Author Archives: Shel Harrington
Author Archives: Shel Harrington
The divorce is on. Not what you had planned when you said “I do” way back when. The hostility has grown to the point of avoiding even being in the same room together, let alone actually speaking to each other. Every communication takes multiple steps as it is relayed and translated through attorneys. Costs are mounting. Emotions are escalating. Both sides are suiting up – ready to play hardball. Family members, co-workers, neighbors are dragged into the game and renamed “witnesses.” Each side wields a heavy bat – ready to knock the other side clean out of the ballpark with a mighty swing.
How do we take that BAT out of the BATTLE?
One good option is enlisting the help of a trained, objective third party – a mediator – to help the parties resolve their differences through negotiation and creative problem-solving. The process is called mediation. The mediator is not a decision-maker – he or she assists the parties in making their own decisions.
“Tell me one good reason that I should sit in the same room with that *#%! unreasonable spouse of mine whose face I can barely stand to look at right now and attempt to make agreements,” you say – probably while stamping your foot.
Well, I’ll give you five reasons. And they’re all good.
The costs of mediation vary widely depending on the mediator and the area you live in. The same tips set forth in last month’s post How to Find a Divorce Lawyer could be used to find a good mediator.
If you are interested in getting you and your children through the difficult divorce process with less cost and chaos, try mediation. There is no 100% guarantee that you will reach a settlement in mediation. But there is a 100% guarantee with a trial that you won’t have a deciding vote in the outcome. It’s the end of the game, both parties are out, and bases are loaded with issues in conflict. Who do you want to take the final bat – you or an unknown?
If you have had an experience with mediation or have suggestions for using mediation, please let us know in the comment section below.
I have invented a great product. If you buy this concept, you can revolutionize your marriage. You can turn a bickering household into a haven of peace. You will find yourself on the highroad of life.
Imagine this: he is putting away clean dishes and he asks where something goes. I have several response options:
(1) Thanks for helping – it goes in the second drawer.
(2) I appreciate you asking instead of shoving it somewhere – it goes in the second drawer.
(3) (delivered after a sigh that would make a martyr feel like a whiner) It goes in the same place it has gone for the eleven years that we have lived in this house – in the second drawer.
In the old days, I would have used option three without a thought – in spite of the fact that it took twice as long (three times as long if you count the sigh) to deliver as the other two choices. Now, before answering, I grab my Shrew-Be-Gone inhaler and suck deeply. This innovative product forces logical thinking into the brain and sorts through options so quickly that the listener isn’t aware of a hesitation. While inhaling from the apparatus questions like ‘Which response is more likely to result in him helping again?’ and ‘Which response is more likely to result in him not shoving the butter dish under the counter with the cooking trays?’ are processed in nanoseconds.
Now, women, I hear you saying: “OK – I admit it – this is a product that I could use. But do you have something for him?
You bet – the new and improved Snark-Off.
This simple patch sticks to any smooth portion of the body. It enables the wearer to answer questions the first time they’re asked – thus avoiding the raised voice on the third repeat question and the snarled “I heard you the first two times.”
In addition, it releases a response-time expander. This allows the mate to answer such questions as ‘What do you want for dinner?’ or ‘Where would you like to go?’ with more thoughtful answers. Something other than the standard ‘I don’t know’ or the famous ‘You pick’ – which we all know is pretend- consideration for the other and the equivalent of ‘I can’t be bothered putting any thought into it.’
Both products include an invisible adapter so they can be used by either gender.
Try one for 30 days and if it doesn’t change the atmosphere in your home I will give you a 100% refund of what you actually paid me for this product. Try both, and I’ll double that offer.
Do you have an invention to transform the dynamic between spouses? Pitch your product in the comment section below.
We’ve all heard it – if you want a better marriage, make time for you and your mate. Have a date night – once a week. Or at least monthly. Go. Do it. Date. There are lots of good reasons. Psychologists are telling you to do it. Counselors, pastors, wise family members and authors are telling you to do it. But is anybody telling you how during those times when the month lasts longer than your paycheck?
OK – so maybe somebody mentioned something about going to the park, taking a bike ride or stashing the kids at a neighbor’s to have a movie night at home. Not bad options. But let’s get a little more creative. Following are ways to date your mate for very little cost. (I know it says “free” in the title – that was to get your attention. It would be more accurate to say “free-ish” – but I’m pretty sure that’s not a real word.)
In addition, call factories’ human resource departments and talk to people you know who work in manufacturing. Sometimes factories that don’t have public tours will allow employees to show someone around. When my husband worked at General Motors he was allowed to schedule times to conduct private tours (seeing a whole car assembled was fascinating!). A client took me around the Coke plant. Visitors we met at a mutual friend’s arranged a private tour at the Pepperidge Farm plant when we visited family in Florida. Not only do you learn something new, but there are often samples. Although the GM factory didn’t allow us to take their product home, the food places had edible samples, the tennis shoes had discounts, and the brewery had repeat tourists!
And that wasn’t even every town within a 45 minute radius. Imagine if I had more time to look and added another 15 minutes to the allotted drive time – I could have monthly spousal dates booked up for the rest of the year. This category is why I had to qualify ‘free’ with a ‘low cost’ option. You will want to bring at least $7.00 to try one of the tasty treats available at these functions. I mean, who wants to go to Fried Onion Burger Day and leave burgerless? Or go to the Medieval Fair without noshing on a turkey leg the size of Rhode Island?
Take time to have a fun outing with your spouse – to do something different while enjoying each other. Now that you know it’s (almost) free, there’s no excuse not to!
Next month I will post Part 2 of this Date Your Mate series. Meanwhile, if you have a suggestion for a way to date the one you used to date for free(ish), please let us know in the comment section below.
The best way to avoid divorce is to not marry the wrong person. There’s no 100% guarantee when you pick a mate it’s the right choice. There is a way, however, to improve the odds. How? Glad you asked!
If you are buying a new car, you would likely look on the internet and find out everything you could about the model you’re interested in. Have there been any recalls? What’s its safety rating? What kind of mileage does it get? How will it hold up over time? The better informed you are, the better your judgment in making the decision about which vehicle you are going to invest in.
We should be no less informed about a person we are contemplating allowing into our life in more than a casual way. We need to know ahead of time – before investing time and emotion – if they are safe, honest, trustworthy, reliable. If you are considering dating somebody with a hope or possibility that love will bloom, it is smart to have some basic information about the character of the person you’re dealing with. Not taking the time to look for those answers makes you foolish. If you have children, it also makes you negligent.
So, what are we looking for? And where do we find it?
If your state has court dockets on-line, check there, also. Not only will you be able to see what the actual crime(s) they were charged with, you will be able to see what the disposition was – whether or not they served time, are on probation, or if something is actually pending. Many states have sex offender registries on a separate site.
Some law enforcement entities will disclose if there is an existing warrant for arrest. Helpful to know so you can avoid being in a situation where a routine traffic stop with your new pal turns into an episode of “Cops.”
Informing yourself is not cyber stalking – you are not employing any deception. You’re not even hiding your activity. When you mention something you learned about them on-line, are they flattered that you looked them up, or angry that you “invaded their privacy?”
There is no reasonable expectation of privacy with public records and information tossed out in social media. Peeking into someone’s briefcase when they leave the room, checking their caller ID while they refill your drink, and searching their medicine cabinet while using their bathroom is invasion of privacy. In contrast, looking up your potential more-than-just-a-friend’s criminal, civil and social media behavior is just common sense.
Oh yeah – while you’re at it – Google yourself so you know what they’ll see when they check you out!
If you have a tip about a helpful site to check or have had an experience that could have been avoided had you checked on-line resources, please let us know in the comment section below.
We have wiped out close family and friends, new bar members, and the best deal in town, so what’s left? I promise you there are other options. Better options. How do you find them? And how do you know the one you find is a good fit? Read on!
Word of Mouth/Referrals. For the few who are personally close to a Family Law attorney, the same attorneys who are too close to represent you are great go-tos for referrals because they will be familiar with their peers. An attorney you know and trust but doesn’t do family law may also be able to suggest a divorce attorney that has a good reputation in the community.
If you don’t know an attorney, ask friends/family members/co-workers who you know have had a divorce which attorney they used. Most will be pretty quick to let you know whether they had a positive or negative experience. For those who had a good experience and are recommending their attorney, ask if they knew the attorney prior to being represented. (If they used their own best friend/sister/dad you may want to get some more objective feedback.) Ask if they were kept well-informed throughout the process, if the attorney was receptive to questions, if the attorney seemed prepared at meetings and in court, and if the attorney’s bills were clear about what was charged for and how much was charged for each service.
If your source had a negative experience with their own counsel, ask what they thought of opposing counsel. Really. I am surprised how often I get calls that are referrals from one of my own client’s exes. Often the reason people don’t like the attorney they used is because the attorney their former spouse used came across as more professional, prepared and effective.
Professional listings. On-line lists and old-fashioned phone book listings still exist for a reason. This is a way to narrow the search from attorneys in general to attorneys who practice family law. Keep in mind, just because they say they do it doesn’t always mean they know how to do it or they are actually doing it. If your state has court cases listed on-line (your state bar association can tell you that) search for the prospective attorney’s name in that site and look at the type of cases they have had. Have they done quite a few divorces? Have they dealt with issues that you will be dealing with, such as contested custody, alimony, high assets, or large debts?
Once you have found a prospective attorney, check out their website – most will have one. Often the website will have basic information about divorce, answer frequently asked questions, and provide contact information for the firm. You can sometimes get an idea about how service oriented they are from their site. If you are still interested in them, contact them in the requested way, if one is indicated. Some attorneys offer a free consultation, some charge a fee to avoid people casually attorney-shopping who aren’t serious about hiring. A consultation without the commitment of hiring is an opportunity to meet the attorney and get basic questions answered about options, legal procedures, and the costs of the action. Make sure you are honest with the attorney about all the issues – good, bad, and ugly – so that you will receive relevant information and realistic costs. Be wary of any attorney who makes guarantees about outcomes or tells you your case is a slam-dunk – there is a difference between being confidant and being cocky.
If you are uncomfortable about hiring a particular attorney – whether it’s because you didn’t like the way they responded to you, you don’t care for their office atmosphere, or some vague feeling you can’t quite identify – go elsewhere. Just because they are a good attorney does not mean they are a good fit for you. It’s important that you hire somebody that you can work with because you will be a team – you know your spouse and the facts, the attorney knows the law. You need a marriage of both to obtain the best results in divorce.
Raisins are so gross I have to put on gloves to touch them. That’s why, when my husband spots freshly baked oatmeal raisin cookies that I have made with my own little (gloved) hands, he knows it’s all about him. Not because I had a hankering for cookies, not because I wanted a spoonful of cookie dough (ugh – raisin dust contamination), not because I enjoy the act of baking. The whole batch is his to do with as he wants with no worries about who will get the last cookie. And it makes him smile. Which makes me smile.
An ideal way to make our mates feel great is to give them a gift/a moment/a time that is all about them – with no ulterior agenda. Here are five suggestions:
Well, those are my 5 suggestions to make your mate feel great. Tell us about yours. Have you given or received in a way that was clear it was all about the other? Have a great idea for doing so? Share the wealth! (But keep it clean – my Mother reads this!)
Actually, these questions should be asked before you even say “I might.” Once the invitations have been sent out and a deposit has been made on the reception hall, it becomes more difficult to get honest discourse about expectations after marriage. By the time the flowers have been ordered and the gifts start arriving, the blissful couple focuses all attention on THE BIG DAY and the “happily-ever-after” is left to fend for itself. The earlier in the relationship that realistic expectations are discussed, the more likely that bad matches will be weeded out – leaving the parties to find someone whose marital philosophy is closer to their own. These 4 questions should be asked before wedding plans are discussed.
The best time to tackle these topics is in the getting-to-know-you dating period when learning about jumbo philosophical life-style differences aren’t traumatic. Differences are what make relationships interesting – most people aren’t looking for an opposite-gender clone. But some differences can be so divisive that, if not approached with realistic expectations, can turn an “I do” into a “Wish I didn’t.”
With divorce rates hovering over the 50% mark, do we really need instruction on how to get to divorce court? Apparently, finding that path is not a problem. The problem is that many do not knowingly choose the path – they wake up one day and find themselves on it. As a family law attorney, I hear the question: “How did this happen?” regularly. I hear it from clients, from my law students, and from total strangers at social gatherings as soon as they find out my profession.
We all know about the obvious routes to divorce court: affairs and domestic abuse. These very serious matters are the “Big Two.” But what about the large percentage of marriages that end up in divorce where there was no abuse, and there was no third party? How does one get to divorce court without one of the Big Two happening? Following are some suggestions.
1. Make sure that you separate funds and call it “your money” and “my money.” Divide up the bills so that one is responsible for the mortgage and the other is responsible for the electric bill, phone bill and other utilities. Keep track of who pays how much for groceries. This will create plenty of opportunities to argue about such things as which of you is doing your fair share, which of you is more responsible, how many lights are left on, who eats the most, and a myriad of other divisive topics.
A more unified approach gets people thinking in terms of “we” and “us” instead of “me” and “you” – but it leaves no clear-cut culprit to cast blame on if there is any financial problem. And if SHE doesn’t pay the electric bill, surely his portion of the living space won’t be as dark as hers – because, after all, SHE was the one responsible! If HE doesn’t pay the mortgage, surely the bank will allow HER to continue living in the house after foreclosure.
2. Spend hours on the computer – preferably in a chat room of sorts. Make sure you are seated in that position when your spouse gets home from work. As a matter of fact, it is even more productive to ask the spouse who just came home to whip up something for dinner and bring it to you.
This suggestion is not referring to dating chat rooms (which could lead to one of the Big Two). The reference is to any kind of chat room that becomes more important to you than showing interest in your spouse, getting necessary projects accomplished, reading to your children, and those other things touted by pro-family whiners.
3. Live like you want to live – and hide the bills from your spouse. This task can be accomplished in numerous ways – just be creative. For instance, always leave new purchases in the trunk until you have made sure that your spouse isn’t in the house. Ease new purchases into place and lie about how they were acquired if your spouse spots them (“This old thing? I found it in the attic”). Juggle the bills and only pay minimum amounts on the credit cards. Don’t worry about how you will eventually explain to your spouse why your car disappeared from the driveway when it gets repossessed – premature worry will take the fun out of enjoying the stuff you have right now.
4. Make sure you start out your marriage with as much stuff as your parents have. This is something that you and your spouse can do together. However, it may take longer for this route to cause problems because there is not the sneaky deception that goes with suggestion number three. But it is still a good way to create serious financial difficulties, and it allows you to live in a state of stress as you try to decide which bills to pay.
Don’t let it deter you that your parents worked for years to accumulate the things they own. Why shouldn’t you have them right from the start? After all, you became accustomed to living in a house that had such amenities. Besides, what would the neighbors think if you didn’t have that shiny new car you can’t afford in your driveway in front of the house that you can’t afford?
5. Have secrets with your children that you keep from your spouse. What better way for the children to think you are cool? You and the kids can team up against “the bad guy” in the house. Don’t give a thought to the fact that the children will someday move out and the relationship between you and your spouse may be severely damaged by the long-term deceptions. It’s all worth it because your kids will like you better than they like your spouse. Ignore the risk that they may not respect your authority or look to you for wise counsel. Any such risk is offset by the possibility that they will probably like you enough to share all the details of their first sexual encounter or alcohol binge.
6. Have an opposite gender platonic friend and discuss your marital problems with the person – make sure you quote that person often during arguments with your spouse. Disregard any complaints that your spouse voices about you spending time with that person. After all, maintaining your freedom and independence within the marriage is much more important than showing loving concern for your spouse’s feelings. To prove how independent and insensitive you can be, quote the friend’s viewpoints about how healthy it is to have friends of the opposite gender to give you perspective about your spouse’s feelings. This approach creates much more drama than simply listening to your spouse directly.
7. NEVER say “I’m sorry” or “I’m wrong.” Both of those expressions might allow your spouse to feel good about himself – even provide moments of feeling slightly superior. Block such good feelings at all costs because being right is everything. Ignore the fact that always “being” right may result in long-term loneliness – being right is its own reward!
8. Always make sure there is at least one person present when you point out your spouse’s flaws. There is no sense discussing something about your mate in a loving, non-combative way when you could just as easily wait until you have an audience. Your spouse’s embarrassment might lead to an argument which would avail you of more opportunities to publicly display your quick-wit at his or her expense. Try not to get distracted by a slumping of the shoulders or a defeated, hurt expression on your spouse’s face – remember, the goal here is to set up witnesses to your observations in case you need to later say: “I told you so.”
9. Any time your spouse mentions his job or favorite hobby, change the topic immediately. If you delay changing the topic and actually ask a question or encourage him to speak more about the job or hobby, he may think that you are somewhat interested. Which could lead to him talking about his interests again in the future. Which would mean less time talking about your interests. If your spouse has the audacity to try and change the topic back to his own interest, you can accuse him of being insensitive. Of course, you should wait to make that accusation until there is at least one other person present (refer back to suggestion number 8).
10. If your spouse seems depressed, explain to her that she has no right to feel that way. Point out all the reasons that she should be grateful. Totally discount her feelings. Let her know that you were not put on this earth to coddle her. Be self-righteous. Make sure that she is aware of each and every hardship you ever endured and how you too could be down if you were weak enough to permit such inadequacies. If you allow her to know that her feelings are valid and ask how you can help, she might expect understanding and hugs on a regular basis.
See? There doesn’t have to be high drama to get to divorce court. Each day is full of opportunities to be insensitive and trample on the feelings of the person that you once professed to love above all others. Each little rift is an opportunity to show how right you are. If you are willing to fully exploit each of these opportunities, you too could be well along the route to divorce court – without ever deliberately choosing that path.