes, I have to coach clients to understand that it can be difficult persuading others as to how emotionally damaging these relationships are, especially when the narcissist is “high functioning,” or otherwise able to disguise their abusive behaviors from the rest of the world.  Living with someone with a toxic narcissistic personality disorder can be brutal, especially when the narcissist uses the relationship to emotionally abuse their partner, and tries to turn children, neighbors, and even family members against the otherwise healthy partner.

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Signs and symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder and the severity of symptoms vary. People with the disorder can:

  • Have an exaggerated sense of self-importance
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This is a particularly good article that was sent by a past client of our Firm. I am fortunate that many of my current and past clients stay engaged with the literature and groups that deal with Parental Alienation, to the point that they wish to share the benefits and knowledge of what they may have acquired as we worked on their case, and the client witnessed for themselves the identification of these alienation scenarios and the strategies that I have developed (with the benefit of the insights of many great clinicians, authors and PA experts through the years).

This article is quite good and focuses on an important issue for today: Why We Persevere and Stay on Course for the Child Victims of Parental Alienation.   These children are being harmed by the PA.  Most love their targeted parent, but have been coerced and brainwashed to reject the loving parent.  This sentence, from Dr. Stines’ essay, captures the point: It is much easier to reject someone you know will never leave, than it is to reject someone you can barely hold on to.

Strategy, Perseverance, Patience. Three of my many keys to managing these cases.