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Articles Posted in Divorce Coaching

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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