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How can we divide personal property without going crazy?

Sometimes it is most difficult in divorce cases to divide personal property —the “stuff” accumulated over the years of a relationship. When people share their lives with each other, they also share and accumulate a lot of personal property. Sometimes the task of dividing the household furniture, furnishings and appliances can be a real struggle. Not only can it be difficult to physically divide and value the assets, it can be a real emotional rollercoaster.

I mediated for a divorcing couple recently, who had their most difficult struggles dividing the pots, pans, furniture, washer, dryer, stereo and those little knick-knacks they picked up at the swap meet over the years. Worse they were on the “pack rat” side of things so they accumulated a lot of things together. Each item represented something important. One piece of artwork reminded them of their romantic vacation in Mexico. The silver they had purchased together to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. The little statuette on the mantel was a gift from their child. All through the house they saw many symbols of their relationship and all that they had invested in each other. As a result, a task to divide personal property was extremely painful.

Here are some tips to help you divide personal property:

Understand that the court would only award a household asset at garage sale value.

divorce, personal property, divide personal property, san diego divorce attorneyUnless it is a Steinway Grand Piano or a rare piece of artwork, the chances are high that your stuff is not worth nearly what you may think. While you are looking at the values of things, think of what you would, as an objective outsider, pay for the item at a garage sale or a flea market. Be careful not to allow emotions to “inflate” in your mind the value of the flatware or the coffee maker. Yes we know that the teddy bear collection is absolutely adorable, but honestly, what would a third person really want to pay for it. Use common sense and don’t allow your emotions to cloud things for you when you divide personal property.

Do it yourself.

It is really not cost effective to pay your attorney $300 plus per hour to fight about who gets which couch or who gets the bath mat. If it’s a high dollar asset such as expensive artwork or collectable antiques, you may want to use your professionals. But, for most things it makes more sense to save the money and do it yourself.

Do an inventory first.

It’s a good idea early in the process and before you start dividing things to make a list. If time is a problem, I often recommend going through the house with a video camera and speaking about each item as you tape. You can then go make your list later.

Make a list to divide personal property.

In fact, make several lists. I suggest four columns. Column 1 means he gets it. Column 2 means she gets it. Sell everything you list in column three and divide what money you get equally. Column 4 is for those things in your closet to throw away or donate like the polyester suit in the closet, your old beta video tapes or the pile of Louis L’Amour novels that you haven’t read in twenty years. Notice, I am not including a list for items about which you cannot agree. I am a big believer in using the old Solomon method. If you can’t agree on who gets it, then sell it or donate it. You simply can’t afford, for most items, to spend the time arguing and spending money on your attorneys. One idea, if you are stuck, is to just take turns picking items you can’t agree on until they are gone. Another idea is to give extremely sentimental items as gifts to your children.

Make a plan for photographs and videos.

I recommend that you choose a date when each of you will make photographs and videos taken during the marriage available to the other. The person making the photograph or video available will allow the other to choose which ones her or she would like to duplicate. There are services available that can duplicate these items and even restore some of them for you for a reasonable fee. With today’s computers, scanners and printers, you may be able to do a lot of this yourselves. Each of you should share equally in the duplication costs.

Pets, according to the law, are property.

I have had many clients tell me how their pets have become nearly as important to them as children. They are often surprised to learn that the court deals with them not as living things so much as property. Few courts will entertain a pet “custody battle.” Remember, a court has the ability to truly play Solomon with your pets and order them sold. I advise parties to do everything they can to work it out relating to the pets. Do everything possible to consider your pets’ needs and do what is best for them rather than allowing them to become an issue of property division.

Be careful if there is a history of domestic violence.

In cases where there has been domestic violence, sometimes it is difficult to sit together and divide personal property. In such instances, it is probably advisable to go ahead and use your attorney as at least a go between. Naturally, if there are restraining orders in place, it would be impossible to meet face to face. But the same ideas described above apply. It is just you will need to make arrangements to inventory the house without the other being present and with proper legal arrangements. Don’t violate a restraining order just to get some stuff out of the house.

I have had many clients tell me that the process of dividing the personal items was a healthy cleansing process.

One client told me, it was nice to get rid of some of our old, useless stuff and start over for a fresh, clean break. If even after following these steps, a couple still finds it difficult emotionally, I recommend making use of a divorce coach, who can even come to your home while you do the division. Typically using a single divorce coach is much more cost effective than using your attorneys to divide household items.

If both parties approach the task to divide personal property with a fair, patient and open mind they will likely be successful in doing the division with little to no attorney intervention. The court’s are particularly happy when parties can reach agreements on their own. Parties should be careful not to allow the division of things bring unnecessary conflict. Remember, they are just things and not people.

tips to divide personal property, san diego divorce, san diego divorce attorney, Shawn Weber, san diego divorce mediator

Looking at the New Year Post Divorce

new year post divorce, new year's resolutions

Alas!  A New Year has come and gone again.  For most of my current clients, 2015 was a rough year.  It brought them the end of their marriages.  The year may have been filled with conflict with a former spouse over money, kids, etc.  Perhaps there were tears shed.  Maybe dreams were shattered.  Sound depressing?  It can be.   But 2015 is over, so there is an opportunity to build a new experience for the New Year post divorce.

Here are my suggestions for some words to consider when making your resolutions for the New Year post divorce.  This is in no way a comprehensive list.  It’s just some of my own thoughts.  Perhaps you have your own resolution ideas that you would like to share.  Here are mine:

Peace.

You got a divorce for a reason, right?  I’m sure things weren’t all butterflies and rainbows.  But now you are divorced. So take the opportunity to stop the fighting and discontinue the war with your ex.  If there is a legitimate legal concern that needs addressing, use mediation or Collaborative Practice instead of adversarial litigation to resolve those differences.  It’s a great opportunity to move on and find peace in the New Year post divorce.  A meditation or mindfulness practice can go a long way towards achieving some peace.

Co-Parenting.

Before your divorce, parenting may have been easier.  Post-divorce, you still have to interact with the person you divorced to raise your kids.  Your kids need you to get along.  There is a lot of evidence that continued parental conflict after the divorce is very harmful to children.  Resolve now to be the best co-parent you can be in the New Year post divorce.  Look for ways to be cooperative (even when the other parent doesn’t).  If you haven’t always been a leader in the child rearing arena, now is the time to step up to the plate and make a helpful contribution.  Be the grown up here and your kids will thank you.

Self-reliance.

Now that you are on your own, you don’t have the other person there to rely on.  This is a great opportunity to stand on your own two feet with your head held high.  Be your own person.  Be strong. Be self-assured. Be independent.

If you are receiving alimony, look for ways to be self-supporting so that you don’t need support anymore.  Meet with a vocational counselor to make new career goals.  Enroll in school or get trained, or retrained, in a field that you can be passionate about.

Plan for your future financial well-being.  Meet with a financial advisor to make sure you are using your money wisely.  Come up with a five year or ten year plan.  Meet with an estate planning attorney to make sure you have updated your will and estate plan.

Health.

Perhaps during 2015 you let the stress of the divorce affect your health.  Maybe you didn’t eat well.  Maybe you stopped going to the gym.  Maybe you weren’t sleeping well.  Perhaps you were depressed or angry causing your emotional well-being to suffer.  Resolve now to restore your health in the New Year post divorce.

Take the time to eat well and exercise.  Get good sleep.  Perhaps get your annual physical from your doctor and make a plan for your physical health.  Take care of your body and it will take care of you.

But don’t forget your emotional health either.  Divorce can be such a toxic and painful experience.  If you are struggling, meet with a therapist and work through the changes in your life resulting from your divorce.  Before you date, make sure that you work though any lingering issues you may have so that you can be your best self before you involve another person in your life.  I have noticed a clear correlation in my clients who sought post-divorce therapy and their level of happiness years later.

Forgiveness.

I know that “forgiveness” is a loaded word.  It’s easier said then done.  You may be hurt or angry with your former spouse.  As mentioned before, you got divorced for a reason.  However, you are divorced now.  It’s time to let it go.  The past is in the past.

Now keep in mind, I am not suggesting that you allow yourself to be abused if that is what happened before.  Keep in place whatever safety measure you have to make sure you can’t be hurt again.  I am just suggesting that it is time to move on from there.  Anger and hurt can be very damaging emotions.  Do what you can this year to forgive so that you can leave those terrible feelings behind you.  If you find you can’t do it alone (and most can’t) talk to someone.  Turn to a spiritual advisor or a mentor to help you leave the past in the past.

Don’t forget to forgive yourself.  Guilt has it’s place, but it can eat you up if you can’t get past it.  Perhaps you have serious regrets about how your marriage ended.  Rather than let the guilt consume you, find a way to learn from the experience, forgive everyone involved and move on.

 You have read my list of New Year’s Resolution words for the newly divorced.  What are some of your words?  I would love to read them!

Related links:

Five Tips to Reduce Your Stress in a Divorce that Most Attorneys Won’t Tell You

10 Essential New Year’s Resolutions for Your Divorce

12 New Year’s Resolutions for Divorced Moms

New Year’s Resolutions During Divorce

Top 10 Difficult New Year’s Resolutions for Divorced Parents

New Year’s resolutions, new year post divorce, new year’s divorce, san diego divorce attorney

Why “Fair” is the F-Word in Divorce Negotiations

The F-word

Those of you who know me are aware that my wife and I have five kids.  When I tell people how many kids I have, there is usually an audible gasp and sometimes an expletive.  (I don’t know why because I love my kids.)  But as any parent will know, kids have a lot to learn about this world.  One very important lesson to learn in the Weber house is that a lament that something isn’t “fair” gets you nowhere.  We make it clear to the kids that “life isn’t fair and the sooner you learn that, the better off you’ll be.”  That’s why “fair” is the F-word.

When people come through my door, I see the tumult in their lives.  Clients will often make demands for what they view as the “fair” outcome.  However, “fair” is a subjective concept and quite impossible to define objectively during family law or divorce negotiations.  In their search for peace, clients sometimes bog themselves down in a vain attempt to achieve an unachievable result.

Really, there is no such things as a”fair divorce” in family law.

There’s a reason for that.  The idea of “fair” is rooted in one’s perspective and perception.  We view “fair” through our own prism of reality.  In family law or divorce negotiations, what one party might view as fair is often different from what another person views as fair.  If fair were easy to define, I would be out of a job because people would just be able agree with little to no effort.  But fair is not an objective standard.  Fair is always subjectively defined.  A truly fair divorce is very rare.

fairness divorce, "fair" is the f-word, divorce negotiations

Why “Fair” Is the F-Word

The Myth of Lady Justice

Concepts of “justice” are equally subjective.  The statue we see at the courthouse of Lady Justice with the blindfold and the scales is a myth.  Anyone who has spent any time around a courthouse knows that achieving true justice is rare.  Rather, the courts simply apply the imperfect laws written by imperfect legislatures and interpreted by imperfect courts.  Very often, folks perceive the application of those laws as unfair or unjust.

Make a Good Business Decision

Rather than asking, “what is fair,” it makes more sense to ask, “What is a good business decision?” or “What will maximize my outcome given the hand that I have been dealt.”   These questions remove the emotional and loaded questions regarding justice and fairness. They allow the participant to focus on reaching a settlement that he or she can live with.  A settlement by definition requires compromise.  A compromise by definition means that both parties are giving something up. A fair divorce, in that situation, isn’t the point.  Rather, the focus is on making a decision that can end the conflict so that a person can move on, which in turn will bring peace.

Many of the rapids on our journey through life a borne in a sense of dissatisfaction with the choices before us.  Divorce has a way of limiting many of our choices.

I’ve never seen a client find peace in life by focusing on what is fair or unfair.  Peace comes from finding a resolution and reaching an acceptance of what is.   It’s an opportunity to transition from a conflictual sense of being to one that is harmonious and whole.

See Also:

Five Tips to Have a Miserable Divorce: https://weberdisputeresolution.com/five-tips-to-have-a-miserable-divorce/

Forgiveness During Divorce: A key to finding peace:  https://weberdisputeresolution.com/forgiveness-during-divorce/

How much does it cost to go to divorce mediation? https://weberdisputeresolution.com/divorce-mediation-cost/

Shawn Weber, CLS-F: https://weberdisputeresolution.com/meet-our-team/shawn-weber/

Holidays After Divorce – Bring Peace on Earth to Your Kids

holidays after divorce

For many of my clients, the holidays after divorce can be a difficult time.

Many are keenly aware of the loss they have suffered as the result of their divorce and will go to great lengths to preserve a sense of family.  The changes to the family, for many, are in stark contrast to the ideal Norman Rockwell Holiday memories they want their kids to have.  People also, quite reasonably, want their children with them on those special days.  All of that is reasonable, but when the wish to have your kids with you on a special Holiday turns into conflict between you and your ex, your kids can suffer.

It’s a bit ironic that in this season when we are supposedly celebrating peace on earth, some of the greatest interfamily conflict can occur and if you’re not careful, your kids will be right in the middle of a holiday visitation disaster.  Here are just a few ideas about how to bring “Peace on Earth” to your kids for the holidays after divorce:

Consider Celebrating Some Part of the Holiday Together with Your Ex.

I know, you worked hard to get away from your former spouse, but your kids didn’t.  For their sake, consider putting the past behind you and let your kids open presents with both of their parents.  That said, if you just can’t be in the same room with the other parent without it devolving into a slug fest, then reconsider.  But if you both can keep it together long enough for the kids to have a nice holiday, you will have done something very kind for them.  This is the season of giving after all.

Coordinate Presents with the Other Parent.

Much of the holidays after divorce conflict we see is when the parents compete with each other over the present giving.  Don’t let that happen.  Rather, spend some time early coordinating the gift giving with the other parent.  Perhaps consider purchasing joint gifts. Don’t let something as beautiful as gift giving turn into an ugly competition.

Don’t Project Your Own Emotions About the Holidays After Divorce Onto Your Kids.

Holiday visitation stirs up all kinds of feelings and emotions.  Regret, guilt, anger, resentment, loneliness- these are feelings that can pop up in spades during the holidays.  However, if these are your emotions, they might not necessarily be what your kids are feeling.  We have a tendency to project our own feelings and frustrations onto others, when that is usually not appropriate.  Be aware of that and keep your expression of emotions in check.  Stay selfless and make the holidays about others and what their needs are.  Be mindful, that your kids’ needs will likely include time with the other parent.

Plan the Holiday Visitation and Travel Schedule Early.

Don’t just assume that your ex will be aware of or will cooperate in fulfilling your expectations for the perfect holiday with the kids.  Communicate early and plan ahead with your kids’ other parent to reduce confusion or frustration when the holiday comes around.  Don’t assume anything about the schedule.  Don’t wait until Thanksgiving to talk about the holidays.  Start talking and coordinating in July – or even earlier.  That way, when the holiday comes around, there will be no surprises.

In summary, the holidays after divorce can be a time when cherished memories are created.  However, they can also be a time of heartache and terrible memories if not done properly.  Don’t let problems with holiday visitation be a flashpoint for your kids to remember how badly you and your ex behaved.  Let it be “Peace on Earth” for your kids.  That means that you need to take responsibility to be a peacemaker with the other parent.

These are just a few ideas.  Maybe you have some ideas or tips.  Share them with me!

Divorce Options Workshops

Forgiveness During Divorce: A key to finding peace

Doing your Divorce with a Child Specialist

child specialist san diego divorce

My friend and colleague, San Diego Divorce Attorney Fran Setzer, wrote a great post about using a neutral Child Specialist to help with divorce proceedings.

A neutral Child Specialist, who is a mental health professional experienced with children and divorce, can be an excellent resource for parents and really puts the needs of the children front and center.  I am a big fan of bringing the right specialized resource to the right situation.  A Child Specialist is the perfect tool when considering the needs of kids in a divorce.

Read Fran’s post at the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego Blog here: http://collaborativefamilylawsandiegoblog.com/do-you-need-a-child-specialist-for-your-divorce/ 

3 Great Tips to Give Your Kids a Voice in Your California Divorce

kids and divorce

Do you want to give your kids a voice?

Issues involving kids and divorce can be tricky.  One of the great things about using consensual dispute resolution options like Mediation and Collaborative Practice in your California divorce is that you can give your kids more of a say in how the parenting plan will turn out.  This is not to say that you leave the decisions to the kids. It does, however, mean you can hear their voices, which can mean a lot to them, especially if they are old enough to thoughtfully express their preferences.

Not all kids should be given the same level of input.  How much you let your kids sway your decision making is up to you.  You will want to consider such factors as the child’s maturity level, age, ability to articulate and emotional needs.  But if you decide that giving the kids a voice is what you want to do in your family, here are some tips.

Let Your Divorce Mediator Talk to the Kids.

With kids and divorce, it is important to give children a voice.  As a mediator, sometimes I will talk to the kids.  I only do it if both parents agree that it will be appropriate.  Importantly, I never ask the kids, “Where do you want to live.”  But, I will give them the chance in a non-threatening environment to say what is important to them.  Writing their responses on a whiteboard and then, with their permission, I boil their thoughts down into a report to share with the parents.

It’s amazing what useful clues I can learn from the kids.  In one case, the teenage kids told me that they worry their father will die from his alcohol abuse.  In another situation, an over-scheduled child shared that he felt it was hard to relax because of his very busy schedule.  He said that he had a hard time “just being a kid.”

Another child volunteered that his complex and confusing parenting schedule made it difficult to adjust to the move from one house to another.   As a result, he felt his grades suffering. He expressed that because he was bouncing back and forth so often, he didn’t ever have time to feel at home in either household.

Before I talk to a child, I will get a release to speak to the child’s therapist if available.  This gives me the insight to ensure that I spend time with the child appropriately given the child’s emotional circumstances.

Have a Joint Session with Parents and Therapist.

Another option for kids and divorce is to allow the child to articulate her feelings in a  joint session with a therapist and parents.  The therapist can help everyone find ways to work together for the good of the child.  You can also trust that a mental health professional will take care to prevent the talk from becoming inappropriate.  It can be a safe way to promote healthy dialogue and to appropriately empower your child.

With Kids and Divorce, Use a Collaborative Child Specialist.

In Collaborative Practice, we use neutral child specialists to make sure that the parenting plan will protect the child’s needs.  The child specialist is a mental health professional experienced in helping kids through a divorce.  In essence, the child specialist becomes an advocate for the child’s needs.

In the Collaborative Practice model, the work is confidential.  As a result, it cannot be used later in court. Everyone can trust that they can be open and frank while working towards solutions.  Children in divorce often tell parents what the parents want to hear and not necessarily how the children really feel. But kids will open up to a child specialist, giving her the ability to articulate the children’s unvarnished needs and worries.  I have often used neutral child specialists even outside of Collaborative Practice.  In my humble opinion, it never hurts to give kids an advocate.  Using a trained child specialist is often the perfect solution.

Summary

There are many ways to give your kids a voice.  These are just three.  While it is generally not a good plan to let the kids feel like they are in charge, it never hurts to give them an opportunity to be heard.  You may be surprised what your kids can teach you as you go through your divorce.  Often the kids are ahead of the parents in dealing with the heartache and emotions of the split.  Considering the kids’ needs and really, truly listening to their point of view can provide tremendous insight and great rewards.  Most importantly, your kids will appreciate that you took the time to pay attention.

 

Read also:

Doing your Divorce with a Child Specialist: https://weberdisputeresolution.com/do-you-need-a-child-specialist-for-your-divorce/

Why “Fair” is the F-Word in Divorce Negotiations: https://weberdisputeresolution.com/why-fair-is-the-f-word-in-divorce-negotiations/

Five Tips to Have a Miserable Divorce: https://weberdisputeresolution.com/five-tips-to-have-a-miserable-divorce/

How much does it cost to go to divorce mediation?: https://weberdisputeresolution.com/divorce-mediation-cost/

Forgiveness During Divorce: A key to finding peace: https://weberdisputeresolution.com/forgiveness-during-divorce/