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.

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.

Read more Legal Process 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

A Conversation with Brette Sember: How to Avoid Returning to Court & Other Family Law Kernels of Wisdom

A Conversation with Brette Sember: How to Avoid Returning to Court & Other Family Law Kernels of Wisdom

A Conversation with Brette Sember: How to Avoid Returning to Court & Other Family Law Kernels of Wisdom

Brette Sember has represented adults, children and adolescents in family law court. She offers a unique perspective on advocating for client needs, empowering them, and supporting their journey from one stage of life to another.

From Clarence, N.Y., Brette practiced family law and mediation until her second child was born. She then retired from law and began what has become a prolific writing career, staying home with her children.

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Brette Sember

The Transitions Legal team recently sat down with Brette to learn about her latest book, How to Avoid Returning to Family Court.

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What inspired your recent book?

(Brette is the author of 30 books, including Save Money on Your Divorce, The Complete Divorce Guide, How to Get Custody of Your Dog, The No-Fight Divorce Book and The Key to Your Custody Case: Win Over the Law Guardian.)

I worked as a family law attorney and law guardian in New York state. I noticed that many families returned to court over and over. They resolved one issue and a couple months later, returned with another.

It seemed as if the courthouse had a revolving door for them. I wanted to provide a guide to help families stay out of family court. The book is for anyone going to family court – whether for the first time or repeat visitors.

Why is it important post-divorce to avoid returning to court?

First, it’s expensive and time-consuming to return to court. And it’s hugely stressful – for parents and kids. Family court is not designed to help people end a cycle of conflict.

What happens when divorced couples do return to court? What are the risks or challenges?

You can get into a cycle where one dispute leads to another. It can be really hard to break out of a conflict-oriented approach to co-parenting. Often, it becomes a tit-for-tat situation.

When you return to court over and over, you never find a way to work together. You don’t learn to reduce conflict or how to prevent it. It becomes a cycle you can’t break.

It’s important to note that rarely do you achieve a perfect solution in court. Judges don’t know you or your family.

If there is a way to work together with your ex to solve problems, you’re more likely to reach a customized solution that really works.

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Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

It’s better for the whole family if you can find ways to solve problems on your own.

In this book, I offer techniques so readers can resolve custody problems and prevent them from recurring.

What is your perspective on family law?

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Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

When I represented adults, my goal was to help them understand the law (most people don’t) and advocate for what they wanted.

When I represented children, it depended on their age. For young children, I decided what I felt was in their best interests. For teens, I believed it was my job to advocate their position to the court.

I did a lot of law guardian work because I felt it was important for children to have representation. In that role, I guided families toward resources such as county mental health services, parenting classes and support groups.

I also acted as an informal mediator. Law guardians usually have access to both parents and the kids as well as school and medical records. They have a bird’s eye view of the entire family and can guide the adults to resolution.

I was good at that. So, I did formal training in divorce and family mediation and added that to my practice. It was rewarding to help families reach resolutions outside of court.

How did you transition from practicing law to writing about it?

I left my law practice when my second child was born because I wanted to spend more time with my own kids. A publisher asked me to write a book about how to file for divorce in New York, and that is how I got started.

Brette Sember writes often about law and is a writer for www.LegalZoom.com. Learn more at http://brettesember.com/books/.

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Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

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It’s Never Too Late

It’s Never Too Late

It’s Never Too Late

I met with a client recently who wished he had called me sooner. He hired me for limited scope representation, a new offering in Michigan legal circles. 

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Photo by Rob Girkin on Unsplash

He just didn’t have the right chemistry with the first attorney he worked with. In fact, he felt his attorney didn’t explain things well to him.

And even though he already agreed to a mediated settlement, there are still aspects of it that he does not understand, or thinks are unfair.

So he came to me for limited scope representation, which attorneys now have the ability to provide.

What Is Limited Scope Representation?

You can hire me – or any attorney, for that matter – to draft a document, to file a motion, to do one piece of the big puzzle that is family law.

Meeting with this client, I clearly did not know all the dynamics of his former counsel or the case itself. I did learn that his divorce took about a year to settle, and it wasn’t a big-asset case, so that tells me there might have been some personality conflicts that bottlenecked the process.

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Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

Now that we have the option to offer limited scope representation, it’s not a bad idea for clients to have a second attorney review something before they agree and sign on the dotted line. It’s not a matter of voicing lack of confidence in your existing attorney.

It’s like getting a second opinion when a doctor offers a diagnosis – it can’t hurt; it can only help.

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At best, you learn that you’re on the right track and what you’ve agreed to is just fine. At worst, you stop big mistakes before they become permanent.
It felt good to hear that this client wishes he had come to me earlier because of the attention to detail I devote to my clients’ cases. That’s a nice compliment, and I’m proud he noticed. Ultimately, it matters who you hire. Trust your gut. These are important decisions you’re making. And forgive yourself if you eventually feel like not everything was perfect or ideal. You have the option to consult other attorneys now. Take advantage of it. It can be helpful.

Read more Legal Process posts