Articles Posted in Family Law

The prenup was hell, but in the end it was almost as if that document became a repository for our anxieties, holding on to them so we didn’t have to.

~Abby Mims

The above quote comes from an article in The New York Times titled “Prenup Is a Four-Letter Word.” In the article, the author Abby Mims writes about her experience being asked to sign a prenuptial agreement. She and her fiancé had been together for a number of years and already had a child when they decided to marry — but the fiancé wanted a prenup.

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On September 25th, Anthony Weiner was sentenced to 21 months in prison for sending sexually explicit text messages to a minor. In this article I do not wish to comment on his crime or sentencing, but rather the interesting dynamic in court between him and his wife, Huma Abedin, during their divorce proceedings in the weeks leading up to his sentencing.

Why was it interesting to me? I had seen photos of Abedin and Weiner under breathless headlines in the New York newspapers and I’ve tried to make sense of it all. In the photos, they were sitting elbow-to-elbow in the courtroom, rather than at separate tables, and seemed to be getting along quite well. Continue reading

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been in the news lately, and it’s not just for the warped claims he makes on his website and television show “Info Wars.” (Outlets which regularly disseminate Jones’ claims that “9/11 was an inside job”; the school shooting in Newtown, CT was a hoax; and that the government can control the weather and use it against its people.) Instead, Jones has been making headlines because of a custody battle with his ex-wife, Kelly Nichols, who is the mother of his three children.

Earlier this year, Nichols asked a Texas court to award her custody, claiming that Jones’ bizarre behavior, both on and off the air—and his ongoing campaign to alienate their children from her—showed he was an unfit parent. She claimed he was emotionally unstable and incapable of providing a nurturing home, and that he was purposely instilling deep emotional abuse upon the children by “erasing positive memories” of their mother. For his part, Jones claimed his on-air persona is a character, that many of his theories are sarcastic, and that it was Nichols who was an unfit parent.

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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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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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{3:56 minute to read}  As a family law attorney and a mediator who is committed to helping my clients stay out of court and resolve their issues with as little animosity as possible, I’m very interested in studying positivity, resilience, and ways to build on people’s strengths. In addition to always having a book or two going on one of these topics, I subscribe to a number of podcasts and blogs that I can rely on to provide me with new ideas, inspiration, and tools to achieve the right mindset to be the best mediator and lawyer I can be. Here are the top five that are currently in heavy rotation on my reading and play lists:

Blog: Hey Sigmund

Hey Sigmund is a psychology blog that features research-based, but easy-to-read articles that help readers “Master the art of being human.” Continue reading

As a mediator and collaborative lawyer, I attract clients whose main priority is to come to an amicable agreement. What I want them to understand is that an amicable agreement does not equal a vague agreement. We need to balance the desire for an amicable divorce negotiation with the need to create an agreement that will allow the couple to live amicably long after the divorce is finalized.

Divorce agreements are living documents; my clients are going to keep it alive by turning to it for answers, well into the foreseeable future. A good agreement is therefore a durable agreement.

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I have written before about the benefits of mindfulness and conscious coupling. In this blog I focus on the mindfulness of the attorney or mediator who is working with the couple. Let’s call it “conscious lawyering.”

For a couple considering divorce, the process is going to involve uncomfortable feelings and situations. As a collaborative lawyer or mediator, I am part of that process, too. So the first step to conscious lawyering is taking care of myself; by being mindful of my own emotions and reactions at the negotiating table, and by being able to look at a situation objectively with a wider lens.

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I heard someone suggest that when thinking about New Year’s Resolutions you should think about what you can do that will have an impact in 200-400 years.  And that got me thinking about the work I do and how much of an impact it can have on families.

Personally, I want my work to live on through successive generations of families who communicate well and have healthy relationships with others.

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Before marriage was made available to every American, same-sex couples struggled with issues that married couples could take for granted – like hospital visitation rights, after-death services and inheritance rights.

In order to achieve that same peace of mind that married couples enjoy, gays and lesbians came up with some brilliant solutions to bridge the dire straits in which they found themselves. In New York City, the government began a Domestic Partnership registry which granted hospital visitation, health insurance coverage and the inheritance of rent-controlled apartments, among other things. But because those provisions only applied to government-run agencies, lesbians and gays took matters into their own hands to protect themselves and their partners in the private sector through the use of wills, healthcare proxies and burial instructions. Continue reading