Nearly half the marriages in California end in divorce (over 160,000 a year). Many divorcing couples have minor children. Dysfunctional divorce courts take control of their lives. Often, PTSD is the result, impacting their thoughts and behavior for years. Poor choices are made, addictions are suffered, and self-destructive behavior is common. Anxiety, depression, and social and relationship difficulties mushroom, and suicides occur. A potentially happy, productive, successful child, whose parents go through the traditional court divorce process, is introduced to an unhappy, unproductive, unsuccessful future.
What can be done?
Judicial oversight won’t work. At least it never has. Advocacy by attorneys without the skills to deal with emotional issues won’t work. In fact, it is often the cause. Media exposure of injustice, when it occurs in a divorce court, might inform, but it hasn’t resulted in changing the dysfunctional process.
Here is the question: Can we, in good conscience, let the dysfunction continue? If you don’t think about the children, you might say yes. But, if you consider them, the answer must be a resounding no.
Annually, the divorce industry in the U.S. generates over 50 Billion Dollars in revenue for governments, attorneys, and courts. Attorneys’ fees increase with conflict. Will the devastating process change by itself? Not likely.
How then is it to be changed?
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” A skilled and experienced Mental Health Professional, with proper training, can change the impact of divorce on parents and children. But to do so the Mental Health Professional must get involved in the process. In the past Mental Health Professionals have just waited for the victims to be forced by their mental health problems to come to the Mental Health Professionals after the trauma of divorce, when battling attorneys and time limited judges have already done their damage.
Mental Health Professionals require training to use their skills and experience in a new setting. Considering the size of the problem, they may have an ethical duty to obtain the training. The only firm that will prepare, train, and support Mental Health Professionals to use their skills to get couples and children through the challenges of the divorce process is Parting Properly https://partingproperlymentors.com/. No other firm exists that does what Parting Properly does.
A Mental Health Professional can be trained by Parting Properly to replace attorneys and judges in the negotiations during the divorce process. After training, they can bring their skills and experience in dealing with emotional problems to the rescue of couples and children. Parting Properly takes care of the logistics and legalities, and frees the Mental Health Professionals to do what they do best to help the otherwise doomed couples and children.
Couples, after agreeing not to litigate, can be empowered by a trained Mental Health Professional to make common-sense decisions during the divorce process, not after the damage has been done.
But, you might ask, why would couples, suffering pangs of unhappiness, fear, and uncertainty, believe a trained Mental Health Professional could help them. Don’t they need attorneys to make decisions for them? Isn’t divorce law so complicated that it takes a trained legal mind to decipher it?
The answer to that question is no. Divorce law is not rocket science. If a couple decides not to litigate, fairness and common sense can replace arbitrary legalities and definitions. As a matter of fact, if couples don’t litigate, other than the simple logistics, there are really only two requirements in order to get a divorce. Husbands and wives must make full, honest, and complete disclosures of financial matters to each other, and co-parenting agreements must be in the best interests of the children. That’s all.
Adversarial attorneys are rejected by Parting Properly, but the process of getting couples through the trauma of divorce is not based upon unwillingness to use attorneys in the areas where their expertise is required. For instance, before executing agreements, both parties are provided attorneys to explain the legal ramifications of what they have agreed upon. Legal requirements are fulfilled, and the Mental Health Professionals need not worry about them.
But, what if couples really want to fight? They usually don’t. But sometimes they don’t know how not to fight. Mental Health Professionals know how to teach them how not to fight.
An expressed desire to fight is usually based upon misinformation about the process. Sometimes one wants to punish the other, or gain an advantage, and, if they engage separate attorneys, trained to advocate, the attorneys often get caught up in their client’s foolish dysfunction. Conflict means higher fees.
Attorneys are not programed to sit down with the couple and explain that a divorce judgment cannot be predicted, that fighting is very expensive, and that, with just a modicum of reason and common sense, fair and mutually beneficial results can be negotiated and achieved without the need for attorneys and without leaving decisions to time-squeezed judges.
Often, unscrupulous attorneys actually encourage fighting, and collect large retainers, based on the assurance that punishment, in one form or another, can be enforced against the other party. They also suggest that, if the client doesn’t fight, the other party will take advantage. Then they pick up their battle axes. Even if the behavior of such attorneys is later exposed, they escape consequences by claiming they were only advocating.
When a husband and wife are relieved from the fear that they will be disadvantaged if they do not fight, and understand that decisions regarding children can later, as circumstances change, be modified, and recognize that there are emotional burdens that they will carry if they don’t lay down their big bag of revenge rocks, they start to reconsider fighting. When they are shown the cost of vengeance on their children’s welfare, they invariably reconsider.
Couples can always choose to litigate, but Parting Properly teaches them to keep that option for their last choice, not their first.
The Parting Properly approach to divorce is to teach correct principles and provide couples with the tools to apply them. Properly trained Mental Health Professionals are superbly able to facilitate that. Many attorneys are not.
Imagine two different scenarios, based on the following facts:
Jane and Joseph have decided to get a divorce. They have been married for over ten years, live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and have three minor children. Joseph has a well paying, but demanding job. Jane is a stay at home mom, engaged in home schooling the youngest child. The two oldest are in public schools. Jane and Joseph own a nice home in a good neighborhood, two nice autos, and some modest investments, including a time share at Tahoe. Joe has a pension that will vest on his retirement in twenty years. Jane contributed $150,000 of her inheritance from her grandparents to the purchase of the home. Prior to their marriage, Jane was a kindergarten teacher. Joe loves boating and they have purchased on credit an expensive fishing boat. They have the home mortgage, the automobile payments, the boat liability, and some credit card debt. They are both still living, separately, in the home.
We will leave the reason for the divorce unmentioned, but note that both are saddened, but firmly committed to divorcing and moving forward with their lives separately. They both love their children and have recognized that it will be important for them to remain sufficiently cooperative to co-parent them. But, both question whether they can.
Jane is frightened, unforgiving, vengeful, concerned, and uncertain about what to do to protect herself and the children. Joe, who is sometimes demanding, wishes to control the divorce process and the outcome. He also considers himself very fair, but he is a bit narcissistic in his approach to the relationship and the divorce.
When friends and family of Jane and Joseph learn of the impending divorce, they are concerned and full of advice. Jane is warned that she must protect her investment in the home, that she must retain custody and control of the children, and that she must be ready to assert her “rights” against Joe, who her friends do not fully trust to do what is right. Joe is warned the he, as a male, will have problems with issues relating to custody and visitation of the children and will have to protect himself from over-reaching claims by Jane for alimony and child support. He reacts with determination to arm himself with arguments that will influence or force Jane to give him what he decides is fair, and, if she does not, he is ready to go to battle in court.
Both Jane and Joe are aware that the financial burdens of two households will be significantly greater than the financial burden of one household, and both wonder how their financial futures can be managed.
Jane and Joe sit down together and try to work things out. Jane is more firmly desirous of divorce than Joe, which gives Joe a basis for believing he is occupying the high road. The working-it-out process, both in terms of the relationship as well as the divorce, is unsuccessful. When they finally give up, they are both depressed and angry with each other.
Because of their failure to achieve agreement, they assume that their divorce will be very acrimonious and unpleasant, and they have no clue how it will turn out. All they know is that they already wish it was over. They have not considered the possibility that, if someone helped them to deal with their problems and provided them with the tools to do so, they could resolve all their issues in a mutually beneficial way, without the acrimony.
Jane and Joe don’t hate each other, and neither of them have nasty personalities, but the fear and uncertainty is already leading to arguments and distrust. They are both depressed and anxious, which, without competent emotional support, could easily cause either or both of them to become very nasty.
As you will learn, depending upon what Jane and Joe do next, getting through their divorce without destruction may become challenging, or even hopeless, or it may become a springboard for a successful future.
SO, WHAT DO THEY DO NEXT?
Joe decides to be pro-active. He takes advice from a friend who has had a disastrous divorce and fills Joe with worst case scenarios. Joe then does some research on the internet and seeks a law firm that advertises its success in litigating family law matters. Then he makes an appointment, without telling Jane, and has a consultation. The attorney confirms Joe’s worst fears and tells Joe that he will have to fight. He quotes an anticipated fee of $25,000.00 to $30,000.00 to get Joe through the divorce in a way that will satisfy Joe. Joe goes home and tells Jane what he has done, and what he has learned, and how, if they have a fight, the attorney has told him he will win. In discussion with Jane he scares the liver out of her, and she refuses to agree to anything. Joe decides the next day to engage the attorney.
The day after Joe engages his attorney, Jane makes an appointment to consult and engage her own attorney.
Each attorney, after gauging the value of the assets to be divided and Joe’s income, demands a $15,000.00 retainer. Joe uses his credit card and Jane uses hers.
Jane’s attorney quickly files for divorce and immediately puts on the pressure by demanding that Joe reimburse Jane for the retainer and provide interim spousal and child support of $5,000 per month. Jane’s attorney also demands that Joe move out of the home immediately and that Jane and the children be given the right to remain in the home. Jane’s attorney threatens to file motions and go to court if Joe doesn’t agree.
Joe’s attorney tells Joe that he will have to use his best weapons and fight like a tiger. Joe’s attorney asks Joe if there is any basis upon which Jane could be found to be an unfit mother. He wants to use that weapon as a scare tactic. He begins to prepare a motion to be filed to grant Joe the right to stay in the home and require Jane to move out.
Jane and Joe are no longer talking with each other. The children are upset and frightened.
Motions are filed, replies are filed, and hearings are held before the judge. The judge, having limited time, and wishing to avoid making a mistake, appoints a child custody evaluator to determine how custody and visitation of the children should be structured in the interim and permanently.
Jane refuses to consider seeking employment as a substitute teacher or anything else. Joe finally moves out of the home, into an apartment, which, unfortunately, is miles from both his work and his children. The cost of the child custody evaluator is significant, and Joe is required to pay it. In the meantime, both attorneys have used up the retainers in the conflict and have each demanded another $10,000.00 to go forward. Jane threatens to go to court if Joe doesn’t pay the fee for her attorney. Jane and Joe are running out of money.
Since the parties have been cast into the roles of adversaries, it has been like pulling teeth to get Joe to disclose all the assets. The fights over what is community property and what is separate property are interminable. Each fight uses up more of the couple’s resources. The attorneys finally agree that, if the couple is to be kept afloat, a home equity loan should be obtained, in order to pay the couple’s expenses and the attorneys’ fees and the court costs. Joe’s boat will have to be liquidated at a loss, as will the couple’s time share and some of the other investments.
Because there is equity in the home, primarily because of Jane’s contribution of her inheritance, the bank agrees to provide the couple with a $75,000.00 loan. In signing the loan documents, Jane and Joe have not informed the bank that they are in the middle of a contested divorce proceeding.
The attorneys agree that disbursements from the loan must be agreed upon by both parties, but the first priority must be payment of attorneys’ fees. Jane has won the argument about whether she or Joe is an unfit parent, and the Judge orders custody to Jane, and determines that Joe is to have only limited, supervised visitation.
Joe is going crazy, his work suffers, he misses his children, and he now hates his wife. Jane has similar feelings toward Joe. She is in a permanent state of depression, and the children are suffering.
The case drags on. There is a dispute over valuation of the assets and Joe’s future pension. Expensive experts are engaged to testify in favor of each party’s contentions, and the time-limited judge is called upon to make another decision.
As far as we know, the divorce is still not final, the children are permanently traumatized, and there is no longer any hope that Jane and Joe can effectively co-parent them. In the meantime, the couple’s assets have been consumed in the fight, and both Jane and Joe are struggling financially.
Imagine what the future of Jane and Joe, and the future of their children, will be like.
Oh, if they had only known.
Joe decides to be pro-active. He takes advice from a friend who has had a disastrous divorce and fills Joe with worst case scenarios. Joe then does some research on the internet and seeks a law firm that advertises its success in litigating family law matters. Then he makes an appointment, without telling Jane, and has a consultation. The attorney confirms Joe’s worst fears and tells Joe that he will have to fight.
However, on the way home from the attorney’s office Joe stops by the therapist that he and Jane had previously been seeing in the hope of saving their marriage. The therapist has learned of Parting Properly.
The therapist listens to Joe and then suggests that it might be a good idea to call Parting Properly, just to find out what an alternative to engaging attorneys and going to court might be. The Geico slogan, “15 minutes may save you….,” comes to Joe’s mind.
Joe wrestles with his anger and his fears, but then he remembers that, so far, he has done nothing irreparable. He begins to think that spending fifteen minutes on the phone with Parting Properly before jumping off the cliff might be a good idea.
Joe calls Parting Properly and is advised about what Parting Properly does by a Parting Properly representative, who also collects Joe’s contact information. Joe is then advised to take a look at the Parting Properly website. The Parting Properly representative who took the call then advises Joe that a Parting Properly Mentor will call him as soon as possible to answer any questions and discuss Joe’s needs further.
The Parting Properly representative then calls the trained Mental Health Professional, who, having been trained and, having become a Parting Properly Mentor is residing in the Bay Area, and the Mental Health Professional agrees to call Joe. By the time the Mentor has reached Joe, he has looked at the Parting Properly website on his cell phone and has lots of questions.
The Mentor responds to Joe’s questions, using the Mentor’s training and understanding of how best to assist Joe. Joe provides some basic information, which allows the Mentor to begin a client information worksheet (address, contact information, employment, the general range of income and expense and assets and liabilities, his children and their ages, living arrangements, and other pertinent information). Clients, having been referred to Parting Properly, expect to be asked to explain their situation.
Joe is impressed that the Mentor can confidently tell him that, if he and Jane will let the Mentor guide and coach them, the Mentor will be able to get him and Jane through the divorce efficiently, with agreements completed within a couple of months after the divorce papers are filed and served, and with the cost of the divorce significantly less than the cost of retaining attorneys. The Mentor alleviates Joe’s fears, assures him that there is time at this stage to do some planning, and that the Mentor will be able to assist him and his wife to arrive at a common-sense solution to every issue. The Mentor also tells him that Parting Properly offers a free consultation with him and his wife.
The Mentor tells Joe that the Mentor can empower him and his wife to stay out of court, and avoid battling attorneys, a time-squeezed judge, and a child custody evaluator, and reach common sense solutions that will be beneficial to both him and his wife and his children.
Joe agrees to have Jane look at the Parting Properly website and the Mentor tells him that, if Jane is willing, the Mentor will meet with both of them. A follow-up call is arranged. The Mentor then calls the Parting Properly representative, provides the client information, and asks the representative to provide the location and availability of the office nearest and most convenient to both the Mentor and the prospective clients.
The next day, Joe calls. Jane has agreed to meet with him and the Mentor. The Mentor then tells him that at the meeting the Mentor will discuss fees, obtain a retainer, and execute an engagement letter which will require that everyone agrees not to litigate, and everyone agrees to make full and complete disclosures of all financial information. The Parting Properly office and time for the meeting is then agreed.
At the meeting the Mentor establishes a relationship with Jane and Joe, gives them appropriate assurances, has the client information completed, executes the engagement letter, and collects the retainer and the court filing fee.
The Mentor then provides the completed client information to a Parting Properly representative, after which the necessary documents to initiate the divorce are prepared and filed by Parting Properly attorneys or paralegals, and the process of resolving all the issues begins.
The Mentor tells the clients that the first step is to collect all the financial information available to them, including descriptions of assets, estimates of valuation, description, amount and terms of liabilities, information relating to income, and information relating to expenses. Since both of them have agreed to make full, honest, and complete disclosure of all financial information, and since the Mentor has assured them that working together will be more efficient and less expensive than resisting and creating conflict, the collection and sharing of information goes smoothly. When the information is collected, it is organized. If the assistance of a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst is appropriate, it is arranged.
In the meantime, the Mentor has been talking with Jane and Joe, separately and together, about their children, how to resolve issues about their living situation, and their plans for their futures. And the Mentor has begun the process of teaching them correct principles. The Mentor has been using the Mentor’s skill in helping people manage their emotions and the Mentor’s experience in steering people toward common sense behavior.
The Mentor then has Jane and Joe complete the “New Perspective Exercise.”
The New Perspective Exercise is explained in detail in the training. Each party lists their wants and needs from their perspective and that same party lists the other party’s wants and needs from what is believed to be the other party’s perspective.
Of course, the training provided to prospective mentors by Parting Properly in teaching prospective mentors the New Perspective Exercise is much more extensive and nuanced, but you get the idea.
The purpose of the New Perspective Exercise should be obvious, and a positive result can be predicted when a trained Mental Health Professional acting as a Parting Properly Mentor, who is skilled in methods of dealing with emotional challenges, is teaching the exercise to clients who have agreed not to litigate.
Stop here and consider why Parting Properly is so effective compared to a separate attorney for each party.
Can you imagine combative attorneys, trained as adversarial advocates, whose fees increase with conflict, using such an exercise to teach their clients how to solve problems. Not likely.
Any Mental Health Professional who has a passion to help victims who are drowning in the cesspool of the court divorce process, and a desire to expand their practice by taking advantage of this new opportunity, will change lives of the Janes and Josephs of the world, and their children.
After Jane and Joseph have finalized their New Perspective Exercises, the Mentor can begin to help them put things together. The agreements are memorialized, on forms provided by Parting Properly, for embodiment in the Marital Settlement Agreement and the Co-Parenting Agreement.
The Mentor guides Jane and Joseph on an exploration of possible options. Options are evaluated until eventually they are narrowed down to the ones that work best for both spouses. Getting to the final combination of options will involve compromises and concessions on both sides.
This is where the Mentor’s skill in recognizing and helping control human emotions will be critical. The Mentor does not have to be a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst to come up with common sense solutions, but Parting Properly’s CDFAs are available, if needed.
The problem-solving aspect of negotiation will begin at this stage. The problem to be solved is finding settlement options that address each spouse’s most important interests as fully as possible. With this focus, they will be able to negotiate by trading off acceptable options instead of getting locked into zero-sum bargaining, where one spouse’s gain is the other spouse’s loss.
In the final stage, the tentative settlement agreement and co-parenting agreement are put into writing and circulated to both spouses. Parting Properly provides templates. A memorandum outlining the settlement and summarizing the essential points of agreement will be used as a basis for preparation by Parting Properly’s attorneys or paralegals of a formal settlement agreement that will be filed with the court as part of the uncontested divorce case.
The Mentor and the clients will gratified that the results are fair and mutually beneficial, and the children are safe, and their future is assured. The mentor can be satisfied that Jane and Joe have been taught to apply correct principles (the kind we all learned in kindergarten, but may have forgotten) and that they have used those principles to govern themselves and retain their power over the process of making decisions. They have avoided much of the trauma and are prepared for their futures.
The paradigm of divorce for at least one couple has been changed. It needs to be changed for every couple.
If you, as a reader,have questions, or would consider becoming a mentor, please contact (831) 207-6782 (personal cell phone). or call Parting Properly at (888) 765-4860. Please visit the website: https://partingproperlymentors.com/