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Parental Alienation

I have seen it many times, I have had to insert clauses in separation agreements, I have had to go to trial over this issue more than once.  Parental alienation is when one parent disparages the other parent to the point the children truly believe that this person is a bad parent and someone to be feared.  It causes emotional and sometimes physical distress.  One parent is actively working to alienate the children from the other by whatever means necessary.  Most of the time it isn’t even because the other parent is a bad person and doing destructive things to harm the children it is usually due to the anger and bitterness one person holds for the other.  They use the children to try and hurt the other parent to the detriment of the children.  Sometimes it is because there is a new person in the picture, the new person can sometimes contribute to this because they are looking for that happy family that doesn’t include the ex.  Let the alienation begin.

These types of issues are difficult and tough to litigate, the children are dragged right into the middle of your fight.  They end up having to choose sides, go to therapy and sometimes reintegration therapy if it has been a long term separation from the alienated parent.  But at least we have options, but what do you do when it is the parent alienating themselves?

When my mom and dad divorced it was not easy for anyone.  My dad remarried almost immediately and left my mom trying to figure out how she was going to take care of six kids.  My step-mom most assuredly loved my dad but she had no desire to be the mother of six kids.  She began the process of alienating my dad from us and he happily went along.  Whether he realized it or not is another story but in the end he chose his wife over his children.  It didn’t have to be that way of course, he could have easily had both if he had wanted but I believe it was just easier for him to go along with her than fight for his kids.

Now I find myself in the same position, almost.  My ex long ago moved away from myself and my children.  Although he is in another state he is still within an easy driving distance.  It would be very easy for him to drive down on any given weekend to spend time with our kids especially since he does not work and therefore has plenty of time for whatever.  But he chooses not to.  He doesn’t call much either.  He is not remarried or even has a girlfriend, he has no family where he lives and I am unsure if he even has friends.  He has missed out on so much of his children’s lives for no good reason that I know of.  At first I encouraged my kids to call and see him when they could but as they grew into their own lives it became harder and harder for me to justify or encourage it.  They were old enough to decide on their own if this was a person they wanted in their lives when he decided to take the time to allow them in.  Slowly they began to just let go, just as he did many years before.  It never had to be this way the same as with my own dad, never in a million years would I have believed that my kids would walk the same path as I did at almost their exact same ages.  I will never understand what makes a person do this, I cannot imagine not having my children in my life.  I never expected to have them in the first place but now that I do I will never let go.

It has been approximately 30 years since I last spoke with my dad and I really hope and pray for my children’s sake that it is not the same for them.  When you have parents in your life that are fully present it can be a wonderful thing.  I really miss that for me and my kids.

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A Change Is Coming

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Happy New Year everyone.  This year will be a year of big changes for me.  My youngest daughter will be going to college and I will officially be an empty-nester, I will be selling the home I have lived in for 17 years and I will be releasing my first non-fiction book – Start Here: A Guide Through Divorce and Recovery.  I am also going to start a crowd funding campaign to assist me in raising money to start a parenting boot camp.

As a child I suffered through my parents’ very contentious divorce.  I endured things that stick with me today, 40 years later.  I have worked in family law for over 20 years and have had to watch some of my clients also subject their children to the disaster that was their divorce.  My hope is to assist parents going through a divorce with children to become better parents and understand the ramifications of doing anything other than being the best possible parent they can be and setting an example that their kids will carry with them into adulthood.

My goal is to prevent as many children as possible from being forced into the middle of their parents’ divorce, it is not fair and it is not right and I want to change that.

My Divorce Coach Intl.

 

 

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Christmas

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The holidays are just about over and you might be thinking about starting your divorce.  Nobody really wants to be doing this but sometimes it just has to be done.

To that end on my website I have a handy checklist to get you started.  In the next few weeks I will be releasing my first book entitled “Start Here” A Guide Through Divorce and Recovery”  This book will provide you with the information you need to get you started and get you through to recovery.

Divorce is not an easy process.  Some people think that when their marriage goes stale it becomes bad, and when it’s bad it’s over.  They believe it’s easier to divorce than to try and fix their problems, that is very far from reality.  But if you just can’t fix it and it’s time to ditch it, then let me help.  Contact me at my website below for helpful information and a personal consultation.  Nobody needs to go through this alone.

I wish anyone navigating this process smooth sailing.

My Divorce Coach Intl.

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Holiday Happiness

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The holidays are upon us and for those of you that are living in a divided household you have my sympathy.

The holidays can be difficult for some people even when everything is going fine, but when you add in a broken marriage, kids that are being shuffled back and forth between households and loneliness you have the makings of a very unmerry holiday.

For those of you who are struggling to get through each day just keep this in mind.  You literally never know what the future might bring.  This time next year will be completely different and hopefully in a good way – a great way.  It is all what you make it.  We only have so much control over our everyday lives so the things we do have control over we need to make as positive as possible.

When you are in the midst of divorce it’s hard to put on a happy face everyday, but the thing is no one ever said you had to be happy all day every day.  Find a few minutes each day to find or make some happiness in your life.  Slow down on your way to work and let that jerk who thinks he’s more important than everyone cut in front of you.  Buy your co-worker a cup of coffee in the morning or bring them one from the kitchen.  Compliment someone.  Hold the door open for someone.  Watch a stupid sitcom and laugh a little.  Eat some chocolate.  Go for a walk and listen to some happy music.  Offer to help someone with something you wouldn’t normally do.  Hug your kids if you have them.  Be sure you have some human contact everyday, especially if you work from home and don’t have kids.  Since it’s Christmas maybe offer to help wrap gifts at your local church or charity.

A few minutes of positivity everyday goes along way.  Before long you won’t even have to think about it and the negativity will be fewer and farther between.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa.

My Divorce Coach Intl.

 

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Do You Need An Attorney

Do you need an attorney? My answer to that is maybe, maybe not.  What are your circumstances? Do you have kids? Do you have a lot of assets that need to be divided? Is this a high dollar marriage?  Or on the other hand, no kids, no assets or very few and they have already been divided, short term marriage, agree on everything.  You don’t always need an attorney, especially if there are no assets to speak of, you don’t need to worry about child support or alimony, you weren’t married long etc. Most courts have self-help forms online and instructions on how to do it yourself.  There is no need to get attorneys involved if you are able to settle everything on your own.  Beyond that if there are only one or two issues that still need to be decided a good mediator can help you with that.  Depending on where you live you may be required to mediate before going to court anyway so why not just start there.

If on the other hand things are going to be complicated, you have a lot of assets, a business or two or you have kids and are arguing over parenting time, decisions etc. you may need to hire an attorney.  To that end do not just Google “divorce attorneys”, start by asking trusted friends or family members, referrals are always best because these people have real world experience with this attorney and wouldn’t be referring them if they were not good at their job.  However, do not use an attorney that your friend used to sue her neighbor and the attorney has also done a divorce case here and there.  You want to use someone who specializes in family law and has been there done that.  You want someone who knows the court system, the judges, mediators, counselors, and other professionals you may need to complete your case.  This is the rest of your life we are talking about and you don’t just want to use someone because they have a law degree or they’re cheap.

If you can’t find any referrals it is fine then to do internet research.  There are a lot of family law attorneys but they are not all the same.  If you can find a few who do free consultations take advantage and interview them.  It is important that you are comfortable with this person and that you can trust them, you will be working with them for the foreseeable future and you will basically be putting your financial and emotional life in their hands, be sure the outcome will be worth the money spent.

Also, keep in mind that it is unethical for one attorney to represent both parties – the attorney is supposed to be working towards the best possible outcome for their client and work to resolve things in their best interest, if you are both his clients who does he remain loyal to? Never hire an attorney to work with both of you.  However, if your spouse has hired an attorney and you choose to proceed without one keep in mind that you will be working directly with this attorney and they cannot give you legal advice.  It is best for you to either both have an attorney or not. 

My Divorce Coach Intl.

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Untethering

I have worked in family law for twenty years, I thought I was so smart and knew everything. I was sure I had my own marriage handled and I would never become a statistic, until I did. I separated from my husband thinking that we just needed some time apart and that he would eventually fix himself and come back. (Notice how I put it all on him) I waited for him for two years. During that time, I kept in regular contact with him, he came to the house and fixed things, turned the sprinklers on in the spring and off in the fall, took care of my car etc. I continued to rely on him for income and help with other things. I wasn’t ready to let go. I still wanted to be married no matter how bad things were. I spent much of those two years in tears but also praying for him to come back. I look back now and wonder, what the hell was I thinking? I was so sure that after 17 years of marriage I could not live by myself, take care of myself or survive on my own with two kids. Although, sans the children I had been doing just that, and quite well thank you very much before I met him. I put myself through college, bought a home and a car and even managed to save some money. Why did I think I couldn’t do that now?

I happened to have watched the movie Gravity with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney one night. I am not really a Sandra Bullock fan so it was actually unusual for me to be watching anything with her in it, especially as the main, and eventually, the only character. It was that movie however, that convinced me that it was time to untether.

If you have seen the movie Gravity with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney this will make a little more sense to you. There was a scene in the movie where their space ship had been hit by shrapnel, they had been outside at the time and Sandra was jettisoned away from the vessel. George rescued her tethered her to him and led the way back to the ship. Unfortunately they were hit with more shrapnel before they could board. He had run out of fuel in his jetpack and there was no way they would both be able to get back on the damaged ship. They had to make a decision.

George decides that they need to let go of each other, they need to untether, if someone didn’t let go they were both going down. She was scared she wanted them both to get back on board the damaged ship. She was convinced there was no way she would make it without his help. He was the one steering the ship, he knew the way and she depended on him. She didn’t know nearly the amount of things he did in order to get things up and running and hopefully get them home, she was convinced she would die without him. But he knew she wouldn’t, she begged, cried and pleaded with him not to let go but he did anyway. Now she had no choice, she had to save herself.

There she was floating in space, literally all alone she somehow had to find a way to save herself. It was scary and hard, she wanted to give up and very nearly did, she had to force herself to keep going and figure out how to move on from the broken down craft in order to survive. It was either that or give up and die, she started to believe that death was her only choice, she started to shut down. But she soon realized she had to combat the urge to give up and fight for her life. If she had not let go they both would have been left floating in space, tethered to each other drifting aimlessly in the realm of the unknown waiting to die.

By untethering not only did she stay alive but she found her strength and revealed her ability to do whatever was necessary to live. She left that broken craft behind and found her way home. Whether you believe it or not, you’ve got this. You may need to read a few manuals and will mostly definitely make mistakes along the way, but we all do. Given the choice of death (staying in a miserable relationship for the rest of your life out of fear) or going it alone for a little while, floating out in space by yourself and enduring the temporary fear and pain, the choice is clear. Enjoy the space for a while then fire up those engines and move on.

My Divorce Coach Intl

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Wasted Time

My ex lives in another state.  He rarely gets down here to see his kids even though he is only six hours away.  When he does come down the kids are usually a side note, and most of the time he is in no condition to spend any meaningful time with them anyway.  You see he is an alcoholic.  He chooses to spend his time buried in a bottle.  He complains that the kids don’t ever want to talk to him.  It’s not that they don’t want to talk to him, it’s that they can’t.  He is incoherent most of the time, makes little to no sense when he is and has no idea how to even talk to them anyway.  So rather than try he just blames them.

How does he not even see past the end of the bottle to the two beautiful children standing right in front of him.  How does he not even acknowledge or care that he is missing out on their lives, time that he will never get back, nor will they.  How do you walk through life oblivious to the fact that you are a dad and have children that need you.  I will never understand how someone could choose alcohol over their family.

The bottle will soon be empty, just as he will.  He will drown himself in more alcohol to try and fill that emptiness, but it will just come back the next day and he’ll start the process all over again.  He stares into the empty bottle, his life a lonely mess, all the while two children that would happily replace that bottle, fill the empty place in his heart with love and joy and welcome him into their lives again, instead sit and wait for the phone call telling them that he is no more.

My Divorce Coach Intl.

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Things I Learned After My Divorce

That I Don’t Need a Man

I always thought for me to be happy and whole I needed a man in my life.  For the most part up until my divorce I always had a boyfriend, most of them long term, and then my husband.  I really didn’t think I could be alone.  When the time finally came I was scared to death.  I didn’t think I could do anything by myself.  The only thing I was sure of was that I could take care of my kids – by myself, which is what ultimately ended up happening.  I don’t know why I thought that, I don’t know why that was the only thing I was 100% sure about and oddly did not fear.  But I soon found out that was all I could do.

I Am Smart

It wasn’t that I thought I was stupid, or that my husband made me feel that way, but there were plenty of times I felt that way.  He had more years of college than I and was a whiz at math.  Then my kids started surpassing me in that respect as well.  I always felt slightly less than when I was around him.  When he left I had to figure out everything for myself, finances, how to fix our sprinklers, put down flooring, fix the car  and so many other things I usually left in his hands.  I managed to teach myself all of this and more, I taught myself everything I needed to know and then some as well as how to find somebody for the things I didn’t.

I Am Strong

I wasn’t expecting things to turn out the way they did, in fact I wish they hadn’t.  But I had to figure out how to take care of everything, and I mean everything myself.  He was no longer even in the state.  Anything and everything related to our kids – me.  I was the last person who should have been teaching the kids how to drive, but I did because it was either that or fork over $600 for driving school – whatever happened to drivers ed by the way? Yes, there were a few death defying lessons and plenty of crying but we managed to get there.  I found a job to support us when he lost his and still managed to be present for everything kid related.  I kept a roof over our heads, food in our mouths and even managed to get a vacation in here and there, usually a trip to Iowa to see our family, but I did it.  I got my kids from elementary school to college by myself and I couldn’t tell you how.

I Am Lonely

I have had to put all of my energy into keeping things in my house going, at the expense of any social life I might have had.  I still tried to golf with my friends and meet up for happy hour here and there but dating just wasn’t in the cards.  Now that my youngest has one foot out the door I realize how much I miss having another person in the house.  I miss the warm body snoring next to me in bed, I miss holding hands and kissing on the couch, I miss just having someone to talk to.  I am at an odd age where most guys my age still look young and handsome enough to be able to date 20 or 30 somethings, and most do, but I am not quite ready for the 60+ crowd either.  So I guess I will just have to get used to it for a while longer.

It Gets Easier

As you journey through the process of divorce, all the anger, bitterness, sadness, you go through the stages of grief and process each and everyone of them in your own time, and then your done.  This may take years, some more than others.  Once you have gotten through the worst of it it only gets easier from there.  Sure if you have kids it may take longer than someone who doesn’t have that connection or has grown kids, but you still get there.  Every day gets a little easier and you start experiencing more joy than sadness.  You just have to let yourself get there.  You have to begin to let go of the past so you can start to embrace the future.

And remember, you never have to walk this path alone.

My Divorce Coach International

 

 

 

 

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9 Things To Get You Organized Before You File

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  • Ensure you know where all financial accounts are and that you have access to them.

If you are unsure about this you can download your credit report through Experian, Equifax or TransUnion.  All open and closed accounts will be listed with most recent balances.

  • Take inventory of your possessions

Take a quick inventory of your household possessions.  If there is anything of high value make note of it, take pictures and consider getting an appraisal if you have time.  You will need to know your car(s) value, you can get this through KBB.  Have some sort of idea of the items you would like to keep.

  • Do you have any pre-marital assets

Again, take inventory of those and the approximate value.  You will need to know the value at the time of the marriage and the current value, depending on the asset, whether tangible or monetary, see if you can find anything that would give you a pre-marital value.

  • Do you have the money to pay an attorney a retainer?

Depending on your situation this may be something that could take time to put together. Generally you will want to have anywhere between $2000 and $3000 for a retainer.

  • Do you have an attorney?

Be sure that any attorney you use mainly practices family law and does not just do it as an aside to other areas of law. Ask family and friends for referrals and be sure to try and consult with 2 or 3 if possible.  You may be working with the attorney you choose for a year or more, they will be responsible for negotiating your future, be sure you are comfortable with and fully trust this person.

  • Do you have a support system in place?

This may possibly be one of the most difficult emotional experiences you will ever go through, it is essentially a death.  Just as in that case it is important to have a strong support system in place.  However, do not abuse your privileges.  The process may last a year or more so it’s important to have an outside trusted person, such as your divorce coach or therapist, that you can also turn to when needed.

  • Have a plan for telling your kids (if applicable)

Be sure you and your spouse are on the same page to make the transition as easy as possible on your kids.

  • Are you working?

If you are not working be sure to update your résumé. Start networking and posting your résumé to social and job websites.  Depending on your situation you may be required to find a job or be imputed an income equivalent to your earning ability.

  • Begin gathering all of your financial documents

You may be required to complete a financial statement.  Along with that you may be required to exchange certain financial information such as 3 years’ worth of tax returns including 1099’s and W-2’s, approximately 2-3 months’ worth of bank and debt statements (including credit card, personal loans, student loans etc.), real estate documents (mortgage statements) paystubs, insurance information, retirement statements and child care statements (if applicable). Gather and make copies of all of these documents.  The more you can do now the easier and quicker the process later, saving you time and money.

My Divorce Coach Intl.

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Top 5 Things I Don’t Regret About My Marriage

ThThWhile some of us would look back at our marriages with regret, spite and bitterness, there are usually some good things that come out of it as well.  Of course if you had children that may be something that you do not regret, although you may be having a difficult co-parenting relationship and wish you did not have kids with this person, you most certainly would never give them back.  So while that may be a obvious choice there are some others that I would definitely not take back

While some of us would look back at our marriages with regret, spite and bitterness, there are usually some good things that come out of it as well.  Of course if you had children that may be something that you do not regret, although you may be having a difficult co-parenting relationship and wish you did not have kids with this person, you most certainly would never give them back.  So while that may be an obvious choice there are some others that I would definitely not take back.

The Opportunity To Be A Mother

I really never had any desire to be a mom, in fact I did not even like kids, however because of my ex I unexpectedly became a mother.  As I said, I never even thought about this and when it happened at age 32 I found myself actually looking forward to it.  I never thought I would have the patience it takes to raise children, which I still really don’t, but I found that patience along with unconditional love, the kind of love I had never experienced before in my life.  While it wasn’t the best of circumstances it changed my life for the better.

I Was Able to Fulfill My Desire for Travel

My mom always used to call me a wanderlust because I could never settle down.  I moved from one town to the next, from one apartment to another, I was never content.  I always had a desire to see what else was out there.  Because of this I never stayed at one job long enough to build up my 401k or save a dime.  I had just enough to pay my bills each month and maybe enjoy a beer or two with friends.  Being married to a somewhat successful man I was finally able to combine my income with his and travel to places I never would have been able to afford on my own.  Not to mention for awhile I had a great traveling partner as well.

I Learned How To Cook

Ask anybody that knew me before I was married, if you came to my house for any length of time you’d better bring your own supplies.  I kept my food supplies to a minimum.  I was young and busy and wasn’t home long enough to cook.  Things would rot before I ever got around to cooking them.  Besides, who wants to cook for one person, especially if you really don’t know how.  As part of a family now it just wasn’t practical to eat out all of the time so I had to learn how to cook.  By doing that I was able to spend some very special time with my kids teaching them the little bit that I knew.  We have spent many hours in the kitchen together doing just that and further cementing our mother/daughter relationship.

I Finally Accepted I Don’t Have to To Everything Myself

I was so used to being on my own and doing everything for myself that when someone came into my life that was actually willing to help, who had my back, I didn’t know what to do.  I just always assumed I would be by myself and would take care of myself.  So when I had someone else there to get a drink for me when I didn’t feel like getting off the couch or fix things around the house, it took a bit of getting used to.  I miss that.  I’m glad I am able to take care of myself and my kids but it sure would be nice not to have to do everything myself all of the time.

Learning What True Love Was

While unfortunately it didn’t last, I learned for the first time what true love really meant. It was another person anticipating my needs and wants and me doing the same in return.  It was someone to lie next to in bed every night sometimes talking for hours and sometimes just holding hands while we watched the late night shows.  It was always knowing that whatever was going on in my life I had someone to share it with, good or bad.  It was having someone to watch stupid tv with and then discuss how stupid it was afterwards, someone to cook for who wouldn’t ever tell me just how bad it was.  When I would go shopping for whatever and I would see something I knew he would like the feeling of joy it gave me to buy it knowing he would wear it or eat it whether or not he liked it because he knew it came from me.  It was watching him with our kids and watching our kids with him. It was the way we shared our lives together and cared for each other when my mom died and his dad died.  Always knowing that someone had my back and I theirs.  I learned what true love was.  It died of course but maybe if I’m lucky I will experience it again, but if not I at least know that I won’t die without ever having experienced it all.

“Tis better to have loved and lost then to have never loved at all”

Alfred Lord Tennyson

My Divorce Coach International

 

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