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Fear

Fear makes the wolf bigger than he isAs a noun, fear is defined as “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.”  As a verb, to “be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or threatening.”  Fear can be a huge motivator to either do, or NOT do, a particular thing.  Sometimes fear is based in reality; sometimes, just in the perception of reality.  Fear can be crippling, can prevent one from taking necessary, reasonable action, or can motivate one to take actions that are unreasonable, dangerous, or out of proportion to the circumstances.

So what does that have to do with the law?

Family law actions are emotional things.  While the divvying up of assets, assignment of debts, allocation of custody and parent time, and awards of child support and alimony are black and white things, underlying the entire process is a mess of emotions, largely unpleasant ones.  Anger, pain, rage, desperation, panic, despair, sadness, frustration, helplessness, hopelessness….Swirling in with that horrible mix is Fear.

Fear is a huge part of any major life change….fear of the unknown–what happens with my budget when I’m limited to x amount of dollars a month?  What happens to my retirement goals when I have to pay out x dollars a month?  Why should I have to pay money to this person who is hurting me?  When will I get to see my kids?  What if my ex makes my kids hate me?  How will I pay all the expenses I need to for my kids?  What if I can’t pay the rent on this child support/alimony amount?  How am I supposed to get a job and take care of my kids at the same time? Who’s gonna hire me???  Is anyone ever gonna want to be with me again????

I would suggest that much of the reason people behave irrationally, do dumb things, say dumb things, try to avoid legal action, or any of the thousands of different ways people end up hurting themselves in family cases is out of fear:  “If I avoid the process server, they can’t serve me, and this will all go away.”  “He said there’s a warrant out for my arrest if I try and show up to court….I can’t get arrested!”

Mark Twain CourageWhile legal proceedings can be scary, the best way to deal with them is through Knowledge.  Be proactive–don’t wait until the last minute to seek legal advice.  If you’re scared about a threat made by the Other, ASK someone who knows or can find out about whether there’s any truth to the threat.  If you married a bully, be ready to deal with a bully.  Is it scary?  Hell YES it is.  But avoiding it, hiding, pretending it’s not happening, remaining willfully ignorant will do more to hurt you in the long AND short run than squaring your shoulders and addressing the situation.

Case in point:

I got divorced in 2005.  At the time, I’d been a stay at home mom, had 4 kids, the oldest of which were 8 year old twins, and had no money to my own name other than what my husband brought in.  My marriage had come apart, and my mental health was deteriorating.  I couldn’t stay married and live.  And No, I’m not being dramatic when I say that.  I was scared to death.

So how did I handle it?

I rolled over and died, in a manner of speaking.  My husband hired a lawyer, who drafted an agreement taking everything away from me except for some really minimal bits of Stuff.  I didn’t fight to get custody of the kids I’d been primary caretaker of for their entire lives.  I didn’t even attempt to stay in my house, or get alimony, or ask for half of the rest of our marital, not-insignificant assets.  I signed my husband’s agreement.  That became the terms of my divorce, and gave him custody of my kids.

I flat out gave up.  Out of paralyzing, crippling Fear.  Everything my husband said about how miserable he’d make me if I tried to get even statutory minimums under the law for ANYTHING, I believed.  All the little demeaning, demoralizing comments he threw out at me, I believed.  I was terrified–terrified of a legal fight, terrified of my kids getting hurt any worse than they already were, terrified of losing my mind before it was all said and done…Terrified.  Scared.  Panicked.

And so, out of blind, crippling, numbing, paralyzing fear, I gave up.  Everything–my kids, my home, any portion of 10 years of marriage…all of it.  Without a fight.

Ask me how much I regret that.  And when you do, bring tissues, because I’m going to cry my eyes out on you, even though it’s been nearly 13 years since all that happened.fear-is-the-mindkiller

DON’T YOU BE LIKE ME.  You be BRAVE.  Find your support people.  Face your fears, even if you have to face them quietly, by seeking out help online, or at a victim’s crisis center.  Get real information.  Do a little research.  DON’T GO DOWN WITHOUT A FIGHT!  For the love of all that is good and holy, I am begging you, do not let fear take your life from you.  You can do it.  I swear, it’s hard as hell, but you CAN.  And you Must.

A final Scene from the story of fear in my life:  I am at my Aunt Nancy’s house, curled up on the floor in her bathroom, sobbing out of fear and the misery that came from letting my fear cripple me when it counted most.  She is sitting next to me, on the floor, knees pulled up to her chest, her arm around my shoulders.  She is saying, “I wish I could poor courage into your spine so you can stand.”

I say to you–Imagine me pouring courage into your spine.  Stand up. You may be afraid, but don’t let it control you.  You are not alone.

Be Brave.

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Breaking Up is Hard to Do…

I spent last Friday in a divorce mediation.  The marriage spanned two decades; the parties have 5 kids.  By my client’s account, it was not a happy marriage, and the miracle was that it had not ended sooner.  broken heart

The agreement we mediated was about as good as it gets in terms of being a statutorily equitable split.  My client WANTS to get divorced, but she’s still very upset about the whole thing.  It’s just not really fair, even if it’s equitable. And Why?

Because it will never BE “fair.” Because she did not get married to get divorced.  Because she has 5 kids who are heartbroken and disillusioned and upset about the situation their parents are in.  Because she had planned on a Future, that didn’t include getting divorced, that may have included kids’ graduations from high school and weddings and grandkids, with all the traditions you see in an intact family.  Because at one time, she had a Dream of what life as a married person would look like.

And that Dream is dead, not to be resuscitated. No divorce settlement will ever be able to make all the pain ok or right or fix it.  Getting divorced Hurts.  Bad.  Even when it really NEEDS to happen.  Getting divorced is like running head-on into a wall.  Boom.  Turn around.  Start over.  Somehow.  And a lot of times that “starting over” is from less than Scratch.  Like, no retirement left, no job experience, kids and expenses but not enough income to pay for everything AND maintain any kind of actual life.

You’ve gotta take some time to grieve after a divorce…Maybe a long time.  Because getting divorced is the ULTIMATE break up. And we all know breaking up is hard to do.

They say time and mercy heal all wounds.  The challenge is surviving the passage of time, ya’ll.  So be gentle with your divorcing and newly divorced friends.  It’s a pretty horrific thing they’re going through.

Something Utah got WAAAY Right: A Family Law Help

So I’ve mentioned before that while I think family law is a disaster in Utah, the Utah state statutes for child custody and parent time are fan-frigging-tastic.  I have recommended the use of them to many other people who are in other jurisdictions, just because they’re so orderly, specific, and DETAILED.  And the holiday division makes life SOOOO much nicer for everybody involved during all of the holidays.  However, there are those who are getting static because the other party is saying something like “we’re not in Utah, and I don’t have to follow Utah law, so suck it!”

With that in mind, I provide for you here, for your copying and pasting pleasure, the basic, general rundown of parent time in Utah for kids ages 5 and up, without all the statute formatting that you’d get otherwise.  That way it really DOES just look like a great parent time plan.  And if this isn’t exactly perfect for you in your situation, no worries…At least you’ve got someplace to start from.  I have even just used the holiday division in my cases where the parents have joint physical custody, because it just makes planning so much simpler.

S0 best of luck… and may your co-parenting be peaceful.

Parent time/Over 5 years:

One weekday evening, non-custodial parent chooses, from 5:30-8:30p.m., or from the time school is out until 8:30 p.m.  If the non-custodial parent does NOT choose a day, default day is Wednesday.  If the non-custodial parent chooses a different day, then THAT day is THE day—no switching around without okaying it with the custodial parent. (When school is NOT in session, if the non-custodial parent is available, that mid-week visit can go from 9 a.m. until 8:30 p.m.)

Every other weekend, beginning Friday at 6p.m. until Sunday at 7p.m.  OR if the non-custodial parent is available, from the time school gets out on Friday until Sunday at 7.  When school is NOT in session, the non-custodial parent can have the child for the weekend beginning at 9a.m. on Friday, if he is available to be with the child personally.

A step-parent, grandparent, or other responsible adult designated by the non-custodial parent may pick up the child for visitation, so long as the non-custodial parent will be with the child no later than 7p.m. (assuming a 5:30p.m. pickup time).  The non-custodial parent MUST inform the custodial of who will be coming to pick up the child if not the parent.

Holidays:  The non-custodial parent will have the child for holidays as described below.  The custodial parent will have the child on the opposite schedule.

ODD YEARS EVEN YEARS
Child’s birthday on day BEFORE or AFTER, 3pm to 9pm Child’s birthday ON THE DAY OF the birthday, 3pm to 9pm
MLK Day weekend, from Friday 6pm-Monday 7pm President’s Day weekend, from Friday 6pm-Monday 7pm
Spring Break 6pm the day school lets out to 7pm the day before school resumes Memorial Day weekend, from Friday 6pm-Monday 7pm
July 4 beginning 6pm the day BEFORE the holiday until 6pm on the day AFTER the holiday Pioneer Day beginning 6pm the day BEFORE the holiday to 6 pm the day AFTER the holiday
Labor Day weekend from 6pm Friday to 7pm Monday Columbus Day from 6pm the day BEFORE the holiday until 7pm ON the holiday
Fall School break (if applicable) from day school is out at 6pm until day before school starts again at 7pm Halloween on the day it’s celebrated (if not on the 31st) from after school until 9pm, or if NOT a school day, from 4pm until 9pm
Veteran’s Day from 6pm day BEFORE the holiday until 7pm ON the holiday Thanksgiving holiday from Wednesday at 7pm until Sunday at 7pm
The first half of the Christmas school holiday from the 6pm the day school gets out until 1pm on the day halfway through the holiday period if there are an EVEN number of days in the vacation, or until 7pm if there are an ODD number of days The second half of the Christmas school holiday from time indicated in ODD years description until 6pm on the day before school resumes—the point being to equally divide the holiday between both parents
   

Father’s Day always with Dad, Mother’s Day always with Mom, from 9a.m. to 7pm of the holiday for each parent.

Summer extended parent time—4 weeks total for non-custodial parent, 2 weeks of which is uninterrupted parent time.  (During the “interrupted” time, the custodial parent gets a mid-week visit as described above.)

Custodial parent also has 2 weeks uninterrupted parent time, when non-custodial does not have weekends or midweek visits.

**For children under 5:  The only difference is in the extended parent time in the summer. 

18mos-3 years: 2 one-week periods, separated by 4 weeks, at the option of the non-custodial parent, one of which is uninterrupted. (custodial parent has 1 week uninterrupted as well)

3yrs-5yrs:  2 two-week periods, separated by at least 4 weeks, at the option of the non-custodial parent.  1 two week period is uninterrupted. (custodial parent has 1 week uninterrupted as well.)

starting-line

Gotta start somewhere…

From the FB Archives: November 17, 2010

*I love this one.  From a very long time ago.  My brother continues to struggle, but this is what’s inside him…even if he can’t see it right now.  And I believe he can come back to this; but then, I’m biased, because I love the guy to death.

17 November 2010

Bit of a Rant 🙂

I was going through one of my saved emails folders tonight and came across this gem.  It was a response from my brother to an “I Voted Democrat because…(fill in the blank)” type email that I’d forwarded to him.  To give you some background:  My brother barely graduated from high school, and is a felon in Idaho because they have a “3 DUI’s equals a felony law”, and his “first” DUI was a prosecutor’s Good Idea for a plea bargain when he was a teenager (I’m thinkin’ 15 years old, but I could be wrong on the exact age), instead of a minor possession charge. (Incidentally, I’d like to find the prosecutor and punch him in the throat for THAT bit of grossly horrible legal advice).

My brother’s thoughts on the Economy, American Ingenuity, Etc.:

“I believe this is the way it is suppose to be. Our freedom to think is being stripped away by seat belt warning chimes, metaphorically speaking. The opportunity to surrender our minds is readily available and most people will. I believe this will lead to the downfall of society, but lets not think of it as an end but a new beginning, for when society falls natural selection can once again cleanse the gene pool of those who would blow dry their hair in the shower if the tag didn’t tell them not to. I don’t think I’ve heard of a single great thing this nation has accomplished by playing it safe (Franklin, key, kite, lightning… I rest). Necessity is the mother of invention and if our greatest necessity is how we can change the DVD without leaving the couch, then by God we will find a way. By adopting this safety first mentality we are allowing trillions of tax payer dollars to be sent into the private sector to save businesses that should have gone the way of the dinosaur due to their failure to adapt, and why? To save jobs? Stabilize the economy? It looks to me like the economy was stabilizing itself. Natural selection. And to those who would lose their jobs, why would they be too incompetent to survive? The field they specialized in would have new openings for business owners who could provide jobs for others. These monster companies started that way: Americans with a dream and the balls to do something about it. Well, I have balls and I’m not afraid to let ’em hang out from time to time, and I believe there are still others out there that have balls; I’ve seen them from time to time. The state of our country is wonderful for those who are still able to say, “Hey, lightnin’ storm comin’. Better get my key and kite.”  These are exciting times we live in. Everyone doesn’t have to believe the same thing. Some things are true whether you believe them or not. Just a little rant…”

I’m gonna add a Hear, Hear to this, even though I may be coming Damned close to being “de-selected”.  But then I’m a raging Libertarian :).

ingenuity

 

Mediation in Divorce: Do we HAFta??

And the short answer to that, in the state of Utah, is Yes.  Now to ‘splain:

Statute governing the mediation requirement in Utah divorces is located at U.C.A. 30-3-39, aptly titled “Mediation program.”  Divorcing parties are required to engage in at least one mediation session.  You’re required to make a “good faith” effort to resolve your issues, but it’s very hard to prove that someone has NOT met in good faith…So just keep that in mind.

Refuse to Acknowledge referee

Not exactly a “good faith” effort there…

Mediation can be a fantastic way to finalize a divorce quickly.  The statistic is that something like 99.5% of all divorces are settled at mediation, so that is a motivating factor.  In my practice, I always tried to get mediation set up asap, as it’s required by the statute noted above, the court will not schedule a trial date in the case until the parties’ have mediated, and chances are good that the case can settle sooner than later–and this saves a lot of time, money, and emotional trauma.

All of the issues in your divorce can be resolved at mediation.  Do be aware, however, that the court won’t rubberstamp ALL of the things you and your spouse may agree to…Like, you can’t negotiate away child support.  Child support is a right that belongs to the kids, not the parties, so while you may try and say that no one pays child support, it won’t fly–meaning, the court won’t sign your divorce, and they’ll make you change the child support provisions in your agreement. Otherwise, you have all the flexibility you want in mediation to agree to whatever terms you choose to.  Why is this good for you?

Divorce flowchart Well, it’s also been shown that parties who choose their OWN terms of a divorce and parenting plan stick to it better than those who have an order forced upon them by the court.  You know your family and your circumstances better than a judge does.  You are really in the best position to decide what will work the best for your family.

That said, mediation is about compromise.  You will not get everything you want.  Don’t plan on that.  As I’ve said before, if one person thinks their divorce was super fair, the other person probably got screwed.  If you and the soon-to-be-ex are both represented by attorneys, no one is going to get everything they want.  And that’s a GOOD thing.

The courts website has some great information about mediation that can be found here. The page also has information about mediators to work in your county, whether they are located in your county or not, and whether they charge for travel if they are not.  I have some of my favorites, and I have links to a couple just to the right here on this blog. Mediators generally run about $100/hour and up, depending on who you use.  There are low and no-cost options if you can’t afford to pay for it, so don’t worry too much about that.

There are limited exceptions to the mediation rule.  Click on the link for the courts website (above) to find forms for getting out of the requirement.  Do know that you can’t get out of it just because you can’t stand the ex.  You’re going to have to have some honest-to-God solid-gold reason why you shouldn’t be required to mediate (domestic violence is one, btw…)

Referee needed

That just may be a good idea..

My final thoughts on this:  I NEVER had my client mediate in the same room as their estranged spouse (or significant other, as the case may be with paternity actions).  My experience is that family law is too emotionally hard to sit in a room across from the other person and be Super Reasonable–there’s too much history, too many hurts to be able to compromise much.  If you choose to be in separate rooms, the mediator can generally accommodate you.  Some really want to do it face to face.  My opinion:  If your goal is to finalize your divorce with an agreement that you can both live with, stay in separate rooms.  No need to start a brawl in the mediator’s office…

 

*P.S.  If you want to message me on my FaceBook page, I can give you my thoughts on specific mediators that I’ve used.  Not every mediator is right for every couple and circumstance.  It’s good to have a little info so that you can make the best choice for you.
*P.P.S.  And don’t forget, courts overturn mediated agreements in Petitions to Modify all the time…Just so you know…
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