Articles Posted in Divorce

An interesting decision out of Suffolk County recently established custodial rights of a non-biological parent who was part of a polyamorous relationship. In Dawn M. v. Michael M., the court essentially affirmed the validity of a non-traditional family composed of two women and one man.

Though their names have been revealed in the media, for our purposes we will call the family members Mom 1, Mom 2, Dad, and Child.

Mom 1 and Dad were a married couple who had attempted to conceive with great difficulty. They utilized in vitro fertilization, but unfortunately Mom 1 miscarried. It was after this that the couple befriended Mom 2, who eventually moved into the lower level of the duplex that Mom 1 and Dad occupied. The three grew close and eventually came to consider themselves a family. Mom 2 moved into the upstairs flat a short time later.

After some discussion, the trio decided to go back to the infertility doctor in order to inseminate Mom 2 with Dad’s sperm—but the doctor refused to take part because Dad and Mom 2 were not married. So they decided to do it the old-fashioned way.

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Kafkaesque: of, relating to, or suggestive of Franz Kafka or his writings; especially: having a nightmarishly complex, bizarre, or illogical quality, as in Kafkaesque bureaucratic delays.
(Miriam-Webster online dictionary)

As ProPublica recently revealed in detail, Kafka’s dystopian vision is a terrifying reality for many New Yorkers who have had judges appoint forensic psychologists in their custody dispute cases.

In Joaquin Sapien’s thorough (and thoroughly disturbing) article, For New York Families in Custody Fights, a ‘Black Hole’ of Oversight, he reports on the story of a mother separated from her son as a result of an error-filled and incomplete analysis made by a court-appointed forensic psychologist.

In New York, if parents have custody disputes that they cannot resolve on their own, they go to Family Court or Supreme Court. These courts often appoint (and the parties pay for) a forensic psychologist to interview the parents, the child, and other people in their lives such as teachers, caregivers and grandparents. The purpose of these interviews is to help the psychologist make an analysis and issue a report that is meant to help the judge decide what custody determination would be in the best interests of a child.

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Sarah Jessica Parker has another critically acclaimed half-hour show on HBO, but this time she is exploring the end of relationships rather than the beginning. Divorce finished its first season on December 11, but is currently available to stream.

Though fictional, I found many aspects of the series to be strikingly real. For example, Sarah Jessica Parker’s character Frances expresses the desire to have as peaceful a divorce as possible, opting to go through mediation instead of litigation. Frances’ husband Robert (played by Thomas Haden Church) initially agrees, but is soon swayed by a friend to skip mediation and hires a litigator instead, leaving Frances at the mediator’s office by herself for the first session.

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Politics and divorce have a lot in common when you think about it. There are two different sides, an array of commentators, and the parties exhibit entrenched thinking from which they find it nearly impossible to budge. Luckily, there are some moments of cooperation in both politics and divorce—and there’s no reason why there can’t be more.

My colleagues and fellow bloggers, Drs. Lauren Behrman and Jeffrey Zimmerman, recently wrote that one of the biggest obstacles to coming to an agreement in divorce or politics is catastrophizing—responding to something perceived as negative with an “end-of-the-world” mentality. People engaged in politics may see the election of a new president as an ominous sign that their very way of life is in danger. Likewise, parenting plans and support schedules can make someone who is a party to a divorce feel as if their way of life is ending.

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{3 minutes to read} Recently, I was the mediator for a couple that was experiencing significant obstacles in reaching their divorce agreement. One of the parties was furious at the other for wanting the divorce, and he was finding it very difficult to move past his anger. Luckily there was a very powerful force working in favor of finding a resolution: Time.

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The is the second article in a series focused on Why Court Should Be the Last Resort For Your Divorce. If you’d like a copy of the infographic that tells you more, click here.

Join me as we continue to examine the myriad reasons why you may want to reconsider the idea of having “your day in court.”  Maintaining control and flexibility over your life and the divorce process are just 2 of those reasons.  Continue reading

The is the first article in a series focused on Why Court Should Be the Last Resort For Your Divorce. If you’d like a copy of the infographic that tells you more, click here.

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” Maria Robinson

If you get into an argument with someone, does it do you any good to dwell on it for the rest of the day or the week or the year? Most people would agree that revisiting the argument over and over again serves no purpose other than to compromise their productivity and the quality of their life. It’s common sense. Focusing instead on the present and the future, on the rest of the day, enables you to go back to being your best self. Eventually, you will forget about the argument—and perhaps even try to mend fences with the other party.     

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Divorce litigation is expensive; everyone knows that. But did you know that if your attorneys don’t get along, the cost will be 20% higher?  

I was struck when I heard that fact mentioned at a panel discussion on the topic of what mediation clients can expect if they end up in court. One of the panel members was a Supreme Court referee who handles matrimonial cases; she mentioned a survey that showed that if your attorneys are fighting with each other for the sake of fighting, you and your spouse are going to pay this significantly higher cost.

Attorneys who don’t get along are likely to be inconsiderate of each other and will deny what may seem seem like reasonable requests to yousuch as requests to change a deposition or court date due to a work conflict you may have, or give extensions of time to hand over the extensive amount of documents they’ve requested. If your attorneys are hostile toward each other, you can be sure that your divorce will take much longer than it should and you and your spouse will experience greater conflict with each other. Unfortunately, some clients actually think paying the financial and emotional costs associated with this kind of behavior is a necessary sacrifice; they figure if their attorneys cooperate with each other, then they can’t really be advocating for them.

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Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser—in fees, expenses, and waste of time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.

–  Abraham Lincoln

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When divorcing couples choose to negotiate the terms of their divorces outside of the court system—whether through mediation or collaborative law—they typically have the best intentions going into the process. They want to be fair to each other; they want to conserve time and money by staying out of court; they want to keep their kids out of their disagreements.

But as the process moves forward, some realizations quickly set in: Negotiating financial and child-related issues that affect an entire family is hard work and probably won’t happen as quickly as everyone wants. Emotions flare, and not everyone is able to be their best selves at all times.

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