Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Divorce Stats: Not As High As Most People Think

Most people think the divorce rate is 50% or higher but the divorce has actually been dropping for some time now.  Texas has followed suit with the nation by see a steady decline in divorces since the 1980s and 1990s.

In metro Houston, 42.1% of the population over 15 is married.  This is lower than the Texas and the national average of 50%.  The second most common marital status is single and never married at approximately 39%.

This is good news for all the romantics and optimists out there.  As an institution marriage brings many wonderful benefits to couples who choose to enter into it.  At my firm, we are NOT advocates of divorce.  We try to encourage our clients to work things out with their spouse if possible, but we are there to make sure the divorce process is fair if it is not possible.    

Sunday, April 12, 2015

3 Excellent Reasons To Do Your Own Divorce (from a Divorce Attorney)

When a divorce is on the horizon, many people will run out and retain an attorney and have that professional do all of the details on the case from the beginning to the end. But this may not be necessary in your case.  Instead of retaining an attorney, in many cases it may be best to simply consult with an attorney and do the divorce on your own.  If your situation warrants it, you CAN do your own divorce and this article will give you three excellent reasons why you should.

There is no doubt that divorce is a terrible thing to go through.  For the thousands who experience it yearly, it is rarely without some pain.  Aside from the emotional turmoil, the legal aspects are what create the most stress.  Getting the right attorney is essential to reducing your stress- but too many folks think that the traditional reaction of immediately hiring an attorney on retainer is always necessary.  I say "MAYBE NOT". If you have the right set of circumstances, it is entirely possible to get a divorce without RETAINING an attorney.- but instead taking charge of your own case by doing your own divorce.  So here are three excellent reasons to do your own divorce:

#1:  Taking Control of Your Divorce Case Can Be Very Empowering.

By the time many people are ready to get a divorce, they have been through the emotional wringer.  Their self-esteem has been battered and their sense of control over their lives has been bruised.  If they then go out and retain an attorney and direct him to take care of everything, there is a good chance that no matter how excellent a job the attorney does, the client will feel that their lives have been manipulated- yet again.  Taking direct charge of the process of your divorce can be a great way to get back the control you feel you have lost in dealing with a failed marriage.  If you feel you can think things through and make careful decisions about your divorce, you may find that doing so helps you get back your mojo.

#2:  Involving An Attorney Can Be Like Pouring Gas On An Open Flame.

There are some attorneys who market themselves as "bulldog" attorneys.  They prey on the fears of their clients by conducting a very aggressive and expensive legal campaign which in the end gains the client nothing more than they would have gotten through settlement and sometimes even gets them less.  Aside from that kind of obvious legal combustible, there are a couple of other reasons that getting a lawyer can blow things up.  

First, if you hire an attorney, that will encourage your spouse to "lawyer up" too.  And even if you got a conscientious lawyer who is trying to settle the case on best terms for you, that doesn't mean your spouse's attorney won't be one of those "bulldog" types.  If so, then your attorney will have to respond to all the nasty legal maneuvers that will do nothing but increase the cost of the divorce.  You can best avoid this by not getting an attorney at all and trying to do this without "lawyering up".

Second, even if you both have ethical attorneys who are trying to keep the tension and the costs to a minimum, an attorney's involvement in a case will still complicate it far more than if you did it on your own.  The reason is that attorneys are always worried about their own liability in a case.  They are in constant fear that at the end of case, a client will sue them for being an ineffective attorney- for not doing all that could have been done to win the case.  So if you want to shortcut or speed up some part of a case because you think it doesn't apply to your situation, then the lawyer will either push back or outright refuse to skip certain parts.  Take discovery and valuation of property for example.  This is the part of a divorce where attorneys send out formal demands for the value of all your property.  Suppose you KNOW your spouse will not try to take your grandmother's tea set in the divorce.  The attorney will still want to get an evaluation of it JUST IN CASE the issue goes to trial.  You may be convinced it will not be an issue, but your lawyer is just doing his job if he prepares for the worst and demands an accounting of it.  This will cost you money and complicates the case.  If you are in control of your own divorce, then you can take this risk of not valuing all the property if you choose to.

#3.  Doing Your Own Divorce Is Cheaper.  Duh.

Lawyers are not cheap.  Some are more expensive for good reason- they have expertise in certain aspects of divorce that took many years to come by.  Some kinds of divorces need that expertise.  But most cases don't require it and you are wasting your resources by buying all that.  

Some lawyers are more expensive because they have high overhead- they like to surround themselves in large lavish offices and have all manner of assistants and staff that are not necessary in today's automated world.  They jack up their bills to pay for all that and the free gourmet coffee you are offered at your first meeting with your lawyer will wind up costing you thousands extra at your last meeting with him. 

Finally there are attorneys who demand outrageous rates and will nickle and dime you on every minor transaction because they are - well greedy.  These type prey on the fact that most people aren't knowledgeable about the services an attorney offers and they don't shop around the way they would if it was any other kind of service.  Many people shopping for an attorney will go with the first ad they see in the yellow pages or in the first listing on the internet.  Believe me, if you want a good value in your legal services, go to the second page of listings in Google.

The bottom line is that you don't have to retain an attorney.  If your case is simple and you have basic agreements with your spouse and you are able and willing to stay in charge of your divorce and act as your own attorney (pro se) you can do much of the work yourself. 

HOWEVER, even the simplest of divorces involve complex paperwork and court procedures that are different from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  People may not need a full service law firm for most of their divorce, but most people attempting to do their own divorce would be foolish not to at least have the consultation of a licensed attorney to give them advice when things get complicated.  Books and automated forms on the internet are usually NOT adequate to the task of getting all the paperwork done right the first.  If you rely on those you will probably do it wrong and wind up wasting hundreds of dollars and many hours or your time.

If you attempt to do your own divorce, you should seek the advice of an experienced divorce attorney who is willing to provide "unbundled" services.  These attorneys will do those parts of your case that are too complicated and offer consultation on those parts you can do on your own.  This is an innovative way of offering services that just might be the best for your situation.

If you have any questions about unbundled divorces, you can check out my firm's website at www.mydivorcefirm.com for more information. 



Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Top 7 Questions To Ask When Taking Care of Kids During a Divorce

If you are divorcing or are recently divorced, it is vital that you keep your children's best interest in mind.  It is often easy to loose your bearings as you are caught in a whirlwind of legal activity and emotional distress which all divorces bring.  This turmoil can make it hard to determine if you are doing all you can do to for your child.  So here are the top seven questions you should ask yourself to make sure you are still being the best parent you can be during a divorce.

1.  Are you being there for your child?  You will be drained and you will want to withdraw into yourself during a divorce, but your children need to know that you are still there for them and you will continue to provide emotional support during this time.  Divorce is stressful on everyone and your child needs to know that you are there to answer their questions and help them process their painful feelings.  You do not need to be instantly available 24/7, and everyone needs some mental downtime, but you must make it a point to generally be there when your children need some answers, or just some hugs.

2.  Are you giving your kids needed encouragement and approval?  Kids of all ages seek out the encouragement and approval of their parents.  It is vital to their self esteem to know that you think of them often and are proud of them.  Particularly at a time when they are submerged in self doubt over the divorce, you have to show them in both expressed and subtle ways that you think they are great.  Be generous with your praise.  Carry their pictures in your wallet and their drawings on your desk.  Constantly stoke their self-esteem by praising them.  Now more than ever, they need to be assured that they are worthy of being loved.

3.  Are you treating your kids like people?  Your kids are unique individuals with their own personalities, and perspectives.  You need to be sensitive to their experience of the divorce and how they can be different from yours.  

4.  Are you trying to have a positive relationship with the other parent?  Even though you feel you would be better off having less contact with your ex, or soon to be ex, spouse, this may not be what is best for your kids.  Research has shown that children make the best recovery from divorce when both parents are actively involved in the children's life and the interaction is conflict free.

5.   Are you modeling to your kids how to handle stress?   Divorce is an extremely stressful time.  If you demonstrate your ability to handle the stress of divorce without resorting to becoming violent, verbally abuse, or using drugs or alcohol, you kids will know that it is ok if you occasionally express anger and frustration.  Kids need to see you handle stress without losing control.  They then won't be fearful when you get angry.   

6.  Are you maintaining family and community ties?  Chances are you kids are experiencing the loss of a full-time parent.  They should be allowed to find the comfort of familiar surroundings and support such as scout leaders, church leaders, friends and neighbors.  You may feel like you want to get away and start a new life from your old, but your children need the familiar ties of their community especially at this time.

7.  Are you making every effort to peacefully resolve issues with your ex, or soon to be ex, spouse?  Your kids will be less fearful and stressed if they see you and the other parent working cooperatively.  If they observe examples of flexibility, consideration and cooperation, in resolving parenting issues, they will be less fearful that the aftermath of the divorce will be a never-ending battle of wills- with them in the middle.

Divorce is one of the most painfully stressful times in anyone's lives - and even the most well meaning of parents can fall into a spiral of emotion where they forget to keep their children's best interest at the front of their attention.  When you find yourself in an emotional tailspin from divorce, ask yourself these seven questions to keep your perspective - and your focus on being the best parent you can to your children.