Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Are You Ready for Divorce?

Everyone has to decide on his or her own whether they are ready for divorce -- unless their spouse takes the first step and files. In that case, there must be a response.

But, let's talk about the situation where you are trying to decide whether to file for divorce.  How do you really decide?

First, you should think it through and not just react on impulse.  There are good reasons to file, in some cases. But there are also bad reasons to file.You need to keep things in perspective. Maybe you're mad or disappointed about something. You have to decide if it is the last straw or if it's something that's not such a big deal on second thought. Unless it's a safety issue, let a little time pass before you commit to filing. Think it over.

Second, talk with a counselor. You may need an outside perspective. A good counselor can help you think about things in different ways and put them in context. Maybe you have been in denial and you should file. Maybe an event was not so terrible once things calmed down. A counselor may be able to help you figure out other ways, short of divorce, to deal with the situation.

Third, consider talking with trusted friends or family members.  Another point of view from someone who knows and cares about you can be very helpful.  They may help you solidify your resolution to act or not act. Sharing the emotional load will also help with your stress level.

Here are some Cons to consider when trying to decide whether to divorce:

1.  Divorce will disrupt family relationships. That may seem obvious, but keep in mind that relations with many other people will be affected and you may lose out on friendships with members of your spouse's family.  If there are children involved, their lives will be changed in many ways. Transitions are often difficult after divorce.

2.  Financial difficulties are common. It's difficult to run two households on the funds that had been used to pay the bills for just one. It has to be done, but there are normally cutbacks. You may have a hard time until the finances are figured out.

3.  You need to be emotionally ready.  Try to think and plan for the changes ahead. You will probably be lonely, mad and worried at different times. You will have a lot of adjustments to make.

Here are some Pros for filing.

1.  You may be  leaving an unpleasant or unsafe relationship. It may be hard to take the step, but it will be worth it in most cases. You need to protect yourself and your children.

2.  You may have just drifted apart. You may be leaving a relationship where you don't hate or dislike each other. With a divorce, you will both be better off and have a chance for a better relationship.

3.  If your spouse has started a new relationship, you need to move on, too.  You have to face facts. There's very little chance of reconciliation when a new significant other is in place.

What's the best thing you can do to help decide whether to file for divorce? 

Go see an experienced family law attorney.  Together, you should be able to come to a decision.

By the way, a good attorney will sometimes advise you to wait a while before filing. 

So, think it over. Talk it over. Take some time, if you can. Consider the advantages and disadvantages to you. Then make your decision and stay with it. If you want to stay together, you should get counseling since you have been this close to divorce.

Good Luck!

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Do You Really Need a Team of Professionals?

For some people, the leap from hiring a lawyer to hiring a team of professionals for a divorce is very difficult. In Collaborative divorces, it is common in North Texas and other areas for the Collaborative attorneys to select a neutral mental health professional (MHP) and a neutral financial professional (FP) to work with the parties.

The attorneys and other professionals divide up the work so that the best qualified people are in charge of gathering information and leading the discussions for their areas. The MHP leads in working on issues relating to children, if there are parenting issues. In addition the MHP leads joint meetings. The FP is in charge of gathering and organizing financial information for everyone.

Some people worry about the cost, others don't want a complicated process, while some feel more comfortable with a more traditional approach.

Cost. As you may know, attorney fees can be expensive. On the other hand, the MHP and FP typically charge roughly half the hourly rate of the attorneys.  In regular litigation, the attorney does all the work. In Collaborative, you have a specialist taking charge of the preliminary work for parenting and financial issues, but charging around half the rate of the attorneys who would have been doing the same work. Much of the MHP and FP's work is done directly with the parties and without attorneys being present. You get great results at a reduced cost.

Complicated.  Dividing responsibility so that the most qualified person oversees different areas and works directly with the parties is a less complicated process.  The preliminary work is done by specialists and then reviewed by all. The attorneys provide the legal overview to make sure an appropriate and enforceable order is the result.

Traditional approach.  The alternative is to file pleadings, go to court,  and negotiate with the courtroom looming in the background. You can let the judge apply a standard possession schedule and standard child support orders. The parties can exchange information through the traditional written Discovery process, which usually costs thousands of dollars before it is over. It all takes a lot of attorney time, which translates into cost.

If you happen to have a divorce where both sides are in agreement on everything, you don't need Collaborative Law. If you agree on getting a divorce, but disagree on the parenting issues or on the finances, you should consider a Collaborative divorce.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

What to do If Your Spouse Wants a Divorce -- But You Don't

Sometimes the subject of divorce comes up and people are surprised about it. Some people don't pay attention to warning signs of discontent and some willfully ignore problems that are building up.

In spite of, and sometimes because of, the inattention by one spouse, the other spouse may be sensing that it is time to split up. It is quite common for one spouse to have moved quite a distance down the path to unhitching while the other spouse is standing still.

From another perspective, some people are blissfully unaware of problems and some people intentionally put their head in the sand.

Whatever your situation is, being the "left behind" spouse is often difficult and painful.  If you are in that situation, here are some ideas for you to consider.

1.  Get counseling for yourself. Disregard whatever excuses come to mind. Please help yourself and find a counselor to work with. You can gain a lot of understanding of what is happening and what you may or may not be able to do. Eventually, you will feel better. Don't try to figure things out on your own.

2.  You can suggest marital counseling for you and your spouse. Of course, you can't make your spouse attend, but it is worth a try. The counselor may help resolve some issues or may confirm that the marriage is irretrievably broken. There's small cost with a possible helpful outcome.

3.  Listen to your spouse.  If you can have a discussion with your spouse, stop talking and actively listen to what his or her concerns are. You may not have actively listened to your spouse in a long time.  Just listen and try to understand. Combine this with the next step.

4.  Don't argue.  You may think your spouse is totally wrong about something, but now is not the time to argue with him/ her.  If you want to win your spouse back, out-arguing them is not the path. You should learn from a counselor how and when to have discussions. Your passionate argument to convince your spouse to stay will more likely drive them away.  Get some help before you discuss matters.

5.  Be kind to your spouse.  Don't discuss the divorce. Don't put up roadblocks. Don't be uncooperative. Be nice and be someone your spouse would like to spend time with.  If you have kids, be an active, sharing parent. Trying to teach your spouse a lesson or making their life difficult will not rekindle the old romance. Before you act, think about how your spouse will probably react.  Will that help you get back together?

Bonus Suggestion:  Keep in mind that the marital problems are rarely one sided. You each have contributed to the problems.  Be willing to accept responsibility for problems, but focus on the solutions, rather than finding fault.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Why There's No Free Consultation

Free Consultation?
We get many calls that include the question about whether we give a free consultation.  We don't mind getting the question and we understand why many people ask. They may think they can get a regular consultation with lots of useful information at no cost.

No More Free Consultations
We stopped doing free consultations years ago. Back then, we focused on giving out a little information and encouraging the prospective client to call us.  It became clear after a while that many people came in with no intention of hiring us. They just wanted the information.

Our New Approach
So we changed our approach. We started to charge for the initial consultation for those who want to spend time with us in the office.

The Free Part
But we still give away a lot of information. We developed an extensive web site that provides a great deal of information to our clients. Later, we added two blogs that have been running over 10 years and which have over 300 articles with information. There's no charge for the web information.

Check Us Out First
Now, we let people check us out online and decide if they like our approach on issues. They can also educate themselves on many issues.

What You Pay For
Then, if they  like what they see, they can make an appointment to meet with an attorney. We listen to you, give feedback on your ideas and sometimes do some brainstorming to come up with a plan and possible solutions. We explain the law and how it applies to your case, as well as discussing the facts of your case.

This Works!
We know this won't please the people who still something for nothing, and we're sorry we can't help everyone. For the serious people who want to hire an attorney, this seems to work well.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

A Third Option -- It's Not Just a Choice Between 2 Options

In regular negotiations between spouses, most often, if they don't agree, each one has one preferred proposal. When they have equal votes, it's often hard to agree on a choice. A lot of the reason for that is that the choices are usually framed so that one spouse wins and the other loses or has to give up on something they want.

In those type of negotiations, the process usually leads to stalemate or frustration because someone was pressured into agreeing to something he or she didn't really want.

What if there were a third option, or fourth, fifth or sixth option?

Wouldn't that improve chances of reaching an agreement? Wouldn't it also increase chances of reaching a better agreement?

Traditional negotiations usually involve limited options, with the parties dug in to their positions and often fixated on "winning".

Can you see where this is going?

For couples working in the Collaborative Law process to solve problems, there are more options and those can be improved with the help of the professional team.

One reason the Collaborative process works so well is that the attorneys are experienced in Family Law and they work with the common goal of finding the best solutions for both sides.

Another reason: When we bring in experienced neutral financial and parenting experts, that leads to new and better options based on knowledge and years of experience.

A lot of people think they can work out agreements with their spouse to save time and money. In a few cases, that is true. In most cases, it doesn't work out well. In fact, spouses often get angry and stay angry for a while from those discussions that degenerate into arguments.

If the issues or future civility are important to you, maybe you should consider the Collaborative Law process as the means for achieving a peaceful solution.

Monday, October 1, 2018

What to do If Your Spouse Suggests a Collaborative Divorce

If you are suddenly faced with a request for a divorce and your spouse wants to use Collaborative Law, what should you do?

Since  you are reading this, you are obviously researching the topic and that's good.  It helps to have a little knowledge about the process to help you make decisions. 

Here are some suggestions to consider. 

1.  Remain calm.  You may have been thinking about divorce or discussing it. Although some spouses can hide their planning, it is rarely a total surprise.  There usually are problems that are obvious. As difficult as divorce can be, life afterwards can be a major improvement in many ways.

2. It's going to happen.  Keep in mind that if one person in a marriage wants a divorce, it will ultimately happen. You can slow it down, but you can't stop it.

3. Get counseling. Divorce is never easy. Seeing a counselor for a while can be a big help. Check with friends, associates and especially lawyers to find a counselor who can help. Try out one or more counselors to find someone you are comfortable with.

4.  Look into Collaborative Law.  If your spouse already wants to try it, you are lucky! In most cases, it is a much better process for many reasons.  You can get information from several sources:  blogs like this, web sites, YouTube videos, Facebook pages and different organizations, such as Collaborative Divorce Texas, and the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. In addition, there are local practice groups, which are small groups of Collaborative professionals who work together in certain geographic areas.

5.  Hire an experienced Collaborative attorney.  Find out how many Collaborative cases the attorney has handled.  In Texas, you can ask if the attorney has been credentialed by Collaborative Divorce Texas.  They award "Credentialed" and "Master Credentialed" designations which are earned by having handled a significant number of Collaborative cases and being recommended by other Collaborative professionals, among other things.  In addition, make sure there is a good chemistry between you and the attorney so you can work well together.

If you are facing divorce, whether you like it or not, Collaborative Law is the way to go in many cases. It is less stressful, more efficient and leads to more creative solutions that can work for either party,  For your best experience, follow these steps.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

DIY Divorce Negotiating -- Why it's a Bad Idea!

In an age when more and more people want to "do it themselves" with so many things, people negotiating their own divorces seems like a natural.  After all, who's more interested in the outcome than the parties themselves?  Think of the money they can save by not hiring lawyers, and think of the fights that can be avoided by keeping the lawyers out of it. Plus, the parties either believe they know the details of their case or trust their spouse will share the information. 

Everyone knows Texas is a 50-50 state, right, so dividing things up should be easy. And you can find all the forms for child support and visitation online.

So, what could go wrong?

Although I am naturally an optimist, I have to point out a number of potentially costly problems with the DIY approach. 

1.  You may be misinformed.  For example, property doesn't have to be divided 50-50, and usually there's some variance from that.  There are a number of factors that can affect the division. You may also not know whether something is separate property (not to be divided) or included in the community property.  Some situations are complicated and relying on the internet may not be smart.

2.  You can be bullied. Hopefully, that's not the case, but I have seen numerous cases where one party dominates the other and obtains a very favorable property division, child support order or custody arrangement. That is much less likely when there are attorneys involved.

3.  You may not be aware of the true strengths of your bargaining position.  Knowledge of the law, along with experience, can unlock a lot of options for getting the result you want to achieve.  Some issues are settled and don't need to be re-litigated.  Or, you may be in a weak position and it would be helpful to learn that before you are in too deep.

4.  You probably have no experience with how different approaches work.  For example, you or your spouse may want a 50-50 time sharing arrangement with the kids.  There are several different models used for that purpose and an experienced lawyer can help you understand how they work and which might be best option for you.

5.  Overall, it is better to have someone experienced to bounce ideas off.  You are dealing with serious and very important issues.  Having a second opinion or alternate point of view can help you test your ideas or your spouse's ideas before you agree to them. Take a little time and have a discussion.  What you are discussing will affect you and your children the rest of your lives.

While the tendency may be to favor saving money by doing the negotiating yourself,  that can easily leave you with bad agreements and bad court orders.  What you are going through has such enormous effects on your future that you really need to be smart and get help.  Be smart, not cheap!