Introducing Our Family in Two Homes – a divorce resource now offered by Transitions Legal!

Introducing Our Family in Two Homes – a divorce resource now offered by Transitions Legal!

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.

How Much Will You Get? Determining Child Support

How Much Will You Get? Determining Child Support

How Much Will You Get? Determining Child Support

In divorce cases litigated in Michigan, the amount of child support is determined by a formula developed by the State office of the Friend of the Court. In most cases, we have no say in the amount of support after providing documentation of income sources.

What Is Child Support?

Child support is the term for money paid by one parent to the other to help provide for their children.

Support is intended to cover day-to-day living expenses, such as shelter and food costs, and includes components for health insurance, healthcare expenses, and childcare.

Plus, it divides the financial responsibility for the children between parents based on each parent’s monthly net income and the amount of time the child spends with each parent.

The Differences in Collaborative Divorce

In Collaborative Divorce cases, however, we embark on a conversation between the divorcing parents to determine not only their own living expenses, but also the expenses attributable to the children specifically.

The parents can evaluate the amount determined by applying the Child Support Formula against their real-life expenses. Then, they make a decision if it is appropriate to deviate from the Formula.

The parents can also decide if they can arrange the children’s budget in a more creative and equitable fashion.

Here’s How it Happens in Litigated Divorces

In a Court-based, litigated divorce, the amount of support can deviate from the Formula IF it is in the best interests of the child. However, proving this is difficult, cumbersome, and costly. Divorcing couples only achieve deviation in Court where the parties actually agree on the issue.

When a couple decides to divorce, they must accept that child support is a simple formula in which they have little to no say. However, the process they choose for divorce can make a difference in how support is decided.

Check out this resource from the state of Michigan for more information.

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Photo by STIL on Unsplash

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The Effect of Divorce on Adolescent-Parent Communication

The Effect of Divorce on Adolescent-Parent Communication

The Effect of Divorce on Adolescent-Parent Communication

Recently, I came across a fascinating article by Canadian mental health advocate and Huffington Post writer Patricia Tomasi and felt compelled to write to her about this concept of whether teens whose parents divorce are affected in the ways that they communicate with their parents. (There’s lots of great research in the article, so check it out!)

I wrote to Patricia, and I am awaiting her response. I’ll include it in a future blog when I hear from her.

In a nutshell, the research suggests that post-divorce, especially daughters experience difficulty communicating with their fathers. This makes sense to me, and here’s why.

Fathers often rely on mothers to serve as buffers between them and the children. In a two-parent home, fathers often spend less time with the children, or take less time to understand their children on a personal level, relying on their wives to do that important work for them.

It’s a problem, definitely! And especially when research reveals that children often unconsciously learn how to have relationships based on the relationship they have with their opposite sex parent. So if a daughter has trouble talking with her dad post-divorce, this can have immense repercussions on a variety of levels.

In our society, many men still discount what women and girls have to say, which inspires a trickle-down effect that fathers may play out unknowingly with their daughters. Discounting feelings, not considering a daughter’s needs that may be different from their own, and other unconscious behaviors create long-term negative effects – which become glaring when the buffer of a mother’s love and understanding are removed from the family relationship.
It’s become more common to aim for equal parenting time for mothers and fathers in divorces, and I’m happy to see many fathers stepping up, becoming more involved and more attentive post-divorce when it’s all on them.

There are many fathers, however, who continue with the status quo, and if children are with them half the time, that’s a problem.

I’d love it if we could have automatic reviews of the parenting time schedule, like we do with child support. In Michigan, every three years, the Friend of the Court reviews the child support amounts at no cost to the parents, and makes adjustments as needed.

However, if a parent wants to change parenting time, and the other parent does not agree, they must file a motion with the court and meet difficult legal standards.

It’s a costly, arduous process which most often yields no change, and pits parents against one another in an adversarial process. That ill will does not help the co-parenting relationship, and it does children a disservice.
Ultimately, I believe divorce should be an ever-evolving situation where we take stock and amend the parameters on a regular basis for everyone’s benefit. That way, children and adolescents can ease into new relationships with both parents at a pace that is measured, reasonable and comfortable for them.

We want children to have good, healthy, communicative relationships with both parents. What is the best way we can assure this happens?

Read more Kids & Co-parenting posts

Spoiling Children

Spoiling Children

Spoiling Children

I’ve always recoiled at the phrase “spoiling children.” If you think about it, to spoil a food, it must sit out unattended for so long that it is no longer edible. So what, then, does it truly mean to spoil a child?

Everybody’s definition of spoiling is different. For some, it’s too many “things” – toys, clothing, expensive vacations, responding yes to any ask.

Some say that when children get everything they want, we do them a disservice because they are not allowed to earn and to learn.

I agree that when you earn the money for something yourself, it is more precious to you.

Plus, I’ve seen with my own kids that when they have to decide whether to spend their own money on something, it may not always seem so important to them to have it.

Those are valuable lessons.

After my first daughter was born, people told me not to hold her too much because I would spoil her. That, I believe, was horrible advice. Their rationale was that if held too much, she would not learn how to go to sleep on her own.

That type of attention – holding, loving, cuddling, kissing – humans of all ages need, and I believe you can never have too much love.

When it comes to divorced parents, there is a great risk of the parents giving their children everything they ask for out of guilt – guilt from the divorce, guilt over changing their family’s definition and routine, guilt over the pain they believe they inflicted on their children.


Photo by Caleb Jones on Unsplash

I get that. Children don’t ask to be born and when they are brought into the world in a loving two-parent family that they come to depend on as their foundation, it is unsettling and disruptive when that changes with a divorce.

But I believe not every relationship is meant to last forever, and sometimes a divorce can bring a healthier setting to a family than what they had before. That’s why I see divorce as a transition from one stage to the next rather than good to bad.

That said, it’s important for parents to think twice before responding to children’s demands post-divorce. Some yesses are deserved and important. Some are indulgent. And if children smell guilt on their parents, watch out!


Photo by Sam Haddad on Unsplash

But I believe not every relationship is meant to last forever, and sometimes a divorce can bring a healthier setting to a family than what they had before. That’s why I see divorce as a transition from one stage to the next rather than good to bad.

That said, it’s important for parents to think twice before responding to children’s demands post-divorce. Some yesses are deserved and important. Some are indulgent. And if children smell guilt on their parents, watch out! 

It’s common for newly divorced parents to unwittingly overcompensate by giving their children stuff and experiences because they feel badly about the divorce.
I believe some “spoiling” is good. Too much love, definitely!! Allay that guilt by planning movie nights with homemade popcorn and pizza on the couch, cuddling and laughing together.

Talk more. Spend the time you do have with your kids truly listening to them, focusing on them, throwing the football in the backyard, writing with chalk on the sidewalk together. Get down and dirty to create new memories in your new definition of family, so the guilt will dissipate and the children will be reassured that family is family, even if the routine looks different.


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Divorce: 80% Emotion, 20% Law

Divorce: 80% Emotion, 20% Law

Divorce: 80% Emotion, 20% Law

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at Jewish Family Service to a group of mental health professionals about the collaborative divorce process.

Eleven people gathered with me on a cold and sunny February morning to discuss the legal and emotional effects of divorce. The room remained quiet, save for the scribbles of pens and pencils on paper, as my audience absorbed the material I presented, everything from complicated laws to explaining collaborative divorce (I prefer to be comprehensive!).

travel work
It was an attentive, interactive audience, happy to ask loads of questions.

Having a mental health professional in the collaborative divorce process is great for both parties. It wasn’t always the case to have someone trained in mental health on a collaborative divorce team, but I’ve found that it exponentially speeds up the process.

They may act as a child specialist, providing a voice for the needs of the children when custody issues occur. They help manage stress and other emotions that arise in the divorcing parties. And they direct the parties to seek mental health help or therapy outside of the collaborative process.
Divorce is 80% emotion and 20% law, I told my audience, hence the benefit of mental health professionals on the team.

Attorneys can’t be jacks-of-all-trades. That’s why the collaborative process works so well —attorneys help their parties work out legal issues, while a financial expert sorts out money quandaries and mental health professionals focus on familial and emotional issues.

We build a great team, that looks out for every nuance in the process, with a communal goal of healthy outcomes for all involved.

My JFS presentation focused on educating mental health professionals about collaborative divorce and answering questions about guiding clients through divorce. I always stress the misconception that divorce is bitter and acrimonious.

travel work

Collaborative divorce is a more harmonious and respectful way to dissolve a marriage, and usually better for everyone involved.

The inquisitive group had lots of questions I was happy to answer, like …

What is the best way to divorce if one of the parties is suspected of domestic abuse?

If one spouse is suspected of being abusive, collaborative divorce probably isn’t the best option. Collaboration requires respect and transparency—which abusers don’t provide. The best way to dissolve an abusive marriage is through litigation.

Can you write off diapers as child support?

Child support is determined according to the Michigan Child Support Formula (MCSF), based on the number of overnights each parent has with the children, and the parties’ respective incomes.

Divorced parents can deviate from the Formula for a number of reasons, including if one provides some “in-kind” support. So, they could agree that the amount of child support is less than the MCSF because the payer of support provides necessary items such as diapers, but there wouldn’t be a retroactive credit for doing so.

(There are cases where a baby-daddy argues that he wasn’t paying child support but he provided diapers and formula and wants credit for it. It doesn’t happen retroactively. It has to be a mutual agreement and apply to what comes next.)

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How do we support clients in the courtroom?

Advise them to keep emotions in check. Whatever the judge rules, advise them to remain expressionless. 

If a client becomes too emotional, a judge can reverse a ruling—and rule against them. 

It’s important to remain professional throughout the process, in manner, dress and speech.

At this presentation, we discussed everything from the complicated formula for child support to how to advise divorcing spouses on appropriate dress for the courtroom (yes, that is important).

Thank you to Jewish Family Service for inviting me to speak!

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