Talk To Me

Why do we divorce? It’s better to start with why do we get married. While there are some who shared a few too many drinks and headed off to the Chapel of Love in Las Vegas, most of us dated and thought this person was our soulmate (a term I find so disingenuous) and we overlooked all of those big and little annoyances (s/he is so cute when…..). Some of us thought our marriage clock was winding down fast and better march down the aisle before the alarm rang (no one wants to hear the alarm bell). Some of us got married because we said yes to the proposal (or offered the proposal) in those heady first months (or year) and then you were afraid to hurt your partner’s feeling by saying your love had changed and marriage was no longer right for you. Then there are the expectations of family and friends- they love your intended- and you can’t possibly let them down (not a good answer!). Or the wedding invitations have been sent out and the reception venue booked, might as well go through with it (you can get refunds so draft the contract with enough wiggle room for you to cancel the venue).

The key to why we divorce is the lack of communication. Communication is not just talking but actively engaging in the process. Communication includes listening. When you began to be unhappy was when you should have started talking- actually, if you could recognize changes in you, or your relationship, that was really the starting point of your discontent and the should have been the impetus to start communicating. Communication is self-reflective not finger-pointing. It’s an opportunity to change your relationship, your future, for the better. If you don’t know how to start the conversation, there are plenty of self-help books and there is therapy  (for you). I am not a fan of couple’s therapy (I find them to be bitch sessions) but it may work for you (you can always stop). Communication during dating and then, importantly, during the marriage may prevent you from divorcing. 

What about family and friends? Yes, have a conversation with them and let them know you have changed and the relationship has changed. No big details and don’t try hurting your spouse through 3rd party communications. Social media- save the nasty statements for your therapists or bartender.

Start today.

I Hate You-Merry Christmas

Not every marriage ends with both parties agreeing that they were not the perfect match. Usually each party feels they have been duped, or taken advantage of, or treated badly AND they are right. Each person views the breakup of the marriage their their own “rose colored” glasses. It may take years (and possibly therapy) to realize that rarely is the breakup of a marriage one sided. So what do you do while you are waiting for your realization light bulb to occur? Be cordial.

I can hear you now, “Me be cordial after what s/he has done! No way!” I get it, but think of how you would react to a coworker you detested but had to interact with- you’d be cordial. When opening the horrible present you got from a family member-you’d be cordial. If you don’t have children together chances are you will not be speaking after the divorce order has been delivered by the court but if you have children-be cordial.

Well, s/he is not cordial to me…ever. OK, so ignore s/he and just be cordial. Being cordial is a gift to yourself and to your children.

Being a Parent

Visitation is an odd word for being with one’s children. You aren’t visiting with the kids, you were being with them, parenting them, supporting them as they grow. The new term of art is parenting time and child access both of which still sound so formal and distant. No matter how distant the words sound, the key is to be a parent in every sense of the word.

Being a parent means showing up at soccer games, applauding the Oscar-winning performance at the school play or dance recital, lending a shoulder to cry on, and providing advice on how to maneuver the social pitfalls of today’s Facebook and other  social sites, and being there to snap photos of your son or daughter in their school prom best.  Being a parent means you’re there at the birth, the graduation ceremony, the wedding, and the birth of grandchildren. You make each occasion about your children and not your divorce.

If you can’t stand your former spouse, stand on the other side of the room, sit a few tables away at the reception,  but do offer to share the costs of receptions and graduations because you’re a parent and not a “show-off.”  Slip your kid a few extra bucks, not just child support.

You and your former spouse created this wonderful child and your child loves you both. Every event doesn’t need to be a challenge or a recitation of past grievances, be a parent.

 

 

Do I Need a Lawyer?

I am often asked, “Do I need a lawyer, it’s so expensive.” The answer to that question is yes and no- I hear you laughing, “that’s a lawyer’s answer.” True!

Are you comfortable with public speaking? Can you communicate your ideas clearly? Have you taken advantage of your court’s self-help center? Are you organized? Have you Googled divorce, alimony, and child support to begin educating yourself? Can you speak to your soon to be Ex so that you can resolve issues? If you answered no, you need a lawyer.

Do you own a home? Do you have children? Are you disabled or have a serious illness? Do you have a retirement plan or a complicated financial history?  Are you over the age of 50? If you answered yes, you need a lawyer.

BUT, you may not need a lawyer for every step of your divorce. You can hire a lawyer to perform only certain tasks or draft certain documents, or just advise you as you move forward with your divorce. This type of limited representation will reduce your legal costs while providing you with support.

The most effective way to reduce your legal expenses is to create a Marital Separation and Property Settlement Agreement and BE REASONABLE. Zillow is not the actual value of your home, the black velvet painting of Elvis is not worth as much as you think, and you may not be entitled to alimony no matter that s/he was unfaithful.  You will need an attorney to help you through the drafting and negotiation of the agreement but you will reduce your costs if you come prepared and willing to settle with your soon to be Ex.

A divorce is the ending of a “business transaction” so don’t be penny wise and pound foolish.  A divorce is more time consuming that researching your next car or your kid’s college so be ready to put in the time or live with the results.

 

Civility – An Attitude Adjustment

There is much talk across the country about the lack of civility. When we are under stress or angry, we often become uncivil. Divorce is a decided stress on each spouse and on the children. Divorce is also a stress on the extended family and friends of the divorcing couple.

When you are angry it’s hard not to lash out. There’s also the constant fear that if you express your anger the child support or alimony check may be delayed. A delayed support check can be devastating for those living paycheck to paycheck.

So what can you do?  (1) Don’t immediately answer the call from your spouse, let the message go to voicemail. (2) Don’t immediately return a nasty text (it can be used against you in court). (3) Think about your children. Lashing out at a spouse hurts your children more than it punishes your spouse. (4)Meditate or do yoga. (5) Go for a run or a walk. (6) Tell your troubles to your dog or cat.  (7) Call a friend and bitch. (8) Distract yourself by joining a Meet-up group, or read a book, drink a glass of wine (or ice tea), cook a batch of cookies – anything that allows you to cool down. (5) Answer your spouse in your own time and be civil. You will catch more flies with honey than vinegar and your blood pressure won’t boil.

I know this will not work every time but it will work most times. Civility starts with you and in your home. Don’t let a jerk define how you respond to his or her incivility.

 

 

Get Out of the House!

How many movies have you seen where one spouse (usually the wife) screams at the husband to get out of the house because she wants a divorce? We’ve seen that scene so many times that we have come to believe that the husband must leave and slink off to a hotel while he finds a place to live. But does the husband have to leave? NO.

There is a difference between what is practical and what is legal. Practicality probably demands that you find a place to sleep for the night however, the court is not going to throw you out of your house and neither will the police. You can stay in your home until such time as one person is required to leave the home to comply with the law as to the amount of time the couple has lived apart, in different homes, and without sex, in order to file for divorce. In Maryland, that time is 12 months for couples with children.

If you can afford to move out at the beginning of the separation process, you will feel calmer but it will place a financial strain on you to support two households. Yes, you still need to provide support for your children and, to the best of your ability, to provide support for your wife. DO NOT provide payments in cash, but use a check so that you can show the court that you have not shirked your duties to provide for your family.

If you have a landlord or mortgage company, pay them directly because not only is your credit at stake but the court will not look favorably on you if you leave your family without housing. If your wife works, then agree on an amount that you will provide towards the rent or mortgage payment.

Next—-hire a lawyer!

Don’t Kill The Messenger

Don’t Kill the Messenger means the messenger is not the party responsible for the bad news your receiving. However, in divorce and custody/visitation, we kill the messenger each time we ask our child to deliver a message to the other parent. See if this sounds familiar to you: “Your mother should not tell you to deliver that message to me. You should not be put in the middle so next time you see her, tell her that!”

Hate to speak to your EX- then use this free app: talkingparents.com

Don’t put your kids in the middle of your battle because it “killing” their relationship with you.

Mediation Can Save You Money

Let’s start with what mediation is not. Mediation is not a legal proceeding and may or may not be required in your state.

Then what is mediation? It is a guided conversation between you and your spouse. The mediator will facilitate the conversation between the two of you but will not become an active part of the conversation. Sounds “new age,” but it’s not. Mediation is what you used to do when you were married and could talk to your spouse. Where to go for dinner, where to spend Thanksgiving this year, how to raise your children, or rules of the house; you talked and resolved the matter between you in a way that, hopefully, you both thought was fair.

What is the goal of mediation? The goal is to help you and your spouse arrive at a solution on how to sell the house, or determine child access, or about the payment of alimony. Remember, it is a conversation that is focused on helping you achieve what’s best for both of you and your family as you begin the transition from your married life.

Will the mediator write a settlement agreement for us? No, the role of the mediator is to foster conversation and guide you both to reaching your own goals based on your personal and specific concerns. The mediator will draft a “term sheet” that lists the areas of agreement between you and your spouse then you will take that term sheet back to your attorney to have it crafted into a settlement agreement.

Why should I do mediation rather than just work with my attorney? Mediation is less costly than attorney’s fees, less adversarial, and should lead to a faster and more equitable solution to the issues surrounding your divorce. The mediator is in addition to your attorney. A mediator cannot represent you in your divorce and all conversations in mediation are confidential and cannot be used in court except as those conversations are represented in the mutually agreed upon term sheet.

How do I find a mediator? Hey Google……. or check with the courthouse or with your attorney for names of mediators in your area. If you can’t afford a mediator, the court may appoint one free of charge if you meet the income guidelines. Otherwise, ask each mediator about their fees. Meet with the mediators and choose the one that you feel will best work with you because personality counts just as much as the fee when selecting a mediator. Generally, mediator fees are split between the two parties.

I do meditation in the Maryland counties of Frederic, Washington, and Montgomery.I am also available for mediation in Northern Virginia.

January Is A New Start Month

When January rolls around,  we think of new beginnings. We make a list of resolutions for the new year. This year along with all of your other resolutions include a few resolutions about your family.

(1) If you are living day to day dreading to go home to an angry or spiteful spouse, then start planning on creating a new life for you. That most likely will mean counseling for you and your spouse (and children since they are casualties of your war) and possibly a divorce.  A bad marriage, or any bad relationship, does not magically get better on its own. No matter what you choose, there will be anger and hurt but you will be able to work through all of those emotions to find a resolution that works well for you.

(2) Plan to spend more time with your children whether they are small or adults. Take your job as a parent seriously because it is a lifetime commitment. AND because your children love you and you love them. If you stay out of their lives, both you and your children lose. I often think of the song “Cats in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin- if you don’t have time for your children now, don’t be surprised when they don’t have time for you later.

(3) Be civil to your former spouse. Kindness goes a long way. If you can’t be civil then keep it to “just the facts” and don’t look for another way to wound your Ex. Remember that person is the mother or father of your children. Remember too that once, your Ex was the love of your life- what does that say about your ability to choose a partner wisely if that person is now the spawn of Satan?

(4) Pay your child support and alimony on time every time. It doesn’t do your emotional psyche any good to pay late (especially if that is your sabotage/revenge plan) and can actually give you a physical sickness due to the stress of plotting through anger.  Also, remember that those payments are a court order and you can lose your driver’s and professional licenses if you don’t pay. Child support is just that, money to support your children (they didn’t ask for your marriage to crumble into dust) and your kids deserve the best that you can give them.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

The Turkey Wishbone

Do you remember that as a kid you would argue over who got the wishbone?  You and another person each held the wishbone, made a wish, and then pulled n the bone and the person with the largest part got their wish.

This holiday your children are wishing that their family was back together. You and your Ex both know that is not going to happen but you can grant them a facsimile of that wish by being kind to each other. Say hello to your spouse and don’t just drop the kids off in the driveway or your exchange spot. Wish your Ex a happy holiday. Be kind and share the holiday weekend especially if other family members are in town for the holiday- your kids are supported by those family relationships.

I hear you saying but I have this weekend according to our visitation plan. OK! But if your Ex is willing, why not let the kids visit for a while with yourEx.

Some families even hold a joint Thanksgiving dinner. I know that’s not for most families but how wonderful that would be for the kids. The kids get hurt the most by divorce so be kind and remember how much you love your kids not how much you hate your Ex. Every mean thing your kids hear from you about their mother or father cannot be erased and changes them for the rest of their life. Be a parent teaching your children a loving life lesson.