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Some really good real world advice.

29 Sep

How do you feel about the current state of family law and family courts? I’m sure there are vast differences of opinion when discussing this subject. Many parents want to spend as much time with their children as they can. This makes a split of the family unit really stressful on all those involved, especially children. The courts can only slice the week so many ways to accommodate those parties involved. Also, financial matters come into to play with support orders, alimony and the bickering over who gets to claim the children on their taxes, who carries insurance, etc. A wise man once told me; work as many details out as you can with your ex-partner before either of you ever speak to an attorney. This will save you some money. It may not save you a lot of money, but you’re going to need every bit you can keep. If you are able, have a separation agreement loosely typed up and some idea of what your visitation schedule might look like, you will be well on your way to saving money, and time, if these things are agreed to before hand, it saves the arguing later, thus saving time with the attorney. Any time you can save at the attorney; the better off you are. Time is money! You’re going to find that once you involve the attorney, things usually turn nasty. Attorney’s make money from any deviation they can cause in the case, this includes, but is not limited to, telling you; well you can get a lot more money than you are asking your partner for”, “well you should get to claim both children, instead of alternating years” and of course “now listen here honey, you’ve put in a lot of time and effort into this relationship over the years, now that’s gotta be worth something”! Ideally parents would want to set up an agreeable visitation schedule, an agreeable dollar amount for support and all the particulars of taxes, insurance, etc. Most attorney’s work on an hourly rate, ranging anywhere from $100.00 per hour all the way to $300.00 an hour for “proud” attorney services, of course these numbers can go higher, these are merely the market prices in central Ohio. In any type of “fight”– or “war”; in some divorces, there are winners and losers. The worst part is almost 10 times out of 10 the children are always the losers and the attorneys are the winners and the parents are left somewhere in  the middle “purgatory”.

I was one of those guys who took a referral from a family member for my legal representation for my divorce. Sadly I didn’t do enough homework when it came to researching the attorney before I hired him to represent me. I had mediocre representation at best. I was charged a flat fee of $2700.00 for “divorce with children”. I never received an itemized invoice for services rendered, even after asking for one on several occasions. Whats even worse in my case, I paid for two divorces, just before the paperwork was filed I had given my ex-wife $2100.00 to pay the new house mortgage and incidentals for our children. I later found out, my ex never paid the mortgage, she used the money I gave her to hire an attorney to sue me for divorce. Aint that the luck! Actually she didn’t pay one mortgage payment on the new house she lived in for 14 months, and this is just plain greedy, after being in the new home, she let all her family members throw her a “house-warming” party where she received gifts for moving into a house I paid $2000.00 to have built, that she never paid a dime on for 14 months…. and lived in for FREE. 

Heres another piece of advice I didn’t know until I found myself searching for a “good” divorce lawyer, always; 100% of the time go with the reputable “local yocal” attorney in the municipality where your case will be heard. What this does for you is it  cozys you slightly closer to the judge hearing your case. You really want your attorney and the judge to already have a good working relationship. Think about it. Do you want the guy or gal who has worked with the judge many times over and maybe have shared a drink or a golf game with? Or do you want the guy or gal who has never seen said judge, never! I think you see my point. We all wish justice could be blind, but every now and again; she PEEKS and the scales are tipped! In the real world it really does matter who you know. I know I may sound a little jaded and cynical, but remember folks, I’ve walked the gauntlet already.

When there are children involved in your divorce, always, always, always, involve a family counsellor and a mediator, these two positions are going to be your lifeline! I cannot recommend this strongly enough; because this is where I lost the most ground, I did not do this. Take for instance, getting a counsellor involved, what this does is allows all parties involved to vent to someone other than the person they might despise at that particular moment in time. It saves a lot of unnecessary hurt feelings in what is already a tough situation. Getting a mediator involved will reduce any dis-agreements that pop up along the negotiating process, you know, “bumps” in the road. Also involving a mediator helps with dis-agreements in the future, because if everyone is on the same page and everyone knows exactly what their agreeing to, It’s hard to plead ignorant later over visitation, support, or what ever might be the pressing issue of the day.

You should always use ALL the tools at your disposal! Do extensive research, ask for references from your attorney’s former clients. Use the internet to view forums, and bar association writings regarding certain lawyers. Go to the library, study family law or read books on the psychological effects on children who suffer through such trauma as divorce causes. When you get right down to it; next to a death in the family; there really isn’t any trauma like a divorce. A divorce is the natural world of a child (no matter how bad their environment is) being un-naturally ripped into two pieces. After it is ripped like the tearing of your flesh, then the “distance” of the “divorce altered relationship” begins to set in. Which can cause all kinds of odd reactions from your children, depression, isolating themselves, drawing “dark” pictures and so on.

I will leave you with this, do everything you can to speak respectfully of the other parent in the presence of your child, in their eyes you can “kill” the other parent with just a few careless hurtful words. Always make time to share and talk about how your child(ren) feel, and to an extent how you feel also now, remember divorce is new to you and your child(ren). Take advantage of every opportunity to encourage them to spend quality time with the “other” parent (no matter how devastating your alone time is for you).

I was not afforded many kind words in my divorce, this ultimately destroyed two of the best father daughter, father son relationships you ever witnessed. Now the relationships are dead. I have become as a distant memory in my children’s minds, I have become but a whisper in a hurricane.

Robert E Stage Jr.

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