Thursday, April 30, 2015

3 Things You Must Do To Achieve Work-life Balance

If you are among the millions claiming to want work-life balance, here are three essential steps you have to take to really make progress towards that goal:

1. Find a Guide- Rather than just complain to friends or co-workers about the lack of balance in your life, go find someone who has achieved it and pick his/her brain for advice.  My very first boss out of law school, who has been my mentor throughout my career, is a shining example of someone who always made time for his family and kept his priorities straight.  His partners shared the same philosophy, and along the way I came to know a few others that shared this view (mainly those that left big firms and opened their own shops), and it is through these contacts that I found it possible to create a life that works for me.

2.  Learn to Say No- If you want to enjoy life, you need to stop being a people pleaser.  There are way too many takers in this world wanting to claim your time and/or energy, so you have to learn to set your own boundaries and be able to say "no I can't stay late for this client," or "no I can't take on another volunteer/committee project."  Even your family needs to hear you say "no, I just can't make every event, but I'll try my best to be there for the important ones."

3. Define Your Own Success- You cannot compare yourself to others.  Over the years, I've come to accept that by not working at a big firm, I will make half what my colleagues there earn, and yet by not being a full time, stay at home mom, I am not able to do everything that those other moms can do for their kids.  So guess what?  It doesn't matter at all as long as you can live with the choices you have made for yourself.

The past 10 years, it has not been easy to juggle being a single mom while running my own law firm in DC, but the point is it can be done, and I have no regrets because the funny thing that many don't realize is that those first 10 years with your children are precious.  As they become pre-teens and teenagers, their peers become more important, and they just spend less time with their parents.  If you want to create a lasting bond, you need to be around during those first ten years.  Just think of it this way:  you can always make more money, but you can't go back and recapture time.

Even for those that don't have children, or those that now find themselves as empty-nesters, work-life balance is an important goal to achieve for each person's own health and sanity.  Many of my friends without kids still want to make time to travel, build on their personal relationships with others, and/or explore other interests, and these are all worthwhile pursuits that can be accomplished if you set your mind to it and follow the 3 simple steps set forth above.

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

When Is It Okay to Lie On Your Dating Profile?

Over the past decade in the single world, as online dating really took off, there were many debates among my peers as to when it is acceptable to fudge the truth a bit on your dating profile.  Here are the 4 big things everyone agreed you should not lie about:

1. Height, weight or age-- seriously, it is so easy to get busted on those lies in the first date, and we can all agree that it is not nice to waste someone's time.  What may seem superficial to one, may not be to another, who maybe only want to date a person that is over 6 feet, or a certain physique or age.   We all have our reasons for liking certain attributes.

2. Geographic location.  Sadly, a lot of us do think about commute time and how hard it will be to date someone outside a 20 mile radius.

3. Family situation.  Accept where you are in life, and that some people may not want to get involved with a pending divorce or complicated custody schedule.  No one should misrepresent his/her marital status or obligations towards their children.

4. Future vision- If you want to marry and/or have kids (which is normal for about 80% of the population) just be aware of the fact that not everyone shares this as a mission.  And if you never want to marry or have kids, just own that these are your choices and realize that you should not provide another with false hope.  It is simply not fair to let someone develop a connection with you when you are not on the same page about future goals.

So, what are the two areas where most people agree it is okay to say a white lie?

#1- No one needs to know early on the full reasons for your last break up; and

#2- Your profession-- many believe it is quite appropriate to dumb it down a bit either to screen out  gold diggers or not intimidate potential suitors.

If you are not sure what to say about your last break up or your profession, run it by some friends.  Mine will never let me live down the fact that at times over the last few years I told people I was simply a writer or data analyst, which is true-- I do write every day, and I do analyze data, but as we all know that's a pretty minor part of my job as a family lawyer and legal commentator in DC.

It's tough to navigate all the challenges that arise with online dating, and not everyone is above-board and ethical.  But guess what?  It is how many people meet these days, and regardless of what others are doing, just use your own moral compass to guide you and never forget those disaster dates for they will help you appreciate just how lucky you are when you do find the one.

Dating is like playing the lotto-- you have to play to win.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Are You Changing Your Name?

I ask this question every day-- of women getting divorced, not those about to get married.  Why? Well, because for brides I think this is a very personal choice, and not one that I really can weigh in on.  Meanwhile for those getting divorced, although it is a very simple procedure legally to be restored to your maiden name as part of a divorce proceeding, this decision involves complicated logistics and emotions for my female clients, especially when they share the same last name as their children.

Whether you are a bride to be, or a soon to be divorcee, the procedure for changing your name is generally the same-- and I suggest your share this with any bride and/or groom you may know so that s/he can fully appreciate what is involved here:

1 You will need to obtain from the court a certified copy of either the marriage certificate or divorce decree.  Get multiple copies just to be safe-- this will probably cost about $6 each.
2. Submit the court document to Social Security to obtain a new card.
3. Go to DMV with that court document and your Social Security card to get a new license.
4. Contact all your banking institutions (including credit cards) and submit your new identification cards so they can update your records.
5. Get a new passport with your new name.
6. Contact all your organizations/licensing institutions to update your name change.
7. Let friends and family know, and update your social media profiles accordingly.

These are the main steps, and as you can see it is not easy, quick or cheap.    And then there are other factors to consider, such as how will this impact your business?  How will your children feel if you don't share the same last name?  How important is it to your new spouse that you share the same name?  How attached are you to the name you have?  All tough questions that need to be asked by each individual woman in order for her to make the best decision for herself.

At 25, when I first married and had not yet established my career, there was zero hesitation in changing my name, and when I divorced in my 30's I kept my name both for business reasons and because I wanted to share the same last name as my son.  Now that I'm in my 40's, I have zero interest in ever changing my name, but I respect a woman's right to make her own choice, and so should any groom, who by the way is also welcome to change his name and go through the same process set forth above.

Are you changing your name?  Think it through carefully, and then just do what works for you.

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How Big Is Your Ask?

We all need something from others-- truly, not a single person I have encountered over the last four decades operates as an island.  But the key question to keep in mind when asking for something is this: how big is your ask?  The bigger the favor, the more prepared you need to be to get a "no."

As a divorce lawyer, here are 3 big asks I often have to deal with:

1. Alimony- asking someone to help their ex meet his/her expenses is a big ask, especially if you are seeking indefinite (aka "lifetime") alimony.

2. Custody- when someone says they want "sole" or "primary" custody, that person has to be prepared to answer the inevitable question of why is that appropriate?

3. Property- often one spouse just wants to keep the house or his/her retirement.  I get that there are emotional reasons for these positions, but we need to present logical reasons in court to justify each and every request.

Outside of divorce court, it seems every day people keep arguing about the same two things: time and money.  Both are limited resources, and we don't all share the same priorities.  Especially as families get re-configured, you have to understand and accept that new obligations may be created that will impact someone's ability to contribute time or money to your cause, whatever that may be.  But if you really want to boost your chances of success, my advice is fairly simple here: remember your please and thank yous. Word choice matters a lot, and people are far more receptive to requests versus demands.

Unfortunately, no matter how nice or accommodating you may be, not everyone is capable of putting themselves in another person's shoes, and they can only see things from their own perspective.  It is almost impossible to work/try to reason with someone that lacks the capacity to have empathy for others.  In these scenarios you just have to remind yourself that it's about them, not you so you just need to pick your battles and know when to walk away.

Before your next big ask, take a moment to consider how big is the ask, and how would you feel if you were the other person?  The bigger the ask, the more you need to prepare yourself for a "no" and have a back up plan, this way the sting of rejection won't hurt as much and if you happen to get a "yes" then you will just be pleasantly surprised.

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Can You Meet Me Halfway?

When you find yourself at odds with someone, what do you do?  Do you get mad or sad?  Do you fight or flee?   These are all normal emotional responses, but what you really need to do in the face of conflict is calm down and let the rational part of your brain kick in.  This is very hard to do when you are in the middle of an unpleasant situation, but try to think of it this way: when the milk gets spilled are you just going to sit there and cry, or go get a mop?  Hopefully, you will opt for the mop, and as you walk over to grab it, here are some points to consider:

1. What is my best case scenario?  And what steps do I need to take to get that outcome?

2. What is my worst case scenario?  And how sure am I that this won't happen?

3. What are the transaction costs involved?  Make sure to take into account how much it will cost in terms of time and money to pursue a battle to the bitter end.

4. What are all the possible solutions that can mitigate everyone's damages?  It is important to take into account here others that may not be part of the direct conflict but that could be impacted by the on-going tension/failure to reach a solution.

Over the last 20 years in the legal field, these are the 4 steps I have used to guide people through settlement discussions in an attempt to avoid a trial, because the sad truth is that court is very expensive, not at all a speedy process, and it can often be unpredictable.

It's taken me a long time to accept that conflict is a normal part of life, and that we don't always get it right inside a courtroom.  But thankfully it rarely gets to that point-- 9 out of 10 times we are able to talk through concerns, listen carefully to what others have to say, and find a way to meet each other halfway and thus avoid a bloodbath.

This is not just a way to resolve cases, it's actually a great way to navigate life.