"The greatest discovery of all time
is that a person can change his future
by merely changing his attitude."
"The greatest discovery of all time
is that a person can change his future
by merely changing his attitude."
—don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements
Each of my clients receives a copy of The Four Agreements with this bit of advice: Dare to be aware .. reboot your brain and aura by studying the truths of the four agreements and see how it affects the outcome of your case.
You have made your decision to separate (escape) from your spouse or you have made your decision with your Attorney to file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Unfortunately, based on economics today, many married couples must co-habitate in the same residence during the divorce (and for reasons advised by their Attorney other than economic) which I assure you is hell as a contested divorce, due to the financial crisis in the Judiciary creating a shortage of judges, may take 3 to 36 months.
However, if you are able to move out from the residence based on your decision or the advice of your Attorney (because your spouse is refusing to vacate the residence and you lack ability to obtain an immediate court order for their removal), please be acutely aware of the following:
1. Until you vacate the residence, your spouse will search every square inch of the house, your personal belongings, your automobile, your computer (beware of keystroke programs), your cell phone, your social media (Facebook, etc.) to ascertain notes, messages, texts, emails, money, etc. for many different reasons;
2. You should obtain a replacement garage door opener and program it to the code of your opener to have access through the garage door as future entry into the garage and/or residence after you vacate. Your spouse may change the locks on the residence but often he/she does not remember to change the code on the garage door opener. If the residence is in joint names, you may obtain a locksmith to let you in at any time, but this is usually childish and dangerous. If possible, you should make copies of all keys to automobiles, residence, storage units, locks, etc.
3. You should remove any item that is sentimental to you, i.e., grandmother's dish, photographs, gold coin from father, etc., in that any items that are sentimental that you leave behind may disappear and your spouse will allege that you took them with you and that you are the one who lost them. Because they are sentimental, your Attorney cannot obtain replacement items or compensation for fair market value versus if a television is missing, it is easy to ascertain the fair market value and obtain money for replacement. There is no way to replace sentimental items;
4. You should remove all small items of high value, i.e., jewelry, watches, coins, stock certificates, bonds, etc. as again, if they disappear, your spouse will state that you have them and at this time there is conflicting testimony and the Court, unless the Judge makes a decision based on one person's credibility substantially outweighing the other person's creditability, the assets may not be distributed to either party;
5. You should remove (or copy) all important documents, safe deposit key(s) and copy or upload to a secure Cloud all important information contained on any stationary computer hard drives (CPU) and any other music or social content;
6. You should photograph or electronically record all items remaining in the residence and garage and create a master index of all tangible property left at the residence. Therefore, if any of the property is damaged or disappears, you may seek replacement fair market value of the property. Furthermore, you will need a master inventory for division of all tangible property during your dissolution of marriage, and this is a perfect time to make the inventory, or if you don't have time, you will have the pictures to prepare the inventory at a later time;
7. If you have decided to take bedroom furniture and other furniture, please be aware the Judge will be reviewing the situation to determine if it was done in a fair manner. If a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage has been filed by you or your spouse, there is a Standing Family Law Court Order and it more likely than not prevents you from removing property from the house. Always discuss removal of furniture and other large items from the house/garage with your Attorney before doing so. If you decide to do so either on your own or per permission of your Attorney, please be extremely careful in removing said items as if you are doing it without knowledge of your spouse and your spouse returns home during your move, it is an extremely dangerous situation.
If you must move the items out without knowledge or notice to your spouse, make sure you do it during a time when you know your spouse will not be present for hours in the residence and that you have several adult witnesses with you to observe the removal and moving of the items. You may also notify your local police prior to the removal of items that you may need an officer to do a "keep the peace" check. I do not advise removing any large items that do not have sentimental value and have easy replacement value as the shock and trauma alone of removal of property to your spouse may cause unforeseen reactions from your spouse, as a spouse often reacts versus responds when confronted with relationship issues. Therefore, please do not do so unless you have discussed it with your Attorney and he/she has granted permission to do so or if it is absolutely necessary for you to do so;
8. If you have a child, before you vacate the marital residence (presumably with the child) you must discuss the matter with your Attorney to make sure your moving out of the residence with the child does not harm any of your goals with regard to a proper parenting plan and time sharing schedule between you and your spouse;
9. Removing any pets (dog, cat, spider, lizard, fish, etc.) must be pre-planned with regard to whether your landlord allows a pet. You will need the veterinarian records for upcoming shots, etc. An appropriate message must be left for your spouse notifying your spouse that the pet was removed so that your spouse does not believe the pet has simply disappeared. Be very careful which pet(s) to remove as if your spouse is emotionally dependent on that pet, even though you are affectionate toward the pet, the pet should be with the person who has a greater emotional dependence on the pet;
10. You should discuss with your Attorney which financial accounts to remove and transfer money. There are many reasons to remove sometimes less than one-half and sometimes greater than one-half of the money in checking/savings accounts. Financial institutions may need to be notified to put a "hold" on the account so your spouse cannot take any additional funds. Any cash should be removed from the residence, as again, if it disappears, your spouse will allege that you have it;
11. You should discuss with your Attorney which credit cards, equityline and other debt accounts to cease your spouse's authorized use of or to terminate if in joint names, or if in joint names and you cannot terminate, a decision must be made whether to withdraw the remaining funds available to safeguard during the dissolution process. Generally, if your spouse is not financially responsible you should remove your spouse as an authorized user on all your credit cards and notify the financial institution with an equityline, whether secured to real property or not, to "freeze" the equityline so that it is not maxed out by your spouse. This is a delicate decision as your spouse may be dependent upon certain credit cards and if their dependence on the credit cards is of essence for the day to day survival or raising of your child, then it may be wise not to cancel those credit cards;
12. After you have vacated the residence, you should notify your neighbors that you trust (be very careful who you trust) that you are no longer living in the neighborhood and you would appreciate if they would keep an eye out on the residence as that way you will be able to receive updates on what is going on at your residence. If the residence is in joint names, you are welcome to stop by any time to review the caretaking of the residence as long as you are confident there will not be any domestic violence with your spouse when you are in the process of a "walk-through".
13. You may want to install a "GPS" tracker on the automobile of your spouse if it is titled in your name, or your name and your spouse's name (joint names). Contact a private detective / "Spy store” or review the internet for devices and information. Tracking your spouse reveals many salient facts with regard to potential paramours, entertainment, etc.
These are several matters to consider when vacating your marital residence, but of course, these suggestions should be reviewed in detail with your Attorney as there are probably other issues to consider based on your particular facts of your marriage.
By: Brittany Wong
A marriage usually deteriorates slowly, after months or years of simmering tension and poor communication.
But as most divorced people will tell you, if your outlook on the relationship is already bleak, sometimes there’s a moment ― a big argument or shocking revelation ― that signals to you that the marriage is beyond saving.
Recently we asked divorced men to share what the final straw was in their marriages. See what they had to say below.
“For me, it was learning that my infant daughter had met my wife’s affair partner. I could have probably worked through anything, but that just left me repulsed by the marriage at that point. The best thing now is being able to see how much better off I am as not just a person but as a father. I’ve always been a good dad, but after my divorce, I became a better father than I thought I could be.” ― Daniel D.
“For me, it was the co-dependence she displayed amongst her family members. Her mother would come and stay for weeks or months, obsessively cleaning our home and doing the family laundry. My ex-wife was unable to care for our children without her mother’s constant help. Meanwhile, my family had to schedule and plan any visit whatsoever. I separated from my ex-wife after her brother lived with us without contributing for over 16 months. We were never able to connect as a couple because she put her family first, her kids second and I was a distant third.” ― Drew L.
“The last straw in my marriage wasn’t a fight or an argument. It wasn’t even a misunderstanding or miscommunication. The morning routine in our house was hectic and hurried. My wife usually tried to fix the kids and me a little something to eat while I loaded the car or gave the dog a quick walk before we all left the house together. Most mornings, my wife made me a fruit smoothie, which I always appreciated. I’d slam it down in mere seconds so I wouldn’t have to take it with me in the car. One day, as I was chugging my breakfast, I coughed up a huge wooden shard that went from my smoothie cup to the back of my throat. I gagged as I removed it from my mouth. At first, I had no idea what it was... until I saw a wooden spoon sitting on the counter, its end having been shredded by the blades of the blender. I held it up and showed my wife. She just shrugged. The car ride to work was quiet and I mostly thought about how little my wife cared about me.” ― Bill F.
“My wife asked me to recycle some papers of hers, and as I was going through them, removing our names and addresses, I came across correspondence between her and a divorce attorney, which had been going on since the start of our marriage. In the letters, she was formulating the best plan to get the most money she could from me in support, and one of the letters mentioned a secret brokerage account she had. In that letter, she had asked her attorney when she should transfer stocks from our joint account to her personal account. After the shock wore off and I wiped away my tears, I went out into the very cold night for a long walk, realizing that I had been completely duped and blindsided and the chances of moving forward with our marriage from here were very small.” ― Matt S.
“The thing that put an end to my marriage was when my then-wife was texting with a female love interest on our couch while completely ignoring me. I had asked her several questions and tried to make conversation, and she simply failed to respond. We had decided to open up our relationship as she was becoming more curious about women, which was fine. But I wanted it to be hierarchical nonmonogamy. Clearly, I wasn’t her main preoccupation anymore. We had a lot of other issues to work out. If we weren’t going to cherish one another, it seemed to me we wouldn’t do the hard work necessary to get us back on track.” ― Philip T.
“The last straw for me came after sleeping on the couch for a full year. I began having panic attacks, waking up in the middle of the night with my heart pounding, in a cold sweat, and thinking I was going to have a stress-induced heart attack. I knew then that I had to make a change or I might end up dropping dead.” ― Steve R.
“My ex-wife and I both had our share of fooling around during our eight years of marriage. But we reached a point where we agreed that if one of us stepped out again, the marriage would be over. Shortly after this agreement, I received a call from my wife’s lover’s girlfriend. She gave me her boyfriend’s pager number. She told me that my wife and her boyfriend were together, and that if I called right then, I would receive a call back from my wife within the next two minutes. When I received that call, our marriage was officially over.” ― David A.
“I was exhausted, anxiously trying to return home after an intense travel week for my sales job, when I got the call that made it clear the previous 17 years of marriage counseling was not enough to accomplish the goal of till death do us part. It was the bank, verifying that I had moved $50,000 into my wife’s name and changed the passwords and secret questions to our joint account. It soon became clear that my wife instructed another man to impersonate me and take for herself what was ours. My bank was astute enough to call and ask if I was having marital problems. The level of fear and anger after having been deceived so viciously, when my heart’s desire was to keep my family of six together, was one the most devastating blows. She also shut down our joint checking account. My direct deposit paycheck actually bounced a few days later back to my employer. Her selfishness was no longer something only I could see.” ― Bryan C.
“The last straw came when things were on the rocks and she told her friends. Not too long after, we were at home with our two kids and there was a ring at the door. There was a big basket left at the doorstep. There was a note with some beers and some gifts. My daughter, who was 8 at the time, picked up the note and started reading it. I looked over her shoulder and saw the note was signed by “The Bitches.” It was from her friends, I don’t remember exactly what the note said. It had some words of encouragement to her and a dig at me. They knew I was home with her and our kids. It was right at dinner time. It was totally calculated. They wanted me to see it. At a time when our family was teetering, it could not have come at a worse time. Plus, my kids were unaware of the real situation going on with their parents.
What got me the most was her reaction to the fact that our daughter just read this note. My ex-said, ‘Well, now our daughter now knows what it’s like to have good friends’ and smiled. She loved it. That is when I knew for sure she was done with our marriage.” ― Mark P.
( Article from Huffpost. Link available under the title)
www.talkingparents.com is a website intended to be a free replacement for email, text, and any other electronic messages between co-parents. It is ideal for all shared parenting situations from Dissolution of Marriage to “No Contact” matters, and it is also great for parents who get along just fine.
Again, IT IS FREE. It only takes about a minute to sign up and the company represents they do not share your email address with the other parent. All new messages are clearly marked until they are viewed, and you can post a new message in any conversation at any time.
Once you sign in you can create a new conversation for discussion at any time by clicking on the “new conversation” button. You may attach up to five files to each message and the company records the details of every file transfer. However, the files themselves do not become part of the record. You can download your complete record in PDF format at any time for free, email a copy to any email address directly from the company’s site, or you may order a securely-bound copy from the company.
It is easy to manage your account when your email address, password, time zone and contact information changes. The records include the content of each message, when each message is posted, when each parent signs in and out, every time a file is shared, and even when a parent first views a new message but does not respond. Records do not contain any personal contact information such as email addresses or telephone numbers. If needed for a court hearing or other need, one may order a full-color, securely-bound, and personally-certified copy of their record.
Parents may agree to use TalkingParents.com on their own, or you may ask your Attorney to obtain a Court Order to communicate exclusively through this service if you believe a record would benefit you or your child(ren), or your Attorney / Judge desires to review each party’s ability to communicate regarding shared parenting issues.
I would ask anyone who uses this shared parenting program to advise me of their opinion / experience by posting a comment to this Blog so I may determine whether or not to advise this for use by my clients (and to Judges), as it is a relatively new program which I have not used in my practice.
I look forward to hearing from you.
How to Change your Parenting Relationship
If you and your former spouse have a toxic relationship, I can assure you it is detrimental to your child(ren). If you actually care about your child(ren) (versus a false social persona) there are seven (7) simple steps you may take to dissolve your toxic relationship.
You must do the following:
1. Admit I am in a conflicted co-parenting relationship;
2. Acknowledge that this relationship is not good for my child(ren);
3. Admit where I have done wrong;
4. Make a list of those I have harmed;
5. Apologize to those I have harmed;
6. Start the new co-parenting relationship this minutewith a code of behavior in every situation do the decent thing; and
7. Take a daily inventory. See the mistakes and strive to do better.
It will help to keep a daily notebook with regard to your progress per these seven steps. The only question is whether you have the courage to do this, and whether your love for your child(ren) is greater than the conflict / despise / hatred you have for your former spouse. Only you can answer that question and only you can accomplish these seven (7) steps. Even if your former spouse refuses to change their behavior and he/she continues with a toxic relationship, you may lead by example for yourself, for other people, and most importantly, for your child(ren). Teach your child(ren) how a mature, aware and rational parent acts and responds. It is simple, and your child(ren) is(are) expecting and relying upon you to be the bigger person.
A seasoned divorce attorney knows immediately at the end of a case whether or not the soon-to-be former husband and former wife will be returning to court in the near future and spending all of their college savings for their children on attorneys while re-litigating issue after issue for the next 15 years. A bad parenting plan is a bad parenting plan. The term among divorce attorneys and divorce judges is simply, "Garbage in, garbage out," which means the skill and effort put into an agreement or trial is directly reflected in the agreement or judgment by the Court. One section of your Marital Settlement Agreement with Parenting Plan (MSAPP) is a parenting plan itself. Avoiding these top 10 parenting plan mistakes may save you many thousands of dollars in the future and years of frustration and inconvenience dealing with divorce attorneys and spending time in the divorce courtroom.
The Top "10" Parenting Plan mistakes are:
1. The use of a non-specific parenting schedule (using terms such as "liberal and frequent time sharing") versus a defined and understanding time sharing schedule.
2. Failing to consider future residential moves by either party, whether short or long distance.
3. Failing to consider electronic document sharing (health, education, extra-curricular activity, etc.)
4. Failing to consider travel and travel restrictions, including foreign travel to countries that are not parties of the Hague Convention (this allows a mechanism for return of your child if wrongfully detained in the foreign country.)
5. Failure to discuss whether eye care, braces or mental health, etc. constitutes health treatment, the initiations of said treatment and the sharing of costs.
6. If you child(ren) is(are) young, failing to discuss changes to time sharing and other aspects of the Parenting Plan after the child(ren) reach(es) a certain age and start(s) elementary school, middle school and high school. Furthermore, failure to discuss transportation issues for the child once he or she is 16 years old and he or she is of age to have a driver's license (i.e., automobile, insurance, etc.)
7. Failure to have a unified "chore" list at both residences, and failure to have a unified "discipline" system at both residences. Failure to define a communication schedule and type of communication, including when, how often, who pays for it, type (electronic, cell or landline, etc.) Some former spouses still enjoy being passive-aggressive and calling the child at 6:45 a.m. when they know the entire family is sleeping.
8. Failure to discuss and develop a policy whether pictures of your child can be posted on the internet (Facebook, etc.) by you or a third party.
9. What is the role of step-parents or significant others? And for the purposes of introduction, etc., when does that person become a "significant other"? What is the role of grandparents and extended family?
10. Failure to define support and financial planning. How much support will be paid for matters as extra-curricular activities, tutoring, etc.? How will it be paid? When will the financial obligation end? College funds and life insurance should also be defined, and again determine when the financial obligation for those will end.
Please note the Florida Supreme Court has a "form" Parenting Plan. It is of essence to understand this is merely a form developed by one committee. Pursuant to Florida Statute Ch. 61, there are some mandatory provisions that must be incorporated in the Parenting Plan. However, there are only approximately six mandatory provisions in a Parenting Plan, and therefore you can be as creative as you want in all other clauses. You can put anything you want in the Parenting Plan as long as it is legal and your former spouse either accepts it or you convince the Court to adopt it. My clients have included clauses that include types of acceptable clothing to wear at school (when they are concerned that the other parent does not have adequate taste or maturity to properly dress a child); specific prohibition of contact with known "bad" relatives; mandatory drug testing and the consequences for testing positive for certain substances.
The Parenting Plan is your opportunity to have a contract with your former spouse / parent / partner for your child(ren) that will solely benefit the child(ren) by having consistency and routine between the residences and a unified front, and a proper Parenting Plan is the only way to prevent your child(ren) from playing the two of you against each other, as they have keenly observed you and your former spouse pushing each other's buttons for probably a long period of time and they have observed precisely how you react (unfortunately, other than responding) when said button has been pushed.
Your imagination is the only limitation when developing additional clauses for your Parenting Plan. Remember, the power of the pen (or keyboard).
A Case Management Conference is a meeting scheduled by the Judge to review the status of your case. The substance and procedure of a Case Management Conference varies from Judge to Judge. Some Judges require the client to attend the Case Management Conference, while other Judges do not mandate the attendance of the client, nor do they necessarily mandate the attendance of the Attorney for the client (if that client's Attorney has arranged for another Attorney to cover the matter for them.)
Pursuant to Family Law Rules of Procedure 12.200(a), the purpose of the Case Management Conference is to schedule or reschedule service of motions, pleadings and other papers; set or reset the time of trials; coordinate the progress of the action if complex litigation factors are present; limit, schedule, order and expedite Discovery; schedule disclosure of Expert Witnesses, and discovery of facts known and opinions held by such Experts; schedule and hear motions related to the admission or exclusion of evidence; pursue the possibility of settlement; require filing preliminary stipulations; refer issues to the General Magistrate for findings of fact, if consent is obtained; review if there is a history of Domestic Violence, and if not a prohibiting issue of Domestic Violence, refer the Parties to mediation; coordinate voluntary binding arbitration; appoint Court Experts and allocate expenses for appointments; refer the cause for a Parenting Plan recommendation, social investigation and study, home study and psychological evaluation and to allocate the initial expense for the studies and evaluations; appoint an Attorney or Guardian Ad Litem for a minor child(ren) if required and allocate the expense of that appointment; and schedule other conferences or determine other matters that can aid in the disposition of your divorce.
A properly run Case Management Conference by the Judge saves time and money for the case and allows for better communication between the Attorneys. This creates a more efficient / amicable result in your case. A poorly run Case Management Conference by the Judge only reviews whether or not the case is ready to be put on a trial docket or if there should be another Case Management Conference, and therefore they are only proceeding with the Case Management Conference because it is mandated by the Family Law Rules of Procedure. It is my opinion that this type of Case Management Conference is a waste of time and resources. A proper Case Management Conference is one that the client attends and the Judge thoroughly reviews the case file, pending motions, mandatory disclosure dates and assists the Parties in scheduling mediation. This keeps the case moving along and avoids an Attorney (without ethics) from stalling the case if it is to their client's advantage (for example: delaying the ability to set a temporary hearing wherein your spouse would have to pay you temporary Alimony, child support/Attorney Fees and Costs.)
In "English," ask your Attorney about the Case Management Conference and how the Judge assigned to your case runs his or her Case Management Conference. Discuss with your Attorney whether or not your attendance at the Case Management Conference is mandatory or advisable, and ask your Attorney to explain to you why it is in your interest to properly prepare for the Case Management Conference and how this will help your case. Ask your Attorney how you can assist in the preparation for the Case Management Conference, and as always, tell your Attorney what you want and confirm what you want via email. I hope the Judge assigned to your case properly runs his or her Case Management Conference.
The intent of the new alimony statute is to create guidance to Circuit Court Judges for consistent spousal support rulings. It abolishes all types of alimony but for temporary alimony and final alimony. There is no longer bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational or permanent periodic alimony. It does not address the availability of lump sum alimony.
The statute considers both ability to pay and need for alimony. It creates a low range for amount and duration and a high range for amount and duration, and it is presumed any Judgment within that range is proper. To decide where the Order should fall in that range, there are alimony factors for review (very similar to the existing alimony factors). To deviate outside of that range, the Judge must explain why the guidelines are "inappropriate or inequitable" and she must do so in writing. It is very important to note that this law applies to all matters pending as of October 1, 2016, and therefore, if you have a trial in August, 2016 but is not ruled upon until October 2, 2016, this new statute would apply.
My initial calculations conclude it will save the payor money for a lower end long-term marriage (17 years or less) with gross income differential between the payor and payee of $150,000.00 or less. On the other hand, it seems, but for the time duration, if the parties lived a semi-reasonable standard of living, the payor would pay more money in alimony (but not duration) for long term marriages of 25 years or longer, with gross income differential of $200, 000.00 or more. I suggest you perform your own calculations (per the below formula) and apply the results to your opinion of average Circuit Court rulings.
The formula to determine the low end of duration is multiplication of .25 x number of years of marriage and .75 x number of years of marriage for the high end.
To determine the amount of alimony, the low end is determined by multiplying .015 times the number of years married (not to exceed the number of 20 years married, even if married longer than 20 years), multiplied by the difference in gross income of the divorcing couple (either per month or per year, and if per year, divide by 12). To determine the high end, the multiplier number rises to .020, again with the maximum number of years for the multiplier at 20, unless if the Court establishes duration of the alimony award at 50% or less than the length of marriage, then the Court shall use the actual number of years of marriage up to a maximum of 25 years to calculate the high end of the presumptive alimony amount range. Therefore, if the duration of the marriage is greater than 20 years, there is a possibility the "amount" multiplier for the high end range may increase to 25 years.
1. The Parties have been married for 18 years and have standard W-2 income. The wife makes $50,000.00 per year and the husband makes $150,000.00 per year.
Therefore the low end amount / duration is $2,250.00 / 4½ years and the high end amount / duration is $3,000.00 / 13½ years.
2. The Parties have been married six years, and the wife has small business income of $75,000.00 per year and the husband has W-2 income of $60,000.00 per year.
Therefore the low end amount / duration is $112.50/1½ years and the high end amount / duration is$150.00/4½ years.
It is important to compare this alimony statute with the child support statute, as the child support does have a mechanism for deviation, as does this statute. However, experience concludes that Judges rarely deviate and apply the mathematical formula (either out of convenience or the Attorneys do not present sufficient requests and facts to the Court for deviation). I would expect the same potential application of the alimony guidelines with a high end duration / amount based upon children and whether the payee is a stay-at-home parent/spouse, and toward the lower end if there are not children and both parties are actively employed. Therefore, a rule of thumb / mid-range computation would be 0.0175 x the number of years of marriage (not to exceed 20 years) x the difference in gross income of the Parties, and I would expect negotiation to proceed above and below this rule of thumb amount.
One final note. Although unrelated to alimony, it is important to note that the statute has also entered a presumption that the Court shall begin with a premise that a minor child should spend approximately equal amounts of time with each parent, and to use this premise as a starting point subject to the Parenting Plan Factors.
Two examples: Please note the definition section has been completely reworked for gross income, potential income, underemployed, and many other definitions. There is a presumption that if your marriage is two years or less, there shall be no Order of Final Alimony. Also, imputation of income has been redefined along with the ability to order nominal alimony. The taxability and deductibility of alimony has also been redefined, as has termination, modification and payment of the award.
As of 10/1/10, the child support law is changing. It is changing by how the amount of child support you pay or receive is calculated. If you have your child twenty (20) percent to forty (40) percent of the overnights per year, you will pay less child support, and on the other side of the coin, if your child spends twenty (20) to forty (40) percent of overnights with your former spouse, you will receive less child support (than compared to the law prior to 10/1/10). Your child support does not automatically change if previously ordered prior to 10/1/10, but rather this is the result of cases after 10/1/10. I have noticed in my calculations that the average amount of child support you will receive (if your child is with you the majority of the time) is much LESS. So, it is very important to concentrate on the alimony and asset distribution portion of your case for your financial security. There is also a new type of alimony as of 7/1/10, called "durational" alimony, which we will discuss in the future.
Your divorce is a bench trial, which means a Judge decides your case not a jury. You can go sit in the Courtroom of your assigned Judge at most anytime they have hearings or trials. By watching your Judge on somebody else's case, you may understand how that particular Judge runs their Courtroom, and you may be a bit less nervous during any of your hearings or trial, and you may understand the process a bit more. It is also a good way to watch attorneys and other Husbands/Wives, and what tends to work in a case presentation and what tends not to work in a case presentation. If you are experienced at watching attorneys and Judges, you may develope an "eye" for the lazy versus not lazy ones. This could help you in your selection of an attorney and your case, as your case will change your life forever, hopefully for the betterment of yourself and your children (and even your former spouse as the only resolution is a fair win/win resolution for everybody).
A lot of people (attorneys, mental health counselors, expert witnesses) will act like they care about your case. Unfortunately, during my cynical days, I question whether anybody actually cares as much as they act. Go with your gut instinct. If you do not think the individual you are paying to help you (with your divorce or other marital-related issue) actually truly cares about you, FIRE them immediately. Your gut instinct is alway right. Remember, your attorney and any expert you hire works for you and you can fire them anytime you want! Namasté.
The Number 500 is the average amount of divorce and relationship cases your divorce Judge is handling at any given time. That is a lot! So, is it a realistic expectation that when the Judge is hearing your case that he or she is mentally and physically able to concentrate and pay attention to all the testimony and evidence? I do not think so. Therefore, focus on the main issues, the important issues. Do you really think anybody is going to listen to your irrelevant babble detailing every failing of your spouse? The Judge does not care who was bad. This is not a 3rd grade sandbox. The Judge cares about the important facts of your marriage and case, so stay focused (which your attorney damn well better help you do) on those facts.
Your Divorce will end up on a piece of paper: either a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage (a judgment written by a Judge after a trial) OR, a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage incorporating a Marital Settlement Agreement (which is an agreement agreed to and signed by you and your spouse. The point is you need to be very aware of whether or not you can actually enforce what is written on that piece of paper. For example, if your spouse agrees to pay a credit card debt in your name only and he or she does not pay it, can the Judge do anything to your spouse to make them actually pay it? If it is alimony or child support they were supposed to pay and did not, the Judge can incarcerate (put in jail) your spouse. That is "enforcement".
But with regard to credit card debt, the Judge is basically powerless to enforce payment of it, and the Judge's options are limited. If you agreed to lower or no alimony in exchange for your spouse paying your credit card debt, you are only receiving a piece of paper with ink on it. It is useless (if your spouse is not honorable and does not pay that credit card debt.) Be careful. It is the job of your attorney to advise you whether what you are agreeing to or seeking from the Judge will actually be enforceable after it is ordered. A piece of paper that is not enforceable is a waste of time and money. Do not fall into that trap. I have had many consultations with former spouses where the damage is done because their Final Judgment is just a worthless piece of paper. A good attorney would plan adequate remedies and safeguards for this situation.
In my 48 years of recent existence, I have noticed that people who are broke tend to be nicer and less stuck up. I think a person has time for human interaction and appreciation once they are rid of thier material possessions as those excess material possessions will own the person who possesses, versus what one may percieve as owning their material possessions. I have witnessed friends, clients, colleagues and acquaintances go from what they perceived as being rich to being broke, and you know what, they tend to be nicer and less stuck up once they are broke. So, maybe a bad economy is actually good, to some extent.
If you have been married 25 years or longer, you should not expect to make a decision to divorce your spouse and that your emotional pain will just cease. Your decision, once you finally make it, will feel like your decades of problems have been lifted off of your shoulders, but please expect to have proper sadness and grieving in the months to come. If you understand that it is an emotionally painfull process, a sad process that one should grieve, then when you have these feelings they will not be debilitating to your day to day life, and finally a smile will emerge. So, it is ok to cry and then it is ok to smile.
If your spouse is a Narcissist, your divorce and beyond will be difficult. If you understand how and why your narcissist spouse is acting towards you, the pain will be a bit less, but have no misunderstanding that if you have a child together, it is basically a life of turmoil. Be glad you escaped when you did, as your healing can start. A good book for your understanding and healing is "Surviving the Storm: Strategies and Realities when Divorcing a Narcissist" by Richard Skerritt.
Often during a client consultation or conference, I am aware that my client is under so much stress and in so much pain that, although my mouth is moving and my words are emitting forth, my client is not hearing a word I am saying. This is a good time for me to remember to stop talking and start listening. (This is also a good time for a client to have confidence in their attorney's ability to do what is right and fair in the long term.) But once I realize it's time to stop talking and start listening, I have been amazed how clients often have the best ideas on how to proceed in their case or how to settle certain matters. I have seen it before, how interesting facts or ideas can suddenly emerge from the client in ways that were not asked or intended. Solutions are tricky and elusive and can occur when you become more aware of listening instead of talking. So, if you don't have any idea what's going on, and why, consider turning your seemingly irrelevant thoughts into specific questions. I do think it's o.k. to ask your attorney to shut up occassionally and just listen. You do have the best ideas.
During your divorce case, there will be many changes. Some of your goals and intentions in the beginning of your case may not be the same in the middle or end of your case. Change is a constant. It's okay to change your mind and your desires. Sometimes you will feel secure in the process of your case and sometimes you will feel unsecure in the process of your case. Remember you are working towards an end result, and facts in your life, your spouse's life and your children's lives can change weekly and monthly. If you understand and expect change during your case, it will be much less traumatic for you. Change can be a different or even a good thing to look forward to, as stagnation is rot, and nobody or nothing can grow with or from rot.
I am involved in a case where the former wife is dating her attorney. I represent the former husband. She has two (2) children. She acts like she is concerned about the welfare of her children and she acts like she is concerned about how the children get along with her former husband, their father. She is a fraud and a fake, as if she actually considered how the children felt about her boyfriend being in a legally adverse relationship with her former husband/father, she would conclude that just the perception to the children will emotionally harm them for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, she is so concerned about her alimony check and she is so lazy she will do anything to avoid working, even forever damaging her children by dating her attorney. I wonder how she avoids actually considering the harm of her actions. She does not realize it, but it is affecting her physically, as every time I see her at a court hearing or deposition or mediation or otherwise, her physical body is deteriorating from her life condition of being lazy and avoidance. It is ok to get a job if it will avoid a toll on your children, and therefore be able to hire and pay an attorney to represent you other than having to date one.