Author: Leonce Richard

THE DIVORCE CLIENT: SO TELL ME HOW YOU REALLY FEEL?

Divorce is naturally an emotional process – before, during and after the fact. As a family law attorney, probably half my time is spent dealing with clients’ emotions than actually practicing law – a reality that prompts most attorneys (and clients) to ask me “how do you do what you do every day?” While there are myriad emotions that can surface during a divorce, I have found that the three most prominent emotions experienced by divorcing clients are sadness, fear, and anger – generally in that order. Different clients will experience each of these emotions in varying degrees and for varying periods of time, but sooner or later most will have to deal with all three during the divorce process. Sadness over the end of a marriage is an obvious and natural response to a divorce (even by the party who wants it).  Clients’ sadness over divorce is not usually a problem as it eventually recedes as the divorce progresses and clients’ attention is focused on moving forward with the process and their lives. However, if the client becomes chronically morose or depressed to the point where they cannot function, then professional intervention may be appropriate. Grief counseling early on is often a good method for helping clients avoid this pitfall and to learn to understand and cope with their emotions without being overwhelmed. Divorce often results in many...

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FIVE THINGS NEVER TO SAY TO YOUR DIVORCE ATTORNEY

Having practiced divorce law for over 30 years, I have been amazed by the number of clients who have uttered the same prophetic statements year after year, each one acting as if they were announcing the discovery of some new scientific truth for the first time. In no particular order, here are five such things that you should never say to your divorce attorney: “I shouldn’t have to give her anything – I was the one who worked and paid for it all; she didn’t contribute a dime to the marriage.” This sentiment arises from an archaic viewpoint. It is also one of the most deeply entrenched attitudes held by divorcing parties. While historically the law once provided that money and property acquired by the toil and labor of one spouse was that spouse’s sole property (except in community property states), that concept has largely been abandoned. Marriage is now generally viewed as a co-equal partnership between spouses with each spouse having an interest in the income and assets acquired by both “partners” during marriage. States today will generally follow one of two broad approaches to dividing income and assets in divorce: a community property approach or an equitable distribution approach. In either case, the court will usually (with a few exceptions) treat income and property acquired by spouses during the marriage as “marital property” subject to “equitable” division....

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BASIC CONCEPTS AND PRECEPTS OF CHILD CUSTODY

Divorce. Children. These two words seem joined more often these days. The result is one of the most emotional and traumatic issues in Family Law: child custody. It is also one of the most misunderstood. The term “child custody” is actually an amalgam of two related but entirely different concepts: “legal decision making authority” and “parenting time”. “Legal decision making authority” (aka “legal custody”) is basically the Family Court’s designation of which parent speaks for the children on such matters as health care (e.g., selection of a pediatrician, elective procedures); education (e.g., school choice); extracurricular activities; obtaining a driver’s license; etc. Legal decision making authority can be either shared (“joint”), where both parents have equal say and both must agree to a particular decision regarding the children (“co-parenting”), or sole, where one parent is granted the exclusive authority to make such decisions. “Parenting time” (formerly called “visitation”) is the scheduled time allotted to each parent to have physical custody of the children. Parenting time can run the gamut from an equal parenting time plan where each parent has the children exactly 50% of the time to restricted or supervised parenting time when there is a serious concern for the children’s well-being for some reason while with one parent (e.g., domestic violence or abuse, anger-management problems, suicidal tendencies, substance abuse, serious mental health issues, etc.). It is important that parents...

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PREMARITAL AGREEMENTS: MORE THAN JUST A DIVORCE DOCUMENT

Premarital Agreements are gaining in popularity. They are now a regular facet of both marriages and divorces. Retirement-age couples find them attractive for organizing and protecting their estates for inheritance; middle-age couples look to them to avoid repeating the trauma of recent divorces; and young, never-married professional couples find that such agreements fit their perception of marriage as a contractual business partnership. Most people wrongfully perceive drafting a premarital agreement as an adversary, hard-nosed business deal with one spouse on one side of the table with his or her attorney and the other spouse on the other side of the table with their attorney. Such an approach not only increases the cost of preparing such agreements, it is certainly counterproductive to starting the couple on what should be a lifetime of wedded bliss. Drafting a premarital agreement should instead focus on a collaborative effort of two people coming together to create a “life plan” with regard to forming a lifetime partnership. It is well documented that conflicts over how to handle financial matters and spending are one of the biggest causes of divorce. Getting a couple in sync on a mutual philosophy and expectation for jointly handling their property and finances should give them a healthy start to marriage. Going through the process of mutually crafting such a life plan can also help build new trust and understanding between...

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The DW Family Law Blog Blog is published by Dickinson Wright PLLC to inform the public of important developments within the firm and practice areas. The content is informational only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. We encourage you to consult a Dickinson Wright attorney if you have specific questions or concerns relating to any of the topics covered in this blog.

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