Divorce and Time Travel

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I’ve read books and listened to talks about the power of staying in the present. It’s wonderful advice, which I’m not very good at following! How did I ever make it thought my divorce getting so far ahead myself and worrying about things that might or might not happen?

Of course, during divorce we have a responsibility to look at the future so we can make the wisest decisions possible and then, of course, we can’t help but look back at the past. Yikes! Talk about time travel!

So how can we gently keep ourselves as present as possible?

Reach out for help. Let your friends, therapists, attorney, financial planners help you.

Even Olympic athletes have coaches and, in dealing with divorce, sometimes simply getting through a day takes effort of an Olympic scale.

Breathe. Take one breath and it will take you back to yourself for a brief moment. Take another breath and realize, “I’m here.” And one more breath. “I’m still here.” This is the most valuable thing you need to know. You have not been destroyed, you are not as lost as you think, you are not as damaged as you feel. You are still here. And in knowing this, all is possible.


The Prisoners’ Dilemma

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Two prisoners are held in separate cells and questioned by police. There is insufficient evidence to convict either prisoner. The police offer both prisoners the same deal: if one testifies against the other and the other remains silent, the betrayer is freed, and the silent prisoner is sentenced to a 10-year term. If both prisoners remain silent, they each are sentenced to only six months in jail. If each betrays the other, they each must serve a two-year sentence.

A bit of reflection will lead to the conclusion that the prisoners would be best off if they cooperated with one another by both refusing to testify against the other. However, because the failure of one prisoner to cooperate results in a sentence of a 10-year prison term to the cooperating prisoner, each prisoner has an incentive to “defect” (or take an aggressive stance) out of fear that the other party will “defect” first.

This is the dilemma that leads parties to litigate in court, jeopardizing their ability to achieve the best overall outcome.1

If you are seeking a divorce or believe you may find yourself in a divorce that you don’t want, consider how you will divorce. How you divorce will impact you for years to come.

Collaborative Law is a settlement divorce process, where the intentions of the both parties are known from the start, thereby maximizing their abilities to engage in a cooperative problem-solving effort rather than a more destructive competitive effort.

At the commencement of a collaborative case, spouses and their respective attorneys review a participation agreement describing the fundamental principles underlying the process principles which are based on values of honesty, integrity, cooperation, dignity and respect. The negotiating framework used in the collaborative process is unlike that used in the traditional court process or in more common every day events such as buying a used car. In the collaborative model, great attention is paid to the interests and needs of each party and exploring creative resolutions for meeting the needs and interests of each party.

A respectful divorce is possible. If you find yourself in this situation, take the time to explore how divorce is conducted by those with whom you are consulting. You are entitled to a dignified process– know that it is possible.

1 ROBERT AXELROD, THE EVOLUTION OF COOPERATION (1984); Ronald J. Glson & Robert H. Mnookin, Disputing Through Agents; Cooperation and Conflict Between Lawyers in Litigation, 94 COLUM. L. REV. 509 (1991).

How to Protect Our New Self

I have been watching a wonderful woman struggle with the decision of whether or not to divorce. She’s made it very clear that whatever happens— if her marriage stays together or if it ends— she is determined to change.

I’m humbled and awed as I watch her give birth to her new self.

Giving birth is painful. The pain often feels like it will never end and we will not be able to bear it. It is also messy, an emotional roller coaster.  Once it’s over, a new life is created for which there is no manual.

The most powerful thing we can do to protect this new life of ours is to speak our truth.

I do know amazing women who can’t even imagine not speaking their truth.

For those of us who have learned to be silent at an early age and for those who have been intimidated into silence, speaking our truth can be terrifying. If we say how we feel or what we want, someone will abandon us, humiliate us, rage at us or worse.

We become accomplished actors, smiling, laughing, staying busy with our lives, fooling others and ourselves into believing all is well.

When there is a crisis and we are pushed to go deep inside our hearts, we recognize that by not speaking our truth, our spirit has withered. What a tremendous loss. We understand that being silent is no longer an option. To protect the precious life we have birthed, we need to wrap it, swaddle it, in a blanket of truth, honesty, love, compassion and light.

Do We Have Self Esteem Backwards?

I believed I had good self esteem. If not good, it was adequate. It got me by and I believed making it through my divorce proved I could handle anything.

But it turns out that when there is a new challenge and life expects me to be something more than who I think I am, I freeze. I hope that if I ignore the situation, it will go away. I remind myself of my cats, who think if they don’t look at something, it’s not there.

When I finally look at this new “challenge,” I begin to rationalize. “I don’t have enough self esteem to handle this, so I have to stay right where I am. I’ll sit with a cup of tea, get stressed, get acid reflux and watch Judge Judy so I can feel superior to a few random people.” Eventually, I get angry (thank goodness)!

When I rode horses, I didn’t have the self esteem to compete, but I did have the love of riding and the passion and drive to do it. So, I did. At first, I competed embarrassingly badly. But there were people who picked me up and dusted me off, often literally. My self confidence grew as I became a better rider, but more importantly, so did my self esteem. I learned I would survive mistakes and embarrassment. I learned that those things don’t define me any more than winning a blue ribbon defined me.

I believe self esteem doesn’t come from reading self-help books, though they can help.
I believe self esteem doesn’t come from meditating, though it helps.
I believe self esteem comes from walking out the door and living your life.

Each step and each misstep will feed your self esteem and it will grow. You will learn more about who you are and be amazed. You will be more compassionate to others, understanding that, like each us, they are doing the best they can. Your life will be filled with confusion and joy, messes and celebrations, mistakes and miracles. What could be better?

Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Family Law Attorney

The following is a guest post by Jennifer Beckman of Beckman, Steen & Lungstrom. 

Getting a divorce may feel like an overwhelming process, as if you’re drowning in a sudden wave of decisions. You might not know where to start, especially when you are also trying to take care of yourself emotionally. Keep in mind that you don’t have to walk through this process alone and your attorney will help you through your divorce process.

These five questions will help you make sure the attorney fits you and your needs.

1. How often do you mediate cases and how often do you take them to trial?

Asking this question will give you an idea of how the proceedings will go, and if they will go in a way you want. Whichever method you think will work better for your case, you will want to make sure the attorney is well versed in that method.

2. What good and bad points do you see with my case?

This might be a tough question to ask, but it is a great way to test how forthright the attorney is. You want to feel like you can trust the attorney to give details plainly to you.

3. How do my opinions and input factor into the decision-making process?

You might want your opinions to have a high input in the decisions, or you might want someone else to take more control in order to help lift some of the burden from you. Either way, you will want to make sure the attorney matches what you want.

4. How/what will you charge me?

This questions is important, especially since you’ll need to evaluate what your financial situation will be after the divorce. It might be hard to think about this post-divorce future, but it’s important to make sure the attorney’s price fits your needs and won’t put you in a hole afterwards.

5. How will you communicate with me?

This questions will give you a clear picture of whether or not the attorney will communicate in a way that works best for you. It will also show you how flexible they are. Phone calls and emails are pretty standard means of communication, but maybe those don’t work best for you. Do they text? Do they make Skype calls? It’s important to feel like your attorney will work with your preferences to make sure you stay well-informed.