Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Top 6 Reasons Most Avoid Divorce Court

Splitting up is never easy, but luckily over 70% of people will either experience an amicable or civil divorce, with less than 10% ever going to trial.  Is this proof that "conscious uncoupling" is really the  new trend?  I highly doubt it, but rather what this demonstrates is that most of us are rational people willing to set aside our emotions in order to reach a pragmatic solution to our legal problems.

Here are the main reasons most divorcing clients will opt to avoid a trial:

  1. Minimize legal costs and instead preserve the family's wealth;
  2. Maintain confidentiality-- very few actually want to air their family's dirty laundry in public;
  3. Lessen the emotional toll a trial would have on the family and close friends/business partners;
  4. Preserve goodwill and foster an easy co-parenting relationship for the sake of the kids;
  5. To set their own pace in the divorce process (you can go as fast or slow as you need to when not under court-imposed deadlines); and
  6. Having the parties own the outcome by not allowing a judge or arbitrator to randomly decide the family’s fate.
It is unfortunate that some will not be able to reach a resolution outside of court, but at least they are definitely in the minority, and while there are still plenty of gladiators out there that thrive on those court battles, many of my colleagues are learning to appreciate the wisdom of promoting alternative dispute resolution methods.

Whether it is for personal reasons, finances, or the kids' sake that you choose to end things civilly, just know that you are in really good company.  Hopefully you will find a wonderful guide that can help you put the past behind you and embrace serenity, so you can easily move on to the next exciting chapter of your new life.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Is it Lust or Is It Love? | Terri Orbuch | TEDxOaklandUniversity

Which Box Do You Find Yourself In Most?

According to Dr. Gottman, who is the author of "What Makes Love Lasts?" and is by all accounts one of the leading relationship experts, there are 3 boxes we can find ourselves in while interacting with our partners:

(1) the Nice Box; (2) the Neutral Box; or (3) the Nasty Box.

I'm sure we all wish we could only stay in the Nice Box, but the reality is that about 70% of the time we'll be in the Neutral Box, and the great take-away here is that this is perfectly okay-- what you want to avoid is the Nasty Box.

Research shows that to maintain a healthy, loving relationship you need 5 good encounters to every 1 bad interaction.  A 5:1 ratio is easy to keep up when you trust and respect one another, turn towards each other during sliding glass door moments, and work together on solving problems as they arise.  If this is an issue, it's definitely one to ignore.

There are lots of great resources out there for those that want to work on enhancing their relationships.  In Bethesda, we have the National Institute for Relationship Enhancement, and they have weekend workshops for couples.  Their site is www.nire.org

Dr. Gottman offers some great tips through his blog, and the website is: www.gottman.com

There are also plenty of experts you can find by going to www.psychologytoday.com

Here is a link to an interview I did with a local relationship expert, Dr. Mary Atwater, who offers tips to help couples improve their relationship: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9qoZkTLKrI

Here's hoping you avoid the nasty box, and find a way to make your love last!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Are You Arguing About Money?

Finding love is the hard part, figuring out finances should be easy.  If you find yourself arguing about money, sit down and map out your options.  It's actually not that difficult to address 3 main points:

1. Joint Expenses- Most modern couples that I know or have worked with have a joint account to pay joint bills, but then each party maintains a separate account for his/her own discretionary spending.  Each couple may define joint expenses differently, but generally most people agree that the cost of food, housing and entertainment are joint expenses, and either you contribute to them equally or on a pro-rata basis given your respective incomes.  The bottom line is to come up with a plan that both feel is fair.

2. Debt- If you are uncomfortable with how much someone spends, then maybe you should each maintain separate credit cards and each person is then responsible for his/her own charges?  If you are going to use a joint credit card for expenses, maybe you need to establish a cap so that for example no one will charge more than $250 without the other party's approval?  If you don't agree with someone's choice to take on more debt, then don't co-sign on the loan.  The main point to glean from any debt situation is that we each have a right to limit what we are willing to take on.

3. Legal Responsibilities- When you live with someone, you tend to take on joint obligations, but not enough people take the time to actually legally acknowledge their rights and responsibilities to one another.  If you want to be sure that you are not left in a vulnerable financial position, then perhaps it is worth investing in a formal agreement to memorialize your understanding of who is entitled to what.  For non-married couples, cohabitation agreements can address major issues regarding paying expenses and rights to joint assets.  For couples considering marriage, a prenuptial agreement can set forth what will remain separate versus joint, and if there will be any exposure to spousal support in the event of divorce.  For those already married, a post-nuptial agreement can deal with all these issues.  The goal of all three documents is to clarify everyone's understanding of how the partnership will function financially so that all parties involved can go on to live happily ever after.

Here is the link to one of my favorite tv interviews about Love & Money: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MS6ekFYr9Pg

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Taking the Stand: Time to Retire the 'R' Reference?

This football season, why not just refer to our local team as the "DC Football Team" instead of using a name that offends innocent people?  Various courts and media outlets are taking the stand, and this article gives a great explanation of why as individuals we should consider ditching the term:  "Taking the Stand: Time to Retire the 'R' Reference?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Friday, September 12, 2014

Are You Delivering the Right Message?

Have you found that your message just isn't getting through to someone you love?  Well, that happens a lot but luckily there are only 2 possible issues, either (1) they are choosing not to listen or (2) the way you are conveying your thoughts needs improvement.  I can't do anything about the first problem, but with the latter you have to keep this in mind: your message might be great, but if your delivery sucks it won't be effective.

Most people have a hard time receiving any form of criticism, especially off the clock.  A lot of people either get defensive or shut down when faced with anything resembling a critique of their behaviors, choices or character so the key to getting through is to (1) choose your words carefully, (2) focus on how things make you feel or affect you, and (3) above all avoid name-calling or passing judgment.

When things break down it's usually because at least one person feels they are "right" and the other is "wrong."  If someone believes their choices are appropriate and the other's are not, they are never going to be able to communicate effectively.  What's worse is that when you start to take on the role of a nagging parent, the other is going to lose interest fast in the bedroom.  It's simply not a turn on to shag with a nag.

If you are committed to working things out with someone, then you have to be able to work on delivering the right message-- that means discussing things in a respectful manner and with an open mind.  Your job is not to crucify or punish your partner, but rather to listen to his/her concerns and work together towards a mutual solution.  So, here's a phrase that captures that spirit: I love you, and I need your help addressing this issue that I have.  I think we can all agree this will be much better received than something like "I'm pissed and you need to fix this now."

Word choice is key to navigating difficult talks, so choose your words wisely.  Remember, you may have the right message, but if your delivery sucks you will be SOL.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What Is The Real Issue?

After 20 years in the legal industry, I have been privy to some of the nastiest fights imaginable, but in family disputes it really boils down to three main issues: (1) division of labor, (2) money and (3) time. These are limited resources for all of us, and when arguments erupt at home, I find it helpful to take a step back and ask yourself this before launching into World War III: what is the real issue?

The issue people often think they are fighting about isn't the actual issue at all.  Let me give you some examples:

1 Chores- Do you find yourself arguing about chores?  That's normal, but too often couples focus on who did or didn't do what and really this rarely gets anyone to a better place. The real issue is that someone feels unappreciated, overburdened, and/or that the division of labor is unfair.  Now since you can't undo the past, you need to let that go. Instead, why not center the discussion on what could be done differently going forward?  Everyone should be able to agree on what needs to get done, and that no one should be burdened with 100% of all the chores.  After establishing some common ground, a couple should be able to divide up all the household tasks or decide to source out some of the work to another.

2. Money- Does it seem like someone is either being too controlling or a bit reckless about spending?  Well, money is always a sore subject in families, and we often partner with someone that values money differently. Without passing judgment, try to dig a bit and learn how someone grew up-- did someone's family struggle financially?  If so, then there might be a deep-seeded fear about being poor that cannot be glossed over.  If someone was not taught money management skills early on, then efforts simply must be made to help that person understand the financial implications of certain life choices.  Don't just agree to disagree about money. Financial responsibility is critical to maintaining a healthy family because nothing creates more stress than financial woes. If your basic needs cannot be met, how can you enjoy life together?

3. Time- Do you keep arguing about how much time is spent outside the home or on someone's electronic devices?  This is a clear indication that someone feels neglected, or that s/he is not a priority to the other partner.  The fact is we all have demands on our time that require us to spend significant amounts of time outside the home- work, kids activities, community outreach, along with our individual interests that may involve exercising and socializing with friends.  This is all normal, but you still need to make time for some alone, quality time with your partner, and only together can you realistically set expectations of one another and what an appropriate allocation of time will look like to maintain a happy partnership.

Of course there are far more complicated issues that can arise in a marriage, including problems that surface when there is infidelity, abuse, addictions, personality disorders or other severe mental health conditions, and dealing with those kinds of issues definitely requires the assistance of a mental health professional.  But absent these kinds of stressors, I truly believe issues about time, money and labor can easily be addressed if couples could just honestly talk about their feelings associated with these limited resources, and instead of trying to win each individual argument, they should switch the focus to finding solutions for the deep-seeded, underlying issues. That is really the only way to succeed in love-- by creating the win-win for everyone involved.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Are You Caught in a Downward Spiral?

We've all been in situations where you can see that things are starting to go south, and yet you are not really sure what to do to stop the downward spiral.  Well, really it is very simple, because you only have 3 choices:

1. Do Nothing.  Not a great option if you want things to improve.  If you want the relationship to last, you can't just stand there hoping beyond hope that a miracle or act of God will just make things better.  That rarely happens, and instead the outcome that is pretty much guaranteed is that things will just get worse.

2. Get Out.  This is relatively easy to do in business relationships and with acquaintances, but not so easy when you are talking about a close family member or a life partner.  If you don't live with that individual you can unilaterally decide to build up your boundaries and change the closeness of the relationship without completely severing ties, but this is much harder to do when you are in the same house and have joint obligations.  Establishing a separate residence and/or divorcing has severe financial and emotional consequences that need to be carefully considered before pursuing this option.

3. Repair Work.  I know it is not easy, and it does require effort on both sides to want to fix things, but there is so much to be gained by maintaining a loving relationship that withstands the test of time.  Although this is not my area of expertise, I do actually spend a lot of time reading the research in this field, and it is no secret that Dr. Gottman is my favorite relatinship expert.  In addition to his famous book "Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work," I encourage everyone to read "What Makes Love Last?"  While it would be impossible to do justice to his work in just one blog, I will tell you that the greatest piece of advice I have gleaned from all his writing is this: you need to avoid the nasty box.  He calls it the roach motel-- once you check in, you can't check out.

We have all been in the roach motel at some point in our lives-- and we can all agree that it is a horrible, dark place to be that should be avoided like the plague.  But the fact is, no one ever winds up in the roach motel overnight.  We are all guilty of allowing the downward spiral to occur, and the key message here is that when we realize what is happening, we have to be honest about the choices before us as stated above.

When faced with what Gottman calls "sliding glass door moments" the choices we make truly define the path our love will take. Hopefully you can turn toward your partner, not away from him/her, and by fostering compassion and empathy together you can avoid checking into that dreaded roach motel.


Friday, September 5, 2014

Top 5 Lessons Sports Teach Kids

It's been over 20 years since I gave up the crazy life that involved training every day and competing in tournaments across the country, but there are many lessons that have stayed with me all these years and helped me in my adult life.  Here are my top 5:

1. Respect Your Body- As an athlete you are trained to exercise regularly, eat well and sleep at least 7 hours a day.  If you want your body to last, you have to maintain in properly.  It is no accident that my  size has not varied greatly all these years, and it has everything to do with discipline.  You have to take care of yourself, even long after you retire from sports.

2. Embrace Delayed Gratification- No one is an overnight success in the world of sports.  It takes a lot of discipline and training to become an elite competitor.  Especially in an age where everyone expects instant gratification, I believe it is key to develop this life-skill because the fact is any major accomplishment has to be earned over time.

3. Criticism Isn't A Bad Thing- Any decent coach is always going to point out areas where you can  improve.  Over the years, I learned to appreciate that only those that really care about my success are willing to provide feedback, both good and bad.  I also developed the ability to voice my own constructive criticism, and little did any of us know back then how well this would serve me years later in attempting to revamp the field of family law.

4.  Play- We definitely work hard in sports, but we also play a lot.  After all, none of the athletes I ever encountered pursued a sport they did not enjoy.  We are a passionate bunch-- it is about doing something you love, and doing it well while having fun.  If you cannot find time to play, then what is the point???

5. Life Goes On-   We all know that you win some, you lose some, and this lesson is very apparent in sports.  You can taste sweet victory one day, and suffer a crushing defeat the next.  You can be at the top of your game one week, and next thing you know you get injured.  We are all taught to work through the pain, and that without pain there is no gain.  And should you choose to opt out, life does go on without you because there will always be more players to take part in the games.

In then end, I am eternally grateful for all the lessons I learned as a gymnast, and I can see how they continue to come in handy every day, even though I am not a professional athlete.  Through sports you learn about the unpredictable nature of life, the fragility of the human condition, and the importance of perseverance.  Hopefully by encouraging our kids to pursue sports, the same will be true for future generations.