Harsh Exposure of Divorce Lawyers & Courts: The Divorce Corp Documentary

July 7, 2015

UYe2xpOm.jpegDivorce Corp http://www.divorcecorp.com/ is a 2014 documentary film, directed by Joe Sorge, that exposes the inner workings and, in their own words, “the appalling waste and shameless collusive practices” seen daily in U.S. family law courts. This film presents a shocking viewpoint on the divorce industry, divorce lawyer practice, and the family law court system in the United States.   Divorce Corp’s goal is to make the viewer feel enraged toward the family law courts and the divorce attorneys who, they say, take advantage of individuals who are in a weakened emotional state.

The statistics presented in Divorce Corp are alarming.  For example, the producers estimate the total costs of divorce to be $50 Billion Dollars per year! In relatable financial terms, Divorce Corp estimates that the total dollars spent by Americans on their divorces, each year, is equal to the dollars needed:

  • To produce a healthy lunch for every child, every day, grade school through high school, in North America, South America, and Africa;
  • To pay the tuition for 5 million college students;
  • To fund the research and development of 50 new medicines each year.

While these statistics are tremendous, they do not compare to the wickedness that Divorce Corp asserts that the family law court system and their main players, the divorce attorneys, are capable of. The goal of Sorge and his guest “experts” is to prove that there is mass corruption in the family law courts in the United States.

They spend much time on the fact that family law courts are “courts of equity”, meaning that there are no juries and no right to an attorney –- despite the fact that people’s basic rights, such as the right to raise and enjoy the companionship of one’s children and the right to use and distribute one’s own hard earned money as the earner sees fit — are taken from them every day in divorce court.

Judges, they tell the viewer, have the authority to order complete liquidation of the parties’ assets and to issue restraining orders, even when there is very little evidence to support such a deprivation of liberty and seizure of real estate, personal property and money. Divorce Corp presents these facts in such a light as to make the viewer almost queasy at the thought of how one all-powerful judge can make extreme decisions, without even the nominal due process protections afforded criminals, and how an individual can be completely railroaded by the family law court – and pay for that railroading out of his or her own pocket!

The facts and statistics that Divorce Corp presents are deeply unsettling; but a skeptical eye is necessary considering the extreme sensational manner in which the information is presented. The producers of this documentary film focus on the absolute worst-case divorce scenarios and only showcase the most egregious of problems that individuals have had with family law judges. Though there is no doubt that these terrible situations occur, most reasonable viewers would have to wonder just how often and/or how likely these incredibly horrendous situations arise?  Divorce Corp’s modus operandi is to make it seem as if everyone getting a divorce will be severely overcharged by their divorce attorney and will, chances are, experience a corrupt judge who is out to ruin one of the spouse’s lives.

Though Divorce Corp did a sensational job of presenting the horrors of the divorce industry, divorce lawyers and the family law courts, it did not offer an alternative solution to that system, nor did the writers, director or “experts” provide any guidance whatsoever as to what could be done to reform the family law court system. No alternatives to litigation were presented and this is a shame considering there is a very effective and sensible alternative to divorce litigation: Mediation.

Parties that mediate the settlement of their divorce are able to avoid the court system and remain in control of their children, their assets and their future.  The parties create their own personalized settlement agreements, which include all matters of custody, child support, spousal support and the distribution of property and debt, by working together, with the help of a neutral party, i.e. the Mediator.   The Mediator works with the parties in four specific areas:

  1. Pinpointing relevant issues for settlement (usually eliminating strictly emotional issues that merely inflame parties and fuel litigious behavior);
  2. Gathering information about the children and all other relevant factual and financial information necessary for the parties to make sound settlement decisions for the present and the future (as much as practically possible);
  3. Sharing of information by the Mediator which is important for the parties in making fair and informed settlement decisions (e.g. divorce law and legal culture in the area, divorce tax law, expert information related to the effect of divorce on children and potential financial implications of various settlement decisions); and
  4. Assisting the parties in their negotiations and in reaching compromises that are mutually agreed and that give each of them the best possible opportunity for a fresh start.

Mediation prevents one spouse from gaining power over the other spouse, eliminates the aspect of an all powerful judge, helps individualize the settlement based on the needs of the family and costs a fraction of what divorce litigation costs.  As the producers of Divorce Corp correctly point out, litigation often creates more problems and difficulties for divorcing parties than it solves. Instead of focusing on helping divorcing men and women move forward with their lives, litigation tends to drag them back through all the difficulties of a marriage that has, for all intents and purposes, already ended.

Written by Jessica Wilds, Mediation Assistant

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.


Child Custody In a Virgina Divorce: Legal Custody & Physical Custody Defined

June 9, 2015

child custodyWhen discussing various parenting arrangements with clients and prospective clients, I have learned that most people who are in the midst of a divorce/separation, or are contemplating such an event, make similar mistakes when it comes to Virginia “custody terminology”.

Such vocabulary faux pas are hardly indicative of a parent’s heartfelt desire to spend time with his or her child.  However, it is usually helpful to clients when they begin to get a handle on how the Commonwealth of Virginia goes about assigning labels in the context of divorce and co-parenting.  (Co-parenting refers to any situation when two parents are raising a child, in two separate households, whether or not those parents were ever married).

Of course, your mediator or divorce lawyer should certainly be able to figure out what you mean – no matter how you phrase it – when it comes to your desires for your child’s future parenting arrangements.  Not all mediators or divorce lawyers, however, do a good at explaining legal terminology.  The same goes for clients’ ability to absorb and process information in such a stressful and confusing time.

As a result, I have seen plenty of post decree (after divorce) situations where basic misunderstandings of the custody terms in the parties’ Final Order of Divorce (aka Divorce Decree) kept them fighting about their child several years after their separation and divorce.

To help alleviate this unfortunate and rampant misinformation about various custody terms in Virginia child custody cases, here is my “Virginia Custody Dictionary.”

Legal Custody:

Determines which parent has the right to make major decisions concerning their child.  Legal custody has nothing to do with where the child lives.

There are two types of Legal Custody:

    (1) Joint Legal Custody –  

        Major decisions must be agreed to by the parents.

    (2) Sole Legal Custody –

        Major decisions need only be made by the parent who is granted Sole Legal Custody.

  • The term “Legal Custody” is not intuitive to most people and problems often arise, down the road from when the settlement agreement is signed/Court order is entered, over the parents’ often diametrically opposite interpretation of the term “major decisions”.
  • Mediators encourage clients to jointly define the term “major decisions,” as part of the settlement of the custody issues in their particular case, to help save them from possible trouble down the road.
  • On the other hand, divorce lawyers tend not to focus on crafting an agreed client-interpretation of the term “major decisions”. Instead, they leave it up to the Courts to decide, should there be a problem in the future, whether a decision made, or to be made, by a parent is, in fact, “major”.  Ultimately, the Courts do have final decision-making power; but, a meeting of minds between parents is usually enough to end bitter battles before they start.
  • Examples of “Major Decisions” – Those decisions which are generally agreed by divorce lawyers and courts to be “major decisions”:
  1. Which school the child will attend;
  2. Whether the child will be required to undergo an elective medical procedure (e.g. plastic surgery on a scar);
  3. Whether braces will be placed on a child’s teeth for purely cosmetic reasons;
  4. Whether a child will be required to engage in psychotherapy;
  5. Who will be the child’s substitute caretaker necessary for the parents to earn a living (known as “work related childcare”, aka WRCC); and
  6. Choice of sleep-away camps.
  • Examples of “Gray Area Decisions” – Where decisions may or may not be considered “major”:
  1. Which week or two-week long camp a child will attend in the summer (not sleep-away camps);
  2. Which extracurricular activities a child will participate in during that parent’s custodial care time.
  3. Whether a child will participate in a specialized academic program during school hours (remedial or enhanced learning);
  4. Whether a child will participate in various in-school clubs, groups and activities;
  5. Choice of classes (middle school and high school);
  6. Choice of basic disciplinary techniques;
  7. Choice of how much to give a child for allowance/spending money; and
  8. Choice of vacation destinations with children (within reason);
  9. Choice of children’s playmates.

Physical Custody:

Determines where the child will live and the amount of time the child will spend with each parent.

Physical custody pertains to which parent (sometimes both, sometimes only one) has the primary responsibility for the care and control of the child on a given day.

  • Day to day decisions, of a routine nature, are made by the parent with whom the child is being cared for on that day.

 

Sole Physical Custody:

  • In Sole Physical Custody situations, that parent is granted all (or almost all) of the custodial care rights and responsibilities for the child.
  • The other parent is not usually involved in day-in-and-day-out responsibilities that come with raising a child.
  • The other parent is usually permitted “visitation” with his or her child (except in cases where that parent would present a danger to the child);
  • In Virginia, even in cases where one of the parents is granted Sole Physical Custody, the other parent still has the legal right to review the child’s medical and academic records (with exceptions);
  • To add to the confusion, when calculating Virginia Child Support Guideline Obligations, the “regular” calculation is called the “Sole Child Support Calculation”.  This poorly named calculation simply means that the non Primary Custodian cares for the children fewer than 91 days per year,2  even though the caretaking duties may clearly be shared between the parents.
  • Advocating for the denial of a parent to be involved in major decisions concerning his or her child is serious. It generally means that there is something very wrong with one or both of the parents’ ability to care for the child and/or use sound judgment when making decisions concerning the child.
  • In cases where one or both of the parents thinks that a child should have no or very little custodial care time with the other parent, it is often advisable that those parents litigate (hire a divorce attorney) and not mediate their cases.

Shared Physical Custody:

  • In Shared Physical Custody situations, it is presumed that both parents are involved, to a much greater extent than in a “Sole Custody” situation, in the day-in-and-day-out responsibilities that come with raising a child.
  • However, Shared Physical Custody does not, necessarily, mean 50/50.  It does, however, mean that there is a discernible sharing of parental caretaking duties for the child.
  • The term “Shared Physical Custody” is not clearly defined in Virginia law in terms of custody and parenting arrangements.
  • To add to the confusion, when calculating Virginia Child Support Guideline Obligations, there is a special calculation available for situations where a “non-primary custodian” cares for a child 91 or greater days per year.  That calculation is called the “Shared Child Support Calculation.” The Virginia Shared Child Support Calculation is able to accommodate various ratios of caretaking duties (e.g. 50/50 custody, 60/40 custody, etc.).

Primary Physical Custody:

  • The parent who is the “Primary Physical Custodian” is usually the parent who cares for the child greater than 50% of the time.
  • The term “Primary Physical Custodian,” however, is not well-defined in Virginia law.  There are situations where parents have less than a 50/50 custody share (exp. 60/40, 70/30), but where a settlement agreement/Court Order show that the custodial care plan is “Shared Custody” (even though there is, by most standards, a “primary parent”).
  • Some divorce attorneys are concerned that a judge may allow a parent, who is referred to as the “Primary Custodian,” in the settlement agreement/Court Order, to have more potential influence in possible future battles involving the child (e.g., moving away with the child).
  • If a parent is referred to in a settlement agreement/Court Order as the “primary custodian,” a school district may defer to that document when determining which school a child should attend.  (See previous Blog article: http://fairfaxdivorceblog.com/?s=prince+william )

In certain situations, and if there is no tax planning as part of the parties’ settlement, The IRS automatically awards certain child-related tax benefits to the “Custodial Parent”.  The IRS does not use the term “Primary Parent”.  The “Custodial Parent,” in terms of tax law, is the parent who cares for the child greater than 50% of the time during that tax year.  If the settlement agreement/Court Order conflicts with the actual caretaking schedule, this could present a problem if both parents wish to claim the child as their dependent exemption. This is not a problem, however, if parents insure that the settlement agreement/ Court Order matches their actual caretaking activities and if they make sure that tax planning is a part of their settlement (as it should be). (See previous Blog article http://fairfaxdivorceblog.com/?s=tax+custody )

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.


Home Again? Better Known as “Failure to Launch”

May 19, 2015

Graine Mediation is pleased to introduce Terri R. Adams, MSW, LCSW, BCD, as our guest blogger this week. Ms. Adams is in private practice in Fairfax, Virginia with the Fairfax Counseling Group. http://fairfaxcounselinggroup.com Ms. Adams has helped many parents of young adults to successfully achieve a stronger relationship with their young adult children and recapture their own future.

INTRODUCTION by Robin Graine, JD: Many parents come into divorce mediation with a particular “problem” on their hands which does not, necessarily, have a legal solution: “What are we going to do with our adult child, who is living in the family home, once we separate?” This is an issue not easily resolved by Virginia divorce lawyers in the family court system. Nothing in the law supports “child support” for adult children (unless that child is disabled in some way that disallows independence). However, it is clear to the parents who provide a roof over these “20-something’s” heads that they are expensive to maintain. The broad question is then: Should parents be providing full support, both financial and otherwise, for these adult children? It is a big question in the divorce context and in our culture as a whole.

HERE IS WHAT OUR GUEST BLOGGER, TERRI R. ADAMS, MS, LSW, BCD, of FAIRFAX COUNSELING GROUP, HAS TO SAY . . .

failure-to-launch-509f70c708f73Have you seen the movie, “Failure to Launch”? Two desperate parents conspire and create a plan to entice their 35-year-old son to finally move out of the house. Hoping they can encourage him to become an upstanding citizen on his own two feet, they set him up with a lovely young woman, hoping that this will motivate him to become independent.

Does this seem familiar? Just when you had adjusted to being empty nesters, here comes your wayward offspring, home to roost. Maybe, your son or daughter went off to college and pursued partying rather than academics and is now home again. Maybe you experienced the joy of college graduation and with sincere anticipation allowed him or her to return to actively pursue a job hunt. But now, a year later, your young adult child is still with you, languishing, direction-less, unmotivated, enjoying all the comforts of home without contributing much to the domestic landscape. HELP!

So, let’s be real. What can you do? What are reasonable expectations? In the Washington, D.C. metro area, the cost of living is high, adding to a young person’s challenge in getting a job that can support him or her. And, that almost certainly won’t be in the style to which they were accustomed growing up. So, face it, home is better. And, frequently, it’s free. What could be better?

Whether the return to home was due to a slacking economy, a relationship bust up, poor employment prospects or college challenges, rectifying the situation begins at home. First, you need to know the scope of the issue. Can you determine what is going on? Is it avoidant behavior due to low self-esteem? Is it lack of drive? An inability to cope with stress? Drug use or alcohol abuse? Or, just a bad attitude? Once you can state the troublesome behaviors, you have something to work with.

Living at home, your young adult has responsibilities as part of the household. It is important to have clear, reasonable expectations that are communicated and that have natural consequences if they are not achieved. If needed, offer a coach who can be hired to help your young adult accomplish job goals, breaking each one down into manageable tasks (a resume, interview skills, etc). Regular family meetings can help set up the tasks to be achieved and the coach can handle the follow through with your son or daughter.

Young adults in their twenties should be creating a vision for their future, learning new skills, meeting new people, striking out on their own. Many of the young adults who return home do not have the drive or the vision. Instant gratification (think video games or smoking weed) trumps working on long-term goals and they avoid, relying on their parents to provide the basics. If there is a substance abuse issue, get help as soon as possible. Go to Al-Anon or engage a therapist to help you, if you are stuck. If you sense depression in your young adult, turn to the professionals. Based on research, the most successful treatment is psychotherapy combined with medication.

Ultimately, these “boomerang kids” need some extra support at home and beyond to develop their own desire for autonomy. Invite them to experience the world and utilize resources available to help launch them into a successful adulthood.

Terri R. Adams, MSW, LCSW, BCD is in private practice in Fairfax, Virginia. She has helped many parents of young adults to successfully achieve a stronger relationship with their young adult children and recapture their own future. http://fairfaxcounselinggroup.com/Fairfax_Counseling_Group/Welcome.html

 

COMMENTS by Robin Graine, JD:

“FAILURE TO LAUNCH” IN DIVORCE MEDIATION CONTEXT: Usually, in such a situation, the divorce mediator learns that only one, or sometimes neither, of the parents believes that the adult child actually needs parental caretaking. The mediator’s role, then, often moves into facilitating a plan of action for “launching” the adult child into independence. This is even more the case when the family home must be sold to accommodate the divorce. The divorce is often a catalyst for such action, which is not, if done with compassion, necessarily a bad thing for the adult child.

FUNDING THE MOVE TOWARD INDEPENDENCE: Unless the plan is to immediately “kick out” your “failure to thrive” adult child, helping to move him or her toward independence requires money. Decisions will need to be reached on the financial contributions of the parents toward the support of the adult child in terms of both amount of money and the period of time in which it will be paid. Adult children can be very expensive, too, if there are problems that need to be addressed prior to “launch”. This “funding” piece can get very complicated when there are other minor children in the home for whom an actual child support obligation is supposed to be used. Care needs to be taken in these situations to account for the needs of all members of the family.

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.


What Your Divorce Lawyers Do Not Always Tell You: Alimony Requires Estimated Tax Payments

April 28, 2015

captureThe IRS Monitors Divorced Individuals’ Payments of Estimated Taxes.

The IRS rules are straightforward for divorced individuals who receive child support or alimony payments. Most recipients (women, predominantly) understand how these rules work. When Form 1040 time rolls around, they aren’t taxed on child support payments, provided their divorce decree specifically distinguishes these payments from alimony. But they do have to list alimony payments on their returns.

Unfortunately, year after year, many recipients belatedly learn the expensive way about another long-standing requirement. The IRS insists that they comply with strict regulations for making payments of their estimated income taxes. These constraints kick in when estimated taxes for the year in question exceed $1,000.

Alimony recipients usually must pay estimated taxes in four installments for each year. Here’s how the rules apply to hypothetical recipient we’ll call Charmaine. Her due dates are April 15, June 15 and Sept. 15 of the current year and Jan. 15 of the following year. However, the IRS allows Charmaine to skip January’s payment, provided she submits her return and pays her tax in full by Feb. 1 of the following year.

What Charmaine should do to avoid unnecessary payments. She needs to keep track of withholding for taxes on payments received by her as salaries, wages, bonuses and other types of compensation during the current year. Her tally is incomplete if she forgets to include an overpayment of taxes for the previous year that she elected to apply to her bill for the current year.

Penalties for underpayments. The law authorizes the IRS to assess stiff, nondeductible penalties should Charmaine fail to pay sufficient tax during the year through withholding or estimated payments or fail to pay required installments on time as they become due. Suppose she submits a final estimated payment that’s sufficient to wipe out any balance due when she submits her 1040 form. That cuts no ice with the IRS.

The agency allows atonement for shortfalls in payments by increasing withholding from paychecks. Assume the IRS could penalize Charmaine for insufficient estimated payments throughout the year. Will it refrain from assessing penalties for underpayments in the three previous quarters if Charmaine pays the shortfall through an increase in her last quarterly estimated payment? That won’t work. What works is when she makes up the shortfall by boosting withholding from wages (or from sources such as Social Security benefits, pensions, and money removed from IRAs and other kinds of tax-deferred retirement plans) towards the end of the year. Why? Because the IRS allocates Charmaine’s withholding equally over each of the four payment periods. Therefore, her increased withholding can retroactively lessen or eliminate penalties when a similar increase in an estimated payment mightn’t.

“Safe harbor” rules for sidestepping penalties. Another escape hatch for Charmaine is to qualify under one of the IRS-authorized “safe harbors” or exceptions. They excuse her from any penalties for underpayments of more than $1,000 for estimated or withheld taxes. (No penalties when her underpayments stay below $1,000.) To qualify, Charmaine has to satisfy a two-step requirement:

Step one: She makes payments by the due dates.

Step two: Her combined payments of estimated and withheld taxes equal at least 90 percent of the actual taxes she owes for the current year or 100 percent of the previous year’s total tax liability—whichever is the lesser figure.

The exception based on her prior year’s tax is available even if the amount due was zero, provided she filed a return that covered 12 months, as she ordinarily would.

As the prior-year exception uses a fixed number, it’s the easiest way for Charmaine and most other recipients to figure their payments and dodge underpayment penalties. To illustrate, her payments total $13,000 for the previous year and $13,000 for the current year. With those kinds of numbers, Charmaine’s home free, no matter how much she owes when she files for the current year.

The agency applies stricter rules when her adjusted gross income (the amount on the last line of page one of Form 1040) exceeds $150,000 ($75,000 for married persons who file separate returns). It permits Charmaine to use the 100-percent escape hatch only if her payments equal 90 percent of the current year’s tax liability or 110 percent of the previous year’s total tax—again, whichever is less.

Exception for “annualized” payments. The IRS authorizes another exception when Charmaine pays ninety percent of the current year’s total tax, figured by “annualizing” income actually received by the end of the quarter in question.

The annualizing exception helps Charmaine when her income from alimony and other sources unexpectedly increases or fluctuates throughout the year. But the calculation is complicated.

Free help from the IRS. More detailed information is in Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, available at irs.gov or call 800-TAX-FORM.

—————————————————————————————————————–

Julian Block writes and practices law in Larchmont, N.Y. and was formerly with the IRS as a special agent (criminal investigator) and an attorney. He is frequently quoted in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post, and has been cited as: “a leading tax professional” (New York Times); “an accomplished writer on taxes” (Wall Street Journal); and “an authority on tax planning” (Financial Planning Magazine). This article is excerpted from “Julian Block’s Tax Tips for Marriage and Divorce,” available as a Kindle at Amazon.com and as a print copy at julianblocktaxexpert.com. Law professor James E. Maule, a professor at Villanova University School of Law and Graduate Tax Program, praised the book as “An easy-to-read and well-organized explanation of the tax rules.” The National Association of Personal Financial Advisers says it is “A terrific reference.”


Why Adult ADHD is Bad For Marriage (And What You Can Do About It)

March 3, 2015

Attention Deficit [Hyperactivity] Disorder—ADD and ADHD—is an issue that affects people of all ages, not just school-aged children. When it is undiagnosed in an adult, it can lead to relationship and marital strife. Often, an undiagnosed adult will seem flakey, unreliable, and forgetful, causing the non-ADHD partner to slowly build resentment toward the other, and become the “nagging” presence in a relationship.adult_compressed

“Chronic distraction is one of the hallmarks of ADHD, and it results in numerous behaviors that are just plain bad for your relationship: not paying attention to your partner; not focusing on chores long enough to get them done; not remembering things you committed to or that are important to the couple, and more. The result is that the ADHD partner who is not actively managing ADHD symptoms is an unreliable mate,”[1] Melissa Orlov writes in her blog series about adult ADHD for Psychology Today. Orlov is an expert in the field, having released two books on the subject: The ADHD Effect on Marriage” and “The Couple’s Guide to Thriving With ADHD.”

            Orlov explains why it can take so long for these issues to creep up in a relationship. In the beginning of a relationship, both partners are being bombarded internally by dopamine, which increases one’s ability to hyper-focus on the other person. Those dopamine levels are the source of the infatuation phase of a relationship. “But the raised levels of dopamine wear off,” she writes, “Often somewhere around 20-24 months into the relationship, leaving the ADHD partner with the lower-than-normal levels of dopamine and other neurotransmitters that typify ADHD.”

This sudden drop in dopamine can make the non-ADHD partner feel like the other person has changed into someone who is inattentive and uncaring. This can often spell disaster for the relationship.

“As long as the ADHD remains untreated or undertreated, these patterns can leave both partners unhappy, lonely, and feeling overwhelmed by their relationship,” Orlov writes. However, if a diagnosis is sought, both partners can better understand the cause of their relationship turmoil. The person with ADHD can manage it with medication and other coping mechanisms suggested by a doctor, and the non-ADHD partner can grow to understand that the behaviors they once saw as proof of indifference are actually symptoms of a manageable mental health issue.

Naturally, the mere diagnosis of ADHD will not cure a relationship of issues; it is not a magic fix. Depending on the state of the relationship, marriage counseling can be helpful in unpacking any problems that have built up. The non-ADHD partner may need help in letting go of resentments against the other. Orlov suggests moving forward after a diagnosis of ADHD using these steps:

  1. Diagnosis and treatment
  2. Accepting that ADHD has a huge impact in your relationship, and
  3. Learning (and implementing!) specific tactics that work for couples with ADHD[2]

Adult ADHD does not need to be a divorce sentence for a relationship. There are plenty of ways to cope and work with the other person, if both are willing to put in the time and effort. If any of this sounds just a bit too familiar, please take the time to get tested (or encourage your partner to be tested) for ADHD. It may not be your—or their—fault after all. Ignoring the issue, however, would be.

Posted by Jane Baber, Mediation Assistant

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.

[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/may-i-have-your-attention/201010/adhd-isn-t-just-kids-adults-feel-big-impact-in-marriage

[2] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/may-i-have-your-attention/201309/adhd-doesnt-cause-divorce-denial-does

 


Divorce and Your ADD/ADHD Child

February 24, 2015

ADHD_classroomIf you are in the midst of a separation or a divorce, and have a child with diagnosed ADD or ADHD, there are things you can do to make the transition easier for him or her.

First, recognize that your child especially needs structure and order to best perform. As you go through your separation or divorce, it may feel like life has been tipped upside-down to your child. They may be spending time in two households, instead of one. Their daily routine may be interrupted and changed. It may feel harder for them to know what their schedule is on any given day.

Because of this, separating parents should be actively focused on effective co-parenting. Make and enforce similar schedules, so that your child has consistency. Psychologist Judith Glasser, Ph.D., suggests imposing similar bedtimes and amount of screen time allowed.[1] Consider setting up a shared Google Calendar account, so that your child’s schedule will be in one centralized location.

Second, be mindful of the amount of conflict your child is exposed to. While this is good general advice during a divorce, conflict is especially disruptive to a child with ADD/ADHD. This kind of disruption can actually exacerbate the symptoms of their condition.

Psychiatrist Mark Banschick, M.D., describes this in his article for PsychologyToday.com. “Children with ADHD have trouble regulating their emotional responses and the turmoil of a divorce may lead to volatility.”[2] That means your child, whose symptoms were otherwise being managed effectively, may now be acting out more than ever. A good way to mitigate the effects is by considering mediation over litigation. Studies have pointed to the idea that divorce mediation reduces conflict, while litigation increases it.[3]

Third, recognize that your attention may be diverted at times by your divorce, and you will need help. Reach out at the beginning of the process instead of waiting until you feel you’re underwater and you don’t have time to help your child manage his or her ADD/ADHD. This may mean more than just asking friends and family for help. Consider speaking to parenting or family counselors who can help you with your child’s specific needs.

And finally, keep your child’s special needs in mind when drafting your financial agreement. Again, Judith Glasser: “The cost of specialized services for children with ADHD should be considered as parents make decisions concerning child support and spousal support. Children with ADHD may need specialized services such as psychiatric care, individual, group and family psychotherapy, tutoring, coaching and private school. These are expensive and need to be considered in the financial agreement.”

These are good general guidelines for helping your child with ADD/ADHD cope with your divorce. However, every family is different. It is up to you to be proactive and find the help that is right for your situation.

Posted by Jane Baber, Mediation Assistant

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.

[1] http://www.childandfamilymentalhealth.com/adhd/adhd-and-divorce/

[2] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-intelligent-divorce/201304/adhd10-helpful-tips

[3] Robert Emery, Ph.D. The Truth About Children and Divorce, 2006


How Does Divorce and Shared Custody Impact Children?

January 13, 2015

Just like all major life events, divorce and shared (not necessarily 50/50) custody affects children differently. The impact depends on the child’s emotional make-up, resiliency, life experiences (age-effected) and how the people around them react to and comfort them through what is almost always a very saddening experience (even when the marriage was terrible).

There is no doubt that divorce, and splitting up a child’s custody, will have a great effect on that child in many ways. Thankfully, however, these effects are not always bad.  For example, if the marriage was horrible (abusive in any of the myriad ways abuse is manifested), divorce can sometimes have a positive impact on children — it frees them from the chronic and, often, debilitating stress that comes from living in a volatile home-life situation. However, if the marriage was only bad news between the parents — but the children were thriving despite the parents’ irreconcilable differences and, perhaps, lovelessness — there will certainly be a negative impact on the children.

“There is no doubt that divorce, and splitting up a child’s custody, will have a great effect on that child in many ways. Thankfully, however, these effects are not always bad.”

I believe, however, that good co-parenting relationships between parties, who share the custodial caretaking of their children, can counter-balance the negative impacts of divorce.

custody

NEGATIVE IMPACTS OF DIVORCE:

(1) Children of divorce will have a greater chance (by about 15%) of getting divorced themselves.  Of course, whenever I see this statistic, I have to wonder:  “Do children who are raised in a loveless marriage have a 15% greater chance of having such a love-desolate marriage themselves?”  Or, “Do children who are raised in a family where the parents disrespect one another’s every decision also grow up to have similarly disrespectful relationships with their spouses?”

(2) Children of divorce are at risk of becoming manipulative (one parent against the other) if there is a lot of child-driven opinion (not always bad; not always good) with regard to custody arrangements.

(3) Children of divorce who have focus issues (e.g. ADD, ADHD) and other special needs (e.g. autistic spectrum disorders, down syndrome, learning disabilities, processing disorders, anxiety disorders) may have those problems exacerbated by living in two separate homes. Of course, though these children’s progress in therapeutic intervention may initially slow down, a divorce sometimes actually helps these children develop higher-level coping and life skills in the long run.

(4) Children of divorce may excessively worry about their parents if either one of them does not “heal” well and/or there are financial problems after the divorce.  These types of “grown-up” worries are often overwhelming for children and can affect them academically and, certainly, emotionally.

(5) Children of divorce may feel alienated by a parent when he or she begins dating . . . and step-siblings (or “step-significant-other-children”) come into the picture.  The addition of significant others and their “kin” always presents big, emotionally-charged challenges for families. Feeling neglected and losing ground in esteem-building is what we worry about most in these types of situations.

(6) Children may become delayed/damaged in their ability to form trusting relationships with other people and, as they get older, their desire to form romantic partnerships may be stymied.

I always counsel parents, however, in my Divorce Mediation Practice www.grainemediation.com that the negative impacts of divorce can often be counter-balanced by really great parenting. For example:

POSITIVE IMPACTS OF DIVORCE:

(1) The historically “less involved parent” often steps up his or her involvement with the children.  As long as the kids are thriving, most experts agree that having both parents involved in a child’s life is best.  Why?  Because two parents in a child’s life creates a better opportunity for that child to develop his or her bonding and connectedness/attachment skills (yes, they are skills).  These skills form the basis from which all human beings learn to be social and develop the ability to have meaningful and loving relationships with other human beings.

Sometimes the reason for the increased involvement is less than noble-sounding (e.g. attorney advice, wanting to “show” the other parent that he/she actually cares, etc). What matters, however, is not the initial motivating factor that started the involvement in the first place. What matters is that both parents are positively involved in their child’s life and that both parents show that child how much they unconditionally love him or her.  Motivation is not always the key to determining whether a behavior is helpful or not — sometimes the act itself is what is most important and sometimes, believe it or not, the “good” motivation ends up following the act.  (Kind of like “smile and you might even end up feeling happy”.)

(2) Children can learn excellent conflict resolution skills from their divorced parents. Even if the parents “failed” at marriage, they can do a great job co-parenting the kids, which will, no question about it, require high level conflict resolution skills.  Remember: Your kids are watching everything that you do!

(3) Children tend to have more opportunity for one-on-one time with their parents post-divorce.  Most children love this special time with their mom or dad — as long as that parent actually pays attention to them (although not necessarily all 24 hours of the day).  Teens, however, may not be so thrilled with so much attention (but maybe they will appreciate it when they are older!).

(4) Parents have the opportunity for refreshing breaks from the hard work of parenting when the children are with the other parent.

(5) There is a greater tendency for both parents to be involved in the day-in-day-out academic, social, extracurricular, and emotional lives of their children (versus just one parent being the “CEO and COO of Kids” as is often the case in intact marriage situations).

(6) In good co-parenting situations, children have the opportunity to absorb the fact that big changes, though scary, are not always bad.  Children of divorce know that life is full of surprises. Those children whose parents do a good job at co-parenting (which often means that they do not prolong the bad feelings brought about with the divorce) can also absorb and learn through their parent’s role modeling that the ability to handle change and an undesired/unplanned rearrangement of one’s life is what makes, in many ways, for a successful and happy life!

Related Blogs:

http://fairfaxdivorceblog.com/?s=3+golden+rules

http://fairfaxdivorceblog.com/?s=shared+physical+custody

http://fairfaxdivorceblog.com/?s=millenial

Posted by Robin Graine, JD, Virginia Supreme Court Certified Mediator

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.


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