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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Marriage Advice: Don't Let the Sun Go Down While You're Still Angry

"In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry," Ephesians 4:26

The Bible is my GPS to life. But even if you don't subscribe to my beliefs, you can't really argue with pop culture!

Don't let the sun go down on you angry.

This means, don't hold a grudge.

This does not mean that miraculously, you and your spouse will always reach a full agreement on all issues before you go to sleep (that's bordering boring!). But it does mean that before you go to sleep, you both have reached a stage whereby you are comfortable with the concept that whatever you are arguing about does not supercede your commitment to each other.

If you are Type A and argumentative like me, this is a very difficult thing to perfect.

I refer you to my other blog post - and advise you to start hammering some nails into fences. It will get you closer to the goal.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Desiderata






Desiderata




Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.

But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.

Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.

And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Marriage Advice: Watch your mouth



OPEN YOUR MOUTH AND SAY "AH!"






Just as a doctor can diagnose a physical ailment by examining your mouth, so can you examine your own well-being by what is coming out of your mouth.

I've been a divorce lawyer for 10 years. I know why marriages end. I will be so bold as to claim 100% of them end due to someone's tongue.

A recent client of mine came in. She wanted to end her marriage. Her husband was gainfully employed. He had never cheated on her. He has never hit her. He is a good man, by all definitions, she said.

Then why?

She said to me, "The verbal abuse was too much." "It is not ok to say the things he said, and I can't take it anymore.

This upcoming year, make a real effort to guard your mouth. If I can do it, you can do it.

I will conclude by sharing a wonderful story my father sent me years ago.


NAILS IN THE FENCE

There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His Father gave him
a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must
hammer a nail into the back of the fence. The first day the boy had
driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned
to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually
dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to
drive those nails into the fence.
Finally the day came when the boy didn't lose his temper at all. He
told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out
one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper.


The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father
that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led
him to the fence. He said, "You have done well, my son, but look at the
holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say
things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put
a knife in a man and draw it out. It won't matter how many times you
say I'm sorry, the wound is still there."

A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one.

Just one more thing...

Please forgive me if I have ever left a hole in your fence!


~ author unknown ~

Monday, December 21, 2009

In re Marriage of Woods and Nordegren






Tiger Woods - Elin Nordegren divorce news update: Nordegren consulting Sorrell Trope, star lawyer
BY Nancy Dillon and Corky Siemaszko DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS





Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren are reportedly headed for divorce. Elin Nordegren has hired divorce lawyer Sorrell Trope.

Tiger Woods' wife reportedly has the dean of Tinseltown's divorce lawyers on her side as she and the golfing great head for Splitsville.


Nobody has more experience at tearing celebrity marriages asunder than Sorrell Trope, who hung his shingle in 1949 and whose star clients span the generations from Cary Grant and Rod Steiger to Nicole Kidman, Nicolas Cage, Hugh Grant and Britney Spears.

While Trope is no expert on the law in Florida, which is where Elin Nordegren lives, admiring lawyers say he is a hard-nosed negotiator who goes to the mat for whoever can afford him.
Nordegren reportedly signed a prenuptial agreement before she married Tiger, so Trope would most likely be enlisted to hammer out a postnup to give her a bigger piece of Woods' wealth, they said.


"There is just one Sorrell Trope," said Manhattan divorce lawyer Robert Wallack. "He's the dean of the California matrimonial bar.

"He's in a class of maybe 12 or 15 lawyers that handles very high-asset, high-income divorces with contentious custody cases," said Beverly Hills-based family law arbitrator Alexandra Leichter.


Woods, 33, who cheated on his Swedish spouse with a bevy of women, has reportedly offered her millions to stop her from walking away - and taking their two kids.

Wallack said it is not unusual for spurned celebrity spouses to bring in a "big gun" to press their case for more dough - and to walk away richer if they were treated especially badly.
"She might have brought him in to lead the charge," said Wallack, who has represented celebrities like Christie Brinkley and Damon Dash.

Trope, who is 82 and one of the best-paid lawyers in Los Angeles, did not return a call about his reported entry into the Woods saga.

In an earlier interview, the Albany-born lawyer said he got into lawyering because it seemed like a glamorous profession.

"When I was a little boy, on a Saturday you always went to the movies and you saw a double feature and a cartoon," he said.

"And there were some wonderful lawyer movies, and the lawyers were always dressed up and they looked wonderful."

Nordegren, 29, who has stayed silent as the sex scandal swamped her husband, fanned speculation they were splitting up when she appeared in public without her wedding ring - and after she bought an island getaway in her homeland.

The Daily News reported on Wednesday that she was taking the kids with her to spend Christmas in Sweden - and that Woods was staying behind to hang with his buddies.
A day later, People magazine broke the story that Nordegren wanted out of her five-year marriage and several Los Angeles TV stations reported she was consulting Trope.
Nordegren's divorce plans emerged on the same day The Associated Press selected the scandal-scarred golfer as the Athlete of the Decade.


Woods received over a third of the votes cast by AP member editors, who focused on his jaw-dropping exploits on the links - not in the sack.
csiemaszko@nydailynews.com

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

California to Ban Divorce?!


Movement under way in California to ban divorce
By JUDY LIN, Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, December 1, 2009



In a movement that seems ripped from the pages of Comedy Channel writers, John Marcotte wants to put a measure on the ballot next year to ban divorce in California.

The effort is meant to be a satirical statement after California voters outlawed gay marriage in 2008, largely on the argument that a ban is needed to protect the sanctity of traditional marriage. If that's the case, then Marcotte reasons voters should have no problem banning divorce.

"Since California has decided to protect traditional marriage, I think it would be hypocritical of us not to sacrifice some of our own rights to protect traditional marriage even more," the 38-year-old married father of two said.

Marcotte said he has collected dozens of signatures, including one from his wife of seven years. The initiative's Facebook fans have swelled to more than 11,000. Volunteers that include gay activists and members of a local comedy troupe have signed on to help.

Marcotte is looking into whether he can gather signatures online, as proponents are doing for another proposed 2010 initiative to repeal the gay marriage ban. But the odds are stacked against a campaign funded primarily by the sale of $12 T-shirts featuring bride and groom stick figures chained at the wrists.

Marcotte needs 694,354 valid signatures by March 22, a high hurdle in a state where the typical petition drive costs millions of dollars. Even if his proposed constitutional amendment made next year's ballot, it's not clear how voters would react.

Nationwide, about half of all marriages end in divorce.

Not surprisingly, Marcotte's campaign to make divorce in California illegal has divided those involved in last year's campaign for and against Proposition 8.

As much as everyone would like to see fewer divorces, making it illegal would be "impractical," said Ron Prentice, the executive director of the California Family Council who led a coalition of religious and conservative groups to qualify Proposition 8.

No other state bans divorce, and only a few countries, including the Philippines and Malta, do. The Roman Catholic Church also prohibits divorce but allows annulments. The California proposal would amend the state constitution to eliminate the ability of married couples to get divorced while allowing married couples to seek an annulment.

Prentice said proponents of traditional marriage only seek to strengthen the one man-one woman union.

"That's where our intention begins and ends," he said.

Jeffrey Taylor, a spokesman for Restore Equality 2010, a coalition of same-sex marriage activists seeking to repeal Proposition 8, said the coalition supports Marcotte's message but has no plans to join forces with him.

"We find it quite hilarious," Taylor said of the initiative.

Marcotte, who runs the comedy site BadMouth.net in his spare time, said he has received support from across the political spectrum. In addition to encouragement from gay marriage advocates, he has been interviewed by American Family Association, a Mississippi-based organization that contributed to last year's Yes on 8 campaign.

He was mentioned by Keith Olbermann on MSNBC's "Countdown" during his "World's Best Persons" segment for giving supporters of Proposition 8 their "comeuppance in California."
Marcotte, who is Catholic and voted against Proposition 8, views himself as an accidental activist. A registered Democrat, he led a "ban divorce" rally recently at the state Capitol in Sacramento to launch his effort and was pleasantly surprised at the turnout. About 50 people showed up, some holding signs that read, "You too can vote to take away civil rights from someone."
Marcotte stopped dozens of people during another signature drive in downtown Sacramento. Among them was Ryan Platt, 32, who said he signed the petition in support of his lesbian sister, even though he thinks it would be overturned if voters approved it.

"Even if by some miracle this did pass, it would never stand up to the federal government," Platt said. "And if it did, there's something really wrong with America."

Other petition signers said they were motivated by a sincere interest to preserve marriages. One was Ervin Hulton, a 47-year-old dishwasher who said he believes in making it harder for couples to separate.

"The way I feel, why go out and spend all these tons of money for marriage, the photography and all that? And along down the line, it's going to shatter," said Hulton, who is single.
The U.S. divorce rate is 47.9 percent, according to data provided by the National Center for Health Statistics reports. That figure, however, does not include California, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana and Minnesota because those six states no longer report their divorce rates to the center.

California stopped because of budget problems, said Ralph Montano, a spokesman for the California Department of Public Health.

While most people would not support banning divorce, it does make sense for couples to be educated about the financial and emotional commitments of marriage, said Dan Couvrette, chief executive and publisher of Toronto-based Divorce Magazine. The publication has a circulation of 140,000, including a regional edition in Southern California.

"It's a worthwhile conversation to have," said Couvrette, who started the magazine in 1996 after going through his own divorce. "I don't think it's just a frivolous thought."
___
On the Net:
2010 California Marriage Protection Act: http://www.rescuemarriage.org
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2009/11/30/national/a111733S84.DTL#ixzz0ZsEYifJzRead more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2009/11/30/national/a111733S84.DTL#ixzz0ZsEYifJz

Sunday, November 22, 2009

What is Marriage?



Every morning, I watch the cast of characters on Sesame Street with my 1-year old daughter, whose brain rapidly absorbs it all.

Little did I know - Adults can learn a lot too, from Sesame Street! Check out this video on marriage.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Forgiveness

"Bitterness injures the vessel in which it is stored more so than the object on which it is poured."

In my practice, I come across a lot of situations where the parties would both benefit if they could just forgive.

Has someone wronged you? Please read this article.


Forgiveness: How to let go of grudges and bitterness

When someone you care about hurts you, you can hold on to anger, resentment and thoughts of revenge or embrace forgiveness and move forward.

By Mayo Clinic staff
Katherine M. Piderman, Ph.D.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Nearly everyone has been hurt by the actions or words of another. Your mother criticized your parenting skills. Your friend gossiped about you. Your partner had an affair. These wounds can leave you with lasting feelings of anger, bitterness and even vengeance.

But when you don't practice forgiveness, you may be the one who pays most dearly. By embracing forgiveness, you embrace peace, hope, gratitude and joy. Here, Katherine M. Piderman, Ph.D., staff chaplain at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., discusses forgiveness and how it can lead you down the path of physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

What is forgiveness?
There's no one definition of forgiveness. But in general, forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentments and thoughts of revenge. Forgiveness is the act of untying yourself from thoughts and feelings that bind you to the offense committed against you. This can reduce the power these feelings otherwise have over you, so that you can a live freer and happier life in the present. Forgiveness can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you.

Doesn't forgiving someone mean you're forgetting or condoning what happened?
Absolutely not! Forgiving isn't the same as forgetting what happened to you. The act that hurt or offended you may always remain a part of your life. But forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help you focus on other, positive parts of your life. Forgiveness also doesn't mean that you deny the other person's responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn't minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act.

What are the benefits of forgiving someone?
Researchers have recently become interested in studying the effects of being unforgiving and being forgiving. Evidence is mounting that holding on to grudges and bitterness results in long-term health problems. Forgiveness, on the other hand, offers numerous benefits, including:

■Lower blood pressure
■Stress reduction
■Less hostility
■Better anger management skills
■Lower heart rate
■Lower risk of alcohol or substance abuse
■Fewer depression symptoms
■Fewer anxiety symptoms
■Reduction in chronic pain
■More friendships
■Healthier relationships
■Greater religious or spiritual well-being
■Improved psychological well-being
Why do we hold grudges and become resentful and unforgiving?
The people most likely to hurt us are those closest to us — our partners, friends, siblings and parents. When we're hurt by someone we love and trust — whether it's a lie, betrayal, rejection, abuse or insult — it can be extremely difficult to overcome. And even minor offenses can turn into huge conflicts.

When you experience hurt or harm from someone's actions or words, whether this is intended or not, you may begin experiencing negative feelings such as anger, confusion or sadness, especially when it's someone close to you. These feelings may start out small. But if you don't deal with them quickly, they can grow bigger and more powerful. They may even begin to crowd out positive feelings. Grudges filled with resentment, vengeance and hostility take root when you dwell on hurtful events or situations, replaying them in your mind many times.

Soon, you may find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice. You may feel trapped and may not see a way out. It's very hard to let go of grudges at this point and instead you may remain resentful and unforgiving.

How do I know it's time to try to embrace forgiveness?
When we hold on to pain, old grudges, bitterness and even hatred, many areas of our lives can suffer. When we're unforgiving, it's we who pay the price over and over. We may bring our anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience. Our lives may be so wrapped up in the wrong that we can't enjoy the present. Other signs that it may be time to consider forgiveness include:

■Dwelling on the events surrounding the offense
■Hearing from others that you have a chip on your shoulder or that you're wallowing in self-pity
■Being avoided by family and friends because they don't enjoy being around you
■Having angry outbursts at the smallest perceived slights
■Often feeling misunderstood
■Drinking excessively, smoking or using drugs to try to cope with your pain
■Having symptoms of depression or anxiety
■Being consumed by a desire for revenge or punishment
■Automatically thinking the worst about people or situations
■Regretting the loss of a valued relationship
■Feeling like your life lacks meaning or purpose
■Feeling at odds with your religious or spiritual beliefs
The bottom line is that you may often feel miserable in your current life.

How do I reach a state of forgiveness?
Forgiveness is a commitment to a process of change. It can be difficult and it can take time. Everyone moves toward forgiveness a little differently. One step is to recognize the value of forgiveness and its importance in our lives at a given time. Another is to reflect on the facts of the situation, how we've reacted, and how this combination has affected our lives, our health and our well-being. Then, as we are ready, we can actively choose to forgive the one who has offended us. In this way, we move away from our role as a victim and release the control and power the offending person and situation have had in our lives.

Forgiveness also means that we change old patterns of beliefs and actions that are driven by our bitterness. As we let go of grudges, we'll no longer define our lives by how we've been hurt, and we may even find compassion and understanding.

What happens if I can't forgive someone?
Forgiveness can be very challenging. It may be particularly hard to forgive someone who doesn't admit wrong or doesn't speak of their sorrow. Keep in mind that the key benefits of forgiveness are for you. If you find yourself stuck, it may be helpful to take some time to talk with a person you've found to be wise and compassionate, such as a spiritual leader, a mental health provider or an unbiased family member or friend.

It may also be helpful to reflect on times you've hurt others and on those who have forgiven you. As you recall how you felt, it may help you to understand the position of the person who hurt you. It can also be beneficial to pray, use guided meditation or journal. In any case, if the intention to forgive is present, forgiveness will come in its time.

Does forgiveness guarantee reconciliation?
Not always. In some cases, reconciliation may be impossible because the offender has died. In other cases, reconciliation may not be appropriate, especially if you were attacked or assaulted. But even in those cases, forgiveness is still possible, even if reconciliation isn't.

On the other hand, if the hurtful event involved a family member or friend whose relationship you otherwise value, forgiveness may lead to reconciliation. This may not happen quickly, as you both may need time to re-establish trust. But in the end, your relationship may very well be one that is rich and fulfilling.

What if I have to interact with the person who hurt me but I don't want to?
These situations are difficult. If the hurt involves a family member, it may not always be possible to avoid him or her entirely. You may be invited to the same family holiday gatherings, for instance. If you've reached a state of forgiveness, you may be able to enjoy these gatherings without bringing up the old hurts. If you haven't reached forgiveness, these gatherings may be tense and stressful for everyone, particularly if other family members have chosen sides in the conflict.

So how do you handle this? First, remember that you do have a choice whether to attend or not attend family get-togethers. Respect yourself and do what seems best. If you choose to go, don't be surprised by a certain amount of awkwardness and perhaps even more intense feelings. It's important to keep an eye on those feelings. You don't want them to lead you to be unjust or unkind in return for what was done to you.

Also, avoid drinking too much alcohol as a way to try to numb your feelings or feel better — it'll likely backfire. And keep an open heart and mind. People do change, and perhaps the offender will want to apologize or make amends. You also may find that the gathering helps you to move forward with forgiveness.

How do I know when I've truly forgiven someone?
Forgiveness may result in sincerely spoken words such as "I forgive you" or tender actions that fit the relationship. But more than this, forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life. The offense is no longer front and center in your thoughts or feelings. Your hostility, resentment and misery have made way for compassion, kindness and peace.

Also, remember that forgiveness often isn't a one-time thing. It begins with a decision, but because memories or another set of words or actions may trigger old feelings, you may need to recommit to forgiveness over and over again.

What if the person I'm forgiving doesn't change?
Getting the other person to change their actions, behavior or words isn't the point of forgiveness. In fact, the other person may never change or apologize for the offense. Think of forgiveness more about how it can change your life — by bringing you more peace, happiness, and emotional and spiritual healing.

Forgiveness takes away the power the other person continues to wield in your life. Through forgiveness, you choose to no longer define yourself as a victim. Forgiveness is done primarily for yourself, and less so for the person who wronged you.

What if I'm the one who needs forgiveness?
It may help to spend some time thinking about the offense you've committed and trying to determine the effect it has had on others. Unless it may cause more harm or distress, consider admitting the wrong you've done to those you've harmed, speaking of your sincere sorrow or regret, and specifically asking for forgiveness — without making excuses.

But if this seems unwise because it may further harm or distress, don't do it — it's not about making yourself feel better by apologizing. You don't want to add salt to a painful wound. Also, keep in mind that you can't force someone to forgive you. They will need to move to forgiveness in their own time.

In any case, we have to be willing to forgive ourselves. Holding on to resentment against yourself can be just as toxic as holding on to resentment against someone else. Recognize that poor behavior or mistakes don't make you worthless or bad.

Accept the fact that you — like everyone else — aren't perfect. Accept yourself despite your faults. Admit your mistakes. Commit to treating others with compassion, empathy and respect. And again, talking with a spiritual leader, mental health provider or trusted friend or relative may be helpful.

Forgiveness of yourself or someone else, though not easy, can transform your life. Instead of dwelling on the injustice and revenge, instead of being angry and bitter, you can move toward a life of peace, compassion, mercy, joy and kindness.

Dec. 8, 2007

© 1998-2009 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "MayoClinic.com," "EmbodyHealth," "Reliable tools for healthier lives," "Enhance your life," and the triple-shield Mayo Clinic logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Going to Court? Ten Do's!






Ok, before we start, let me share a secret with you. Attorneys like me LOVE LOVE LOVE the courtroom! Some of us thrive on the thrill of getting into our Armani suits, lugging our LV briefcases straight through security, through the elevators up to that beautifully organized courtroom. It's soooo deliciously exciting to hob-nob with our cohorts and respected judicial officers. I LOVE IT!!!


Everyone loves it, and TV continues to prey on our passion for the courtroom by putting out hit after hit: Law and Order, The Practice, and Ally McBeal...


But here is another secret: it's GENERALLY not in anybody's best interests but the paid attorneys to go to court.

In one word, here is why: TIME. Attorneys bill by the 6-minute increment. If someone says X, and the other immediately says, "Yes!", that takes no time and everyone is happy and attorney only gets paid 10 minutes. (Well, typically more, because we have the burden of preparing lots of paperwork...but you get my point.)

However, in a divorce case, it's not ever "Yes, OK!" So there is the back and forth, back and forth - and EVENTUALLY, you both get to Yes. (hours later).

Even more frequently, you don't ever get to Yes...and so you end up in the courthouse next to your attorney in the Armani suit and LV briefcase who didn't explain what happens. (many, many hours later)

Here are some tips for surviving your first court appearance.

DO'S


1. Do appear timely. If your appointment is 8:30 am...don't show up at 8:35 am. Be there at 8:15 am. Arrange for childcare months in advance. Make sure you have reliable transportation. Get adequate rest and nourishment. (I always make sure I have my cup of coffee in the morning before court.)

2. Do dress for success. Gentlemen, no hats, jeans, shorts, or T-Shirts. Ladies, no hats, jeans, shorts, low-cut anything. NO open-toe shoes. Remember, you are in a court of LAW. Respect that.

3. Do bring all of your paperwork, in an organized manner. If it's a custody case, bring a calendar of events. Trust me, if you already have a semi-faulty memory like mine, being in the spotlight of the courtroom won't help you. You will need refreshers. If it's a support case, bring all of your bank statements, organized chronologically. If you have time, prepare an Excel spreadsheet summarizing payments, etc. Make sure you bring copies of the documents filed by your attorney and the opposing counsel. Bring all receipts.

4. Do remind yourself of the purpose of the hearing. Is the hearing an OSC for spousal support? Remember, the goal is to obtain spousal support based on proper documentation of both sides income. If the hearing is specifically for support, do NOT bring up irrelevant issues not previously discussed in the paperwork. WHY are we in court? Remember the purpose and stick to it.

5. Do speak clearly and look at the Judge when he/she speaks to you. The Judge may want to speak to YOU, not your attorney. Though you have hired an attorney, YOU are still your best representative. If your attorney fails to mention facts, specifically request that before the hearing is over, he or she pause and ask you if everything is covered. Most Judges will allow a brief meet-and-confer session with counsel before concluding.

6. Do remember to summarize. One of my favorite Judges had this sign in his courtroom, "Brevity is next to Godliness". True that!!! Judges are people. Judges are people with limited time slots. Just look at the daily calendar. Most judges have at least twenty (20) matters to rule on. This means you need to tell your attorney to kick some butt on PAPERWORK...because most Judges have already made the decision based on paperwork. There are people with amazing oratory skills, but you will have VERY limited time to impress the Judge, as he/she has other matters that day.

7. Do prepare yourself for alternative solutions. Yes, you should aim to get all your requests granted. But make sure you also have secondary solutions in case the Judge denies your first request. In my experience, Judges want what's fair to both sides. So be prepared to make an offer of compromise if your first solution isn't granted. Be detailed in your requests, i.e. - instead of saying, "I want full custody"....say, "I believe it is in the children's best interests to spend weekdays with me, and weekends with the mother." Instead of saying, "I cannot live on anything less than $5000 a month, say, "I have properly submitted an Income and Expense declaration, and my expenses are approximately $5000 a month. I have always stayed home with the children so I do not have an earning potential right now, although I am sincerely looking for a job. Respondent earns approximately $12,000 a month as submitted, and has no other expenses."

8. Do let your inner light shine. In Sunday School, I sang this song, "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine!" Believe that you are a good person, and be reasonable to the other side. Don't call it, "MY child", but "our child"...don't be accusatory or speak inflammatory words. Contrary to popular belief, the courtroom is not where you want to insult people. Remember your goal. Remember you ALWAYS catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

9. Do work with your attorney. On that day, your attorney is your voice. Remember, you made the choice in the beginning to work with him/her. Don't start doubting your decision on the date of court. If you trust him/her, then you trust they have your best interests in mind. Trust and rely on them that day to represent you.

10. Do respect the Judge, and everyone in the courtroom. The Judge is always, "Your Honor". All of his/her Orders are to be received with a "Thank you, Your Honor."

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Facebook and Divorce

Very interesting article in Time magazine in June 2009, for those who missed it...
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1904147,00.html
Facebook and Divorce: Airing the Dirty Laundry
By Belinda Luscombe

Monday, Jun. 22, 2009.


Not long after Patrick told his wife Tammie he wanted a divorce, she posted an angry, hurt note on "the wall," or public-comments section, of his Facebook page. Embarrassed that his colleagues, clients, church friends and family could see evidence of his marital woes, he deleted it and blocked his wife from seeing his page. A couple of days later, the IT worker in Florida--who asked that his last name not be used in this story — found alarmed messages from two Facebook friends in his inbox. Tammie had used a mutual friend's account to view Patrick's wall and e-mailed several women he had had exchanges with. He says her e-mails were borderline defamatory. She says they merely noted that he was married with children, a fact he had left off his Facebook profile. Either way: Ouch.

For those who want to connect or reconnect with others, social-networking sites are a huge, glorious honeypot. But for those who are disconnecting, they can make things quite sticky. And as the age of online-social-network users creeps up, it overlaps more with the age of divorce-lawyer users, resulting in the kind of semipublic laundry-airing that can turn aggrieved spouses into enraged ones and friends into embarrassed spectators.
(See five no-nos for divorcing couples.)

Lawyers, however, love these sites, which can be evidentiary gold mines. Did your husband's new girlfriend Twitter about getting a piece of jewelry? The court might regard that as marital assets being disbursed to a third party. Did your wife tell the court she's incapable of getting a job? Then your lawyer should ask why she's pursuing job interviews through LinkedIn.

Battles over finances and custody remain the Iwo Jima and Stalingrad of divorce cases. Opposing lawyers will press any advantage they have, and personal information on sites like Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn is like decoded bulletins from enemy territory. "It's now just routine for us to go over with clients whether they have an active presence on the Web and if they Twitter or have a MySpace page," says Joseph Cordell of Cordell & Cordell, a domestic-relations law firm with offices in 10 states. He advises his mostly male clients to scour their page — and their girlfriend's — for anything that could be used by their ex's legal team. Then Cordell studies the page of the soon-to-be ex-wife.

"We had a custody case where a mom assured the court that she hadn't been drinking," recalls the Missouri-based attorney. "But her MySpace page had actual dated photos of her drinking — and smoking, which is also of interest." In another case, a mom had listed herself on a dating site as single with no kids, which Cordell's firm used to cast doubt on her truthfulness.

And that's just the courtroom stuff.

Half the fun of social-networking sites is the posting of personal news. The other half is the posting of personal opinion, something spurned spouses typically have in spades. MySpace and its ilk offer the giddying cocktail of being able to say something in the privacy of your home that will be publicly accessible, along with a chaser of instant gratification. All this at a time when people are often less than their best selves. On the walls of two Facebook groups — I Hate My Ex-Husband and I Hate My Ex-Wife, which together had been joined by 236 Facebook users as of early June — posts include all manner of (often misspelled) vitriol, including some colorful British slang: "my husband is ... a dirty smelly chavvy theivin alcoholic drug addict selfish scum bag" and "my ex wife is a no good lieing slag," each of which was posted alongside a smiling photograph of the commenter.
(Watch TIME's video "Beer Pong Strikes Back.")

There's little the besmirched can do legally, unless there are children involved. Family-law courts routinely issue restraining orders to prevent one parent from disparaging another to a child. "The question is, If it's on the Internet, can that speech be blocked?" says Stephen Mindel, a managing partner at Feinberg, Mindel, Brandt & Klein in Los Angeles. "The First Amendment is going to come into conflict with the family-law courts."
(Read "Your Facebook Relationship Status: It's Complicated.")

Issuing an order to remove children's access to Facebook is pointless, says Chicago-based lawyer Jennifer Smetters. "The kids just go on a fishing expedition to find out what's so secret. And no child needs to see their parent being publicly humiliated." Smetters has seen cases where messages on a social-networking site were part of a harassment campaign that led to the court's issuing a civil order of protection.

It seems everybody — except perhaps some lawyers — would be better off if divorcing spouses gave each other some space on MySpace. But when confused, anguished people look for ways to work through their feelings, a social-networking site can be an almost irresistible venue.

Patrick and Tammie are still active on Facebook. So are decoupled East Coast residents Andrea and Adrian, even after "he told me he didn't have any money and then posted pictures of his new BMW bike," Andrea says. He says Facebook helped her stalk him. "It's had a very negative impact on our communication," he adds.

But there can be some positives. Tammie's friends post supportive messages on her Facebook page. And Patrick says he understands online social networks better now. "It's like putting everybody you know in the same room. I'm using it, but I'm much more careful."

See the 25 best blogs of 2009.


See the best social networking applications.

Successful Marriage: Unity




LEAVING AND CLEAVING





Mankind's earliest marriage is Adam and Eve. In Genesis 2:24, marriage is explained as the reason "a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh."

Other translations of this verse have yielded the principle of "leaving and cleaving". To "cleave" means to "adhere to, stick to, join with". The "leaving" involved refers to parents, but also to close friends and those who have significance and influence in your life. Nowhere does the Bible suggest "cutting off" your father or mother. Rather, it is a time-honored commitment and one of the 10 Commandments that you forever "Honor your parents".

I have been a divorce lawyer for almost 10 years. I have witnessed the demise of hundreds of marriages. In my experience, all marriages end because of the violation of this "leave and cleave" principle. Whether you fail to "leave", or fail to "cleave", the result is the same - divorce.
In short, a successful marriage depends on TWO people's promise re-prioritize past relationships and ties, and join as ONE in a new union. How does this happen?


1. KEEP THE MARRIAGE SACRED AND DON'T SHARE WHAT'S YOURS

When you marry someone, you will have differences of opinion. Why? Because they are NOT you. Expect disagreements. Expect frustration. Expect that you will some days feel utterly alone because this person you promised to be with for the rest of your life (and vice versa) simply will not understand you.

When this happens, don't fall apart. And whatever you do, do NOT turn to other people. Do NOT confide in your parents about these little disagreements. Your parents will love you forever and will never leave you. They will naturally want to protect you and run to your side, offering assistance. This is harmful for your marriage. Because of the bond they have for you, and because of your natural inclination to turn to them for support, you must be vigilant and actively leave them, and instead cleave to your spouse.

When you marry, immediately claim this marriage as YOURS TOGETHER. Your marriage will be a journey of many, many experiences. Some will be glorious, like childbirth and financial success. Some will be doom, like death in family or financial distress. This is the wonderful privilege of marriage; when you are married, you truly share everything -you get to double your joy and half your pain.

A couple should carefully guard this privilege and ensure they do not carelessly share or break this bond.

The transition from singleness to couplehood is not intuitive. You will need to make active changes.


2. IT'S US, NOT ME

Your individual choices and decision-making should end at "I do." After that declaration, it is now about US. With minor exceptions, you should no longer make major decisions without consulting in your spouse.

Relating this to the "leave and cleave" principle, it is not uncommon for newlyweds to appear like they are "abandoning" their respective families. Actually, they should. At least for a while. When my younger brother married, our family Christmases began missing his presence.

It is natural for his parents and sister to feel hurt, and a little jealous of the new wife. It is natural for us to desire the new wife become an addition to OUR family. It is natural for a strong personality like me to want to tell the new wife, "You didn't just marry my brother. You married his family, so behave like it!"

However, this is wrong. When two people marry, they marry each other. Their "I's" and "me's" became "us" and "we's". As much as my brother would naturally expect his new wife to come to our Christmases, and as much as he loves the Chang family tradition, he cannot agree to come without first considering his new wife. He cannot make decisions regarding holidays and vacations alone, as the two are now ONE.

Boundaries need to be established from the outset as an active announcement of "leaving". This is particularly important in the first few years of marriage, when roles are not particularly understood.

3. FROM DAY ONE, CREATE YOUR OWN TRADITIONS AND MAKE THEM A PRIORITY

I read this excerpt from an excellent article in Engagement by Cherie Burbach, so I thought I would quote it here:

"Too often families can become territorial about celebrations, and this can put undue pressure on newlyweds. As a new couple, you’ll probably be pulled in several directions when it comes to holidays and birthday celebrations. While you want to balance out time spent with your families, you also need to make sure to nurture your new union. After all, the two of you are creating your own family now. Start a few traditions all on your own, and let your families know that they are welcome to join you. By shifting the focus from “this is what we’ve always done” to “here’s what happening now”, it lets both sets of relatives know that while you want to remain part of the world they’ve helped build, you also want to start off on your own path."

Speaking from experience, immigrant families can have a lot of functions. My father has nine (9)brothers and sisters, and my mother five (5) brothers and sisters. They all have children, and everyone loves celebrating all the children's birthdays, American holidays AND Chinese holidays. The children also have sporting functions, and as a family that loves to travel, there are annual vacations to overnight destinations which are too fun to refuse!

When my brother first got married, it seemed that he stopped going to any of OUR functions. Of course, he is also an exceptionally busy doctor in private practice, with a new baby, with a full-time working wife, and loads of other responsibilities. As his sister (and speaking for my parents as well), it was thoroughly hurtful (and irritating) to have him miss all of OUR functions, and yet see his Facebook posts about his rock-climbing trips, honeymoon, babymoon, and countless other vacations and exotic destinations that he and his new family were now taking, and ignoring us.

It is natural for us to slightly resent his wife.

Looking back, I wonder if Katie (Yes, his new wife has a name!)'s family felt the same way. We didn't even consider that Katie (who has three brothers and sisters) also has family traditions and functions that she may be missing.

And looking back, how is it possible for both of them (full-time working with new baby) to attend ALL family functions on both sides, and have their own marriage thrive and succeed?

They simply could not survive if they were catering to OUR demands.

This is why it is the DUTY of both spouses to actively LEAVE their parents and families and CLEAVE to their new spouse.

Form new traditions and make those your priority. Christmas is a very important holiday for our family. I can naturally assume it is important for my husband's family too. However, for my family (or my wonderful husband Scott's family) to naturally assume I will be there every year, or every other year without first checking with Scott will cause inevitable conflict.

Also, on the same point, family vacations are like weddings - times 10,000 in terms of awkwardness. My parents should never expect my brother to bring Katie on weekly cruise that we used to go on every year when we were children, or even adults pre-marriage. You must first consider your spouse.
Even though I believe we are good-hearted, kind and intelligent people, and it would be absolute heaven to hang out with us for 6 nights, I can't expect that Katie would feel that way. I also can't expect my brother to clear his hectic schedule and his own family vacations just so he can continue the Chang tradition of annual vacations. The Chang-Kirby union has formed, and we need to respect that.

Creating your own traditions does NOT mean you abandon your families. You still make it a point to "Honor your parents" and to keep in regular contact with them.


Don't let either side say, "This is how it's always been done."


Your new union has formed. Make decisions as a couple about how it will be.

The last time you should ever use "I" in a sentence is on your wedding day, when before, "do."

May all of your enjoy a long-lasting, sacred union!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Is Adultery Illegal in California?











I am proud to announce that I decided to partake in the making of a documentary entitled American Marriage: The Movie.


The two intuitive and brilliant filmmakers came over to my office, and my home, and posed some interesting questions - one of which prompted this blog entry.
Is adultery illegal?

Shockingly, I have learned that it still is against the law to cheat in twenty-two (22) states!




What about California?



My research unveiled the unfortunate answer of NO. However, it USED to be.



In 1872, the California Penal Code read,
§ 269a. Adultery. Every person who lives in a state of cohabitation and adultery is guilty of a misdemeanor and punishable by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars, or by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year, or by both.

§ 269b. Adultery of married persons. If two persons, each being married to another, live together in a state of cohabitation and adultery, each is guilty of a felony, and punishable by imprisonment in the state prison not exceeding five years. A recorded certificate of marriage or a certified copy thereof, there being no decree of divorce, proves the marriage of a person for the purpose of this action. [Amendment approved 1911; Stats. 1911, p. 426.]



Unfortunately, both of these laws were repealed long ago as unconstitutional. These days, it is NOT against the law in California to commit adultery.



HOWEVER, California Family Code section 720 clearly states that in a marriage, "Husband and wife contract toward each other obligations of mutual respect, fidelity, and support."



Meaning, marriage is a contract consisting of FIDELITY, and cheating would be breach of contract for which, presumably, there may exist a civil remedy.



THIS LEADS TO EVERYONE'S BIGGEST QUESTION: ARE THERE ANY CONSEQUENCES TO ADULTERY?


We all know California is a "no-fault" state. (To read a full explanation on the "no-fault" system, go to my previous blog entry here.)



Does it affect child custody and visitation?


Cheating alone would probably not affect custody. Sad but true, we all know a couple of cheaters here and there that are still decent parents. Arguably, they cannot provide the moral background children deserve and need in this day and age...but neither does Grand Theft Auto and/or Facebook, and there are non-cheating parents that allow their children access to such!


Child custody and visitation is always determined strictly by the "best interests of the children". It is PRESUMED that children benefit the most from "frequent and continuing contact" with both mother and father.


I personally believe there must be boundaries when introducing children to a new girlfriend/boyfriend. Children are incredibly sensitive and delicate, and the sincere damage to them in being improperly exposed to a new girlfriend/boyfriend is irreparable. Parents should take their personal feelings and emotions OUT of the equation. No matter how you feel about your spouse, it is NOT ok to expose your children.

THINK BEFORE YOU ACT.


Does it affect support?


It does NOT affect child support.


However, it CAN affeect spousal support. California Family Code section 4323 states, "There is a rebuttable presumption, affecting the burden of proof, of decreased need for spousal support if the supported party is cohabiting with a person of the opposite sex."


Does it affect property division?


California is a community property state. All property (NOT inheritance or gift) acquired during the marriage, before the date of separation, is community property.
This means specifically, if the cheating spouse is spending his or her salary acquired during the marriage OUTSIDE the marriage on someone else, they are spending community property and should be required to reimburse the community, sometimes with added interest.
I once had a case where I represented the spouse being cheated on. The "cheater" spouse spend close to 200,000 on extravagant trips, Cartier jewelry, Louis Vuitton handbags, lingerie, and other sundries. My deposition of the mistress revealed several thousands of other property.
Interestingly enough, this former mistress (she has long since been replaced, several times over), felt sincere regret and apologized on record and became friends with my client; thereby liberally disclosing all the information I needed to secure settlement within the HOUR.


Moral of the story: Don't cheat.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

In Re Jackson v. Rowe: Grandparent v. Bio-Mom - Who Wins?


MICHAEL JACKSON'S LEGAL CUSTODY ISSUES





Before we start, here is my ever-proper lawyer disclaimer: without knowing the SPECIFIC details of the custody proceeding, my opinions are merely based on my legal experience. Thus, I am merely speculating and not giving legal advice.

The main issue I see revolving around the guardianship of Jackson's three (3) children (two whose biological mom is Rowe, and the third whose bio-mother is unknown), is grandparent rights v. biological parents rights.

If it were that simple, custody would go to Debbie Rowe. Hands down. Because Bio-Parent always wins over Grandparent (or third party).

Currently, the mainstream case governing grandparent visitation rights is the Supreme Court court case Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000). In that case, the unmarried mother and father of two children broke up and father moved out and in with his parents (grampa and gramma Troxel). The children got quite close to Gramma and Grampa during this brief period, and then father committed suicide two years later.

After father died, the mother stepped in and limited Gramma and Grampa Troxel's visitation to once a month. The Troxels decided to fight back and petition the Court for more visits. At that time, the Washington state law had a statute that basically allowed any third party to have visits if the visits were in the "best interests" of the children. So the Court ordered more visitation for Troxels - much more than what the mother wanted.

Mom appealed and won. The Appeals court held that third parties have no standing (that is, no power to challenge) unless there is already a custody proceeding pending. (Basically skirting the issue of whether visitation was lawful.)

The Washington Supreme Court affirmed the Appeals court, but on different grounds. They said that biological parents have a FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT of due process under the 14th amendment to make decisions for their children. Specifically, "parents have a right to limit visitation of their children with third persons" and between parents and judges, "parents should be the ones to choose whether to expose their children to certain people or ideas".

The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed. They held that parents have a substantive due process fundamental right under the 14th Amendment to solely make the decisions regarding the care, custody and control of their children and, absent a showing of parental unfitness, the state cannot interfere with those decisions. It was irrelevant whether the children would benefit from more time with their grandparents or that such visitation would be in their “best interests” as the state had no right to interfere in the first instance.

After this ruling, many states have enacted "Troxel" statutes. In California, specific code sections codify California’s strong policy preference for the rights of parents over non-parents:

Family Code 3040 states:
a) Custody should be granted in the following order of preference according to the best interest of the child as provided in Sections 3011 and 3020:

(1) To both parents jointly pursuant to Chapter 4 (commencing with Section 3080) or to either parent. In making an order granting custody to either parent, the court shall consider, among other factors, which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and continuing contact with the noncustodial parent, consistent with Section 3011 and 3020, and shall not prefer a parent as custodian because of that parent's sex. The court, in its discretion, may require the parents to submit to the court a plan for the implementation of the custody order.

(2) If to neither parent, to the person or persons in whose home the child has been living in a wholesome and stable environment.

(3) To any other person or persons deemed by the court to be suitable and able to provide adequate and proper care and guidance for the child.

(b) This section establishes neither a preference nor a presumption for or against joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or sole custody, but allows the court and the family the widest discretion to choose a parenting plan that is in the best interest of the child.

Family Code 3041 states:

a) Before making an order granting custody to a person or persons other than a parent, over the objection of a parent, the court shall make a finding that granting custody to a parent would be detrimental to the child and that granting custody to the nonparent is required to serve the best interest of the child. Allegations that parental custody would be detrimental to the child, other than a statement of that ultimate fact, shall not appear in the pleadings. The court may, in its discretion, exclude the public from the hearing on this issue.

In California, if a custody proceeding is already pending, the non-parent, grandparent, or stepparent, must demonstrate the visitation requested is in the best interest of the minor and that the minor will not suffer detriment if the non-parent visitation request is granted. Under Family Code §3I00, the family law court has discretion to grant “reasonable visitation rights… to any other person [a non-parent] having an interest in the welfare of the child.”

If, however both parents object to visitation by the non-parent, there is a rebuttable presumption affecting the burden of proof that the requested visitation is not in the child’s best interest.

If one parent passes away, California Family Code §3102 governs, and states,
(a) If either parent of an unemancipated minor child is deceased, the children, siblings, parents, and grandparents of the deceased parent may be granted reasonable visitation with the child during the child's minority upon a finding that the visitation would be in the best interest of the minor child.

(b) In granting visitation pursuant to this section to a person other than a grandparent of the child, the court shall consider the amount of personal contact between the person and the child before the application for the visitation order.

California has its own Troxel case. In Zasueta v. Zasueta (2002), 102 Cal.App.4th 1242, during the divorce, Father committed suicide. Father’s parents petitioned for visitation. Mother opposed the request.

The trial judge (a grandfather himself of seven grandchildren) found Mother unfit based on the fact that she opposed grandparent visitation. Then the trial court, without good reason, held it was in the best interests of all children to see their grandparents, stating among other decidedly inappropriate remarks, that it is the job of all grandparents to “spoil their grandchildren.”

The Court of Appeal reversed, holding the trial court’s decision plainly ignored and therefore violated Troxel and violated Mother’s 14th Amendment fundamental right to raise her children, absent unfitness, as she pleases. In conclusion, the Court stated: “At the very least, Troxel teaches that trial courts must resist the temptation to personalize the proceedings and to substitute personal judgments for the decisions made by fit parents regarding visitation.”

SOOOOOO ...where does that leave Michael Jackson's children? Debbie Rowe is the undisputed bio-mom of two children. Under the statutes, her rights would trump Gramma Katherine's rights. The plot thickens, however - because she had previously terminated her parental rights, but the Court then reinstated them in 2006. How will this play out in the facts?

FINALLY, what about Blanket? Rowe is NOT the bio-mom of the third child. Thus, the statutes favoring bio-parents will not apply here. There IS, however, the inclination of courts to keep siblings together.

Ah, what a fascinating life and legacy he left us....

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

AshleyMadison Enables Married Cheaters In Rough Economy

So...people can't afford divorce these days. Instead, they pay for online subscription to...cheat?





Michiganders flock to Web site for flings with married cheatersAshleyMadison.com hooks up people bent on adultery
BY PATRICIA MONTEMURRIFREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

"Drew" is a 37-year-old businessman who lives in the Troy area.

His wife is consumed with work. And they don't have sex.

"The truth is I love my wife, but sometimes I feel like I need something on the side," says Drew, who spoke to the Free Press on the condition of anonymity.

So Drew hooks up through the adultery dating service AshleyMadison.com. He said he has met, and had sex with, about 10 women, and he credits the illicit trysts with helping him stay married.

"It has enabled me to meet women in my similar situation and has helped fill the void of the lack of intimacy in my life," says Drew, whose wife has no clue. "Strange as it may sound, it's helped my marriage. The pressure is off ... It's probably a lot cheaper than divorce."

Drew's story dovetails with the sales pitch masterminded by AshleyMadison's founder, Noel Biderman, a Toronto-based sports lawyer who has cleverly and profitably engineered a moneymaker from pairing human foibles with the Internet's social networking reach.
AshleyMadison -- named after two of the most popular baby names for girls -- was born in 2001. And if the site's growing popularity offers a clue, the Michigan economy's swoon means boom times for infidelity.

In Michigan, the site has grown from 38,000 members as of June 1, 2008, to 110,000 twelve months later. Biderman's theory is that economic instability forces shaky couples to stay together -- they can't afford to get divorced. Infidelity becomes a more likely option.
Research does indicate that as work demands and stress increase, so do marital conflicts. Financial declines have always triggered an increase in a range of unhealthy behaviors.
Some 43% of U.S. couples said they are arguing more about money because of the recession, according to the recent "Can't Buy Me Love" poll by Internet payment company PayPal.
Biderman is unapologetic and doesn't shy from controversy or confronting the opposition. He has faced down critics on "The View," "Larry King Live" and "The Tyra Banks Show."
Politicians nationwide also are providing plenty of fodder for discussions about infidelity -- Wednesday, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford confessed that he secretly left the state to travel to Argentina to be with his mistress -- and Biderman isn't letting the opportunity for free publicity pass. Earlier this month, AshleyMadison was in the news when a Las Vegas newspaper rejected its full-page ad capitalizing on Nevada Sen. John Ensign's admission of an extramarital affair. Biderman placed a similar ad in the New York Post when Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned after he was caught using an escort service.

"I know people want to vilify me," Biderman said. "I argue back that I didn't invent infidelity."
At the Free Press' request, an AshleyMadison public relations person sent out an e-mail asking if potential cheaters would anonymously speak to a reporter.

One woman, a Detroiter in her late 40s, says she intends to end an 8-year marriage because it has not emotionally, physically or mentally "measured up."

Several months ago, she heard about AshleyMadison on the radio and signed up in February.
It's free to become a member and to create a profile and search others. But to chat with another member, a user has to buy credits-- $49 for 100 credits (it takes five credits to initiate a chat; subsequent back-and-forth chats are free). For the Affair Guarantee Membership it's $249 and the Web site will refund your money if you don't have an affair in three months. "If somebody had a genuine, sincere message and sounded like a nice person, I would send a message back," she says. "You had to really weed through those who didn't want what you wanted."
She said she wanted somebody to have a conversation with, too, before he became a friend with benefits.

The Detroiter chatted online with 10 to 15 guys. She met five of them face-to-face. She met four of them more than once. "I'm not looking to be physical right away at all," she'd tell them, "so please don't go there with me."

Now she says she is regularly seeing a "very nice person" who is married and does not want to leave his wife. She sees him a couple of times a week, meeting in hotels.
"He's filling the things that are lacking. He treats me extremely well. He's a professional. He makes really good money. He's very, very intelligent and very well-educated," she says. "I enjoy intelligent conversation. It's something I can't have in my marriage."

Her husband, she says, has no idea what she's doing.

Biderman says he's providing a service to people who would cheat anyway. But recently listeners of 89X-FM (88.7) radio's morning show, weren't so convinced.

"I think it's absolutely ridiculous that he set up a Web site to help people cheat," a female caller said. "This is the worst thing you can possibly do to somebody you care about."
A caller named Ryan says he's happy in a 7-year relationship, but knowing about the site "makes me want to call it.

"It provides a temptation, you know, for people who might be in a happy relationship, but at the same time (think) hey, maybe I can get away with it," the caller said.
Another caller, Natalie, said her ex-husband cheated on her through dating sites, and she found out.

"I was never mad at the Web sites," Natalie says. "The bottom line is if somebody's going to cheat, they're going to cheat."

Biderman's got a catchy retort for nearly every argument people throw at him.

Adultery is the "only thing in the world people think is immoral but a consensus still do it," he says.

"What I'm saying is don't have an office romance and risk losing your job," Biderman has said. "Don't start a relationship with an unsuspecting single person and definitely don't visit an escort service and risk breaking the law.

"...We're secure, anonymous and it was created exactly for people like you."
Biderman has been married for seven years. He and his wife, Amanda, have two children, and he describes his marriage as happy and secure.

"I've been a faithful person my entire life," he says, but adds provocatively, "to date."
Contact PATRICIA MONTEMURRI : 313-223-4538 or pmontemurri@freepress.com

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

In Love is NOT Enough



In love? It's not enough to keep a marriage, study finds

Reuters – A couple kisses on the beach in the Black Sea coastal town of Bourgas, some 390 km (246 miles) east of …
Tue Jul 14, 12:45 pm ET

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) – Living happily ever after needn't only be for fairy tales. Australian researchers have identified what it takes to keep a couple together, and it's a lot more than just being in love.

A couple's age, previous relationships and even whether they smoke or not are factors that influence whether their marriage is going to last, according to a study by researchers from the Australian National University.

The study, entitled "What's Love Got to Do With It," tracked nearly 2,500 couples -- married or living together -- from 2001 to 2007 to identify factors associated with those who remained together compared with those who divorced or separated.

It found that a husband who is nine or more years older than his wife is twice as likely to get divorced, as are husbands who get married before they turn 25.

Children also influence the longevity of a marriage or relationship, with one-fifth of couples who have kids before marriage -- either from a previous relationship or in the same relationship -- having separated compared to just nine percent of couples without children born before marriage.

Women who want children much more than their partners are also more likely to get a divorce.
A couple's parents also have a role to play in their own relationship, with the study showing some 16 percent of men and women whose parents ever separated or divorced experienced marital separation themselves compared to 10 percent for those whose parents did not separate.
Also, partners who are on their second or third marriage are 90 percent more likely to separate than spouses who are both in their first marriage.

Not surprisingly, money also plays a role, with up to 16 percent of respondents who indicated they were poor or where the husband -- not the wife -- was unemployed saying they had separated, compared with only nine percent of couples with healthy finances.

And couples where one partner, and not the other, smokes are also more likely to have a relationship that ends in failure.

Factors found to not significantly affect separation risk included the number and age of children born to a married couple, the wife's employment status and the number of years the couple had been employed.

The study was jointly written by Dr Rebecca Kippen and Professor Bruce Chapman from The Australian National University, and Dr Peng Yu from the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Recession-Proof Marriage?





True love? Or tough times? I've been asked by several people whether my practice is being affected by this rough economy. Luckily - I am fine - but my colleagues have suffered...and here is why...
What God Has Joined Together, Recession Makes Hard to Put Asunder
For Some, the Downturn Keeps Divorce on Ice; Ms. Brewster, Husband Share a House Divided

By JENNIFER LEVITZ
Rhonda Brewster and her husband have decided they don't want to be married to each other anymore. But while they're ready to move on, they still can't move out.

They don't want to sell their home, in Huntsville, Ala., in a down market. They can't afford two households until Ms. Brewster finds steady work. So for now, they are living under the same roof but on separate floors.



The "kids are OK with it." says Ms. Brewster, a 39-year-old freelance writer and stay-at-home mother. "They just know that mommy lives upstairs and daddy lives in the basement."



Unwinding the ties of matrimony is rarely simple or inexpensive, but for many couples, the sour economy is complicating the process further.



Divorce lawyers say many couples are delaying the decision to dissolve marriages and are staying in unpleasant situations for fear of being on their own at a time of economic uncertainty. Others are being forced to live together after the divorce is final for financial convenience. That can strain the emotions and result in awkward negotiations about subjects like dating.



In Nashville, Tenn., Randy and Lori Word jointly filed for divorce in February, after 10 years of marriage, and expect to get a court date this summer. Meanwhile, they continue to share a house while Ms. Word -- who had been a stay-at-home mother in recent years -- tries to find work in marketing. "I don't see jobs out there," she says.



Things are getting a little cramped in the house. Mr. Word, a 36-year-old construction-project manager, keeps his clothes in boxes in the study and sleeps in the living room. "Luckily, we bought a very nice couch two years ago," he says.



Ms. Word, who is 37, works part time as a waitress while she is searching for full-time work. Some nights she returns home from a shift to find Mr. Word in the bed complaining that his back can't take another night on the couch -- and asking her to please sleep in the living room, which she does.



Both say they are actually getting along better now that they are no longer in an emotional marital relationship.



"We're a lot kinder to each other," says Ms. Word, adding, "We're not so offended and bothered by each other." Mr. Word says, "We've actually developed or redeveloped a friendship that I think had gotten lost a little bit."



A May survey by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts, a national organization for financial professionals who work on divorce cases, found that the recession was delaying divorces, and inspiring "creative divorce solutions" in living arrangements.



"People are saying, 'I've put up with it for the last 10 years, I can put up with it for another year,'" says Gary Nickelson, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. In a poll of 1,600 of its members, the group says, respondents estimated that divorce cases in the six months through March were off 40% from normal levels.



It's still unclear how the recession is affecting divorce rates overall, because of lags in government data. But courts in some major population centers say fewer people have been filing for divorce since the downturn began in late 2007. In New York County 9,349 couples filed for divorce in the first four months of 2009, off 14% from 10,848 in the same period in prerecessionary 2007, according to records from New York State Unified Court System.



In Los Angeles County, divorce filings in the first four months of this year dropped 3%, to 9,048, from the same period last year and are down 9% from the comparable span in 2007, according to records from the Los Angeles Superior Court.



A lull in divorce could be a silver lining in the recession, says Steve Grissom, president of Church Initiative, a Wake Forest, N.C., organization that runs DivorceCare, a national support group. Mr. Grissom says couples who postpone splits may be able to work through problems and reconcile.



Bonnie Hughes, a 51-year-old financial planner, says she developed stomach problems when the real-estate slump turned her marital split into "the divorce that never ends." She and her husband divorced in February 2007, but for financial reasons continued to live together in their house in Chattanooga, Tenn., until the following May. Ms. Hughes moved out, but the ordeal wasn't over. They put the house up for sale, with each planning to use the proceeds to finance the next stages of their lives, Ms. Hughes says, but "it just wasn't selling."



They finally sold in August 2008, after dropping the price by $100,000 to $324,000, which was less than they had paid for the place four years earlier. She used her proceeds to move to Atlanta.



In Alabama, Ms. Brewster and her husband say they are avoiding complications by sticking together even as they plan to part.



The couple decided in March to split after 16 years of marriage. Ms. Brewster has hired a divorce lawyer and says she has been advised to have as little interaction as possible with her husband. Both say reconciliation isn't in the cards.



But to afford two separate households, they either need to sell the house they bought four years ago -- which they don't want to do in a down market -- or wait until Ms. Brewster has steady income.



In the meantime, Ms. Brewster lives on two floors of the house, residing with the couple's two children, plus the family pets: a guinea pig, a squirrel, a dog, two rabbits, two gerbils, five cats and five lizards.



Her husband lives in the finished basement, formerly the family's game room. "We had to take down the pool table so he'd have a place to sleep," she says. He sleeps on an air mattress, and has his own entrance and a full bathroom, though his only cooking equipment is a microwave.
Each calls the other before entering their respective domains; they schedule use of the washer and dryer and negotiate evenings out, Ms. Brewster says.



"He still takes the garbage out and mows the lawn. Sometimes, I will call him and say, 'I know you're eating frozen dinners; I cooked extra, come up,'" Ms. Brewster says. "I try to take the high road in front of the kids. Goodness knows they've seen the bad side of marriage -- the arguing."



Both have resumed dating and have even given each other advice on how to get back into the singles world. Ms. Brewster took the photograph of her husband that he put on match.com, the online dating Web site. On some Saturday nights, she says, they hire a baby sitter so they can both go out, and they share their plans so they won't run into each other.



Their living situation has scared away some potential suitors. "It freaks a lot of them out," says Ms. Brewster. "I tell them upfront: Here's my situation. Eventually I will move on, but I'm not going to do something to mess myself up financially."



Write to Jennifer Levitz at jennifer.levitz@wsj.com

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Michael Jackson's Children



Jackson custody case: the legal issues

Michael Jackson's ex-wife Debbie Rowe is reportedly considering whether to fight for custody of the couple's two children.

The BBC News website asked Professor Scott Altman, an expert in family law from the University of Southern California, to explain the legal issues surrounding the custody battle.
Who will win custody of Michael Jackson's three children? Many variables seem like they could affect the outcome.

Jackson's will names his mother as guardian (or in her absence, Diana Ross). His ex-wife Debbie Rowe tried to disclaim her status as a legal parent, and then returned to court and had the termination of her rights overturned.

And Jackson's youngest child seems to have no legal mother, having been born to an as-yet-unknown surrogate.

Bizarre and complex as these facts seem, most of the legal issues raised have been long settled in California (where admittedly bizarre and complex family disputes are more common than elsewhere).

In California, children born to a married couple are strongly presumed to be the spouses' legal children.

In this case, no one will be able to dispute Jackson's or Ms Rowe's status as parent to the older children.

Nor will Ms Rowe's early effort to terminate her parental right be final, because parents cannot terminate their own rights without a judicial investigation.

Likewise, Jackson's will should not affect child custody.

If the children know her as a mother and have seen her frequently, she will almost certainly win
Although parents regularly indicate in a will who should be named guardian in case of their death, these designations typically become effective only upon the death of both parents.
One parent's will cannot unilaterally deprive the other parent of custody.

So how will the court decide?
California law presumes that minor children belong in the custody of a legal parent - in this case Ms. Rowe.

The law also allows judges to override this presumption if parental custody would be detrimental to the children.

So a court will need to see evidence.

If, as has been widely speculated, Ms Rowe has rarely visited her children over many years and has almost no relationship with them, a court could easily deny her custody.
But if the children know her as a mother and have seen her frequently, she will almost certainly win.
This leaves the question of the youngest child. Ms Rowe has no claim to be his legal mother.
She did not give birth to him, and was not married to Jackson when the child was born. Certainly a court might award Ms Rowe custody of all three children - most courts favour keeping siblings together.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Supernanny Casting Notice!


ABC’S HIT PARENTING SHOW
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If you’re interested, please call 877-NANNY TIME or visit www.supernanny.com to apply online.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Toxic People


In the divorce arena, I see and recognize many of these - and thought I would share.


8 Toxic personalities to avoid


by Brett Blumenthal - Sheer Balance, on Wed May 13, 2009 8:01am PDT
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Although we like to think that the people in our lives are well-adjusted, happy, healthy minded individuals, we sometimes realize that it just isn't so. Personally, I've had moments where I'll be skipping through my day, happy as can be, thinking life is grand and BAM, I'll be blindsided by someone who manages to knock the happy wind out of my sails. Sometimes it is easy to write it off and other times, not so much.

Maybe you are a positive person, but when you are around a certain individual, you feel negative. Or, maybe you have an idealistic view of the world and when you are with certain people, you are made to feel silly, unrealistic or delusional. Or, maybe you pride yourself in being completely independent and in control of your life, but when you are around a certain family member, you regress into a state of childhood.

Some of these situations, and yes, these people, can have a tremendously negative impact on our lives. And, although we are all human and have our 'issues,' some 'issues' are quite frankly, toxic. They are toxic to our happiness. They are toxic to our mental outlook. They are toxic to our self-esteem. And they are toxic to our lives. They can suck the life out of us and even shorten our lifespan.

Here are the worst of the toxic personalities out there and how to spot them:

1. Manipulative Mary: These individuals are experts at manipulation tactics. Is a matter of fact, you may not even realize you have been manipulated until it is too late. These individuals figure out what your 'buttons' are, and push them to get what they want.
Why they are toxic: These people have a way of eating away at your belief system and self-esteem. They find ways to make you do things that you don't necessarily want to do and before you know it, you lose your sense of identity, your personal priorities and your ability to see the reality of the situation. The world all of a sudden becomes centered around their needs and their priorities.

2. Narcissistic Nancy: These people have an extreme sense of self-importance and believe that the world revolves around them. They are often not as sly as the Manipulative Marys of the world, but instead, tend to be a bit overt about getting their needs met. You often want to say to them "It isn't always about you."
Why they are toxic: They are solely focused on their needs, leaving your needs in the dust. You are left disappointed and unfulfilled. Further, they zap your energy by getting you to focus so much on them, that you have nothing left for yourself.

3. Debbie Downers: These people can't appreciate the positive in life. If you tell them that it is a beautiful day, they will tell you about the impending dreary forecast. If you tell them you aced a mid-term, they'll tell you about how difficult the final is going to be.
Why they are toxic: They take the joy out of everything. Your rosy outlook on life continues to get squashed with negativity. Before you know it, their negativity consumes you and you start looking at things with gray colored glasses yourself.

4. Judgmental Jims: When you see things as cute and quirky, they see things as strange and unattractive. If you find people's unique perspectives refreshing, they find them 'wrong'. If you like someone's eclectic taste, they find it 'disturbing' or 'bad'.
Why they are toxic: Judgmental people are much like Debbie Downers. In a world where freedom rings, judgment is sooo over. If the world was a homogeneous place, life would be pretty boring. Spending a lot of time with these types can inadvertently convert you into a judgmental person as well.

5. Dream Killing Keiths: Every time you have an idea, these people tell you why you can't do it. As you achieve, they try to pull you down. As you dream, they are the first to tell you it is impossible.
Why they are toxic: These people are stuck in what is instead of what could be. Further, these individuals eat away at your self-esteem and your belief in yourself. Progress and change can only occur from doing new things and innovating, dreaming the impossible and reaching for the stars.

6. Insincere Illissas: You never quite feel that these people are being sincere. You tell a funny story, they give you a polite laugh. You feel depressed and sad and they give you a 'there, there' type response. You tell them you are excited about something and you get a very ho-hum response.
Why they are toxic: People who aren't sincere or genuine build relationships on superficial criteria. This breeds shallow, meaningless relationships. When you are really in need of a friend, they won't be there. When you really need constructive criticism, they would rather tell you that you are great the way you are. When you need support, they would rather see you fail or make a fool of yourself.

7. Disrespectful Dannys: These people will say or do things at the most inappropriate times and in the most inappropriate ways. In essence, they are more subtle, grown up bullies. Maybe this person is a friend who you confided in and uses your secret against you. Maybe it is a family member who puts their busy-body nose into your affairs when it is none of their business. Or maybe, it is a colleague who says demeaning things to you.
Why they are toxic: These people have no sense of boundaries and don't respect your feelings or, for that matter, your privacy. These people will cause you to feel frustrated and disrespected.
8. Never Enough Nellies: You can never give enough to these people to make them happy. They take you for granted and have unrealistic expectations of you. They find ways to continually fault you and never take responsibility for anything themselves.
Why they are toxic: You will spend so much time trying to please them, that you will end up losing yourself in the process. They will require all of your time and energy, leaving you worn out and your own needs sacrificed.

All of these personalities have several things in common. 1) the more these people get away with their behavior, the more they will continue. 2) Unfortunately, most of these people don't see that what they do is wrong and as a result, talking to them about it will fall on deaf ears, leaving you wondering if you are the crazy one. 3) Most of these people get worse with age, making their impact on you stronger with time.

Frankly, life is too short to spend your time dealing with toxicity. If you can, avoid spending mucho time with people who are indicative of these behaviors and you'll feel a lot happier. Have you encountered these personalities? What have you done? Any personalities you would add?