In honor of Jewish American Heritage Month, I’d like to write about how we’ve helped a number of Jewish clients in their pursuit of a civil divorce. When we work together, many share details of their Jewish divorce, or get.
That’s a document that the husband must give to the wife, releasing her from the marriage. It must be witnessed and approved by a beit din, or Jewish court, and the wife must accept it from the husband to complete the process of Jewish divorce
While a civil divorce is legal in the United States, if a client wants to remarry under Jewish law, they must also have a Jewish divorce. In the Orthodox Jewish world, a woman without a get cannot remarry, though a man can.
Our Orthodox Jewish clients have reported that their rabbis instructed them to seek a religious divorce before pursuing the civil one, while Jews from Conservative and Reform traditions prioritize the civil divorce above all else.
Photo by Vitamina Poleznova on Unsplash
Some men make it hard for women to divorce. There is an ongoing issue regarding agunot, or chained women, in the Orthodox world, when a husband refuses to grant the get. Recently, I’ve had some female clients tell me that they were not allowed to retain a civil attorney until after they’ve gone before the religious court – even though in at least one instance, a husband was permitted to do so.
Historically, a wife’s consent was not required for her husband to divorce her. But about 1,000 years ago, the German scholar Rabbi Gershom, known as “the Light of the Diaspora,” prohibited a man from divorcing his wife without her approval.
Once divorced, according to Jewish Law, it is a special mitzvah if the couple decide to remarry.
Check out this VICE story on how a protest at a husband’s house won a Jewish woman her divorce.
May is Older Americans Month, a term I hate because after all, what is an Older American? It is supposed to refer to the elders of our communities, which I guess I’d be considered, but I certainly don’t feel that I am!
Similarly, Gray Divorce, the growing trend since 1990 of couples past age 50 who call it quits, refers to older adults who decide to break up once they’ve gone gray. Again, not the best term, though it does roll off the tongue.
Regardless of the terminology, though, Gray Divorce is a growing trend that is predicted to explode by 2030! We support more and more Gray Divorce clients, who are by definition older Americans, and I find there are some similarities among these cases.
First, people reach a certain point in their lives, or their relationships, when they feel confident enough to know what they want and buck societal expectations to go for it.
Photo by Al Elmes on Unsplash
Maybe they wanted to leave earlier, but worried they’d field criticism, judgment or abandonment by friends or family. Then they get to a point where they realize that no one’s opinion matters other than their own.
Also, there are some couples who enjoyed a respectable marriage – 20 or 30 years, perhaps – and simply outgrew the relationship or each other. There is nothing to lament! It’s OK to move on at midlife.
Especially because we are all living longer these days and may have many careers – why wouldn’t the same evolution happen with our personal pursuits?
Alisa Peskin-Shepherd on FOX 2 Detroit in 2016, talking about Gray Divorce
Finally, many couples wait until their children are grown to call it quits. They may think that it will be easier on their kids once they’re out of the house – but I have news for you. It is NEVER easy on the children when a couple divorces. Sorry to say – even fully grown adults with kids of their own will experience emotions and have opinions if their parents break up.
Regardless of the reasons, Gray Divorce is a fact of the 21st century. Learn more about it here. And check out my interview on FOX 2 Detroit about Gray Divorce.
And if you’d like to discuss how this might apply to you, click here to set up a consultative call.
Today, Transitions Legal includes a core team of three (soon to grow bigger!) – and all of us are women. In honor of Women’s History Month and the recently celebrated International Women’s Day, I’ll introduce the team below, but first, let me share a bit about our culture.
When I founded Transitions Legal in 2013, it was just me and an office manager. I was new to leading a law firm, and at the beginning of defining my corporate values.
Over the years, I’ve hired associate attorneys and legal assistants, and they’ve always been women. I didn’t set out to only hire women. I just happened to get a majority of female applicants, who were talented, experienced, and eager to work for a law firm led by a strong woman lawyer.
We are definitely different from a traditional law firm.
First is our branding – we see divorce and family law as a step on a person’s life journey, not an ending nor a beginning. This perspective is compassionate and understanding as well as nuanced. We bring that complex perspective to our cases, and to caring for our clients.
But it’s more than that. My colleague, Sara Gorman Rajan, worked at an all-male-led law firm before she joined the Transitions Legal team. She’s mentioned how working for a firm founded by and operated by a woman promotes a markedly different work culture and environment.
Looking back at her previous experience, now Sara is noticing the benefit of being able to have an open dialogue with the leadership of the firm and of being included in and a part of firm development. Additionally, in the past, her case load, schedule and availability were shaped by client and partner requests; whereas now Sara appreciates the encouragement and understanding that being an attorney is not a 24 hour a day job.
My daughter Leah and me
Me with my daughter Hope and son-in-law Andrew
I made sure to create a more understanding and balanced tone for Transitions Legal. After all, I am a mother who juggled family life with my legal practice while I was raising my daughters.
We can’t always be serving clients. We must have downtime, family time, quiet time. I understand this personally, and so I make sure my team has ample balance between the demands of our work and the fresh air of their personal lives.
While money is important – we bring valuable talents and expertise to our clients for which we should be properly paid – it’s not everything. We have a process and procedures, so we can serve our clients and act from our values – which guide us to stick to knowing and understanding the law, advising in accordance with the law, having empathy and the compassion to understand a particular situation.
We believe every person deserves legal representation no matter how big or small their case. We let people be human while also being professionals. We have understanding and compassion and respect – for each other, and for our clients.
Hi! I’m Alisa, founder of Transitions Legal. I’ve been practicing family law for more than three decades. I am a strong and compassionate leader with an open mind, and I teach others to cultivate strength to endure difficult times.
I like to make change and to see change – and one of the ways I am hoping to accomplish both in my area of practice is to mentor newer attorneys and to bring insight to attorneys and clients alike about the benefits of alternative processes to dissolve a marriage and to resolve conflict.
I live with my cat, Sunny, (and my Peloton bike), and am the mother to two strong, independent and beautiful daughters and a wonderful son-in-law.
Photo by Lynne Golodner
Sara Gorman Rajan
Sara joined Transitions Legal in 2021 as an associate attorney, bringing 17 years of experience in family law. A resident of Shelby Township, Mich., Sara has worked at law firms throughout metro Detroit, served as a Judicial Law Clerk to the Hon. Helene J. White at the Michigan Court of Appeals, and, in law school, interned with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office under the tutelage of Nancy J. Diehl.
Sara is passionately committed to ensuring that people experiencing family law issues have proper access to the legal system. She understands that this area of practice is all too often where people need attorneys the most and can afford them the least. As such, Sara makes sure that all of her clients are aware of alternatives to transitional divorce proceedings and helps them make the best choice for their particular situation.
The mother of three boys, and with a grandchild on the way, Sara spends her free time reading and with family and friends.
Photo by Lynne Golodner
As Legal Assistant and Office Manager, Zoe brings five years of experience in family law and a lifelong fascination with the legal system. She earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Wayne State University in 2016 and will finish law school in 2023.
Zoe considers herself a “legal geek;” she loves watching the Michigan Supreme Court oral arguments on YouTube and claims she hasn’t missed one since Justice Richard Bernstein assumed his position on the bench. Zoe is passionate about serving less privileged individuals and hopes to pursue a career focusing on appellate work defending wrongfully accused indigent clients.
Zoe lives with her boyfriend, two cats, and a rabbit, and spends her free time cross-stitching, reading post-modern American fiction and legal opinions, doing puzzles, and, of course, watching Supreme Court oral arguments on YouTube.
Photo by Melanie Reyes
Although Lynne doesn’t work in my office, she is definitely part of my team!
Understanding that engaging a publicist for marketing was a monumental leap for me to take professionally, when we began our work together, Lynne told me to think of her as one of my “employees,” she was there to do the work for me that needed to be done to grow my solo practice into a thriving, boutique family law firm.
Lynne continues to be my right-hand at maintaining the public image of Transitions Legal! After creating our branding and helping to establish the story for my law firm, Lynne has managed all marketing for Transitions Legal since 2013. She’s also become one of my best friends.
Lynne is founder of Your People LLC, a marketing company that grew out of her experience as a nationally-known journalist. She is the author of eight books, a revered writing coach, and the mother of four.
Introducing Our Family in Two Homes – a divorce resource now offered by Transitions Legal!
If I had a resource like Our Family in Two Homes (OFTH) when I was getting married and raising children, I would have been so supported!
It never occurred to me way back when, nor does it to most people, to think through and articulate my values, my perspectives, and my beliefs on parenting, partnership, finances and more – and if I had, I bet I could have avoided many marital arguments or parenting disconnects.
Most people don’t really think through these things when it comes to the most important relationships of our lives because it’s just not embedded in our culture to do so. Think about all the romantic movies you’ve enjoyed in your life, which painted a picture of relationships as easy, automatic and synergistic. That rarely happens in real life.
Of course, I see couples when things have gone so wrong, they’ve given up hope that they can stay together. Nonetheless, I am excited to offer OFTH as a unique resource to help couples who are contemplating divorce, already decided to split or going through mediation.
They begin by going through pages 1-13 of the workbook, where they’ll find questions to help them get in touch with what is important to them for the divorce process. These pages cover communication, trust, emotions, values, expression tendencies and more.
It goes so much deeper than the kids or the house. What I love about this resource is how it helps clients discover their personal and collective core values and decision-making preferences. There is a lot of work people can do on their own before they come to an attorney, and this work helps them be more efficient with their attorney, which can sometimes reduce overall legal costs and time spent negotiating.
An example of this is when a client comes to me and insists they want to keep the house, but they’re not sure they can afford to do so, I have to dig deep with them to determine first what is important to them about the house. Then we explore the feelings behind it. That can take a lot of time at billable rates! I enjoy doing this kind of work with my clients. I am also aware that some clients are watching their money. This can save them on fees that might be needed further down the road, or better yet for their kids’ college education.
But if the same client worked through this on their own with the workbook, they would save time spent with me, their attorney, and get moving on the actions required to facilitate their breakup.
I use OFTH in Collaborative Divorce cases and also in Mediation. Individuals can purchase the workbook directly from Transitions Legal, and in doing so, they also get three consulting hours with me as they work through it.
The goal is for people to understand themselves better and understand the divorce process more. Also, they gain insights in how they interact and communicate, which helps an attorney know what they are dealing with in the case. They can draw out an introverted spouse or respectfully ask an extroverted spouse to give the other person some time to speak.
There are, of course, instances where using this workbook might help a couple to identify some of their nagging problems and decide to work on resolving them in an effort to stay together. That’s a lovely outcome when it happens!!
Regardless of the situation, anyone who uses this resource will gain clarity. They’ll understand elements of divorce like parenting time and custody, and know how these are established in the state of Michigan, where I practice. They’ll also know the background of the law to help them reach their decisions.
People often say, “I don’t know what I don’t know.” This resource gives you what you want to know.
To learn more about Our Family in Two Homes or to purchase the workbook-consulting package, click here.
Even as divorce rates across America are on the decline generally, this category of Gray Divorce, which is a specialty of our firm, is exploding.
It used to be that once you married and stayed with someone over several decades, it felt like you had to stick it out for the duration of your life. Not so anymore. It is becoming acceptable to divorce at any age, and people of advanced ages are finding that they have a lot of life left to live – and they want to do it the way they want it now.
The kids are grown. The parents are still young enough to do things, to travel, to have a new chapter to their lives, and so they are choosing to do so solo, if their partner is not at the same place of realization.
Even more so, in couples where one spouse battles mental illness, or even a physical illness, the going can get even tougher later in life. And, for couples who have endured an unhappy marriage, there may be a sense of obligation to take care of the ailing partner, but there may also be resentment for the idea of caring for someone who never really cared for them when they were in good health.
At Transitions Legal, we do not judge the reasons that a client comes to us wanting a divorce. We welcome them in and look at their case and if it is a fit for our practice, we take it on, without judgment. Our purpose is to support our clients to the fullest extent of our ability and help them transition from one stage of life to the next with ease and grace.
After a certain point, should we just stay together, even if the marriage has been disappointing, or lonely? Should we stay together despite bad behavior? Why do we put up with unhealthy situations?
Does the definition of marriage paralyze us from living meaningful and healthy lives? Even illness is not an excuse to stay and be treated poorly.
Later in life, it can be even harder for a person to make the decision to leave a marriage. They often take more time than younger people, but they may feel more secure in doing so because they have already been living on a retirement income and may feel confident about their financial future and dividing everything 50/50.
In younger divorces, the financials can be a great concern. In Gray Divorce, it’s more the emotional stuff that holds people up; the years of marriage weighs on people.
They often feel guilt for leaving after so many years. They wonder what their children will think, or how the split will affect their family.
It can be as contentious and complicated later in life as it is early on. There is really no easy time to end a marriage, but if you’ve decided it’s the right thing to do, the only way to go is forward.