All posts by Karen Guthrie, Esq.

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.

Should I get a protective order

If you feel you or your children are in danger, then yes, get a protective order. There is no cost to getting a protective order and you don’t need a lawyer. (but it’s better if you do have a lawyer to protect your interests). In Maryland, you will apply for a temporary protective order (PO) and a week later the court will determine if you qualify for a  PO.  Your spouse will be kept separate from you both in the court and as you leave the court.

A judge can require your spouse to leave the house or apartment and can award monetary supp

From Divorced Mom’s Website -Is It Time To Get a Divorce?

20 Questions to Help You Know It It’s Time To Divorce

1. Are you unhappy most (or all) of the time?

Having a fight is one thing, but if you find yourself unhappy more than 50% of the time, then it’s time to examine what’s behind that feeling.

2. If it wasn’t for the children, would you leave?

Children are the number one reason I hear women say they can’t leave. We worry divorce will be too difficult on them, scar them or give them emotional issues. But having children watch as you stay in a marriage that is emotionally damaging can be just as bad.

3. Do you avoid talking to your spouse to avoid a fight?

I have a girlfriend who teased that her house was like “the Cold War”. They rarely spoke unless they had to, or it was about the kids because otherwise, it turned into a screaming match. If you’re constantly walking on eggshells to avoid upsetting your spouse, it’s a sign.

4. Are your friends and family telling you your relationship is unhealthy?

Friends and family know us better than anyone. If everyone is telling you that they’re worried about what effect your relationship is having on you, maybe it’s time to listen and closely examine their concerns.

5. Is there ANY physical abuse?

This is a no-brainer, and something I have zero tolerance for. Whether it’s “just pushing”, or rough squeezing of the arm in the heat of anger…doesn’t matter. There is NO reason for you to tolerate physical abuse in a marriage. Ever.

6. Is there emotional abuse?

This can take many forms. Passive aggressive relationships, the narcissistic spouse, guilt, lying, threats…whatever form this takes, it’s emotional abuse. Whether you stay for months or years, emotional abuse leaves wounds that can scar you forever.

7. Is the thought of physical intimacy terrifying or repulsive?

If you’re afraid of sleeping with your spouse for any reason, that’s a HUGE danger sign. If the thought of him leaves you cold – or worse, retching – then it’s time to find out why. People go through periods in their life where they “aren’t in the mood”, but I’m talking about a prolonged period where you’d rather gnaw off your own arm than sleep with your spouse.

8. Do you find yourself daydreaming about being single?

I’ve said this before – we are not talking about being the girl who slathers down Captain America’s body with oil before a shoot. (I’m all over that one.) I’m talking about needing to be “free” – to the point where you are literally dreaming about what you’d do if you weren’t married.

9. Are you engaging in emotional affairs outside of your marriage?

One spouse isn’t getting what they need in the marriage, so they tell a “friend” of the opposite sex one day at lunch. Which turns to dinner, which turns to texting, talking on the phone late and night and finally…well, you get the picture. If you’re not getting what you need from your spouse, then the one you need to be telling…is HIM.

10. Is your spouse TOO emotionally dependent on you?

Togetherness is great, but if your spouse can’t be alone – because he has no friends, hobbies or activities he does without you, it puts a lot of pressure on you. Everyone needs an outlet – outside of being married.

11. Do you feel emotionally alone most of the time?

You don’t have to be single to feel alone. In fact, many of the women I’m friends with said that they felt most alone lying right next to their ex-spouses. A spouse should be your partner, your ally…even occasionally your cheerleader. If you’re flying solo emotionally, time to decide whether it’s what you want to deal with forever…or not.

12. Are you scared to leave because of the emotional fragility of your partner?

If your spouse has told you that he “doesn’t know what he’ll do without you”, or gives hints that he would want to die if you weren’t together…it’s a warning sign. Your spouse could be suffering from depression, anxiety or have a serious disorder that requires therapy or intervention. You cannot be someone else’s emotional life preserver – it never ends well.

13. Do you find yourself hiding money “in case” you need to leave “one day”?

If you’re burying cash in a cigar box under your son’s dead parakeet…something is foul. And I’m not talking about the bird.

14. Have friends stopped coming around because of your spouse?

This is a big one. Spouses don’t get along with all of our friends, but when he literally finds fault with every friend that you have…or worse, drives them away when they’re over…it’s time to evaluate who has the problem.

15. Do you feel like you can’t relax or be yourself when you’re with your spouse?

One of my girlfriends once told me that she knew her husband was a keeper when she was able to pass gas and not draw criticism. Now, I’m not “passing” judgment, but if you can’t have simple biological functions without knowing it won’t result in repercussions, will you be able to keep that up forever?

16. Are your emotional needs never met?

You tell yourself you don’t need an acknowledgment of Mother’s Day. Or your birthday. Or your anniversary. Or a kind word on a hard day. Or a hug. Eventually, everyone has emotional needs. Pushing yours aside will only make you feel like you don’t matter.

17. Are your physical needs being neglected?

People are of the misconception that it’s only the men who suffer in this department, but I’ve heard from LOTS of women who simply aren’t getting their physical needs met in their marriage. I’m not just talking about sex. Hugs. Touching. A kiss. Just like babies flourish with physical touch…so do grown-ups.

18. Do you feel as though being with your spouse is holding you back from true happiness?

You love going to the theater, but he thinks it’s stupid. You want to try camping, but he tells you it’s “barbaric”. You took an art class, but every time you left he punished you when you returned. If you have dreams and they aren’t supported by your spouse – ask yourself whose happiness he’s really thinking of.

19. Does your spouse engage in behavior that puts stress on your family?

One of my best friends called to tell me that her husband’s road rage was so bad that he’d jumped out of the car and threatened to beat up another driver for cutting her off in a parking lot. Her children were crying, she was screaming at him, begging him to get back in the car. If your spouse won’t seek help for behavior that’s damaging to the family, it’s time for you to re-evaluate.

20. Are you constantly “convincing” yourself to stay in your marriage?

I used to have an internal monolog with myself about my marriage. I would tell myself that it wasn’t that bad, that I could keep going; and then I would mentally list all of the good things about my marriage. Over the years, that list got shorter and shorter until one day…there was no list. If you have to convince yourself, chances are, there’s a problem that can’t be fixed by “reasoning”.

Dating -A Family Affair

Dating is something many of you don’t want to think about immediately after divorce and others can’t wait to get on a dating app. Timing is a personal decision but how you date is a family affair.

When you have children, their feelings and comfort must be paramount in any dating decision you make. Children, no matter the age (and that includes adult children) don’t like seeing their parent replaced. Adult children may feel uncomfortable with your dating but their concerns are similar to young children- who is this new person and why are they taking up so much of my Mom or Dad’s time.

No sleepovers until you are in a committed relationship- NONE! And a committed relationship is not 4 or 6 weeks. That definition worked when you were single and there were no kids but it doesn’ t work now.  When you have a free weekend (most of you), use that weekend for your overnights. No free weekend, then ask a friend to babysit (or hire a babysitter) so that you can spend time together at the house without kids. Waking up with your new love is nice but guarding the feelings of your children will make you feel better.

Introducing a child too early in a relationship is a HUGE mistake. Once you are serious, introduce your new love to your children a “teaspoon” at a time. If you keep introducing a new lover to your children, they learn that love doesn’t last and you’ll keep adding instability into their lives.

The Brady Bunch

You remember the TV show the Brady Bunch? Two families that came together to create one big happy family.In the TV show the couple were both widowed so they didn’t bring the divorce baggage into the relationship (true they had other baggage). How many of us have blended our families based on the story tale of the Brady Bunch—too many!

Before blending your family talk it through. How will you discipline? Do you each currently have different rules for bedtime, meals. curfew, use of electronics or the provision of a cell phone or a  car?  What about chores or work after school or school activities? Do you use time out or grounding and what infraction brings on the parental response.

Children don’t often want to be blended….and in fact, can’t be blended. You can learn to live together but the two families will remain separate as far as the children are concerned.

Dealing with children will be a huge source of conflict for the divorced couple and their respective Ex’s. You may want to see a counselor, or the StepParent Association, or create a reading list.

First and foremost, the changes must be discussed with the kids prior to your remarriage. If you can, redecorate the house so it’s new for everyone – it’s OUR HOUSE now.

Each parent is responsible for disciplining their own child…NO MUTUAL DISCIPLINING.  As parents, you mutually support each other. However, if a child is disrespectful to you, you respond in an appropriate manner because you were the target of the bad behavior. Beyond the first response, the natural must step-up and step-in.

There is no Brady Family, there is just your family.