Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I Think I'll Take the Eight of Spades....

If you read this blog regularly, you know I have been struggling with some neck and shoulder issues over the last few months.  In typical "me" fashion, I ignored them and hoped they would go away, and then went to a wonderful chiropractor and now a medical doctor to resolve it.  I am a horrible patient because I am impatient.  I think everything should resolve immediately and not take at least as much time to get better as it did to get bad.  I am reluctant to obtain professional help for my issues.  In that way, I am just like most of my clients.  Their marriages took forever to deteriorate, but once they decide to do something about it, they want it done yesterday.  We all know that doesn't happen, and they have to be patient.

There is one area in which I am not like many of my clients.  When I hire a medical professional and put my trust in him or her, I do what they say, exactly as they tell me to do it.  I don't "cheat" on my treatment.  I don't take almost but not all of my medication.  i don't go to some but not all of my rehab.  I certainly don't that them for their advice and do the absolute opposite.  Most of my clients are like me. Lately, however, many of them are not.  They seek my advice and then don't follow it.  They hear what I tell them to do and then don't do it.  It's not that they don't want me as their attorney - most of theses types of folks acknowledge that they heard my advice.  They simply decided that it wasn't something they wanted to do.  That's like my not taking all my medication and wondering why the infection hasn't gone away.  When it turns out badly for them, they can't figure out why.  They don't understand why their case is now immeasurably more difficult for them.  All actions have consequences, folks.  That's how it rolls.  Here in the Trenches.

Monday, August 17, 2015

12 Steps to Help You Resolve Your Divorce

The easiest way to help your lawyer settle your case think.  I know, it's not something you really feel up to right now, but trust me, you should try.  It will help you obtain a settlement with which you can live, and save on legal fees.  This is what I want you to do.

Sit in a quiet place and ask yourself a few questions:

1.  Whatever else happens, the most important thing for me to have at the end of this case is.....
2.  The second most important thing for me to have at the end of this case is.....
3.  The third most important thing for me to have at the end of this case is.....
4.  This thing is important but is not something I have to have. I am willing to negotiate this issue....
5.  These things are things we should keep in mind in the big picture, but  they are not that important to me.....
6.  These things are not at all important to me....

Once you have answered these questions (and please, write down the answers), take a break.  Go get yourself something to eat or drink.  Go exercise.  Do something.  Now, sit back down in your quiet place and answer the same questions for your spouse.  I don't want you to answer them in relation to your answers, which is why I told you to take a break.  I want you to put yourself in your spouse's shoes and answer the questions as they would.  After all, whether you think so at this point or not, you know them pretty well.  You certainly know them better than your lawyer.

You may be surprised to realize that the things that are important to you aren't important to your spouse.  You may be stunned to comprehend that your "throw away" things are what your spouse really values. It's important to know that different parts of the same item may be valuable to each of you.  Will this help you and your lawyer settle your case?  You betcha.  Here in the Trenches.

(A version of this exercise may be found in Client Letters for the Family Lawyer: Saving Time, Managing Relationships, and Practicing Preventive Law by Mark Sullivan (ABA, 2013))

Friday, August 7, 2015

A Trusted Advisor

This is the post from last week that I waited to post:

Here in the Trenches, our best cocktail party stories are not our usual clients.  Most of my clients and their spouses are decent, hardworking people in a bad place who need help finding their way to the other side.  There are notable exceptions.  I have spent the better part of this week and all of last weekend dealing with one of those exceptions and getting the minor child to camp.  With some people, it's always something.  You can't give them one thing without their deciding they want another.  You kind of feel like the boy with his finger in the dike, except more and more holes appear.  I spent a ton of my client's money that really should never have needed to be spent, except that the other side was uncooperative.  It's frustrating and exhausting.

Being a glass half-full kind of girl, I looked for a silver lining. Sometimes, I don't find one.  This time, I found a platinum one.  Not to provide too many details, but as part of my work this week on this case, I had frequent and lengthy communications with an attorney representing the camp.  To take us back a bit, we attorneys get a bad name.  People call us sharks.  They say we are worse than used car salesmen.  They say we don't care.  You all have been reading this blog long enough to know that I'm not one of them.  Neither is the attorney for the camp.  First, he impressed me by how thoroughly he reviewed the situation and came up with a protocol to not only protect his client but also to create a safe place for the child in question.  Next, when lots and lots of glitches presented themselves, he gave up his weekend and his evenings to deal with them.  He took it as a personal mission to make sure this child got to his client's camp.  He spoke to both parents and the child.  He attempted to find middle ground.  He acted as a mediator in the midst of the malestrom of chaos that enveloped this child's appearance at his client's camp.  Did he have to do any of it?  No.  Could he have just said it wasn't his job and enjoyed his weekend?  Certainly.  He didn't.  Why not?  One, he's a good man (obviously).  Two, he cares about his client and believes in its mission. Three, he can't stand to see a child suffer.  Four, he's compassionate and caring.  In other words, he's a great human being...and a great lawyer.  People like him make me proud of my profession.  Here in the Trenches.

Monday, August 3, 2015

5 Rules for Communicating with Your Ex

I wrote a post for last week, but decided that it should wait until a later time, then the week got away from me.  To make up for it, I post rules for communicating with your ex.  No part of revamping your relationship is more important than communication.  Maybe you don't need to communicate after your divorce, or maybe you do.  Either way, it's important to know how, when and if to do it.

Let's assume you received an email or text from your ex.  What should you do?

1.  First, think about whether it needs an answer.  Just because someone asks a question doesn't mean they deserve an answer.  What do I mean?  You need to determine whether the questioner wants an answer to the question or simply to get you to engage.  That's right, sometimes, the purpose of a question is not to get an answer but simply to keep you engaged, or to get a rise out of you, or to make you upset.
     How do you figure that out?  First, is it a real question?  "How stupid can you be," although phrased as a question, is not.  "What time are you picking up the kids," is a real question.Those are simple.  Much harder is the question bound up in loaded rhetoric.  It goes something like this:  "You never respected my work. I was always playing second fiddle to you.  Now I need you to watch the kids while I go to work, but I'm sure you won't."  Is there a question there?  Yes.  Does it need to be answered?  Yes, again.

2.  Second, once you determine there's a real question, you need to figure out what it is.   In our last example the question is whether you will watch the kids.  The question is not whether you supported your spouse in their job.  It is not whether you thought your job was more important.  The question in this example is simple.  It's just hidden in a lot of rhetoric.  Sometimes, it's harder to find the question, especially when the rhetoric pushes your buttons.

3.  Third, take a deep breath.  Realize that all the superfluous words are about the speaker and not the listener.  Sure, there may be truth in those words, but unless they are directly related to the question at hand in a way that defines the question, they are not relevant to answering the question.  Focus on answering the question and ignore the rest.  I know, it's easy to say and hard to do.  Do it anyway.  Unless it is a life or death emergency, you have time to calm down and focus on only the question and its answer.

4.  Fourth, answer only the question.  Do not engage in any discussion of anything that does not directly and succinctly answer the question.  Your response should be no longer than 2-3 sentences, and I mean short sentences.  If you are writing a paragraph, or two or three, or even worse, pages and pages of text, you are no longer answering the question.  You are starting an argument.  Don't do it.  The answer to our long question in #1 is either yes or no.  IF you have to say more, ask when and what time.  That's it.  No more.

5.  Fifth, don't send your answer right away.  Save it in your draft folder (that's what it's for).  Go get something to drink, a snack.  Watch a TV show.  Workout.  Then, reread it.  Maybe run it by a friend whose judgment you trust, someone who will not fan your flames.  Once they say it's neutral, answers the question and is not too long, you can send it.

Got it?  Good.  I thank you.  Here in the Trenches.