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Friday, March 13, 2015

Attachment Parenting and Breastfeeding vs. Father Who Wants Custody



Attachment Parenting.  Breastfeeding.  Co-sleeping.

These concepts are often used as a double-edged sword in family court.  As often as mothers will hurl these words to deprive fathers of visitation, fathers will similarly contort images of abnormal needy behaviors that need to be quashed in order to deprive mothers.

Abraham Lincoln once said, "I destroy my enemy when I make him my friend."

In a high-conflict case, these concepts should be closely examined/embraced to promote mutual understanding and achieve favorable results.

What is Attachment Parenting?

Attachment parenting was invented by pediatrician William Sears.  It is a parenting style based on the belief that the emotional bonding of a young child with a caregiver carried lifelong benefits and consequences.  Sensitive and emotionally available parenting helps the child to form a secure attachment style which fosters a child's socio-emotional development and well-being. Less sensitive and emotionally unavailable parenting or neglect of the child's needs may result in insecure forms of attachment style, which is a risk factor for many mental health problems (e.g. depression, anxiety and eating disorders.) In extreme and rare conditions, the child may not form an attachment at all and may suffer from reactive attachment disorder - one extreme form being conduct disorder. Conduct disorder is a severe condition characterized by hostile and sometimes physically violent behavior and a disregard for others. Children with CD exhibit cruelty, from early pushing, hitting and biting to, later, more than normal teasing and bullying, hurting animals, picking fights, theft, vandalism, and arson.

The Baby Book by William and Martha Sears, sometimes referred to as the 'Bible of attachment parenting', gives practical attachment parenting advice in the form of the following ‘seven baby B’s of attachment parenting’:

* Birth bonding: The first few hours after birth are regarded as very important to promote attachment.

* Belief in the signal value of your baby’s cries: Parents are encouraged to learn to understand their baby’s cries and respond quickly and appropriately to them.

* Breastfeeding: This is regarded to have physical and psychological advantages to both mother and child.

* Babywearing: The term was first used by Dr. Sears and it means carrying the baby in a sling or other carrier, close to the body of the caregiver.

* Bedding close to baby: Sleeping in the same room and preferably in the same bed as the baby is encouraged, as is frequent (breast)feeding at night.

* Balance and boundaries: Appropriate responsiveness (knowing when to say yes and when to say no) is needed to keep a healthy family alive.

* Beware of baby trainers: Instead of taking advice about how to ‘train’ the baby to make it cry less and sleep for longer stretches, parents are encouraged to listen to their own instinct and intuition.


According to attachment parenting advocates this advice helps parents to respond quickly and sensitively to their baby’s needs, thus facilitating development of secure attachment.

With any theory, there are boatloads of criticism.  The biggest one is that it's not science-based.  It can best be described as an "art", not "science".  It's too demanding and raises needy children.  Google it - you'll find bajillions of articles against it.  My favorite is "Babies are Assholes: The Problem with Attachment Parenting".

Attachment parenting is not a strict set of rules.  A full-time work-out-of-the-home mom can be an attachment parent as much as a stay-at-home mom.

Attachment parenting usually refers to the baby's attachment to one parent - usually the mom. It is true that babies benefit from attachments to both parents.  But in the earlier years, the focus is on the primary caretaker's bond.

How Long Should One Breastfeed?

It's now widely accepted that "breast is best".  

In the U.S., the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends babies be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months.  Then, from 6 mo - 1 year, continuing to breastfeed while introducing solid foods. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) also recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, and then continued up to age 2 and over.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), believes that breastfeeding should continue until the child is two years or older.

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months and warns: “If the child is younger than two years of age, the child is at increased risk of illness if weaned.

Breastfeeding is an infant's natural way of feeding upon birth.  All humans and mammals alike give birth and nurse their young.  Breastmilk from the mother is uniquely superior to any other form of nourishment.  "Breast milk is widely acknowledged as the most complete form of nutrition for infants, with a range of benefits for infants' health, growth, immunity and development."
-- Healthy People 2010, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia.

Besides fighting infection, lower rates of childhood obesity, better brain development, decreased allergies and asthma are all linked with breastmilk. Breastfed children are 50% more likely to get sick during their first year of life.  Human breastmilk contains living antibodies.  Formula does not come close to this "liquid gold".

Breastfeeding also benefits the mother.  Women who breastfeed have a lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Most importantly, breastfeeding is bonding.  Upon birth, babies come out "rooting" - the suckling instinct that defies science - where did they learn this?  As soon as they come out, they have a need to suck.  And the suckling is what brings in the milk - what turns only drops of colostrum into buttery white breastmilk.

The Centers of Disease Control puts out an annual "Breastfeeding Report Card" (see 2014).  In California, 92.8% of women have breastfed.  However, only 63.1% are still breastfeeding at 6 months; and only 38.4% are still breastfeeding at 12 months.

If all agencies encourage 1-2 years, who are the numbers so low? Amongst new moms, common stressors include production of breastmilk; latching; fearing baby isn't eating enough.  It is very important for breastfeeding moms to receive all the support they need to encourage breastfeeding.

For those who don't breastfeed, it is important to understand the mechanics.  Unlike breathing or eating, breastfeeding is rarely instinctive.  The first couple of days after birth (sometimes up to a week), the body only produces colostrum, a gold gel-like substance.  Though it appears scarce, the baby's needs are entirely met by this gel until the milk comes in.  The body has its own regulating mechanism - it will produce as much as the baby needs.  So in the beginning, for milk production and sufficient nourishment, it is essential for babies to be breastfed at least every 2 hours, or on demand (per attachment parenting).  Babies that are breastfed on demand will never overeat (common problem with formula babies).  And, if fed on demand, they should never be hungry.

Some may suggest pumping milk to provide for the father.  If this is possible, then it's a good solution.  However, a lot of women cannot produce milk with the pump, because it is the baby's skin-on-skin that draws out the milk.  Also, some babies will refuse to take milk from a bottle.  Some women report that pumping decreased their production, leading to babies' early weaning.

If the breastfeeding relationship is to be protected, it is important that mother and child not be separated for lengthy periods (2-4 hours).  Some babies will refuse bottle to wait for mommy's milk, so they will go hungry until breastfed.

Breastmilk (both for physical health and emotional bonding) should be a priority in the early months.  Even into toddler years, studies have shown that breastmilk contains more concentrated quantities of antibodies, and will continue to protect the child.  Once the child has started solids, they can go for longer periods without the breastmilk, however, for bonding purposes, lengthy times away from mom should develop over time, and after adequate bonding with another childcare provider (father, babysitter, daycare, etc.).

How Can a Father Get Custody when Mother is Attachment Parenting and Breastfeeding?

For a father seeking custody in the early months, all is not lost.

You know now that Attachment and Breastfeeding are in the child's "best interests".

After educating yourself, set reasonable expectations.  Just because the mom is breastfeeding, doesn't mean you don't get any custody.  You can have joint physical custody, with increasing periods of time.

Learn all there is to learn about babies.  For example, they sleep a lot.  During the early months, they sleep 16-18 hours a day.  During this time, it is not reasonable to request 50-50 custody.  They are asleep.

I encourage my clients who are fathers to keep in close communications with the mother (as much as practicable).  Through the mother, you can learn the sleeping/waking habits.  If you are nearby, you can visit the baby during the waking hours.  For amicable couples, this is possible.  However, most custody cases are high-conflict and contentious.  Sometimes the father fears the mother will move out of state. The best thing to do is to make sure that you file a case so the automatic temporary restraining orders will kick in.  Next, you must gingerly serve the papers.  Rather than instilling fear, I recommend alerting the mom that a case has been started with a nice letter stating you are seeking custodial time, but in increasing increments, and to the needs of the child.

If the mother is refusing any sort of visitation, I advise setting the case for mediation before filing any Request for Order for Custody.  This is required by the courts, and will be received better.

I strenuously advise against any sort of custody litigation during the first year of the baby's life.  Even more so if the baby is breastfeeding.

If the mom is still breastfeeding after age 1 - or 18 months, and still refusing overnight visits, this would be an appropriate time to inquire into getting more through legal action, if the below tips are unsuccessful.

How to Craft a Reasonable Visitation Plan Around Breastfeeding and Attachment Parenting

A reasonable plan should look at some of these factors:

1.  What is the father's relationship with the child?  If the baby was born after the parties separated, then this will require a longer step-up increased custodial time than if the couple separated when the baby was 1.  If the father lived close to the mother, and was able to visit every day for a few hours, this would allow for more rapid increased schedule as the child grows.  Here, in Los Angeles County, the court posts a "model parenting plan" for children under 3.  The Court suggests from birth to 6 months, 3 non-consecutive days visits for up to 2 hours each to the non-custodial parent, increasing to 3 non-consecutive day visits for up to 3 hours each from 7 months - 12 months, and overnights if appropriate.

This is just a suggestion.  Studies have shown that overnights for children under age 2 with a parent they have not bonded with, can be stressful.  Also, it is essential that overnights are worked up to - that is, the father has spent frequent and continuing times throughout the weeks with the child, gradually increasing time as the bond grows.

2.  What is the mother's relationship with the child? A stay-at-home mom who is breastfeeding on demand and co-sleeping will have a different relationship that the working mom who returned to her 9-5 job after 12 weeks of maternity leave.  In the latter, she may still be breastfeeding when she returns home.  However, if she is pumping milk to give to her nanny during the day, then she can certainly do the same with the father during the day.

Does the mom cosleep or does baby sleep in a crib in his own room?  In the former, overnights would probably not be feasible when the child is not age 2.

How long has the child been away from mom?  Has grandma watched her for a weekend while she was on a girls' trip?  Or does mother Ergo the baby all day, for naps and to run errands?

3.  What are the parties' desired parenting plans in the future?  Is it mom's desire to keep dad out of baby's life until age 10?  Is it dad's desire to have 50-50 the day after baby turns 3?

Children benefit best from two loving parents.  Child-rearing was never meant to be a single person's job; it takes a village.

Often, the mom's distrust and gatekeeping causes the father's irresponsibility and eventual "giving up" on the system, causing the child to lose the support and love from one parent.  This harms the children.  More love, not less, is in their "best interests".

Sometimes the moms are the perpetrators - immediately getting into a relationship with a new man; moving as far away as possible to "alienate" the father.   This also harms the children.  Knowing their legacy, and who their father is, is in their "best interests".

Ideal World

In the ideal world, family court litigants foster nothing but love and understanding for their babies, and the other parent.  In this world, moms who want to breastfeed are not blamed for a child's development issues, and not mocked for cosleeping with older kids.  In this world, dads who want to be involved can see the children and spend nights at the moms house until the child is comfortable at his house.

I have a dream that one day, the parents of beautiful babies - though separated, can be in the same room so babies can bond with both and still have a special attachment to their one primary caregiver.

Family law attorneys and Judges have a duty to educate themselves in this area, so no mother is forced to wean a child too early, so no child is forcibly "detached" from their primary caregiver, so no father is deprived of bonding in favor of breastfeeding.

Reality is far from my dream.  I end with unaltered excerpts of transcript from a custody hearing on a high-conflict custody case I had last year, where I represented the mother of 2 young boys, ages 6 and 2.  The father had been on an extended absence of over a year, and when he returned, he demanded the same schedule he had prior to his departure.  Mother works full-time but was still breastfeeding and co-sleeping with Younger. (Names have been changed)

Custody evaluator: The children are experiencing difficulties in the current schedule.

Opposing counsel: What difficulties are they experiencing?

Custody evaluator: As noted, Younger has regressed a great deal in the concrete skills that he's had. In terms of Elder, I saw a child who was very anxious.  They are not doing well in their current schedule.

Opposing counsel: Did you know the Mother is still breastfeeding Younger at age two and a half?

Custody evaluator: Yes.

Opposing counsel: Do you think that has anything to do with his regression?

Custody evaluator:  No.

Opposing counsel: Were you aware the mother is using the fact that she is breastfeeding to prevent visitations?

I objected.  Assumes facts not in evidence.  Judge sustained it.  We moved on.

In the end, we won.  My client was granted the custody/visitation schedule we requested.

But I still mourn for my client who was assassinated by uninformed opposing counsel for doing what was in the best interests of her child.

As heralded anthropologist Katherine Dettwyler, PhD states in her letter to courts in support of extended breastfeeding: "In conclusion, there is no research to support a claim that breastfeeding a child at any age is in any way harmful to a child . On the contrary, my research suggests that the best outcomes, in terms of health, cognitive, and emotional development, are the result of children being allowed to breastfeed as long as they need/want to. Around the world, most children self-wean between the ages of 3 and 5 years, but given that the underlying physiological norm is to breastfeed up to 6-7 years, it is quite normal for children to continue to breastfeed to this age as well, and the occasional “normally” developing child will nurse even longer."

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Kelly Chang Rickert, Certified Family Law Specialist, is a family law attorney/mediator, advocating for protection of breastfed babies in divorce/paternity cases.  She breastfed both her children for a total of over 4.5 years.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Stupid Divorce Mistakes



I swear some people float through life in an Altered State of Reality, a disease I will refer to as ASR. ASR is a mass-murderer; it kills our morale, our children, ourselves.


People with ASR don't understand what they are doing have consequences.  Their reality is unchecked, and their lives are wrecked.  

Having ASR will most definitely kill your marriage.  It will also severely damage you in your divorce. 

Having an altered state of reality does not automatically make you stupid.  No.  It's not recognizing you have it, and making decisions while in this altered state that makes you stupid.  

 This post deals with people who go through Divorce Altered State of Reality (DASR).  

If you are going through a divorce, please read this list - and don't DASR destroy you.

1.  Divorced Altered State of Reality: Stupid Reliance on Soon To Be Ex-Spouse

Some people think it's their soon to be ex-spouse's court-ordered/God-given obligation to provide them with everything.  And they wait for it.

Even if you have served 7 million sub poenas, do NOT rely on your soon to be ex-spouse to provide you with tax returns, credit card statements, or vaccination or school records.  Get them yourself.

Always know your spouse's social security number.

Most banks provide on-line services where you can download up to the most recent 12 months of statements.  If you need more, go visit a branch.  

If you have children together, you should always have copies of the children's medical and school records.  It's as easy as a telephone call or a simple visit to the school.  Make sure you are listed as the mother/father on all of the kids' medical and school records.

I have had several clients that FREAK out when they discover the mom/dad hasn't listed them as a parent at the kids' schools.  Instead of calling/visiting the school to take care of it, they call me and immediately want to go to court to "punish" the other parent.  

DASR: Judge "sides" with them, forces the other parent to comply on the spot, sends the other parent to jail, with Vangelis "Chariots of Fire" playing in the courtroom.

Reality: Judge asks why they haven't taken care of this themselves, and yells at them for wasting the court's time.


2.  Divorced Altered State of Reality: Stupid Reliance on Google.com

Getting a divorce is not like replacing a water filter, cooking steamed clams, or cutting your own bangs (all of which I have successfully learned by simply watching Youtube.)

Do NOT rely on google to answer your questions about alimony or community property.  As much as I love Sergey and Larry, they are not divorce specialists, and their company will mislead you.

There are 50 states, with different laws.  California happens to be a community property state (there are only 9 of us).  Do NOT rely on what you read on-line to navigate you through your own divorce.

DASR: Google.com will save the day - it will provide you with forms for prenups and divorce settlements, even appeals!  Why pay when it's free?

Reality: The forms you used to finalize your divorce were from Alaska, in 1982.  You are engaged to be married next month, and you are still married to your husband/wife, who has since left the country.


3.  Divorced Altered State of Reality: Stupid Reliance on Friends/Family Advice

 I belong to several mom's groups all over California.  Being a new mom is tough - I think as high as 80% of my clients just had children within the last 3 years.  In any case, divorce rates amongst new parents are high and bad advice runs rampant on these forums.

The other day, some woman in a mom's group told the other mom that as long as the father (who is married to another woman) doesn't pay child support, he will never have custody of that woman's baby.  I've also read another long thread where some moms were advising the "victim" to run away with the baby while the paternity case was pending.  (Can you say kidnapping?)

Your friends and family are not divorce/custody specialists.  They have no idea what they are talking about.  

DASR: Joining all the mom's groups in the world will get you the best friends and legal advice around.  You can all sit around happily, with sole custody.

Reality: The "mom" that is helping you is in a vastly different situation, and her advice will hurt you.


4.  Divorced Altered State of Reality: Stupid Reliance on Lawyer

Hire your divorce lawyer for one thing: knowing the law and how to best apply it to your situation.

Do not abuse your relationship with your attorney.  People who exclusively rely on their divorce lawyers to tell them whether they should stay married, what to feed their kids, and how to treat their ex'es suffer from DASR.

Don't get me wrong - I am a counselor at heart.  I love giving what I think is the best advice in the current situation.  Honestly, if you have children, I will always think working on the marriage is the right answer.  

Assume responsibility for your role in our relationship.  DO review all documents I send you.  DO ask me questions for the paragraphs you don't understand.  DO ask me questions using hypotheticals.

DON'T expect me to be your eyes.  (I am legally blind).  You still have a duty to read everything. Computers get hacked.  Dropboxes are synced without my permission.  Sometimes the case number - your children's names and birth dates, are wrong.  This is YOUR job to tell me your child's name and birth date is wrong.  

I recently had a client who came to me to terminate his alimony.  His marriage lasted 8 years, and he had been paying alimony for 25 years.  I told him to bring his Judgment.  Within 10 minutes, I found the clause that said bi-monthly alimony was to be terminated (along with jurisdiction) on January 15, 1999.  He had overpaid 360 months of alimony!!!






Thursday, March 5, 2015

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Prenups




EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT PRENUPS








Spring is in the air!!!  Allergies and engagements abound!  For those romantics out there proposing in the beautiful Springtime, don't forget to schedule your appointments for prenups ASAP.

Tip #1: DO NOT RUSH A PRENUP

I mean it.  I get calls from clients ALL THE TIME (i just got 6 calls last week), and it goes something like this: "My fiance just gave me a prenup, and I want to make changes.  Our wedding is this weekend - please help!"  Sorry!!  It's too late!  End of call.

(Then they call around to find another lawyer who'll gladly take their money to draft an unenforceable prenup).

Make sure you set aside enough time to draft, negotiate and edit a prenup.  (Appointment with lawyer should be set at least 6 months prior to your wedding date).  Getting your prenup done takes priority over the cake, the dress, and the venue.  Leave yourself enough time - make it THE To-Do before your I Do!

These clients are never happy with me when I tell them it's too late.  Truth is, if you are the out-spouse (usually the one being presented with the prenup), it's awesome news!  It means the prenup is no good - in which case, go ahead and sign it.  Then, when your marriage falls apart, just pull out the dusty thing, along with carefully documented calendar dates, and challenge the hell out of it.  (You still need money to hire a lawyer, though).


Tip #2: AFTER PRENUP IS FINALIZED, WAIT IT OUT BEFORE SIGNING

California Family Code section 1615 (c)(2) clearly states that "It shall be deemed that a premarital agreement was not executed voluntarily unless the court finds in writing or on the record all of the following: THE PARTY AGAINST WHOM ENFORCEMENT IS SOUGHT HAD NOT LESS THAN SEVEN (7) CALENDAR DAYS BETWEEN TIME THE PARTY WAS FIRST PRESENTED WITH THE AGREEMENT AND ADVISED TO SEEK INDEPENDENT LEGAL COUNSEL AND THE TIME THE AGREEMENT WAS SIGNED."

This does not mean that the prenup is automatically no good.  Nothing is automatic.  What this means is if you don't follow the rules, and the asshole you married decided to challenge the prenup, he/she would win. Prenup down the toilet.

I am overprotective of my clients, so my policy is to wait for a FINAL AGREEMENT to be accepted, then start the waiting period the very next day.  A FINAL AGREEMENT means there are no more changes, no more hemming and hawing, NADA.  For the math dummies out there, this means you add 8 days to finalization date.  For example, if the prenup is finalized today, March 5, 2015-  you add 8 days, and you can sign starting on March 13, 2015.  The signatures can even happen ON the day of your wedding, but I don't recommend it.  I probably would sign at least a MONTH before the wedding.

TIP #3:  GET OVER YOUR FEAR OF A PRENUP

Prenups is not a scary P word.  You know what is?  Puberty, Public speaking, Paranormal Activity: Things you have absolutely NO control over.  You may not be able to control the direction of your marriage, but with a prenup, you can control your divorce. (This statement comes with a disclaimer because as you well know, some assholes will still challenge a bullet-proof prenup).  A carefully drafted prenuptial agreement can't protect you from those assholes, but it may save you a ton of money.

TIP #4: GET OVER THE FEAR OF INSULTING YOUR FUTURE SPOUSE

Pop culture is adamant on giving prenups a bad name.  There is so much stigma surrounding this.  Is it the word "prenup"? One of my clients (who used the F word a lot) once told me "prenup" was the dirtiest word alive.  Look, I can't help that it sounds dirty.  I don't particularly like the word either.  A divorce has to happen before the prenup comes to play, so it's like a wretched omen. It's like "life insurance".  It sounds so greedy - and dependent on someone's death!

No one likes to think about death or divorce.  But, it happens - marriage ends with one or the other.  And if it's done right, you get another lovely P word - protection.  Yummy.  My F-word loving client and I decided to call the "prenuppy" a "puppy", and we put a little red bow on it.  Best.  Gift.  Ever.

Finally, you should know that the prenup-law is anti-divorce.  Prenups that "promote" divorce are unenforceable.  Talk to your lawyer about what constitutes "promoting divorce".

TIP #5: SPEAKING OF P WORDS, HERE ARE THE 3 P'S TO A PRENUP

PROTECTION OF PROPERTY: California applies the draconian "community property" law.  Everything acquired after date of marriage, prior to date of separation is community property.  This includes that winning lottery ticket that your husband told you NOT to buy.  Also includes your wife's Neiman Marcus addition.

PROVIDING OF SUPPORT (OR NOT) AFTER MARRIAGE: What word is dirtier than "prenup"?  Try alimony.  Spousal Support.  Especially to a cheating, lying no-good, abusive spouse.  California does not care if your wife cheated on you.  If you supported her during the marriage, you'll need to support her after the marriage.

PRESERVATION OF SEPARATE ASSETS AND DEBTS: Separate property are assets and debts that existed prior to the marriage.  Sound lovely.  EXCEPT if you co-mingle and/or transmutate.  Dirty words everywhere!  Ask your lawyer about these words.

TIP #6: THESE THINGS ARE ENFORCEABLE

(1) The rights and obligations of each of the parties in any of the property of either or both of them whenever and wherever acquired or located;
(2) The right to buy, sell, use, transfer, exchange, abandon, lease, consume, expend, assign, create a security interest in, mortgage, encumber, dispose of, or otherwise manage and control property;
(3) The disposition of property upon separation, marital dissolution, death, or the occurrence or nonoccurrence of any other event;
(4) The making of a will, trust, or other arrangement to carry out the provisions of the agreement;
(5) The ownership rights in and disposition of the death benefit from a life insurance policy;
(6) The choice of law governing the construction of the agreement;
(7) Any other matter, including their personal rights and obligations, not in violation of public policy or a statute imposing a criminal penalty.

TIP #7: THESE THINGS ARE NOT ENFORCEABLE

You can still put social media, cheating, religious stuff, and mandates on sexual activity clauses in your prenup.  Just remember they may NOT be enforceable if the asshole challenges it.

You also should NOT put anything relating to custody or child support in the prenup, as it won't be enforced.

Finally, don't put anything in the prenup that encourages divorce.

TIP #8: IF YOU ARE INCLINED TO GET A MARITAL AGREEMENT, GET ONE BEFORE THE MARRIAGE

Difference between a prenup and a postnup is a marriage in between.

Several clients who call me missed the deadline for a prenup.  They shrug it off and say, I'll just get a post-nup.  News from the underground: post-nups required much more disclosure and is less loved by the Court.  If you are inclined to get a  prenup, leave yourself enough time. Do not fool yourself into thinking a postnup will be as easy.

TIP#9: EDUCATE YOURSELF

Before getting a prenup, school yourself.  I recommend reading the California Family Code, sections 1600 et seq.  It's pretty good stuff.  If reading statutes isn't your cup of tea, try this book, "Prenups for Lovers".



Now that you know everything you need to know about prenups, you can call a lawyer now to help you draft one.  My fee for a prenup is $10,000.

Oh wait, no - that's my standard retainer for a divorce.  Prenups start around $2,500, depending on the work that needs to be done.

Marriage is grand, people.  Divorce is 100 grand.



Kelly Chang Rickert founded the Law Offices of Kelly Chang, A Professional Law Corporation. Her firm specializes in Divorce and Family Law, and handles all areas of Divorce, Annulment, Spousal Support, Child Support; Modification, Child Custody and Visitation, Prenuptial and Postnuptial greements, Adoptions, Property Division; Restraining Orders; and Family Law Mediation.  She is happily married to the love of her life, and has a premarital agreement.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Assembling Your Divorce Dream Team





DIVORCE DREAM TEAM








You may have heard a divorce dream team consists of unforgiving child custody evaluators, genius forensic accountants, and pitbull lawyers. If you are gearing up to spend over $100,000 in litigation, you may be right.

For the 95% of us who don't have (and/or refuse to spend) this type of money, if you are contemplating or going through a divorce, here are the people you SHOULD be working with:

1. Therapist: To help you deal with changes, stress, and anger.
2. Lawyer: To give you a best/worst case analysis, to represent you if you have to go to court, to educate you on family law.
3.  Mediator: To find a solution without fighting.
4.  Parenting Plan Coordinator: This is mediator who specializes in custody issues - if you have children.

Therapists save you money in a divorce.  Expensive divorces are not caused by RICH people with lots of assets.  Rather, they are caused by ANGRY people who want to fight.  Angry people are blinded by their fury, and intent on destroying their spouses.  Angry people will willingly spend thousands of dollars to prove worthless things, and then accuse their lawyers, therapists, mediators of wrong-doing.  Angry people will unnecessarily prolong their divorce.
Look, you are going to be angry at some time in the divorce.  You should be angry! I am all for letting out all that steam - you don't want any of that toxic stuff bottling up inside.  But don't be angry at the people who are trying to help you. Therapists are best equipped to deal with angry people. They went to school for this, and are trained to handle anger.  I'm a lawyer, and I certainly can't handle angry people. They drive me batty.  I don't know about you, but my helping heart grows cold when people spew angry fires at me.  (self-defense).  I can't whole-heartedly do my job for angry people.

Lawyers also save you money.  Expensive divorces are caused by people who are ignorant of the law.  Your lawyer can and should educate you.  For example, you should learn from your lawyer that California is a community property state. Thus, all property and debts acquired during the marriage and before the date of separation is community.  Even if you are completely angry with your spouse for cheating on you, don't let anger affect your rational thinking when dividing the assets - i.e., she still gets half of the community portion of your 401k; she still gets half the equity of the home you bought during the marriage.  Your lawyer should also advise you that spousal support is an obligation.  Thus, even if your cheating lying no-good husband left you for that hypocrite skank at church who teaches Sunday School, just suck it up and pay the alimony for half the length of the marriage.

Mediators also save you money.  Once you know you have to divide your stuff, and have to pay alimony, the MEDIATOR should help you decide the amount, and for how long.   Financial issues should always be resolved sooner or later.  Obviously, if your spouse runs his own business, or has massive undisclosed accounts, you may need to spend some money to ascertain these accounts.  But after the numbers are out, rather than fight over which number to use - it is 100%, without exception, cheaper to settle sooner than later. You do NOT want to be the sucker that spends over $40,000 to find an account that had only $30 in it.

Parenting Plan Coordinators also save you money.  Custody is perhaps the ONLY issue that I believe could understandably take a bit longer to resolve. If there are custody issues which don't involve drug/alcohol or child abuse/neglect, rather than litigating from the outset, it is highly recommended that you hire a Parenting Plan coordinator to help you reach a parenting plan that will work with your family.

Choose your team wisely.  Educate, mediate, and meditate.  You can absolutely control how much money you spend in your divorce.