Is It Possible to Love Your Ex?

Is It Possible to Love Your Ex?

Is It Possible to Love Your Ex?

Ever since I started Transitions Legal in 2013, I have focused February on learning to love your ex.

Some people find that idea odd, or distasteful, but it’s not what you think. Love is not preference or attraction, even. In this context, it’s about understanding and relatability. Seeing the human-ness in your former spouse.

loving your exBecause that is the only way to make your peace with your past and continue to co-parent successfully.

And if you don’t have children together, then “loving your ex” still has meaning. There is no need to communicate necessarily but your memories and experiences will take on more peaceful feeling if, in those moments when you think back, you are able to “love your ex.”

But the first step in loving your ex is being happy with yourself. Yep, you read that right: you must get happy on your own before you can look fondly on anyone else!

It is so important after a relationship ends to spend time coming to terms with your choices and your situation. Get to know yourself again, in this new stage and place. Find new activities and pursuits. Get creative! Make new friends. Join a gym. Participate in a hiking group or find a yoga studio where you can get your meditation on.

This is a focus you may have to take on at different times in your life; it doesn’t happen all at once, or necessarily immediately after the divorce.

This takes time. You won’t fall in love with your new life or your new self overnight! Be patient – it is a getting-to-know-you process, like any worthwhile relationship.

During this time, reflect on your recently-ended relationship in every aspect – what do you appreciate about it? What bothered you? What would you say you contributed to it, positively and negatively? And ask the same question about your spouse.

The things that annoyed you about your ex will never go away – but hopefully through this process of reflection and self-strengthening, you can come to a place of acceptance for what is, rather than resentment for what wasn’t. And when you get there, that’s when you can “love” your ex – rather, see the humanness in them, and have compassion for the good times you shared.

That is the best way to move forward with kindness and understanding. And if you are parenting children from your relationship, you’ll want a healthy dose of both to take you into the future!

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.

Co-Parenting vs. Parallel Parenting – Which Is Best?

Co-Parenting vs. Parallel Parenting – Which Is Best?

Co-Parenting vs. Parallel Parenting – Which Is Best?

I am really big on the idea of co-parenting and I use that word a lot as I’m sure other family law attorneys do.

But recently, a Friend Of The Court referee told me that not everyone can co-parent and it is fine to “parallel” parent. This got me thinking about my word choice and what it means to me.

When I use the word “co-parenting,” my intention is that parents can get along for the purpose of their children – not that they do everything the same. 

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There should be a level of cooperation between parents, whether that means flexibility so children can attend special events with the other parent on one parent’s parenting time, or agreeing on extracurricular activities.

Those are some examples of quality co-parenting. Others might include striving to have some of the same house rules – the same bedtime or the same ideas about food and snacks. Of course, it’s unlikely that divorced parents are going to do things together or even necessarily in the same way.

But similar overall structure for your kids is important because it sends a message of consistency. I know this is hard. In a divorce, obviously, you ended your marriage because it no longer worked. You did not want to be together. Perhaps you could not get along.

So how can anyone expect divorced parents to be in agreement on how to raise their children?

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The thing is, all of this is a choice. We choose to divorce, and we chose to become parents. We do not stop being parents when the marriage ends, and it is wholly unfair to the children – and sometimes even damaging – to throw innocent children into the chaos of emotional decisions and acting out by adults who are trying to start over. I really don’t think it’s asking too much to have some meeting of the minds of what children need.

Now I am going to contradict everything written above to acknowledge that there is also a school of thought that parents are never going to get along, even when they are married. They will always do different things with their children, even when they stay together and remain in a loving relationship.

They might teach their kids different things – one might do homework with them in the morning while one leans toward evening. Over the past year, I’ve seen parents who have different perspectives on COVID-related questions – one parent thinks it’s ok to have a pod of friends over or that the child plays with outside, but the other parent does not believe that’s wise.

Frankly, in neither situation might the children be harmed, but the risk may go beyond the children to the other parent, grandparents or other caregivers who also spend time with the children. It becomes complicated during these interesting times.

Generally, even when parents don’t agree, when they engage in what is called parallel parenting, they still do what they believe is in their children’s best interests. It is more difficult to look beyond their own inner circle.

I just believe the ideal to strive for is co-parenting. Then that “inner circle,” is more inclusive and encompassing, and does consider the effect their decision may have on the other parent and his ability to parent their children.

In the end, we must remember that even if you stayed married to the other parent, you would not have been in complete unison. We have different styles. A relationship is comprised of two individual people who bring different perspectives and inclinations to the partnership.

It can be as simple as how you give a child a bath. One parent lets the child wash his hair himself while the other parent sees it as great bonding time and massages the shampoo into the child’s hair. Either way, the child still gets clean; and each parent has their own individual experience building their own relationship with the child.

Read more Kids & Co-Parenting posts

Processing Divorce in Court during COVID… On Zoom?

Processing Divorce in Court during COVID… On Zoom?

Processing Divorce in Court during COVID… On Zoom?

It’s not news that we are in extraordinary times, with divorce court cases being held over video chat platforms like Zoom. I’ve been wondering how this experience is for clients who, for the time being, don’t have to stand in front of a judge in a hushed courtroom.

How do they hear things differently?

How is the feeling different – better or worse?

And is the judge’s ruling in a divorce case as effective from afar?

The Difference Is Big

It’s one thing to stand in the courtroom in front of a judge wearing a robe with deputies standing nearby. The formal and reserved ambience of the courtroom does not exist in a virtual experience.

Divorce on zoom
Does that mean the messages are not as strong or impactful?

From the safety of home, we are more relaxed. When a judge admonishes a client for improper behavior in a virtual hearing, is it perceived as severely?

Remote Cases Affect All Parties

Divorce on zoom

Photo by Magnet.me on Unsplash

From a lawyer’s perspective, preparing for an evidentiary hearing and having to do a trial by Zoom is also different. We call witnesses, and they respond from their own homes or offices.

Are they reading information they would not otherwise be able to refer to if in person?

Are they texting a friend or the Jameson Law firm for help?

Body Language Is Impossible to Read in Remote Cases

The judge may hear things differently, too, unable to read the body language or pick up on certain inferences made by those present in a courtroom.

Often in family court, judges will make comments from the bench to address the parties, to send a message. I wonder, is that message as powerful while the party is sitting in an easy chair in his living room, listening without really being present?

Consider this Case Study

Divorce on zoom
As an example, not long after we were all required to stay-safe-at-home, a party filed a motion to prevent the other parent from traveling out of the country with their children – when travel out of the country was really not possible due to pandemic limitations on travel. We still don’t know when it will be possible to travel beyond our borders.

The judge looked at both parties on the virtual hearing and said, “You have to choose your battles. This is not an emergency. Nobody is going anywhere right now, so come back to me if there really is an urgency.”

The co-parents were arguing about what was essentially an irrelevant point. The judge tried to emphasize this point sternly, but I have to say, I don’t think the point sticks as much with clients when we’re relegated to video hearings.

Isn’t It Good to Revere the Judge?

In the courtroom, when a judge makes a comment from the bench, and an order is entered into the court docket, it’s a serious thing. You can feel the gravity of the situation when you’re standing there, in the windowless courtroom, with the judge seated higher than everyone, and no one else utters a word.

You stand, out of respect for the judge, and wait for him or her to respond to your motion. And what the judge says, goes.

Period.

Let’s Get Serious

I’m convinced that while the order stands and is as effective and imperative during this time as any other time, the parties don’t feel the gravity of the situation in the same way.

There is one upside to this new normal, though. In divorce cases where abuse or violence is present, not having to show up in the same physical space as your abuser is a relief for clients seeking freedom and safety from domestic abuse.

In these situations, staying in your own home while the abuser remains in another space is a gift for the victim. However, I’m not sure the abuser receives the severity of the proceedings when the judge is on a screen.

Divorce on zoom

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

Does the Location of Your Divorce Case Matter?

The takeaway from all of this is that if you were planning to divorce, think about how the inability to appear in a physical courtroom will help or hinder your case.

There are non-court-based options for divorce, of course, like Collaborative Divorce or Mediation – which might be better alternatives.

If you’re looking for a divorce lawyer at this time, you might want to consider talking with a lawyer who is familiar with and practices both the court-based, litigation model and is specially trained as a mediator or Collaborative attorney – someone like me!

After all, is it worth litigating if you’re not appearing in front of a judge?

Read more about Family Law

Start a Divorce Case with the End in Mind

Start a Divorce Case with the End in Mind

Start a Divorce Case with the End in Mind

One reason I like Collaborative Divorce so much is that we begin the divorce case with an ideal outcome in mind.

Usually, the divorcing parties want to be collegial and, if they are parents, work together once their marriage is legally over.

With these goals, you make decisions to get there. Often, you don’t want acrimonious opposition or endless arguments because the working-together part won’t happen easily.

Instead, you take steps toward divorce that include listening to the other side, considering a variety of options, and having conversations with an open mind.

It helps that in a Collaborative Divorce, you’re not just supported by a divorce lawyer – you also have the benefit of a financial planner, a divorce coach, and/or a child specialist who come together as your team to help reach your desired outcome.

Whether or not you choose a Collaborative path to divorce, you can begin with the outcome in mind.

If you want easy co-parenting, try to hear the other parent’s desire for time with the children. View other details of custody and parenting time arrangements with that goal in mind.

If you love the house and want to remain in it, consider what the other party might want in exchange for giving you the house.

If you like to vacation Up North every summer for a month, be prepared to give your ex-spouse a month of vacation with the children, too.

Divorcing with the end in mind keeps you on track to negotiate with intellect rather than letting emotions drive the process.

It’s easy to let hurt, anger, resentment and long-held feelings of dissatisfaction cloud judgment – but doing so does not usually lead to a positive next phase of life.

divorce
divorce

Think big picture.

Think about the tone you want to set for your children. Think about the good times – there had to be some! – and honor and respect the good memories to help you part ways in a good light.

Read more about Collaborative Divorce