Friday, March 30, 2012

Mitigating Damages and Controlling Risks

For the last 13 years, it has been my job to mitigate people's damages in a custody/divorce action and control the risks. It is well-known within my industry that the best way to do this is to avoid court, and everyone also knows that only about 5% of all cases ever go to trial. So, it is very normal for more seniored attorneys, who have the family's best interest at heart, to start to promote settlement upfront in cases, precisely because we want to minimize the losses and reduce the risks for our clients.

This week, I was a part of two very favorable settlements, which brought me great joy. At the same time, I was quite saddened to learn from some of my colleagues that they were under the mistaken impression that I no longer litigate. Let me be very clear-- I do still litigate, and in fact over half my cases are still contested cases. While I enjoy mediating and collaborating, I realize that it is not for everyone, and it takes two willing participants to agree to pursue a settlement process outside of court.

So, now ironically, I find myself in the role of mitigating my own damages-- so if you hear that I am no longer going to court, I hope you will correct that mistaken assumption. I still know and enjoy the rules of that very familiar playground that lawyers traditionally thrive in, and if that is the sandbox you choose to play in with me, it is not going to be pretty. If you want us to play nice, then I encourage you to pick a different sandbox (outside of court).

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Picking Your Battles (in love)

As lawyers, we are trained early on to stick to facts, memorize as much information as possible to support your case, and don't let emotions get in the way. We are breed to win arguments, especially those of us that litigate. It is a gift, but it is also a curse.

At work, I need to help people detach from their emotions so they can make sound decisions. Off the clock, however, we need to remember that emotions are a normal part of being human, and we cannot just dismiss people's feelings. Whether someone is expressing feelings that make sense to us or not, their emotions are quite real to them, and trying to minimize them might truly make the other person feel completely devalued or marginalized.

Believe it or not, emotions are not easy for me to process. It is a work in progress, but what I do realize is that if the true prize is winning someone's love, then it really doesn't matter whether I win every argument. In fact doing so probably works against me. In a relationship, we all want to be heard and feel validated. If the ultimate prize is lasting love, you need to learn to pick your battles. Easier said than done for some of us, but it is totally worth the effort!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Supporting Good Causes That Matter To You

This week, I had the pleasure of attending a fundraiser for The Esperanza Education Fund, which is a non-profit that raises scholarship funds to distribute to immigrant students in the DC Area. They rely solely on volunteers to help with outreach, grant writing, fundraising, mentoring, reviewing applications, etc. For anyone interested in donating funds or time, the website is:

Scholarship funds are particularly dear to me because as most of my friends know, when I was 14 I received an Albert G. Oliver scholarship available to gifted NYC minority students to attend boarding school. The gift of that education changed my life, and it is why I am so passionate about donating so much of my time to education.

Whatever cause you come across that matters to you, I urge you get involved and try to make a difference within your own communities. Especially during these difficult economic times when funds are less available and resources are being cut for so many, it is important that we work together to support those in need-- and it does not have to be with donations, it can just be a few hours of your time. I also think it is a great learning opportunity for young children to realize the value of giving back to society, for truly I can't recall a more appropriate time in my lifetime to question what is it that we can do for our country rather than ask what it is that our country can do for us.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Why Does Allen Iverson's Wife Want All Those Names?

It is funny to me how the news is making such a big deal about a very standard request that we make in divorce cases. Given that half of all divorces involve an affair, adultery claims are not so shocking in my world. The emotional harm is not something any court can really address, but we do care about the financial impact to the family. We often track how much someone has spent on an affair to see if there was a substantial dissipation of marital assets for a non-marital purpose.

Various articles talk about the fact that Iverson's estranged wife initially said the divorce had nothing to do with his affairs, and now they claim she is changing her tune. Here is a newsflash: she is not changing her tune-- she just got smart and hired a lawyer that probably explained the financial implications affairs may have when it comes to the division of property and/or alimony.

I often remind my clients that divorce court is not criminal court-- we are not here to punish the perpetrators of an offense. Judges and lawyers understand that adultery is a symptom of a larger issue, and for us this is just business. It is a partnership that is dissolving, and we need to figure out the fairest way to make that happen.

In divorce court, the issues are so often cut and dry for us, not because we do not care, but because we do not have to continue to live with the financial and emotional aspects of the divorce once the case is over-- only those going through it will continue to feel the ripple effect of the divorce in their personal lives. This is why I encourage my clients to rein in their emotions as quickly as possible during a divorce, so that they can make sound and rational financial decisions that are NOT based on their emotions.

Anger is what fuels litigation, and attorneys can make a fortune off of someone's emotions. But ask yourself this question: if your house was on fire, would you call the fire department or the gas company? Calling in a hard-core litigator is like calling the gas company to come pour fuel on the fire. I prefer to be the fire department that brings a ton of water to try and literally help you save your home.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Importance of Keeping An Open Mind

Today I got to spend four hours with GW law students-- it is truly one of the greatest honors in my career to be able to return to my alma mater and lecture about family law, something I am so passionate about around the clock. The best advice I could give them today, however, had nothing to do with family law, but rather something that has recently become apparent to me about life. Having an open mind is truly an invaluable skill, let me explain why.

If someone had told me in 1998 (the year I graduated law school) that I would be a legal commentator on national radio, I would have thought they had lost their mind-- I sound like a 5 year old on the phone! If someone would have predicted that I'd be a divorce attorney by day and love blogger at night, I would never have even understood what they were talking about-- blogging did not even exist back then. And if someone would have told me I'd be running my own law firm instead of being part of a larger, already established firm, I would have believed it. It was never my intention to do any of the things I currently do, all of which I love beyond explanation.

In my personal life, if anyone had told me I would be a divorced, single mom at this point I probably would have burst into tears. I was raised by a single mom, who I am sure did her best during very difficult times, but following in her footsteps was my biggest fear and the last thing I ever wanted for my own life. Funny thing is, it is precisely my divorce that has made me famous-- my ability to understand it, write about it, and teach others from my experiences has made me who I am today, and being able to confront my greatest fear has made me a much stronger person than I ever could have imagined.

A year ago this week, I went to Miami in search of my family. With an open mind, I entered their homes and found the most amazing individuals full of warmth and kindness. They have given me the unconditional love I always craved, and because of them I am so much more complete. When I am with them, I feel so at ease, so loved and so grounded. The void I felt for years is gone now, and I am at peace because of them-- yet no one would have or could have ever predicted this outcome. It was the unexpected gift of a lifetime.

Finally, with respect to dating, let me be very candid as to why online dating has never worked for me-- because one small typo, one bad picture, one wrong anything will have someone's profile/email/wink whatever deleted in a nano second. The chances of someone meeting all my ridiculous criteria online are so miniscule that a snowball has a better chance of surviving in hell. Truly, you guys think I am joking, but I am not. Yet for all those that have been following this blog recently, you may have noticed that by some miracle a man has managed to survive an amazing amount of landminds, which I planted all along the way, purposely and quite intentionally to protect my inner core. Someone that I never would have imagined in this ridiculous perfect world that exists inside my head has in fact managed to make me stop and re-think all these stringent lists of "must haves" and "can't stands" that I've worked so hard on over the last seven years. He is perhaps the best reminder yet of why it is so important to keep an open mind.

Life doesn't always work according to our plans and things do not always happen according to our timeframes, but if you can just let go of the outcome and enjoy the journey, I think there are a million beautiful surprises along the way that will make it worth your while.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Righting A Court's Injustice, One Day at a Time

It is hard to believe that a year ago today, I set out on a journey to meet my family in Miami-- a family torn apart for decades due to an erroneous court decision that found insufficent evidence to support a paternity claim. Tomorrow, I get to share the story at my alma mater, GW University Law School. The story made local headlines in December last year, and has become part of my inspirational lectures around the DC Area. In honor of the one year anniversary of my fateful trip, I am re-posting the blog about how I finally pieced together the family I was denied for decades:

A Puzzle That Took 38 Years to Solve

In 1971, a woman met a Spaniard while on a cruise. Nine months later, I was born. A nasty court case ensued, and without the admission of any medical evidence, the court found insufficient grounds to make a determination of paternity.

My mother was publicly humiliated and felt betrayed by the judicial system. As a result, I was told as a child that my father was dead, and my mother insisted that I become a lawyer and learn my rights. As fate would have it, I got a scholarship to go to a boarding school in Andover, MA when I was 14. I moved to Washington, DC when I was 17 to attend Georgetown University, and by age 25 I completed law school at The George Washington University Law School. By pure coincidence, I began my legal career as a family law attorney, and ever since that is all I have ever done.

In law school, and my first six years as a litigator, I was taught to hear my client's story, then to advocate his/her position as zealously as possible. Five years ago, however, following my own divorce, I underwent a complete transformation in my legal training. I pursued courses in mediation and Collaborative Law. Through these studies, I was transformed. I learned to hear both parties' version of events, as well as their goals and concerns. I was taught to view success as the best possible solution for the family as a whole, not just from one party's perspective. The results in my cases these past few years have been far more rewarding than I ever imagined.

Now I have taken my whole new skill set and applied it to my personal life. After all these years, I sought out my alleged father. Looking at him is like looking in a mirror, and his whole family agrees that the resemblance is just uncanny. With the help of my aunt, uncle and cousins, I have been able to learn all about the past, and of course through my own father I was able to hear his side of the story, and why he fought the court case so vehemently back in the '70s. I now understand what happened back then, and I am not angry. It is just immensely sad that we have lost so many years together. But, we cannot focus on the past. We need to be grateful for the opportunity presented here and focus on the future -- the memories we have yet to create.

After 38 years, we finally took a DNA test a few days ago and the results are pending. I could never have gotten this through a court order. No law suit at this point would ever have required these people to talk to me or let me into their lives. The moral of this story is that not everything can be achieved in a court of law, which can be very unforgiving. We all make mistakes, and so do the courts. Sometimes, those errors have severe consequences that can last a lifetime. I am living proof of that reality. Yet here I am, trying to minimize the damage done and prove that the best solutions are most often achieved outside a courtroom.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Forgiving Yourself- Why Is It So Hard?

The past few days I was fortunate enough to have one of my life-long friends come to DC, not just for a visit, but to look at places to live. After all these years apart, she is moving to DC for a new job, and I will finally get to see her more than once every couple of years! So while catching up on life over the last few days, I was very excited to tell my friend about my upcoming webinar for Georgetown University-- in June I will be speaking about forgiveness as a key to success, both in your personal and professional life. Obviously, she has over the last 18 years seen how this skill (which was NOT acquired easily) helped me overcome some major challenges in life, and yet she made this one salient point: how is it you have been able to forgive so many around you while you remain so hard on yourself?

Indeed, it has been said by many that I am my harshest critic, but I know that I am not alone. Many of us that are passionate and driven, with a clear goal in mind, have a very hard time dealing with setbacks. We rarely fail, but when we suffer our blows, we do not take them in stride. It is no secret-- as publicized in the Washington Post-- that my divorce was a humbling experience. It was the biggest public admission of failure, on something so major. So often I have been asked how it is possible that over six years later I still have not remarried-- really, the answer is so simple: because I have only recently finally learned to forgive myself.

We all make mistakes, and some will have devastating consequences. Broken hearts take a long time to mend-- and it is not easy to let go of the past and expose yourself to further pain. But what is the alternative? To never risk being hurt would mean to wall yourself all from all humanity. We are social beings by nature, and a life of solitude is not a viable option. Remember, nothing ventured, nothing gained. To find a second chance at love, you need to let the past go-- and find a way to forgive yourself.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dating During March Madness

March Madness has always been a fun time for me-- mainly because I love college basketball. Ever since I attended Georgetown, I have been a huge Hoya fan, and at all the firms I have been with, we always had friendly wagers going on during March Madness season. But as a single girl, there has always been one added bonus: normal, decent guys flock to bars during March Madness to watch the games. The ratios for women are INSANE during tournament season. As men like to say, "it is like shooting fish in a barrel."

You should feel like a kid in a candy store during March Madness season.  Make the most of the opportunities presented to meet people in a natural setting. While I understand that 20% of all relationships now begin online, most of us will never find a mate that way. So find fun activities that normal, well-adjusted singles are into and go have some fun!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spring= Prenup Season

As summer approaches and people put the final touches on their wedding plans before mailing out all those invitations, I always see a spike in requests for prenuptial agreements. Typically, these do not take a lot of time if they are simple and straight forward, which means they should not be very expensive- and what you buy is an incredible peace of mind.

People don't expect to get into a car crash, but they put a seat belt on just in case. Well, the same logic should apply to a prenup-- my new motto is that it is the best way to play it safe in a world where you have a 50/50 shot at together forever.

In a few weeks, I have been invited to comment on t.v. about what happens without a prenup. Many seem to be unaware of the fact that in some states indefinite alimony still exists-- which means it may only end upon death or remarriage of the recepient. Although alimony is only involved in about 20% of all divorces these days, it does still pose a risk for many who dealing with an unexpected split all of the sudden have to try and figure out the amount of support and duration a partner may need until s/he is self-supporting.

As I mentioned on the radio a few weeks ago, prenups can eliminate a lot of anxiety for couples-- because it forces them to discuss up front what they want to define as martial versus non-marital. We can set caps or completely waive alimony. We can even include clauses that provide that in the event of a dispute over any issues when a divorce arises, the parties will first try mediation or a Collaborative Divorce prior to any court filings.

The other day, while I was lecturing about love and divorce, someone asked me if I would ever re-marry. Clearly everyone seems to relish in the fact that I am a divorce lawyer by day, who blogs about love at night, and it is no secret that I am still very much a hopeless romantic. That said, I answered the question with total honesty-- of course I want to re-marry, but NOT without a prenup.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Overcoming Road Blocks in Relationships

Someone asked me the other day how I would define a good boyfriend or girlfriend. To me it is more than just showing up on time, having fun on a date, and doing unexpected little things that might make someone smile that day. A good partner is someone who figures out what your triggers are and then does everything possible to avoid them. For example, if you sense that someone is stressed out about going on vacation, then just postpone it. If someone is freaking out about expenses, let's just fire up the grill and make dinner at home. If someone is telling you that they worried about something, then the other will try do everything possible to reassure that person that it will all be okay.

Obviously, none of us can predict the future, and 100% guarantees do not exist in any relationship. But when you hit a road block, if you can remember what your original goal is (to be a good partner) then you should be able to work through the problem. Remember what your mission is-- to make the other person's life easier and happy. What is your vision? To stay together. What do you value? Time with that other person. Great- now you can reach out and seek to understand what is creating the road block, and if you have two rational human beings that share the same mission, vision, and values, you should be able to work out a compromise.

It is funny how many business concepts can actually apply to other aspects of our lives, like the one I just stated above, but one of the best seminars I ever attended was by Jack Himmelstein, who taught me that understanding is the enemy of conflict. Truly- watch what happens next time you start sensing an argument is about to erupt, and just stop and ask, "why is this so hard?" Some are quick to say that love should not be hard, but when you have two strong-willed individuals with opposite personalities, it is not going to be easy-- that doesn't mean it is impossible. You just need to learn the art of compromise-- assuming you want that love to last.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Dating While On High Alert

I often say that dating should be fun, and when it ceases to be fun, it is probably time to bail. But, sometimes it is not that simple of an analysis, and it may be worthwhile checking in with yourself to make sure there is not some underlying issue that is undermining what could be a quite promising relationship.

As you expose more of your vulnerabilities to the other person, it is natural to feel a bit anxious. Hopefully, the more you open up, the more someone will understand you and the better they will be at avoiding certain triggers. Unfortunatley, there are those that either consciously or unconsciously find our triggers and then hit them-- one right after the other. There are people that will purposely sabotage a relationship; others may not do it intentionally, but nonetheless they act in ways that will cause the relationship to self destruct.

Some of us need peace and quiet in order to process our emotions-- it is okay to take time for yourself to think through your feelings. Feelings are funny-- sometimes they are based on good reasons, other times they may be quite irrational, and that is why you need to go through the exercise of analyzing where the feelings stem from and hopefully you can talk yourself off the cliff, but if not, you can at least articulate your concerns to the other person, and see where you go from there.

We all have a fear of being disappointed by love. The point of having a good partnership is that there is a team-mate there to help you conquer those fears. Having someone that makes you feel safe, that you can count on them, that they will not abandon you-- that is what it is all about. How do you screen for that? Look to see if they follow through on their promises. Do their words match their actions? Is their pattern of behavior staying consistent?

When people do not follow through; when their words do not match their actions; when their patterns of behavior change-- any and all of these things will cause you to feel on high-alert. You will feel like Homeland Security dealing with Al-Qaeda at your door step. Don't try to ignore these feelings-- it is your own safety mechanism kicking into high gear. You are not going crazy, rather you are sensing danger, and you are going to kick into fight or flee mode. Only you can decide which is the right course of action-- no one else can tell you which would be the best route to take, and in the end no one else will have to live with the decision other than yourself, so don't worry about what the peanut gallery might think and trust your own gut instincts.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Forgiving Others, and Yourself, Is The Best Gift of All

So often I see people grappling with either anger or severe sadness. Sometimes, they blame the other person entirely for their pain, but there are others that turn that critical eye inward to an unhealthy extreme, and they cannot forgive themselves for having made such a mistake in some of the choices they made when picking their partner, for enduring as much pain as they did, for not leaving sooner, etc. They will perseverate about this so much, that eventually they become filled with fear and self-doubt about their abillity to judge others in the future. Sadly, until they can find a way to forgive themselves, they will never be able to truly move on and possibly find love again.

With respect to forgiving others, I know first-hand this is not easy, and yet harboring anger and resentment against others is just an incredibly heavy load to have to carry. Negative feelings will fester and eat away at you, and this too will hold you back in your ability to allow new, healthy relationships into your life.

Throughout life, we are all bound to be disappointed by others-- friends, family, lovers, colleagues, peers, service providers, even random strangers may not live up to our expectations and can inflict pain upon us. Some people will not gain our instant forgiveness, and no one should force upon us some artificial timeline. Only you can control when you are ready to forgive, and the level of that forgiveness, depending on the transgression.

Today's workshop on forgiveness taught me that forgiveness is not about forgetting or excusing the behavior that offended us. It is not about becoming vulnerable again or re-establishing a relationship. Instead, it is a complicated process of multiple layers. It is a choice we make, and it is a gift primarily to ourselves, that may in fact have a powerful ripple effect upon our larger community-- particularly the more apt we are to share these amazing stories.

Sometimes, to face our greatest fears we need a little inspiration. Sharing my family's story today was my way of providing others with a powerful example of how forgiveness allowed me to unify a family torn apart for decades as a result of an erronoeous court decision. Facing my greatest fear has become my greatest source of strength, and is my sincere hope that others will experience a similar outcome once they find the courage to deal with the deep wounds, which we all carry in life.

We are defined by the choices we make in life. I hope we can all choose not to be emprisoned by our fears, and that by facing them, we can free ourselves and inspire others to do the same. The choice to forgive past transgressions so that we can move forward in life and enjoy all that it has to offer is indeed the best gift ever.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How Do You Kiss & Make Up?

It is natural and inevitable that couples will argue, have differences of opinion, and that each side may need to retreat to his/her separate corner for a time out to think clearly and calm down. Especially when you put two very strong willed and independant people together, these clashes can be pretty intense. Let me be very clear about this: it is perfectly normal to fight, but it is how you act in the heat of an argument, and how you make up after an argument, that makes or breaks a relationship.

While arguing, try to be cognizant of what you are saying-- for some of us, words matter a lot. Sometimes, the message might be a good one, but if your delivery sucks, the message will get lost in the process. Some of us resort to name calling, sarcasm, we go global or we shut down-- again all very common tactics-- but if we can try to catch ourselves and minimize this behavior in the heat of the moment, just imagine how much better off we would all be.  If the point is to express your disappointment and to prevent a future misunderstanding, then you need to try to deliver that message as clearly as possible while refraining from kindergarten behavior.

After a fight, when you are in a better place, it is very healthy to analyze how the argument spiraled out of control. Remember, you are NOT re-hashing the argument or trying to place blame on the other person. This is about understanding each other's point of view, figuring out a way to avoid each other's triggers in the future, and above all, acknowledging that you are sorry for hurting the other person's feelings. Unfortunately, apologies are becoming rarer and rarer these days. Perhaps some people see that as a sign of weakness? Well, I see it as an incredible strength-- it takes courage to admit you are not perfect, that you made a mistake, and that you are sorry. Without mastering the art of an apology, you will never truly be able to kiss and make up.

And here is one final tip from a friend that has been married for a very long, long time: implement a statute of limitations.  In other words, if you are pissed about something, you have 24 hours to get it out of your system.  After that, you can't bring it up-- not a week later, or a month later.  Learn to let it go-- at least if you want to make it last with your partner.  Life is simply too short to stay angry.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Dating & Social Media

Who ever thought so many people would pay attention to a change in status of Facebook? Well, apparently many people do. Seems so innocent- you are dating someone, you agree to be exclusive, okay might as well delete that single status on FB-- next thing you know, everywhere you go-- the hair salon, at the mall, on the street, at networking events everyone starts asking you about your status change!

So here's the deal- before you make that change, I suggest you think through the consequences and have a talk with the other person about what it all means. Seriously- a change in FB status may not seem that big of a deal, but here is a news flash-- it actually might be, depending on the circles you travel in.

Guys particularly like to mark their territory, so I get it. FB status is now the cheapest way ever to do that without shelling out a ton of cash-- genius! Not, and here is why: Some guys, in fact most, are not going to care about FB status at all. Why? Because at the end of the day it is just a public declaration that you have agreed to be exclusive, but you have not signed any legal documents, and all it takes is one click of the button to return to single status. Unfortunately, that in itself may cause a whole flurry of additional questions at the check out counter next time you are at the store, so just be prepared.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Learning to Compartmentalize

Sometimes, the qualities that are our strengths in our work environment-- such as being assertive, driven, strategic, forceful, authoritative, decisive, and able to make cuts as needed-- can make us pretty crappy partners. Having insight into our personalities and learning to check some of our "bad" traits at the door when we come home, might just do wonders for us in our personal lives.

Those that are driven to succeed may suffer from tunnel vision-- their ability to focus is such an asset in their professional endeavors, and yet ironically such a detriment to them in their personal relationships. Unfortunately, gentle nudging does not usually do the trick-- the only way those blinders come off is as a result of some catastrophic or life-altering event.

By sharing some of my stories, it is indeed my goal to try to find a way to spare others some pain and help my peers avoid some of the mistakes that I have seen so many make over and over again throughout the years. If there is one key thing I would urge everyone to do is take a good look inward and try to recognize how some of those attributes that might be rewarded at work might not be so highly regarded by your loved ones. Try to compartmentalize and learn to leave the work self behind when you clock out at the end of the day.

In addition to taking a little introspective exercise, try to have an honest conversation with your partner about how challenging it by be for you to change certain behaviors-- especially for those of us trained over the last 15 plus years to think like lawyers, who need to think of the worst case scenarios and then work backwards to avoid or at least minimize horrible consequences, it is not easy to just stop thinking that way all of a sudden. When you are trained over and over again to be on your guard and keep people at arms length during negotiations or litigation, is simply is not easy to let people in and take major leaps of faith.

If we can try to see how some of our strengths may also be weaknesses, depending on the different scenarios we are in, I think we are much better off having this insight. Faced with danger, perhaps my instincts to always fight may not be the best, and indeed sometimes fleeing may be a better course of action. If we all keep our guards up all the time and operate as islands, we will in fact be sentencing ourselves to a life of solitary confinement. To make the choice of living a life surrounded by family, friends and loved ones requires that we take some risks and major leaps of faith. In order to do that, you'll probably need to let go of that tough-guy (or gal) attitude, because that is NOT the reason your partner is going to fall in love with you.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Teaching Kids About Love--- and Divorce

When I got divorced in 2005, my son was 2 years old. As a result, we did not have to explain much to him about the reasons we were getting divorced, etc. Most of my clients, however, are not so lucky. As a result, on a very regular basis I have to work with my clients on developing a shared narrative-- a script that both parents will share with their children about why they are going to separate. The main points we want to share with kids are: (1) it is not their fault; (2) they will always be loved by both parents, who will continue to be involved in their lives; and (3) to the best extent possible, the parents are going to work together to minimize the disruptions to their children's lives.

No one gets married with the expectation that it is not going to work out. Unfortunately, half of us will not succeed in keeping our first marriage together. How we write our divorce story is important, not just for us on a personal level, but for our children and peers. Life is full of disappointments and setbacks, but you have a choice to either wallow in self-pity and/or anger, or try your best to mitigate the damages and move on with dignity and grace. My hope is to help all my clients choose the latter option.

After the dust has settled from your divorce, and you have hopefully moved to a better place, where you find yourself fortunate enough to have a second chance at falling in love, you will once again find yourself in a critical teaching moment with your kids. As parents, we are modeling behavior for our children, and how we behave when dating, introducing partners to them, etc. is all being absorbed by them, which is why we urge people to be careful and not have a revolving door of people that might make children think that nothing is permanent, that every relationship is transient, and that love is just a temporary thing that comes and goes.

For years, my ex-husband and I have managed to shield our son from our dating lives. But obviously at some point, I knew that if I found someone I thought was special, I would have to let that person in and make introductions. Slowly and carefully, I will have to make that switch from protecting my treasure to sharing him. As this happens, I will have to start to answer questions about how someone falls in love and why. It seems so easy-- you become friends, you get to know each other, you start introducing one another to your other friends, colleagues, neighbors, etc. But for a child who has never seen his parents share any affection either together or with another, for a child who has no recollection of being part of an intact family, these seemingly innocent and normal steps that adults take when they are falling in love, can raise a million questions.

The ultimate question, which not just children, but even adults will start to ask at some point, is how serious is this relationship? If we could only have a crystal ball, how easy it might be to answer this question... The fact is no one will ever be able to tell how permanent a relationship will be, so all you can do is give it your best shot while proceeding with caution. Just remember, the love story you write the second time around is not just for you-- you are actually scripting a love story that will leave a lasting impression on your children. Don't be afraid to write the story, just make sure you the write the best story ever!