Posts filed under ‘Divorce Wars’

How To Avoid Divorce Denial – It’s a Messy World: Here’s How to Avoid Getting Screwed

By Jeffery Leving

Deniers simply are unable to face the fact that their marriage is over, even when the signs are unmistakable: Their spouse is cheating, siphoning money out of their accounts or making plans to move out. Still, deniers hope their marriage can be saved. Jack and Ellen’s story is an excellent example of divorce denial and of the mistakes men make in divorce.

A Loyal Man

Jack refused to believe his wife Ellen was going to divorce him. They had been married for seven years, and though he knew their marriage had problems, he was certain they could work them out. Some of the problems were related to Ellen’s bipolar disorder, for which she was being treated.

Unfortunately, Ellen sometimes refused to take the prescribed medications that helped keep the condition under control. In her manic phase, she drove recklessly, and though she had never done so with their two young children in the car, Jack always worried about this possibility.

In her “down” phase, Ellen talked about “running away and starting over.” But Jack, loyal to mistakes men make in divorce, was certain that no matter how many arguments he and Ellen had, she would never file for divorce.

Sleeping in

He was wrong. Not only had she hired a lawyer and started the process, but she also had followed the lawyer’s instructions regarding her medical condition. Her lawyer, anticipating that Jack might use this condition to try to gain sole custody, had instructed Ellen to persuade Jack to sign a document attesting to her mental fitness; he helped Ellen create a cover story that she needed this document for health insurance purposes.

By the divorce, he was hopelessly behind. It took him weeks to find a lawyer, and even then he remained unconvinced that she was serious about sole custody; he insisted to his lawyer that this was just a negotiating ploy.

Jack, realizing he was falling victim to mistakes men make in divorce, finally emerged from his divorce denial.

Denial Signs To Be Aware Of

To prevent this from happening, be aware of the following signs that you’re in divorce denial:

  • Your spouse informs you she wants a divorce, but you insist to both her and yourself that she’s not serious.
  • The marriage is dead and your spouse moves out and makes a down payment on a new house, but you convince yourself that the separation is temporary.
  • You note that your spouse is taking money out of your joint accounts, that your relationship has experienced serious problems and that she is having an affair, but you refuse to put two and two together.
  • Your spouse has threatened to take the kids and leave, but even as you’re consulting your lawyer, you refuse to believe she would ever do such a thing.
  • When your spouse informs you that she’s filing for divorce, you refuse to hire an lawyer, convinced that things will work out if you avoid “playing her game.”
  • You tell your friends that your spouse is only using the possibility of divorce as a bargaining chip to buy a new house or change your bad habits, but that when push comes to shove, she’ll never follow through on the threat.
  • You hire a lawyer in response to your spouse filing for divorce, but you argue with him that your spouse has no intention of limiting your visitation, asking for sole custody, refusing to give you certain monies, or share property fairly; based on your certainty that your spouse would never treat you unfairly, you don’t follow your lawyer’s advice.

Done Deal

Divorce denial is dangerous, especially if you have children at risk. Recognize the warning signs and take immediate action to protect your rights and the rights of your children.

 

October 7, 2010 at 4:17 pm Leave a comment

Top 10: Mistakes Men Make in Divorce

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By Jeffery M. Leving

It’s easy to make mistakes at the very beginning of the divorce process, especially if you’re dealing with someone who is highly manipulative, abusive or just plain irrational. Even if you are divorcing a reasonable person, it’s tough to think clearly and make the right initial decisions. Most people are so angry, upset or anxious at the end of their marriage that they’re not thinking logically about what they should do to protect themselves or their children from an unfair settlement.

In the past, the prevailing emotions during a divorce were usually sadness and regret. Today, anger is the dominant emotion: People are angry at their spouses, their spouses’ parents, at their spouses’ new partners, etc. All this anger translates into words and deeds that make the divorce process more costly, stressful, frustrating, lengthy, and an all out war. It doesn’t have to be that way, even if you are divorcing the most irrational of humans. Below are the 10 most common mistakes men make in divorce. If you can learn to place your emotions in check and avoid these mistakes, you can alleviate some of the pain that comes with any divorce.

#10Using Your Children as Pawns
Threatening to limit or deny visitation is a powerful threat, and it can terrify a parent who loves his child(ren). Often, parents who are the primary caregivers, but who lack the financial resources, feel that they must use this threat to gain sufficient financial support.

As painful as these threats are, do not respond in kind. Don’t issue threats of your own. Instead, recognize that in most cases, the truth will come out. If you’ve been a good, responsible parent, your spouse likely cannot deny you a chance to see your kids on a regular basis. More to the point, the court won’t allow it in most instances.

#9 – Thinking Romance First, Divorce Second
The most common factor that turns a normal divorce into an abnormally contentious one is bringing another woman into the mix. The situation is already potentially volatile, and all it takes is the mention that you have a new lover for your spouse to become infuriated.

There are several reasons you may want to announce your new relationship-revenge, one being to show her that someone finds you attractive and you’ve even found happiness. Try to keep a new relationship out of the conversations with your spouse and especially your children. The best decision is to wait until the divorce is concluded before you engage in a new relationship.

#8 – Allowing Your Spouse to Convince You to Not Hire An Attorney
If your spouse has hired a lawyer, you need to hire one quickly. If you don’t, you are an amateur playing against professionals. One underhand tactic is for a spouse’s attorney to offer to represent both parties to save time and money. Not only is it unethical, but it also creates a conflict of interest.

The process is designed to be adversarial, and there is no way a lawyer can fairly represent you both. The odds are that your spouse has something to hide or something she wants, and she knows that if you hire a lawyer it will be more difficult to achieve that goal.

#7 – Using Verbal Abuse
Just about everyone who gets a divorce argues. Not everyone, however, engages in continuous verbal battles in which threats and vile accusations become routine forms of communication. Being on the receiving end of this abuse is demoralizing, especially when the threats raise the possibility of physical harm to you or your children.

You need to discuss any threats of this type with your attorney, who can advise you on how to deal with them. Furthermore, if it is you who’s engaging in the verbal abuse, remember that your spouse can easily obtain an order of protection and any violation of this order can land you in jail. There is a myth that men do not endure verbal or even physical abuse from their spouses, but it is just a myth. Abuse is not gender specific.

#6 – Rubbing Salt In the Wound
If your goal is to avoid a court battle and the high costs that go with it, then you want to avoid any accusations of personality flaws. Be aware of your spouse’s sensitivities and avoid inflaming them. Compromise is the essence of divorce negotiations, and if you say and do things to encourage your spouse to dig in and be inflexible, you’re asking for a war.

No matter how much you despise your spouse; no matter how many ways you feel you’ve been wronged, don’t make a bad situation worse by identifying your spouse’s vulnerabilities when trying to reach a settlement. Always try to negotiate before you litigate.

#5 – Using a Difficult Attorney
Lawyers can turn good divorces into bad ones and bad divorces into nightmares. It’s not just divorcing spouses that are difficult. Certain lawyers are intent on churning fees, and they can cleverly manipulate situations to their financial advantage. The result is couples who will fight over the big and little things and invariably wind up in court and broke.

Do not fall for the myth that you have to find a take-no-prisoners attorney, someone who is ruthless and will use any tactic necessary to “win” the case. When there is one difficult attorney, the odds are the divorce will be costly and unpleasant. When there are two difficult attorneys, the divorce will be a total nightmare.

#4 – Becoming Passive
The last thing you want to do when your spouse announces she wants a divorce is to become completely acquiescent. Many people are manipulative, and if they think they can manipulate you into getting what they want out of the divorce, such as money, property or custody, they will do so.

If you are stunned or saddened, you may agree to anything and everything your spouse recommends. Don’t confuse passivity with being reasonable. My experience is that the shock of divorce soon wears off, and once it does, you’re much less vulnerable to making this mistake.

#3 – Arguing About Who Gets What
In most divorces where couples have been married for a number of years, disputes about property arise, and sometimes these arguments are perfectly understandable. These arguments, however, can become completely irrational and vengeance-based. I had a client say, “I would rather incur 10 times in legal fees what the painting costs than allow her to have it!”

These arguments can be draining emotionally (not to mention financially), but it helps to recognize that no matter how your spouse uses these objects in the bargaining process, the court generally divides property fairly if both parties have competent attorneys.

#2 – Serving Your Spouse with Divorce Papers in Embarrassing Places
Having an officer of the law serve your spouse at home or business should be reserved for cases where they refuse to file an appearance or accept service of process, or where great conflict exists between the two parties.

There is nothing more embarrassing than having a police officer serve you with papers at work, and nothing more unnerving than hearing the doorbell ring at 2 a.m. and seeing a policeman at the door (and having your neighbors see him as well).

If your spouse uses this tactic on you, as obnoxious as it may be, remain calm.

#1 – Responding to An Impending Divorce With Anger
The early stages of the divorce process can be a highly emotional time when people say things they do not mean or act in unusual or uncharacteristic ways. Divorces “blow up” legally when one person responds to anger with even greater anger, creating an escalating war of attrition that otherwise would have been a brief skirmish.

Therefore, allow a bit of time to pass before you do anything. Your spouse may settle down after blowing off some steam, and you can continue to move forward in a reasonable manner.

March 6, 2009 at 6:52 pm 1 comment

Expert Says Child Support Poll Results Show “Crack” in Court System

By Michele Bush Kimball, Ph.D.

A recent poll shows that custodial parents are not receiving their child support payments.

Almost half of the poll respondents, 43 percent, said they are not receiving one dime of court-ordered child support payments. The poll, conducted by GFK Roper and commissioned by Divorce360.com, further illuminated the discrepancy
– just 25 percent of custodial parents are receiving their payments. Of the rest,
17 percent, are getting some of the payments, but not getting all they are due, 6
percent are fighting to get child support.

The independent polling agency spoke by phone with more than 1,500 people.
The margin of error for the study is plus or minus 2.6 percent.

Part of the issue is that noncustodial parents, who are not living full-time with
their children, don’t like paying child support, according to Brette McWhorter
Sember a former family law attorney and author of several books about divorce,
including “The Divorce Organizer & Planner,” and “Child Custody, Visitation and
Support in New York.” She said she thinks noncustodial parents don’t see how
the money they pay goes directly to the care of their children. “I believe child
support is essential, but from the point of view of the person paying it, it seems
as if it benefits the other parent more than the child,” Sember said. Those who
are not receiving the child support should be prepared to ask the court for help
getting the money, Sembler said. “You need to become familiar with the court
system and learn how to use it,” Sember said. “You need to get the child support
paid through the state enforcement agency when possible so that they can make
sure it is paid.”

Sember said the discrepancy between what’s ordered by the court and what is
actually received can be attributed to many factors, from resentment about
paying at all to frustration that the custodial parent is not using the money in the
way the noncustodial parents wants it to be used.

NONPAYMENT AS EXCEPTION?
Sari M. Friedman, the general counsel of a New York  Fathers Rights Association, said the poll results are not indicative of what she sees. Friedman said most noncustodial parents are paying to child support. If they are not, Friedman said, it could be because they do not have a job or an income that the state can garnish for child support. Also,
some circumstances make it difficult for the noncustodial parent to pay.

Perhaps the noncustodial parent had a higher income when the divorce decree
was signed and can no longer make the payments. Sometimes, Friedman said, if
the noncustodial parent owns a business, the state can’t see all of the income
earned, and the amount ordered is inaccurate. “People are always exaggerating
their side. And sometimes the truth may fall somewhere,” Friedman said. “It is up
for the judge to believe someone and decide what to order.”

There are many possible scenarios that force a noncustodial parent into the trap
of not making child support payments, and once it starts, it may become an
endless cycle, she said. “And then it becomes like a rat on a wheel, and the
arrears add up,” Friedman said.

Jeffrey Leving, a Chicago attorney who specializes in representing fathers in
custody cases, believes most noncustodial parents pay their child support.
Leving is the author of two books, “Fathers’ Rights,” and “Divorce Wars.” He also
co-authored the Illinois Joint Custody Law, and he gave testimony before both
branches of the Illinois Legislature on Joint Custody, Grandparent’s Visitation and
Child Support Accountability bills.

He cautions that while nonpayment exists, it is also not solely a women’s issue.
“Basically what I see is that custodial parents, whether they are mothers or
fathers, both have issues with nonpayment of support,” Leving said.
“Nonpayment of support is not gender-specific.”

Leving said he thinks some parents don’t pay child support because they tie their
payments to the amount of visitation they are getting. Though support and
custody are separate entities, he said it is hard for some people to look at them
that way. “One parent uses the children as tools to negotiate and tools for
revenge, and the other parent uses his income,” Leving said. “Even parents who
love their children do this, and they don’t realize it. They are just so caught up in
the divorce.”

He said that parents who have more contact with their children are more likely to
pay support. However, the process of divorce becomes so adversarial, that is
difficult to negotiate. “To correct these problems, you really have to use honey
before vinegar,” Leving said. “And if you use honey first, you won’t have to get to
the vinegar.”

And if the honey and vinegar don’t work, “They better get a very skilled attorney,”
Leving said. He said custodial parents must find an attorney trained in marital
law who is willing to be dogged and creative because it is very difficult to get a
noncustodial parent’s financial information. “It’s not easy to collect support if the
noncustodial parent is not going to pay and instead fight you,” Leving said.

GETTING ADEQUATE CHILD SUPPORT
The best case child support scenario includes flexibility in the original divorce
decree, said Colette Frey-Bitzas, a certified financial planner from Financial
Planners for Women. In her practice, she often advises clients to make room in
child support payments for their children’s future needs. At first, her clients focus
on their spouses’ current salaries and what percentage they need.
“Unfortunately, there is more to picture,” Frey-Bitzas said.

As children grow, the cost of clothing increases, they may participate in
expensive school activities, they may need dental work or more complicated
medical care and they may attend college and need help with tuition. “Try to be
as detailed as possible and try to leave the door open for things you have not
thought of,” Frey-Bitzas said.

Generally, it is the financial negotiations that tie up the divorce process, Frey-
Bitzas said. “The custodial issue is generally one of the primary focus of
attorneys. ‘Let’s make sure the children are settled,’” Frey-Bitzas said. “It’s the
financial issue that carries on in court.”
She said her clients are usually surprised by the financial negotiations. She
attributes it to the fact that people are still reeling from the divorce. “They are
emotionally crippled people who need to think clearly. I find initially people
underestimate what is going to happen,” Frey-Bitzas said. “They fail to recognize
that the children are going to get older, and there are going to be additional
expenses.”
When custodial parents are not receiving the support they need, they must go
back to the court system. It may be financially difficult, Frey-Bitzas said, because
they will need an attorney and will pay more legal fees. But it may be beneficial to
have the court reevaluate the situation. “If financial circumstance changes, you
can go back to the court and have it revisited, and the income can be adjusted,
be it upward or downward,” Frey-Bitzas said.

She said she is not surprised at the number of people who reported that they are
not receiving child support. She said it is common for a noncustodial parent to
disregard the support order. “The piece of paper is worth nothing unless it is
followed through on,” Frey-Bitzas said. “I think there is a big crack in the system.’

Michele Bush Kimball has a Ph.D. in mass communication with a specialization
in media law. She has spent almost 15 years in the field of journalism, and she
teaches at American University in Washington, D.C. She recently won a national
research award for her work. She can be reached at Michele@MicheleKimball.com.

March 4, 2009 at 10:37 pm 1 comment