Archives for July 2009

In Spite of High Divorce Rates, Marriage Growing Stronger

How about some positive news for a change? I read a New York Times article recently that talked about the fact that marriage is actually growing stronger as an institution. High divorce rates might seem to argue otherwise, but studies conducted by several universities reveal that marriages themselves; the ones that last through the divorce stage; are actually growing stronger.

How is this happening?

People are aligning their expectations of marriage to something different. Marriage has been seen as a disposable institution, and many people have been choosing the route of least resistance to leave a spouse when the going gets tough. However, studies conducted by the University of Washington and the University of North Carolina reveal that spouses who are ‘pretty happy’ with their significant others are far less likely to divorce, in spite of the traditional marital difficulties that have been the causes of a growing divorce rate.

The statistic that many people cite relating to divorce is that half of all marriages end in divorce. What many people don’t realize is that those statistics are based on people who were married in the 70s. People married in the 80s have a significantly lower chance of divorcing when the marriage lasts for 10 years, and people married in the 90s have an even lower divorce rate.

This reveals some trends about marriage and divorce that can spell good news for your relationship, or for future relationships. The majority of marriages that break up don’t last very long, so if your marriage lasts for more than 10 years, you’ve got a good chance of making it last a lifetime. Likewise, more people are waiting to get married until they’re ‘sure’ or ‘committed’ to a relationship. As a result of so many people directly impacted by divorce, people are getting more careful about marrying in general, and are more committed to their marriages.

Ultimately, this spells good news for the people who can make their marriages last. If you can survive long enough to have kids together, or work toward goals together, you’ve got more invested in a relationship, and are more likely to work to make the marriage last. With more and more marriages standing the test of time, it’s good news for people who are still committed to marriage as an institution and their marriages specifically.

Recession Makes Changes to Divorce Process

While it comes as no surprise that the recession is causing difficulties in practically every area of life right now, you may not realize how much the recession is influencing divorce proceedings. People use the recession as an excuse to cut back on costs, but be careful; cutting back on your divorce can cost you far more in the long run.

More people are choosing to separate instead of divorce.

One of the biggest changes in divorce right now is that more and more people are choosing to separate instead of divorce. People are trying to save money on court fees and attorney fees, and choosing to live apart without going through the legal process of divorcing. This may be an acceptable solution to some people, but keep in mind that your spouse still has certain legal rights as long as he or she is your spouse.

If you want to terminate those legal rights, a separation doesn’t cut it; you need a divorce. Be mindful of things like account access, access to creditors and debtors, joint accounts and tax liabilities. Your spouse may have access to all of these things as long as you’re still married, and you may have responsibilities and duties related to these issues until the moment you’re divorced.

Especially in a poor economy, you must pay attention to a divorce settlement.

Even in an amicable divorce, you’ve got to pay attention to your divorce settlement in a poor economy. You might not want to do it, but it’s in your best interests to know where every penny is going, and ensure you and your spouse get an equitable split. Don’t lose out on what you deserve because you’re unwilling to push for your rights. Insist on what’s yours by right, because you never know if you’ll get laid off the day after your settlement and be wishing you’d pushed for more.

Make sure you get what you need for child support.

Child support can be a slippery slope, and it’s typically a point of contention in a divorce settlement. Especially with the economy in such bad shape, it’s vital that you get what you need for child support. Be realistic about your needs; don’t underestimate what you’ll require to get by, and then get stuck struggling to make up for the shortfall. Your children should not suffer because of your divorce, and a poorly-negotiated child support agreement can be a bad thing for the sake of your kids.

Beware of taxes and hidden fees when you’re filing a divorce settlement.

A divorce settlement isn’t just about who gets the money or the furniture; it’s also about how you’re splitting debt and liabilities. Don’t forget about your debt and potential tax liabilities when you’re negotiating a divorce settlement. Likewise, be careful about money in a retirement account; if you withdraw funds early, even to transfer to a separate account, you may face tax penalties. Make sure you consult a professional to avoid hidden fees and ensure your finances are protected both at the time of your divorce and also down the line.

Don’t cut back on legal representation to save money.

It’s tempting to opt not to use a divorce lawyer when you’re trying to save money and get a divorce cheap. Think twice before you cut back on legal representation, though, because what you think you’re saving in fees could be more than accounted-for in flaws in your divorce settlement. You need an advocate to look out for your interests – especially in a down economy. If you don’t use proper legal representation, you may find yourself owing thousands of dollars in debt you didn’t think about, and have no provision in the settlement to handle it.

Five Questions to Ask Before You File for Divorce

Even in cases where divorce is the answer to irreconcilable relationship difficulties, it’s still a difficult option to pursue and may require a lot of sacrifice. If you’re thinking about a divorce, ask yourself these questions before you make things official and file the paperwork.

  1. Is there any way to resolve your difficulties with your spouse?

Divorces arise because of irreconcilable differences between a couple. Whether it’s an affair or one-too-many arguments over doing the dishes, these differences can seem insurmountable, and it typically seems easier to quit than to fix the issues.

Before you file any paperwork, ask yourself if there’s any way to resolve your difficulties. Are you willing to consider marriage or individual counseling? Are there any changes your spouse can make to address your issues? Make sure you explore all avenues of reconciliation before you decide on a divorce.

  1. Are you prepared to deal with the financial reality of a divorce?

The financial reality of a divorce often catches people by surprise. Before you file any paperwork, think about your income, your financial situation and your expenses. How is a divorce going to impact your life financially? Can you get by on a lower income and with a different lifestyle? If you’re not ready for some big lifestyle changes, you may want to reconsider a divorce.

  1. How will divorce affect the kids, and is that ok?

Children always make any divorce decision far more difficult. How will a divorce affect your kids, and are you ok with that? Some parents feel guilty over a divorce, and have a difficult time leading a balanced lifestyle with their kids. Other parents may be concerned about joint custody, or how each parent is going to interact with the kids. Make sure you consider all of these issues and find acceptable answers before you file for a divorce.

  1. Where will you, your kids and your spouse live?

Living arrangements change in a divorce. You may not be able to afford your home on your salary, or your spouse may be unwilling to move out. Where will you, your spouse and your kids live? With whom will the kids stay? Who moves out and who stays? How long until you sell the house? Finding acceptable living arrangements before you file any paperwork can help remove a lot of the pressure of the actual divorce process.

  1. Who can help you through the process?

Even if you’re the one initiating the divorce, a divorce is an extremely big step. You’ll have a lot of emotional upheaval and changes to your life when you file a divorce. You need a support network in place before you file the paperwork. Will your friends help you through the process? Is your family supportive? Do you need to find a support group for divorcees? Make sure you have a support system in place before you file any divorce paperwork.

New Book Helps People Cope with Divorce

Coping with divorce is a loaded prospect. Divorce brings up a lot of emotional and financial baggage. It can feel overwhelming, at times. People going through a divorce experience everything from alienation to failure, and may have trouble getting on firm footing again with friendships, managing life and dealing with emotions.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by a divorce, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. With the divorce rate at almost 50%, lots of people are dealing with similar fears and worries. Getting out into the dating world again after years of marriage can be an intimidating prospect, and people often underestimate the difficulty of getting out there again. Fortunately, other people are experiencing similar things, so you’ve got resources to help you cope.

Bonnie Broughton wrote a new book recently called “Single Again After All These Years.” It deals with her feelings and fears that she experienced as a result of being divorce after 27 years of marriage. Bonnie spoke to other newly divorced individuals to compile the book, and presents a synthesis of their combined experiences to help newly divorced people.

In the book, Bonnie examines the feelings of alienation, discrimination and dislocation that she experiences after her divorce from her long-time husband. Bonnie feels awkward among her married friends, and in social situations that she used to attend with her husband. When she begins speaking with other divorced individuals, Bonnie is happy to discover that she’s not alone, and that these feelings are common. Together, Bonnie and her newfound friends look for ways to cope with these feelings and begin to enjoy the new life of being single.

More and more people over the age of 50 are getting newly divorced after a long marriage. Many couples find that they have nothing in common, and split after raising a family together. The book “Single Again After All These Years” is meant for people in this situation, to help them cope and create a new life out of the ashes of a divorce. If you feel like you’re alone, check out Bonnie’s new book and you may find yourself feeling differently.

Marriage is a Minority Institution

Divorce rates are high. More and more people aren’t getting married in the first place. For the first time in American history, marriage is a minority institution. Of the 307 million people in the United States, married couples are now in charge of less than half of the nation’s households. The rest of the households are composed of single individuals, or unrelated people living together.

This is a groundbreaking and somewhat sad moment in American history. In spite of government initiatives supporting marriage, such as tax breaks and other legal benefits of marriage, more and more households are headed by unmarried individuals. Marriage is now a minority institution. Why and how has this happened?

Divorce makes marriage a tough choice.

With the divorce rate at approximately 50%, more and more people are opting not to get married at all. Divorce can be an expensive prospect, and it’s much more difficult to split up if one must divorce to accomplish this. Divorce can get ugly and unpleasant, and it signals an end to a relationship with incontrovertible finality. Relationships are much easier to dissolve, and more and more people are choosing to go this route when cohabiting.

Economically speaking, marriage may not be as advantageous as it once was.

Getting married was once the key to economic prosperity. Splitting the bills, getting tax benefits and moving into bigger and better living spaces made marriage a highly desirable economic situation. Marriage represented economic security. Unfortunately, marriage today doesn’t necessarily offer the same stability and plenty it once did. With more and more people burdened individually by student loan debts, car loans and other consumer debt, it’s more difficult than it used to be to combine households. The economic reality of today’s society makes marriage a less-obvious choice.

Social stigma against unmarried couples has dissipated.

It used to be that you had to be married to live together. There were no two ways around it. If you were living together and you weren’t married, you’d be shunned by respectable folks and possibly disowned by your parents. Today, it’s considered socially acceptable in many circles for couples to live together without being married. Parents still dream of children’s weddings, but children are in no hurry to rush to the once-inevitable conclusion. In short, things have changed.

As the family unit changes, so does divorce.

Being a divorcee no longer carries the social stigma that it once did, either. Nowadays, with the divorce rate so high, people give each other an understanding smile and commiserate over their troubles when the topic of divorce comes up. If you’re considering a divorce, you’re not alone. The changing face of the family unit makes divorce easier, and there are more and more support groups and resources available to help you cope with divorce. While the changing face of family may be a sad moment for American society, it brings benefits to the newly divorced.

New Study on Cohabitation and Divorce

A new study published in the Journal of Family Psychology reveals that couples that live together before they get married are more likely to end in divorce. Where does that leave you?

Couples without a clear commitment to marriage slide into marriage.

This study indicates that couples without a clear commitment to marriage before they begin cohabiting tend to slide into marriage, because it’s easier and seems to be expected when you’ve been cohabiting for a length of time. Unfortunately, these couples don’t have the same commitment to marriage that couples who marry before cohabitation display, so relationships aren’t as committed and long-lasting.

Study provokes hot disputes.

While the study results seem clear and closed to dispute, the results are still hotly contested by couples that have successfully married after cohabitation. For all the study results, you’ll find plenty of anecdotal evidence of people who begin by living together and go on to get married and lead long and happy lives together. Conversely, you’ll find divorced individuals who didn’t live together before marriage and regret it bitterly, because they feel they would have found out more about their spouses by living together before marriage and would have avoided marriage altogether.

The truth is somewhere in the middle.

As with most controversial topics, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. The Journal of Family Psychology study was informal; study organizers only polled 1,000 people by phone polls. Opponents argue that this sample size isn’t large or diverse enough to include a truly representative sample, and disagree with study findings.

Again, anecdotal evidence and my experience as a divorce attorney would bear this out; you see people from all circumstances and all walks of life in happy marriages and divorces alike. There’s very little rhyme or reason for predicting whether or not a marriage will work out.

Divorce happens; frequently, in fact.

With something like 50% of all marriages ending in divorce, it’s a fact of life. Divorce happens. One out of two marriages ends in divorce. That’s a sobering number, but it’s all the more important for you to make sure you handle your divorce well. If you don’t do the right things during your divorce, it can end up haunting you for years afterwards; this is where an experienced divorce attorney can help you out.

Divorces can Lead to Tax Penalties

I was reading an article the other day about Rick Jones, former Triad Industries owner, his divorce, and his tax problems. When he and his wife Dorothy Jones divorced, Rick negotiated a settlement with the IRS to reduce the tax liability and sentencing. What he didn’t tell his wife is that she’d be expected to pay $1.3 million in tax penalties after their divorce settlement, even though he committed the income tax evasion and he negotiated the settlement without involving her at all.

This is an extreme example of the type of thing that can come out in a divorce. Rick intentionally left Dorothy in the dark about the tax scenario, but since they filed taxes jointly during their marriage, they were jointly liable for the tax penalties. She negotiated a divorce settlement with him without this knowledge, thus putting her in a very uncomfortable position financially. The sentencing still hasn’t happened, and their divorce and the tax situation is still up in the air.

Folks, this is one prime example of why you need an attorney to help you negotiate your divorce. Dorothy had a clause in her divorce settlement that protected her from being taken advantage of in this manner, so Rick was unsuccessful in negotiating a settlement and leaving her with the bill.

Whether or not you know all your spouse’s financial details, it’s vital that you have an experienced divorce attorney looking out for your interests and protecting you in the event that your spouse should attempt to spring something like this on you. And when it comes to taxes, if you file jointly, you’re jointly liable, even after your divorce. You need a good divorce attorney to get all these details ironed out so you don’t have to worry about it.

Beyond joint tax liability, though, divorce can expose you to other tax penalties, too. If you get support from your spouse that boosts your income up to the next tier, you may owe more in taxes. Additionally, if you sell a property and split the profit, you’ve got to pay taxes on that profit as income. Make sure you work with an experienced professional to protect you from all this potential trouble.

Why You Need Insurance Protection

As a lawyer, I can tell you that people underestimate the importance of the role that insurance plays in their lives. Auto insurance, home insurance, life insurance and health insurance all provide vital protections against the disasters that befall the average American. Why do you need insurance protection?

Auto insurance provides many different types of protection.

Auto insurance is one of the least-considered and most-used types of insurance. Auto insurance provides vital protection in many different circumstances. If you’re driving a car and cause an accident, auto insurance pays the damages and typically provides for legal defense if you’re sued.

If you’re injured in an auto accident, auto insurance can pay your medical bills. And finally, if you’re driving a rental car or are the victim of a car accident, auto insurance can pay medical bills, lost wages and to repair your vehicle. All of this protection depends on the coverage you have, so explore your coverage to ensure you have enough protection for your needs.

Homeowner’s insurance protects your home from disasters.

Homeowner’s insurance provides vital protection for your home in the event of a disaster. Fire? Homeowner’s insurance will probably pay to repair or rebuild your home. Someone injured on your property? The liability portion of homeowner’s insurance will pay bills and protect you from a lawsuit.

Homeowner’s insurance is required by many lien holders, but make sure you have the coverage you think you have when you examine your homeowner’s insurance policy. Many homeowners’ insurance policies don’t cover Acts of God, and they may not cover flooding, either.

Health insurance is vital in today’s society.

Medical care isn’t cheap, and some states are now getting to the point that you’re required by law to have health insurance. Regardless of whether or not it’s mandatory in your state, it’s a good idea to have health insurance. Health insurance may be costly, but it saves you a lot of money in the long run if you have to have an unexpected medical procedure. Further, some health insurance policies cover voluntary medical procedures that might not be financially possible without health insurance, providing extra benefits.

Life insurance protects your family.

Finally, you don’t want to forget about life insurance. Many people feel they don’t need to worry about life insurance until later in life, but then find themselves in situations where a spouse or family member dies unexpectedly and there’s no life insurance. You should get life insurance equal to a year’s salary, and sufficient to pay off any outstanding obligations, such as home loans, student loans or other debt. It’s not something people typically think about until they reach a certain age, but you should plan for every eventuality so you’re not caught by surprise in the event of an unexpected accident or loss.

A 99$ Million Divorce

Some of you may have been following the story about the chairman of United Technologies, George David, who is in the process of getting a divorce from his wife, Marie Douglas-David.

George David is the former chief executive of UTC, and he and his wife signed a postnuptial agreement in 2005. Prenuptial agreements are far more common, and David’s wife is disputing the validity of the postnuptial agreement, saying she was coerced into signing.

Marie Douglas-David is asking for $99 million in the divorce, which isn’t quite a third of Davis’ assets estimated at $329 million. The postnuptial agreement that the couple signed in 2005 is valued at approximately $46 million; less than half the amount she’s currently requesting.

Whether you’re rich or middle-class, splitting assets in a divorce can be a tricky and contentious business. Even though this couple has a postnuptial agreement limiting a divorce settlement, she’s still contesting the agreement and asking for more.

No matter how well you think you plan ahead for an eventuality that everyone hopes they’ll never reach, things tend to come up in a divorce.

Maybe she’s angry at the circumstances of the divorce. Maybe she really was coerced, and feels that the agreement she signed is unfair. Or maybe she just wants more of his money. Whatever the reason, things like this happen to ordinary people, too.

Don’t be surprised by a divorce settlement. You never know what your spouse might request until the moment of truth arrives. A good divorce attorney can help you figure out what’s fair, and protect your interests, but you may end up giving more than you expected to give.

At least you’re not likely to face a $99 million divorce, though.

What a Lawyer Can Do for Your Case

Regardless of your particular legal issues, one of the things that many people struggle with when thinking about lawyers is wondering why they’d need a lawyer at all. You might have an amicable divorce, or an insurance company may seem to be cooperative in the event of an auto accident. Unfortunately, these things are not always what they seem, and circumstances can change in an instant.

A lawyer looks out for your interests.

A lawyer is a person you hire who basically just looks out for your interests. A lawyer isn’t concerned about what the insurance company wants, whether your spouse is being cooperative or whether opposing counsel is trying to make implications about your case. A lawyer is simply concerned with getting you what you deserve in any type of legal situation, and protecting your interests.

Lawyers know the law.

As obvious as it sounds, lawyers know the law. They know legal precedent for different circumstances and scenarios, and can do legal research pertaining to the specifics of your case. When you retain a lawyer, you know you’re getting the maximum protection that the law allows, and that a lawyer will do everything within his power to make the law work for you. When you attempt to represent yourself, you may not be familiar with specific laws or specific legal precedents that would enable you to present your case in the correct light.

Lawyers have experience.

Experience counts for a lot in the legal industry. An experienced lawyer knows what he can expect for a specific type of injury, or a divorce settlement with particular assets. You can count on an experienced lawyer to give you a reasonable estimate of what you can expect from your case, and to deal with any issues that arise smoothly and reasonably. Experienced lawyers have seen practically everything, and have the right knowledge to pursue a case from the proper angle or with a specific legal precedent in mind.

A lawyer is an impartial observer.

No matter what type of case you have, you’re likely to be emotionally involved. A lawyer has the benefit of being an impartial observer. You may feel like your case is worth far more, but a lawyer can give you a realistic assessment of your case. Conversely, you may be told by an insurance company or other source that your expectations are unreasonable, but a lawyer can tell you whether or not that’s accurate.

Lawyers deal with things so you don’t have to worry about them.

The biggest benefit of hiring a lawyer is the fact that lawyers deal with things so you don’t have to worry about them. When you retain a lawyer, you’ll only have to deal with things that require specific information or your signature. Your lawyer communicates with the other party, handles all the legal details and documentation and generally prepares everything for your final approval. Hiring a lawyer takes you out of the hot seat, and sometimes that’s exactly what you need.

Five Things to Do to Reclaim Your Life After a Divorce

A divorce can be a traumatic experience, and it may be difficult to get your life back on track after you file a divorce. When you’re dealing with a long relationship and then a divorce, it may feel like you’ve lost a sense of identity, or even a piece of yourself. However, the wounds do heal over time, and you can do things to reclaim your life for yourself after a divorce.

1. Reconnect with your friends.

The number one thing you can and should do to reclaim your life after a divorce is to reconnect with your friends. Many people find themselves having very little interaction with friends during a difficult relationship or a divorce. You can use a divorce as an opportunity to re-establish those connections, and repair existing relationships or forge new friendships. Getting back in touch with your friends gets you out of your own head, and that’s a blessing during the early parts of a divorce.

2. Begin a physical activity.

Maybe you’ve gotten out of shape during your marriage and want to start working out. Maybe you’ve always wanted to take self-defense classes, or learn a martial art, or start running. A divorce is an excellent time to begin a physical activity. Physical activities require time, so you have less time to sit around and mope, and they release endorphins that make you feel physically good. Additionally, if you’re unhappy with your body image, a physical activity can help you get into shape and boost your confidence; two things that are particularly timely after a divorce.

3. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone.

A divorce is a great opportunity to start pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and trying new things. Is there a certain type of food you rarely eat? Specific types of activities you never do? Look at your divorce as an opportunity to re-invent yourself, and try new things. It’s far too easy to get in a rut during the course of a relationship and a divorce, so intentionally pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone helps you break the rut, feel invigorated and learn new things about yourself.

4. Try a new hobby.

Most people have a hobby or two, and you may find that you didn’t have an opportunity to indulge your hobbies during your message. Look at a divorce as a good time to try a new hobby. Want to take up knitting? Stamp collecting? Scrapbooking? Cars? There’s a hobby for every taste, so consider different hobbies and see what you like to do.

5. Travel.

Many people don’t like to travel alone, but traveling alone can be one of the best things you do for yourself. When you travel alone, you don’t have to compromise about what you see, where you want to stay and what you want to eat. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want. Think of someplace you’ve always wanted to go, or someplace you’ve been and want to revisit, and go! Don’t be afraid of going alone; it’s one of the most liberating things you can do, and can help you really get in touch with the you who may have been overwhelmed during the course of your marriage. If going alone is just too difficult, take a friend, but get out and travel and remember what it’s like to enjoy your life.

Talking to Kids about Divorce: Part II

In our last article about talking to kids about divorce, we explored the importance of being kind to your spouse, giving your kids a consistent routine, and a bit about how and when to begin the discussion with your kids. In this section, we’ll discuss some of the specifics that you should communicate, and the benefits of having a professional help you talk with your kids.

Consider a therapist to help your kids and your family cope.

Kids are naturally going to have a lot of questions and strong feelings about a separation or divorce. While you can help answer many of those questions and begin to help your kids deal with the overwhelming feelings, there’s a point when you may be too emotionally involved to be objective enough to help your kids, or when your kids may need help that would benefit from a professional level of intervention.

Don’t feel bad about involving a therapist to help your kids and your family cope with a divorce. You could all benefit from having a third-party help you work through some of the overwhelming feelings around a divorce, and communicate clearly in order to maintain a strong bond throughout the proceedings.

Be clear with your kids about your separation.

We’ve probably all seen the old movie “The Parent Trap.” Two kids of divorced parents plot to get their parents back together. While the movie took this sentiment to extremes, many children wonder if their parents will get back together, or try to convince them to stay together.

If you’re sure about your divorce, you must be clear with your kids about your separation and be firm about the divorce. Make sure they know that you and your spouse won’t be getting back together, but that you both still love the kids very much and will continue to be a part of their lives.

Make sure your kids know you love them.

The most important number one thing you need to communicate to kids over and over again during a divorce is that you love them. Make sure they know both their parents love them, and that you will continue to love them through the divorce and beyond. This is something that you can’t communicate too much, so don’t be afraid of saying it too frequently or overwhelming your kids with it.

Communicate to your kids that a divorce is not their fault.

Finally, you have to make sure your kids know that a divorce isn’t their fault. Children of all ages may wonder if they are the reason for a divorce, and you need to make sure they understand that a divorce is due to differences between you and your spouse, and not related to your kids. Remember not to abuse your spouse to your kids, and you don’t need to overwhelm them with specifics, but make sure they know that the reason you’re divorcing has nothing to do with them.

Talking to Kids about Divorce: Part I

The decision to get a divorce is rarely an easy one, but it’s compounded by the difficulty of how to protect your kids during the divorce. Breaking the news to your kids is a daunting task, and it’s challenging to find the right way to do it that maintains sensitivity and still shows your children that you love them and will continue to love them regardless of what happens with the relationship.

Talk to kids sooner rather than later.

The prospect isn’t appealing, but it’s a good idea to talk to kids about divorce sooner rather than later. They’ll take time to adjust to the news, and it’s easier to adjust with both parents around and available to answer any questions and reassure them that they’ll still be loved and cherished. Further, it helps to tackle the process as a couple; an option you don’t have if you wait until the divorce is finalized or one of you moves out.

Be kind and friendly toward your spouse.

You should present divorce to kids as a mutual decision, even if it isn’t. You may feel hurt or mistreated, but your kids shouldn’t have to know that, and shouldn’t feel compelled to side with one parent over the other. Be kind and friendly toward your spouse during the entire divorce. Don’t abuse your spouse to your kids, and don’t abuse your spouse in front of your kids; keep heated discussions behind closed doors or out of the house entirely to avoid further traumatizing the kids.

Consult books with helpful language targeted to your children’s ages and understanding.

Kids understand and feel different things about divorce at different stages in their development. It may help to consult books with helpful language targeted to your children’s ages and development levels. For very young kids, for example, the book “It’s Not Your Fault Koko Bear” could be a helpful tool. You’ll also find plenty of other books if you browse your local bookstore, so consider utilizing these helpful tools to open a dialogue with your kids.

Provide a consistent routine to help reassure kids.

One of the best things you can do to help your kids weather a divorce is to provide a consistent routine for them. Children worry about their schedule; who will pick them up from school, who will take them to activities and with whom they’ll spend time in a shared custody arrangement.

Provide your kids with a consistent routine; don’t switch off with your spouse frequently, and make sure your kids always know where they’re going to be and who is responsible for picking them up. By providing a consistent routine, you’re communicating to your kids that they can count on some level of stability, and it helps them feel less threatened and insecure.

Continued in Part II

In part two, we’ll take a look at specific language you can use to talk to your kids, and messages you need to convey to ensure your kids understand the prospect of divorce and how it will affect them. Keep an eye out for Part II!

Make a Budget for Your Divorce

One of the most difficult things about planning for a divorce is putting together a budget for your divorce. Extracting your finances and dealing with a single income instead of a double income can be a daunting task, and it’s made even more difficult by the emotions that run high during a divorce. When you’re planning your divorce, sit down some afternoon and put together a budget so that you’re prepared to handle your finances post-divorce.

Start by taking an honest look at your income.

The first step to putting together a helpful and accurate budget is to take an honest look at your income. Don’t fudge the numbers, or base your income estimate on best-case-scenario but unrealistic estimates. Take an average of your past several months, assuming that there are no changes in your income structure. Don’t count on any income from the settlement, as you won’t know if you’ll have that income until the settlement is finalized and paid.

Evaluate your bare minimum living expenses.

After you’ve determined your income, evaluate your bare minimum living expenses. Don’t look at any voluntary expenses; look at the absolute bare minimum required for you to live. Consider housing, utilities, credit card payments and loan installments. Can you afford the bare minimum? Do you need to find ways to make these numbers change, by downsizing your housing or paying off credit cards to minimize payments?

Consider your voluntary expenses.

After you’ve figured out the bare minimum, take an honest, accurate look at your voluntary expenses. How much do you spend on entertainment every month? Cable television counts as entertainment. How about beauty items, or clothes? Is there a way you can cut back on these expenses, or can you afford them?

Budget for your eating habits.

Eating habits can be some of the trickiest items to pin down on a budget. Most people spend what they have. If you’ve got a choice between cooking what’s in the fridge, or an extra thirty bucks you won’t miss in the checking account, would you cook or would you go out to eat? Take a good hard look at your eating habits. Do you eat out more than you should? Do you buy expensive brands and things you don’t need at the grocery?

Consider ways you can cut back on your eating expenses, but be realistic. It’s not practical to expect you’ll never eat out; you’ve got to budget for a moderate amount of expense, or you’ll blow your budget every single month and it’ll be worthless.

Look at savings and retirement goals.

Finally, take a look at your savings and retirement goals. How much are you putting back every month to meet your financial goals? Do you need to save more? Can you afford to save more with your other expenses?

Be prepared to adjust your lifestyle based on your budget needs and indications.

It may be a simple fact that you can’t afford to live the same after your divorce as you did while you were married. Once you’ve put your numbers down on paper, you may see that you can’t afford your current style, and you’ll have to make changes. Don’t be afraid to make these changes. By taking control of your finances and dealing with the lifestyle changes head-on, you’re taking care of yourself and proving that you can establish a new life for yourself. Don’t avoid the challenge; embrace it, and you might find that your new lifestyle suits you.

Recession Makes it Difficult for Couples to Divorce

The recession isn’t just bad news for homeowners and all of the people who have gotten laid off. The recession is proving to be bad news for couples looking to divorce. What does the recession have to do with limiting divorce?

The recession limits income, which makes divorce more difficult.

One of the most difficult things that many couples find when arranging a divorce is extracting their finances. It’s a fact that a couple together can afford more than single people apart. Couples tend to spend a smaller proportion of their joint income on housing than singles, relatively speaking, and splitting household expenses helps to reduce the costs. All of these costs add up quickly when you split, making it difficult to manage finances when you’re single that you’d take for granted in a marriage.

Because so many people are laid off or fear being laid off during the recession, many couples aren’t willing to take the plunge of divorce. Laid off individuals don’t have money for house payments, and if the couple is still on relatively good terms, typically the earner can’t justify throwing their former spouse out on the street.

And let’s face it: divorces cost money. You have to split assets. You should use a divorce lawyer to ensure you get a fair settlement. You have to pay for legal paperwork and filing documents in court. All of these things add up, and they’re expenses that many people don’t budget for in a time of recession.

Why you still need a divorce lawyer during a recession.

If you still want to proceed with your divorce but are trying to cut corners, you shouldn’t cut yourself short by not hiring a divorce lawyer. Getting a good, clear settlement is especially important during a recession. What if your spouse is employed now, but loses his job after the divorce is finalized? Who deals with the joint finances that your spouse can’t afford to pay?

If you hire a divorce lawyer in the first place, you won’t have to worry about any of these details; a good divorce lawyer thinks about all these eventualities and helps you divide things in a way that protects you. And when every penny is scarce, you can’t afford to skimp on a divorce lawyer and then find out you’re jointly liable for thousands of dollars in debt that you simply can’t afford to pay.

Popular Reality Show Highlights Divorce Troubles

Most of you have probably heard about the popular reality TV show ‘Jon & Kate + 8.’ It’s a television show chronicling the life of an average American couple, Jon and Kate, and their eight children.

Children are a blessing, but they put a strain on every relationship. When they decided to have children, Jon & Kate discovered that Kate had fertility problems, so they underwent fertility treatments. Kate had twins, and then sextuplets.

TLC decided to do a reality show on the couple, highlighting the difficulties of raising multiple children. With eight kids, Jon and Kate definitely had their moments. As the show progressed, Jon and Kate fell under criticism for having suspected extra-marital affairs, and began legal proceedings for a divorce in late June 2009.

A reality show isn’t the best place to air your divorce troubles, but the types of issues that Jon and Kate are going through are primarily the same types of issues that every couple with kids faces when contemplating a divorce. How do you deal with custody? How do you ensure the welfare and happiness of your children? How do finances play out?

TLC says that Jon & Kate + 8 show will resume production in August. It will be interesting to see how they address the divorce issues on national television, and what sort of criticism they draw from other sources. Their case certainly isn’t typical for a variety of reasons; the 8 children, the reality TV show aspect of their lives; but people continue to watch it because they identify with the problems that Jon and Kate are facing.

The episode where Jon and Kate announced their separation and divorce drew over 10 million viewers. While reality TV does highlight occasionally irresponsible and unpleasant behavior, it also shows us something we recognize in ourselves. Jon and Kate aren’t alone as they deal with their divorce; they’re dealing with the same issues that thousands of couples face every day.

Let’s hope they get good lawyers, and that they’re committed to making sure the kids are treated well and suffer as little as possible.

Do You Really Want that Divorce?

While I’m a divorce attorney, it doesn’t please me to see divorce. My concern for my clients is to make sure they get the divorce managed fairly and they have their interests represented. In many cases, a divorce comes after a lengthy series of battles and disagreements, and both parties have agreed that a compromise can’t be reached. However, that’s not always the case, and I read an article today that prompted me to ask “do you really want that divorce?”

The Associated Press carried a story about a couple that was – get this – on their way back from the honeymoon when they decided to get a divorce. Apparently the newlywed wife was taking too long in the airport bathroom on the way home from the honeymoon, and her new husband got tired of waiting and decided to board the airplane home without her. When she got home, she filed for divorce.

Now wait just a minute, folks. In a situation like this, without knowing the full story, I have to say it sounds like they both overreacted. What man doesn’t know that a woman occasionally takes a bit of extra time in the restroom? Women like to look their best; especially with a new husband to impress; and it’s not uncommon for them to stop and fix their hair or makeup while responding to a call of nature. It’s a fact of life, and any married man (or even a man who’s been dating a woman for a long time) should be well acquainted with this fact.

On the other hand, the article doesn’t make it clear if the plane left without her, or if the new wife simply had to go join her husband on the plane. Sure, it was a rookie move on his part to leave her alone in the airport while he boarded the plane, but it’s not like he took her ticket or stranded her in a strange airport. She could easily go join him on the plane when she finished up, and then they could have spent the flight home discussing the issue and working to resolve it. Instead, it sounds like they both flew off the handle, and filing for divorce was a drastic way to vent her disapproval.

My point here is that you should stop and ask yourself if you really want that divorce. If you’ve been fighting for a long time, exhausted marriage counseling and truly believe that you can’t resolve your differences, then it might be time for a divorce.

On the other hand, if you have a single argument where one or both of you is overreacting, it’s probably a bit fast to pull the divorce trigger. Give it a little longer, and try to work through it. Every marriage has issues, and learning how to address them helps prepare you for your current relationship, and any future relationships you might have.

Change Important Documents When You Get a Divorce

When you get a divorce, you’re dealing with piles and piles of paperwork. Every divorce involves a lot of legal language, address changes, name changes, account changes and culminates in a paper trail a mile long. In the midst of all those changes and all of that paper, it’s easy to overlook the need to make updates to very important documents.

Change your life insurance policy when you get a divorce.

Many people list their spouses as the beneficiary in their life insurance policies. When something unexpected happens, you want to know your family is taken care of. Don’t forget to change your life insurance beneficiary when you get a divorce.

Name another family member as the beneficiary, or set up a trust to benefit your children. Unless you want your former spouse to benefit from your life insurance policy, change the documents when you get divorced.

Update your will when you divorce.

Like a life insurance policy, most married people leave a large chunk of their estates to their spouses. When you get a divorce, don’t forget to update your will. You probably don’t want your former spouse getting a big cut of your estate, and you may want to name a guardian for your child in the event of your death. However, keep in mind that guardians named in wills aren’t legally binding on the court; consult a lawyer for details.

It’s especially important to update your will if your spouse is named as executor, as that means your spouse has the ability to dispose of your estate however he or she sees fit. Unless you’re still on really good terms, you’ll probably want to change that.

Change emergency contacts.

Maybe your spouse is your emergency contact at work, or at the doctor’s office. Maybe you just need to update the emergency contact list you leave for the babysitter. Regardless, don’t forget to update your emergency contacts, and adjust your former spouse’s presence as necessary. Your spouse probably should be notified if something happens to your kids, but you might not want your spouse knowing every little medical detail about your life, so make sure to update where appropriate.

Update personal information at school.

When you have kids, there’s even more paperwork you need to update when you get a divorce. If you and your former spouse have separate addresses and phone numbers, you’ll want to update the contact info on file at your children’s schools. If you’re sharing custody, make sure both you and your former spouse are on file. If you’ve got sole custody but want your former partner to remain an emergency contact, update the records accordingly.

Make a list of things you need to change.

All the necessary documentation and changes can be overwhelming. Don’t miss something important; sit down and write out a list of everything you need to update. Making a list will help you figure out if you’ve missed something, and you can also cross things off the list as you update them. Don’t let the important details fall by the wayside – be methodical and thorough when updating important documents after a divorce.

Document Everything for Your Case

Whether you’re dealing with a divorce or a personal injury, you need to document everything in order to ensure that your case is thoroughly prosecuted. What does this entail? It’s not just about keeping copies of important letters; document everything means document everything.

Copy important documents for your lawyer.

Keep copies of every document that remotely pertains to your legal case. Copy medical bills; copy letters from insurers; copy letters from other attorneys; and copy any correspondence from the other parties in your case. Provide copies of all documents to your lawyer, and let him decide what’s important and what isn’t. You might assume something isn’t important, but it could turn out to be the single document that changes your case.

Take lots of pictures, and get them to your lawyer.

If your case has any sort of visual element, document it thoroughly through detailed photographs, and get copies to your lawyer. In a personal injury case, take photos of the injury itself, the place where the injury occurred, and any equipment, people or vehicles involved in the injury. If you can get these photos at the time of the accident, even with a cell phone camera – do it. If you’re dealing with nursing home abuse, photo document any evidence you have that abuse is taking place. In any context where visual elements would help your case, take plenty of good, clear photos and get them to your lawyer.

Documenting applies to phone calls, too.

While it may not be possible to physically record phone calls, you should document every phone call pertaining to your case. Keep a pen and notepad by the phone and make a note of the date, time and duration of every phone call involving your case. Get the names of the people with whom you speak. Make notes of important points during the conversation. Write down any confirmation numbers or important details. Provide your attorney with copies of these notes to better prepare your case.

Document everything to do with medical treatment.

Document all aspects of your medical treatment. Make a note of any medical care providers you see, and the date and time when you saw them. Get a signed HIPPA authorization to your attorney so he can request your medical records. Retain copies of any bills or letters you receive from the medical providers or from the insurance companies. Copy claim letters and even statements from your health insurance provider showing any medical treatment related to your case.

Five Things to Avoid in Your Divorce Proceedings

Whether your divorce is amicable or acrimonious, it’s far too easy to do things to shift the balance of power or get yourself in trouble during the divorce proceedings. Avoid giving your spouse the upper hand; refrain from doing any of these big no-no’s during your divorce.

1. Don’t involve the kids. At all.

Divorce is always difficult, but it’s infinitely more difficult when kids are involved. The most important thing parents can do for their kids is to protect them during a divorce. Don’t involve your kids in any aspect of the unpleasantness of a divorce. Don’t confide in them. Don’t try to convince them that you’re the ‘good’ guy and your spouse is the ‘bad’ guy. Don’t take them out of state, or refuse to let your spouse see them unless you’re absolutely concerned about their safety. Kids should never be a bargaining chip in a divorce, and they should never be used to manipulate your spouse.

2. Don’t make unreasonable demands.

If you’re unhappy about a divorce, it’s tempting to demand everything your spouse has just to get even. Or if you feel your relationship hasn’t been equal, you may feel entitled to more during a divorce. Regardless of your logic, don’t make unreasonable demands during a divorce. You probably should run any demands by an impartial third party; not a friend or family member who is looking out solely for your welfare.

By making unreasonable demands, you set yourself up for retaliation from your spouse, and you make your case weaker in front of a judge. Listen to your lawyer and iron out a settlement that works for both you and your spouse; don’t make it about a contest to see who ‘wins.’ Nobody ever wins in divorce.

3. Don’t correspond with your spouse about important disputes.

In an acrimonious divorce, it’s best to have as little contact with your spouse as possible. Even in an amicable divorce, it’s a good idea not to correspond with your spouse about any important disputes. Let correspondence come from your attorney. Anything you put in writing can be used against you in a divorce case, so don’t take the risk; just don’t correspond with your spouse about important disputes.

4. Don’t leave important documents lying around.

The second you or your spouse files for divorce, you must consider yourselves separate entities. Whether you’re still friends or your spouse is spoiling for a fight, you need to protect your own interests by hanging onto important documentation.

Make sure you have copies of all important documents stored in a location your spouse can’t access. The reasoning behind this isn’t to hide things from your spouse; it’s to protect your interests by preventing your spouse from losing or destroying important documents. Even a friendly divorce can turn sour if the wrong words are spoken, and it’s far too easy for a spouse to sabotage you if the only copies of important financial documents are lying around for anyone to manipulate.

5. Don’t spend more money.

Many people deal with unhappiness by shopping. While acquiring material possessions may help to temporarily quiet the inner voice of unhappiness, it doesn’t help your financial situation. When most people get a divorce, their financial situation changes, sometimes drastically. Save money for establishing your new household.

If you fear your spouse is going to try to get hands on your cash in a divorce, avoid the temptation to spend it in order to prevent your spouse from getting it. Consult your attorney about the best way to handle assets and avoid getting yourself into trouble in court during the divorce.