Monday, March 31, 2008

Divorce Causes - Lovers and Other Strangers

Long before I even heard of Divorce Mediation, I saw a 1970 movie called "Lovers and Other Strangers" in which Diane Keaton made her motion-picture debut. Keaton’s character is a young naïf divorcing her husband because his hair no longer smells like raisins. I have always joked about this being an absurd reason to get divorce but perhaps it is not. The old joke is the major cause of divorce is marriage. I have of course seen numerous divorces based on infidelity and money problems. I previously mentioned incompatibility. See blog "Rabbi Casts Wide Net in Matchmaker Role - In the News." In the end I have always felt that lack of communications and the ability to grow together are the main causes of divorce. I would be interested in any comments about why people get divorced. As always, you can post a comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website or participate in our Presidential poll located below the directions. WM 3/31/08

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Study Links Marriage Stress, Risk of Hypertension - In the News

It probably comes as no surprise but it is helpful to confirm that couples with more marital satisfaction have lower blood pressure. This was reported in a March 21, 2008, Associated Press story in the Arizona Star entitled Study Links Marriage Stress, Risk of Hypertension. See the entire article at The article discusses a study by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, an assistant psychology professor at Brigham Young University. Her study was reported online Thursday by the Annals of Behavioral Medicine. As always, you can post a comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website or participate in our Presidential poll located below the directions. WM 3/29/08

Friday, March 28, 2008

Florida Divorce: Serving the Petition

Florida has three different ways to serve your divorce petition on your spouse. The judge’s authority over your spouse depends on how the petition is served. The three ways to serve a Petition are:
  • Personal service
  • Substitute service
  • Constructive service

Personal service means that a summons and copy of the Petition are handed to your spouse by law enforcement or a certified process server. This is the primary way to serve a person in Florida. A list of certified process servers is usually available from the Court Administrator’s office or court website.

Substitute service means that the papers were given to someone over age 15 who lives in the same place as your spouse regularly lives. You cannot accept service if you still live together. So if your spouse is living with her parents, the papers can be handed to her father by law enforcement or a certified process server. This type of service is just as good as personal service on your spouse.

If you don’t know where your spouse lives, you will have to use Constructive Service or Service by Publication. The first step is to “diligently search” for your spouse to try to serve them personally. You can only publish if personal service is not possible. This means using all the information you have about your spouse and asking certain agencies if they have more information, and then following up on that information. It is a specific process and you may want to hire someone knowledgeable to do it for you. Next you’ll file an affidavit with the court outlining your search. After that, you’ll have to publish a notice in the newspaper. Once the publishing is complete and proof of publishing is filed with the clerk, your spouse has notification of the petition and the case can go to final judgment.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Divorce Lessons I Have Learned

After more than 35 years of working with people who are getting divorced, it is not surprising that I have learned a lot about divorce and the people who are getting a divorce. I have come to believe that it should be harder to marry and easier to divorce. There should be more premarital counseling. Premarital counseling will be the subject of a future blog. It is harder to get a drivers license than a marriage license. Perhaps premarital counseling should be required before a couple could get married. It would help if a couple at least considered if did not agree on issues of finances, employment, children, sex, social life, and many other areas before they got married. We have not done any premarital mediation but it might be helpful.
I have also learned that the things which you think are the cause of the break up may actually be a failed effort to save the marriage. I very often see couples who just had a child or just bought a house and are now getting divorced. At first I thought the new child or house caused the divorce but have come to understand, the new child or house was actually and effort to save a failing marriage. When the new child or new house did not save the marriage, the couple gets divorced.
Some couples are better able to live together without being married than living together married. For some couples the dynamics of their relationship changes when they get married. I don’t know if they feel they don’t have to try as hard or there is no easy escape. I have seen numerous couples who have lived together for years and then get divorced after a short marriage. Perhaps this is another example of an effort to save a failing relationship.
The things which attracted you will eventually drive you crazy. For example, a woman likes a man who when they are dating takes charge. He picks the restaurants, the movies and other items. After they get married, the woman feels this is controlling.
Often when a couple comes to me and one spouse wants the divorce and the other spouse does not want the divorce, I ask the spouse that does not want the divorce, "Do you want to be married to your spouse or do you want to just be married because you don’t want to be alone?" More often than not the person just wants to be married. This realization usually helps both parties. The evidence for this proposition, is that the person who does not want to get divorced is usually the party who remarries first.
As always, you can post a comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website or participate in our Presidential poll located below the directions. WM 3/27/08

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Beatle Divorce II

Some times a picture says it all but if not see the entire article and the drawing by Priscilla Coleman from in March 24, 2008 New York Times at the following link: As always, you can post a comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website or participate in our Presidential poll located below the directions. WM 3/25/08


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Rabbi Casts Wide Net in Matchmaker Role - In the News

Very often when I am doing a divorce mediation, I ask myself, "Why did this couple ever get married? They were always incompatible." I sometimes even ask the couple why. I remember a client saying that she knew it was mistake from the beginning but the other person was persistent or he was embarrassed not to get married. The March 17, 2008, article in the Arizona Star by Stephanie Innes entitled "Rabbi Casts Wide Net in Matchmaker Role"reminded me of the question of incompatible couples. See the entire article at The article discusses Rabbi Robert Eisen of the Conservative Congregation Anshei Israel who is offering his congregants free subscriptions to JDate — an Internet dating service for Jewish singles. He's tapping into his own bank account to fund the endeavor. He says, "We're a fractured society. I want to encourage people to take a look at the big picture and give them a chance to meet people with the same values, same approach to life." Eisen is a proponent of marriages between two people of the same religion, saying they have a much lower divorce rate than couples who marry outside their faith. "Marriage is hard enough. If you start with a common vocabulary and values, it's easier to maintain that marriage," Eisen said. "It's the Jewish mother coming out in me." One of the things Rabbi Eisen is promoting is more compatible marriages and thus fewer divorces. As always, you can post a comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website or participate in our Presidential poll located below the directions. WM 3/23/08

Friday, March 21, 2008

Divorce Proverbs and Aphorisms

When I mediate I often use a proverb or aphorism. In particular, I use one, my father always used when my sister and I were fighting over the last piece of cake. My father use to say, "One shall divide and the other shall choose." I never thought till now, where my father’s words came from and it is too late to ask him. However, I did check the internet and found it came from James Harrington (January 3, 1611-September 11, 1677) who was an English political theorist of classical republicanism who is best known for his controversial work, "The Commonwealth of Oceana." I was surprised that the actual quote dealt with cake! It reads as follows:
" For example, two of them have a cake yet undivided which was given between them that each of them therefore may have that which is due. ‘Divide,’ says one to the other, ‘and I will choose, or let me divide, and you shall choose.’ If this be but once agreed upon, it is enough, for the divider dividing unequally loses in regard that the other takes the better half. Wherefore, she divides equally and so both have right."
This has lead me to put together the following list of other useful proverbs and aphorisms, some of which I found at As always, you can post a comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website or participate in our Presidential poll located at the below the directions. List any proverbs or aphorisms you think I left off my list. WM 3/21/08

Divorce Proverbs and Aphorisms
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step
A leopard cannot change its spots
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing
Actions speak louder than words
All good things come to he who waits
All that glitters is not gold
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
As you sow so shall you reap
Ask no questions and hear no lies
Barking dogs seldom bite
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
Fairness is in the eye of the beholder
Beggars can't be choosers
Better late than never
Better safe than sorry
Better the Devil you know than the Devil you don't
Charity begins at home
Comparisons are odious
Count you blessings
Discretion is the better part of valor
Do as you would be done by
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
Don't bite the hand that feeds you
Don't burn your bridges behind you
Don't count your chickens before they are hatched
Don't cross the bridge till you come to it
Don't look a gift horse in the mouth
Don't make unimportant things important
Don't put all your eggs in one basket
Don't rock the boat
Don't run when they're not chasing you.
Don't try to walk before you can crawl
Don't upset the apple-cart
Doubt is the beginning not the end of wisdom
Easy come, easy go
Enough is as good as a feast
Enough is enough
Every dark cloud has a silver lining
Every dog has his day
Every man has his price
Every stick has two ends
Failing to plan is planning to fail
Familiarity breeds contempt
Finders keepers, losers weepers
First things first
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread
Forewarned is forearmed
Fortune favors the brave
God helps those who help themselves
Good fences make good neighbors
Good things come to those who wait
Great minds think alike
Half a loaf is better than no bread
Hard work never did anyone any harm
Haste makes waste
He who hesitates is lost
He who laughs last laughs longest
He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword
He who pays the piper calls the tune
Hindsight is always twenty-twenty
History repeats itself
If God had meant us to fly he'd have given us wings
If a job is worth doing it is worth doing well
If at first you don't succeed try, try and try again
If life deals you lemons, make lemonade
If the mountain won't come to Mohammed, Mohammed must go to the mountain
If wishes were horses beggars would ride
If you can't be good, be careful.
If you can't beat em, join em
If you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
In the kingdom of the blind the one eyed man is king
Into every life a little rain must fall
It goes without saying
It never rains but it pours
It takes a thief to catch a thief
It takes one to know one
It's better to give than to receive
It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all
It's better to light a candle than curse the darkness
It's never too late
It's no use locking the stable door after the horse has bolted
It's not worth crying over spilt milk
It's the early bird that gets the worm
It's the squeaky wheel that gets the grease
Keep your powder dry
Laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and, you weep alone
Laughter is the best medicine
Let bygones be bygones
Let not the sun go down on your wrath
Let sleeping dogs lie
Let the punishment fit the crime
Life begins at forty
Life is what you make it
Lightening never strikes twice in the same place
Live for today for tomorrow never comes
Look before you leap
Love is blind
Make love not war
Man does not live by bread alone
Marry in haste, repent at leisure
Mighty oaks from little acorns grow
Misery loves company
Money doesn't grow on trees
Money makes the world go round
Money talks
Nature abhors a vacuum
Necessity is the mother of invention
Never judge a book by its cover
Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today
No man is an island
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent
No rest for the wicked
Nothing is certain but death and taxes
Oil and water don't mix
One good turn deserves another
Opportunity only knocks once
Out of sight, out of mind
People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones
Possession is nine tenths of the law
Practice makes perfect
Pride comes before a fall
Procrastination is the thief of time
Put your best foot forward
Rome wasn't built in a day
Spare the rod and spoil the child
Talk is cheap
That which does not kill us makes us stronger
The cobbler always wears the worst shoes
The darkest hour is just before the dawn
The early bird catches the worm
The ends justify the means
The means are more important than the end
The exception which proves the rule
The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world
The longest journey starts with a single step
The more things change, the more they stay the same
The proof of the pudding is in the eating
The way to a man's heart is through his stomach
There are none so blind as those, that will not see
There but for the grace of God go I
There's always more fish in the sea
There's more than one way to skin a cat
There's no place like home
There's no smoke without fire
There's no such thing as a free lunch
There's no time like the present
There's none so deaf as they that will not hear
Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it
Those who sleep with dogs will rise with fleas
Time and tide wait for no man
Time is a great healer
To err is human, to forgive divine
Too many cooks spoil the broth
Truth is stranger than fiction
Two heads are better then one
Two wrongs don't make a right
We are often saved by the craziness of others
Where there's a will there's a way
Worrying never did anyone any good
You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink
You can't get blood out of a stone
You can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear
You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs
You can't teach an old dog new tricks
You can't tell a book by looking at its cover
You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Preparing Florida Court Documents: How Much Detail?

Preparing divorce documents for court filing is tricky business in Florida. We have already talked about financial information and identity theft. The necessity of adding more detail to the divorce forms has been the subject of previous posts. Today, we discuss the rules for determining how much is too much information in your court document.

In Petitions, you should add detail if you are requesting the court take action on any of the following issues:

  • Non-marital assets or debts that you believe were commingled or converted into marital assets
  • Sole parental responsibility
  • Contested primary residential parent
  • EUP
  • Waste, depletion
  • Name change
  • Partition

In Answers, you are only responding to the statements in the petition. No details are necessary. This is also true for Responses to Motions. The Answer or Response contains only statements such as, “Respondent denies the allegations in paragraph 3,5,6,7 and 10.” If you include the details of why you dispute the petition, you may get a Motion to Strike your document.

If you are the Respondent and want to make allegations of your own, you should file a Counter-Petition with your Answer. You MUST file a Counter-Petition with your Answer or it will be too late. A Counter-Petition also will allow you to continue the case without any additional filing fees if the Petitioner decides to drop the case.

So the general rule on detail is YES for the Petition and Counter-Petition and NO for Answers and Responses.

Remember that Florida court files are public records. Anyone can look at your divorce court file, so you want to be careful about the allegations and responses you put in any Florida divorce court document.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Beatle Divorce Costs McCartney $48.7 Million - In the News

As a Beatle fan, I was curious and sad to read about Paul McCartney’s divorce. See Reuters article published on March 17, 2008 entitled "McCartney Divorce Costs Beatle $48.7 Million at or at The amount of the settlement seems very high for a short term marriage but perhaps as a percentage of his total worth of $800 million perhaps it is small. We often read about these high profile divorces but rarely read about high profile meditations. I am not sure it is because there are not many high profile divorce mediations or high profile couples choose mediation because it is more confidential and we don’t hear about the results. It is unfortunate that more people don’t read about mediation as an option. If more people read about mediation as an option to divorce, I believe more people would choose it. As always, you can post a comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. WM 3/19/08

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Florida Parenting Plans: 5 More Areas to Consider

Some additional areas to consider in your parenting plan include:
  • Insurance coverage – Which parent will provide it? What are the criteria for reevaluating coverage? How will co-pays and deductibles be divided? What happens if you disagree on a procedure? What about life insurance coverage to secure child support and/or alimony payments? For older children, will there be a cost split for the additional auto insurance premium that the custodial parent will face?
  • Transportation – Where is the exchange point? What are the details of transportation between the two homes? Who is driving? What time? If you use the school as the exchange point, what happens when school is not in session?
  • Relocation – Under what circumstances will the custodial parent be able to move away with the child? (If you don’t decide this now, you will have to follow the procedures of Fla. Statute 61.13001.)
  • Education – Who will attend school conferences and how will parents receive notice? How will the non-custodial parent receive school information? How will extra school or tutoring fees be divided? How will private school tuition be paid and for how long? Although not required, do you both agree to cover college costs for your child? If so, what is included in “college costs?”
  • Religious Affiliation and Training – Is there agreement to raise the children in a specific faith? How will the costs associated with religious affiliation and education be paid? What is the transportation plan? Are you both agreeing that the child will attend certain religious events or education, regardless of whose parenting time is used? Will these decisions be delegated to the parent who feels this area is more important? If so, will that affect the cost sharing in any way?
Your parenting plan should reflect your family's unique circumstances. There's no magic list of areas or visitation schedules to include in your parenting plan. Think about your family's situation, values and lifestyle to determine the areas to include in your Florida parenting plan.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Divorce Books

We are always on the look out for helpful books about divorce, family, and marriage.. These are some that we have found.
Let us know if you have other good books. As always, you can post a comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, Tucson or Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. WM 3/17/08

The Truth About Children and Divorce, Robert Emery, Ph.D., $24.95, Penguin Group USA, 2004

We’re Still Family: What Grown Children Say About Their Parents’ Divorce, Constance Ahrons, Ph.D., $24.95, Harper-Collins, 2004

Divorce Book for Parents, Vicki Lasky, $5.99, Book Peddlers, 1996.

Divorce & Money How to Make the Best Financial Decisions During Divorce, Violet Woodhouse and Victoria Collins, $26.95, Nollo Press.

Divorce and New Beginnings: An Authoritative Guide to Recovery and Growth, Solo Parenting, and Stepfamilies, Genevieve Clapp, John Wiley & Sons, 1992.

How It Feels When Parents Divorce, Jill Krementz, Alfred A. Knopf, 1988.

The Kids' Book of Divorce, Eric Rofes, Vintage Books, 1981.

Mom's House, Dad's House: Making Shared Custody Work, Isolina Ricci, Collier Books, 1997.

Surviving the Breakup, Judith Wallerstein and Joan Berlin Kelly, Basic Books, 1980.

Uncoupling: Turning Points in Intimate Relationships, Diane Vaughan, Vintage Books, 1990.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Three Little Pigs Go to Mediation

The Red Cross has asked me to teach a workshop on Conflict Management. Presentations can be very boring if there is only a lecture. In an effort to make the workshop more interesting I did some research on the internet to find material. I came across a fun and informative video called "The Three Little Pigs Go to Mediation" by Department of Veterans Affairs. You can see the video at As always, you can post a comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. WM 3/15/08

6 Critical Areas for Your Florida Parenting Plan

When deciding how to divide the children’s time after the divorce, parents often write parenting plans. Parenting plans spell out the terms of the children’s timesharing with each parent and each parent’s responsibility for decision making and support after divorce. Temporary parenting plans can also be used before the final judgment. Parenting plans are the most important part of your documents in a divorce with children.

Parenting plans can be as detailed or as vague as the parents want. Florida courts have “model schedules” for visitation in each circuit (and sometimes in each county). You will want to read the model schedule for your area for two reasons. First, you will see what a partial parenting plan looks and sounds like. Second, you may decide that the model schedule in your area is appropriate for your family. If so, the bulk of your parenting plan work is done.

If the model schedule for your area is not appropriate for your family, you may decide that the model plan can be re-worked for your family. You may also want to do an online search and look at some other parenting plan language.

When writing a parenting plan, at a minimum, you should include the following 6 items in your parenting plan:

  1. Information about the children – names and dates of birth
  2. Standards of Parental Conduct – how parents act toward each other & children
  3. Parental Responsibility - Decision making
  4. Primary Residence – Timesharing
  5. Child support – Guideline calculation/deviation, college
  6. How the Plan Can be Changed – Written and signed by both, triggers

Developing the parenting plan can help you become clearer about what your expectations for your former spouse are. It can also help you focus on the long-range plan for your children. Parents with young children have to look far into the future and consider how those future decisions will be made and the future responsibilities allocated.

Through the years, I’ve noticed that parents who work hard to develop a detailed parenting plan tend to return to court less. I think the success for the plan is equal to the time you put into developing it. The parenting plan is a roadmap for your children’s future.

You will probably want to include many more items in your plan. The six items listed here are the bare minimum requirements for a parenting plan.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Divorce Study of Results

One day when we were taking a walk, Mary asked me about results in divorce cases. We realized that opinions about the results in divorce cases were anecdotal and based on the experience of the person giving his or her opinion. As a result we conducted a statistically significant study of the outcomes of divorces in Connecticut. We compared 200 adversary cases to 200 mediated cases. You can see the article about the results of our study at our website at As always, you can post a comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. WM 3/13/08

What is Shared Parental Responsibility Anyway?

Florida law requires that divorced parents share parental responsibility for their child after divorce, unless shared responsibility is detrimental to the child. The goal is to keep both parents involved in the child’s life. However, the child will most likely live primarily with one parent and that parent will make the day-to-day decisions. Then what does shared parental responsibility mean anyway?

Shared parental responsibility means that both parents discuss and decide major decisions affecting the child. These are the decisions that have long-term consequences in your child's life. Some examples involve the choice of:

  • schools
  • child care facility
  • camps
  • doctors
  • religious affiliation and training
  • psychotherapy
  • surgery
  • other long-term medical treatment
  • sports and other out-of-school activities
  • trips

For an older child it means making decisions about issues like part-time employment, driving, buying a car, dropping out of school, college education and trips. As your child gets older, consider having a joint discussion on these issues with your child. The area that is absolutely off-limits for discussion with your child is asking where he or she wants to live. Of course, the child should never be responsible for any final decision.

There are no set rules for shared decision making. Parents may want to divide up the areas, each taking responsibility for certain ones. Some parents prefer to meet and discuss these issues together and reach a joint decision. Others may allow one parent to make the decisions and inform the other parent. And, as noted above, older children will want to have input into decisions that affect them.

The post-divorce decision making process is often the same type of process the parents had during the marriage. When developing a parenting plan, consider how the decisions have been made in the past and what changes may be needed to that process now that the parents will live apart. Making joint decisions on issues that have long-term consequences for your child is what shared parental responsibility means in Florida.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Collaborative Practice - In the News

A December 19, 2007, Associated Press story entitled "Lawyers and Clients Collaborate on Kinder, Gentler Divorces" reminded me to discuss Collaborative Practice. See article at Also see the website of the International Academy of Collaborative Practice at I strongly believe that clients should make an informed choice of the divorce process that works best for them. It may adversary, mediation or collaboration. Collaborative Practice assists divorcing clients when adversary divorce or mediation is unsuitable to reach a negotiated settlement. Collaborative Practice uses cooperative rather than adversarial strategies. The guiding principle is the commitment to avoid court and the threat of litigation to reach settlement of their cases. A key factor that distinguishes Collaborative Practice from other ways of obtaining a divorce is that the parties and the attorneys agree that the attorneys will withdraw from the case if it becomes adversarial. I believe that as much effort should be exerted toward settlement as is traditionally spent in preparing and conducting a trial. The goal of Collaborative Practice is to minimize the negative economic, social, and emotional consequences of protracted litigation on the participants and their families. Client who use Collaborative Practice can rely on their attorneys and counselors for guidance, but they also rely on their own creativity and integrity to reach an agreement that will provide a strong foundation for the future well-being of their post-divorce family. Each party is represented by an independent attorney who together with the client works with the other spouse and his or her attorney in four-way conferences to achieve an equitable settlement. All professional advisors including accountants, therapists, appraisers, and financial planners, are hired jointly by the divorcing couple and provide expert advice to support the achievement of a fair settlement. While this approach cannot alter the underlying differences that have led the couple to consider divorce, an honest exchange of information and commitment to consider the needs and concerns of all parties involved in the divorce, including the children, leads most couples to a satisfying agreement without resorting to a courtroom battle. There are different approaches to Colaborative Practice. You should discuss with your Collaborative Practice professional the different options. As always, you can post a comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. WM 3/12/08

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Proxy Marriage - In the News

Usually, I write about mediation or divorce but a recent article by Dan Barry entitled "Trading Vows in Montana, No Couple Required" in the March 10, 2008 issue of the New York Times caught my eye. See the entire article at
Apparently it all began five years ago, when a soldier from Montana, serving in Iraq, wanted to marry his Italian girlfriend. Montana has a little used law which allowed proxy marriages. There is now even a website called The war in Iraq seems to be the main reason for most of the marriages. The law has recently been amended to require that one party in a double-proxy marriage be either a Montana resident or a member of the armed forces on active duty. The marriages are recognized in every state but Iowa. Perhaps next we can do proxy mediations or proxy divorces! As always, you can post a comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. WM 3/11/08

Why Do I Have To Go To Parent Class?

Here's a sampling of questions asked last week about the parent education class:

Q: We started a divorce last year and took the class, but then we reconciled. Now we're going to get divorced. Do we have to take the class again?

A: It is up to the judge. You will need to file a motion to waive the class requirement and explain the situation. Aside from their own beliefs, judges will likely consider how long it has been since you graduated and whether you attended online or in person. Be sure to attach a copy of your class certificate to the motion.

Q: My wife is pregnant but it's not my baby. Do have to take the class? I won't be having any contact with the child after the divorce.

A: Florida law presumes that during a marriage, any pregnancy is the result of the married couple. To avoid that presumption, the biological father has to sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity or there must be a Judgment of Paternity that declares the other man the child's father. Neither of these can really be done before the child is born. Again, you will need to file a motion and request that the class requirement be waived based on your situation.

Q: My husband and I divorced 2 years ago but remarried shortly after the divorce. Now we are divorcing again. Do we have to take another class?
A: Once again, it will be up to judge. If you don't want to take the class again, you'll have to file a motion to waive the class requirement.

As you noticed, the answer is the same for all questions. Why? Because the law says the parents in every case shall take the class. If there are circumstances that make it unfair to impose the class requirement and both parties agree to the waiver, the judge has the authority to enter an order waiving the requirement, but you'll have to file a motion if you want to avoid Florida's parent education class.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Religious Divorce and Annulment

When we mediate divorce cases, we focus most of our time on the classic issues of marital property, support, and parenting. For many couples, however, there is also the issue of a religious divorce. Jewish couples may ultimately want to obtain a Jewish divorce or "Get" and Catholic couples, usually without children, may want to obtain a church Annulment. The main reason for obtaining a Get or Annulment is so that either party may remarry in a religious ceremony. As mediators we facilitate discussion about the issues of religious divorce and provide information and resources about Gets and Annulments to those who request them. We mediate the issues relating to the Get and annulment and include what the couple decides, in the Mediation Agreement. It is easier to do this when the couple obtains their civil divorce and the parties are implementing the other aspects of their divorce. Later, the couple may be geographically separated or not as willing to work on the issue for a variety of reasons. The process, but not the court, are very similar for obtaining a Get and an Annulment. The religious divorce process is very similar to the spirit of mediation
A Get is actually a writ of divorce. A Get is required when a Jewish couple wishes to religiously dissolve their marriage. A Get is not required when only one spouse is Jewish. The Husband asks a trained scribe to write the Get. The Husband gives the Wife the Get in the presence of a rabbinical tribunal (Beth Din) of three individuals and two witnesses. The Wife’s acceptance of the Get makes the divorce final. It is not an adversary procedure. The Get makes no reference to responsibility, fault, or details of the settlement. The Rabbi issues a certificate of proof (p’tur) attesting to the fact that a Get was properly drawn up, delivered and accepted.

In order to obtain an Annulment, the couple must demonstrate that factors necessary for a valid marriage did not exist. These include three criteria: (1) A defect of canonical form such as being married by a justice of the peace or Protestant minister without getting permission from a Bishop. (2) An impediment such as being underage or marrying someone who was previously married whose marriage was not annulled. (3) The lack of consent due to mental illness, abuse of alcohol or drugs or physical abuse. The party or parties petition for the Annulment saying the marriage is invalid. Consistent with mediation, the parties do not seek to blame each other. The religious tribunal seeks information which confirms the statements of the petitioners. If the decision is in favor of Annulment, it must be reviewed by another tribunal of at least three judges. If the second court agrees, a decree of nullity is issued and both parties are free to re-marry in the Church.

The Mediation Agreement should include language that the parties will not contest, but will cooperate in obtaining the Annulment or the Get, and in providing the information required to file for the Annulment or Get. The Mediation Agreement should include a reasonable time within which the Annulment or Get will be obtained. There should not be a penalty clause in the Mediation Agreement for lack of cooperation in obtaining the Get, as the process must be voluntary. The Mediation Agreement will normally state how the parties will pay for obtaining an Annulment and the Get. As the Annulment and Get do not address the details of the settlement, the Mediation Agreement should have other provisions, if the couple wishes, that deal with other religious issues. These would include issues concerning religious education, confirmation, bar or bat mitzvah, weddings, funerals, and holidays. As always, you can post a comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. WM 3/10/08

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Florida's Parent Education Class: Do I Have to Go?

Florida courts require divorcing couples with children take a class about children and divorce, so the answer is yes if you have children. The Family Division clerks in my area tell me they get many questions about the class, so we'll have a brief run-down on "the class."

First, if you have children, you must take the class. It's the law.

Second, there are many providers of the class. If the class is a DCF-approved 4 hour class, it meets the requirement. We provide the class online.

Third, although the class is available online, be aware that some judges require in-person attendance. Clay, Duvall, Hillsborough and Collier counties are notorious for banning online classes, but individual judges in other areas may also require in-person attendance.

You need to ask about the policy of your judge with respect to online classes. You can check the judge's page on the court website for instructions. Many post specific instructions and you should definitely be familiar with those instructions. If there is no information on the website, you should contact the judge's judicial assistant whose number is listed in the blue pages of the phone book.

Next time we will answer questions
asked by pro se parties this week about the parent education class.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Websites That Are Helpful

We are always on the look out for helpful websites. These are some that we have found. Let us know if you have other good websites. As always, you can post a comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. WM 3/7/08

Arizona, State of Home Page -
Arizona Chapter of Association for Conflict Resolution -
Census -
Child Support Guidelines Booklet -
College Saving Program for Arizona -
College, University of Arizona, cost -
Consumer Price Index, Cost of Living Index -
Court for Pima County Home Page -
Court Directions for Pima County -
Court forms -
Court for status of your case -
Credit reports
Experian 1-888-Experian (formerly TRW)
Equifax 1-800-685-1111
Trans Union Corporation 1-800-916-8800
Home valuations - or
Internal Revenue Service -
Kelley Blue Book for automobile values -
Mortgage Journal - Rates & Calculators -
Motor Vehicles, Department -
Parenting Education Program Pima County- http://159.233.52/dnn
Parenting Education Program brochure -
Revenue Services Department -
Social Security Administration -

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Association for Conflict Resolution

We are members the Arizona Chapter of the Association for Conflict Resolution and the national Association for Conflict Resolution. On it website at it says that the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) is a professional organization dedicated to enhancing the practice and public understanding of conflict resolution. ACR represents and serves a diverse national and international audience that includes more than 6,000 mediators, arbitrators, facilitators, educators, and others involved in the field of conflict resolution and collaborative decision-making. Anyone interested in the field of conflict resolution is welcome to join a local chapter or the national organization. We strongly believe it is necessary to support these organizations in order to further the practice of mediation. As always, you can post a comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website or participate in our Presidential poll located at the below the directions. WM 3/6/08

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Helping Children

The following is some of the material we include in our Divorce Mediation Notebook. I can’t remember where I found it. Helping children in divorce is one of the reasons I started doing mediation and is my top priority in working with parents. As always, you can post a comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website or participate in our Presidential poll located at the below the directions. WM 3/5/08
1. Don't put on an act
2. Don't hesitate to discipline your child even when they are hurting
3. Set aside time for yourself
4. Find a way to vent your feelings
1. Listen to what your children say and do not say
2. Validate your children's feelings
3. Reinforce your children's self-esteem and support system
4. Refrain from denigrating your spouse to your children
Every aspect of a child’s life can be made easier by the parents at the time of the divorce crisis. Parents should prepare their children for what lies ahead in as much concrete detail as possible. There is no way to prevent children from being distressed by their parents’ divorce; there are, however, important ways to help ease their fears and confusion:
1. Parents should tell their children about the divorce as soon as it has become a firm decision. Think very carefully about how you announce the separation, for what you say or fail to say will be long remembered. Children have the right to understand why the separation is happening; it is often the major crisis in their lives. If possible, both parents should tell all the children at the same time. Children can genuinely help each other at this time and take courage from the support of their siblings. If there are wide differences in the children’s ages, the parents will want to talk later to each child separately on a level that the child can truly understand.
2. The parents should express their sadness about the breakup of the family because it will give the children necessary permission to mourn without having to hide their feelings of loss from the adults or from themselves.
3. The parents should present the decision to divorce as a solution that the parents reached together, after they had tried every other way they could think of to solve their differences. In this way, the adults can convey the sense that they are responsible, loving parents who remain committed to the children even though they have reluctantly decided to go their separate ways.
4. Parents should explain honestly that things will change. Life will be temporarily disorganized. Routines will be disrupted. One parent will be moving out of the home. The house may be sold, and the family may have to move to a new neighborhood. The mother, if not already doing so, may go back to school or take a part-time or full-time job. In short, the parents must make it clear that the divorce will bring many changes that the whole family will have to face and overcome.
5. The parents should tell children of all major developments, as the family reorganizes. Children feel powerless at divorce and should be invited to make suggestions in matters concerning them. Adults should seriously consider these suggestions. They should be assured that they will have a say, for instance in setting up the visiting arrangements. Once the schedule is settled, it should be explained to the children in detail. The children should not, however, be made to feel responsible for making major decisions. The goal is to involve them appropriately so that they can feel that they are participating in working out a solution to the family crisis.
6. The parents should advise the children that the divorce will not weaken the bond between parent and child, even if they live apart. They need to be reassured that, though parents may divorce each other, they do not divorce their children. The children should be told realistically that everybody will have to work hard to maintain these important connections.
7. The parents must stress to the children that the divorce is not in any way the fault of the child. They must be assured that the problem existed strictly between the two adults. The children should never be allowed to assume guilt for causing the breakup.
8. The parents must state clearly that the divorce is an irrevocable decision and that the children should not and cannot waste their time and energy in the fruitless schemes and fantasies of bringing their parents back together.
9. The parents will want to make every effort to keep separate their own hurt, anger, and needs from the needs of their children. Children often have a right to their own feelings and should not be asked to take sides or be forced to wander a no-man’s-land in the divorce war.
10. Above all, both mother and father must give their children permission to love and maintain a relationship with the other parent. This may be the hardest task of all for the adults, but it can be done. With a caring, courageous effort on the part of each parent, the children, even in the midst of their turmoil can feel supported and loved.
I. The right of the child to be treated as an interested and affected person and not as a pawn.
II. The right to grow up in the home environment that will best guarantee an opportunity to achieve mature and responsible citizenship.
III. The right to the day-by-day love, care, discipline, and protection of the custodial parent.
IV. The right to know the noncustodial or each parent having joint custody and to have the benefit of such parent's love and guidance through adequate visitation.
V. The right to a positive and constructive relationship with both parents, with neither parent permitted to degrade the other in the child's mind.
VI. The right to have moral and ethical values inculcated by precept and example, and to have limits set for behavior so that the child may develop self-discipline early in life.
VII. The right to the most adequate level of economic support that can be provided by the efforts of both parents.
VIII. The right to the same opportunities for education that the child would have had if the family unit had not been transformed.
IX. The right to such periodic review of custodial arrangements and child-support orders as the parents' circumstances and the child's benefit require.
X. The right to the recognition of the fact that children involved in a divorce are always disadvantaged parties, and the law must take affirmative steps to assure their welfare.

Kids: Which of us is Guardian?

Whether you are divorced or never married to the other parent, the question often arises: Who is the "guardian" of the kids? Florida law says this:
  • The mother and father jointly are natural guardians of their own children and of their adopted children, until they become adults.
  • If the marriage between the parents is dissolved, the natural guardianship belongs to the parent who has custody of the child by court order.
  • If the parents have joint custody after the divorce, then both continue as natural guardians.
  • If the marriage is dissolved and neither the father nor the mother is given custody of the child, neither is entitled to act as natural guardian of the child.
  • If one parent dies, the surviving parent remains the sole natural guardian even if he or she remarries.
  • If the parents are not married, the mother is the natural guardian of the child and is entitled to primary residential care and custody of the child unless a court enters an order stating otherwise.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

How to Pick a Mediator

People always want to know how to pick a mediator. These are some thoughts on the subject. Most states do not license or credential or certify mediators. If a mediator says he or she has this status, I would look more into who is making the designation. Unfortunately, I have come across mediators who have meaningless credentials from companies who will sell the designation to anyone. However, the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) has an Advance Practitioner membership category. Advance Practitioner membership shows a commitment to mediation which usually indicates the person is a trained mediator. Ask if the mediator is an Advanced Practitioner member of the Association for Conflict Resolution. ACR has a website at which lists Advanced Practitioner members. Picking a mediator is like picking a spouse. If you are getting divorced, you may not have done a great job picking a spouse. You should not make the same mistake when picking a mediator. Look into the mediator’s background and experience. It is always a good idea to get a referral from someone who knows the mediator.

You should consider asking the mediator some of the following other questions: How many cases have you mediated? What is your training? What was the last continuing education program you attended? Why did you become a mediator? What is your mediation format? The best mediators do not have a one-size-fits-all format. What is your mediation style? The best mediators are flexible, and will use different styles at different times and with different people, as appropriate. They may use facilative, evaluative or transformative mediation. What are the fees and are there administrative fees or other "hidden costs?" Different mediators have different ways of billing. Make sure that you know your mediator's billing practices in advance. Do they want a settlement in every case? Good mediators are committed to helping get cases settled whenever reasonably possible, but are not attached to settlement for settlement's sake. Ask the mediator whom they would recommend as a mediator. If you interview a few mediators, it is interesting if they would recommend each other. Remember, if you don’t like your mediator, you can always change to a different mediator. You do not have to leave mediation. Finally, make sure your mediator has malpractice insurance. I am sure there are many other questions and criteria for picking a good mediator. Let us know if you have any suggestions. As always, you can post a comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website or participate in our Presidential poll located at the below the directions. WM 3/4/08

Monday, March 03, 2008

Mediating Elder-Care Disputes - In the News

Although we mostly do Divorce Mediation, we also do other types of mediation and have successfully done elder care mediation. I enjoyed reading the Wall Street Journal Encore article by Tom Lauriella entitled "Mediating Elder-Care Disputes" which was reprinted in the March 2, 2008 Arizona Dailey Star. The entire article can be found at The article was especially meaningful to me as I work with my sister to make decisions about our 88 year old mother. It seems that most of my friends are dealing with how to care with elderly parents and many of my friends have difficulty with their siblings deciding what is best. Luricella suggests that mediation is a good way to handle "the complicated and emotionally charged decisions related to elder care." This is practical and useful advice for all of us who face the issues and problems of dealing with elderly parents and our siblings. Lauricella also discusses how to find a mediator. This will also be the subject of one of my next blogs. As always, you can post a comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website or participate in our Presidential poll located at the below the directions. WM 3/3/08

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Military Divorce - In the News

The March 2, 2008 Associated Press story "Military Divorce Rate Holds Steady" is an excellent article. See the entire article at The article states that the divorce rate in the armed forces has held steady at 3.3 percent. What was even more interesting were the programs the military sponsors to help marriages including a workshop to teach couples to manage conflict, solve problems and communicate better. This is very similar to what we offer when we do Marital Mediation. It would be wonderful if civilian couples took advantage of these type of programs as well.
In the event the marriage can’t be saved and there is a divorce it is important to be aware of the special issues raised by a Military Divorce. We learned more about Military Divorce when we attended the State Bar of Arizona’s Advanced Family Law seminar in November. Tucson Attorney Patricia A. Green presented an excellent session on Military Divorce issues. She advised of a helpful book by Mark E. Sullivan entitled "The Military Divorce Handbook: A Practical Guide to Representing Military Personnel and Their Families." This issues are particularly important with the recent changes in the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. We are all proud of all of our men and women in the military. They deserve all of our support whether it is of a military or personal nature. As always, you can post a comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website or participate in our Presidential poll located at the below the directions. WM 3/2/08

2 More Relocation Factors

When deciding a child relocation case in Florida, a judge must evaluate three different areas: child-related factors, the relationship between the child and each parent, and parental concerns. The last post covered the child-related factors. Now we’ll cover the factors in the other two areas the the judge must consider.

The Parent-Child Relationships

  • The nature, quality, extent of involvement, and duration of the child's relationship with each parent, and with siblings, half-siblings, and other significant people in the child's life. How involved has each parent been in the child's life? For how long? What activities do they do together? What's the child's relationship with step brothers and sisters and brothers and sisters?
  • The feasibility of preserving the relationship between the objecting parent and the child through substitute arrangements that consider “how” the contact, access, visitation, and time-sharing will actually operate. Do the parents have computer technology like webcams? Is the child old enough to travel alone? Is the schedule realistic for the child's age?
  • The financial circumstances of the parents as they relate to the increased travel costs and other technology costs related to contact. Can the parents afford the new travel plans?
  • Whether the new visitation plan is sufficient to encourage a continuing meaningful relationship between the child and the objecting parent. Is the plan feasible? Does it provide approximately the same number of days? Is it possible that for this family, longer periods of visits can maintain the same quality of parent-child relationship?
  • The likelihood that the moving parent will comply with the new visitation arrangements once he or she is out of the court’s jurisdiction. Is there a history of contempt orders entered against the one who wants to move? What is the likelihood that the cost will continue to be affordable for these parents?

Parental Concerns

  • The reasons for seeking or opposing the relocation. Does the objecting parent exercise the visitation in the order or even more? Does the parent asking to move have a legitimate reason for the request?
  • The current job and financial situation of each parent.
  • Whether the proposed move is necessary to improve the economic circumstances of the parent seeking to move the child. As the economy and affordable housing in Florida decline, this may become a stronger reason for moving.
  • Whether the relocation is sought in good faith. Is there a legitimate reason for the move? Does the requesting parent have a history of trying to avoid visitation between the child and the other parent?
  • The extent the objecting parent has fulfilled his or her financial obligations in the case, including child support, alimony, and marital property and marital debt obligations. Again, are there sour grapes between the parents?
  • The career and other opportunities available to the objecting parent if the relocation occurs
  • A history of substance abuse or domestic violence as defined in s. 741.28 or s. 39.806(1)(d) by either parent. For this factor, the judge will also look at the severity of that conduct and the failure or success of any attempts at rehabilitation.
With Florida's strong policy of involving both parents, the judge will look carefully at the past conduct of each parent. Is there a history of consistent visitation that involves special parent-child activities or was there a new-found interest in the child once the request to move was made? Does the parent who wants to move have a history of trying to avoid contact between the other parent and the child? Are there financial circumstances that make the move financially necessary? The most important factor will be the impact on the meaningfulness of the contact between the objecting parent and the child., especially when there has been consistent contact in the past.

For any custodial parent who wants to move more than 50 miles away from where s/he was at the time of the last custody order, there needs to be a written agreement, notice and no objection or a trial about whether the move is in the best interest of the child. A parent who moves a child without following the new procedures can face stiff penalties, so you'll want to follow the procedures if you want to move your child.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

How Will the Move Affect Your Child?

If a parent objects to a child relocation in Florida, the law lists eleven specific factors for the judge to consider. Even if the judge allowed a temporary move while the case was pending, that will not affect the final decision. The judge has to evaluate all the factors again at the time of trial.

The eleven factors cover three different aspects:
  1. Child-related factors
  2. The relationship between the child and each parent,
  3. Parental concerns.
In this post you will find the child-related factors. The parental concerns and parent-child relationships will follow in the next post.

Warning: These two posts will include more than 11 points because some of the factors cover several points. Each point will be listed separately so that you can better understand exactly what will be considered by the judge.

Child-Related Factors

  • The child’s age and developmental stage. Younger children need more frequent contact.
  • The needs of the child. Any special circumstances or needs of the child that should be considered.
  • The likely impact of the relocation on the child's physical, educational, and emotional development, taking into consideration any special needs of the child. Will there be any detriment to the child in these areas as a result of the move?
  • The child's preference, taking into consideration the age and maturity of the child. Keep in mind that while a preference may be expressed from around the age of 10 to 12, the judge will not allow the child to testify unless there is good cause and the child is at least 16 years old.
  • Whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for both the parent seeking the relocation and the child, including financial or emotional benefits or educational opportunities. Considerations such as quality of schools and neighborhoods are child-related focus of this factor, while employment opportunities are the focus of the parent-related part of this factor.
  • Any other factor affecting the best interest of the child or as set forth in s. 61.13.

These child-related factors are straightforward, except the catch-all “any other factor” point. You will have to review the general custody factors again to see if any might apply to your situation.

The next post will contain the parent-child relationship and parental concerns factors that the judge must consider in deciding whether to permit relocation under Florida's new law.