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david@davidhinsonlaw.com

Shriver, Schwarzenegger & Collaborative Divorce?

By now everyone has heard the news that Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger announced their decision to divorce only days after celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary.  I (predictably ) wondered what kind of process they will use to divorce after 25 years of marriage.  My first thought was that they could benefit from a Collaborative Divorce.

According to AP writer Michael R. Blood, here, a spokesman for Schwarzenegger issued a joint statement from the pair stating that they were “working on the future of their relationship while living apart and they would continue to parent their four children — Katherine, 21, Christina, 19, Patrick, 17, and Christopher, 13… ‘After a great deal of thought, reflection, discussion, and prayer, [they] came to this decision together.’”  To me, that sounds like a couple who could really benefit from the Collaborative Divorce process.

As I have said before, Collaborative Divorce allows you to have control of what the terms of your divorce settlement are, and it is long-term focused by building communication and negotiation skills that assist you in continuing to have a workable co-parenting arrangement with your ex-spouse.  However, there are other advantages to a Collaborative Divorce.

One of the main benefits of Collaborative Divorce is that it is better for children.  Collaborative Divorce puts a focus on children’s needs and concerns.  A parenting schedule is created with the children’s best interests in mind, and in a full-team model, the mental health professionals acting as the Divorce Coaches and Neutral Child Specialist play a critical role in developing appropriate, effective, durable and healthy parenting schedules while making sure the children’s voices are heard.  The quote above clearly indicates Shriver and Schwarzenegger’s desire to protect their children and their parental involvement during and after their divorce, which is a hallmark of Collaborative Divorce.

Another benefit of Collaborative Divorce is the privacy it offers.  In a Collaborative Divorce, privacy is maintained and confidentiality respected throughout the process.  Information is shared and exchanged voluntarily and in private, outside of the courtroom.  In a traditional adversarial divorce, your attorneys go through the court system in a process called “discovery” to gather information, which is more expensive and much less private.   Your private life does not become a public issue.  Instead of having to argue and fight over possibly embarrassing or intimate details of your marriage in a courtroom, these issues are discussed in private, confidential four-way meetings between you, your spouse, and your two attorneys.  The opposite situation is all too easy to imagine.  Celebrity divorces usually become a media spectacle, with private information and intimate details becoming headlines.  Collaborative Divorce can offer a much more private and less stressful way to divorce with dignity.

Collaborative divorce is nothing new to celebrity couples, either.  Singer/actress Madonna and director Guy Ritchie are widely considered to be the first celebrity couple who publicly chose to divorce using Collaborative Law.  In 2008, actor/comedian Robin Williams and his wife chose to use the Collaborative Divorce process out of a desire to create a foundation for continuing to work together as parents for the sake of their children.  Williams stated “We will strive to be honest, cooperative and respectful as we work in this process to achieve the future well-being of our families.  We commit ourselves to the collaborative law process.”  More recently, Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren reportedly chose to use a Collaborative Divorce process to reach their divorce settlement agreement.

There are many processes you can choose to work through a divorce, and each has its own pros and cons.  It is important that you understand your options fully before deciding how to proceed.  While there is never a single process that will work for everyone, I highly recommend that you learn more about Collaborative Divorce and what it can offer you and your spouse if you are considering a divorce.  Please explore our website to learn more or call us at (919) 676-6598 to schedule a consultation.

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A few (little) ways to keep your children in the center instead of in the middle.

As a divorce lawyer, I know it is not easy to be a divorced parent. The day-to-day reality of shared physical custody can become a healthy, routine part of your new life, or a constant source of frustration and anger. When it is the latter, I have found that two things are usually true. First, both parents are usually at fault for the inability to get along, and second, the children are always the ones who suffer the most as a result.

Frustration is going to happen. It’s human nature. Hard feelings and high emotion are always involved in divorce and custody issues. You feel not only your own anger, disappointment, and sadness, but also your child’s. Every time your ex is late for a pick-up or drop-off, you feel it. Every time you wonder if your ex was telling the truth when he or she said your child was too sick for you to have your scheduled visitation time, you feel it. It can be easy to let your bitterness color every interaction you have with your ex. When you feel like your ex puts his or her own issues with you between you and your child, it can be nearly impossible not to respond in kind. But even if your frustration is completely justified, there is no excuse for letting it influence your behavior to the point where it starts to affect your children. (I will sometimes tactfully remind my clients that once they had a child they stopped having the luxury of self-righteousness, which can be a very satisfying point to make because I am fairly sure there is no credible way to disagree with it without sounding self-righteous).

That said, the following is a short list of little ways you can monitor your everyday behavior to keep things between you and your ex civil and to keep your children in the center instead of in the middle.

Be courteous. Not only are you setting a good example for your child, it’s hard for a person to be rude or stay mad at someone who is being polite and respectful. If you are picking your child up at the other parent’s home, walk to the front door, do not just honk the car horn. Be polite.

Stay calm. If things start to get combative, stay calm and never raise your voice. Take the high road, not the bait. Think of every encounter with your ex as an opportunity to demonstrate to your child how to behave like an adult.

Always be on time. There is usually a good reason for being an hour late, but there is never a good reason for being five minutes late. Be respectful and mindful of the other people your time matters to. Your child needs you to be on time. It shows them that they matter to you. And not only is your child waiting to see you, your ex is probably waiting for you to get there too. Don’t care that your ex is waiting on you? Then don’t ask him or her to care when you’re waiting on them or you want extra time with your child to make up for the time you missed.

Do not put your child in the middle.  Do not talk about your ex.  Do not discuss disputes or disagreements between you and your ex with your child. Do not talk negatively about your ex or his or her family or friends in front of your child. That person may be your ex, but he or she is still your child’s father or mother. And children do repeat what they hear. That said, children are not always the most reliable reporters, so do not believe everything your child tells you.

Put your child in the center. Instead of focusing on your perspective, focus on your child’s perspective. Act and react as though your child is the center of everything that happens in your life instead of you being the center. For example, it can be easy to refuse to reschedule a missed visitation because you are angry that your ex was two hours late even though you were on time and ready.  Why should you do him or her any favors?  It wasn’t your fault they had to work and couldn’t make it.  Again.  This kind of self-focused thinking is perfectly understandable but it will lead to increased conflict between you and your ex.  More importantly, your child will still have missed out on time with his or her other parent.  Unless there is a legitimate reason not to, be willing to be a bit flexible with visitation schedules from time to time.  As a parent, your life is about what is best for your child, not what is best for your sense of pride or fairness.

Your children only get one childhood and life is too short to be angry all the time. Do you have any suggestions or tips to add to this list? Post them in the Comments section below. If you have any questions about divorce, custody, or any other family law issue, call us at (919) 676-6598.

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Two Benefits of Collaborative Divorce You Might Not Know

Collaborative divorce is misunderstood. When I tell people I practice collaborative divorce, I would bet that 90% of them have never heard of it and the remaining 10% have the wrong idea about it. I think one of the problems is the name. When people hear “collaborative,” their first reaction, in my experience, is to fire off a list of reasons why their spouse would never be willing to agree to something like that. Sometimes, they might be right. But that immediate reaction to it frustrates me because in a lot of those cases, I bet if those people or their spouses knew about the advantages of a collaborative divorce, they would be on board. The following is a brief rundown of two of the lesser known (in my opinion) advantages of a Collaborative Divorce.

First: Collaborative divorce allows you to retain control over the final product of your divorce. Sometimes, going to court can be a roll of the dice. Sometimes, the law might not provide for the kind of solution you want. In a collaborative divorce, you and your spouse are in control of all decisions and solutions. Through the process of brainstorming and idea evaluation, some really interesting and creative solutions come out. Bonus: You don’t even have to like each other for this to work! The point is, the limits in court are what the law allows and what the judge thinks. The limits in a collaborative divorce are your own creativity and open-mindedness. The ability to create your own workable solution that makes the most sense for your own situation can often be much more durable, long-lasting and healthy.

Second: There is a focus on building for the future, not just on the frustrations of right now. Conflict exists in any divorce. Heck, conflict exists in any marriage. In a traditional divorce, the adversarial nature of everything tends to stir the pot. The focus is on “winning” (whatever that means in a divorce) and even on using the threat of court as leverage to “get what you want.” The end result is two people who usually not only hate each other, but have very little hope of maintaining a respectful working relationship when they inevitably have to deal with one another for the children’s sake (i.e., visitation schedules, holidays, health care or education decisions, etc.) And that’s not really best for the kids, is it? In a collaborative divorce, the underlying conflict really gets dealt with and the current frustration and anger really gets de-emphasized. There is a big focus on what you want your life to be like in 5 years, or even 10. There is a focus on what is best for your children. That said, it’s not a big group hug. It’s not sitting around in a circle talking about your feelings. (OK, sometimes it is that but you get the point). There is conflict and drama. There is crying and anger. Just like any other divorce process. It’s not easy work and it isn’t fun. Cheered up yet? The benefit is that the skills you learn and use throughout the collaborative divorce process also work long after the divorce is over. The same methods and procedures you learn and use during the process empower you and your spouse to be able to make changes and to address needs that come up down the road.

Collaborative divorce is one of many processes for divorce that are available. If you want to know more, please continue exploring this site, or call us at (919) 676-6598.

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Welcome to the LODH Blog

Welcome to the Law Offices of David Hinson (LODH) blog. 

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