February is Divorce Month in Massachusetts because there are so many divorces filed that month. So, it is safe to assume that people are right now considering what process to use, that is – Adversarial, Mediation or Collaborative. Elsewhere in DivorcingOptions.com you can read about these three processes in detail.
If your considering divorce, now is the time to talk with someone who knows what he is talking about. And, he is talking about calling a truce to the war and getting a peace settlement. Call Anthony.
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My colleage Susan Lillis has written an excellent article on the annual question of “How do we handle the children at Christmas time?”
From my experience as a Collaborative Divorce Attorney, Mediator and past GAL, I cannot stress the value of “divorcing families” developing their own holiday traditions which can be more beneficial than the “alternating scenario”.
Even for divorcing couples who get along and are working towards an amiable resolution, holiday visitation can be a contentious point of discussion. And unless you have been divorced before, questions are many:
Who goes where for Thanksgiving?
Where will the kids be on Christmas morning to open up presents from Santa?
What are appropriate arrangements for the Jewish high holy days?
What about spending time with grandparents during the holidays?
Some divorcing couples will try to keep things as close as possible to the pre divorce practices for the sake of the children — even to the point of spending time as a family during the holiday. But for most couples the only solution is to try to divide up their time with the children over the holidays. For example, the kids spend Christmas Eve and morning with Mom and Christmas dinner and the rest of the day with Dad. Or, the kids are with Dad Thanksgiving until 3 pm and with Mom from 3 pm through bed time.
From what I have seen as an attorney over the past 25 years, holiday sharing, in an effort to keep things close to the same as before the divorce, does not work over the long-term. In my opinion, you are much better off defining one holiday as Mom’s and one as Dad’s (e.g. the kids go to Mom’s for Christmas and half of vacation week and Dad’s for the rest of the week and New Year’s).
Where sharing can and does work is for religious celebrations that involve multiple days (e.g. Chanukah, Passover, etc.) when it’s important to both parents to spend some time with the kids each year. That should be part of the discussion during mediation or collaborative divorce.
That is not to say holiday sharing cannot work at all (for some couples and families it does). Yet based solely on couples I’ve worked with, the ones who most often end up back in front of the judge to alter the holiday schedule are the ones who try to divide holidays.
What starts out with the best of intentions can end up with one parent feeling slighted if they perceive their time with the children to be shorter than or less valuable than the time allotted to their ex. In a worse case scenario, this can result in an annual dissatisfaction around the holiday that is invariably communicated to the children, ruining the holiday for them as well.
Perhaps worse than that is the shared schedule puts the children in bad situations. For example, they end up sitting at two Thanksgiving dinner tables and aren’t hungry for more food at the second dinner. Or, the entire day is spent opening presents. That can be overwhelming to younger children, particularly at the end of the day.
The best solution I’ve seen is for couples to create a schedule for holiday visitation that alternates from year to year. One year the kids are with Dad for Thanksgiving, the next year with Mom, and so forth and so on. Same with Christmas or New Year’s. Since each parent has exactly the same schedule for the holiday on alternating years there is a lot less to argue about.
In my opinion, alternating also works better than sharing holidays because it helps families to accept the reality that things are different now. That does not mean worse. Just different.
Accepting the new reality helps parents develop new holiday traditions that can be just as meaningful as the traditional ones (e.g. opening presents when they come to Dad’s house for New Year’s). It also forces parents to put their relationship with their children during the holidays first, before meeting extended family obligations.
One of the things I always tell clients is that a divorce agreement has to not only be one that works for your family now, but five-to-10 years from now. If the holidays are important to you, then it should not be a detail of the agreement to be glossed over. Many couples think they can work it out on their own. The divorced couples who can do that are few and far between.
Having a definitive holiday schedule reduces the likelihood of a return trip to court to alter the agreement and creates the foundation of the new holiday traditions that divorced parents and their children will figure out. That, in turn, will help families enjoy and get the most out of their holiday time together.
DO YOU KNOW A GOOD LAWYER WHO DOES INTER GALACTIC SPACE LAW?
Actually, I don’t; but if you needed one, I would make the effort to find one.
Besides providing arbitration, mediation and collaborative representation, I act as a Primary Care Attorney who can refer you to the experienced lawyer you need.
Recently, I received a request for an elder care planning attorney. I was happy to refer the family to a trusted attorney who was an experienced elder care and trust lawyer.
Today, I received a “thank you” from the family I referred to the elder care planning and trust attorney. The “thank you” note described the attorney as:
… lovely, very kind and “down to earth”. Everyone in my family said how [she was] nice, kind and totally explained things to us. Again thank you, thank you, thank you.
One of the most rewarding experiences for me is to receive positive feedback from someone I referred to a good attorney. My network of experienced, respected attorneys is available for almost any need, for example – a death in the family needs a probate attorney; an accident needs a negligence accident attorney; planning for the future needs an estate lawyer; winning the Lottery needs… well you know what I mean.
If you are facing divorce, you may be feeling a lot of uncertainty. If you are also having financial difficulties, you may feel more uncertainty. This post is intended to provide information and resources to help you understand a different alternative when facing divorce; an alternative that may give you more certainty.
What is Limited Assistance Representation (LAR)?
Limited Assistance Representation allows you to hire me to help you with some, but not all, of your divorce proceedings. In a written agreement, you and I outline exactly what I am expected to do. Here are some areas in which I can help you:
Limited Assistance for a Court Appearance: This allows you to hire me to go with you to court and “appear” for you, one appearance at a time, for example, appear at a Pre-Trial Conference.
Limited Assistance for a Service: This allows you to hire me for one type of service, for example, to review a separation agreement.
Limited Assistance for Document Preparation: This allows you to hire me to prepare a document to be filed with the court, for example, a Pre Trial Memorandum.
Limited Assistance for Help in Negotiating: This allows you and I to focus on those issues and approaches that will most likely achieve settlement.
Benefits of Limited Assistance Representation For You:
Limited Assistance Representation can be helpful if you have financial restrictions keeping you from hiring an attorney for the entire divorce process. With Limited Assistance, you only pay for the services you need.
Limited Assistance Representation allows you to hire an attorney for “game changing” events such as the Pre-Trial Conference with the judge when an attorney’s experience can make a difference in the outcome of the Conference.
Is Limited Assistance Representation Appropriate For You?
Limited Assistance Representation is appropriate when you do not wish to represent yourself and cannot hire an attorney for the entire case, but you still need representation for a specific matter.
Limited Assistance Representation is appropriate when you feel comfortable taking on certain responsibilities, for example, the preparation of the Financial Statement and the gathering, organizing and producing of financial records.
Limited Assistance Representation is appropriate for an existing court matter or a matter soon to be filed with the court.
Under the law people who represent themselves are not entitled to special considerations or leniency. This is important because many people believe that if they represent themselves the judge must “go easy” on them.
The two most common divorce alternative dispute resolution (ADR) procedures are mediation and divorce arbitration. While each is an effective alternative, each serves a different purpose and each has its own format.
Divorce mediation is a form of dispute negotiation between divorcing parties. It is led by a neutral called a mediator. The mediator’s sole responsibility is to help the parties reach an agreement on the three major concerns of any divorce – the children, support and property division.
The mediator does not decide any issue. The mediator helps focus the parties on producing a written settlement agreement that addresses the issues that a judge would address in a divorce trial or at an uncontested settlement hearing.
In mediation, it is wise and useful for each party to have their own attorney; however, unlike court litigation, a party’s attorney does not usually attend mediation sessions. Each attorney acts as an advisor to his or her client on how the “settlement hearing judge” will respond to the settlement agreement or parts of it being considered by the parties.
Mediation is appropriate whenever two parties want to sit with each other and “work-out” their own issues, rather than engage in litigation.
Arbitration is a form of dispute decision making where a neutral called an arbitrator decides the dispute. The arbitrator’s sole responsibility is to decide a dispute between the parties. The dispute can be over any divorce issue. The arbitrator’s decision is called an Award. The Award, or its substance, is inserted into the parties’ settlement agreement. As a general rule, arbitration awards are binding on the parties. This means that, except in certain unusual circumstances, the parties cannot appeal the decision.
When the decision to arbitrate a dispute is made, it is wise and useful for each party to have their own attorney. At the arbitration hearing, each attorney will present the respective position of each party. Presentations can be simple and direct because they are not laden with the many rules associated with court litigation.