Thursday, January 29, 2015

Can You See What The End-Game Looks Like?

Those of us that like to plan ahead visualize our goals and then work backwards from that point to figure out all the steps that need to be completed to achieve the desired outcome.  No where is this skill more useful than in dealing with legal disputes.

Unfortunately many seem to be unaware of the fact that litigation is a drawn out process.  We all need to do our due diligence first, gather all the relevant information, review all the settlement options, try to promote a compromise between the parties, and then as a last resort prepare for trial if the parties cannot reach a resolution.  All of this takes time and money.

Understandably a lot of people put off filing a legal action, but the sad reality is that the longer you put off filing an action, the more time you will have to wait to get your matter scheduled before a judge.  Waiting until the situation is urgent will not necessarily make the case an emergency for court personnel.  So for example if someone stops paying you alimony or child support, after 6 months without payments have gone by, you may want to ask the court to intervene sooner rather than later.  Similarly, if you have kids and are already starting to realize that you and your former partner do not agree on issues such as (i) summer camps, (ii) travel arrangements or (iii) the choice in schools for next year, NOW is the time to start raising those issues with the court, which may well have a 6 month waiting period for you to get on the docket.

As much as I like to promote settlements out of court, sadly I do admit that when time is of the essence on getting a resolution, sometimes the only option you have with a non-responsive or difficult opponent is to file first, negotiate later.  Odds are in your favor that you will work something out, either because calmer heads tend to prevail once professionals get involved, or maybe because the stark reality of what it costs to go to trial acts a great incentive for getting people to settle.  To be honest, I think it's a bit of both.

Now outside of court, there is another end-game that you need to consider-- what is the long term goal with your personal relationships?  When kids are involved, you have to be very careful to filter what you say around them.  Kids don't want to hear negative things about their parents.  It is very hurtful for them to even be aware of the fact that their parents are fighting.  When I have to act as the attorney for the children, I explain to them that their parents are simply in disagreement, and when two people cannot agree on important legal issues, they have to request a meeting with a judge.  It really is that simple, and I emphasize that no one is going to jail or anything like that.

I realize that the prospect of going to court is terrifying to most people, but for those of us that are in there almost every week, it is a very safe place governed by rules and logic.  After 20 years in the legal industry, it is to me a very predictable process that I am quite comfortable with, but the truly scary aspect to me is the unpredictable nature of what happens outside that courtroom.   How will children and/or their parents react to certain decisions we make?  How well will parents be able to filter and work together going forward?  These are the true unknowns, and so it is that I find the most important work is that which occurs long after my court files are closed.  It is the work that parents and children, often with the help of family therapists, do to repair any damage done to the personal relationships that are part of that family.

So what does your end-game look like?  It's not just an important legal question, but a very deep and personal one that you need to answer before taking any drastic actions.  Think before you speak and act.  This is good advice not just inside the courtroom, but in life.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Why Dating Is A Lot Like Shoe Shopping

Why do I think dating is a lot like shoe shopping?  Well, because first of all one size does not fit all, and more importantly because we all buy different shoes for different reasons, depending on what we need at the time.  The same is true in the dating world.

Now, when I got divorced 10 years ago, lots of people told me "you are young and pretty, don't worry you will be remarried in no time."  Well, for a variety of different reasons, let's just say that did not happen, and honestly I'm glad it didn't.  I needed to enjoy my 30's as an independent woman.  Not only did I need the time to truly find myself, but more importantly I needed to appreciate my own strength and learn the beauty of what it takes to make a loving partnership work.

So, over the past decade, let's just say I tried on a lot of "shoes."  Some were very flashy, but not very practical.  Others were perfectly fine everyday wear, but lacked a special style.  Sometimes, I tried to settle for a shoe that just wasn't the right size, and that never worked out well.  But no matter what, I never lost hope that one day I would find that perfect fit, and finally that day has come-- turns out it had to be imported from Brazil.  Not only do they have great soccer players (despite this years World Cup performance) but they also seem to produce the most loving and caring lovers, well at least I'm basing that on my limited experience of one-- and that one is all I need.

When you find the right "shoe" you will know because it fits perfectly-- no need to break it in or suffer with any blisters.  It will feel like that shoe was made just for you.  Hold out for that one, and in the meantime, have fun shoe shopping!


Saturday, January 3, 2015

What's The #1 Reason Couples Split Up?

I get this question a lot- people always want to know what I think is the number one reason couples split up: is it adultery, money, addiction issues or abuse?  Actually, the answer  is quite simple: Narcissism.

While it is important to know what you want and to advocate for yourself in love and life,  it is equally necessary to learn to balance this out with your partner's wants and needs if you want a lasting, healthy relationship.  If you take a good look around you, you will see that those that are able to take into account other people's points of view and empathize with their partners have the best partnerships.

Those that can only focus on their own self-interest may be very successful at work, but I promise you they will struggle immensely in their personal lives.  Those that fail to learn to curb their narcissistic tendencies will always put their desires first at whatever cost to those around them-- and so they will focus on work to an extreme, have affairs and/or use money, drugs and alcohol as they please, all while verbally castrating anyone that dares to question their choices.

We all have narcissistic tendencies, but hopefully as we mature in life we learn to curb these tendencies, and as parents we have to do our best to teach our children to do this-- especially if we want them to have happy and healthy relationships that last when they grow up.

Love is about give and take.  Those that just want to take are actually going to miss out on a lot, especially when it comes to love.  Of that, I have no doubt.

Here's a link to great tv interview on this topic: