For parents of minor children who want to know what ALL the options are when a divorce is going to happen, hear this. A mind works best, like a parachute, when it is open. There are very creative ways to divide property and to share children if both parties keep their eye on the prize – the well being of the children. They didn’t ask for this drama and it is possible to shield them if the two of you work at it. The idea of “working at it” may sound odd to a couple who is about to break up just because their relationship isn’t “working” but if you have kids together your job will never end. There will be weddings and grandchildren and holidays for the rest of your life. If you start World War III now, with the kids caught in the middle, they are going to have to do a lot of duck and cover as your verbal bullets whiz over their heads.
Take a step back and focus on the children. No matter what perceived wrongs may or may not have happened to you, this is where you are right now and playing the blame game may make you feel better but it is not productive. A little rational thought instead of playing victim to your own feelings is what is needed most right now. The more you focus on anger, the more anger you will feel. Focus on the children now instead. Who has been the primary caretaker? If you have been a stay at home mom or dad, guess what, you have to go back to work because you won’t collect enough support to keep you accustomed to the life you have gotten used to living. So if both of you are working then you really get a chance to look at a shared custody situation. It is hard to raise a child alone. Sometimes you really need a break for your own sake.
5/2 2/5. This is a very popular child sharing plan that gives the children a consistency that is dependable. One parent always takes Monday and Tuesday while the other parent always takes Wednesday and Thursday with weekends going back and forth. This means that you will never be away from the child more than 5 days at a time. Some times the weekend runs into your Monday/Tuesday and sometime it runs into the Wednesday/Thursday. Having big chunks of time with and without the children lets you plan a personal and work life that a lot of people enjoy.
Nesting. This option is for the really big boys and girls, and I don’t mean your kids, I mean you. Petty people can’t do this. You have to be pretty special to take this on but I like to think that if I had little kids and my husband and I were going to break up, we would be mature enough to pull this off. In the 10 years I have been a divorce lawyer only one case I was involved in went this route. It only lasted a year but in that year the child was completely secure in her home. So instead of the child moving from home to home, the two of you get to be inconvenienced. This addresses a lot of issues like surly teenagers not wanting to visit the non custodial parent because they don’t want to leave their home and friends. What ever your time share is, 50/50, 75/25, etc. the PARENTS move in and out of the family home and share what I call the “bachelor pad.” Think about it, how can a couple who has been living paycheck to paycheck (yes, the rich live like that too) who have had one or two incomes just barely supporting one household suddenly go their separate ways and be able to afford separate housing that will accommodate the kids when they come to visit? If the two of you stayed in the family home when it was your time with the children and switched back and forth between the home and the bachelor pad, you would not have to rent a big place to accommodate the kids. All you would need is a studio apartment or one bedroom apartment. You would need to be very discrete about having “guests” of the other sex. You can’t leave tell tale signs around that would make the other person jealous or uncomfortable. Like I said this option is for people who can play at a much higher level than normal.
On the financial side, if you have a bitter, uncooperative, self employed spouse, try collecting support. It is impossible unless they feel like paying you. This is going to be a fight to the end and you probably will never collect what you are owed. The last thing you want is to go to war with a person like this. So now we talk about the most important decision you will make. What kind of divorce do you want? Some people want to go in guns blazing. There are a LOT of attorneys who just love clients like that because they know they can make a lot of money off of you. But if you have a self employed spouse, you NEED them to cooperate. You know what your grandmother used to say about catching more flies with honey. A long, expensive, adversarial divorce will not produce a workable result when the side who owes the support is self employed. They will dig in their heals and do so much creative accounting, you will end up paying them.
We create our lives out of our intention. That may sound counter intuitive. You didn’t intend for your marriage to end, did you? Well intention is like a muscle, the more you use it the stronger it gets. If the two of you intend to break up with as much cooperation and generosity as possible BOTH of you will be better off, financially and emotionally. I always say the same thing to people, you can divide the pie two ways or four ways. Which way do you get the most? When you use divorce mediation, you cut out the lawyers. The average fees in California, when both sides have their own lawyers is $20,000 each, but the truth is that the more you have to lose the more your fees will be. Divorce attorneys are the only kinds of lawyers whose fees are protected by the equity in your home. They KNOW they are getting paid. Do you think the case will take longer or resolve itself quickly when you have a lot of assets? Human nature being what it is and certain attorneys hiding behind their duty of being “zealous advocates” will make sure the case does not settle until there is nothing left to fight about. If you want more details, read Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. Nothing has changed.
After 8 years of being a divorce lawyer I had had enough. I couldn’t take the false allegations of child molest just to get a foot up in a custody battle. I was sick of the truth taking the back seat to what you can prove through the rules of evidence. I was so tired of the person with the assets being able to hire the best liar and then pretend they were broke and the court being so blind that they let this travesty continue without sanctioning the lawyers who knew their clients were lying. Funny how the lawyers got paid but not the poor ex. Once upon a time and for many years I as the ONLY person who took low income family law cases for the North County Bar. When I tell you that you only get the justice you can afford, believe it!!!! Mediation keeps the control in your hands. You know what the deal is because YOU are making it and not being told what to do. Crafting a solution gives the couple the sense that they are choosing how their life is going to be. No one is telling them how to do anything. You have a lawyer telling you what the law is so if one person starts going way off base, I can reel them back in and let them know they would never get that if they went to court. But I am a sounding board. I am not throwing gasoline on the fire to keep things hot. The way I give you information does not incite you to fight.
The overwhelming majority of people know what they have. There are no hidden Swiss bank accounts in most divorce cases yet attorneys will spend thousands of dollars doing discovery, taking depositions and serving subpoenas. Why buy more than you need? Would you do that with a house or car? Why would you do it with a divorce? I am not saying mediation is for everyone but if the two of you are two decent people who just want out, no one is trying to hurt the other one and both of you are honest and reliable about money with enough honor to keep your word, then you are the perfect client for me and mediation is perfect for you. Not all my clients are that perfect but I have 100% track record with every couple who has ever worked with me. Every single one has come to an agreement because I have a powerful intention to find everyone’s bottom line and fashion a fair plan. My intention is 100% every time.
You can count on me to help the two of you through a transitional period that has its challenges but I will do it in a way that is peaceful and respectful to both of you. No one is going for a ride in my office. No one gets mugged, trapped or surprised. The two of you do your homework together or separately, it is up to you and then we work together, on average between 4-7 hours. I have helped over 150 other couples and only those who “get it” show up at my office so we are already ahead of the game. If you “get it” then I want to hear from you as soon as possible. My fee is $2,500. The average price when both sides have their own attorney is $40,000. I am sure the two of you can find something to do with the extra $37,500. But most importantly, you will be comfortable enough to co-parent. This is the best gift you can give to your children. I ought to know, I was one of those kids caught in the middle. My folks still take shots at each other over my head. This is why I do what I do. Someone has to bring some sanity back into the divorce process because the adversarial system destroys families. What kind of divorce do you want?
To listen to a very informative audio program about the differences between mediation and litigation, go to my website at www.divorce-inaday.com
Ms. Rachman has been a family law attorney for the past 10 years and before becoming a lawyer, taught special education for many years. Her Masters in Special Education has given her the kind of special skill set that makes it possible to have a 100% success rate with over 150 couples who have come to her for divorce mediation. Anyone needing a divorce who lives in California, can so Divorce In A Day mediation witih Ms. Rachman.