Are You a Victim of Parental Alienation? Where to Find Help

Written February 20th, 2013
Categories: Divorce Parental Alienation, Uncategorized

Parental Alienation may be a growing trend in our country. Defined as “when a child expresses unjustified hatred or unreasonably strong dislike of one parent, making access by the rejected parent difficult or impossible,” (source) parental alienation occurs most often in divorce with high-conflict child custody battles. The child, sometimes by the indoctrination of the custodial parent, expresses intense dislike of the non-custodial parent. Occasionally, accusations of abuse come with the breach of affection, further complicating separation or divorce.

What if you are the alienated parent? What can you do or where can you go to get support?

Across the country, groups of affected parents and their advocates are banding together to support each other. Such groups work to educate families, influence officials and advocate for legal changes to promote equal parenting time during a divorce. Looking online or in local directories will provide information about such groups. In Florida, for example, meetings are held in Lakeland and Naples. Click here for a list of support groups in several states.

If a support group is out of reach, try some written resources. There are several books on the market that tell the stories of this hardship. A Family’s Heartbreak, a book and a blog, chronicles a father’s alienation from his son for 18 years and their eventual reuniting when his son became an adult. The blog, found here, not only shares some stories from the book but also reflects on news items pertaining to this issue. This is just one of a number of written resources on this issue.

Another support resource is to find and work with a professional therapist or psychologist. They can help you gain perspective and work out grief issues.

Last, but not least, look for an attorney who specializes in cases of parental alienation. Again, looking online can provide you with a list of resources but be sure to meet potential candidates to test whether you are a good fit for each other.

As always, don’t try to do this alone whether you reside in West Palm Beach or in Wellington.   Look to these resources as well as trusted family and friends to help you and your child through a difficult time.

Divorcing Later in Life

Written January 30th, 2013
Categories: Divorce Life Stages, Divorce Trends, Uncategorized

Although the divorce rate in the US has declined slightly in recent years, one segment of the population has doubled its rate in the past 20 years: the 50+ year old category. Research sociologists Susan Brown and I-Fen Lin of Bowling Green State University will present their findings when they share their paper, “The Gray Divorce Revolution,” at Ohio State University in April.

“In 1990, only one in 10 people who got divorced was 50 or older; by 2009, the number was roughly one in four. More than 600,000 people ages 50 and older got divorced in 2009.” Wall Steet Journal online

So what seems to be the issue? The generation experiencing this trend, the Baby Boomers, have different ideas for the core meaning of marriage. Brown shares this thought, “In the 1970s, there was, for the first time, a focus on marriage needing to make individuals happy, rather than on how well each individual fulfilled their marital roles.” This shift has caused discontent among many couples who are facing empty nests for the first time in many years. They begin pondering life in terms of having an ending and looking at their dreams: fulfilled or unfulfilled.

One common element of those divorcing later in life seems to be a previous marriage. “Fifty-three percent of the people over 50 now getting divorced have done so at least once before. . . Having been married previously doubles the risk of divorce for those ages 50 to 64; for those ages 65 and up, the risk factor quadruples,” says Brown. In addition, simply having less experience at being married may increase the chances for divorce. “Nearly one half of those who divorced in 2009 had been married fewer than 20 years; of those who stayed together, nearly three in five had been married for more than 30 years.”  Family law attorneys from Jupiter to Wellington would agree that divorces in Palm Beach County are also reflecting this national trend.

Can I Keep the Pets in my Florida Divorce?

Written April 24th, 2012
Categories: Divorce Advice, Divorce Property Law, Uncategorized

Pets and DivorceWe become quite attached to our pets over time.  We bond with them.  We play with them.  We feed and nurture them.  They provide solace during our times of crises and emotional turmoil.  They become one of the family.  We grieve them when they die.  In divorce cases, experienced divorce attorneys from Jupiter to West Palm Beach recognize that pets are important part to families.  Unfortunately, the courts in Florida treat pets not as a member of the family but rather as a form of property.

Here are some basic issues to remember divorce and pets in Florida:

1.  No matter how resolutely you feel that your pet is part of the family, Florida courts treat animals as property during the divorce;

2.  As property, equitable distribution laws apply to your pet.  Therefore, your pet is subject to be awarded to either you or your spouse.  The only exceptions are if you can prove during the divorce, that your pet is your separate property.  Generally, you can only prove that your pet is your separate property if:

a.  You owned your pet prior to being married (proven through bills of sale, vet bills dated prior to the marriage, etc.);

b.  Your pet was given specifically to you as a gift during the marriage by someone other than your spouse (which may be somewhat difficult to prove); and

c.  Your pet has been either willed or bequeathed to you (such as a long-lived parrot willed to you by your uncle);

3. If you have a valuable pet such as a horse, purebred, or show animal, it will be considered to be a valuable asset and may be treated accordingly.

If you and your spouse do not agree as to the ownership of the valuable pet, the judge could order that the animal be sold and the proceeds divided according to what the judge thinks is appropriate.

Although in Florida your pet is legally considered to be property, you may wish to consult with an experienced attorney to develop tactics to either negotiate or litigate the ownership of your pet.  For instance, if you have minor children (human) who have formed a close attachment with the pet, consider letting the pet go to the parent who has majority timeshare of the children.  To view other strategies, please visit my You Tube video, “How can I Keep the Pets in a Divorce?”.

The litigation of pets is a very emotional issue in court.  Because of our close bonding with our pets, make sure that you don’t shortchange yourself.  Inform your attorney early in the case and prepare your positions in negotiation and litigation on this issue.

Seven Benefits of Collaborative Divorce Versus Traditional Divorce

Written April 17th, 2012
Categories: Divorce, Divorce Collaborative Law, Uncategorized

People from Jupiter to Wellington are searching for other alternatives to a traditional divorce.  There are many reasons to use the collaborative divorce process if your spouse is willing and your family is a good fit for the process.  The following advantages describe some of the benefits of the collaborative divorce:

1. The process is generally less costly than litigation.  A collaborative divorce does not use competing experts and the parties are not wasting their financial assets by constantly litigating in court;

2. The process is generally less time-consuming.  The collaborative case can frequently be completed within four to six meetings versus six months to two years that a contested case may take to be resolved in Palm Beach County;

3. An atmosphere of cooperation reduces the psychological/emotional stress that accompanies traditional divorces.  The parties set out a contract which contains a set of governing rules as to how the spouses, attorneys, and other professionals and participants interact during a collaborative divorce.  This process minimizes the abrasive conduct that may be present in many traditional cases;

4. Each party has the assistance of an attorney.  In many divorces today, not all parties have the assistance of an attorney to guide them through the process;

5. Each party is a vital part of the settlement team.  Both spouses are treated as critical components of the team which focuses on settlement.  The spouses, the attorneys and the professionals are not adversaries.  All participants are seeking a resolution that meets the needs of the family;

6. The team can focus on settlement without the imminent threat of “going to court”.  The parties and their attorneys sign a participation agreement that states that the spouse and their lawyers will not take their divorce to court.  This contractual clause eliminates tactical bargaining based on threats of litigation; and

7. The spouses control the outcome.  Rather than a judge deciding a family’s parenting and financial futures, the parties themselves negotiate with the assistance of the other participants in the process a Marital Settlement Agreement.  The decision-making power stays with the husband and the wife.

The collaborative process focuses on interest-based bargaining.  In a collaborative divorce case, the participants focus on the underlying concerns, needs, and interests of the parties.  The traditional litigation model usually involves position-based bargaining, where each side commits to a position early in the litigation and only thinks of their own position and attaining their own goals, and attaining their own wants and needs, regardless of the impact on their spouse or their children.  Whether you live in West Palm Beach or elsewhere in Palm Beach County, you should consider a collaborative resolution of your divorce or other legal dispute.

Divorcing Later in Life: Is It Healthier for You?

Written April 13th, 2012
Categories: Divorce Life Stages, Uncategorized

Divorce is stressful. We can all agree with that. Sociological studies are proving it and demonstrating how it can affect a person’s health.

In a study published in 2009, Linda Waite, of University of Chicago and co-author Mary Elizabeth Hughes, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, discovered that “divorced or widowed people have 20 percent more chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer than married people.”

The researchers compiled data from four categories—chronic conditions, mobility, depressive symptoms and their self-assessment—studying 8,652 middle-aged people. The results were clear. Health suffers when an couple divorces gets divorced. Waite says, “What’s interesting is if people have done this and remarried, we still see, in their health, the scars or marks — the damage that was done by this event.”

In a more recently published study by Michigan State University sociologist, Hui Liu, reported that when older adults divorce, the event causes less health problems than with younger couples. Liu analyzed reports from over 1,200 participants in a 15-year national study, “Americans’ Changing Lives.”

Of people surveyed who were born in the 1950’s, the highest number of health issues was reported by those who divorced in the last half of their thirties. Their complaints outnumbered those who divorced in their late 40’s and those who stayed married during the study.

Interestingly, those who remained divorced or who remained married during the study, reported about the same health issues. Liu surmised that “it is not the status of being married or divorced, per se, that affects health, but instead is the process of a divorce transition . . . that it is stressful and hurts health.”

To find out more about either of these studies, click here or here.

Divorce Mistakes to Avoid

Written March 13th, 2012
Categories: Divorce Mistakes, Uncategorized

Divorce Mistakes to Avoid

Whether you are representing yourself (as a pro se litigant) or you are represented by an experienced divorce attorney, people involved in family law cases often experience emotional turmoil, frustration, aggravation, and anger. Because they have little or no experience with the legal system, they often are overwhelmed by seemingly complicated and thorny legal questions. Loriann Hoff Oberlin in her book Surviving S
1. Believing your spouse will be fair and cooperative. During a divorce, people are experiencing an extreme emotional loss and, consequently, are emotionally vulnerable and upset. Oftentimes, they are in a state of denial about their circumstances and about their spouse. All too often, experienced divorce lawyers from Jupiter to Wellington hear: “My spouse never would treat me this way”; however, much to their discomfort, dismay and chagrin, spouses do mistreat their soon-to-be ex’s. Consequently, when you are involved in a divorce case, you should look out for “Number 1″ and expect your spouse to do the same. Once you are involved in a divorce case or a family law case, you’re part of an adversarial system. Ms. Oberlin advises that all participants in a divorce should adopt an attitude of cautious pessimism, lower expectations and to expect the worse and then be surprised if it turns out better;eparation and Divorce, outlines some of the basic legal errors or mistakes that individuals make in their divorce cases. They include:

2. Having totally unrealistic expectation/demands of what you want from the divorce. People in divorce cases face a wide assortment of seemingly overwhelming issues including, but not limited to: finances, children, dividing family businesses, retirement accounts and other issues in dispute. People have to concentrate on prioritizing their goals and setting realistic expectations. Focus on problem solving and do everything you can on your own case;

3. Not asking appropriate questions or signing documents without asking questions. Many people are intimidated by the divorce case, the courts, judges and the adversarial system in general. Consequently, they often feel intimidated by their lawyers and their spouses and, instead of asking questions, accept everything on blind faith. Oberlin advises you should ask questions about every document in your case as if you were buying a new car. In addition, you should ask to review all documents including pleadings and marital settlement agreements before they leave your attorney’s office. Attorneys, like other people, make mistakes. Once something is entered in the record or a judge’s memory, it may be too late to correct it.

4. Withholding information from your attorney. Some people don’t trust their lawyers. Some people are overly concerned about maintaining control over the chaotic circumstances of the divorce case. Some people try to look good. Some people are trying to fool their attorneys and the court system. However, by doing so, most of them lose control, fool themselves and injure their cases. Oberlin’s advice is: “If you want your attorney to do an effective job, you have to give your attorney complete and accurate information. If you fail to do so, your attorney, based on your incomplete information, may implement a strategy that is actually more harmful to you rather than helpful to you. In addition, if you’re withholding damaging information, it inevitably will be revealed at the time most damaging to your case”;

5. Expecting the legal system to be fair and that the court will see things from your perspective. No matter how much you think you are right; no matter how much you think that justice is on your side; and no matter how much you think that anyone can see the case from your perspective, the judge often can see issues from another viewpoint and may not agree with you. In addition, because of the statutes, procedural rules and evidentiary rules, judges must often rule on limited and not total information. Consequently, don’t expect that your view of the case, no matter how noble and just, will be the one that wins. The court will not always rule in your favor. The better you can become at problem solving, then the more likely you will be to obtain a positive outcome;

6. Allowing emotions rather than logic to rule your decision making. Many people going through a divorce are emotionally distraught, upset, angry, and are experiencing an extreme loss from the demise of their relationship. Unfortunately, decisions and actions based on emotions rather than tactical, strategic or logical thinking, most likely will backfire and injure your case. Oberlin advises that: “People should become reflective rather than reactive.” Make sure that you think carefully about what you say or do during any divorce case. When in doubt confer with your attorney; and

7. Forgetting tax ramifications of legal decisions and not hiring a financial advisor. Divorce proceedings will involve the division of assets, properties, estates, retirement monies and, sometimes, the receipt of spousal support. All of these actions in a divorce case may have tax implications for you. Oberlin advises that you have a trusted financial advisor counsel you on the tax consequences of your decisions if you settle a case or the rulings a judge may make in the event that you have to litigate your divorce case. Don’t always depend upon your attorney to know the tax consequences of the results of your settlement agreement or divorce judgment.

Oberlin’s book provides useful information for individuals who are contemplating or involved in a divorce case. However, if you do not have the opportunity to read Ms. Oberlin’s book then you should consult and follow the advice of your West Palm Beach, Board Certified, experienced family law attorney. However, if you wish to learn more about Ms. Oberlin’s book, click here.

Defining the Ways to Get Divorced

Written March 2nd, 2012
Categories: Divorce, Uncategorized

Defining the different ways to get divorcedDivorce is challenging, not just emotionally but legally. The laws and practices for divorce vary by state and make it nearly impossible for lay people to comprehend what is involved. Add to that a very emotional time with an uncommon vocabulary used primarily during legal cases and the process becomes overwhelming and intimidating.

Divorcing individuals should begin by understanding common types of divorce.

In Uncontested Divorce, a divorcing couple makes agreements and presents them in writing to the courts for approval. This is most commonly used in relatively short where the parties are able to reach agreement.

Default Divorce may occur when one spouse fails to file a response to a written divorce petition. It can also be filed if the person cannot locate his or her spouse.

Collaborative Divorce remains one of the gentlest ways to become legally divorced. Parties, in partnership with their attorneys, resolve conflicts respectfully and are committed to doing so without court intervention. Since Collaborative Practice employs specially-trained attorneys, the process can proceed smoothly and everyone can feel secure that all the legal issues are resolved. Find out more about Collaborative Divorce here.

Contested Divorce remains complicated and challenging. The couple cannot agree how to handle finances, child related issues and support and other important decisions. Each partner hires a lawyer and the issues are litigated in the courts.

Arbitration is a legally binding procedure in which a third party “go-between” reviews the cases of divorcing spouses and makes judgments in accordance with laws and rules governing divorce. The arbitrator renders a binding agreement that spouses must uphold sometimes without possible appeal. Read more about arbitration here and here.

Mediation is a voluntary process in which divorcing couples work with a neutral third-party to create a workable separation agreement. Being voluntary, if one spouse chooses to quit, the other has no recourse and mediation is terminated.

Divorce Decree (Decree of Dissolution, Judgment of Divorce) is the court’s final judgment regarding contact schedules and time sharing of your children, property distribution, child custody and support, and other financial issues. The date of the decree is the legal divorce date. One is able to remarry after this is completed.

No matter which type of Divorce seems to make sense for your situation, find a qualified attorney who will help sort out the jumble of laws, actions and judgments involved in divorce.

To read more definitions involved in divorce, click here.

Nasty Things That Divorcing Spouses Say to One Another, But Shouldn’t

Written February 24th, 2012
Categories: Divorce Behavior, Uncategorized

Nasty Things Divorcing Spouses SayDuring my decades of practice in divorce cases, I repeatedly have heard many of the same unproductive threats, objections and protests that people say to one another in their contested family law matters. Experienced attorneys from Jupiter to Wellington know that many of these are urban legends or empty threats: not true but often believed by the inexperienced. Family law practitioners often know that during a divorce people get angry and they say things that they don’t mean. However, such statements can cause anxiety and fear. I hope that my explanations for some of these “urban legends” in family law will lessen the concern or anxiety they may cause if they are accepted at face value:

1. “I’ll quit my job before I’ll pay that much support”. This statement is usually an attempt to bluff or force you to accept a lower amount of support. Ask your attorney whether you should “call this bluff”. Document the statement immediately. Write down the date, circumstances, and exact words used. If the threatening spouse sent this to you via email or text or letter, then save this communication for use as evidence later. Judges do not tolerate this kind of bullying;

2. “It doesn’t make sense for us to be paying two lawyers; it’s a waste of money that we could otherwise keep. Let’s just both use my attorney”. Aside from the obvious legal conflict of interest for your spouse’s lawyer to represent both of you, the spouse making this plea wants to control you in the divorce process by controlling how much advice and information you get. Don’t fall for this ploy. Legal advice and representation may not be inexpensive, but often its value is priceless;

3. “You’ll never see the children again”. This threat is usually an attempt to get you to stay in a relationship that has long met its demise. Florida law and the law of other states presume frequent and continuing contact with both parents is a good thing for your children. So this statement in itself doesn’t constitute a legitimate threat;

4. “Your attorney is just running up your bill with all these documents he’s demanding that I provide. Call him off”. Any divorce attorney is going to need to see and review documents which relate to you and your spouse’s financial situation. Otherwise, the attorney can’t advise you in what you should expect or demand. You need to rely on your lawyer’s guidance on this issue;

5. “I’ll go to jail before I pay alimony or child support to you.” Jail time is among the several tools the judge has available to enforce his or her support order, but it is seldom necessary. This threat is a common bluff; however, the reality of jail time is an effective tool in causing a delinquent spouse to generate past due support. In addition, for anyone with a paycheck, it is easy enough to extract support payments involuntarily from their employer per a court order. In any event, please remember that most people just pay the support which the court has ordered;

6. “I’ll litigate you into bankruptcy. I’d rather pay my lawyer all our money than pay one penny to yours”. It is true that many spouses use this threat hoping that you will give up and concede to their demands. While it is unfortunate that some people use this type of tactic, there are legal techniques to stop a spouse from going forward with this threat. A good attorney can push a case forward to trial. The court also can sanction a delaying spouse for using these tactics;

7. “You have no right to take what’s mine away from me. The pension is all mine, I worked for it”. This threat usually refers to a pension earned by the complaining spouse. Florida and most states clearly indicate that pensions earned during the course of the marriage belong to both of you. Your request for half of the amount of the pension earned during the marriage is there and the law entitles you to it;

These threats from a disgruntled spouse seem to boil down to one concept: An attempt on the part of the speaker to control the other partner and/or control the direction and outcome of the divorce. The best way to avoid that is to seek out the advice of an experienced family law/divorce lawyer. To review other similar urban legends, please click here.

Also, our website offers some tips as well, check out the section Divorce Overview

Wrongly Accused During a Divorce? What To Do?

Written February 21st, 2012
Categories: Uncategorized

Living in such a beautiful place, along the coast of southeast Florida (whether it is in Jupiter or Wellington), does not grant one immunity from disturbing statistics of divorce, child custody battles, child abuse, and how they complicate each other. Allegations that one spouse abused a child, dramatically impacts a divorce case and the lives of its participants. Although the majority of child abuse accusations are true, the number of false accusations is growing.

So what do you do if a spouse falsely accuses you of child abuse?

To begin, child abuse is a very complex issue surrounded by explosive emotions. The “he said, she said” can be overwhelming to say the least. Here are a number of things you should do to begin to protect and prepare for defending yourself.

  1. Acknowledge how serious the situation is. Knowing you are innocent is important but don’t let it lull you into a false sense of security. This is serious and recognizing it will help motivate you to take constructive actions.
  2. Retain a qualified attorney. Use online resources to research and find an experienced family law attorney. Pay special attention to their expertise in working with false accusation cases. Meet with the attorney, ask plenty of questions and ask for references. This decision is critical to your peace of mind and eventually, the end results.
  3. Educate yourself. Head off to the library and get some books on the subject of false accusations of abuse. It’s like putting on your armor before going into battle. The more you learn, the better you will be able to partner with your attorney in your defense.
  4. Avoid risky behavior. Being wrongfully accused might just be the most stressful time in life. Now is the time to stick to clean living. Eat right. Get enough rest. Try to exercise and stay away from illegal substances or alcohol abuse. By taking care of your body and mind, you’ll give yourself the best chance to fight depression and keep your head in the fight.
  5. Keep quiet. Do not speak to anyone regarding the accusation or charges unless your attorney is present or advises otherwise. Remember, an off-hand comment made to a friend or co-worker may come up later in witness statements.
  6. Record the “what/when”. With your divorce attorney’s guidance, use a timeline to record as much information as you can about the time surrounding the incident in question, up to today. Be as clear and concise as possible. Share that information with your attorney.

For more information on this subject check out this article here

Link: http://www.a-team.org/falsely_accused.html

Survey Says, “Who Gets the Kids?”

Written February 15th, 2012
Categories: Divorce Time Sharing, Uncategorized

A mother’s love is eternal, nurturing, encouraging.
A father’s love is abiding, instructing and motivating
But occasionally mom and dad have a hard time loving each other. They get divorced. Sometimes when reasonable people divorce, accusations fly as to how allegedly unfit, unlovable and irresponsible a soon to be “Ex” is in regards to children. Some might go so far as to accuse the spouse of child abuse. Whether the allegations are true or not, there prevails an attitude of “guilty until proven innocent” surrounding this issue. Child abuse laws, as they should be, are in place to protect children. But a false allegation impacts the accused the rest of his or her life. Take this study as an example:

A child custody survey was conducted; the group was evenly divided between males and females. A scenario was presented in which a divorcing couple was contesting custody of the children. It was stated that both parents were fit and proper. The question posed regarded what custody arrangement would be in the best interests of the child. An overwhelming 94% of respondents indicated that joint legal and physical custody, shared between parents, would be in the child’s best interest, with 78% of respondents indicating that a 50/50 time sharing agreement was appropriate. Another scenario was presented. In the second scenario the father has been accused by the mother of sexually molesting their child. The Department of Social Services and the police conducted an investigation and concluded that there is insufficient evidence to determine whether or not the father committed sexual abuse. The question of custody is again asked. As a result of the unsubstantiated accusation against the father, 79% of the same respondents stated that sole legal and physical custody should be granted to the mother. Only 15% of respondents felt that the father should be permitted a minimum of 50% visitation with the children. source

As seen in this example, an accused spouse has little chance of returning to any semblance of a normal life after an accusation. The process of defending oneself, with the help of a qualified attorney, is costly, not just in monetary values but in terms of time, reputation and, of course, the children. For more details and other startling facts of false accusation of child abuse, check out this article here