Tag: kentucky

How Do I Handle Hostile Communications From My Ex?

How Do I Handle Hostile Communications From My Ex?

Whether in the middle of a divorce/custody case or after the legal dust has cleared, you may be plagued by hostile communications from your ex.  It may be text messages, emails, phone calls, or over social media. Most of it probably has little, if any, legal significance so you can simply ignore it. It cannot have any power over you unless you let it and often it is more an indication of the writer’s emotional state than anything else.  Responding with similar or like-kind emotion is probably the worst thing you can do and will usually only serve to escalate things. However, since emails and other communications can find their way into court files and litigation, you may feel compelled to respond.  If you do feel compelled to respond, it is important to keep these rules in mind.

1.  Keep it brief.  Say only what you absolutely need to say to fulfill your legal obligations or correct inaccuracies and then be done. The more you write, the more material the other side has to use against you. Keeping responses short will often help diffuse the situation and, hopefully, end the harassment (at least temporarily).

2.  Stick to the facts.  Do not allow yourself to be drug down to the level of your harasser. If you have to respond, keep your responses factual and informative.  Remember, the point is often to simply correct misinformation in previous communications. Correct the error and be done.  For example, “Just to be clear, the children were not left alone. My mother came and stayed with them while I was out of town.”

Avoid being argumentative. Do not use sarcasm or negative comments. Avoid threats and profanity (both of which always seem much worse when seen in the printed word). Do not use personal attacks like name calling or insulting their intelligence.  If they are a high conflict personality, it will only throw fuel on the fire and increase the harassment.

3.  Kill them with kindness. When the other side is hostile, you respond with civility. Although you may be tempted to anger, you will achieve your case much better by keeping the tone of your responses friendly. If they are shown in court it will help to highlight the contrast between how you handle the situation like a reasonable adult as opposed to your ex.

There is no need to be syrupy sweet as that can come back around to sounding sarcastic. Just keep the tone relaxed and non-antagonistic. Acknowledge their concerns and then address them. Continuing from the example above, “I understand that you were worried about the children, but mother had things under control.”

4.  Be firm.  In a very matter of fact sort of way, communicate to the other person your position on the issue and be done. Think Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.” Avoid comments that invite discussion, negotiation or anything that would continue the conversation. Comments like “I think you would agree. . .” or anything involving a question like “who,” “what,” “when,” where,” “why,” or “how” will only invite a response from the other person which is what you are trying to avoid.

It is important that you sound confident and avoid asking for information if you want to end the back and forth. A confident person is less likely to be challenged with further communications. If you are challenged, and feel the need to respond, make this response even shorter than the first and do not emotionally engage.

Whether it is on your work or personal email, handling communications from your ex with these rules in mind will help minimize the emotional anguish it causes you.

Photo courtesy of AJ Cann

Tips for Negotiating and Managing a Timesharing Schedule

Tips for Negotiating and Managing a Timesharing Schedule

As if juggling a child’s busy schedule with ballgames, play auditions, church functions, birthday parties and other activities of your little social butterfly were not enough, adding a co-parenting timesharing schedule into the mix makes it even tougher.  The timesharing schedule may be one that is negotiated through settlement discussions with the other party, reached at mediation or it may be ordered by the Court. Regardless of how your timesharing schedule is determined, there are some very fundamental and key points that you need to keep in mind.

1.  Keep It Simple

I have had cases where parents are bouncing the child back and forth night to night or during the day. The dad gets every third leap day and the mom gets each evening where Jupiter aligns with Mars. UGH!  Of course, I am exaggerating to make a point, but it is a valid point nonetheless.  Obviously, you and the other parent have some difficulty getting along otherwise, you would probably still be together.  Therefore, avoid as many misunderstandings or opportunities for argument as possible by keeping your schedule as simple and easy to understand as possible.

Keeping the schedule as simple as possible will also help provide your child some stability. Children can often adapt better if they understand and follow a routine.  They can quickly learn “Monday is a mommy day;” or “I was with mom last weekend so I will be at dad’s this weekend.”

2.  Help the Children Understand

Like I said oftentimes knowing what to expect can put children’s minds at ease in a co-parenting situation. Help your child understand the timesharing schedule. Make it available to your child in a way that is easy to understand. Perhaps a printed calendar posted on the refrigerator or a dry erase board. For older, more tech-savvy children, set up an online calendar with the days marked.  This is actually very easy to do with many of the online calendars because you can program in repeating events. There are also a number of apps available in the iTunes and Google Play stores specifically for family scheduling.

3.  Do Not Forget Holidays and Important Family Events

Most standard visitation schedules promulgated by the Courts have many of the big holidays spelled out.  This is often a good place to start if you are trying to develop your own parenting schedule. Also, if your family has a big family reunion or other special event each year, you should factor that into the schedule.  Some other things that may come up are birthdays, family events such as weddings or funerals.  It is a good idea to also review your child’s school calendar to determine when there are long weekends or breaks for you and the other parent to consider.

4.  Get It Documented

You and your co-parent or ex-spouse may be getting along beautifully, and that is wonderful.  However, you need to prepare for the day when you may not agree on things. In that case, you had better have your timesharing plan well-documented and filed with the Court. If it is not documented, who is to say who gets what time? If it is not on file with the Court and adopted as part of a custody order or divorce decree, the Court cannot enforce it with the Court’s contempt powers.

This also applies if at some point you and your ex change the timesharing schedule. Sometimes it evolves over time. Sometimes you have to change as a result of changed circumstances like when the child starts school. Whatever the reason, get it documented and make sure the Court file reflects what is happening with you, your ex and your child.

Getting everyone on board with your timesharing schedule and keeping everyone properly informed will go a long way to making your life as a co-parent much, much smoother.

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Photo courtesy of Dafne Cholet

A Divorce Lawyer’s Guide to a Good Marriage: Part II

A Divorce Lawyer’s Guide to a Good Marriage: Part II

We previously began our discussion on our Guide to a Good Marriage.  This post continues on that topic, but to summarize, good marriages take hard work and commitment to one another as well as the relationship itself. With that in mind we will dive into the remaining tips from this divorce lawyer’s perspective.

4.  Part of a Good Marriage is Open Finances Right from the Beginning

An older attorney once told me that many of the people who file for divorce probably actually just need to file for bankruptcy. His glib attitude belies a real truth that finances put an incredible strain on a marriage relationship. It becomes miserable to be with someone when all you do is fight or fret over money issues.

While struggling to make ends meet can put serious stress on a marriage, money-related problems often also stem from a couple’s unwillingness to share financial information. One spouse controlling the finances can create an imbalance of power in the relationship that can become toxic.  I also am not a big fan of the idea  separate bank accounts.  They can lead to secrets or make it a lot easier to decide to split the sheets. If you are going to be in a marriage, it should be a partnership. Think of it like rowing a boat. If two people are rowing in opposite directions, you are not going to get anywhere. Everyone needs to be pulling in the same direction.

5.  Pick Your Battles

He never puts the toilet seat down. She always burns the toast. WHO CARES? Pick your battles and let life’s little annoyances go.  Do not expect the other person to be perfect. Conversely, we divorce lawyers cringe when we hear couples say they never fight. There is not a single relationship on earth where people do not argue or disagree. Talk about your problems or disagreements. If you feel you cannot talk to your spouse about an issue, you have big problems. Find a therapist before you have to find a lawyer.

6. Treat Your Spouse as You Would Treat a Good Friend

One of the weird things about marriage based on what I have seen, is that people often treat their friends, children and extended families better than they treat their spouse. If you treat your drinking buddies better than you treat your spouse, you have a problem. Remember how you showed your spouse you cared when you two were dating? Do that. Never forget you could lose him/her.

7. Find an Outside Interest/Activity/Hobby

Maintain your own interests and do not rely on your spouse (or your spouse and children) for the sum total of your happiness. Having outside interests makes you a more interesting person. It gives you something to talk about over those date night dinners we discussed in Part I of this article. You are never too old to learn something new. Take a piano lesson. Sign up for an art class. Go hiking, Whatever it is, find something that interests you. Then you can share it with your spouse.

No one ever said this would be easy. Hopefully, you remember why you got married in the first place and you have decided it’s worth it.

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Photo courtesy of Allie Towers Rice

A Divorce Lawyer’s Guide to a Good Marriage; Part I

A Divorce Lawyer’s Guide to a Good Marriage; Part I

Marriage can bring out the worst in people. Some spouses cheat, they lie about money, or they destroy each other’s sense of self-worth. They put their children in the middle of their battles even before a divorce has been filed. Sometimes, they get violent. Everyday I see people who have made similar mistakes which have landed them in my office. Perhaps, it is seeing these types of common mistakes over and over again which have allowed my wife and I to remain married for over two decades (that and I knew a good deal when I saw one).  Divorce stinks under the best of circumstances but hopefully by following some of these points of advice you can avoid landing in my office.

1.  Do Not Believe the Hype; Love Does NOT Conquer All

Many people mistake lust for love and like the old Johnny Cash song says, they get “married in a fever.” Sorry burst your romantic bubble, but marriages take a lot of work and love (especially lust) does not conquer all things. Some thing it will not conquer: (i) Disparate views on managing money; (ii) Rigidly held religious differences; (iii)  Conflicting long-term goals; (iv) Troubled family histories; (v) Abusive behavior.

2.   Never Be Too Busy to Spend Time Together

Finding opportunities to be alone together is extremely important; especially for people with children.  Children benefit most when their parents have a healthy relationship.  Many people who wind up in my office are in relationships where one or both parties simply stopped working on their relationships and stopped dating their spouse.  Find time to have dinner alone (without the kids), watch TV and share a bowl of popcorn – sit on the couch together; put down the smartphone and have a conversation.  Never forget that you could lose your spouse.  Even the President of the United States finds time for date night.

3.  SEX – Keep Having It
We generally do not have to delve too deeply into people’s personal lives during in divorce cases.  However, to be “separated” as that term is defined in the law means to not be engaging in sex with the other spouse.  Many people who are getting divorced have not had sex with their spouse in months or even years. When someone tells me that, I am pretty sure I can see at least part of the problem with the marriage relationship. 

I heard a speaker one time make the statement that women need an emotional connection to have sex; men need sex to feel an emotional connection. When it is not happening in a marriage relationship, it is usually a sign of bigger problems. Moreover, the lack of sex in a marriage relationship could lead to infidelity which is the least forgiven sin in a marriage. Again, never forget that you could lose your spouse and there is someone out there who would gladly take him/her from you.

LATER THIS WEEK WE WILL POST PART TWO OF THIS ARTICLE.  If you have not already, be sure to like us on Facebook so that you never miss an article.

Photo courtesy of Serendipity Diamonds

Why Are Expert Witnesses Important to My Case?

Why Are Expert Witnesses Important to My Case?

Many lawyers will tell you that the truth is whatever can be proven in the courtroom. Oftentimes, in order to prove a specific fact it is necessary to call in an expert witness to testify about that fact or subject area. An expert witness is someone who by virtue of education, training, skill, or experience has expertise and specialized knowledge in a particular subject beyond that of the average person sufficient that others may rely upon that person’s opinion in that area as an assistance to the judge. Basically, they know more about a particular subject than you, the lawyers, or the judge and can help the judge decide your case.

Expert witnesses may be needed for many different reasons in your divorce. Some examples of expert witnesses are:

  • Custodial evaluators
  • Real estate appraisers
  • Personal property appraisers (e.g. antiques, special collections, etc.)
  • Mental health professionals
  • Business valuators
  • Forensic accountants
  • Vocational experts

An expert witness may be needed to establish the value of certain property, discuss the physical, mental or emotional health of one of the parties or children, whether one spouse is concealing assets, or any other point that would assist the judge in making a decision. Early on in your case and as the case progresses, your attorney should discuss with you the need for possible expert witnesses. More than likely, you will need to hire someone with whom neither you nor your spouse has had a previous relationship to avoid a conflict of interest. In other words, you are probably not going to be able to use your family accountant to conduct a business valuation.

You should be prepared for the fact that expert witnesses will charge for their services. Some of those services are not cheap either. While there are provisions in the rules to petition the court for advancement of fees for retention of expert witnesses from a higher wage earning spouse, many judges seem hesitant to order it. However, some judges will appoint an expert witness and direct that the parties split the cost. This avoids a “battle of experts” where each side has an expert and the judge has to decide which one to believe.

So what happens if you simply do not have the money to hire an expert and the court will not order the other party to advance those expenses? This can create a very difficult situation depending on the facts of your case. While you and your attorney may wish to present the case one way, if there are not sufficient funds, you will have to make do with what you have. It may also be an incentive to try to settle the case outside of court without being forced to rely on expert testimony. If financing your litigation is going to be a major hurdle to the success of your case, you need to discuss your options with your attorney sooner rather than later.

Photo courtesy of Brad Shorr

My Teenage Son May Have Gotten a Girl Pregnant! What Do I Do?

My Teenage Son May Have Gotten a Girl Pregnant! What Do I Do?

Your son walks into the room and you can tell something is wrong. Something is weighing heavily on his mind. After a long pause that hangs in the room for what seems like an eternity, he says, “I need to talk.” He then goes on to tell you that his girlfriend has informed him that she is pregnant. What are you going to do?

Children having children is a real problem in our country. As a parent the thought of a teenager becoming a parent is scary and a very real concern. The time to talk about sex education is over, now we have to deal with this situation.

First of all, no legal obligations actually attach until the baby is actually born. That is not a personal pro-life or pro-choice stance, that is just what the law is. Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to open up the lines of communication to determine how the families are going to deal with the circumstances in which they find themselves.

Let us assume for the sake of this article that the mother has decided that she is going to keep the baby. Terminating the pregnancy or placing the child for adoption open up a plethora of other legal issues that we can discuss at a later time. Before doing anything, the putative father should make sure that he is, in fact, the father of this child.  This can actually be done in utero through a process called amniocentesis. Essentially, some amniotic fluid is extracted through a needle inserted into the amniotic sac. Although it is a routine procedure, it is still considered invasive and the greatest risk is the risk of miscarriage. According to the Mayo Clinic the risk of miscarriage is between 1 in 400 to 1 in 200. The much safer alternative is to perform a DNA test once the baby is born. That test involves swabbing the mouths of each parent and the child with a cotton swap.

If little Johnny turns out to be the father, then there are other issues. He is most likely going to be required to pay child support. Since the child is under four years old, the court does not have to impute any income to the mother. The court may impute full time minimum wage to your son. Imputing income means that the court, for purposes of calculating child support, will assume that the father can earn at least that much money. That would work out to over $240 per month in child support and a requirement to pay for work/school related childcare and uninsured medical expenses. If the child is receiving Medicaid, the state will go after him for reimbursement of those benefits. Since he is still a minor, they will most likely come after you.  Further, under the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), and the mother may seek through the court to have the paternal grandparent’s income “deemed available” for child support purposes.

In addition to these issues, comes the issues of custody and timesharing with the newborn child which would be determined on a best interest standard. Since the grandparents of the new minor parents will be involved as well, it can create an extremely complex situation. A better alternative would be to have that talk with little Johnny about the birds and the bees sooner rather than later.

Photo courtesy of TipsTimesAdmin

Should I Talk to My Spouse During Our Divorce?

Should I Talk to My Spouse During Our Divorce?

Recently I was involved in a case where it was quite obvious that the other attorney had advised his client not to speak to my client about settlement negotiations. This was a case where the parties had been separated a while and there really was not that much to fight over but the other spouse simply would not sit down and talk to my client about the case. Motions were filed, letters between attorneys were exchanged hearings were set and bills increased. Ultimately, the case got settled for right about what my client wanted to settle it for in the first place. After the fact, my client confirmed that the other spouse’s attorney had, in fact, discouraged communication between the parties that could have resulted in a much quicker resolution (there was also some indication that the attorney was not passing along our settlement proposals, but that is an entirely different problem).

This illustrates a significant problem in a divorce case.  Divorce cases, unlike most civil lawsuits, involve people who know each other. Granted it is probably not wise for two litigants in a car accident case to communicate directly on a regular basis, but that is not usually the case in a divorce. Regardless of whether the parties in a divorce are talking settlement or not, they are most likely going to have to talk about some things. Whether it is transporting little Johnny to the baseball game, who is getting the blender, or who paid the car insurance, there is most likely going to be some communication.

I am a big proponent of keeping the lines of communication open as much as possible during a divorce case. You and your spouse know your lives, and your children’s lives, hopefully, better than anyone else in the world. Moreover, studies routinely show that people who have a hand in the resolution of their case are much more satisfied with the outcome. If you and your spouse can sit down over a cup of coffee and hammer out at least some of your issues, you should go for it as long as you discuss any ultimate agreement with your divorce attorney before signing anything. It will save you money, time, and heartache. If you talk to an attorney who discourages you from talking to your spouse without a valid reason, you should ask yourself why you are getting that advice and who stands to benefit.

Admittedly, there are occasions when talking with the other spouse is not a good idea. In situations of domestic violence, it may not be safe to do so or there could be a court order in place that prohibits communication.  Further, there are some relationships that have become so toxic that it is not a good idea to talk with the other spouse without an attorney or other person present as a buffer. As always, discuss your particular situation with your attorney to figure out what is best for you.

Photo courtesy of Search Engine People Blog

WHAT TO EXPECT IN DIVORCE COURT PART 3, FROM YOUR DIVORCE JUDGE

WHAT TO EXPECT IN DIVORCE COURT PART 3, FROM YOUR DIVORCE JUDGE

We have previously discussed what to expect from yourselfand from your divorce lawyer.  However, perhaps the most important person in the courtroom is the judge. After all it is the judge who will actually be deciding your case. That judge will have certain expectations of you and you should know what to expect from the judge.

1.              Expect the judge to expect you to follow the rules and the process. The judge will be juggling your case along with dozens of others. He or she will expect you and your attorneys to follow rules and procedure to work towards settling the case or narrowing the issues before trial. In following these rules and procedures, you will most likely be required to attend mediation, a settlement conference, other procedural hearings, and submit filings prior to a trial. While you may chafe under these requirements, rest assured the judge finds them very important. Failing to cooperate in any of these steps, will damage your credibility with the court.
2.              Expect the judge to limit the time you have to present your case. The judge will expect your lawyer and your spouse’s lawyer to give the Court a time estimate of how long it will take to present the case for trial. The more time needed to present the case, the more difficult it will be to fit your case into the Court’s calendar. Nevertheless, giving the court an estimate too short is not wise either. It could lead to an upset Family Law Judge and your matter continued anyway. Alternatively, it could hamper your attorney’s ability to present your case. Many judges will keep a close eye on the time to present a case. If a case it set for three hours, your lawyer gets one and a half hours to present your side of things. The time limits placed on a hearing may have a bearing on what witnesses and evidence you are able to present at trial.
3.              Expect the judge to expect you to be civil and follow the rules and orders of court. Despite the anger you may feel against your spouse, the court will still expect a certain level of decorum in the courtroom. Fits of rage or emotional outbursts will not help your case in any way.
4.              Expect that you probably will not be completely happy with the Court’s decision. Judges encourage the parties to reach an agreement at every step of the procedure. If the Court is required to make a decision in your case, most judges operate with the same rule of thumb. That rule is simply, “if everyone walks out of the courtroom upset, the Court has probably been fair.” While I am not saying that I ascribe to this sentiment, it is one I have heard from several judges over the years.

Knowing what to expect of the person in control of your immediate fate and what that person expects from you, will increase your chances of success.
Photo courtesy of Sol M. Wurtzel (Internet Archive) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
WHAT TO EXPECT IN DIVORCE COURT PART 2, FROM YOUR DIVORCE LAWYER

WHAT TO EXPECT IN DIVORCE COURT PART 2, FROM YOUR DIVORCE LAWYER

As we previously discussed, understanding what to expect in divorce court can greatly reduce the stress you will undoubtedly experience.  Similarly, you should know what to expect from your divorce lawyer. This will allow you to plan and be of the utmost assistance in the presentation of your case.
1.              In the weeks leading up to your hearing expect the requests for information from your divorce lawyer to increase. These may be requests for updated financial documents, photographs, possible witnesses and contact information, etc. The quicker you can respond to these requests the better prepared your attorney can be. Your lawyer must have time to review the information you provide, most likely provide it to the other lawyer, and determine how best to present such information to the court. Waiting until the last minute to provide requested information to your lawyer will only make it more difficult to prepare for your case.
2.              Expect to meet with your lawyer to prepare for your hearing. Your lawyer should be going over trial strategy, possible evidence, and possible witnesses throughout the representation as he builds your case. As the trial date nears, these meetings should increase and include an explanation of what you can expect at trial and as well as your testimony.
3.              Expect that on occasion you may have difficulty reaching your attorney.  Just as the time your attorney will spend with you and working on your case, understand that he will from time to time have to spend that same amount of time on other cases. Rest assured, when the time comes, your lawyer will be focusing on your case and putting other cases on hold.
4.              Expect your lawyer will be communicating with your spouse’s attorney. While you may have extremely hard feelings towards your spouse, or even your spouse’s attorney, understand that family law attorneys routinely have cases with one another and regularly communicate. Moreover, the rules of procedure and the Court will expect the attorneys to communicate to try to resolve as many issues as possible.
5.              Expect that your divorce lawyer will be prepared. During your discussions and trial preparations, your lawyer should be able to explain to you a trial strategy, how that strategy will be presented and what the other side may present. This will further help you to be prepared yourself and more calm on the day of trial.

Divorce court is scary; no question about it. However, having a prepared and skilled lawyer at your side can calm those fears.
Photo courtesy of peggydavis66
WHAT TO EXPECT IN DIVORCE COURT PART 1: FROM YOURSELF

WHAT TO EXPECT IN DIVORCE COURT PART 1: FROM YOURSELF

Divorce court can be scary.  Judges and lawyers may not think so since we are there almost everyday. However, for most parties, it is the first time they have ever been in a courtroom and they find themselves fighting for their children, their livelihood and their very future. Being prepared for what to expect can help you perform much better and put your mind at ease. A skilled family law attorney will take the time to sit down with you and prepare you for trial.  The following is what to expect from yourself in a divorce court proceeding.
1.              Expect to be nervous, everyone else does.  Like I said, you are fighting for your children, your livelihood and future. The judge certainly expects you to be nervous and it is okay. Indeed, seeming to be stoic and unemotional in a child custody case may convey the mistaken impression that you do not care. However, some people get in court and become nervous, then believe that everyone, particularly the judge, will see that they are nervous and question their honesty. Then they become even more nervous and it becomes a vicious circle. Relax. Keep in mind, all you have to do when testifying is talk. You have probably been doing that since you were two years old.
2.              Expect to know everything about your case. If you think all you have to do is show up because your lawyer will know everything about your case, you are setting yourself up for failure.  No one knows your life better than you do. Prepare yourself. Review all of the pleadings from your case. Review financial documents that will be relevant to your case. Review statements made by you and the other party or any witness. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
3.              Expect that things are not black and white in divorce court. While you may see things as clear and evident, judges do not always see things as such. This is further complicated by the fact that divorce court operates under the rules of evidence. While something may be the truth, if it cannot be established within the bounds of the rules, the court cannot consider it.
4.              Expect that you will tell the truth, even if the other party does not. While this should go without saying, I will go ahead and say it. There may be a certain temptation to bend the truth or flat out lie to improve your case. Do not give into that temptation. For one, you will be committing perjury and subject yourself to criminal sanctions. Second, when (not if) your falsehood is exposed, your credibility will be destroyed. Finally, there is nothing more powerful than to simply tell the truth.

Preparing yourself for the terrifying experience of court will go a long way to increasing the odds of a successful outcome.
Photo courtesy of Calsidyrose