Thursday, December 31, 2009

We Assume a Rational World

Kimberly A. Kick, LCSW

We assume a rational world. One in which most people, most of the time, will do the “right thing”. It is frustrating and discouraging when the person you once loved, someone you chose to build a family with, betrays the trust you put in them. This can be the experience during and after a divorce has occurred. The parent who is supposed to pay child support and doesn’t. The parent who misses visitations or is continuously late. The parent who doesn’t stop themselves from involving the children in what should be considered “adult” topics of conversation. The parent who stops parenting after the divorce due to their own pain and depression, and the parent who uses the children as their support system and personal sounding board.

What is the parent who is trying to do the right thing supposed to do when faced with any or all of the above situations? What supports exist in our society to protect the children from the fallout of divorce? What recourse does a person have when the ex-partner refuses to act in a rational, mature manner?

There are no quick fix answers to any of these questions. Each divorce in unique and a “one size fits all” answer doesn’t exist. Keeping this in mind, there are some things a parent can do to minimize the irresponsibility the other parent exhibits. My first suggestion is DON’T lie or cover for the other parent. The children are going to have to figure out their relationship with both parents and cannot do this if they are being presented with misinformation. The parent also should not highlight or dwell on the irresponsible behavior of the other parent by engaging in talking negatively about them.

Try to role model for your children the types of behaviors you want them to exhibit as they grow into adulthood. If you are yelling at them, you are teaching them to yell. If you complain all the time, you are teaching them to complain. Try to show your children the way you want them to act by modeling that behavior. If your ex-partner misses visitation, be there for your children to let them talk about how they feel while letting them know that a parent shouldn’t act that way.

Tell me your experiences and what has worked or not worked so well.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Obstacles to easing divorce communications

Kimberly A. Kick, LCSW

As a therapist who has been working with couples, families, and children of divorce for over 23 years, one thing has become quite clear when couples experience conflict – the desire to not cooperate with anything your ex-partner wants. This presents a problem when children are involved. Parents must remember, it isn’t only the marriage that is breaking up; it is also the structure of the family unit. The children will mourn the loss of having both parents available to them under the same roof.

What can you do? One of the most basic recommendations, repeated over and over again, is to avoid involving the children in the divorce. This means not using them to communicate with your ex-partner, not telling them the issues you have with your ex-partner, and not making them feel as though they have to choose one parent over the other. Easily said, hard to put into practice when emotions run high. The need to prove that you are right and your ex-partner is wrong can override logic and doing the right thing.

I believe this is where couples should seek to distance themselves from direct communication with each other. Think about it, you are never going to get your ex-partner to see the situation exactly as you do, just as you don’t see the situation as they do. It seems we get ourselves into a vicious, hopeless cycle of trying to prove “I’m right, you’re wrong”. This only exacerbates an already difficult situation.

The dilemma may become getting your ex-partner to agree to a divorce communication tool like All About The Children. There is no doubt that communicating via an objective communication tool will reduce the negative emotions one experiences when hearing a certain tone of voice, or the back and forth arguing that can occur over the phone. It will also help keep an accurate, objective record of what has transpired, which is a huge benefit to both parties.

So how can you get both parents to agree to use All About The Children? One suggestion is to point out that using a divorce communication tool will help both parents with scheduling, communications, and financial matters. It can serve as a protective device for all parties involved. If this doesn’t work, unfortunately some parties will have to go to court and ask the judge to order it. Once done, life will become easier and the children will benefit immensely from not being put in the middle.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Holidays and divorce

Holidays and divorce can be tough on the parents and the children. How has the divorce effected your holidays? Has it become easier or harder as the years have gone on? Tell us what you think and share your thoughts.

Google Trends Divorce

Google Trends provides insights into broad search patterns. You input a term and it shows you how much the term has been searched on a given day. I checked divorce and the peak for 2009 was Jon and Kate plus divorce on June 24th. If there is a Tiger Wood’s divorce it will probably top this. For 2009 it was A-Rod’s wife filling for divorce. You can see the graph for 2009 at
Not surprisingly for the word marriage, gay marriage tops the list for most recent years.
As always, you can post any 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. Learn more about mediation at WM(162) 12/26/09

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Divorce Etiquette

Is divorce Etiquette and oxymoron along with military intelligence? Apparently not. There is even a book called Divorce Etiquette by Monique DeVere. The cover of the book is a little to racy to show here. As usual I Googled it and found which provides help, advice and community for people contemplating, going through or recovering from divorce and the issues around it, including separation, divorce laws, spousal support and emotional issues. Their web site about divorce Etiquette is It discusses issues like How do you tell people about your divorce? Should you send "divorce announcements" saying you are no longer married? How do you update your personal information without being rude? We mark marriages, births. We do not mark divorces. Why? Should we have divorce rituals? If so, what should they be? Should friends and family send divorce cards? What about maiden name changes? Should you announce these? What about etiquette for divorce parties in which you're invited and asked to bring a gift, like an engagement party? I am sure there are thousands of more questions? Do you have any questions or even better yet answers?
As always, you can post any 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. Learn more about mediation at WM(161) 12/19/09

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Ron Lieber and Divorce

The New York Times is my favorite newspaper and I read it every day. I have been following the recent articles about divorce by Ron Lieber. The articles give very good practical advice. I recommend that you read them and follow Ron Lieber’s latest articles. You can go to this link to see more about Ron Lieber and his articles.

The articles I have recently read and their links include the following:

Money Talks to Have Before Marriage
Published: October 23, 2009

Financial Decisions to Make as You Divorce
Divorcing couples often don’t think of all the financial problems that can arrive after the split. Here’s a list of issues to discuss before the paperwork is final.
Published: November 14, 2009

Experienced in Love and Money
Some advice from those with firsthand experience of divorce may help you avoid the financial pitfalls of a split.
Published: November 21, 2009

Bucks: How to Pick a Divorce Lawyer
Readers weigh in on the best way to pick a divorce lawyer.
Published: November 20, 2009

As always, you can post any 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. Learn more about mediation at WM(160) 12/08/09

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Stereotyping Children of Divorce

Written By: Kimberly A. Kick, LCSW
Numerous articles have been written about divorce, the effects of divorce, and how children of divorce are at a disadvantage. The problem with some of the research that has been conducted on divorced children was that extraneous variables weren’t always considered. For example, in research citing that children of divorce are less likely to perform as well academically as their peers who are from intact families, no consideration was given to whether or not the child was performing poorly due to the divorce, or due to arguing and fighting that was still occurring between the parents. It would also be beneficial to see if these were children who had a history of poor academic performance prior to the divorce.

Putting children in the middle can contribute significantly to their lack of adjustment post divorce. Seemingly innocuous events can make a child feel uncomfortable. One example of this is giving the child money to give to the other parent. In my practice as a therapist, numerous youth and young adults who experienced the divorce of their parents stated that events such as this made them feel very uncomfortable. Sometimes parents will ask a child to call the other parent and tell them that they owe money, have to pick them up, or have missed visitation. This is another situation where the child has been put in the middle of a situation that the adults should handle on their own. It leads to the child feeling bad about themselves, uncomfortable, and not sure how to act. This may be one of the extaneous variables that contributes to these children performing poorly in other areas of their lives.

The lasting effects of adding undue pressure and assigning a new role to the children post divorce (as communicator with the ex-partner) is something that should be avoided. Using an objective communication device like All About The Children, can help eliminate the impulse to use the child to communicate with an ex-partner. Divorce research needs to occur with children of parents who use a communication tool, rather than the children to communicate with each other, then, perhaps, the data won’t be as skewed in favor of children from intact couples.

Divorce Cakes

As promised in a previous blog, I am following up on Divorce Cakes. The following web site says it all. Check it out.
As always, you can post any 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. Learn more about mediation at WM(159) 12/1/09

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Divorce and Google ABC

As you know, I am a great fan of Google. I was recently doing a search when I noticed something I should have noticed before. I knew Google suggests searches as you type in words but I never paid attention to what happen if you just type in a letter. I started typing in divorce rate and stopped at the r in rate. I then realized I could get the top searches for the letter r. For fun I typed out divorce and then the first letter of Divorce. The following are my results:

D - Decree, Dance, Documents, Definition, Depression, Deposition Questions, During Pregnancy

I - In - Texas, California, Florida, the Bible, Virginia, Georgia, NC, Colorado

V - Virginia, Video, Visitation Schedule, Virginia Process, Vermont Process, Versus - Annulment, Separation, Legal Separation, Dissolution,

O - Online, Ohio, On Children, Oregon, Online Texas, Of Lady X, Or Separation, Oklahoma, Ohio Laws, Online Free

R - Rate, Records, Rate by States, Records Texas, Rate in2008, Recovery, Rate in America 2008, Records in California, Records in Florida, Rate Statistics

C - Care, Court, Costs, Cakes, California, Child Custody, Checklists, Calculator, Counseling, Court Episodes

E - Effects on Children, Entrance Dance, Effects on Children Statistics, Effects, Etiquette , Essay, Emotional Stages, Emotions, Education Class in Utah, Emotional Support

I was particularly interested in following up Divorce Cakes and Divorce Etiquette. I will probably do a future blog on both.

I also just did what came up for divorce and got the following results:

Divorce - Advice, Papers, Statistics, Process, Rate, Records, Law, Lawyers, Care, Court.

I was disappointed that mediation did not come up but if you type in divorce m, it is the first combination that comes up.

As always, you can post any 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. Learn more about mediation at WM(158) 11/24/09

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Is Mediation For Everyone?

Written by Cathy Chestler, co owner of All About The Children

I had been divorced for a few years when I was court ordered to go to mediation after my ex-husband and I couldn’t agree on some issues pertaining to the children.

Mediation is great if you can find a mediator who really understands the law and the psychology of people. The mediator I was sent to was a lawyer who lacked any experience in psychology or communication skills. She lacked the ability to ask certain questions that would lead to the truth, while only looking skimming the surface of issues. She could recite the law but when my ex-husband spoke, she assumed he was telling the truth. Another issue was that my ex-husband went into mediation with an agenda that consisted of his own needs and not one the best interests of the children. Mediation is a process that is only as good as the people presenting the information, their willingness to put aside their differences for the children, as well as the ability of the mediator to mediate.

I myself took a 40-hour course in Divorce Mediation 10 years ago from a well know pioneer in Divorce Mediation. I understand what it takes to be a mediator from the perspective of a client as well as a trained professional. Mediators do not have an easy job as they try to help two people who have built a life together that now need to tear it all down and try to rebuild some semblance of cordiality for the children.

Mediation is a way to take your divorce out of the hands of the Judge and two opposing lawyers who want to “settle”, while empowering the couple with the outcome of their own divorce. Not everyone is a candidate for mediation, such as domestic violence clients, those unwilling to cooperate, and clients who are vindictive and trying to harm the other parent. Mediation is right for those who want to be active participants in their divorce and do what is equitable not only for themselves, but their children.

Overall I believe that the court system tries to do what is best, but falls short. As I stood before the Judge, time after time, the one thing I could count on was that I was just a number to them. I was a docket number shoved inside a cream colored envelope stored in the back of a huge courtroom filing cabinet. I can’t blame our court systems, which are flooded with thousands upon thousands of sometimes very angry divorcing couples, desperately wanting to be heard.

If divorcing couples are willing to sit and be truthful for the best interest of themselves and their children, mediation is the way to go. Why give control of your divorce to people who don’t know you and are going to determine what’s best for you and your family in a matter of minutes. Empower yourself and try mediation first. It is less expensive, less time consuming, and a way to be able to decide things as individuals, opposed to being a docket number on a judge’s desk. I think of mediation as allowing the couple to explore that important grey area that is never spoken about in the courtroom. Remember, the courtroom only sees the black and white and doesn’t have the time or knowledge to see the grey.

Divorce and Basic Training

It has been 40 years since I did my basic training at Fort Bragg. I learned many life lessons. Some good some bad. One that I remember is cleaning the barracks each morning. There was a reward if you your platoon did the best job cleaning. The reward was usually being the first platoon when marching so we did not have to eat dust or experience an accordion effect. I remember Gregg Machado polishing the fire extinguisher until it gleamed or trying to control the floor buffer. Very often no matter what we did, we did not win. I am not sure how we found out but we did learn the trick to winning. The drill sergeants would take a grease pencil and put marks in the barracks. If you found and removed the mark you won. If you did not find the mark, no matter how well you cleaned you lost. The lesson for the army, divorce, and life is you must know the rules of the game.
As always, you can post any 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. Learn more about mediation at WM(157) 11/17/09

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Separating Roles - Wife to Mother, Husband to Father

When clients call to inquire about our divorce mediation services, they are very anxious. During that telephone conversation I try to reassure them and give them hope. The potential clients often feel that all the marriage is not working, but their spouse is a good parent. I usually tell the person that we will help them separate their roles as Husband and Wife and maintain their roles as Mother and Father. They seem to like hearing that and say that is what they would like to happen. In fact that is what happens. The emotion of the marriage is gone and the parties can concentrate on being even better parents.
As always, you can post any 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. Learn more about mediation at WM(156) 11/10/09

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Impediments To Communication

Written by Kimberly Kick, co owner of All About The Children

I write this as I sit at the Annual meeting of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. All About The Children had the privilege of setting up a table outside of the presentation area. What interests me from this experience is the feedback we received from various professionals who stopped by to chat with us. Most of them were lawyers, however there were a handful of mediators and mental health professionals.

The feedback received indicated the need professionals saw for there to be a communication tool that divorced couples can use. What was disheartening was the jaded opinion that no matter what communication tool you encouraged some divorce couples to use, no difference would be made with parents who refuse to pay for their children, attend visitation sporadically, and refuse to put the needs of the children first.

This left me pondering what factors contribute to keeping the hostility and anger so alive between some divorced couples. Why can’t some people see the damage that is caused by irresponsible behavior and actions? Why isn’t the focus the needs of the children and not the needs of the adults?

I’m interested in receiving feedback. Tell me what you think. What factors contribute to keeping unproductive and unhealthy behaviors alive between divorced couples?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

But I don’t want a divorce

In most divorces one party does not want the divorce. This almost always leads to the statement, "Why must I (fill in the blank) when I did not want the divorce?" It is a good question but the answer is not one the person wants to hear. It often comes down to who can handle the pain of the marriage the least. The person who asks the questions, rarely asks why did my spouse want the divorce and even if that question is answered the person rarely understand or accepts the answer. The person who does not want the divorce does not understand how he or she may be driving his or her spouse crazy. This is not to say that all the fault really lies with the person who does not want the divorce. In many cases the person who wants the divorce does not realize that his or behavior has triggered the behavior in the other spouse which he or she does not like. Marriage is a dynamic process with each party influencing the behavior of the other party. So what does this all mean in a divorce and more particularly a divorce mediation. It means that the couple should look ahead not back. Discussing how they got to this point is not as important as deciding where they want to be. There is no point in doing a "marital audit" of all the things that went wrong or who was responsible. It is too slippery a slope.
As always, you can post any 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. Learn more about mediation at WM (155) 11/3/09

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Voodoo Divorce

This goes under the category, I thought I heard of everything in divorce. I was re-posting our listing in Craig’s List and decided to do a search of divorce to see other listings. What to my surprise did I found among many listing for document preparers but the following listing :
Extreme Voodoo Spells by Isaura
Broken-Hearted Emergencies, Immediately Resolved!
My Readings And Spells Are Known To Be 100% Accurate & Effective!
The Answer To Unconditional Ever-lasting Love.. Store & Restore Romance, Passion, Desires
Do you feel powerless to create positive change in your own life?
Are you being given visions, or dreams, or simply intuitions, that you don't understand?
Are you frustrated by a relationship that seems to be going nowhere?
Need to gain back trust, love, or effection?
I have been helping people find their path to true love and happiness for over 16 years through spells and advice. I can guide you to your deepest desires, no matter how difficult they seem to be I can empower you with the strength you need to take on life and love's most difficult challenges.
My next step was to google divorce voodoo and I found 456,000 hits including an Amazon listing for the following:
Voodoo Divorce : Put a Hex on Your Ex Through Preparation and Knowledge by Stephen Rue Esq.
Clearly, some people are not happy with the divorce process or the results of their divorce and want to try something else. Let me know if anyone has tried Voodoo Divorce and what were the results.
As always, you can post any 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. Learn more about mediation at WM (154) 10/27/09

Monday, October 26, 2009

Growing Up Divorced

By Cathy Chestler, Co-Owner All About The Children

Being a child of divorce makes you grow up in ways different from your friends. From the age of 7, I knew the meaning of words like, “visitation”, “court”, and “custody”. Going to play with my friends on weekends consisted of calling my father first to see what day and time he would be coming to get us for visitation. Holidays consisted of going with mom for a few days then going with dad the other few days.

Growing up as a child of divorce I would watch my parents fight about finances, visitation, and issues I didn’t understand. As much as they tried to hide their hatred for one another, it was simple to see. Couple that with each parent remarrying, each step parent bringing in children from their previous marriages, my mother having another child, and it became a soap opera of sorts.

From the age of 7, I knew I wanted to help children like myself. I wanted to work with children of divorce and let them know life goes on, it’s o.k., and it is not your fault. I always imagined my office having a couch and a fish tank, and that everything was going to be great.

I myself divorced when my children were 7 and 9. At first, it was amicable and I knew I could deal with just about anything since I was a child of divorce myself. One thing a child of divorce never experiences, that I quickly learned, was there is this court system that governs all decisions.

For the past 7 years I have spent thousands of dollars in lawyer fees, hours upon hours in a courtroom, and many sleepless nights wondering how one single person called a Judge, can make decisions that greatly impact the lives of people they barely know. There had to be an alternative to this mass chaos and I was going to either find it or create it.

Although I don’t have an office or a fish tank in which I meet with children of divorce, I have the world wide web. I created a communication site that helps facilitate communication between divorced people who have children. Instead of trying to help one child at a time, I decided to put my energy into starting at the top, where education and a finely tuned divorce communication tool could reach out and help many at once.

I have created what I think is the most incredible divorce communication tool ever. I created it out of my experiences of a child of divorce as well as my own divorce. I used my Masters degree in Counseling and really fine-tuned tool that I believe will help not only the children of divorce but their parents as well. All About The Children was created out of compassion for children and the first hand experiences I have had in my life. My business partner is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been counseling families and children for the past 23 years and is currently working on her P.hD in Psychology. Together we have created a divorce communication website that will take the children out of the middle while allowing the parents/guardians to communicate in an effective manner.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Driving and Divorce

I have always been impressed by how nice the people are in Tucson. If you are in a supermarket and you ask a clerk for an item, the clerk will almost always ask you if he or she can take you to the item. However, that all seems to change when they get behind the wheel of a car. In particular no one has patience with the car in front of the them making a left turn. Before the green arrow can be seen the car in back of me is tooting its horn. Many times I am waiting because it is a leading green arrow or the conditions are not safe. Why do people personalities change when they drive a car. This made me realize that people’s personalities often change in different circumstances. Clearly, getting a divorce is one of them. Nice people can be become horrible people when they are getting divorced. I guess couples must pretend they are in a supermarket and not behind the wheel of a car.
As always, you can post any 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. Learn more about mediation at WM (153) 10/20/09

Friday, October 09, 2009

Project Runway and Divorce

I must admit that I not only watch but enjoy Project Runway. Not only is it fun but Tim Gunn’s catch phrases, "Make it work", "Carry on," and "This worries me" and Heidi Klum’s "One Day "You Are In, Next Day You Are Out" apply to divorce as well as fashion. It was a pleasant surprise when I saw a recent show which was season 6, episode 8 where the challenge was for designers must convert an old wedding dress into a fashionable new look. See more about episode at This is not only a metaphor for divorce but good advice. When we are working with couples in mediation we tell them this is an opportunity for a fresh start and to allow them to move on.

As always, you can post any 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. Learn more about mediation at WM(152) 10/09/09

Friday, October 02, 2009

Expresss Divorce - No Magic Wand

Funny things make me think about divorce. I was recently in the new Whole Foods store in the upper west side of Manhattan. When we went to check out there were not the ordinary lines where you feel like you are gambling to see which clerk you get. Instead there were four color coded lines with two express and two regular. You watched a TV monitor which indicated the number of the check out clerk who was available. I have read of a similar procedure with banks of elevators. Then I read in the September 24, 2009 New York Times about professional tennis’ longest rally. It lasted 29 minutes with 643 shots and took place at a Virginia Slims event between Vicki Nelson and Jean Hepner. How does all of this relate to divorce? It does because many couples want to get divorce over with as soon as possible. They want to quickly rip off the band aide. Couples often come to me and want me to wave the magic wand and get them divorced instanteously. I would be rich if I can could do it. Couples want the express divorce. They want the Whole Foods checkout and they definitely don’t want a 643 shot tennis rally. If couples cooperate in mediation it can be a quicker process. It is up to the couple. I usually tell couples who can’t resolve their case in mediation to do an expedited divorce. I tell them not to spend their time negotiating in a contested divorce but to go directly to trial. It will be less expensive and quicker.
As always, you can post any 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. Learn more about mediation at WM(151) 10/02/09

Friday, September 25, 2009

Social Security, Marriage and Divorce - A Bonus

This is my 150th blog. I have always been somewhat amused that our social security system encourages multiple marriages. This issue is highlighted in "Divorce and Social Security: A Rocky Marriage," by Eugene Steuerle and Christopher Spiro. They state as follows:

"A serial spouse can leave the public holding the bill for multiple ex-spouses, all of whom could receive full benefits.
Spousal and survivor benefits—which entitle the lower earner of a couple to half the higher earner’s benefit and to all of the benefit if the higher earner dies—were designed in 1939, before divorce was common. For this reason, the original legislation paid little attention to how the breakup of a marriage would affect such benefits. By 1965, however, divorce could not be overlooked, and policymakers included a provision allowing the lower earner to keep his or her benefits upon divorce, provided the marriage had lasted at least 20 years. Eligibility was extended to those with only 10 years of marriage or more in 1977.
When it was first introduced, the divorce provision was a way to protect a small number of lower earners after their marriages ended. Today, far more people are affected by this provision than its designers could have foreseen. Ten percent of U.S. adults are divorced now, whereas only 3 percent were in 1970. This sharp increase should induce policymakers to reexamine some of the idiosyncrasies of the divorce provision. For example:
A marriage shy of 10 years does not count. The selection of 10 years as the length of time a couple must be married before being eligible for spousal and survivor benefits upon divorce is arbitrary.
Divorced people can face a remarriage penalty. Divorced people who remarry before age 60 can lose the spousal or survivor benefit from a previous marriage. When that benefit is greater than the spousal benefit that would result from remarriage, divorced people face a significant disincentive to remarry.
A serial spouse leaves the public holding the bill. A higher earner who has many marriages, each lasting more than 10 years, can generate much more in spousal benefits than a worker who pays the same amount of taxes and marries only once. Thus, taxpayers in general can be forced to subsidize a person who marries and divorces several times, whereas that person bears no responsibility within Social Security for his or her marriages."

As always, you can post any 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. Learn more about mediation at WM 9/25/09

Friday, September 18, 2009

Will Social Security Run Out of Money?

Do you ever worry that Social Security benefits will not be available by the time you are ready to retire? We have all heard the stories, now take a look at this article.

Spending, Marriage and Divorce

I have always been fascinated in handling divorces when I discover the couples have very separate finances. I use to think this was an indicator that the couples would get divorced. This is not always good logic. It may be that I did not see marriages where the couple had separate finances and stayed together. I was reminded of this when I read an article in the August 16, 2009 New York Times by Catherine Rampell entitled, "I Say Spend. You Say No. We’re in Love." See the entire article at She says that "Despite the old saying "opposites attract," scholars have found that in almost every way imaginable, people tend to choose mates who look, sound and act as they do. But in the area perhaps most fraught with potential conflict — money — somehow, some way, people gravitate toward their polar opposite, a new study says."
She goes on to ask, "Why do people seek out their opposites in spending attitudes? Most likely, what we hate in ourselves, we also hate in other people...."I can see how this might be one of those kinds of seductive differences in the early stages of courtship," said Stephanie Coontz, a professor at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., and research director for the Council on Contemporary Families. "Maybe you say to yourself, ‘This guy makes me feel so free,’ or ‘This gal reins me in.’ "
She rightly states that this is unfortunate because spending decisions are a common source of marital conflict and a major contributor to divorce.
What does all this mean? For me it is another good reason to do premarital counseling.

As always, you can post any 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. Learn more about mediation at WM 9/18/09

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Workshop Recognized by the Superior Court for Separating and Divorcing Parents

  • Do you have serious conflicts with your co-parent? Research has shown that children of divorce don't have to be damaged for life if their parents have cooperative and collaborative relationships.
  • Respectful co-parenting can provide children their best chance of living normal lives after separation and divorce.
  • All of our facilitators are experienced mental health professionals with years of total experience working with families. They have extensive training in conflict and resolution and mediation (l-r: Judy Colich, Vi Ballard, Paula Van Doren and David Kuroda).
  • Dates and times of Classes: Thursdays, November 5, 12, 19, December 3, 10, 17, 2009
  • Time and Location: 5:30 - 7:30 pm, 21535 Hawthorne Blvd. Suite 585, Torrance CA 90503. For parking area, enter from Carson or Del Amo Circle and park under building
  • Cost: $360 for the 6-sessions. Credit cards accepted, $370.
  • For information and registration: Call 310-373-7994 or 310-245-6814
  • Both parents expected to attend the same group
  • This workshop is recognized by the L.A. Superior Court/Family Court Services as a local alternative to attending "Parents Without Conflict" in Los Angeles.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sports and Divorce

It should come as no surprise that many professional athletes get divorced. The August 9, 2009 New York Times article entitled "Taking Vows in a League Blindsided by Divorce" by Greg Bishop discusses this issue. See the entire article at Bishop notes that "inside the Jets’ locker room, James Dearth counts 20 married men among his teammates..suggest 12 to 16 of the married Jets will divorce." He goes on to say "polls, studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that the divorce rate for N.F.L. players is between 60 and 80 percent, which is higher than that of the general population, where nearly half of marriages end in divorce, but comparable to athletes in other sports." He goes on to quote Kris Jenkins, the nose tackle, who lists reasons that football marriages fail: "rampant infidelity, women who target athletes, trophy wives, lifestyles not conducive to marriage and players being surrounded by entourages, which can discourage intimacy." The problem is further agrevated by problems associated with retirement. Bishop notes that "when athletes retire, most face an identity crisis. Many do not retire on their own terms, and once they leave the game, they also leave behind the fame and fortune, the crowds and adoration. Their wives experience a similar loss of status. The dynamic players they married can become passive and withdrawn." What is to be done. The best answer seems to be counseling but the public must change the way we view professional athletes. We must see them more are real people but talented individuals who are not that special. Maybe we should consider paying them less and start treating them like normal people and not celebrities.
As always, you can post any 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. Learn more about mediation at WM 9/11/09

Friday, September 04, 2009

Are You Listening?

People don’t listen well. This is especially true in marriage and divorce. Many people do what I call anticipatory listening. They hear what they think they are going to hear. A possible solution to this problem are two saying my father used. The first comes from the 1955 Danny Kaye movie, "Court Jester." Get it, Got it, Good. The acronym is GIGIG. The other is First you tell them what you are going to tell them, Then you tell them, Then you tell them what you told them. Both of the saying make sure the person listening has a better chance of getting the message. Even when the person hears you, they may not understand. I love the old Abbot and Costello routine, Whose On First, which illustrates this. I have reprinted it below.

Abbott: Strange as it may seem, they give ball players nowadays very peculiar names.
Costello: Funny names?
Abbott: Nicknames, nicknames. Now, on the St. Louis team we have Who's on first, What's on second, I Don't Know is on third--
Costello: That's what I want to find out. I want you to tell me the names of the fellows on the St. Louis team.
Abbott: I'm telling you. Who's on first, What's on second, I Don't Know is on third--
Costello: You know the fellows' names?
Abbott: Yes.
Costello: Well, then who's playing first?
Abbott: Yes.
Costello: I mean the fellow's name on first base.
Abbott: Who.
Costello: The fellow playin' first base.
Abbott: Who.
Costello: The guy on first base.
Abbott: Who is on first.
Costello: Well, what are you askin' me for?
Abbott: I'm not asking you--I'm telling you. Who is on first.
Costello: I'm asking you--who's on first?
Abbott: That's the man's name.
Costello: That's who's name?
Abbott: Yes.

Costello: When you pay off the first baseman every month, who gets the money?
Abbott: Every dollar of it. And why not, the man's entitled to it.
Costello: Who is?
Abbott: Yes.
Costello: So who gets it?
Abbott: Why shouldn't he? Sometimes his wife comes down and collects it.
Costello: Who's wife?
Abbott: Yes. After all, the man earns it.
Costello: Who does?
Abbott: Absolutely.
Costello: Well, all I'm trying to find out is what's the guy's name on first base?
Abbott: Oh, no, no. What is on second base.
Costello: I'm not asking you who's on second.
Abbott: Who's on first!

Costello: St. Louis has a good outfield?
Abbott: Oh, absolutely.
Costello: The left fielder's name?
Abbott: Why.
Costello: I don't know, I just thought I'd ask.
Abbott: Well, I just thought I'd tell you.
Costello: Then tell me who's playing left field?
Abbott: Who's playing first.
Costello: Stay out of the infield! The left fielder's name?
Abbott: Why.
Costello: Because.
Abbott: Oh, he's center field.
Costello: Wait a minute. You got a pitcher on this team?
Abbott: Wouldn't this be a fine team w i t h o u t a pitcher?
Costello: Tell me the pitcher's name.
Abbott: Tomorrow.

Costello: Now, when the guy at bat bunts the ball--me being a good catcher--I want to throw the guy out at first base, so I pick up the ball and throw it to who?
Abbott: Now, that's he first thing you've said right.
Abbott: Don't get excited. Take it easy.
Costello: I throw the ball to first base, whoever it is grabs the ball, so the guy runs to second. Who picks up the ball and throws it to what. What throws it to I don't know. I don't know throws it back to tomorrow--a triple play.
Abbott: Yeah, it could be.
Costello: Another guy gets up and it's a long ball to center.
Abbott: Because.
Costello: Why? I don't know. And I don't care.
Abbott: What was that?
Costello: I said, I DON'T CARE!
Abbott: Oh, that's our shortstop!

What listening tools work for you? Do you have any suggestions on listening tools?
As always, you can post any 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. Learn more about mediation at WM 9/4/09

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Backlogs in Processing Disability Claims - More People are filing Claims

If your claim for Social Security Disability benefits is denied, you can appeal and request a hearing. This is good news because most claims, in my opinion, if approved are done so at the hearing. The bad news is that there is such a backlog of disputed disability claims, some people wait years for a hearing. According to a recent blog, "the Associated Press, the number of Americans receiving Social Security disability has doubled since 1990 to 7.4 million while the number of workers processing the claims has dropped. More than 765,000 people are currently waiting for a hearing -- twice as many as in 1998. The wait time for a hearing is twice what it was in 2000."

Unfortunately the recession has not helped this situation. For more read here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Notebook - Questions Couples Should Ask (Or Wish They Had) Before Marrying

For many years, we have had a notebook in our waiting room aptly labeled "Waiting Room Reading." It is a collection of articles about mediation, divorce, and us and other material of interest to our clients. I don’t sit in the waiting room too often and had not read it lately. I recently read the notebook and discovered the articles again. It is a source of lots of material for our blog which will be under the heading of "The Notebook." Keep watching for them. The first article that caught my eye was an article from the December 17, 2006, New York Times entitled "Questions Couples Should Ask (Or Wish They Had) Before Marrying." The article can be seen at but it is not long so I am reprinting the entire article here.

"Relationship experts report that too many couples fail to ask each other critical questions before marrying. Here are a few key ones that couples should consider asking:
1) Have we discussed whether or not to have children, and if the answer is yes, who is going to be the primary care giver?
2) Do we have a clear idea of each other’s financial obligations and goals, and do our ideas about spending and saving mesh?
3) Have we discussed our expectations for how the household will be maintained, and are we in agreement on who will manage the chores?
4) Have we fully disclosed our health histories, both physical and mental?
5) Is my partner affectionate to the degree that I expect?
6) Can we comfortably and openly discuss our sexual needs, preferences and fears?
7) Will there be a television in the bedroom?
8) Do we truly listen to each other and fairly consider one another’s ideas and complaints?
9) Have we reached a clear understanding of each other’s spiritual beliefs and needs, and have we discussed when and how our children will be exposed to religious/moral education?
10) Do we like and respect each other’s friends?
11) Do we value and respect each other’s parents, and is either of us concerned about whether the parents will interfere with the relationship?
12) What does my family do that annoys you?
13) Are there some things that you and I are NOT prepared to give up in the marriage?
14) If one of us were to be offered a career opportunity in a location far from the other’s family, are we prepared to move?
15) Does each of us feel fully confident in the other’s commitment to the marriage and believe that the bond can survive whatever challenges we may face?"

As always, you can post any 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. Learn more about mediation at WM 8/26/09

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Netflix and Marriage

I previously did a blog in which I suggested two TV remotes. Now with more and more people using Netflix, the two remote solution does not solve the control issues. What to watch was never solved with two remotes. In an article in the March 29, 2009 issue of the New York Times by Michael Wilson and entitled, "Hey, Who Ordered Gigi?" many of the Netflix problems for couples is discussed. See the entire article at
Wilson say, the shared Netflix queue is the new trench on the front lines of American marriage. He goes on to say, " Men and women from perfectly happy partnerships report their own dysfunctional cohabitation within the confines of the queue. Once upon a time, these sorts of disagreements were sorted out in the aisles of a video store, before a movie was selected. Now, when the conversation begins, it’s already too late. ‘It comes down to who gets the queue,’ said Michelle Newton, 37, a homemaker and mother in Leland, N.C. ‘Let’s say there’s a couple things I want to see," she said. In that case, she will sneak into the queue and move her movie to the top, often dashing the hopes of her husband, Grant, a reactor operator at a power plant, at the last moment. ‘My husband had looked at the mail and thought a guy flick was coming in, and it’s a chick flick,’ Ms. Newton said of a recent dust-up. ‘He’ll go back through and move stuff back up the queue. It’s who keeps up with the queue, as awful as that sounds.’ They recently cut back from a two-disc $13.99 monthly subscription to the austerity plan of one disc at a time, $8.99, putting all the more pressure on who wins the battle of the queue.
The solution may be two televisions with earphones. This is a lot easier than my idea of a split screen in movie theaters.
As always, you can post any 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. Learn more about mediation at WM 8/19/09

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tucson Mediates

Many mediators are interested in changing the culture of dispute resolution. Some of us have gotten together to promote mediation. One of the first things we did was to set up a web site. It is called The web site discusses mediation and list mediators by specialty. We hope it will make people more aware of their dispute resolution options. Check it out and let me know what you think!

As always, you can post any 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. Learn more about mediation at WM 8/11/09

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Divorce and Your Health

Tara Parker-Pope, recently wrote an interesting column in the August 4, 2009, New York Times entitled "Divorce, It Seems, Can Make You Ill." You can read the entire article at She quotes a study which says, "When your spouse is getting sick and about to die or your marriage is getting bad and about to die, your stress levels go up," said Linda Waite, a sociology professor at the University of Chicago and an author of the study, which appears in the September issue of The Journal of Health and Social Behavior. "You’re not sleeping well, your diet gets worse, you can’t exercise, you can’t see your friends. It’s a whole package of awful events."
I have always felt that stress is related to ones health. Certainly, divorce is on of life’s more stressful events. Ms. Parker-Pope discusses whether is it better to be divorced or stay in a bad marriage. I have always felt it is better to have a good divorce rather than a bad marriage and stress is bad for children.
Ms. Parker-Pope sees both sides of the issues. She goes on to say, "None of this suggests that spouses should stay in a bad marriage for the sake of health. Marital troubles can lead to physical ones, too...."‘I would argue that if you can’t fix a marriage you’re better off out of it," said Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, an Ohio State scientist who is an author of much of the research. "With a divorce you’re disrupting your life, but a long-term acrimonious marriage also is very bad.’"
Either way, it is always a good idea to manage your stress. I firmly believe there is less stress in mediation than in litigation.
As always, you can post any 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. Learn more about mediation at WM 8/5/09

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dear Abby - Notice of Divorce

Believe it not I enjoy reading Dear Abby. I read it each morning after Doonesbury. I like the following exchange about divorce:
"Dear Abby: How does one share the news of an impending divorce with friends and family? Due to our financial circumstances and the particularly amicable nature of our breakup, my husband and I still live together and we will probably continue this arrangement for a while, so there aren’t a lot of obvious indicators. I hate the thought of the news being passed through the local grapevine as nasty – and potentially untrue – gossip. How do other folks manage it? – Soon-To-Be Divorcee in Louisiana
Dear Soon-To-Be Divorcee: Here’s how: by presenting a united front. The first people to hear the news should be your parents. Then inform other family members and friends. The message you need to convey is: "The two of us have agreed to end our marriage. While this may come as a surprise to all of you, our decision is mutual. While we care for each other and intend to remain friends, we no longer want to be husband and wife. If you love us as we know you do, please do not ask for further details because we both would rather not discuss it at this time." If anyone should be insensitive enough to question you further, your response should be unanimous: "We’d rather not talk about it."
As always, you can post any 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. Learn more about mediation at WM 7/29/09

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Social Security Payments

The Social Security Administration provides regular statements which estimate the amounts that individuals should receive for Social Security Retirement, Disability, Dependents, etc.

If you need to get a copy of your most recent statement, click here.

Child Support Calculator

Ever wonder how Judges calculate your child support in South Carolina? South Carolina uses "child support guidelines" to calculate child support. These guidelines are based on the gross income of the parties, and provides credits for such things as:

1. work related child care expenses
2. previous court ordered child support payments,and
3. health insurance premiums for children

If you would like to estimate your child support, click here to check out the DSS child support calculator.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Rereading Getting to Yes

When I get a new computer or computer program, I read the manual but it is not always meaningful. If I try it out and then come back to the manual, the manual is more meaningful. I found the experience also helpful with improving my mediation skills. Many years ago when I started mediating, I read "Getting to Yes" by Roger Fisher and William Ury. I recently reread the book and I found it very helpful. In particular I liked their following four basis points of principled negotiations.

People: Separate the people from the problem.
Interests: Focus on interests, not positions.
Options: Generate a variety of possibilities before deciding what to do.
Criteria: Insist that the result be based on some objective standard.

In particular I find focusing on interests no positions as very important. The book uses a variation on one of my favorite examples.

"Yet all too often negotiators end up like the proverbial children who quarreled over an orange. After they finally agreed to divide the orange in half, the first child took one half, ate the fruit, and threw away the peel, while the other threw away the fruit and used the peel from the second half in baking a cake. All too often negotiators "leave money on the table" - they fail to reach agreement when they might have, or the agreement they do reach could have been better for each side. Too many negotiations end up with half an orange for each side instead of the whole fruit for one and the whole peel for the other. Why?"

If the children had used interest based problem solving, they would have had twice as much of the part of the orange they wanted.

I am going to use more oranges and interest based problem solving in my mediation!

As always, you can post any 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. Learn more about mediation at WM 7/22/09

MerchantCircle: Using Social Networks to Make Money

MerchantCircle: Using Social Networks to Make Money

Happy networking.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How to Win Your Disability case?

The most important point to remember when applying for disability is that you have to prove that your injuries or medical conditions meet the definition and guidelines established by the Social Security Administration. The best way to do that is through sufficient medical documentation.

Does anyone out there have any war stories regarding applying for disability? Please share.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Social Security Disability - Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is Social Security Disability?

A. Social Security disability benefits are monies paid to you if you have worked for a long enough period and paid Social Security taxes though your employer and become disabled.

Q. How do I qualify for Social Security Disability?

A. You may quality to receive benefits if you have a medical condition or injury that prevents you from working for a minimum of one year.

Q. How does the Social Security Administration determine disability?
The Social Security Administration has a five step process in determining disability.

Step One -The first step involves determining if you are working. The amount of money you make if you are working is limited. If you make more than allowed, you will not be considered disabled.

Step Two - The second step is to consider the severity of your medical condition(s) if you make less than the current guideline amount. This involves determining whether your medical condition(s) significantly affect you ability to perform basic work activities, i.e. sitting, standing, walking, for at least one year.

Step Three - If the condition is severe enough to limit basic work functions, the agency will determine if the medical condition(s) are on a List of Impairments for adults and children developed by the agency. The impairments described are considered so severe by the agency that you can automatically be defined by law as disabled. If your condition is not on
the list, the agency can determine that you are disabled if your condition(s) are as severe as those on the list of impairments.

Step Four - If your medical condition(s) are not on the list of impairments or meet or exceed the severity of an impairment on the list, the agency will then consider whether you medical condition(s) prevent you from doing the type of work you did before.

Step Five - If the agency decides that you can do the type of work you did before, then it will decide you are not disabled. If not, then the agency will evaluate your medical condition(s), age, education, past work experience and skills learned from that work, to determine if you can do any other type of work. If you can, then the agency will decide that you are not disabled.

Q. How long will it take to settle my Social Security Disability case?

A. This is a hard question to answer as there is no definite answer. The current estimated time for disposing of a case from the filing of the initial application to a hearing is approximately 24 months, sometimes longer. This can be a very long and stressful process. Put your case in our hands and let us help you through this process.

Q. How much will the Social Security Administration pay me if approved?

A. The amount of benefits is determined by your average lifetime earnings and whether your benefits will be reduced based on the receipt of other types of compensation for you medical condition(s), such as workers' compensation. The Social Security Administration sends out a yearly statement providing your lifetime earnings and provides an estimate of your disability benefit.

Q. How far back will Social Security pay me if I am approved?

A. If you are approved for social security disability, your first check will be paid for the sixth full month after the date your disability started.

Q. What can I do to help win my Social Security Disability case?

A. You need sufficient medical documentation to support the severity of your medical condition(s). You should keep up with your medical treatment and doctor appointments. It may also be helpful to keep a diary to help document on a daily basis your disability keeps you from performing your past work; your medications and side effects; your aches and pains; and how disability or medications affect daily activities such as driving, shopping, taking care of family, walking, standing, sitting, memory, concentration, coping with stressful situations, and
dealing with other people etc.

Q. Can I work and still receive Social Security Disability?

A. Yes. However, the agency limits the amount can make.

Q. Do I have to be permanently disabled to receive social security disability?

A. You are entitled to benefits if your medical condition(s) are severe enough to prevent you from working for a period of at least one year. If your condition improves your benefits can be terminated.

Q. Will I receive Medicare?

A. You will get Medicare coverage automatically after you have received social security disability benefits for two years.

Q. How much will an attorney charge?

A. The Social Security Administration will withhold 25% of your past due benefits to compensate legal fees.

Q. Will my family receive anything if I am approved?

A. If you are approved for Social Security Disability benefits, members of your family may qualify for benefits. They include but are not limited to the following:

Your spouse, if he or she is 62 or older;
Your spouse, at any age if he or she is caring for a child of yours who is younger than age 16
or disabled;
Your unmarried child, including an adopted child, or, in some cases, a stepchild or grandchild.
The child must be under age 18 or under age 19 if in elementary or secondary school full time; and
Your unmarried child, age 18 or older, if he or she has a disability that started before age 22.
(The child’s disability also must meet the definition of disability for adults.)

What to expect in Court?

When going to Court regarding divorce, your attorney should try to prepare you as much as possible as to what to expect. Besides the basics of dressing appropriately, providing copies of your evidence to the court as well as opposing attorney and your spouse, some of the general things you can expect in a Courtroom (for a final hearing) include:

1. Finality. Judges will make final decisions regarding your divorce, alimony, property division. Once that decsion is made, any choice you had is gone. Consider what is truly important to you and what you may be willing to compromise before getting to that point. Some counties require mandatory mediation and pretrial conferences, so by the time you get to a trial, you should only be dealing with issues that you can't resolve on your own.

2. Evidence. If you are alleging that your spouse makes more than they are saying, be prepared to provide documentation. You have to prove your case. Make a journal if you have to from the time you start considering divorce and obtain copies of financial documents. Keep your attorney informed of anything that might help prove what you are saying and support what you are asking for.

3. Witnesses. If you have a witness to prove a point (whether it be personal or expert), make sure your attorney has spoken with them first and bring them to court. Judges expect parties to make self serving statements to get what they want. Many times, third parties can help because they may be more objective and may prove your case.

4. Testimony. In a trial, you will likely testimy. Prepare your testimony with your attorney to stay on point with the legal issues. Most times you won't be allowed to cover every aspect of your life with your spouse. Try to stick to the issues.


1. Judges don't (or at least shouldn't) know you or your spouse so they can't take your word for it. They can't know who to believe and you can't expect to prove you case by insisting that you are telling the truth.

2. Your attorney can't guarantee a result and sometimes, no matter how much you prepare, you still may not get what you want or feel that you are entitled to.

3. South Carolina family court hearings are determined by a Judge, not a jury. Judges are ordinary eople and you never know what testimony or evidence will be the most convincing or what the final decision will be.

4. If you have questions about your legal situation, a consultation can cost you a lot less than not doing anything until your spouse serves you with papers. Sometimes by that point, you spend the entire divorce playing catch up to your spouse who has been preparing their case before they hired an attorney.

5. Try to manage your expections. Be honest about what you want when talking to your attorney.

Do you need to hire an attorney?

This is an excellent question. For many individuals who have been separated for more than a year and are contemplating an uncontested divorce where there are no children, no property, no debts, no alimony issues there are forms that you can use represent yourself. You are not required to hire an attorney. If you consider this route, make sure to look for forms with specific instructions that you feel comfortable following. Additionally, legal services offers free classes to help individuals represent themselves in a divorce.

If there are contested issues, consult with an attorney. You don't have to hire the attorney if you are not satisfied with a consultation. Start early, ask questions, and keep a journal of what is going on in your life.

How Can you help your Attorney help you with your Divorce?

One of the most important things that I like for clients to do is to write down what they would like to accomplish in this divorce and their disagreements with their spouse. It helps to focus the client on what is important to them because sometimes the attorney might have have a completely different focus on what you want. It also helps to determine your expections with the court system.

As much as letting a client know their legal options, I like to help clients transition through this painful process to hopefully get their life back to a normal place or better. Being able to give a client some peace of mind helps determine if the attorney and client are a good fit.

Going through a divorce can be like jumping out of a plane. Your attorney is similar to a parachute to help with the landing. If both you your attorney know what you want and expect, it will help to determine your legal rights and whether all of your complaints can be addressed through court.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Mediation is hot, hot, hot

It’s summer and hot and mediation has suddenly become hot! Just in the month of July, we’ve all heard about President Arias of Costa Rica mediating the dispute between the old and new Presidents of Honduras,
( we’ve heard Tom Friedman, the New York Times op-ed columnist call for the various ethnic groups in Iraq meet immediately with a mediator to reach decisions on allocating oil wealth, ( and even the editorial board of the newspaper in our home town, little ole Tucson, AZ, has encouraged the City Council and a developer with whom a downtown development deal had been reached and then not reached, to sit down immediately with a mediator. (See editorial on page 16 of the July 7, 2009, issue of the Arizona Dailey Star.
Wow! Mediation has become the buzz word of this summer. Finally, the media is telling the public what mediators have been saying for years-mediation is quick, confidential, and inexpensive when performed by an experienced mediation professional. Mediators know that parties need to tell their stories, not just state their positions. Experienced mediators know how to move the mediation forward from telling stories to cooperative problem-solving.
So, Jon and Kate of Jon & Kate Plus 8 fame, be cool this summer and find a mediator who can mediate your divorce. There are lots of great mediators in Pennsylvania where you live, who can get you and your kids through this difficult time with sensitivity, confidentiality, and knowledge of the legal, financial, and psychological issues associated with divorce. That the cost of mediation is so much lower than litigation is added value.

As always, you can post any 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. Learn more about mediation at MGM 7/15/09

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Honeydew or Honeydo?

At a recent Red Cross Bloodmobile, I was chatting with another donor. (I finally got my four gallon pin after being differed for visiting Mexico! It was her first time.) We were kidding that I would not be able to do any chores at home the rest of the day. She asked me what chores I had. When I told her, she said they were on my honeydo list. I thought she was talking about honeydew melons but she explained to me what a honeydo list was. As usual, I googled honeydo and found the following at :

"Almost any man (and some women) who has been married or involved in some type of long-term cohabitating relationship has had experience with one of these. A honeydo list is that list of things that your significant other (usually wife/girlfriend) has put together for you to do. The name obviously comes from "honey, do this...honey, do that..." etc. Oftentimes the author of the list will make one of these when said author is going to be out and about and leaving the significant other at home. "Do this while I'm gone, please."
Things that might potentially appear on a honeydo list:
Take out the garbage
Fix that loose doorknob (could potentially be any doorknob in and around the house)
Do some laundry
Fix that broken drawer
Rake the leaves
Shovel the snow off the driveway
Feed the pet dog/cat/fish/bird/hampster/python/tarantula/Richard Simmons
Mow the lawn
Tape that soap opera I watch, pause through commercials if you can
Do some dishes
Clean out all the ashtrays
Get rid of rancid leftovers in the fridge
Water the flowers
Return those DVDs/Videos (they're lying about that whole end of late fees thing!)
Fix the loose board on the floor in the den
Unclog the garbage disposal
Go get some milk, we're out
Pick up some bread, too, the low carb stuff please
Pick your dirty clothes off of the bedroom floor
Pick up the dry cleaning
Bury that body, it's starting to smell
Clean out and organize the junk drawer"

So what does this have to do with divorce or mediation? Think about the following: Do you appreciate tasks your significant other does on the honeydo list? Who will do these tasks if you are 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 7/2/09

Thursday, June 25, 2009

British Divorce and Bad Financial Guesses

It was interesting to read an article in the May 26, 2009 New York Times by Landon Thomas, Jr. entitled, "For Wealthy British Husbands, ‘Mr. Tooth Calling’ Brings a Chill." Divorce attorneys seem very much the same on both sides of the Atlantic or as they say the "Pond" as well as anywhere in the United States See the entire article at What I found most interesting in the article was the discussion of one of his cases where the former husband tried to abrogate the divorce settlement because he called the market wrong. This is happening everywhere with the Madoff problems and the fall of housing prices. In a divorce it may now be better to edge your bets and share the potential upside and downside.
As always, you can post any 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. Learn more about mediation at WM 6/25/09

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Divorce Rate and the Economy

Andrew J. Cherlin, author of "The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today," wrote an excellent OpEd piece entitled "Married with Bankruptcy" in the May 29, 2009 New York Times. You can see the entire essay
at Cherlin says that "in times of economic crisis, Americans turn to their families for support. If the Great Depression is any guide, we may see a drop in our sky-high divorce rate. But this won’t necessarily represent an increase in happy marriages, nor is the trend likely to last. In the long run, the Depression weakened American families, and the current crisis will probably do the same." He goes on to say that "But history suggests that this response will be temporary. By 1940 the divorce rate was higher than before the Depression, as if a pent-up demand was finally being satisfied. The Depression destroyed the inner life of many married couples, but it was years before they could afford to file for divorce. Today’s economic slump could well generate a similar backlog of couples whose relationships have been irreparably ruined. So it is only when the economy is healthy again that we will begin to see just how many fractured families have been created."
Many divorce professional are struggling. If Cherlin is right, this is only temporary. We must prepare for the pent up demand and the flood of cases that will come.
As always, you can post any 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. Learn more about mediation at WM 6/18/09

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Divorce, Children, and Religion

Religious issues often come up in divorce cases. It is not unusual to have a provision in a divorce agreement about a religious divorce or how the children will be raised religiously. The Arizona Court of Appeals recently ruled that "one parent in a divorce case can't block a decision by a former spouse to send their child to a religious school." The case was discussed in detail in an article in the Arizona Daily Star by Howard Fischer. See the entire article at Fischer said that "the judges rejected arguments by Gerald Romine that the push by his wife to have their children get a religious education interferes with his constitutional right to direct their education and upbringing. What's more, the judges said an objecting parents even can be forced to pay the child's tuition at the religious school. The only real issue, Judge Daniel Barker said is what is in the best interest of the children."
As always, you can post any 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. Learn more about mediation at WM 6/11/09

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Process, Content, Results

I have always been interested in the concepts of process, content or result. When we do co-mediation and are asked why, we tell the couple that I am an attorney and my co-mediator is a psychologist and the attorneys are result oriented and psychologists are process oriented. When we do comediation, the couple gets the benefit of both. I have also discussed process vs. content with a good friend who is a psychiatrist. He believes that in marriages one partner is often process oriented and one is content oriented. It is better to focus on process in a marriage and in a divorce. David Foreman discusses this in an article entitled , " Marriage Counseling Session - Process vs. Content." See entire article at
He states, "couples are completely involved in content when the real trouble is the process - the underlying patterns of behavior and attitude that are tearing at the fabric of the relationship. The content is always changing - when it's not the dishes it's why one partner ignored the other at a party - but the process remains the same. It's what's at the root of their problems. They thought it was about stacked dishes. But they can't even address the issue of the dishes until they address the way they speak to each other. If you leave dirty dishes in the sink you don't deserve to be put down. This is not about dishes, it's about attachment and the pain that happens when that attachment is broken.
Process is how things are said and how people react and feel. The content is usually irrelevant. Care about process and your relationship will grow."
As always, you can post any 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. Learn more about mediation at WM 6/4/09

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Divorce Health Insurance

Health insurance is one of the big issues in divorce but couples don’t always think about until they come in to see us. The problem is one of the partners can’t continue on the existing family health insurance plan. The person can always get COBRA (few people know this acronym stands for Comprehensive Budget Reduction Act and the letter have nothing to do with health insurance) coverage for 18 to 36 months depending on the plan. The cost is still significant and there is a problem with preexisting conditions or conditions that develop during the 18 or 36 months. An article in the May 16, 2009 New York Times by Lesley Alderman entitled "Buying Health Insurance Begins With Homework" is an excellent discussion of some options other than COBRA. You can read the entire article at It is the same advice we usually give clients. I keep watch what is happening in Washington about health insurance and hope they fix the problem.
As always, you can post any 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. Learn more about mediation at WM 5/28/09

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How damaging is a custody dispute to your child?

Consider the following article:

“Children of the Family Court”

“Children are born loving their parents... After a time they begin to judge them…
Never do they forgive them.”

I wish I could remember who penned these poignant words. I did not. However, during my years as a South Carolina family court judge I would frequently quote them to hundreds of fathers and mothers who appeared before me.

I want to share some insight with you that you will find neither comforting nor validating. To be candid, I hope you find it unsettling.

After over thirty-five years of practicing family law (as an attorney, a judge and now as a family court mediator) I have witnessed firsthand the anger, bitterness, hurt and sadness experienced by wives and husbands, and fathers and mothers going through the anguish of a divorce and custody fight involving their children. From my unique vantage point as a judge I was able to view some of society’s more disturbing human traits.

Let me share this with you. If you are scheduled to appear in a family courtroom, this is what happens (the sequence of events is not necessarily essential):

• Your case may be scheduled for one day of trial. Actually, that means, at best, you will be inside the courtroom for six hours only (family courts typically run from 9:30 AM – 12:30 PM, and then from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM).

• Your attorneys will call your witnesses to testify, and you will testify, and each side with be subject to questions from your spouse’s attorney. The ultimate objective of your spouse’s attorney is to paint you, as a spouse and a parent, in the worst light possible. The experience can be excruciating and humiliating, with strangers being made privy to your family’s most private moments.

• A guardian ad litem who is court-ordered to represent your children’s interest will most often testify; however, depending on the age of your children, they, too, may be called as a witness to testify.

• At the conclusion of your case, and perhaps several months after the trial has ended, the family court judge will enter his or her decision. And your lives and the lives of your children will then become governed by the order or decree of your family court judge, which most certainly will impact your family for many years to come.

After parents and their attorneys had entered and been seated inside my courtroom, I would make these remarks to them:

“For whatever reason you’re here in my courtroom today, please know that I’m truly sorry you’re sitting here; and I have to believe that you’d rather be anywhere on the face of this earth than sitting here listening to me. But you must understand that I didn’t invite you here…you brought your case to us, and by sheer serendipity (the luck of the draw), your case was placed on my trial docket to be heard by me today.

I also know that custody of your children remains an issue that you haven’t been able to resolve. So today, you must realize that I’m the parent of your children, because you’re asking me to make those parenting plan decisions for you. It’s not my choice…it’s yours. But I promise you this – I will pay close and careful attention to your testimony, and I will make the best possible decision I can make for your children based on what you tell me today from this witness stand. Then I will forget your names and go on to another case tomorrow.

If that sounds harsh, I apologize. I’m trying to be truthful with you both. But I also need to remind you, as I have to remind myself every day, that in the lives of our children, when this day comes to an end, this day will be gone from our collective lives forever. So if your children spent yesterday, or even this morning, upset and concerned over their parents’ divorce, and if your children went to sleep last night fearful of what their own lives would be like after tomorrow, then we have all robbed your children of these days…forever. Shame on us.

I’m saying this to you right now because before I begin your trial I want to recess your case and let you step outside my courtroom with your attorneys, and I want you to take a step back from this brink, and re-think whether you want to be your children’s parents today or would you prefer that they become, for lack of a better description…children of the family court.”

Often, and fortunately, these comments would serve as the catalyst to the parents’ settlement, which included their agreement as to how they chose to co-parent their children in their post-divorce world.

If it sounds comforting to you that these parents ultimately realized the risks involved with a stranger making their own child’s parenting decisions, not so fast. That’s only part of this difficult equation – that part dealing with the parent-versus-parent relationship. What about the even thornier and ultimately more complex relationship of children-versus-parents?

While a child’s parents were locked in the throes of their own personal turmoil, what questions were these parents asking regarding how their child or children were coping with their own pain and anguish? Please carefully re-read the words at the very beginning of my comments, and you’ll find your answer.

Children, perhaps those even in their pre-teen years, whose parents are going through this marital anguish, become the unknowing (and perhaps even more disturbing, the knowing) victims of their parents’ dysfunction. A parent will often seek their child’s allegiance in a variety of cunning ways, depending on the age of the child, in order to gain some advantage in the “custody wars”. Children then quickly realize they have no input, no voice, no control in the decisions which will affect them, and they are forced into a no-win position: “choose” one parent over the other and the child feels instant repercussions from this decision, which, most prominently, amounts to the child’s overwhelming sense of guilt in conveying a not so subtle message that he or she loves one parent more than the other. The effects are devastating, long-lasting, and many times, permanent.

I could go on, but this seems to me to be a good stopping point for now. However, I need to leave you with one last thought to ponder.

The author, Pat Conroy, wrote these haunting lines in his novel, “The Prince of Tides” –

“If your parents disapprove of you, and are cunning with their disapproval, there will never come a new dawn when you can become convinced of your own value. There is no fixing a damaged childhood.”