7 Tips to Keep Your Sanity in Custody Litigation

Posted May 2, 2016 in Family Law by Rebecca Sternbach.

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May 2, 2016
7 Tips to Keep Your Sanity in Custody Litigation
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In her memoir “Yes Please,” comedian Amy Poehler likened divorce to “spreading everything you care about on a blanket and then tossing the whole thing up in the air.” Undeniably, the end of a relationship is devastating for all involved, especially for the children of the relationship. Sometimes, parents separate with the best of intentions, promising to keep the peace for the sake of the children–with varying degrees of success. An unfortunate reality is that divorce and custody litigation is taxing on children of any age, and exposure to conflict can have lasting and serious repercussions. In fact, studies show that children exposed to a contentious divorce are more likely to struggle academically, socially, and emotionally.*

This post contains tips to decrease conflict and keep you (and your family) sane during custody litigation.

1.  Be Flexible.

Life after separation is uncomfortable for both parents and children. On top of arranging separate housing and sorting such issues as payment of household bills and the sale of the family home, you and your ex must negotiate a temporary visitation schedule. This is no small order! In approaching this challenge, flexibility is key. Remember, initial temporary custody arrangements are just that—temporary—and will be fine-tuned over time. Consider taking advantage of the free custody mediation services available in some counties through Family Court Services, where a neutral mediator will help you and your ex formulate a visitation schedule.

2.  Communication is Key.

Hostility strains communication. Children adjusting to divorce will benefit from their parents maintaining healthy lines of communication. While face-to-face communication with your ex may be difficult, luckily there are many alternatives. Consider designating a “family notebook” to travels in your child’s backpack or overnight bag. You and your ex can write (peaceful) notes to one another, detailing the status of homework and projects, sleep and nap schedules, snacks and meals eaten by the kids during visits, and health-related concerns. Or, consider using Our Family Wizard which is a web and app-based custody tool that helps parents with scheduling and communicating (and is frequently ordered by family court judges).

3.  Choose your Words Carefully.

Think of your child as a sponge. He or she will soak up everything you say and do, especially during this unstable time. For this reason, no matter how tempting it may be, do not “vent” or criticize the other parent in the presence of your children, or discuss the ongoing litigation. To help your children understand the changes your family is undergoing, and offer a safe space for your children to discuss these changes, consider family or individual counseling.

4.  Practice the Golden Rule…Even if Your Ex Doesn’t.

Treat your ex as you wish to be treated, even if he or she does not return the favor. Retaliating against your ex by withholding contact with the children will breed further tension and conflict. To that end, difficult though it may be, try to take the high road. Show respect and flexibility to your ex, even if he or she is seemingly unwilling to offer the same courtesy. Ultimately, the court will see you as the more reasonable parent.

5.  Be Cautious When Introducing New Partners.

Err on the side of caution when introducing a new boyfriend or girlfriend to your children. It can be difficult for children to process the end of their parents’ marriage, and the introduction of a new partner too soon may cause confusion and anxiety. It may also heighten conflict with your children (or resentment from your ex). Even if your children adore your new partner, if the new relationship is short lived, then your children may face even more difficult change. Consider waiting until the initial uncertainty of the custody litigation—and your new relationship—has passed before introducing a new partner.

6.  Go Back to School.

It’s never too late to learn. There are an abundance of parenting classes offered on a variety of topics (from parenting an infant to relating with a teenager). The courts often order one or both parties to participate in a parenting class. Consider voluntarily enrolling in a class at the beginning of the case. Not only will it impress the judge, by honing your own parenting skills, you will also develop coping mechanisms and learn to navigate conflict.

7.  Be Patient and Change Will Come.

Change will not happen overnight. Separating from the parent of your child will undoubtedly cause a period of unhappiness and uncertainty. However unpleasant, this time shall pass. Be patient, and change for the better will come.

If you need help navigating your custody litigation, the Certified Family Law Specialists at Lonich & Patton have decades of experience handling complex family law matters. Please contact the Certified Family Law Specialists at Lonich & Patton for further information.  Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results.  While this post may include legal issues, it is not legal advice.  Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.

*Source: Children of divorce in the 1990s: An update of the Amato and Keith (1991) meta-analysis. Amato, Paul R. Journal of Family Psychology, Vol 15(3), Sep 2001, 355-370.

 

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4 questions to ask before hiring a mediator

Posted March 8, 2016 in Family Law by Michael Lonich.

Mediation can be very helpful for spouses going through a divorce. Ensuring a successful mediation requires choosing the right mediator. Before deciding to work with a mediator, parties may consider speaking to those who have worked with him or her in the past. Below are a few suggested questions to ask those who have worked with the mediator:

1.Did the mediator develop a relationship of trust and confidence with you?

2.Was the mediator patient yet tenacious?

3. Would you hire this mediator again?

4.Was the mediator creative?

Sometimes our issues don’t have an easy solution. For example, deciding a custody holiday schedule or deciding who will keep the marital home, can make it difficult to reach an agreement. Hire a mediator that you know is prepared to deal with these complex issues.

While divorce mediation works in many situations, it is not always appropriate. Litigation is often the best option in situations where there is domestic violence, one party refuses to cooperate in making required disclosures, or communication between the parties is impossible. If you have any questions about divorce mediation and would like to speak to an attorney, please contact Lonich & Patton for further information.  Keep in mind that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results.  While this post may include legal issues, it is not legal advice.  Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Source:

http://www.pon.harvard.edu/daily/mediation/hiring-a-mediator-a-checklist/?mqsc=W3826827&utm_source=WhatCountsEmail&utm_medium=PON%20Harvard+Neg%20Insider%20%28Tuesday/Thursday%29%20Standard%20Rule+Neg%20Insider%20%28Tuesday/Thursday%29%20Standard%20Rule&utm_campaign=Neg_WIR_02202016

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3 requirements for a successful mediation

Posted March 7, 2016 in Family Law by Michael Lonich.

Mediation allows parties to work in a collaborative environment and reach an agreement satisfying to both sides. The enclosed article suggests mediation as a first step in solving problems and reaching voluntary agreements. Instead of using mediation as a last resort, the article recommends using it as the first step to work out solutions. In particular, using mediation, a less formal alternative than court, makes it less likely that parties will react defensively or overstate their claims. Although the article discusses mediation in a business context, the following three suggested requirements for a successful mediation also serve well in divorce mediation:

(1) a willingness on the part of all the relevant parties to work together to resolve the problem or deal with the situation;

(2) the availability of a trusted “neutral” with sufficient knowledge and skill to manage difficult conversations; and

(3) an agreement on procedural ground rules (i.e., confidentiality, timetable, agenda, good faith effort, etc.)

While divorce mediation works in many situations, it is not always appropriate. Litigation is often the best option in situations where there is domestic violence, one party refuses to cooperate in making required disclosures, or communication between the parties is impossible. If you have any questions about divorce mediation and would like to speak to an attorney, please contact Lonich & Patton for further information.  Keep in mind that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results.  While this post may include legal issues, it is not legal advice.  Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.

 

Source:

http://www.pon.harvard.edu/daily/mediation/mediation-as-problem-solving/?mqsc=W3827538&utm_source=WhatCountsEmail&utm_medium=PON%20Harvard+Neg%20Insider%20%28Tuesday/Thursday%29%20Standard%20Rule+Neg%20Insider%20%28Tuesday/Thursday%29%20Standard%20Rule&utm_campaign=Neg_WIR_02272016

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Uncovering hidden assets during a divorce

Posted February 29, 2016 in Family Law by Michael Lonich.

Divorces can get ugly. Someone who was once your world suddenly becomes your enemy. One area that can get especially messy is property division. One spouse may try to hide assets in hopes of preventing the other spouse from benefiting from them. Although such action can lead to legal consequences, some spouses, nonetheless, attempt to do so.

The first step should be to try to get the information from your spouse. In an ideal world your spouse will be upfront about all the assets. But if your spouse is uncooperative or you suspect your spouse is hiding assets, it is probably best to contact an attorney to guide you through this process. An attorney can assist you in obtaining financial information from your spouse by using the discovery process.

Some of the discovery tools include:

Document demand: Your attorney can ask your spouse to produce financial documents such as bank statements, tax returns, and recent pay stubs.

Interrogatories: This allows your attorney to ask specific questions to which your spouse will have to answer in writing or admit specific statements that you believe are true.

Inspection demands: This allows you to inspect property that you believe may be of value.

Deposition: During a deposition, your spouse will answer questions under oath. You, your spouse, attorneys and a court reporter will be present. Because this is under oath, your spouse may be penalized for “perjury” if it is discovered he has provided false information. Thus, a deposition is a great way to put some pressure on your spouse to tell the truth.

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of discovery is that if your spouse fails to comply with a request, you may ask the court to order your spouse to furnish financial documents. If your spouse still fails to produce the documents or information requested, the court may impose a “sanction” which can result in a judgment against your spouse on a particular issue or a monetary award for you.

If you have any questions about divorce or any other issue, the Certified Family Law Specialists at Lonich & Patton have decades of experience handling complex family law matters. Please contact the Certified Family Law Specialists at Lonich & Patton for further information.  Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results.  While this post may include legal issues, it is not legal advice.  Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Source: http://www.divorcenet.com/topics/hiding-money-and-assets-a-divorce

 

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Spanking: proper punishment or child abuse?

Posted February 25, 2016 in Family Law by Michael Lonich.

There comes a time for all parents when we must determine how to properly discipline our children. Not only must we choose a punishment that will work, but we must also be mindful of punishment that may be too harsh. In a recent case, the Department of Children and Family services initiated a case against a Los Angeles mother who spanked her children on the buttocks with her bare hand and with a sandal. The Juvenile court found that dependency jurisdiction existed stating that “hitting children with shoes is not a proper form of discipline, and it’s physical abuse.”’

The Court of Appeals, however, found that spanking is not a per se form of abuse. While this case is not an open invitation to spank your child, it does illustrate the court’s adherence to the long standing principle in California that parents have a right to “reasonably discipline his or her child.” But how do we know when our form of punishment is reasonable and not child abuse? The court noted three factors that must be taken into account by a court before making a finding of child abuse, based on spanking or any other form of discipline:

(1) Whether the parent’s conduct is genuinely disciplinary

(2) Whether the punishment is necessary (warranted by the circumstances); and

(3) Whether the amount of punishment was reasonable or excessive.

This standard allows for parents to reasonably discipline their children while protecting children from disguised abuse. Disciplining a child, may therefore be mere punishment or abuse, all depending on the circumstances.

If you have questions about the impact of child abuse allegations in your child custody matter, contact the Certified Family Law Specialists at Lonich & Patton for further information.  Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results.  While this post may include legal issues, it is not legal advice.  Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Source: http://blogs.findlaw.com/california_case_law/2015/11/spanking-is-not-child-abuse-court-rules.html

IN RE D.M., 242 Cal. App 4th 634 (2d Dist. 2015)

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