When to Consider Divorce (Part 3)

 Previously, we have discussed the benefits of a happy marriage, as well as warning signs in this article; and, the types of marriages that might be saved, and are worth fighting for, in this post following-up the first one. Today, we will discuss different types of commitments to a marriage, and which is required for a marriage to be happy and thrive (and so, for divorce to not need to be considered).

In traditional, ceremonial, marriages, the individuals to be married make vows to one another. They, typically, will publicly attest to their mutual love, devotion, and expressed intention to work towards a lifelong, supportive relationship. That commitment is usually “for better, or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish, till death do us part.”  And yet, despite those vows, many once-married people find themselves divorcing or divorced. Why is that?

Notice that the vows cited above do not express how the couple will stay together through troubling times. There is no mention of what actions they will take when warning signs (discussed in the articles linked above) present themselves. Divorce should not be considered, at least not initially, in a non-abusive relationship, where the partners are appropriately committed. So, that raises the issue: what type of commitment is “appropriate?”

According to Benjamin Karney, a professor of psychology and co-director of the Relationship Institute at UCLA, “’(w)hen people say, ‘I’m committed to my relationship,’ they can mean two things. One thing they can mean is, ‘I really like this relationship and want it to continue.’ However, true commitment to the marriage is more than just that.”[1]   In a new study, UCLA psychologists based their analysis of 172 married couples over the first 11 years of marriage. What they found was that couples who did more than just commit to wanting their relationship to continue; who were actually willing to examine how they might change themselves, compromise on their wishes and preferences, and prioritize the welfare of their marriage, over their individual desires, were significantly less likely to divorce, than were those couples who did not commit at that level.[2]

That makes sense when applied to other contexts. Let’s take parenting for an example. There are times when a parent prefers not to get-up with a sick child at night; prepare a healthy meal, wash clothes, arrange parties or outings for a child. They may even reside in a location where it is better for a child (such as in the attendance zone of a good school, or within an area designated by a court for the child to reside) rather than where they would ideally live (on a mountain, at a beach, in another state, or in a downtown condo, for examples) But, most parents will do those things anyway, because they prioritize the welfare and happiness of their child over their own individual wants, desires, and preferences.

It’s easy to want to have a good relationship, with a thriving, healthy child. It’s the parents’ commitment to sacrifice for the child’s welfare that is truly important to achieving those outcomes. Should spouses treat the welfare of their marriage with less commitment? If the answer to that question is “no,” then divorce should not be considered in that circumstance. If the answer is “yes,” then that spouse should consider whether s/he wishes to truly be married, or whether being single is the preference.

Healthy marriages bring much value to spouses, including a longer life expectancy, more general happiness, and life satisfaction. But like most things worthwhile, they take work, commitment, and sacrifice. But, the process of making them successful improves our own attitudes towards life, and ourselves as people and partners.

 

[1] https://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/here-is-what-real-commitment-to-228064

[2] Ibid.

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Is There an Ideal Time to File for Divorce?

One of the more common questions that we receive concerns when to file for divorce (another one is “(d)oes it matter who files first). There are several factors that go into figuring the timing. For one thing, is divorce an appropriate response to your current situation? Some considerations to think about can be found here and here.

Assuming that you have fully considered your decision, as discussed in the links above, and you wish to proceed with divorce, the next consideration is whether you have taken the steps necessary to be prepared for divorce. A discussion of those steps can be found here.

Ok, now that you have given thought to whether divorce is right for you; and if you are ready for divorce; then the issue of ”when to file” arises. January is the most popular month for filing for divorce. In fact, it is commonly referred to in the industry as “Divorce Month.” February is, typically, the second most popular month for new divorce case filings.[1] But, does it truly matter in which month a new divorce case is started?

As far as the law governing the divorce case, and the manner in which the proceedings will go, the answer is “no.” Filing in either Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter, will not change your case. So, the answer as to when to file is that you should file if and when you are ready to file.

Have you made the plans discussed in the links above for how things will go during your case? Also, will the two of you continue to reside together, or will one of you move out of the home? Have you considered finances and debt payments? Is now a particularly dicey time for one or more of your children? Is it a particularly stressful time at your work? Is there a preplanned family vacation on the horizon? All of these considerations, as well as the others discussed within those other blog posts, amount to determining whether you would be happier staying together, at least for now, or beginning the process of legally dissolving your marriage.

It is not an easy decision for many folks. As for others, they emotionally checked-out of the marriage in the past, and so, it is merely a business decision for them. Wherever you are in that process of emotionally coming to grips with the loss of your marriage, our advice is for you to not make a rash decision. Think about what you want to do. Discuss it with friends, or a mental health worker. And, if you decide that divorce is right for you; and that you are ready to proceed, then make that decision. Until then, wait until you are ready (or, ideally, work to improve your marriage, and never get divorced).

Until nest time, I am the Family Lawyer who says “Divorce is a big decision. Please don’t rush into it!”

 

[1] There are a few reasons for this phenomenon. Many people do not want to start the divisive process during the  holiday season. The stress of the holiday season pushes other to realize how unhappy they actually are. And, January is often viewed as a time for new resolutions, and major life changes.

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Some Common Causes of Divorce (Part 1)

In my practice of law since 1989, my firm has handled many divorce cases, and have spoken with various mental health experts. Between our experience, as a law firm handling divorce cases, as well as what we have discovered from our study of the subject with relationship experts, we have learned some common causes of divorce. Based on those experiences, we offer the following observations.

Once upon a time, divorce was rare and frowned-upon by American society. During the Twentieth Century, however, several societal changes occurred, which caused the divorce rate to spike. It became one of the highest in the world.[i] Among these changes were women’s ability to support themselves financially; an increased mobility of society, where the members of extended families lived apart from one another; and, the dawning of the Sexual Revolution, which led to  a change of view about  previously-married people (especially women).

One of the most important factors, though, was the shift in view of marriage from being a lifetime family obligation that one takes, to being a source of personal fulfillment and joy. With this shift in view, a marriage which did not bring such pleasant emotions became considered as not worthy of protecting and extending.[ii]Various stress factors can lead to that lack of fulfillment and lack of joy. We will begin exploring two (2) of those today. Later posts will discuss this topic further.

Research into the area by multiple studies shows, unsurprisingly, that frequent conflict leads to a breakdown in the marital relationship. Each argument, or harsh word uttered, pushes the parties apart, eventually leading to a devaluing of one’s partner, and the marriage itself, unless appropriate intimacy-building measures are taken. There are resources for doing this available on the web. But, when there is already negative energy within a marriage relationship, working with a good therapist or counselor can be invaluable.[iii]

Another common cause of divorce is a lack of commitment; or often more appropriately, a lack of sufficient commitment, of the right type, from each spouse. Let me explain. There are some marriages in which both spouses are committed to the marriage, but each to a different degree (“Asymmetrical Commitment.”).  This is unhealthy, and can cause deterioration of the marriage, as one spouse begins to feel devalued by the other.

In addition to needing a similarly strong commitment to the marriage, the right type of commitment is also important. A commitment to the marriage for moral reasons, such as for religious reasons; but, without a personal commitment to the marriage, is unlikely to result in a healthy relationship. The same is true when there is a structural commitment to stay in the marriage “for the kids,’ or for financial reasons. A personal commitment to stay in the marriage, because it is the most important thing in your life, however, is the type of commitment that leads to healthy, happy marriages. Spouses having this type of commitment stay in their marriage, because they want to do so; not because they feel like they should do so, or must do so.

Today, we have begun our study of the common causes of divorce. I hope that this has been helpful. More will follow, so please follow this site for updates. Until next time, I am the lawyer who says “I hope that you never have need to use our divorce services.”

 

 

[i] Wu Z. Schimmele C. M. 2007 Uncoupling in late life Generations 31 41–46

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] It is important that each spouse bring to the counseling, a commitment to working on oneself to improve the relationship. Merely showing-up to complain about the other spouse is very unlikely to be successful. Even if one spouse is primarily responsible for the breakdown of the marriage, each partner can improve as a spouse; even if that means simply not enabling the other spouse.

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How to Expedite Your Divorce Case (Part 1)

All marriages have their ups and downs. A “down” period, by itself, is usually not reason to abandon a healthy marriage. But, of course, not all marriages are “healthy.” If you are unhappy in a marriage, visiting with a good therapist may be the first step in trying to figure-out where you are, and where you wish to go. Here are some things to think about, and perhaps to discuss with your therapist: When to consider Divorce, Part 1; When to Consider Divorce, Part 2; and, When to Consider Divorce, Part 3.

Assuming that you have considered your options, and decided that divorce is right for you, then there are things that can be done to expedite your divorce. First, you should consider how you want issues resolved. If you have minor children of the marriage, then these are issues to be decided such as child custody, child support, child possession, and the authority to make important decisions for the children, such as where they will go to school, and which classes they will take, Also, who will choose which extracurricular activities they will participate in; how will those be paid for? Who will be responsible for transporting the children to and from practices and other events, such as games or recitals? Another important issue is who gets to make invasive medical decisions in a non-emergency[1]; and, where their primary residence will be located (either within a restricted geographic area or not). Each or all of those decisions might be set-up to require the joint agreement of both parent; or, one parent may get to make that decision unilaterally.

There is quite a bit to discuss in these areas. To what extent do you believe that you are your spouse will be able to discuss and resolve some or all of these issues? Your divorce case will go quicker, and be easier (financially and emotionally) to the extent that the two of you can make agreements without the need for litigation and judicial intervention.[2]

There are usually, also property issues to be determined by either the agreement of the parties, or by court decision. Which assets and liabilities exist? Which of those do you want for yourself, and which do you wish for your spouse to take? To what extent is there agreement or disagreement about those issues? Were some assets and/or debts acquired: prior to marriage? by inheritance? by gift? Those items are Separate Property, and will be treated differently than all other property, which is Community Property,.

Importantly, assets are viewed by courts in terms of their net value, as well as their affordability. Net worth is, of course, the value of the asset less anyt debt associated with it. In terms of affordability, awarding a spouse an asset which s/he cannot afford to maintain is not a benefit to that spouse, unless s/he intends to sell it right away. So, e.g., a court is unlikely to award  house, even with a high net equit6,y to a spouse who cannot afford the mortgage, insurance, taxes, and upkeep on it. In that case, the spouse in question would likely be better off by taking an award of cash (or another asset) for some or all of the net equity in the house, and allowing the other spouse to have the house and its payments.

I hope that this has given you some things to think about. There are plenty of other blog posts about divorce, child custody, and property, on this site. Please feel free to search for them.

 

[1] Usually, either parent can consent to invasive medical procedures in the case of an emergency.

[2] Discussion is not always recommended, such as when there is abuse (of any kind, including verbal). So, please, use your common sense, and trust your gut instinct, about whether to attempt to discuss divorce issues with your spouse,

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What Are The Steps To Take After Deciding To Divorce? (Part 2)

In the last post, we discussed the initial four steps to take after deciding to divorce. That article is here. Being familiar with those actions, will help put these next steps into context. As we stated there, ideally you would work through all of these steps before a divorce is initiated by either spouse. Your head will be clearer then, and you will be able to think without the stress of a pending divorce hanging over your head.

Step 5 – Secure Your Information. The first obvious step in this regard is to change your mailing address; but not for your spouse’s mail. And, advise people whom you expect might write to you, to use your new mailing address (which might be a post office box). Storing copies of important documents electronically, in the cloud, is a good way to be able to access them. But, it’s only good if you, and only you, can access them. So, new accounts and passwords are a must.

Step 6- Secure social Media accounts; and don’t post anything negative about your spouse there. It might surprise you just how often social media plays a role in contemporary divorce cases. Keep your spouse out of your social media. But, don’t assume that anything that you post will not, somehow, finds its way into your spouse’s possession. We want to be seen as “the reasonable one,” so for God’s sake, don’t post negative material, nor hack into your spouse’s social media, email, or anything!

Step 7- Get copies (electronic ones, preferably) of important child-related documents. Records of children’s academics, healthcare, extra-curricular activities, and so on, provide abundant information that may be useful in a contested, child-related, case.

Step 8- Record (in written form) all important events, summaries of conversation, issues to discuss with your lawyer, and anything else important to your case. Divorce cases can come quickly, with a flurry of events and discussions happening in a surprisingly short period of time. But, they also, can last for a long time. The point is that there can be a heavy volume of important facts and issues that we do not want to rely upon our memories for. A journal is a good way to record, and keep track of, all of this data. That way, when the time is right, it can yield information, knowledge, and wisdom. But, it all starts with an accurate accounting of the data. Keep your journal private and secured. That way, if you and your attorney decide that it is best to keep it confidential, then your attorney will have a solid case that it is an attorney-client privileged communication. But, if you share its contents with anyone other than your legal counsel (including legal Assistants, Paralegals, and other staff), then you will have waived that privilege. So, don’t do that, please.

Divorce case can be complex, and feel overwhelming. Preparation for it can make it significantly easier for you. This might give you an advantage over an unprepared spouse. That makes it easier to obtain a favorable case outcome. And, that is our goal, right?

If you found this information helpful, then please consider “liking” our page.

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When is Annulment an Option?

Today, we will discuss annulment, as a possible alternative to divorce. We will discuss what it is, how it differs from divorce, and when it is available. Also, at the end of this post, we will direct you to other posts about when to consider either option.

Annulments are judgments of a court that declare that a purported marriage was never valid. In contrast, divorces are judgments of a court that dissolve a valid marriage. While there is no existing marriage once either of those judgments is entered there are significant practical differences between the two procedures.

For example, in the case of a marriage ending after a prior divorce, the availability of Social Security benefits based on the earnings of the prior spouse may be affected by whether the second marriage is dissolved (i.e., through a divorce) or found to have never been valid (i.e., though an annulment).[1] Depending on the state in which the legal proceeding occurs, eligibility for alimony or spousal support may, also, be affected.[2] The same may, also, be true about property rights. So, be sure to check on those matters with a Family Lawyer in the state of your residence.

There are also differences other than those practical ones. If your purported “marriage” is annulled, then you can honestly say that you were not married. Sometimes, that provides relief to people who do not want to announce a failed marriage (perhaps, it is not their first one, and they do not like to declare that they have had another marriage fail). Also, historically, certain traditional religions did not acknowledge divorces, and so, they likewise did not acknowledge subsequent marriages. But, with an annulment, the problem of the first relationship can be avoided, since there was never a true marriage.

So, when are annulments available? Not surprisingly, eligibility for, and time limits for requesting, an annulment, vary significantly from state to state.[3] The most common ground for annulment is fraud. For example, under Texas law, annulment may be granted to a party if “the other party used fraud, duress, or force to induce the petitioner to enter into the marriage; and the petitioner (that is, the party requesting the annulment) has not voluntarily cohabited with the other party since learning of the fraud or since being released from the duress or force.”[4]

Other grounds, depending on your particular state’s laws, may include (as Texas does) that annulment may be granted for certain underage marriages.[5] Interestingly, it may, also be granted if “(1) at the time of the marriage the petitioner was under the influence of alcoholic beverages or narcotics and as a result did not have the capacity to consent to the marriage;  and

(2)  the petitioner has not voluntarily cohabited with the other party to the marriage since the effects of the alcoholic beverages or narcotics ended.”[6]

Other possible grounds for annulment may include things such as a concealed divorce, impotency, mental illness, and a marriage that occurs too soon after the marriage license is granted (contrary to a mandatory waiting period). Again, these vary from state-to-state, so please consult with a local attorney for information about your particular state’s laws.

A discussion of all of the effects and consequences of annulment versus divorce is beyond the scope of this post. I hope that it has been a primer for you on the subject. We would welcome any comments that you may have about this post.

For further information about when to consider divorce or annulment, please see this post.

To see which steps to take, if you are ready to begin the legal process to terminate the marriage, please see this post and this one

 

 

 

 

[1] Contact a Social Security Lawyer to discuss how and when Social Security Handbook Section 1853 applies. We do not practice in this area of law, and so, cannot and do not, provide any advice about Social Security benefits nor eligibility.

[2] Check with a Family Lawyer licensed in the state where you reside to learn the legal effect in your particular state.

[3] So, again, check with a local lawyer about this.

[4] See Texas Family Code §6.107

[5] See TFC §§6.102,3,4.

[6] Ibid @ §6.105.

 

 

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What Are The Steps to Take After Deciding to Divorce? (Part 1)

Deciding to divorce is a big decision. Once it has been made, proper preparation is, like with so many things in life, a key to making the outcome more likely to be positive for you and your family. And, yet, because it can be such an emotional decision, many people do not develop a plan for successfully moving through the process. This piece is designed to guide you in developing that plan.

Initially, it is important to go through this process before beginning the divorce. That is when issues can be pondered without having the pressure of a pending divorce affecting your decision-making

Step 1 Who will be your allies during this process? Divorce can be emotionally-taxing. One or both spouses may make emotional decisions that create chaos, confusion, or worse. It is easier to get through those times with allies—family members and friends who can provide support. It is also important to have people who you can talk to regularly; esp. if other family members and friends decide to not be there for you at this time. Having the support of allies help you to better weather the storms of your case.

Step 2 Do you understand the property matters? Do you have, or can you get, documentation (hard copy and/or virtual) pertaining to all debts and assets of the family? Car titles, mortgage statements, retirement and brokerage account statements, bank or credit union statements, loan applications, credit card bills, health and life insurance policies, and tax returns are all important to have. Do you know where to obtain any of those documents which you do not already have? Is there anyone who can assist you with this process? Be sure to store electronic versions of those documents in the cloud (such as via OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, or Box), so that you can access them from anywhere that you have an internet connection

Step 3 Who provides services to the home? You should either know, or learn, the identity of the gas company, the electricity provider, and the cable or satellite provider, for the home. Are there other service providers that your family uses, such as for landscaping, lawn maintenance, or babysitting? Do you know how all of those bills are customarily paid? What about the water/trash bill for your home? Do you either have access to that information, or can you get it? In a similar vein do you know all about your family’s health insurance, toll tag, phone, and other accounts? Can you compile all of this information in a document that you can access online?

Step 4 How will you meet financial obligations during the divorce? In addition to your living expenses, there will be additional charges related just to the divorce process, itself. So, securing a means to pay those expenses allows one to continue the case, rather than perhaps being forced to settle on less-than-favorable terms because you’ve run-out of money. The court may award certain bills, support, or alimony during the case. But, that is uncertain until it happens. Funding is sometimes available by taking a loan against a retirement account; selling some securities in a brokerage account; securing one or more credit cards in your own name, and unknown to your spouse, ideally; or opening-up a line of credit with a financial institution. Also, do you have a relative who will loan you money, or who will allow you to use his or her credit card? Is there home equity available to borrow? Even if the house is owned by both of you, the court may allow that home equity to be used to pay the expenses of the case.

These are the first few considerations. We will address more of them with the next post, so check back for more useful info!

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Can You Get Divorced During a COVID-19 Shutdown?

Many courts are not currently operating as they did before during this shutdown. They are, however, open, and processing some cases. Here, in Texas, our state courts are holding “essential” hearings, via Zoom. Essential hearings, in the context of Texas Family Law cases, consist of those concerning matters such as temporary restraining orders, CPS child removal, and applications for protective orders (due to allegations of family violence). All others, such as routine divorce temporary orders hearings, are presently not occurring before June 1, 2020.

But, that does not mean that you cannot file a divorce case, and begin moving towards finalizing it now. In fact, all 254 Texas counties are now enabled, and using, electronic filings. That means that your lawyer can use the state’s electronic filing services to file your divorce. And, since your divorce must be on file for sixty (60) days or more before being finalized, the partial closing of the courts (for non-essential hearings) should pose no challenge to finalizing your divorce case.[1]

So, how does a divorce case work now? Many firms, such as ours, are still working remotely. But, that is not a problem, since information can be provided electronically, as can payments.

Upon receipt, we will take that information, and prepare divorce pleadings for you (based on that information). When those pleadings are drafted, we will electronically file your pleadings, thereby starting the court case. When received, the District Clerk’s Office reviews the pleadings to ensure compliance with the filing rules for your county, as well as those for the State of Texas, before accepting them. Those accepted pleadings are file-marked, and then returned to us electronically.

Once we have received those file-marked pleadings, we will send a copy of them to you, and to a court-approved Legal Process Server (if service of those pleadings to your spouse is requited in your case). If your case is agreed (and no formal service of process is required), then those pleadings can be emailed to your spouse, along with a document waiving that formal service.

From that point, we handle your case much as we would have prior to COVID-19.[2] That includes requesting, and setting, hearings for such matters as temporary orders (to occur on June 1st or later). Also, written discovery requests (such as interrogatories, request for production, request for disclosure, and request for admissions) can be served.[3] Then, when we are ready to proceed with finalizing your case, we will set it for a Final Hearing, negotiate with the opposing party (unless all case issues are already agreed to), and take care of any pre-requisites (such as mediation) to finalizing your divorce. And, of course, we will be communicating with you about your case, at each step.

Texas courts are operating now (handling “essential” matters, only), and are scheduled to reopen further on June 1, 2020. Even now, though, Texas Family Law matters, such as divorces, are being processed. And, although we are working remotely, we are still accepting new clients, and handling our existing cases.

 

[1]Of course, the courts may be later ordered to re-close, but for now, the plan is to reopen them to non-essential matters (whether virtually, or physically) on June 1st.

[2]In-person, oral depositions (if desired for your case) might not occur precisely as they did before.

[3]Discovery requests are formal mechanisms for obtaining relevant case information. Often, they are served on the other party, to require him or her to provide information to us, such as bank account and credit card records, a listing of their activities, who their intended witnesses are, and what they contend the court should do in your case.

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Parenting A Child With A High Conflict Ex (Part 3)

When a romantic relationship ends, whether by divorce or otherwise, parents often find that their residual emotions spill over into their dealings with one another as they try to work together to parent their children. This can, obviously, pose difficulties in a shared child custody arrangement. We have previously discussed techniques which you can use to mitigate conflict when attempting to co-parent with someone who cannot, or will not, treat you politely and with respect. A review of those articles (Part 1 and Part 2 of this series) will give context to the information which we are discussing today.

One of the recommended techniques to resolve this conflict is putting in place (ahead of time) a method for resolving parenting disagreements outside of court. That way, disagreements can be resolved relatively quickly, easily, and inexpensively. To be successful, that method must consider, and be respectful of, each parent’s, thoughts, views, and wishes about the decision to be made. It can, then, be supported by the court, if challenged by a disgruntled parent who thinks that he or she should be able to unilaterally make decisions about the child or children.

Examples of decisions which parents might disagree about are educational decisions, such as whether to “hold a child back” in a particular grade for a school year; whether to enroll the child in Advanced classes; which electives a child will take; or, whether to have your child “skip” a grade. Other examples are medical decisions, such as whether to have a child start taking medication, say for ADHD or clinical depression; or to start counseling, or undergo surgery or other medical treatment.

One effective dispute resolution method involves writing into the court order a “tie-breaking” procedure, whereby the parents would present their disagreement to someone whom they have previously agreed is a logical person to weigh-in on the matter at hand. The parents might agree, for example, that if they cannot agree on one or more educational decisions for their child, they will allow the child’s school Principal to cast the tie-breaking vote on the decision, after conferring with the child’s teacher, counselor, nurse, or other personnel relevant to that decision.

Similarly, for medical decisions, the parents might agree in advance, or the judge may order, that the child’s Primary Care Physician will cast the tie-breaking vote regarding these decisions. The doctor would first consult with the child, each parent, and any other relevant healthcare professional (such as a medical specialist), prior to making the decision.

Those professional people casting the tie-breaking votes presumably have the child’s best interests at heart. And, they can look at these decisions through their professional education, training, and experiences, without having to wade through the emotional baggage between the parents. Ideally, this process results in a high likelihood that a reasonable decision will be made for your child.

We have been using these types of tie-breaking procedures for our clients since the 1990’s. Over those many years, we have found that these types of tools often keep high- conflict parents from getting “stuck” when trying to make those important decisions for their child which will, inevitably, arise from time-to-time; and, doing so, without our clients having to rehire us to go back to court over the decision.

When a disagreement on a parenting decision occurs, having a process in place which allows a dispassionate professional person to assist in the decision-making, allows stability for the child to occur.

 We appreciate your attention to this article,and would welcome any questions or comments about it which you may wish to send to us from this website. That is all for now. Plan for potential problems with co-parenting, so that you can keep doing what is the very best for your kids!

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When to Consider Divorce (Part 2)

Committed relationships, such as marriages, are bedrock institutions of our society. When these relationships are healthy, they provide us with joy, contentment, stability, connection, and opportunities for personal growth. But, unfortunately, not all such intimate relationships become, and remain, healthy for both partners. Continuing with our series, we will discuss today some additional warning signs, or bad omens, for marriages.

According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., Social Psychologist at the University of California, Riverside, and author of “The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want,” being married is correlated with being happy: married people are more happy than unmarried people are1. And so, trouble in a marriage may manifest in the early stages as a state of uneasiness, dissatisfaction, or chronic unhappiness. This may or may not be accompanied by the feeling that there is no value in the marriage.

These feelings may result from something as benign as a gradual drifting apart of the parties, or, something more malignant, such as some form of abuse2. Or, the feelings may arise in other ways that are instrumental in a spouse’s coming to feel unvalued, unappreciated, untrusted, constantly questioned or criticized. In any of those cases, the lack of an underlying happiness and satisfaction is a signal that the marriage is in trouble.

When one or both partners begin to feel dissatisfied with the marriage, then it is important for those feelings to be addressed. If the spouses’ talking-out the causes of the unhappiness or dissatisfaction does not seem to resolve the problem(s), then enlisting the help of a professional may be beneficial. While it might feel pointless or hopeless to try to further work on the lack of meaningful connection at this point, it is worth noting that if the partners can look back and remember good times, then, according to Susan Heitler Ph.D., the marriage, or other committed relationship, can be saved and strengthened.

Importantly, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy reports that most couples who have attended marriage counseling report high levels of satisfaction with the process. While marriage counseling requires each partner to work on himself or herself (rather than just blame the other spouse, and wish for his or her change), the end result can be the satisfaction, fulfillment, and happiness that flow from a happy, healthy marriage. Given as much marriage counseling is often worth doing, for those spouses who have not already given-up on their marriage.

Previously, I wrote about When to Consider Divorce (part 1), and noted that “[m]arriages are worth fighting for when they support us and our spouses…. If the spouses are committed enough to address [their] issues, then the marriage is worth fighting for.” You will find a discussion of some bad omens for a marriage in that earlier writing, so you might want to check it out.


1 It is also true that happy people tend to attract the types of partners with whom they might build a long-term, satisfying relationship

2 Abuse is not always physical; and, other forms of abuse can be just as damaging, or more so, than physical abuse is.

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