Thursday, April 2, 2020

What Happens When the Courts Reopen?

Just like the playgrounds, the courts are closed. I think it’s a golden opportunity – for you.

Over the last week, there have been a lot of webinars with our judges about what it means for family lawyers that the courts are closed and are going to remain closed.  It is going to take years for the court system to recover and catch up with hearing cases.

One judge said that the way around this coming backlog is for lawyers to use their skills as problem solvers and embrace the one process in which parties to a dispute agree not to use the courts, and use their lawyers to help them reach their own solutions to their problems: Collaborative Law. That’s right, a judge who hears family law cases all the time, who hears all the possible issues, thinks YOU can resolve your own family law issues without her help. That is so powerful. What she’s saying is that if the people she sees come before her have the right attorneys and the right help, they never need to be there. Remember, she sees the people who say they can’t reach agreement and who think they can’t work together; those are the people who end up before a judge. This judge thinks even those people can resolve their cases with Collaborative Law….if only they had attorneys who believed strongly enough in the process to try.

That’s the kicker about Collaborative Law. It’s a process for the strong. The weak are happy to let someone else make decisions for them. The strong know that a solution is out there. Even if they don’t think they can find it by themselves, they trust that the people they hire will have the commitment and the knowledge to help them find a way to the end. It’s hard work, for both the client and the lawyer. Not everyone wants to try, and I include in that group lawyers as well as clients. It’s a leap of faith, but the rewards are immense. Imagine that instead of having someone else make a decision, you kept the power to decide what happens in your own life and not only do you reach an agreement but you learn how to solve problems as they come up in the future. Isn’t that a greater value in the end than presenting a case before a judge and hoping they see the facts your way?

So back to that golden opportunity. Those who embrace Collaborative Law not only keep control over their outcome but also the timing of their divorce or custody issue. Which do you think will be heard first when the courts reopen, a 3 day trial or a 10 minute hearing? I teach Collaborative Law to lawyers and to law students. I believe in the process. I believe in you. Call me and let’s get started.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

The first Day of Daylight Savings Time

Daylight Savings Time kicks my butt every year.  I hate losing the extra hour of sleep.  I always plan to get to bed extra early the night before, and either that doesn't happen, or I end up tossing and turning for hours. This year, I also managed to have an earache.  I woke up exhausted.  I had a headache and an earache and felt generally awful.  The problem is, I still had my morning 7:30am walk with a friend, followed by meeting Max's walking expectations.  Then, there was my weekly yoga class at noon.  Tomorrow morning, I have to be up at 5 and out the door by 6 to babysit my granddaughter. Life doesn't stop just because Daylight Savings Time is getting the best of me.

Divorce is kind of like Daylight Savings Time.  Most people, if they're really honest with themselves. know in a small corner of their minds that their marriage is ending. Maybe they plan for it a bit, maybe they don't.  It comes all the same.  It kicks their butts, and knocks them down.  Life, however, goes on.  There's still work to be done, children to be cared for, and relationships to maintain.  Life doesn't stop just because there's a divorce.

In past years, I would power through the first day of Daylight Savings Time.  It wan't going to get the best of me!  So, I dragged myself through the day, doing everything I normally do.  It took me the better part of a week to recover.  Not this year.  Sure, I went for my walks and I went to yoga.  I also took a nap, sat and read a book or two, surfed on social media and laid around petting Max.  (I also took 2 ibuprofen). I acknowledged that today was different than other days and I couldn't treat it like it was the same.  I still did what I needed to do, but I took care of myself for the rest of the day.

When people are getting divorced, somehow they see it as a sign of weakness when they're exhausted, overwrought or just plain sad.  It's kind of a badge of honor that the divorce won't get the better of them.  Or maybe it's that they won't give their ex the satisfaction of knowing that getting divorce affected them.  I understand that desire.  The problem, however, is that divorce can be emotionally and physically draining.  It can also be a long process.  It is guaranteed to exhaust, overwhelm and sadden you.  When you don't acknowledge those facts and actively plan for them by engaging in self care, you could wear out before the end (which could be disastrous and lead you to agree to a bad settlement just to be done), not be in a frame of mind to settle (which could lead to an unnecessary trial or bypassing a good settlement) or take far longer to recover (and in the meantime, those near and ear to you suffer).    Self care is not being self-indulgent; it's simply good sense.  Here in the Trenches.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Let it Go

Sometimes the biggest gift you can give yourself and others is to “Let it Go.”  This weekend was our annual, multi-generational trip to Disney for the RunDisney Princess Half Marathon.  This year, Mom hurt her leg and was told she should not even try to walk long distances, of which there are plenty.  Mom, being a very fit 83 years young, did not want to rent a wheelchair or a scooter.  I think she thought it made her look and feel old.  She also, however, did not want to miss out on the day we planned at EPCOT or the dinner at Disney Springs.  She swallowed her pride and rented a scooter.  Best idea ever (aside from running me over at bag check on that first morning - that did, however, make for a great family story).  Here’s the backstory.

Every other year of this trip, Mom started out the park day with us.  By the time lunch rolled around, she had enough of the standing in line and walking (an average park day is around 20,000 - 30,000 steps).  After lunch, she went back to our lodgings and spent the rest of the day sitting alone.  No fun for her and no fun for the rest of us because not only was she not with us having fun, but we also felt kind of guilty that she was by herself.  This year, even though the weather was frightful, she stayed with us all day.  She used the scooter when she needed it and her cane when she didn’t.  The rest of us enjoyed the use of the scooter when she wasn’t on it.  We loved that she was with us.  I got to show her parts of EPCOT I’ve never been able because of the amount of walking and standing it entails.  She was part of ALL of our experiences, not just some of them.  It was fantastic.  In fact, it was so great that I think we’ll use a scooter on all of our upcoming Disney trips.  Mom’s willingness to see herself as someone who uses a scooter as a transportation mechanism and not part of who she is saved our future trips (Mom had told me that she was thinking of not coming next time because she was holding us back).

Mom could have held on to her vision of herself as someone who did not need a scooter to enjoy herself.  Had she done so, she would have missed a lot of experiences as well as time with her family. Instead, she pulled on her driving gloves (no joke) and re-invented herself as a driver on an obstacle course who got to enjoy all of the family fun.  Separation and divorce bring so many changes to your life. How those changes affect you depend on how you view them.  Do you see yourself as someone with a failed marriage?  Maybe as a pathetic single parent?  Or as a failure because your marriage didn’t last?  Telling you to stop the negative thoughts is rarely successful unless and until you see yourself differently.  Sure, you’re now a single parent, and you are also someone who gets to invent new and different family traditions.  Maybe you now get to be the adventurer, exposing your children to new  and different experiences.  Yes, your marriage ended, and you learned what you’re looking for in a spouse, or maybe that you don’t want a spouse.  Maybe now you can be the driven executive or the world traveling nomad.

I know, you’re thinking about all those people in your life who are judging you.  They label you, and you care.  Why?  Maybe you’re now a person who doesn’t care what those people think. Maybe you’re now a person with friends who embrace who you have become and not what you are not.  This weekend, I was injured.  Running the two races fast or for time was not in my cards.  I’m sure people passed us at our leisurely pace and judged us based on our speed.  I didn’t care at all.  I was a race finisher, not a racer who always tries to run a faster time.  Because I internalized my vision of myself, what other people thought never entered my mind and I was proud to finish.  What about you?  Can you let go of what you were, what you thought you should be, and find an identity that gives you joy?   It isn’t easy, but it’s so worthwhile.  Try it.  Here in the Trenches.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Memories Matter

#1 Son and my Daughter in Love gave me a ticket to join them to see DIsney on Ice with their family as my holiday present.  I am certain it would not be the ideal holiday gift for many of you.  For me, it was the perfect present.  I love Disney, so you would think that was the reason it would appeal to me.  That’s not it.  It was the experience.  As far as I know, this was Granddaughter’s first live show.  It involved Disney princesses, which is a bit of an obsession with her right now.  I got to be with her as she experienced one of her “firsts,” and it involved something we both love.  Beyond that, it was beyond value that #1 Son and Daughter in Love wanted to share that first with me.   It was magical for all of us to watch her face as she saw her favorite characters come to life.  It was an out of this world experience to see her dance to the music and sing along with the songs.  She was so excited to have all of us with her. I will never forget that night.  The gift was priceless.  

Another gift #1 Son and Daughter in Love have given me is the opportunity to spend Monday mornings with Granddaughter. We are alone together every Monday her parents are working from 7am until 10am, when we are joined by the other Gaga.  We play games that are different than anything she does with anyone else, just like what she does with Mommy and Daddy and the other Gaga and Papas are different.  They’re our thing.  We spend Mondays making memories and sharing love.   I bring her nothing except me and pumpkin pancakes.

So often when families go through a divorce, money is tight and parents can’t afford to buy their children the things they ordinarily would have. Even worse, in some cases, one parent has the money to buy those things and does, and the other parent doesn’t.  When money is tight, parents worry that their children will suffer.  They worry that their children’s memories will be ones of deprivation.  They worry that the children will prefer the parent with money that’s being spent on them.  They worry that giving their children time with them isn’t enough.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, parenting is not a sprint; it’s a marathon.  Sure, in the short run, the parent with the most bling may be the preferred parent.  In the long haul, however, what children have left are memories.  Things don’t build memories; people and experiences build them.  Don’t worry about the cost - a board game, hide and seek, building a snowman, and reading stories all cost nothing but mean everything to your child.  Here in the Trenches.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

It's Princess Time Again

It's that time of year, when my thoughts turn to......Disney.  It's Princess Half Marathon time.  Many of my friends roll their eyes.  Some cannot understand my passion for Disney (Like my new office rug?  Can you see Minnie Mouse? Wait until you see my finished Disney wall!).  What could I possibly find to do every year?  Why would I want to go back there all the time?  Don't I ever want to go anywhere else?

Just to clarify for all of you doubters, I have travelled extensively and will do more.  It's not that I don't want to see other things in the world.  I like Disney.  Every year that we go to Disney, every time I drive through the archway, my trip is different.  I haven't had the same trip twice yet. But that's not really what you want to know.  What you want to know is why I keep going back. I will answer you, but it might seem a bit round about.

When Disney first opened, my father was not a fan.  He went once and called it the best two trips of his life - the first and the last.  I went a couple of times as a child (I did live in Florida), and then after I had #1 Son, we had Florida resident passes and went multiple times a year.  I know, you understand that, because after all Disney is for children.  Then I moved to Maryland and pretty much stopped going.  I think we went once after Daughter was born.  It wasn't because I didn't love Disney, because I did.  I just had other things that occupied my time and other places to go.

Then Daughter went to school in Tampa, which is only an hour away from The World.  Then Office Testosterone got sick and died.  Daddy was dying slowly from Alzheimers.  Life was hard.  I needed some whimsy in may life, so I decided to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon.  I decided to do it in costume.  Now, you may think running in costume is silly and potentially embarrassing, and if I were running Boston, I'd agree with you.  But this is Disney - everyone runs in costume.  It's kind of like a big Halloween party where everyone runs.  The more elaborate or realistic the costume, the better.  Planning that first costume, I involved Office T before he died.  I had a focus which wasn't the reality of Office T and Daddy.  I was supposed to run with a friend, but she ended up unable to come, so I invited Daughter and my aunt instead.  Here's what happened.

My costume was great.  The race was tough.  My knee was hurt. I had to walk a lot.  But, I stopped and posed for pictures at every. single. character spot along the way.  It took me forever to finish the "race," but I loved it.  The weekend wasn't really about the race, though.  Daughter, aunt and I had a blast.  We went to the parks and saw them through grown up eyes.  We were silly.  We stayed as long as we wanted at attractions.  We ate in nice restaurants.  We had fun.  We were making memories together.  And Disney?  Well, Disney was magical.  The cast members are always courteous and helpful; they go out of their way to make sure your trip is perfect. And if it isn't perfect, they make it right.

The next year, Daddy had died and Mommy wanted to come.  And my cousins.  The group became large.  Our ages went from my daughter at 21 to my mother at 78.  We had a blast again.  The trip was totally different from the first, but we had fun.  More importantly, we had fun together.  Most importantly, we had fun when it wasn't a holiday, with all the stress that entails.  We made happy memories.  We were just spending time together, experiencing life with each other in a whole new way.  We make new special memories every year. Sure, over the years (we're heading into the 8th year now), we have gotten to see each other's quirks and some of those quirks are not really the most endearing.  So what?  It's part of being together.  It's become a tradition.

But why Disney?  Disney is the same place, so it's familiar every time.  It's also a different place every time we go. We haven't done the same things or had the same trip twice.  Sure, we have our favorite restaurants and attractions, but the trip as a whole is different each time.  What is the same is how we feel.  Disney is a happy place.  Disney is a well oiled machine where you know everything will be great, and if it's not, Disney will fix it.  It's a place where, for the most part, people are their better selves, where the cast members treat you as a friendly neighbor and not just another body through the gates.  The food is great and the service is wonderful.  Plus, I love the attractions.

So, that's Disney.  What is most important to those of us here in the Trenches is that my Disney tradition is a fairly recent development.  It didn't exist until 8 years ago.  Life was hard.  Unwanted change was happening.  We needed something to bring us together as a family in a positive way, because there was a lot of negative going on.  We tried something new, something we hoped would be a fun and enjoyable time for all of us.  We didn't know when we started that it was going to be an annual tradition.  We just gave it a whirl.  Here in the Trenches, lots of folks have just finished the holiday season with traditions that don't work anymore, with family relationships that have changed.  They're sad because what they once knew doesn't exist anymore and they have lost people who were a large part of their lives.  As you head into the holidays, you really can't think about how to do anything different.  It's January now, and you have 11 months to re-imagine the holidays.  You have 11 months to plan something new.  Try something different.  Maybe something really different.  Maybe not even on the holiday itself.  It might become a tradition, and it might not.  One thing is for sure, you won't dread the holidays.  You might even find a way to celebrate that you never thought would work but ends up making this year the best holiday season of your life.  You will never know unless you try.  Here in the Trenches.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Rethinking a Fall

Once a winter, like clockwork, I let my concentration lag while running, hit a crack in the sidewalk and go down.  That day was Tuesday.  Luckily, I had time to twist to the side, so I hit grass.  Unluckily, I twisted the opposite hamstring while doing it.  Never mind that I rolled, popped up and announced to my staring neighbor that I was great.  I was not.  I limped home. I’m still limping, which means I’m not running.

I have a race in a month.  Between my sinus surgery, my bronchitis in December, and now my pulled hamstring, I know I will not meet my goal of out-kicking Daughter down the final stretch.  After my 10K in October, where I almost broke an hour, I was really looking forward to continued improvement.  I was stoked to out-kick Daughter next month.  I am disappointed that goal won’t be met.  I could take my running shoes and go home. I could decide it’s not worth running if I can’t meet my goal.  If you know me, you know that’s not what I’m doing.  I’m rethinking my goal.  My new goal is finishing strong.  I’ve told my coaches that needs to be the new goal.  I’m regrouping.  Let’s be clear, regrouping is not giving up. Even though I can’t meet my original goal, I can reach a goal.  My original goal is still there for next year.  

The people who come to me here in the Trenches had goals.  Their goals were to be happily married until death us do part.  Their goals were to be successful coparents in the same house until their children were grown.  Their goals were to be that couple that’s always in sync.  They had lots of goals related to a lifelong marriage or relationship.  That they’re in my office means they didn’t meet those goals.  The reason they didn’t meet them doesn’t matter.  What matters is that those goals are now unattainable.  It’s OK for them to be disappointed.  It’s not OK for them to be stuck.  

People think that all that those of us do here in the Trenches is resolve the legal issues of divorce.  That’s what some of us do.  Most of us, however, work really hard to help our clients see past their time in the Trenches.  We help them create new goals and visions for their future lives.  We help them see what goals are possible and what are not.  Their happily ever after isn’t there the day they walk into our offices.  If we’re doing our jobs, though, our clients have vision for new goals and how to attain them when they walk out.  Here in the Trenches.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Coffee Cuddles Revisited

Last week I posted on Instagram about my morning grounding ritual with my puppy.  If you didn't see it, I said that every morning when I get up, the first thing I do is get my cup of coffee and curl up on the couch with my puppy for morning cuddles.  It's that quiet time where Puppy and I share some love and have a few moments to collect our thoughts before we start the day.  No matter how crazy the ensuing day becomes, I have these few moments of calm reflection to anchor and sustain me.  I asked my followers what they did to ground themselves for the day.  Daughter and one other person answered.  So I thought that's that.  Except it wasn't.

I went to a meeting last night with my friends here in the Trenches.  Three of them came up to me and told me that they read my post and that have their own versions of coffee cuddles. Two did it with their dogs and one with her dogs and kids.  You should have seen the looks on their faces as they talked about their coffee cuddles.  They smiled.  Their eyes lit up.  They got that wistful tone to their voices.  Coffee cuddles was an important part of all of their lives.  It seems like such a little thing, but it's not.

There's stress in the Trenches, whether you work here or are just visiting.  Self care is important in either case, and it is especially necessary when you're life is otherwise out of control.  If you're visiting the Trenches, it's essential you find something that grounds you and makes you smile.  I know it's hard, but it doesn't need to be something big, just something for you.  Here in the Trenches.