What You DON’T Say to Your Children is in Their “Best Interest”

 

One of the biggest challenges facing clients who are involved in a custody dispute is remembering to keep their children, the subject of the dispute, out of it.  How successful or unsuccessful you are with this challenge could make or break your position with the judge in your case.

3 important things to remember:

  • While honesty and open communication is key to continuing a healthy relationship with your children, the play by play or status of your on-going custody case should never be a part of any conversation that you have with your children. Instead, reassure the children that you and your spouse are working together and will let the children know when there is resolution.

 

  • Discussing your ex’s past transgressions or their lack of parenting skills in the presence of your children will only hurt your children. These “conversations” that you may be having with your friends or family members while your children are within earshot are what judges often refer to as “disparaging remarks” and judges have little patience or tolerance for and neither parent should disparage the other parent in front of the children.    Set an example for how your children should act.  While you may have nothing good to say about your spouse keep your real feelings to yourself so you not fueling the fire.

 

  • Asking your children to choose between you and your ex is never acceptable – never. Your responsibility as a parent is to prioritize your children’s well-being before your own.    Divorce makes children feel vulnerable and fearful.    Reassure your children that they are important and you will always take care of them.

We’re Lawyers of the Day, and Much More!

We believe in volunteering.

The Probate and Family Courts in Middlesex and Norfolk Counties (which are located in Cambridge and Canton) have developed a Lawyer of the Day Program in partnership with the Administrative Offices of the Court and various Bar Associations.   Attorneys like us are asked to volunteer our time to provide justice to pro se litigants (i.e., those representing themselves).

As part of our firm philosophy, Suzana and I served as Lawyers of the Day in 2016 and annually before this, each providing a full day of legal services to those who appear at the courthouse and are in need assistance.    It was a grueling day full of sad circumstances.  My experience included two sisters in their early twenties who needed help becoming guardians for their 13 year old brother and disabled sister.  Their father recently died and their mother had disappeared.  The disabled sister was in a facility which wanted to transfer her but her Mother was unavailable to authorize the move.   The brother was being raised by his older sisters and the school needed to know who was legally in charge.    Other cases were similarly heart-wrenching.

Volunteering in the court made it clear how hard our court personnel work to help the public, and the toll it takes dealing with the circumstances of the less fortunate.

While Suzana and I volunteer our legal skills, and I volunteer as a Board member at two non-profit organizations,  Patryce volunteers and serves as an Ambassador for the Newton/Needham Chamber of Commerce and at her church where she serves on the scholarship committee.   She is in charge of welcoming new members to the Chamber and promoting community development.   There is no question that Patryce makes them feel welcome.

 

 

When to Say When

 

The decision “when to say when” with regards to ending your marriage is not a decision that is made after one day of thought, but rather over weeks, months and sometimes years.  Moving forward with a divorce is a life altering decision.  Because divorce affects almost every facet of your life it is not uncommon that we share our thoughts and feelings with friends, family members or even our attorneys prior to moving forward.  No one other than you can make that final decision, but there are 3 questions you should certainly ask yourself before starting a  divorce:

  • No regrets – One of the main reasons why making major life changing decisions is so difficult is that we are afraid that we will regret the decision in hindsight. However, if you exhaust every option to make your marriage work, i.e., effective communication with your partner, marriage counseling, etc. prior to making your decision, it will help relieve you of future feelings of regret.

 

  • Choosing yourself over your partner – It is not uncommon that while one person is incredibly unhappy in their marriage, their partner is happy, or at least sufficiently tolerant, with the state of their relationship. Disregarding your genuine feelings of marital unhappiness and dissatisfaction to avoid the guilt you may feel in disappointing your partner can lead you to depression, resentment and other physical symptoms.  To stay true to your heart and to yourself some action might be needed prior to choosing divorce.  Taking action is empowering.

 

  • What is best for your children – Staying together for the sake of the children is an outdated idea and a bad one. The fact that both of you are not sleeping in the same room, or under the same roof, is not reason enough to stay in an unhappy marriage.   What is best for your children is to ensure that they grow up with parents who are stable, focused, and able to provide guidance and love to their children.

Contact Grossman & Associates, Ltd. for guidance if you are thinking about a divorce at 617.969.0069.

 

 

 

Children and Divorce

One of the most challenging issues a parent going through a divorce has to deal with is what and how to tell their children about their divorce.  The heartbreak and sadness a parent feels as a result of the breakdown of the partnership they once had with their spouse often pales in comparison to the stress and concern one goes through when they think of their own child’s heartbreak and sadness over their divorce.

Although not an easy conversation to have with your children there are a few pointers that are important to keep in mind when discussing divorce with your children:

  • Honesty is the best policy – Telling your children the truth about why their parents are breaking up without disparaging the other parent can be a hard pill to swallow. Sticking to simple and honest explanations like “We can’t get along anymore” is enough information to ensure your children that your divorce is not a result of anything your children have done.
  • Reassurance – You can never say “I love you” too many times to your children during this time. Reassuring your children that although the feelings both you and your spouse have for each other may have changed, the feelings you and your spouse have for the children will never change.
  • Prepare them for the new normal – The uncertainty of what to expect in the future can create anxiety in children. Laying out a plan regarding living arrangements and parenting schedules can help ease a child’s concerns about their relationships with each of their parents, and their day-to-day routines.

 

Why Divorce is Sometimes the Band-Aid that Needs to be Ripped Off

Divorce can be heartbreaking, traumatic and painful for both spouses regardless of who initiated the break-up.  The length of time that it takes for a person to move on and heal from their divorce varies case by case and person to person.

People often believe the overwhelming feelings of sadness and unhappiness that they experience while going through the divorce process are the result of mourning the loss of their spouse and the life they had once shared together.  It is not uncommon that we recreate and distort our memories, subconsciously filtering our recollection of events through rose-colored glasses while completely dismissing the negative memories.

Although no two divorces are the same, the breakdown of any marriage is rarely, if ever caused by one single event, followed by an immediate filing for divorce from one or both spouses.  The path that leads people to divorce is usually a long, sad and lonely one and as creatures of habit we gradually adapt to accepting whatever life we find ourselves in instead of looking for a happier and more satisfying life.  Unfortunately, sometimes the path to living a satisfying and happy life can only happen by confronting the sharp pain of ending a chapter in your life in preparation for a new beginning.  Just like ripping off a band-aid, it hurts in the beginning – a lot– and then one day it doesn’t.  You soon find that you are able to look forward and not back, replacing the sad and lonely days that you thought you missed, with happy and fulfilling ones.

Effective Ways to Punish Your Ex

“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Gautama Buddha

Experienced divorce attorneys know what holding onto anger looks like from the eyes of a betrayed spouse.  The betrayed spend emotional energy defying, resisting, delaying and even punishing their betrayers.  Despite the warnings and guidance of their attorneys, the betrayed are on their own emotional journeys while their attorneys follow at a close distance with a broom and dustpan to manage the mess.   Volatile emails and text messages between spouses escalate.  Sometimes the spouses enlist the children for support.   Excessive spending on legal fees and other expenses increase. These are the most common ways the betrayed will attempt to punish their exes and the most damaging to them both emotionally and financially.  Sometimes an apology soothes the anger, and on other occasions it is a disappointing exercise.

The betrayer is no better.   Instead of contrition, the betrayer is emboldened by the new relationship, encouraged to fight back, inflames the conflict by introducing the children to the new relationship, or becoming less available to them, and retaliates with financial withholding and communication black-outs.

How can these reactions be managed?     Here are our top 3 “Helpful” techniques:

  • Take Care of You First – Find a therapist to acknowledge and redirect emotional reactions; make time for yourself; exercise; meditation; a healthier lifestyle.
  • Avoid Engaging with Your Ex – This is more difficult when children are involved but isolating yourself from their social media websites and intentional run-ins will ease your anxiety and heighten your ex’s curiosity. Take the emotion out of your interactions.  Adopt new flexibility techniques and avoid being too reactive.
  • Keep Busy – Time heals wounds. Being busy makes your time more constructive and reduces your focus on the conflict.  Forming new and building on current friendships brings new dimensions to fill in the missing pieces.

Getting divorced is one of the worst times in a person’s adult life.  It can rarely be considered a positive experience.  Minimizing the bad experience and keeping you healthy to live happy again is the goal.

Divorce Toolbox: Motion to Dismiss

Although not a common occurrence, a Motion to Dismiss is an available tool to a pending Complaint for Contempt or Modification.  If the motion is allowed the pending complaint ends by dismissal.  The motion usually involves an additional hearing, a hold in litigating the underlying complaint, and additional legal fees.

A Motion to Dismiss may be asserted as a defense for any of the following reasons under Rule 12 (b):

  • Lack of Jurisdiction over the subject matter;
  • Lack of jurisdiction over the person;
  • Improper venue;
  • Insufficiency of process;
  • Insufficiency of service of process;
  • Failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted;
  • Failure to join a party under Rule 19;
  • Misnomer of a party; and
  • Pendency of a prior action in a court of the Commonwealth.

 

Although all of these nine (9) defenses are theoretically available, number six (6) – Failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted – is most commonly used.  This defense forces the court to evaluate the facts claimed in the Plaintiff’s complaint and determine whether the facts, if true, would lead to the relief the Plaintiff is seeking.  If so, then the Motion to Dismiss must be denied.  If not, the motion is allowed and the case is over.   Filing a Motion to Dismiss is an appropriate tool to throw out a frivolous case.

There are certain cases where a Motion to Dismiss will certainly fail.   For instance, on a defense of laches (delay in bringing an action) for unpaid child support and/or alimony.  In other words, one can file a Complaint to collect unpaid child support and/or alimony even though a long period of time has passed.  Grossman & Associates, Ltd. recently defeated a Motion to Dismiss brought by an ex-husband/father who unilaterally terminated his alimony/child support obligation in 1998.  The case will go on to determine how much he still owes.

 

 

 

What to Expect When You’re Divorcing: Trial

Trial is the moment everyone has been waiting for…the end of the divorce.   After years of planning, negotiating and conflict, this is the day that you have been preparing for since the idea of the divorce began.

Trial preparation takes organization, strategy and legal fees.  Depending on the extent of the open issues, trial preparation usually starts weeks before your first day of trial.  At the trial each side presents to the Judge the evidence that you have been gathering in support of your argument, including testimony from witnesses and identification of documents from both sides which are admitted into evidence.  Both before and during the trial the two attorneys can “stipulate” to the admission of documents which they agree upon.  Stipulations expedite the trial process but are not guaranteed.

At trial the attorneys give opening statements, witnesses are called by the Plaintiff first, then the Defendant. Each witness provides “direct examination” and suffers through “cross-examination.”   Witnesses are used as the vehicle to introduce and explain documents relevant to the case.  After all witnesses are called the attorneys give closing arguments summarizing their positions.   After hearing, and examination of the evidence, the Judge will enter a written decision, called a Judgment.   It can take months to get the judge’s written decision.  Your patience during this time will be tested.

Always remember that the only time it is too late to settle is when the Judge has issued a written   decision.  If there is an agreement on ALL of the issues at any time, including after trial has begun, the judge’s decision can be avoided, and YOUR written agreement of the issues will prevail instead as a final judgment and resolution of your divorce.

 

 

 

What To Expect When You’re Divorcing: The Pre-Trial Conference

 

The Pre-Trial Conference hearing is the window to the light at the end of the tunnel.  The Pre-Trial Conference can be used as the date to finalize settlement and have the Judge enter a final Judgment on your case.  In the event that you do not reach a final settlement at the time of the Pre-Trial Conference, you at least leave the hearing with an idea of the Judge’s thoughts on your case, and a trial date.

After a divorce complaint is filed with the court, a trial cannot be scheduled until you have had a Pre-Trial Conference hearing before the Judge.  Pre-Trial Conferences are not optional and must take place in order to keep your case moving forward.

Prior to the Pre-Trial Conference hearing, we must do the following:

  1. The spouses and their counsel must attend an in-person meeting (often referred to as a “four way meeting”) to discuss what the issues in the case and what if any issues can be resolved by agreement between the spouses. If there is a restraining order between the spouses, this requirement may be waived.
  2. A Pre-Trial Memorandum must be prepared by each of of the spouse’s Attorneys. If a spouse is appearing pro se and does not have an Attorney they are not excused from having to prepare and submit a Pre-Trial Memorandum to the court.  This memorandum describes: the undisputed facts in the case; disputed facts in the case; a procedural history of the case; the contested issues in the case; the status of discovery; the length of time you are requesting for trial; the witnesses you plan on calling; and the evidence you plan on submitting to the Judge.
  3. A current financial statement has to be submitted along with the Pre-Trial Memorandum if any of the issues before the Judge have to do with a financial matter.

The underlying goal of the Pre-Trial hearing is to resolve the case without having to go to trial.  If direct negotiations between the spouses and their attorneys encounter an obstacle, the judge will eliminate the obstacle at the Pre-Trial Conference.

 

 

 

Passive Aggressive Behavior in Children: Hidden Anger in Kids

Kids use passive-aggressive behavior to control parents and avoid responsibility. Here’s how to understand their behavior and respond to it effectively.  Check out this great article from Empowering Parents!

Source: Passive-Aggressive Child Behavior | Empowering Parents