Focusing on Dads in Divorce Court

Focusing on Dads in Divorce Court

dads and divorce

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By Alisa Peskin-Shepherd

For the longest time, mothers got custody automatically. But now, in an effort to correct a perceived injustice against men, courts and law firms alike are focusing on dads, circulating legislation to establish mandatory equal parenting time motivated by dads groups.

It’s like a pendulum swinging from one extreme to the other, and I hope to eventually see it settle in some middle ground with the focus solely on what is best for the children.

This change began when I started my career in family law in the early 1990s. I cannot remember a case where it was an automatic win for the mom. Yes, moms were still favored, but it wasn’t automatic.

Over the last 20 years, it’s really intensified, as newly-elected judges brought their perspectives on the idea of parenting time to the bench. Sometimes it feels like it doesn’t matter what the law says.

You can walk into one judge’s courtroom and know that they are a “50/50 judge,” which means they start from an assumption of equal parenting time and if you want it to be something different, you better show a good reason why. It is really difficult to get them to move.

Litigation in such a courtroom is quite challenging when you know there is a good reason to skew the amount of time children spend with one parent or another, or even just where they will lay their heads at night. Sometimes it’s as simple as the roles parents played while they were married. You can’t draw a sharp line in the sand when you split, making everything change immediately.

some dads become better parents after divorce

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When one parent has been the primary caregiver, it’s uncomfortable not only for the parent but for the children, to suddenly be ousted from their job or role and the whole family thrown into a very different routine.

It’s challenging, too, for the non-primary caregiver, who may have no idea about a lot of what goes into taking care of a toddler or school schedules or carpooling and they’re forced to step into a very different role without guidance or transition. They may be too proud to ask for help.

A divorce is often not the most collegial of processes, which means parents on both sides may feel uncomfortable asking the other for guidance in their new role. Which is exactly what they need.

When you get into court, you’re positioned against each other so instead of recognizing these natural human elements, it becomes a fight, where they won’t talk about or look at options.

If we want to move towards promoting more equal parenting time, then depending on the real life situation, it may be best to move toward that point  in stages.

That way, it’s less disruptive for the children, while giving time for both parents to transition into new roles.

Dads can learn how to be better as solo parents after divorce

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Depending on the ages of the kids, I recommend giving six months or a year to make a change, giving both parents space to learn about their new role. The kids also can gradually transition into the changes.

In the divorce world, most attorneys fail to and some even refuse to talk about the impact of all of this. The focus is instead on  the outcome . I wish we recognized how kids bear the brunt of adult decisions. For instance, they’re the ones shuffling back and forth between two homes – not the adults who initiated the divorce!

I yearn for a time when divorcing parents can put their hurt and anger aside in exchange for a focus on their children, who didn’t ask for any of this. This means not just talking the talk, but showing it by the compromises and agreements they make. Parenting time must be about the children – not about the parents!!

I prefer to look at parenting time as the parent’s opportunity to spend time with that child, on the child’s schedule. Whether you’re a mom or a dad, you can and should be more involved in school, spend more time with your children doing things of interest to them, and cherish this time, even if it’s not an overnight.

It takes humility on both parents’ parts to recognize their strengths and weaknesses, and cooperation to work together, but in this model the focus is completely on the children. Which is how it should be.

Know Your Divorce Options

Know Your Divorce Options

Know Your Divorce Options

Clients often wonder which path to take when divorcing, as there are many routes to go – litigation, mediation, Collaborative Divorce, or a DIY online quickie. Here’s a way to understand each option and when you should opt for one over the other.

LITIGATION

If you and your spouse have agreed on the details of the divorce and are just ready to file and get it done, litigation may be the way to go.

Litigation is a court-based way to divorce, where the case goes before a judge, who has to sign off for it to be final. Litigation does not always mean a trial!

But sometimes it does. There are other reasons to go the litigation route, such as when one partner is narcissistic and there’s no agreeing to anything. The only choice in such a situation is to take it to court – get in, get out, and know there will be no compromises with such a person.

 Another reason couples opt for litigation is when they cannot agree on anything and they need a judge to make a decision for them. It’s definitely not the best thing for a family, but sometimes you have no other choice. In such situations, neither person will be happy, and a judge will never know your family the way you do. Litigation basically stops the bleeding.

COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE

This is my favorite way to practice because it’s out of the court system and driven by the needs and desires of the couple and the family.

 In Collaborative Divorce, you must listen to the other person and agree to a resolution. It’s a method that can be good for every type of case because it’s not a kumbaya situation, but it does take everyone and everything into account.

 Collaborative Divorce can be tough, but it’s always humane. Underlying problems would blow up in court, but in Collaborative Divorce, your team will guide you through emotions to the rational side for negotiation and resolution. The team makes a difference.

MEDIATION

Mediation requires compromise. This is a good format for two people who are comfortable communicating with each other and both have a good idea of the marital assets.

Michelle Sarao

Opt for mediation if neither of you is afraid to speak up. While you might not be that comfortable one-on-one, you’ll go through this in a room with a neutral trust third party who can say the things that need to be said.

Mediation is good for couples who understand themselves and will do individual work to bring back to the room with the mediator.

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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.

child support

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The Second Most Important Decision You’ll Ever Make

The Second Most Important Decision You’ll Ever Make

The Second Most Important Decision You’ll Ever Make

It’s the romantic line in an intense RomCom – this is the most important decision you’ll ever make.

Of course, in that context, the actor is likely referring to the decision to marry someone. I’m well-versed in what may be the second most important decision you’ll ever make: choosing a divorce lawyer.

Yeah, it’s a bit sour grapes to put these two ideas together, but I got your attention, didn’t I? And even more importantly, both statements are true.

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Choosing a Life Partner

Many people marry when they are young and idealistic. Choosing a life partner at that stage can be a crap shoot. Maybe it works out, and maybe it doesn’t. It takes a lot of hard work and an enduring commitment from both partners.

What long-time married folks will tell you is that a more important decision than whom you marry is the decision you make every morning when you open your eyes and glance over at the snoring lump in the bed beside you: the decision to look for the good in your partner every day to ensure that you stay married, and enjoy doing so.

When to Choose a Divorce Lawyer

Unfortunately, many people have not gotten the memo on this important decision. Successful marriages are not made by romance or luck or choosing well. They’re made by overlooking the things that annoy you about your spouse and focusing instead on the qualities you appreciate about them.

When you can no longer do this, it’s time to make another important decision: choose a divorce lawyer to walk alongside you through the process of ending your marriage.

So, how do you make that right choice? With four easy steps:

Ask for referrals.

Friends, family, colleagues, neighbors. Ask around for recommendations of family law attorneys hired by people you trust. When they give you a name and a number, ask more questions – what, exactly, did you like about this person? What do they do well? What is NOT their expertise?

Decide on your divorce path.

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This requires research and knowledge. Do you want a Collaborative Divorce? Litigation? Mediation? The most amicable divorce on the planet? Your chosen approach will lead you to people who specialize in practicing the way you want to go. And while you’re researching, check out the credentials and reviews of the lawyers referred to you. Anyone with a besmirched reputation should be crossed off the list.

Conduct interviews.

While your best friend might have loved her attorney, you might find out that the personality doesn’t match yours once you meet. Most attorneys will give free consultations where you can try each other on for size, and see if you’ll work well together. Take advantage of this, and take your time will doing so. Once you lock in on something, it can be gazelle-intense into the process.

Set a budget.

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I’m the first to admit, legal representation is not a cheap endeavor. Be realistic with yourself and your potential attorney regarding how much you have to spend. This can be an important deciding factor that determines what path you take or whom you hire.

Are you looking for a family law attorney? Set up a free consultation with me, and we’ll see if it’s a fit!

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Collaborative or Litigation?

Collaborative or Litigation?

Collaborative or Litigation?

Wondering which approach to divorce is right for you? Let me help.

While I practice both and have been an attorney for more than 30 years, I always prefer Collaborative Divorce if it’s a possibility, and I’ll tell you why.

Collaborative Divorce

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First, Collaborative Divorce is a more humane approach to dissolving a marriage. Both parties and their attorneys agree to a team approach to divorce. There will also be divorce financial planners, therapists, divorce coaches or someone just looking out for the kids present, and we all work together toward the common, shared outcome of the entire family. It’s not easy, but it is definitely satisfying and less stressful for all involved.

However, I realize not every divorcing family is cut out for a Collaborative process. If one person is playing dirty, wants to pull a fast one and take all the money or property, or is otherwise dishonest, untrustworthy, or downright abusive, Collaborative Law is not the answer.

For it to work, both clients have to be completely transparent and trust the process. 

We ask our Collaborative Divorce clients to put hurt feelings and bitterness aside in favor of the bigger picture and best interests of their family. Many people are just not ready, or not able, to be this forward thinking when the idea of divorce is so fresh.

Litigation

In those cases, and in cases where someone is mean, dishonest, or abusive, litigation may be the preferred path. That’s a hard-lined, no-nonsense approach to family law that argues your case relentlessly until the clients agree to an outcome usually through mediation or a judge in court decides on the outcome following a trial.

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Trial is the last step in the litigation, it is the process we go through when the parties cannot resolve the issues through any other means – be it mediation, arbitration, negotiation, or settlement reached in their attorneys’ offices.

There are many couples who don’t get along and don’t play fair who are still able to agree on a settlement, guided by well-meaning, sharp attorneys. Trial, as part of the litigation process, is not always necessary.
Litigation is a valuable tool in the right situations.

Regardless of which path you choose for your divorce, remember to take the high road and truly listen to your lawyer’s recommendations. We’ve seen so many cases in the family law arena, and we know what is needed to arrive at a livable, workable settlement that will benefit you and your family.

Read more Collaborative Divorce posts