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The Quickest Way to a Costly Divorce Settlement

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Of all the things you can do to shoot yourself in the foot during a divorce, this one tops the list. Talking to your Ex about legal issues or personal things that they don’t need to know about. It will cost you money, frustrate your attorney, and set you up for disappointment. And who wants that?

It happens more than you think. You hire an attorney, but between all of the child exchanges and communications with your Ex, you get tired and forget that there is a line between co-parenting and litigation that shouldn’t be crossed. The next thing you know, something you’ve said in a moment of (frustration/irritation/exasperation) has tipped your hand in favor of your Ex, and his/her attorney will use that to prove that your Ex’s behavior has been corrected (at least temporarily right before the hearing) or to use against you. Either way, you have just given away your best chance of getting the modification you have spent so much time working towards.

Talk to your Ex about the kid’s homework, about soccer practice, about rehearsals, but don’t talk to them about anything beyond parenting. Handling legal matters is your attorney’s job. Let your attorney do what you hired them to do without making them jump through more hoops because you opened your mouth about a recent purchase, the party you attended or the lavish trip you took, or whatever. Sometimes the best way to help your attorney help you, is to remain silent.


When Niceness Fails

BP_22-WomanYelling_CaptionFew things will test a person’s character like a divorce. If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I typically advise my client’s to keep things calm, be reasonable, and try to work peaceably toward a sensible resolution. I have seen cases, however, when the opposing party seems determined to walk away with everything, or to inflict as much emotional pain on my client as possible. In those cases, playing defense simply isn’t enough, and depending on the circumstance I will sometimes advise my client as follows:

Push Your Soon-To-Be Ex’s Buttons. Just like nobody knows how to push your buttons more than they do, nobody knows how to push their buttons better than you. If you can get him/her to lose control and you document their behavior, it may just give you the leverage you need to get something that is important to you. If they are trying to irritate you, return the favor.

Proceed with Caution! Only use this tactic if you’re confident that you can control your own emotions throughout the exchange. Typically, the more calm you remain, the more it will irritate your soon-to-be Ex. Secondly, push their buttons without being obvious, and never try to agitate someone who is likely to cause you physical harm.

By | 2016-10-27T00:30:12+00:00 August 18th, 2016|Categories: Divorce, Family Law-General, Mediation|Tags: |0 Comments

Three Rules to Live By When Going Through a Divorce

BP_20-CoupleFighting__Caption1. Don’t Fail to Keep Your Attorney Advised of Your Whereabouts.

The only thing more exasperating to an attorney and more damaging to your case than lying to your attorney, is falling off the face of the earth. You’ll look bad to the court when your attorney has to tell the judge that they don’t know where you are, and you’ll wind up paying them for the time they spend tracking you down.

2. Don’t Run Down Your Ex, Especially When the Kids are Around.

From the first court order in any family law case where children are involved, you are under orders not to say bad things about your soon-to-be Ex. This means not saying negative things directly to the kids, or expressing those negative views to someone else while in front of your kids. Chances are, your comments will reach your soon-to-be Ex who can then use the information against you in court. Even more importantly, your kids don’t need or want to know that one of their parents cheated, or is a no good dirty rotten scoundrel. As tempting as it is to paint yourself as the saint and your soon-to-be Ex as the devil, remember that it’s not just your world that is going through a drastic change. Your kids’ world is being turned upside down, and they had no say in the matter. All they need or want is to be loved, and to feel safe at a time when they need it most.

3. Don’t Fail to Understand that a Happy Ex is Key to Your Happiness.

Few things can make your life more miserable than an angry Ex. Whether their anger is with you or they are just having trouble in their new life with money or anything else, you are likely to be the one they take it out on. On the other hand, if you take the initiative to make their life easier, they might be less inclined to look for ways to get back at you.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Or at Least Have a Say in Your Own Fate?

BP_20-CoupleFighting_Blackboard_CaptionSeriously, it makes the most sense to actually work toward resolution rather than pay lip service to it while quietly working on your Ex’s last nerve. Earnest efforts toward resolution will get you through the process faster and cost you less in attorney’s fees. Your attorney will ensure that:

1. You are protected

2. The resolution is fair to both you and your soon-to-be-Ex, and

3. You won’t have to leave your fate to someone else to decide, i.e., a judge!

No matter how crazy your Ex is, working with them is better than making them angry and waiting to see what accusations will come out of their mouth in front of a judge. Everyone has a nugget that they’ve been holding onto, and having to deal with it on the fly in a courtroom is never easy. Think about it…What tidbit do you NOT want in the Court record, that your Ex would just LOVE to hold over your head until ALL the kids turn 18? Avoid all that by actually working with your attorney, not against your Ex.

By | 2016-10-27T00:30:12+00:00 August 5th, 2016|Categories: Divorce, Mediation|Tags: , |0 Comments

Three Things You Don’t Want to Do During a Divorce:

BP_19-WomanLosingHerTemper_Caption1. Don’t Argue Religion.
You are not going to convert anybody during your divorce case, but you can turn your soon-to-be Ex against you and set yourself up to look like a hypocrite. I’ve seen it happen.

2. Don’t Make Proposals You Are Not Fully Prepared to Live With.
It’s a good way to either destroy your credibility or end up having to live with something you didn’t want, all because you opened your mouth when your emotions were running high. Which leads me to my last point.

3. Don’t Give Your Ex Access To Your Emotions.
They will use them to manipulate you. They will use them to irritate you into doing something they can use against you, or use them to make you look easily manipulated. Either way, you lose.

By | 2016-10-27T00:30:12+00:00 July 28th, 2016|Categories: Divorce, Mediation|Tags: |0 Comments

Three Things You Should Never Do During a Divorce:

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1. Don’t Bring Your New Girl/Boy Friend Around the Kids Until The Divorce is Final.

Doing so will only irritate your soon-to-be Ex, who already doesn’t like the new girl/boyfriend in the first place. You will end up having to defend your new girl/boyfriend against the accusations of your soon-to-be Ex, and possibly end up with a court order prohibiting them from being around your kids.

2. Don’t Make Irritated Comments in Response. Showing emotion in court will only demonstrate that you can’t control yourself. This will make it easier for your Ex to convince the court that you did something while you were upset, and use it against you.

3. Don’t Show a “You Owe Me” Attitude. Maybe your soon-to-be Ex does owe you, and maybe they don’t. But the more you claim they owe you, the more they are going to magically remember all the things they did for you, which will likely end up outweighing the few things they remember you doing for them.

By | 2016-10-27T00:30:12+00:00 July 22nd, 2016|Categories: Civil Litigation, Custody, Divorce, Family Law-General|Tags: |0 Comments

How to Prove Your Assertions in Family Court

Blog17_ProvingYourAssertionsv2In my last post I talked about the level of certainty required in matters of Family Law, depending on WHAT you need to prove. In this post, I’ll cover HOW to prove what you need to prove.


How can I prove it? It’s a question you may not think to ask yourself until you’re standing in front of a judge, but unless your Ex makes it obvious to the court that they are a problem child, you’ll have a hard time proving their errant behavior if you don’t have documented proof.

What you can do. Keeping a calendar or simply writing down what happened at or near the time of the event is a good first step. Having family or friends observe your interactions with your Ex, then reviewing your calendar entries about these interactions is the best way to make your case. Keep a journal or a calendar to record your Ex’s bad behavior, and record it at or near the time it happens. These constitute what the court refers to as contemporaneous notes, and they carry greater weight with a judge.


But I hate keeping a journal. I get it. Writing everything down is a chore.


If that doesn’t work for you, try this. Let’s say your Ex is getting lax about picking up the kids when he or she is supposed to, or refusing to exercise their visitation, leaving you to wait endlessly because they don’t show up or call. Exchange the kids where you can buy a burger or soda, or fill up the gas tank. In doing this, you get a date/time stamped receipt while taking care of something you need to do anyway. Keep your receipts as proof that you really were at the exchange point, on time, and ready to pickup or drop off your child, and it was your Ex who showed up late (or not at all).

A picture is worth a thousand words, especially if it has a time stamp. If you’re having similar problems but the visitation exchanges take place at your home, just take a picture of them walking away from your Ex’s car. Provided you capture the image with a date and time stamp, you’ve made it very difficult for them to claim they were not late, or it was your fault, or whatever their usual excuse is. Even if they are on time, it will put your Ex on notice that you’re serious about sticking to the schedule, and able to prove it if they aren’t.

The point here is that you can’t wait until you’re standing in front of a judge to come up with the proof for your assertions. Figure out the easiest way for you to document your Ex’s bad behavior, whatever that might be. Dealing with a misbehaving Ex in difficult, but if you prepare, you can significantly improve your chances of things going your way in court.

Burden of Proof. What it Means to You in Family Court

ContemporaneousNotes_layersDifferent areas of law require different burdens of proof. In Criminal Law, the burden of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” commonly thought of as 99% certainty. For Family Law, the burden of proof is considerably lower, but there are essentially two levels of proof required depending on what you are trying to prove. Let’s look at those two levels:


Preponderance of the Evidence = 51% Certainty. This is the level of proof required in General Assertions. Lets say you are asserting to the court that your Ex owes you money or that you want to modify custody/visitation. The judge may rule in your favor based on a “preponderence of the evidence,” meaning you’ve demonstrated with a 51% certainty (more likely than not) that your Ex really does owe you money or that the requested modification of custody/visitation is in the best interest of the children.

Clear and Convincing Evidence = 75% Certainty. This is the level of proof required in Proving Contempt. In many cases, my clients are coming to me because their Ex is not following a court order, the set of rules handed down in a previous judgment with regard to such issues as child custody, visitation rights, or property division. When someone disobeys a court order, they are “in contempt,” a legal term for someone’s behavior when they knowingly defy the court. This is a serious matter that can lead to jail time, hence the higher burden of proof.


As an Example: Let’s say your Ex has repeatedly denied you visitation as specified on the court order. The challenge now, is to PROVE that your Ex is in contempt.

There are three things that you and your attorney must prove to this higher standard of clear and convincing evidence (75% Certainty):

1. Prove there is a written court order in your case requiring your Ex to fulfill the particular obligation they are failing to fulfill.

2. Prove your Ex KNEW there was a court order requiring them to fulfill the obligation that they are failing to fulfill.

3. Prove your Ex WILLFULLY refused to fulfill the obligation.

In the above example, showing that there is a court order is relatively easy. Showing where your Ex signed the court order is also relatively easy. Showing that they willfully refused to fulfill the obligation is NOT as easy, and must be demonstrated to a 75% certainty.

This brings us to the topic of “contemporaneous notes” a legal term for notes written at or near the time of the event, while the event is fresh in your mind. This adds credibility to your notes. If your notes were made before the current fight began, your notes are more believable.

In the above example, your Ex has refused to turn the kids over to you for your court ordered visitation. Lets say you tell your Ex that he or she is in violation of the court order, and document it that same evening in your journal. You now have a contemporaneous note. The next time your Ex refuses to allow you visitation, you are in a good position to show that your Ex is “in contempt,” because they continued to defy the court order, even after you pointed out to them that they are defying it.

Your Ex’s only recourse, would be a contemporaneous note of their own that counters yours or, more likely, getting one of their family or friends to claim that your Ex did not fail to let you have the kids but that you failed to communicate with your Ex (the it’s not me, it’s them defense – which is all too common). In that case it will come down to text messages or e-mails or phone records. If you can show that you made the contact, your Ex will be unlikely to counter such proof and you will likely prevail.

Understanding how the burden of proof can work FOR you or AGAINST you in Family Law is important.

When your ex throws dirt at you in court, it isn’t always easy to prove that you didn’t do what they are claiming, and because they have a lower burden of proof, 51% in this case, you might find yourself in a difficult position.

So what do you do? If you’re living under a court order, think defensively. Log your fulfillment of court ordered obligations, and keep a journal. Having your own set of “contemporaneous notes” of when you dropped the kids off, and when you picked them up, could come in handy.

 

 

 

 

Social Media and Divorce. Tread Lightly

WomanWithCaption_2Our apparent appetite for online communication and its ability to impact the outcome of a divorce makes it a timely and worthwhile topic. The guidelines aren’t as common-sense as you might think, so if you or someone you know is going through a divorce, please read this or pass it on:


No. 1. You’d be amazed at what can end up on Social Media. And you don’t have to be the one to post the picture! Anyone anywhere can take a picture of you and post it online. Just ask a teenager how easy it is to find pictures of yourself doing things you wouldn’t want the court to see. If you tell your Ex you can’t take the kids this weekend, know that he/she just might find the pics that you or somebody else posted of you knocking back drinks on your weekend at the beach and use them against you in court.

No. 2. Social Media and Drinking Don’t Mix. It’s unfortunate that computers don’t come with breathalyzers. Going through a divorce is almost always an emotional ordeal, and texting or posting on social media with lowered inhibitions can lead to Ex-bashing rants, divulging financial information, revealing past behavior, and broadcasting a host of other things that can be used against you in court. Just don’t do it!

No. 3. Don’t Delete the Stupid or Emotional Stuff You Previously Posted on Social Media. You have an obligation not to hide evidence. When you post nasty things about your Ex in an emotional moment, don’t think you can take them down later and get away with it. Once it’s out there, it’s out there, and the court can require you to cough it up, consider it against you, and can sanction you for the destruction of evidence.

No 4. Don’t Unfriend Your Soon To Be Ex on Facebook or Other Social Media. (This is tightly linked to point No. 3.) When you “unfriend” your soon to be Ex on Facebook or prevent them from following you on twitter or whatever social media you use, you are hiding evidence. The court will require you to restore your Ex’s friend status, giving him/her access to the very information you didn’t want them to have in the first place, which they will then use against you in court.

 

 

Courtroom Instincts Result in Speedy, Favorable Outcome

This is the third post in a three part series in which I highlight positive outcomes for cases that I’ve handled over the years and what you can learn from them. This is not a representation of the outcome in your particular case, but rather an explanation of what happened in these specific cases:


CWD_Gavel_Money_v6In a recent Family Law case, it became apparent that the judge was inclined to grant the opposing party a continuance to gather more evidence. This would mean putting my client through the expense of a contested hearing.

Both sides reviewed the mediator’s report, then I negotiated with the other parent to see if a mutual agreement could be reached now that both sides knew what the mediator had recommended. During negotiations, the other parent indicated that they wanted to end things that day. Knowing this, and sensing that they were concocting allegations with no evidence to back them up, I called their bluff and requested that the judge state reasons for ordering a contested hearing when neither side had requested one.

When the other parent confirmed that they had no additional evidence, the court had no choice but to render its decision immediately based only on the evidence we had presented. Our evidence, specifically designed to disprove the accusations the other parent had concocted without proof, led to a favorable outcome.

Talking to my client to learn about the other party’s tendencies, asking questions designed to elicit information from the other parent, and relying on good instincts, can make the difference between “short and sweet,” or long, drawn-out, expensive litigation. This was a case of taking a calculated risk, but experience, paying attention, and knowing how to read people made the difference.

Negotiations are more than just giving in or giving something up. Often, you can learn things that help while still in the fight. Negotiate when you can, and fight only when you must. But if you must fight, let us fight for you.

Coaching Father on Mediation Process Leads to Favorable Outcome.

This is the second post in a three part series in which I highlight positive outcomes for cases that I’ve handled over the years and what you can learn from them. This is not a representation of the outcome in your particular case, but rather an explanation of what happened in these specific cases:


Father Walking To School With Children On Way To Work

All custody cases must go through a mediation process in hopes the parents will settle their differences without a trial. Mediators are county employees tasked with hearing each side’s case and writing a report to the Judge based on the mediation session. Their recommendations carry tremendous weight. A Judge MUST: follow the mediator’s recommendation, or cite special circumstances or give good cause for doing something different.

Therefore, how a parent manages their mediation session can have far-reaching consequences.

In a recent case, all previous reports had been unfavorable to my client who was a Father seeking custody of his children. With my coaching, he received his first favorable report and was granted custody of his children during the school year.

Knowing how the system works, and learning how to present yourself can make all the difference. Let me show you how.

 

By | 2016-10-27T00:30:12+00:00 June 17th, 2016|Categories: Custody, Divorce, Family Law-General, Mediation|Tags: , |0 Comments